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.

Ikea Now Has a VR Showroom

Sometimes you don’t want to pop out, but you know you need to go grab that something. A sandwich, some food for the week or even that new game. There’s only so much you can get delivered by drone, so what about the stuff you want to see before you buy? Well if you are one of the lucky ones planning a trip to Ikea, why not see what it looks like before you’ve even left the house with Ikea’s new VR showroom.

The new program is available through Steam, with the app supporting the HTC Vive headset. In the app, you can choose from one of three rooms with the ability to change the colours of cabinets and drawers with just a swish of the Vives controller.

The app gives you the ability to explore from both a tall person’s perspective and a child’s, giving you the option of trying out a kitchen before your little one find all the bits that you regret buying two days later. The page notes that this experience is expected to last 5 minutes, with the pilot only being supported until august 2016.

In their press release Ikea state they see the “IKEA VR Experience as an opportunity to co-create with people all around the world”, asking for suggestions and ideas on how to use virtual reality and improve their VR kitchen. Is this the first step to a VR shop? Could we avoid the second guesses of buying something from a picture by viewing it in 3D before we’ve even left the house?

Would you ever trust an app before you buy or do you have to see and touch something in person before you buy? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below.

DOTA 2 Could Be Getting a VR Spectating Mode

When it comes to eSports, being able to watch the techniques and strategies used by teams as they compete can be a gripping and thrilling experience. Be it at home or in a stadium, watching people play the game and knowing that in a just a few short seconds the entire game can change excites people, so what would you do if you could get closer to the action? You could soon with Valve teasing a VR spectating mode for the MOBA game, DOTA 2.

The footage was teased by Robert McGregor on twitter, showing off just some of the features. The footage shows a screen, similar to the one you would find watching the game regularly, only looking away from the suspended screen shows you details about the events and characters taking place in the match.

To either side of the screen line up the characters, showing the items they’ve all taken, while straight ahead as if on a table you have the overhead map, complete with markers to show who’s where. Compiled with team network and differences in experience gained, a single glance in any direction can reveal something you might normally miss.

While the new system looks to be made to support the HTC Vive (controllers and all), this is the first it’s been seen in action and if it’s anything to go by, VR spectating could be something that other e-sports look to create in the near future.

Overclockers UK Will Be at the VR World Congress Next Week

By now there can’t be much doubt in anyone’s mind that 2016 will be the year that will be remembered as the year VR went mainstream. We have got 3 major players each bringing out their own VR headsets, partly they already have to early adopters, and they surely won’t be the last ones. Overclockers UK is one of the biggest gaming system builders and hardware components shops in the UK and they are also on board for this new wave of virtual reality. We’ve already seen them create dedicated HTC Vive area in their shops where customers and fans can experience the full room VR experience, so there is no doubt that they believe in this too.

Overclockers UK will also be among the 600 buyers, sellers, and developers who will attend the VR World Congress next week on April the 12th in Bristol that is being headlined by AMD and their LiquidVR. At the VRWC, you’ll find a dedicated expo hall filled to the brim with exciting and innovative companies showing the latest developments in VR.

OC UK themselves will bring their high-performance PCs, starting from the recommended VR specifications and all the way up to the 8Pack designed and built monster PC called the Asteroid. There will also be the chance to test out OCUK’s Room Scale VR Experience at their booth.

You can also be part of this yourself, if you have time and are in the area, and you can even get in for free with a little luck. Overclockers UK is giving away 2 tickets for this event and the entry is as simple as it could be. All you have to do is to visit the OCUK forums and post a reply to a thread there. You should also take the time to browse the forums a little bit while you’re there, they got some great and knowledgeable people hanging around that post a lot of interesting stuff.

HTC May Make Google Nexus Phones for Next Three Years

With Android N making waves in the news cycle, it’s no surprise that some talk inevitably strays towards Google Nexus phones. So far, we are halfway into the lifecycle for the Nexus 5X and 6P but talk is out about the next generation of Nexus phones. According to the latest rumours, HTC may play a major role in future Nexus’s, with the Taiwanese firm set to produce phones for Google for the next three years. This supports earlier reports that LG will not be producing a Nexus phone this year.

