Oculus “Doesn’t Condone” Actions of HTC Vive Hackers

Yesterday, an industrious coder released a homebrew software package that allows HTC Vive users to play the demos for Lucky’s Tale and Oculus Dreamdeck, both titles exclusive to the Oculus Rift. The an alpha build of the software – “a proof-of-concept compatibility layer between the Oculus SDK and OpenVR” – was released on GitHub by reddit user CrossVR to much buzz amongst VR users, but Oculus is understandably miffed about the matter.

“This is a hack, and we don’t condone it. Users should expect that hacked games won’t work indefinitely, as regular software updates to games, apps, and our platform are likely to break hacked software,” Oculus told GamesIndustry.biz.

While Oculus is unhappy about the “hack”, the software – named Revive – remains available on GitHub. It remains to be seen whether it will be subject to a cease and desist order, or a DMCA takedown, from the aggrieved company.

“It may work with plenty of other games, but that hasn’t been tested by myself. It’s still early days for this project, since it’s only been in development for a few weeks. In the future more games will be supported, but I’m glad to see such swift progress already,” CrossVR explained in his reddit post. Indicating a determination to continue work on the project, he added, “this is version 0.2 and there will be many more as there is still plenty of work to do.”

Analysts Expect VR to hit $895 Million for 2016

Virtual reality has been hailed as the next ‘thing’ that will catch consumer attention and drive innovation and growth in the technology industry. While it’s easy to see why VR might play out stronger than say 3D, the size of the burgeoning market appears to be massive. According to market analysts, Strategy Analytics, the virtual reality headset market will top $895 million. For an industry that is just really getting started, this is great news.

As expected, much of the value comes from the expensive Oculus Rift, HTC Vive and Sony PlayStation VR which are all going to release this year. With prices of $600, $800 and $400 respectively, it’s easy to see why the market is so big. The expectation is that these high-end headsets will account for 77% of the total revenue but only 13% of shipped units. After all, around 2.2 million Sony units would be enough to match the entire market value. Cheaper headsets like those based on smartphones will continue to see more though and be the VR most likely experienced by consumers.Furthermore, Strategy Analytics expects that VR will help drive a race in display resolution, storage and GPUs. This is due to the stringent and hefty requirements necessary to run VR games. Going forward it will be interesting to see what kind of hold VR will take and whether or not it will supplant traditional forms of content interaction.

HTC Placing Vive Demos at GameStop and Microsoft Stores

VR is one of those things where you have to experience it to know what it is all about. Without trying it, it really is hard to get a sense of how much you like or detest the whole experience. This is why it is so important to get VR headsets out into the public with demos so show them off. Starting today, HTC is doing just that, placing Vive headset demos throughout stores in the United States and Canada.

Right now, 3 Microsoft Stores already have HTC Vive demos ready for potential customers to experience. These are at New York City, Washington state (Bellevue Square) and Utah (City Creek Center). By the end of next week, 2 more will be added and peak at least at 30 by the end of the year. The other place where you can try out a Vive will at various GameStop locations. The plan is for 10 stores by the end of the month but how many there will be at the end remains to be seen.

For now, we have no idea what kind of demo the Vive will have at these locations. They should be smaller than the room scale demos at Overclockers UK but the idea is the same, to get VR out and into public view. Customers will also be able to order/pre-order the Vive at the locations. You can find out more about the Vive here.

Project CARS Falls Victim to the VR War

Slightly Mad Studios has released its 1.3 Oculus Rift SDK support for Project CARS this week, and with it revealed that crossplay between Oculus and HTC Vive users is not possible. While Project CARS supports both VR headsets, the HTC Vive – co-developed by Valve – is locked to Steam, while the Oculus Rift version of the game is only available from the Oculus homestore.

“Hey guys,” wrote Project CARS Director Stephen Viljoen on the game’s official forum. “Regarding MP and the various platforms, they are indeed separate platforms and we cannot support MP matchmaking between these two platforms. It’s not ideal, but that’s just how this platform separation works.”

So, while Slightly Mad Studios is certainly not to blame, its game is the first high-profile victim of the emerging VR war, which is sure to stoke the ire of gamers during the technology’s embryonic period.

Slightly Mad has been selling the VR capabilities of Project CARS hard for some time now, boasting that the game is one of the most feature-complete titles available for the new wave of headsets.

“Whenever I buy new hardware, whether that’s a new computer or console or sound system, I wanna show it off. And I want something to really test it,” Andy Tudor, the studio’s director, told iDigitalTimes. “So for those that are getting the Rift and wanna have a game that they can really dig their teeth into and pulls out all the stops both technically and graphically, Project CARS is the one for you.”

