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19. May 2016

 

Google.io is currently going on, Google’s annual developer conference.  In a world currently dominated with VR announcements, did you really expect no VR announced from Google?  Yeah, me neither.

 

The following is from the Android developer blog:

Android was built for today’s multi-screen world; in fact, Android powers your phone, your tablet, the watch on your wrist, it even works in your car and in your living room, all the while helping you move seamlessly between each device. As we look to what’s next, we believe your phone can be a really powerful new way to see the world and experience new content virtually, in a more immersive way; but, until this point, high quality mobile VR wasn’t possible across the Android ecosystem. That’s why we’ve worked at all levels of the Android stack in N–from how the operating system reads sensor data to how it sends pixels to the display–to make it especially built to provide high quality mobile VR experiences, with VR Mode in Android. There are a number of performance enhancements designed for developers, including single buffer rendering and access to an exclusive CPU core for VR apps. Within your apps, you can take advantage of smooth head-tracking and stereo notifications that work for VR. Most importantly, Android N provides for very low latency graphics; in fact, motion-to-photon latency on Nexus 6P running Developer Preview 3 is <20 ms, the speed necessary to establish immersion for the user to feel like they are actually in another place. We’ll be covering all of the new VR updates tomorrow at 9AM PT in the VR at Google session, livestreamed from Google I/O.

 

So basically they are baking much of the functionality required to support VR directly into Android N.  On top, they also released a reference device for developers and manufacturers to build their own Android N powered VR device, including this controller:

image

It has built-in sensors for helping to determine position along with a a trackpad for fine tuned control.

 

It appears that Google intends to leave device development up to others.   In an already saturated market, it will be interesting to see if this approach works.  Frankly the only real selling point I see for Android powered VR is the price point ( since the phone provides the CPU, GPU, Screen, etc ), but the GearVR is already in place and is the best selling VR Headset available.

GameDev News


15. March 2016

 

We’ve been waiting to hear what each VR solution is going to cost.  The first announcement was Oculus Rift at $599 and the world gulped, as the price was about twice as much as initially expect.  Then the HTC Vive price was announced, a whopping $799!  There were rumours that PlayStation VR was going to be even more expensive!  Today at GDC 2016 however, we finally learned the price and launch date of the PlayStation VR.  I suppose the title ruined the surprise a bit... $399 and October respectively.  Suddenly I am a whole lot more excited for the PlayStation VR’s prospects!

From the PlayStation Blog:

With the annual Game Developers Conference in full swing, I’m pleased to give you an exciting update on PlayStation VR. Today, we are announcing that the PlayStation VR headset will launch in October of this year for a suggested retail price of USD $399 / CAD $549.

PlayStation VR

That is a bit later than the timeframe we previously stated, and I want to thank everyone for their patience and continued support. PlayStation VR represents a transformative experience in gaming, and we wanted to take the time needed to launch with a broad variety of content and a sufficient supply of hardware. We are beyond excited to deliver to consumers the amazing experience that PS VR offers.

I’m also pleased to reveal the final consumer version of PS VR, including all of the contents that will come in the package.

PlayStation VR

Today more than 230 developers are building content for PlayStation VR, from smaller independent teams to larger studios at the industry’s top publishers. We expect to have more than 50 games available from launch in October 2016 until the end of the year. Of course, the full promise of PlayStation VR will continue to grow over time as talented developers create new experiences and new genres that wouldn’t be possible outside of VR. The future looks bright indeed.

GameDev News


15. March 2016

 

VR is hot right now but also insanely expensive.  Right now we can choose between the Oculus Rift, GearVR, HTC Vive, Google Cardboard and PlayStation VR is coming soon.  Except the GearVR every single one of those headsets have the same problems... they are expensive and have to be tethered to a device to work.  The AMD Sulon Q looks to change that by including all of the processing power in the unit.  We need to wait and see what happens with the price tag.

More details from wired.co.uk:

Sulon Q looks to be a powerful bit of kit, too. The device is based around an AMD FX-8800P processor, a system-on-chip boasting quad-core CPU and octo-core GPU abilities. The 12 total cores share memory to boost performce, AMDclaims. It supports "the latest graphics APIs including DirectX 12 and Vulkan", and promises console-quality visuals on a 2560x1440 OLED display.