HTC and Google have a long history together, with the Nexus One and Nexus 9 both being partnerships. It makes a lot of sense for Google to settle on a single firm to produce a number of Nexus phones as it simplifies development and support as well as providing some sense of design consistency. So far, only Samsung has had back to back Google Nexus phones and along with LG, the only two to have more than one Nexus phone.

The deal also makes sense for HTC and Google as the device firm has been struggling in the hyper-competitive smartphone market. A Nexus device would give HTC a good boost in sales, marketing and revenue it so desperately needs to maintain their business. This makes sense because if HTC is desperate, they may be more willing to comply with Google’s increasingly strict Nexus guidelines. Hopefully, the new HTC Nexus phones will be as sleek as HTC’s own upcoming flagship and won’t have the giant screen Google seems to love.

HTC 10/HTC One M10 Renders Leaked

Even as HTC is refocusing their efforts on VR with the HTC Vive, the company is still working on new smartphones. Dubbed either the HTC 10 or HTC One M10 depending on which leak you believe, the new HTC phone has had some of its renders leaked. Taking its design cues from the A8 and A9, the new phones continues the metal unibody trend and 5inch screen.

According to the leaked renders, the new phone features an all new aesthetic with a new bevelled edge and a more subdued curve on the rear. The rear camera remains a circular one that is not overly large and comes with only a small camera hump. The camera is backed up by a laser autofocus and two-tone LED flash.

For the front, the 10/M10 has ditched their monstrous Boomsound speakers for more subdued ones for cleaner front.The bezels are also a bit smaller compared to the M series and more in line with what the A9 had. A fingerprint scanner is also found at the bottom though some may confuse it with a home button, which it might also be. Specifications are pretty competitive with a 5.15-inch 2560×1440 display, Snapdragon 820 SoC, Adreno 530 GPU, 4GB RAM, a 12MP camera, and USB Type-C port.

Overall, the phone looks pretty good and hopefully, HTC will be able to come back strong in the hyper-competitive smartphone market. The expected launch date is April 19th.

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.

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.

Vive Now Available for Pre-Order

The Vive virtual reality headset – a collaboration between HTC and Valve – is now available for pre-order, with the first shipments to begin on 5th April, 2016. The HTC Vive, which recently won “Best in Show” at CES 2016,  includes two wireless VR controllers, room scale movement, 360° tracking, and an HMD with a built-in camera, to provide “what many critics are calling the most convincing VR experience launching this year,” according to the official press release.

“We are delighted to help usher in the next generation of virtual reality,” Cher Wang of HTC said. “Launching Vive with Valve has helped us ignite the creativity of thousands of content developers around the world.”

Pre-orders will include the games Tilt Brush from Google, Fantastic Contraption from Northway and Radial Games, and Job Simulator: The 2050 Archives from Owlchemy Labs.

“Our collaboration with HTC and the VR development community has allowed us to create the most compelling and complete VR solution,” Valve’s Gabe Newell added. “In the coming weeks, many of these developers will launch an incredible first generation of VR titles to consumers around the world.”

To test whether your system is equipped to run the HTC Vive, Steam has released the SteamVR application.

The HTC Vive is priced at £746.60/$829, including shipping.

HTC: The Vive is “Not Just About Gaming”

Virtual reality technology is commonly perceived as the future of gaming, and theoretically provides truly unique experiences. However, it’s not limited to the gaming sector and could be deployed to broadcast sports events in a more immersive way or help trainees to learn new skills. Unfortunately, being an early adopter of VR is a costly endeavour and requires a very capable PC. The Oculus Rift’s price point of $599 seems extremely high until HTC announced the Vive would retail for a staggering $799. This is bound to alienate a large proportion of the device’s possible user base and makes it a niche product. Despite this, the company defended its pricing policy via a post on the official HTC Vive blog. The statement reiterates that the Vive isn’t just for gaming purposes and reads:

“But it’s not just about gaming,” 

“In addition to these launch titles, HTC is working with developers to foster the creation of content that spans multiple sectors including entertainment, retail, education, design, healthcare and automotive that will ultimately transform people’s lives.”

Cher Wang, chairwoman and CEO at HTC proclaimed:

“From the beginning, Vive has been at the forefront of virtual reality, with HTC pioneering several ground breaking technologies,

Since announcing Vive this time last year, we have worked tirelessly with Valve to deliver the best VR experience on the market, winning multiple awards and receiving critical acclaim from media, consumers and the industry. With the Vive consumer edition we are now able to realize our ultimate vision; bringing Vive into homes around the globe so that people can experience immersive virtual reality in a way that fires the imagination and truly changes the world.”