Virtual Desktop Lets You Use Your Whole PC in VR

Virtual reality technology has seen a massive surge recently, with a number of headsets to be released over the course of 2016. The typical usage of the technology is to allow more immersive gaming experiences but it is capable of so much more such as being a replacement for normal monitors in regular PC usage. The software that makes this possible is named Virtual Desktop and is set to be released on March 28th.

The idea behind the software is incredibly simple, it shows your standard PC desktops as floating panels in a full 360 degree VR environment. It also includes all the features it may need to render your regular monitors obsolete, including multiple monitor support and the ability to use your own pictures to make up the 360 background around your desktop(s), which they can be set to blend with. It even supports fully immersive music visualizations and the ability to watch movies in full VR, or even on the big-screen in VR cinema! In short, it lets you do your favourite things in VR, such as watch video without waiting for every service to bring out their own VR-compatible applications.

You can also play games in Virtual Desktop, with it including support for anything that runs from Steam and many games that don’t, with the creator reporting on Reddit that he had played Heroes of the Storm in VR. It even ran smoothly despite the graphics card in use being a GTX 770, which is made possible due to Virtual Desktop being incredibly lightweight and built using DirectX so it should have minimal impact on regular non-VR games played through it.

Tools like this are the ones that will move VR from being a gaming gimmick to something that is potentially useful for everyone on an everyday basis. It may hurt those who wish to sell purpose-specific VR tools, but for anyone getting an Oculus Rift or HTC Vive, Virtual Desktop could just be money well-spent, after all, it’s only $15! Although, you will have to use Windows 10 to use it to its full potential.

Valve Has VR Plans for Older Graphics Cards

Are you preparing your PC for the new advent of virtual reality? Well, don’t ditch that GTX 680 just yet. Alex Vlachos, a programmer for Valve, revealed during his GDC 2016 talk in San Francisco last week that the company is looking to lower its minimum spec for HTC Vive VR headset.

“As long as the GPU can hit 45 HZ we want for people to be able to run VR,” Vlachos told UploadVR, following his presentation, entitled Advanced VR Rendering. “We’ve said the recommended spec is a 970, same as Oculus, but we do want lesser GPUs to work. We’re trying to reduce the cost [of VR].”

“I can run Aperture [Valve’s Portal-themed VR demo] on a 680 without dropping frames at a lower quality, and, for me, that’s enough of a proof of concept,” Vlachos said during his talk. “Most art we’re seeing in VR isn’t as dense as that. So we should be pretty good to go…everything should be able to support that low-end hardware. But we need the right safety nets in place.”

The VR market is heating up this year, with pre-orders of the HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, and PlayStation VR going strong, and the imminent release of the Microsoft HoloLens later this month.

AMD Reportedly Has 83% of VR Hardware Marketshare – Capsaicin


2016 may well go down as the year VR finally takes off for real. Sony and Microsoft have both been making progress towards VR and augmented reality while Oculus and HTC are set to launch the Rift and Vive respectively. Given the efforts and lengths AMD has gone to push VR, it should come to no surprise that a report has revealed that the company has a massive 83% lead in providing the hardware for VR capable systems.

Hardware wise, it is not surprising to see the lead over Nvidia. While PC hardware is a large segment of the VR market, only higher end systems are capable of producing the frames necessary for VR at 90fps and enough resolution for both eyes. Because of this, the PS4 is a viable candidate for VR adoption and with the APU inside it being AMD, Nvidia stands no chance in terms of sheer hardware market share for VR.

As noted many times during the Capsaicin event, AMD has been working with many developers in both gaming and other forms of media with LiquidVR and GPUOpen. AMD has also been on the forefront with developments like VR cafes and partnering with Oculus and HTC to ensure that the Rift and Vive work seamlessly with Radeon. There is even a Radeon VR Ready Premium program to ensure consumers are informed.

With the VR market still in it’s growing stages, AMD has seen an opportunity to get in before it’s competitors have a chance and secure a bastion of developer support and integration. Considering the price of VR capable hardware, AMD stands a good chance to reap a windfall when VR takes off. This can only bode well for AMD as for once they are ahead and hopefully will be able to leverage their position to help the rest of their business grow.

AMD to Showcase VR and Gaming Innovations at GDC Capsaicin Webcast

With GDC just a week away, everyone is getting ready for major announcements from AMD and Nvidia. AMD however, will also be hosting their separate live streamed event at Ruby Skye in San Fransisco. Named after Capsaicin, a chemical behind a spicy pepper’s kick, AMD will be showcasing their latest innovations in Virtual Reality and Gaming. This means we may get a product reveal or too from the event as well as maybe some more.

Given the recent focus on VR, it is very likely that FuryX2 Gemini will finally be launched since the VR HMD are finally ready. This falls right in line with what has revealed about FuryX2 being ready already and the VR focus of the live stream.