When it comes to AR, it offers a 110° field-of-view, and operates similarly to Hololens. You'll be able to 'hang' application windows in your real-world environment, control opacity, and control them with gestures. The Sulon Q will also come with a wireless keyboard and mouse for more conventional office input.

In many ways, the Sulon Q is shaping up like a powerful laptop for your face. It will ship with Windows 10 pre-installed, have built-in WiFi and Bluetooth 4.0, two USB 3.0 Type A ports, and a Micro HDMI out port. Although it has to combat the years of build-up and excitement surrounding Oculus Rift and even Sony's PlayStation VR, it potentially has advantages in portability and power, while removing the question mark over whether your PC is powerful enough to actually run VR content.

 

Right now I still hold that the first one that comes to market at a good price point wins, like VHS vs Beta all over again.   That said building a powerful computer into the device could also be a winning combination.  Name sucks though.

GameDev News


14. March 2016

 

Project Tango is an interesting computer vision project from Google attempting to figure out the world around it, emulating the way we see the world.  Google surprisingly managed to sum up Project Tango succinctly on it’s project page:

Project Tango combines 3D motion tracking with depth sensing to give your mobile device the ability to know where it is and how it moves through space.

 

As the title above suggests, a plugin adding support for Project Tango to UE4 is now available.  Developed by Opaque Media, the plugin is completely free.

From the project page:

The Project Tango plugin (currently in Beta) allows all Unreal Engine 4 developers to harness the advanced spatial awareness capabilities of Google's Project Tango, through the use of both Blueprint and C++.

Developers can access the range of Motion Tracking, Depth Sensing and Area Learning the Project Tango platform provides, allowing for the creation of a range of spatially aware, motion-enabled and augmented reality applications.

The plugin is free and open source (Apache 2.0). Developers can now access the public beta of our plugin through our website, or see our GitHub repository for the Plugin or Example Content.

For more information the documentation is available here while the source is available on Github.

GameDev News


29. February 2016

 

Microsofts entrant into the VR field, the HoloLens, will begin taking developer pre-orders tomorrow for a healthy price tag of $3000USD.

 

Ouch.

 

First, let’s temper some expectations... this is very much a developer release, the actual launch of the HoloLens is a long ways out.  This release is akin to the original DK release for the Oculus Rift a couple years back.  This was the most recent comment about a HoloLens commercial release date:

“When I feel the world is ready, then we will allow normal people to buy it,” Kipman said Thursday, speaking to reporters at the TED conference in Vancouver. “It could be as soon as we say ‘yes,’ and it could be as long as a ‘very long time.'”

Hopefully the consumer hardware will be a great deal cheaper.  With news of the pre-order however, we did get some insight into the specs behind the HoloLens.  Taken from VentureBeat:

Here are the specifications for the HoloLens Development Edition headset:

  • Optics: See-through lenses (waveguides), 2 HD, 16:9 light engines, automatic pupillary distance calibration, 2.3 million total light points in holographic resolution, more than 2,500 radiants (light points per radian) in holographic density
  • Sensors: 1 inertial measurement unit (IMU), 4 environment understanding cameras, 1 depth camera, one 2-megapixel photo and HD video camera, mixed reality capture, 4 microphones, 1 ambient light sensor
  • Human understanding: Spatial sound, gaze tracking, gesture input, voice support
  • Processors: Intel 32-bit architecture and custom-built Microsoft Holographic Processing Unit (HPU) 1.0
  • Battery life: 2-3 hours of active use, up to 2 weeks of standby time; works when charging
  • Memory: 2GB RAM
  • Storage: 64GB flash
  • Connectivity: Micro-USB 2.0, Bluetooth 4.1 low energy
  • Wi-Fi: 802.11ac
  • Audio: 3.5mm headphone jack, built-in speakers, volume up/down
  • Other components: Power button, brightness up/down, battery status LEDs
  • Weight: 579 grams (1.27 lbs)

The HoloLens Development Edition kits come with a headset, an overhead strap, a clicker, a charging cable, a microfiber cloth, nose pads, and a carrying case.

 

Not just anyone can order a HoloLens however, you need to apply and be accepted into the program.

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