It’s important to remember that the first models of any new technology usually involves a hefty price and eventually becomes more mainstream. The Vive is a no-compromise approach to create the best possible VR experience. On the other hand, its price is very high and might frustrate users who want to see what the VR revolution is all about.

Google Plans to Tighten Grip On Nexus Hardware

The Nexus lineup from Google is one of the most popular brands for the Android ecosystem, with decent hardware paired with a no-frills OS build. According to the latest rumours, Google is looking to invest more into their Nexus hardware and take greater control over the design and building. Right now, Nexus devices are built-in partnership with OEMs like LG, Motorola, Huawei, HTC and Samsung.

While Google taking on more control to do they feel best with the Nexus brand is no surprise, the rumours suggest that Google will go far as an “Apple-like” approach. In fact, the report suggests that Google wants to bring in all the design work itself and simply issue orders to the OEMs, just like Apple does to Foxconn. This means the OEMs will become glorified hardware partners only there to handle the manufacturing side of things.

Google is understandably conflicted over such a change, as it could alienate their hardware vendors which want their own input and branding associated with the phone. On the other hand, Apple has been steadily growing and Google wants more control over the Android ecosystem in order to better compete. Google already has considerable input into how Nexus devices are designed and built though so this may not be such a drastic change.

For this new Nexus device, Google is reportedly looking get HTC, one of their weaker and likely more desperate OEM partner, to build the device. HTC has recently been struggling to sell phones and probably needs as much help as they can get. Unfortunately, HTC won’t get any branding for the new Nexus and Google will be taking a big cut of the sales price. Whether this works for HTC and Google and how other Android partners react remains to be seen.

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.

HTC Announces A9 Smartphone

HTC has unveiled the A9 smartphone which features a Qualcomm Snapdragon 617 Octa-core 64-bit processor with four cores clocked at 1.5GHz while the other four operate at 1.2GHz. The handset supports NFC, Bluetooth 4.1, 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac 2.4GHz/5GHz and opts for Dolby Hi-Res Audio. In terms of storage, the base unit contains 16GB with 2GB of RAM while the more expensive model utilizes 32GB ROM and 3GB RAM. Thankfully, there is a MicroSD expansion slot which allows the storage to be upgraded to a maximum of 2TB.

This handset will be the first from HTC is support Android 6.0 by default and adopts a similar visual design to the iPhone 6. The 2150 mAh battery is disappointing although it does support Quick Charge 2.0. The handset also features a 13-megapixel rear camera with auto-focus and a sapphire cover lens which can shoot video in 1080p. Additionally, there is optical image stabilization to reduce movement during photographs. The front camera’s specification hasn’t been revealed but I would presume the sensor to be around 5-megapixels.

The smartphone’s display is a 5″ 1920×1080 Super AMOLED panel and also utilizes a fingerprint reader. As you might expect, the handset is constructed from a metal uni-body and oozes quality. Pre-orders are currently available from HTC’s website and begin at $399.99 for a limited time only.

Apple’s ‘Move to iOS’ App Receives The Reception it Deserves

Apple created its first Android app on the Google Play Store, entitled, “Move to iOS” which migrates your personal data when switching to an Apple handset. I’m not entirely sure if this naivety or arrogance, but what did Apple expect from the majority of users on Android? Obviously, the app has been massively downvoted and there’s currently 17,710 people who awarded the app one star. While you could say this is due to Android fanboys, I honestly think Apple’s attitude in making this app deserves a great deal of criticism. I presume most of the one star reviews are an objection to Apple’s claims about the large numbers of people flocking to iOS from Android.

Here is a selection of user reviews to give you an indication about why they are upset:

“Really?? First of all, why in the whole world, would I migrate from Android to iOS?!? I don’t see any reason at all! Second of all, seriously?! An Android app looking like a iOS?? IMHO, Apple should have showed some respect and followed android material design! How does Google allow such kind of thing? Come on!!!”

“Stay Away from this app unless you are ready to live rest of your life without one kidney. I installed it on my new Xperia M4 Aqua dual and it suggested me to buy two iphone6 plus since i’ve been using dual sim handset. Not worth it.”