In addition to that, we may finally get some more information about Polaris, though a launch may still be a long way away. March is still too early for Polaris to launch given the mid-2016 remarks but more demo units, especially higher end Polaris wouldn’t be out of the question.

Finally, we can expect AMD to showcase their LiquidVR solution in partnership with the Oculus Rift or HTC Vive. That will likely come along with their other gaming and VR oriented solutions and DX12. The event will be streamed on AMD’s investor relations page so be sure to check it out when the time comes.

HTC Will Bundle Vive With VR Optimized PCs

Last month, Valve released their SteamVR performance test to check if systems were ready for SteamVR and the HTC Vive. Needless to say, many potential VR users probably found that their systems wouldn’t be able to run VR games that well. Fortunately for those folks, HTC is stepping with Vive optimized gaming PCs that will be bundled with the Vive on their online storefront.

“We’ll have PC bundles with Vive-optimized PCs on our website soon and we’ll tell people they’ll have a great experience,” O’Brien promises. “But I don’t think PC bundles will be a major driver of sales.”

There is no word yet on what kind of PCs and what brands will be sold from the store or what the cost will look like. Given the requirements for VR, these PCs will probably cost more than the Vive headset itself. Nevertheless, some of the less tech-savvy customers may welcome the option to choose PCs they know will work for sure. Given HTC’s cooperation with Valve with the HTC Vive, we may see Steam Machines being a prominent feature.

For most of the top end PC gamers, though, their systems are probably already good enough. If there is any performance lacking, a simple GPU upgrade would probably suffice and with Polaris and Pascal coming, there will be many options.

EA Believes The Mainstream VR Market is ‘a Few Years Off’

Virtual Reality is often perceived as the future of home entertainment and has the potential to offer unique experiences with a whole new level of immersion. However, VR devices have a very high barrier to entry and out of the reach of most people’s budget. This is a shame because there’s a lot of publicity surrounding VR and its future place within the gaming industry. As you might expect, VR technology is still fairly niche and it doesn’t make sense for publishers to fund huge VR projects. This is because they will not receive a return on their investment and alienate the majority of their user-base. EA’s CFO Blake Jorgensen, predicted during a presentation at the Morgan Stanley Technology, Media and Telecom Conference that mainstream VR could be be some time off:

“We are very prepared for being able to build VR games. We have made an investment over the last five years to move to a single engine that we built all our games on”

“We are experimenting with a couple of a different players today that are VR players and we are making some small [experimental] titles rather than full blown games. The fundamental issue is that we need to create a large market in VR before we invest 50 to 100 million dollars in a big title. And when I say a large market, today there are 80 or 60 million new gen consoles, Xbox and PlayStation, sitting on the top of 150 million older generation consoles so that is a larger market. ”

“VR will be great and there are going to be a lot of applications for that including gaming. But I think it will be a few years off before we have a substantial VR market. We are prepared about it, we are excited about it, we can see some experiments coming out from our studio in the years to come that will help people understand the power [of VR].”

I think this is an optimistic viewpoint because VR technology requires a lot of graphical horsepower, and the devices themselves will probably remain expensive for some time. Eventually, prices will fall and this should encourage people to take a risk and give VR a try!

Microsoft HoloLens Out This Month

Microsoft has announced that, one year after it was first unveiled, the HoloLens augmented reality headset is available for pre-order, and it’s not cheap. In a blog post, Alex Kipman, the Microsoft executive that has effectively adopted HoloLens as his baby, revealed that the Development Edition of the wireless AR headset can now be reserved, for the hefty sum of $3,000, before it ships on 30th March.

“I’m thrilled to announce that starting today, developer applicants will start receiving invitations to purchase the Microsoft HoloLens Development Edition – which will begin shipping on March 30th,” Kipman writes. “Today represents a monumental step forward. This is the first step in our journey to consumers. A step focused on our commercial partnerships and on supporting developers, who will help pave the way to consumer availability with amazing and new holographic experiences.”

“The future of technology will not be confined to just two dimensions – our future interaction with technology will more closely mirror our real world,” he adds. “Technology coexisting in our real, three-dimensional world, beyond screens and pixels. We believe that the future is holographic, and as a result, we will continue to empower the developers who will help bring that future to life.”

While the HoloLens release is a Development Edition, rather than a consumer release, $3,000 seems overpriced, especially compared with the sub-$1,000 price points of both the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive.

Overclockers UK Launches VR Ready Gaming PC Range

Overclockers UK is one of the leading online hardware retailers and stocks a huge supply of components from niche water cooling products to affordable pre-configured systems. The company’s customer service and active forum community makes it stand out compared to the competition and ensures each customer’s needs are attended to. Recently, Overclockers UK entered a partnership with HTC, and launch a brand new Virtual Reality section on their website. Here you can find a description about VR, and easily navigate to VR ready hardware. For example, only VR capable graphics cards are listed to help the end-user make a suitable purchasing decision without having to perform extensive research.

