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10. June 2020

Blender 2.83 was released last week and one of the new features is tentative support for Virtual Reality headsets in the form of Scene Inspection:

Scene inspection refers to the ability to inspect the scene in VR, without interacting with content. Essentially this means head-mounted display (HMD) support as well as some simple settings (controllable from outside the VR view) to control the experience.

Examples of supported use cases:

  • VR as a way for directors or clients to inspect scenes and give feedback to artists.
  • Pre-visualization for artists working on VR games.
  • Samsung GearVR/Google Cardboard movie making and app development.

Blender VR support is via OpenXR, which unfortunately isn’t currently supported by HTC or Steam VR headsets.  Details about supported headsets are available here.  Check out the new Blender VR functionality in action in the video below.

Art GameDev News

8. June 2020

Unity have just announced a new AR (augmented reality) focused extension, Unity Mars.  This also marks the first time that Unity have charged an additional subscription ($50/month or $600 a year) for additional Unity functionality.  Project Mars is described on the Unity blog as:

Unity MARS is the world’s first authoring solution that brings real-world environment and sensor data into the creative workflow. That means you can quickly build mixed and augmented reality experiences that are context-aware and responsive to physical space. And they will work in any location with any type of data.

From the beginning, we designed Unity MARS to solve the most common pain points across the entire AR development cycle: defining variables, testing scenarios, and delivering AR experiences that intelligently interact with the real world.

More details about MARS are available here and you can sign up for a 45 day free trial here.  Some common questions regarding the new licesning are detailed in the FAQ and are sure to make existing Pro subscribers unhappy:

Which Unity plans offer Unity MARS?

Every Unity plan supports Unity MARS. However, regardless of your plan, access to Unity MARS is by paid subscription.

How much does a Unity MARS license cost?

Unity MARS includes a free trial period of 45 days, after which access to Unity MARS is by annual subscription, billed at either $50/month or $600/year.

You can learn more about MARS in the video below.

GameDev News

22. May 2020

In a time where far too many people are being laid off, it’s nice to get a bit of good news for a change.  AR tech start-up Magic Leap, have had a bit of a rocky year cumulating in the announcement they would be laying off half of their employees.  Thankfully it was just announced that they received a $350M investment and those layoffs have been cancelled.

Details of the new funding from SiliconAngle:

Troubled augmented reality company Magic Leap Inc. has raised $350 million in new funding, according to an internal memo to employees obtained by The Information.

Details on the round, which depending on its form should be a late-stage Series F, are somewhat vague. The investors are described only as current and new investors with the suggestion that a key healthcare company may have been involved.

Although the fundraising itself is surprising, it was good news for employees as Magic Leap withdrew a notice to terminate about 1,000 staff issued in April — meaning that staff on the chopping block will now keep their jobs. Notably, at that time, Magic Leap said it was in the process of negotiating “revenue-generating partnerships.”

The news that a healthcare company may have invested in the company follows Magic Leap’s announcement in December that it was shifting to enterprise augmented reality after failing in the consumer market. The company’s first product, the $2,295 Magic Leap Creator Edition, sold only 6,000 units, a huge disappointment give that the company predicted sales of 100,000 units.

It is nice to see that Magic Leap lives to fight another day, although it’s less and less likely we will see Magic Leap in game development with the shift towards enterprise computing, where they will compete directly with Microsoft’s HoloLens.  More details of the investment and Magic Leaps rocky recent history check out the video below.

GameDev News

25. January 2020

Over on the Unity blog there is a discussion of the upcoming changes to VR and AR support in Unity 2019.3.  The Unity engine is migrating to a new plugin based framework called the Unity XR SDK.

We have been working to improve our multi-platform offering, enabling direct integrations through a unified plugin framework. The resulting tech stack consists of an API that exposes common functionalities across our supported platforms in a frictionless way for creators while enabling XR hardware and software providers to develop their own Unity plugins. This architecture offers the following benefits:

  • Multi-platform developer tools such as AR Foundation and the XR Interaction Toolkit
  • Faster partner updates from supported plugins via the Unity Package Manager
  • More platforms have access to an interface to leverage Unity’s XR rendering optimizations and developer tools

Unity has developed new XR plugins for our supported platforms as part of this shift. Additionally, we have deprecated our built-in platform implementations in 2019.3.

With the move to a plugin architecture future support for OpenXR will be handled by Valve in the future.  From version 2019.3 onward, GearVR, Daydream and Vuforia will no longer be supported, forcing you to use the Unity 2018 LTS release if you wish to support those platforms.  Additionally Google Cardboard support is ultimately going to be provided by this Google open source project.

In comments there was further details about VR/AR support improvements in the Unity 2019.3:

Hi Felix, Unity’s 2019.3 release is coming soon, and there are new features in XR that will roll out in that update. In 2019.3, we have enabled Vulkan for Oculus Quest, using multiview fixed foveated rendering (FFR). Additionally, the Universal Rendering Pipeline (URP) and High-Definition Rendering Pipeline (HDRP) are both supported in our XR SDK, and will continue to be supported. Lastly, our new XR Plugins are compatible with the new input system. That means if you add the Magic Leap XR Plugin and Input System packages, for example, you will get the controller layouts for Magic Leap devices.

You can learn more about the changes in the video below.

GameDev News

16. December 2019

A-Frame is a 3D entity component system built over top of the open source Three.js 3D rendering framework that aims to provide an easy way to create VR and AR experiences that run in the browser.  A-Frame just released version 1.0.0 with the following features (from the release notes on GitHub):

Major Changes

A-Frame is an open source MIT licensed project available here on GitHub.  You can learn more about A-Frame in the video below.

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