“Do not install this junk!!! Google never made any kind of app that can move from iOS to android and this app as you see it said “you can recycle your android phone at any Apple store” It said RECYCLE!! What’s wrong with Apple.”

Whether you support Apple or Android’s ecosystem, it’s difficult to argue about the app’s terrible integration in a rival storefront. Surely, Apple’s marketing team just wanted to abuse its position and start a flame-war. As a technology critic, I have to say fanboyism benefits no-one and Apple is actively promoting it via this scheme.

HTC One A9 Benchmarks Leaked

Despite HTC’s struggling financial position, the company is set to unveil the world’s most powerful handset featuring a deca-core MediaTek Helio X20 processor clocked at 1.96 GHz, 4GB RAM and 1920×1080 or 2560×1440, 5-5 inch screen. Unfortunately, there’s no information regarding the cameras, battery capacity or internal ROM but this should be revealed in the coming months. Although, we do know that the device will run Android 5.1.1 Lollipop and set for a December 2015 release. The image below contains details of the handset’s single-core and multi-core performance in Geekbench: 

The numbers here are fairly interesting and compare rather well to other top-tier Android handsets. For instance, the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge attained a multi-core score of 4394 while the HTC One M9 reached 2926. As you can see, the HTC One A9’s performance is staggering and the benchmarks look extremely promising. In terms of single-core performance, the HTC One A9 is outperformed by the HTC Nexus 9 which features an NVIDIA Tegra K1 Denver CPU running at 2449 MHz. Although it does come in second place and beats the S6 Edge which benched at 1311.

Overall, the HTC One A9 from initial renders look absolutely stunning and its performance should make it the fastest handset ever devised. Hopefully, this handset can turn around HTC’s financial fortunes.

Thank you PocketNow for providing us with this information.

Rick and Morty Co-Creator Making Content for HTC Vive

Justin Roiland, co-creator of Adult Swim’s cult cartoon hit Rick and Morty, has announced that he is producing exclusive content for the HTC Vive VR headset. A late-night tweet from Roiland revealed that he is working a number of games for the Vive, which has been co-developed by HTC and Valve as part of the SteamVR project.

Roiland tweeted:

Fans of Rick and Morty, co-created by Roiland with Community mastermind and self-confessed alcoholic manbaby Dan Harmon, will know that virtual reality has played a large part in the show so far, featuring in multiple episodes, most notably in last month’s Mortynight Run.

Roiland’s move into VR was teased last month on the Oculus subreddit, when a post from GalacticInquisitor showed a Rick and Morty sketch produced by Roiland on VR painting app Tiltbrush.

A later post then asked:

“Hypothetically if I were to suggest the possibility of a VR game co created by Justin Roiland, StressLevelZero, and potentially Pen Ward, Would you be interested, very interested, not interested? Which one? Which one?

A further comment suggested that one of these potential games “will be our follow up game to Hover Junkers, nothing small.”

Thank you UploadVR for providing us with this information.

Limited Number of HTC Vive VR Headsets Available at Launch

There have been rumours kicking around that the HTC Vive VR headset would be delayed until 2016, most likely due to manufacturing issues. Now it seems early reports were only half right, as HTC have issued a statement in regards to the headsets availability.

“We’ll have a limited number of units by the end of the year, with more to come in Q1 2016.” said HTC when speaking with Engadget.

It does seem to be a trend with a lot of new tech these days, that we see a limited launch, with everyone fighting to find availability and more often than not, people paying over the odds for one on resale websites such as eBay.

If you have a pre-order, it’s sounding like you’ll likely not see one until next year and that’s a sad thing, as it seems much of the upcoming VR hardware is taking forever and a day to actually get to retail. Of course, I’d rather it launch in working condition with content and stock availability, so let’s hope the extra wait will be worth it.

Out of all the VR headsets coming this year and next, which one are you looking forward to the most? Oculus, Vive, or perhaps something else?

Is HTC About to Go Under?

It seems like an age since HTC was the world’s smartphone market leader, long since usurped by Apple, Samsung, and Chinese upstarts Huawei and Xiaomi, and a horrendous crash in its stock value seems destined to cement the company’s position as the new Nokia.