On another note, Overclockers UK will also sell VR headsets, peripherals and software and has everything you need to get started! This means it’s possible to create a stunning setup for immersive racing games, or build your own flight simulator. Virtual Reality is here to stay and the new big revolution in gaming. Currently, VR devices are expensive which makes being an early adopter a difficult proposition. However, prices should reduce in time and make the technology more accessible. In addition to an extensive component line-up, the company is also offering an impressive range of custom-made PCs.

The new ‘VR Ready’ range utilizes the SteamVR performance test to gauge a system’s performance. Clearly, VR has some fairly hefty requirements and this can be quite overwhelming for certain customers. Thankfully, Overclockers UK has employed this tool to provide a simple rating system and outline the performance benefits across various price points. For example, the Titan Virtual Raid VR includes an Intel Core i5 6600K, and high-end AMD Radeon R9 Fury 4GB. This PC is described as ‘VR Ready’ with an average fidelity of 8.9 (Very High).  If this particular machine is out of your budget, then there’s cheaper alternatives like the Kinect VR small-form factor PC.  This unit sports an Intel Core i5 6500 and GTX 970. Despite its weaker specification, the PC is still ‘VR Ready’ with an average fidelity of 6.6 (High).

It’s great to see the VR buying process made simpler, and I cannot wait to try some of these new systems from Overclockers UK.

HTC Sells 15,000 $800 Vive VR Headsets in 10 Minutes

VR is looking more and more like the next goldmine for tech companies as customers are snatching them up as fast as the pre-orders are going up. Just a few hours after the HTC Vive VR headset went up for pre-orders, we’re getting a sense of just how much demand there really is. According to Shen Ye from HTC, 15,000 units were sold in just 10 minutes, or about 25 every second. This netted HTC and partner Valve about $12 million USD at $800 a pop.

Right now, there are only 2 major VR HMD available, both on pre-order. There is the Facebook-backed Oculus Rift selling for $600 and the HTC Vive which comes in $200 more. Given that a PC needed to run such a system for gaming is about $1000, it seems like there are many folks who are really excited VR. That or a lot of scalpers hoping to eBay or Craigslist their purchases.

While 15,000 is a really impressive number, the more important ones are for the total user base for the Rift and Vive. Even though many games and other applications can be adapted for VR quite easily, a good VR requires a lot more work. The question will be if there will be enough users for developers to start looking hard at VR, or will it take the install base of the likes of the PS4 and Xbox One before developers start paying attention.

Sony Claims PS4 is More 60% Efficient than PC at VR

With VR headsets nearing launch, the focus has turned to looking at the platforms driving them. For the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift, the PC is the obvious choice but Sony will be rolling their own with the PlayStation VR. Richard Marks, the head of the PlayStation Magic Lab at Sony has recently shared more information about how VR will work on the PS4. The biggest points, however, are what Marks has to say about the performance.

“The hardware was designed and built for real time. It’s  a video gaming system so the operating system is very low latency and very tunable.”

According to Marks, the PS4 will be a better platform for VR. Most of the benefits are the usual ones that the console has, mainly the uniform hardware, setup and accessories that all PS4 owners will have. This will make it easier for developers to create games for the console. Performance is also better as the PS4 OS is designed for real-time gaming and is able to have much lower latency, in the area of 18ms. Low latency as we know is very critical to have an optimal VR experience.

“This isn’t my number, this is some middleware people said, that a console about the same specs as a PC, the console is about 60% more powerful, because of all that kind of direct access you have and knowing every piece as it should be and not having variability like this is a different process here and things like that. You can just tune things and get effectively 60% more performance.”

Finally, the main point Marks hammers home is that consoles simply perform better at VR than PCs. According to middleware vendors he has talked to, the PS4 should be 60% faster than a comparably specced PC.  This is due to the OS and the direct access to hardware the PS4 offers. Furthermore, the PS4 should be in the realm of a GTX 970 equipped PC in terms of VR.

It’s well-known that consoles are more tunable due to the direct hardware access it offers. A 60% boost might even be believable. The claim about the PS4 matching the GTX 970 though is pretty outlandish, though. That would entail an 110% boost in performance which is incompatible with the 60% figure. With DX12 and Vulcan coming as well, the PC may very well catch up to consoles very soon.