HTC’s market price plummeted to NT$47 billion ($1.5 billion) on Monday, less than the NT$47.2 billion cash it boasted in June. Though the drop seems small, it marks a massive 9.8% fall in stock, signifying that investors consider the rest of the company has no value. As Calvin Huang of Sinopac Financial Holdings Co. in Taipei puts it, “HTC’s cash is the only asset of value to shareholders. Most of the other assets shouldn’t be considered in their valuation because there’s more write-offs to come and the brand has no value.” Sinopac has put an NT$46.50 price target on HTC’s shares.

HTC’s market capitalisation has been on the decline since 2011, during which year it exceeded NT$900 billion, and efforts to revitalise its brand with the One, Butterfly, and Desire smartphone models over the last four years have failed, leaving the manufacturer outside the top-10 smartphone producers in the world for the first time. Current sales are down 75% on its 2011 heyday.

Hopes of a recovery look increasingly slim, with third-quarter forecasts suggesting sales could fall to below 48% of estimates, leaving HTC taking a 35% cut to its projected earnings. Analysts are now predicting that the company’s bad luck will continue until at least 2017, forecasting two years of no profit.

“We think these efforts are not enough to turn HTC around in the next two years,” said Birdy Lu, analyst with Deutsche Bank AG. “HTC has little chance to compete with iPhone and Samsung given limited resources, and might continue to lose shares to Chinese brands in mid/low-end segment.”

If current trends continue, HTC could be not long for this world.

Thank you Bloomberg for providing us with this information.

John Wick – First A Movie Now A VR Game

John Wick features Keanu Reeves playing an ex-mob hitman, who is actually described as the person you would send after the boogie man, seeking revenge for a mob boss who has crossed him. Soon not only could you watch John Wick on film but you could be playing him with a new VR Game set for release in 2016.

Lionsgate, the company behind the John Wick film, is partnering with the game company Starbreeze to release a VR first-person shooter based on the film. While it’s not expected till spring next year the game is set to be released for most modern VR headsets, such as the HTC Vive.

A demo for the game is set to become part of the showcase for HTC Vive World Tour, which is set to showcase VR hardware in both Europe and North America.

This is not the first time we have seen John Wick come to a video game, he was recently introduced into Starbreeze’s first person shooter Payday 2, which sees John Wick, as a free DLC released in time to coincide with the movie’s initial release, join up with a band of criminals in an attempt to pull off heists for hopes of large cash rewards.

With a sequel to the John Wick film set for next September, we can expect more from John Wick both in terms of official releases and no doubt fan requests for more games and integrations into previous games.

Is there any particular game which you would be interested to see John Wick feature in? Would you be interested in a standalone John Wick game?

Thank you the Verge for providing us with this information.

Image courtesy of flickeringMyth.

Final HTC Vive Will be Revealed this Autumn

The final HTC Vive will be revealed this Autumn, October to be more exact, but as we all know; technology reveals rarely make the proposed launch date. The HTC Vive has been flaunted in front of Comin-Con goers in San Diego for most of last week, however, these were only developer kits.

HTC executive director of marketing, Jeffrey Gattis mentioned “We are targeting mid-October, but have not yet finalized the event details, venue, etc,” in regards to when a final Vive VR product will be ready.

While this pretty much confirms that the consumer product is ready, we do not have any confirmed specifications or product pictures to picture what the VR headset will look like; however, Gattis did mention “more refined from a design standpoint”, which denotes that it could be a slimmer, lighter, more aesthetically pleasing version of the dev kits we have been seeing. Gattis also revealed that “Our hardware development, for the consumer versions of both the HMD and wireless controllers, remain on schedule for the end of 2015.”

I’m so excited for the HTC Vive, Okay the Oculus Rift is the big player, but HTC are working hand in hand with Valve, who just happen to own the largest online gaming platform in the world; I can see heaps more compatibility with the HTC Vive than the Oculus Rift. However, Oculus do have industry ties with the likes of NVIDIA, Unreal and such, so it will be likely boil down to how impatient you are when one launches before the other.

Thank you to techradar for providing us with this information.

Will 2016 Be the Year of Virtual Reality?

With quite a few announcements reaching us about VR hardware and software, 2016 is shaping up to be the year of virtual reality. Promises of retail units of headsets from Oculus, Sony, HTC and others, not to mention software from studios such as Ubisoft; your virtual reality dreams may be about to come true.

The Oculus Rift may have let the world know that virtual reality could be a mainstream technology, but nearly 3 years after its announcement and a change of ownership, the Rift is not the only runner in this VR race. Facebook owned Oculus say that their retail version will hit stores in Q1 of 2016, but will this be too late? The HTC Vive is said to be being released by the end of 2015 and that isn’t the only VR offering that will be around next year.

Sony’s Project Morpheus also has a slated release date of 2016 and will go up against the Rift with similar spec and predicted price point. The main thing separating the two headsets would be the aesthetics. I think that most of you will agree that Sony’s offering will be the one taking home the beauty pageant ribbons, but as the saying goes; beauty is only skin deep.

Other potential rivals in the VR marketplace include the Samsung Gear VR, which uses Oculus Rift technology, Microsoft HoloLens and probably everyone first steps in the virtual reality, the Google Cardboard.

But what is the use of all this new technology if there isn’t anything that uses it? Apart from the slew of indie studios that adapt their creations to work with VR headsets, in an attempt to create a unique selling point for their otherwise empty games, there hasn’t been many big studios willing to jump on the virtual bandwagon, at least until Ubisoft announced that they will release a number of titles in 2016.  Let’s face it, who wouldn’t want to induce vertigo with a virtual reality fuelled leap of faith?

Image courtesy of Overclock3D

So, with the gaming side of things taken care of by Ubisoft, not to mention the other big studios that will surely follow in their footsteps, there is still room in the entertainment schedule for more. This has been realised first by Discovery Channel, according to adweek.com they are already filming a number of shows in VR, including Mythbusters. Adam will be rejecting your reality and substituting it with his own for real now.

Image courtesy of Discovery UK

Ubisoft Franchises Are Scheduled to Get a Virtual Reality Upgrade Next Year

We haven’t seen a lot of big names associated with VR gear since virtual reality actually became a reality. Most developers willing to exploit the tech have been from indie companies trying to draw curious eyes to their titles. However, all of this is about to change early next year, as sources indicate.

Ubisoft stated that it is willing to take on the challenge and release an unconfirmed number of titles in early 2016, but it first needs to figure out how to get around the main downside found in the tech. If you don’t already know, using VR Gear for an extended period of time is confirmed to give the user nausea, sometimes even after just a quarter of an hour of using it.

However, not all VR technology out there has this downside. Valve’s HTC Vive seems to have fixed it as reported a couple of months ago and Ubisoft is keen on trying it out first. They also won’t forget about Oculus or Sony’s Project Morpheus, but the company stated that the headsets “would need to sell at least one million units to be viable for development.”

Ubisoft believes that a lot of players will join the world of video games, drawn in by the beauty of what VR has to offer. They also revealed that the titles rolling out in early 2016 are just the start of VR-enabled games they plan on releasing. Should they be successful with the first roll-out, I think even more big name companies may join in and we will see an even larger number of VR-enabled titles hitting the stores by the end of next year.

Thank you Arstechnica for providing us with this information
Image courtesy of Rifty Business

Smartphone Shipments in China Faced with First Decline in Six Years

We’ve all been super hyped with the latest smartphones these past years, haven’t we? I mean, since Steve Jobs revealed the first iPhone back in 2007, every manufacturer went crazy and started expanding this industry, building all sorts of smart devices in an attempt to draw more customers.

During this time, the smartphone industry has flourished from all the hype. However, nowadays we have smartphones that pretty much handle most stuff we do on our PCs or laptops. So does this inspire you to upgrade as you were eager to do in the past? Yeah… I thought so.

The same results seem to show in a study made by research firm IDC, indicating that Chinese smartphone shipments have dropped for the first time in six years. They noted that Q1 2015 shipments have dropped 4% since Q1 2014 and 8% since Q4 2014. Figures show only 98.8 million units shipped this Q1, which is the first time since Q4 2013 that shipments fall below the 100 million mark.

Apple is still the top smartphone vendor in China with 14.7% market shares, which is not surprising at all, followed by Xiaomi and Huawei with 13.7% and 11.4% respectively. IDC expects a flat growth for the Chinese smartphone market this year, but some good can come of all this (at least for the consumer).