Valve Releases SteamVR Performance Test Utility

SteamVR is a virtual reality platform developed by Valve which offers an immersive 360 degrees full room experience and designed with the HTC Vive in mind. This incredible feat of technology uses laser-bases positional tracking and a detection system to prevents users from walking into physical objects in their environment. Virtual reality is often praised for its potential to revolutionize entertainment in a way never thought possible. Even though 2016 is the year when VR begins to really take off, it’s still a very expensive proposition which makes the HTC Vive a niche device. Recently, HTC announced the Vive would cost $799 which almost defies belief. Despite this, there is a great deal of potential and the prices will come down eventually.

As you might expect, VR devices require a fairly high specification PC, which alienates the potential user base. Both HTC and Oculus have released the minimum system requirements to achieve an optimal VR experience and inform users in the best possible way. However, to simplify the process even further, Valve has released a tool which scans your PC and provides a rating based on its suitability for SteamVR. The tool isn’t officially available on the Steam store right now because it keeps refreshing back to the main page. However, you can install it via steam://install/323910.

Reddit users have already been sharing the results and comparing various scores. Here we can see a really good configuration with a Fury X, and Intel Core i5-6600K. This showcases that the i5 variant without Hyperthreading isn’t a major issue when it comes to VR.

Here’s a slightly lower-end specification featuring an 8 core AMD FX 8320 processor and R9 380 graphics card. The wording of capable is interesting because this system’s GPU is technically below the HTC Vive’s requirements. It’s unclear what the difference will be between a capable and ready system. Perhaps, it’s to do with a smoother frame-rate, but surely Valve wants the VR experience to be consistent.

Is your system ready for VR?

HTC Vive – Eye Watering Price Revealed

There’s a great deal of anticipation surrounding the possibilities of virtual reality equipment in the gaming industry and other entertainment forms. Not only that, VR could be deployed to train new recruits in essential practical skills and help surgeons perform complex operations. Clearly, virtual reality has a huge potential but it’s going to take a considerable amount of time before the technology becomes mainstream. Recently, the $599 price point of the Oculus Rift shocked users expecting a significantly lower price point. This is well beyond the reach of most consumers especially when you take into account the cost of hardware to drive virtual reality headsets. Currently, VR manufacturers are focusing on producing the best possible experiences to encourage hardware sales. In theory, the pricing should reduce over time and become more accessible but the time frame for this is still unknown.

The HTC Vive’s retail price was confirmed at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona and leaked by a number of publications prior to the official embargo. UploadVR reports that the Vive will cost a whopping $799 and ship with a controller for each hand and a pair of “Lighthouse” laser base stations designed to track movement. The device will also come with an internal microphone, and have Bluetooth functionality to communicate with various smartphones. Pre-orders for the unit will begin on February 29th, and the first shipments should commence in April.

It will be interesting to see if the higher price point affects sales compared to the Oculus Rift. Competition in the marketplace is great for consumers though and helps progress technology forward. 2016 is often described as the year of virtual reality, and this prediction looks set to be coming to fruition. Sadly at $799, the HTC Vive will remain a very niche device for those with big wallets, and this is a shame.

AMD Releases VR-Ready CPU List

With the arrival of the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive and other VR headsets later this year, the talk has turned to the hardware necessary to drive these displays. Unlike regular gaming, VR gaming will require much higher framerates, meaning higher performing hardware. While Oculus has released their own system hardware checker, it is missing many other potentially workable hardware, something AMD is remediating with their own CPU list.

As expected, the list contains the 2 top end 220W models, the FX 9590 and 9370, AMD’s top CPUs. Further down are the usual suspects for gaming systems, the FX 8370 and 8350 and the more budget FX 6350. Surprisingly, the 2M/4T Steamroller based A10 7890K and 7870K as well as the Athlon X4 880K and 870K. It looks like the list is mostly made up of faster-clocked CPUs either above 3.9Ghz with 3M/6T or based on the new Steamroller architecture. This is expected as VR requires a good amount of single-thread performance and higher frame rates than usual. It’s surprising that we don’t see the FX 4320 and 4350 given that those carry a hefty base clock as well.

Even with this list though, AMD has only tested the FX chips against VR, while the Steamroller chips are theoretically good enough. Intel still holds a strong lead in single-threaded performance so it really depends on how the VR titles if AMD will run well on them. AMD won’t have to worry soon though if Zen delivers later this year.

Unity Vision Summit Attendees Receive Free HTC Vive

Virtual Reality is commonly perceived as the next step in entertainment and could revolutionize the way we all watch films, and play video games. Not only that, VR devices could theoretically be deployed in the medical profession to help diagnose patients from remote locations or instruct junior doctors how to perform certain examinations. As you can see, the Virtual Reality craze is certainly going to be around for some time, and I cannot wait to see the kind of software implementations across various industries. Of course, there are already a huge selection of headsets being finalized including the Oculus Rift, PlayStation VR and HTC Vive. 2016 should be the year when VR becomes mainstream and consumers can finally see what the fuss is all about!