Given the figures, Xiaomi, Huawei and Lenovo might switch from their usual entry-level smartphones to more higher-spec devices to give customers a reason for upgrading their phones.

Also, the latter companies would be pushed to strongly consider expanding beyond the Chinese border and into markets that are now dominated by Samsung, HTC and others. So if you wanted to see that Xiaomi smartphone that caught your eye in stores outside of China, I don’t think you need to wait very long.

Thank you TechSpot for providing us with this information

Valve Announced That Its SteamVR Headset Will Be Free for Developers

Since Valve and HTC teamed up to make their VR headset, nobody but them could toy around with it. Now it seems that Valve and HTC are planning to offer the development kit for the HTC Vive for free to developers.

Valve’s Dough Lombardi has stated that the dev kits will be free in the early stages of the hardware’s life cycle and that developers of every size will be able to sign up for the kits very soon. The dev kits are said to start shipping this spring, having a retail release expected at the end of the year.

The move seems a bit awkward, but it does make sense from two perspectives. One is that it will prevent curious consumers from purchasing the dev kit for recreational purposes and the other could indicate that Valve and HTC will not hint at a retail price for the VR headset based on its development kit price. However, it remains to be seen how many dev kits will actually ship and how many developers will receive the VR headset.

In the end, this is great news for existing virtual reality developers since they could get their hands on the HTC Vive without any additional cost. This might also mean that a lot of games or demos might be popping up by the end of the year that have support for the VR headset.

Thank you Polygon for providing us with this information

AMD Fiji Comes with Two GPUs

AMD’s latest GPU, AMD Fiji, has been announced a while back that it will come with High Bandwidth Memory. Shortly after CES in Las Vegas, Oculus was said to be toying around with the latest AMD hardware and we even saw it in action in the “Showdown running on the Oculus Rift Crescent Bay, being powered by an unannounced Radeon R9 flagship ultra-enthusiast product”. Even Valve and HTC are rumoured to have a Fiji-powered demo, but have yet to confirm or give any sort of detail about it.

However, a few suspicions were raised once AMD has released the news about LiquidVR SDK, where it was clearly stated it needs two GPUs. The slide below also confirms that it needs Affinity multi-GPU rendering in order to reduce latency and increase content quality.

“Affinity Multi-GPU for scalable rendering, a technology that allows multiple GPUs to work together to improve frame rates in VR applications by allowing them to assign work to run on specific GPUs. Each GPU renders the viewpoint from one eye, and then composites the outputs into a single stereo 3D image. With this technology, multi-GPU configurations become ideal for high performance VR rendering, delivering high frame rates for a smoother experience.”

This makes more sense now and it clarifies how AMD got to 8GB of RAM. Nobody thought it would be 4GB times two, meaning two separate GPUs, each with their 4GB of HBM1 memory. Also, AMD confirmed that it is already working on a next generation High Bandwidth Memory HBM card that is smaller than 20nm, but it is no clear just yet what type of note or memory it will use. It could be HBM1 or HBM2.

Thank you Fudzilla for providing us with this information

Valve VR Demo Looks Similar to Myst, Only Extremely Detailed

Valve’s virtual reality setup only allowed you to walk in areas the size of small rooms. This is really an issue today, since a lot of titles, especially fantasy ones, come in vast environments full of rich graphics.

The solution seems to come from Cloudhead Games’ The Gallery: Six Elements, which is all about interaction. The demo can be experienced using the HTC Vive’s hand controllers in order to grip all sort of objects, having the objective to fix a creaky machine. However, there is also danger in this quest, and it comes under the shape of a giant tree monster.

“The Gallery: The Six Elements is a first­person fantasy/exploration game built from the ground up for virtual reality, using the Unity engine; incorporating various VR and interaction hardware devices. This title will present a rich narrative experience fuelled by intuitive physical interaction puzzles, nestled within a deeply immersive environment. Drawing from our inspirations of 80′s adventure movies and classic games such as Monkey Island and Myst, the player must journey through foreign and fantastical worlds, collecting elemental powers and items that will aid them in discovering the mystery of the Machine.”

It is said that there are a few different environments in the demo as well, giving the user a lot of places to explore aside from things to collect. Though The Gallery is not yet available, it is said that it will be released along with Valve and HTC’s system at the end of this year.

Thank you Kotaku for providing us with this information