During the Unity Vision Summit, founder of Valve, Gabe Newell made a brief appearance on video and announced that all attendees would receive a free HTC Vive. This rightfully made the crowd very excited and they applauded Valve for their kind gesture. It’s a very clever move on Valve’s part because it gives developers access to the HTC Vive and allows them to understand the possibilities of the device. As a result, there should be more VR focussed games which offer a truly unique experience. VR hardware isn’t going to appeal to the core gaming audience unless there’s a killer application. Perhaps, Valve is hoping one of the developers in attendance today is going to help showcase the benefits of VR technology.

In all honesty, I cannot wait for VR to become mainstream and believe it could revolutionize immersion in a way never thought possible. However, it’s important to keep the devices at a reasonable cost, because many users will perceive it as a very expensive accessory. Whatever the case, VR is here to stay, and this year should really show us what its capable of.

Amazon Launches Virtual Reality Hub

Virtual Reality is often described as the future of home entertainment and could revolutionize the way we watch films, play games and engage in other pastimes. Since the advent of the Oculus VR development kit, other manufacturers have seen the potential for VR technology and decided to produce alternatives. As a result, VR is the current trend and received a great deal of media attention. While competition in the marketplace is great news, it can be overwhelming for consumers wanting to know the key differences between various products. Recently, Oculus unveiled the $599 retail launch price for the Rift which left some users extremely disappointed and felt it offered poor value. Thankfully, there are cheaper options but the pricing of HTC’s Vive and PlayStation VR is still unknown.

On another note, data from a study conducted during the Game Developers Conference indicates the amount of devs working on VR projects has increased from seven percent in 2015, to 16 percent in 2016. This is a marked increased and presumably, many studios are waiting to see the impact of VR before making any games built around the technology. As you might expect, 2016 will be the year when VR begins to enter retail channels and consumers finally get their hands on the polished models.

To help customers make a more informed decision, Amazon has launched a Virtual Reality Hub which contains videos about VR devices including the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift as well as a detailed FAQ describing everything you need to know about Virtual Reality. This section is written quite well and answers questions about the UK release date, costs, health implications and VR gaming. If you’re still unsure about the VR concept, it’s worth checking out to see what the furore is all about! Furthermore, you can set up e-mail notifications when more information arises about each product. I’d imagine this means Amazon will be a stockist of the main hardware launches and secure a good amount of units.

Nitero Promises Wireless VR in 2016

One of the big features in 2016 will be virtual reality or VR. Virtual reality is the idea of becoming so immersed into an experience that it seems like you are actually there. The Oculus Rift is arguably the most well-known device to give you this experience, the downside of the experience is traditionally the need for cables. This could all change thanks to Nitero who are working on a solution for wireless VR.

If you wanted to send large amounts of information to a device you have two approaches, you can either send it via a cable, which limits movement but allows you to send data very quickly and at high quality, or you can send it wirelessly. Sending data wirelessly leads to signal issues and tends to be slower, meaning new technology like virtual reality tends to work more on wired connections.

Nitero CEO Pat Kelly is so confident that his company can release a product, with a hardware partner, in the second half of 2016 that involves a wireless VR device, that only “a meteor hitting the Earth” could stop them.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M065tVhG1q8&feature=youtu.be

Using 60GHz wireless and video compression techniques (similar to an approach Netflix is using to help stream their library to you), Nitero are looking to send virtual reality data with a “latency in the order of 100’s of microseconds”.

Being able to use new technology is great, not being held back by the cables that will entangle and prove a threat to your safety.

HTC Confirms Date of Vive VR Headset Pre-Orders

HTC has confirmed the date on which it will begin taking pre-orders for its Vive VR headset. Cher Wang, CEO of HTC, has told The Telegraph that pre-orders of the Vive, produced in conjunction with Valve, will be available from 29th February.

Five years ago, HTC was one of the leading smartphone manufacturers, but after a decline in quality of its handsets and the emergence of Chinese upstarts Xiaomi and Huawei saw the company fall into financial disarray, with dire predictions that it could fold within two years. Wang, however, sees the company’s refocus on virtual reality as the key to reviving its fortunes.

“Yes, smartphones are important, but to create a natural extension to other connected devices like wearables and virtual reality is more important,” Wang told The Telegraph.

HTC showed off its latest Vive headset, the second-generation developer kit Vive Pre, at CES in Las Vegas last week, showing off a refined version of the headset that debuted at the Mobile World Congress last year.

“Now we are more realistic,” Wang said on the future of HTC. “We feel that we should apply our best design to different type of sectors.”

HTC is yet to reveal how much the Vive VR headset will cost when pre-orders go live on 29th February.

New NVIDIA Program Will Tell You if Your System is VR Ready

The new era of virtual reality is almost upon us, with the imminent release of Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, and Sony PlayStation VR all due for consumer release this year. In preparation, NVIDIA has partnered with the likes of ASUS, Gigabyte, and Alienware to launch its GeForce GTX VR Ready program to help tag systems and graphics cards that support VR technology. Hardware that sports a “GeForce GTX VR Ready” badge is capable of meeting the VR requirements of running two separate images (one for each eye) at 90 frames-per-second.

Minimum requirements (Based on published VR requirements by headset manufacturers):

  • GPU: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970 or greater
  • CPU: Intel Core i5- 4590 equivalent or greater
  • Notebook: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980
  • Memory/RAM: 8GB+ RAM
  • Outputs: 2x USB 3.0 ports, HDMI 1.3
  • OS: Windows 7 SP1 or newer

“For customers, navigating an emerging technology like VR can be daunting,” Jason Paul, General Manager of Emerging Technologies at NVIDIA, said. “We’re working with trusted partners worldwide to simplify the buying process with a GeForce GTX VR Ready badge that will let customers quickly identify PCs or add-in cards that are capable of handling the demands of VR.”

In an interview with VentureBeat at the end of December, Paul added that NVIDIA has been preparing for the VR boon, with its Maxwell architecture built with virtual reality in mind, and its Gameworks and Designworks VR software designed to deliver the highest quality experience for users:

“Nvidia is doing three core things to solve this problem. First, we’re building fast GPUs, and we’re building them specifically architected for VR. Our Maxwell architecture has specific capabilities and features that make it very fast for VR. We have some technology that increases performance by up to 50 percent for VR applications.

Software-wise we’re making sure the out-of-box experience for customers is perfect. We want the first VR experience everyone gets when the headsets come out to be a good one – no stutter, no lag. Our GeForce Experience software and our Game Ready drivers are core to making sure that experience is delivered.

We’re working with all of the VR ecosystem through an SDK we call Gameworks VR on the consumer side and Designworks VR on the professional side. That helps headset manufacturers get lower latency and plug-and-play compatibility, and it helps developers get better performance out of their apps.”

 

More Battlezone Remake Details Revealed During Paris Game Week

Battlezone is a classic from all the way back in 1980 and the announcement during the E3 2015 that a remake of the VVR arcade game would come got fans all around excited. Virtual reality is the next big thing in gaming and this title is perfect for this.

It will be among the launch titles for PlayStation VR, but it will also be made available for Oculus Rift users as WCCF tech learned during the Paris Game Week. There is no doubt that a game like this launching together with the PlayStation VR will give a boost to both sides.

In virtual reality, you need smooth gameplay more than ever before and Rebellion is targeting a 60 FPS native frame rate that gets a bump to 120 FPS via reprojection. When it comes to controlling the game, the company is focusing on the DualShock 4 controller for now and not the PlayStation Move controllers. They have been prototyping with them but found that the normal controller was a better fit for the game. Future implementation of the Move controllers isn’t ruled out, but it isn’t a focus right now.

There will be most likely be a multiplayer mode as hinted through the use of the Asura engine that is focused on networking and multiplayer technology, but also a campaign mode with lots of replayability. With PlayStation VR set for a launch in the first half of 2016, we can expect Battlezone to launch at the same time. Other VR devices such as the HTC Vive might be supported in the future, allowing pretty much anyone with a VR set to play this game the way it’s meant to be played.

Battlezone is a VR title coming first to PlayStation 4 and then later on Steam for PC [TBC], however Rebellion has always been a multi-platform developer and we’re looking into other platforms too. While we can’t confirm anything yet don’t be surprised if we add to this list in the future,” said Tim Jones, Head of Creative at Rebellion. “We’ve already confirmed support for both PlayStation VR and Oculus Rift , but we are looking at the potential of other VR platforms too – though we can’t confirm anything right now.”

Watch Disney Animator Glen Keane Work and Talk About VR

Disney’s animators have always been considered some of the best in the world and now one of them, Glen Keane, is showing us how to embrace the future in form of Virtual Reality for that kind of work. It was Glen Keane that brought The Little Mermaid Ariel to the big screens over 25 years ago and the possible tools to create such a thing have changed a lot in that time.

Keane is using an HTC Vive virtual reality headset and Tilt Brush, a VR drawing and animation tool that got acquired by Google earlier this year, as he takes us on a little trip into his world. This isn’t the first time that Glen Keane ventures into the virtual world that lets us experience everything in 360 degrees, he has previously created an animated short film called Duet which plays on a 360-degree stage.

The new video doesn’t just show the technical aspect as so many VR videos do, Keane also shares his thought on the whole deal as well as what drawing means to him. It isn’t so much about the drawing itself, it’s about entering a whole new world where he becomes the thing that he creates. You can watch the 5-minute long video below, it’s well worth it.

Thank You Variety for providing us with this information

HTC Vive Virtual Reality Headsets Start to Ship to Devs

A while ago we took a brief look at the future of virtual reality and we mentioned about the HTC Vive VR headset. HTC joined forces with Valve to create the headset. A dev version of the VR equipment has begun to ship to a select few game development teams. The shipped equipment comes with the headset and two base stations.

The headset, which looks rather functional rather than appealing, is home to over 70 sensors of various kinds including an accelerometer, gyroscope and laser positional sensors. These positional sensors interact with the supplied “Lighthouse” base stations, of which, two are needed to counteract occlusion or blind spots. This positioning system is said to support multiple headsets in an area around a 15×15-foot area (that’s 4.5m x 4.5m for the metric users).

The Steam VR kit will also come with two controllers which are designed for use with the virtual reality headset and are tracked by the base stations. These controllers have taken the high-resolution trackpads from the new steam controller for a new way to move around virtual environments.

They are only shipping to a limited number of developers and according to Garry Newman, the creator of Garry’s Mod and the ever improving Rust, he is yet to get his.

Maybe he will have to wait like the rest of us for the retail release that is earmarked for some time before the year is out.

Unreal Engine 4.8 Released for VR Support

In a press release earlier today, it was announced that Epic Games will be releasing a preview build of the new Unreal Engine 4.8 which offers support for Valve’s highly anticipated SteamVR/ HTC Vive headset. This has been done so developers without the headset can start building VR supporting experiences with Unreal Engine 4.8.

There are two major VR game engines, Unreal and Unity; Unreal Engine will be the first to support SteamVR, along with the other major VR headsets. due to SteamVR supporting the Oculus Rift DK2, developers can use that headset in preparation for the SteamVR kit.

““We work closely with Valve to ensure Unreal Engine 4 is highly optimized for the latest SteamVR features, with particular focus on minimized latency,” said Nick Whiting, lead engineer at Epic Games….Valve, who are still working on the second version of their popular ‘Source’ game engine, is in full support of Epic’s integration of SteamVR. Whiting told me that the company sent engineers to assist Epic with the process.”

Whiting also said that the Unreal team have already ported some previous games over to VR demos; such as Showdown and Lord of the Rings ready to work with SteamVR and the HTC Vive. Of which, Showdown is ready for public release, assuming you can run at the ideal 90FPS.

“If you want to run something like Showdown, the baseline GPU is an Nvidia GTX 980. If you’re going to run something more simple like Couch Knights, you could get away with a GTX 780….Most modern CPUs are pretty good, but usually around 3.3GHz to 3.6GHz minimum is best,” he said. “We tried it on some workstations (which have lots of cores at lower speed), which was a little slow to keep up at 90 FPS but as soon as you put it on a Core-i5 or Core-i7 it works pretty well.”

Whiting was then asked why VR developers should opt for Unreal Engine over Unity, the engine’s “awesome, physical based renderer” and ‘Blueprint’ system were highlights. These allow game designers to build experiences with only intermediate programming knowledge.

This is very interesting, I was recently contemplating an Oculus Rift headset for myself, but seeing this now make me want to hold out for the SteamVR kit. Will you be jumping on the VR train when SteamVR is released? Let us know in the comments

Thank you to Road To VR for providing us with this information

Students Create Physical Feedback Glove for Virtual Reality

There is no doubt that in the past few years the virtual reality market has grown exponentially, with kits such as the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive looking to be released in the very near future, the new future of gaming is now nearly upon us. But one thing that was always lacking from the VR dream was physical feedback, being able to see what you were touching but not actually feeling it. Well now a team of students from Rice University have created the Hands Omni, a glove that provides physical feedback to actions committed in a virtual environment and it looking very promising, even in its very bare-bones state.

The glove, which had its development sponsored by Virtuix, a works by inflating and deflating small airbags under the fingers, providing the pressure you’d normally encounter in the real world at some level. The glove also recently won the “People’s Choice” award at Rice’s own Engineering Design Showcase.

Designed to be as unnoticeable to the user as possible, the glove uses a wireless system to give you all the freedom of movement you need, which is quite an issue with current VR systems such as the Oculus, as you are limited in the confines of the cable. The glove also only weighs an impressive 350 grams meaning that you will hardly even notice it, which is pretty handy for not breaking the illusion of virtual reality.

If such a product will soon become readily available for mass production, then we could see virtual reality get a whole lot more physical.

Thank you to phys.org for providing us with this information.

Image courtesy of Oculus.