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Monthly Archives: June 2017

June 26, 2017

Finger Tracking Input And Feel-The-Heat Output

13-VR NEWSFEED June 26 2017 - Finger tracking and heat feedback

Newsfeed - June 23, 2017

Two exciting new technologies are set to make a big impact on the world of Virtual Reality: finger tracking and heat feedback.

kNUCKLES FROM  vALVE

An interesting new technology called “knuckles” - developed by Valve - enables the position of individual fingers to be tracked. This is done through capacitive sensors which the Valve development team have inserted into the handle and buttons of the controller.

The controller includes a flexible strap that is wrapped around your hand. This enables you to open and close your grip without dropping the controllers.

Then as you open and close your fingers around the controller, the capacitive sensors measure these small variations and effectively track whether your fingers are open, closed or somewhere in the middle.

According to a report from the development team:

“Each finger axis returns a curl value between zero and one, where zero indicates that a finger is pointing straight out and one indicates that the finger is fully curled around the controller.”

The device has to be calibrated first by closing and opening each hand after it has been strapped in. However, the device is quite sophisticated and incorporated a self-learning technology into the system. According to Valve:

Recalibrations will occur automatically over the course of a play session as you reach out to grab items, throw things, etc. This is both expected and necessary, as your skin capacitance will change over time. The intent is for the controller to adjust to these changes automatically after the initial calibration has been performed.

Prototype Knuckles are being shipped to developers already, but no date has yet been announced for the release of a production version.

As for calibrating the device, it’s as simple as making sure that your hands are properly strapped to the Knuckles, and then closing your hands around the controller. Then, you open your hands for one second which should calibrate the device. The team goes on to explain:

Recalibrations will occur automatically over the course of a play session as you reach out to grab items, throw things, etc. This is both expected and necessary, as your skin capacitance will change over time. The intent is for the controller to adjust to these changes automatically after the initial calibration has been performed.

According to Valve, Knuckles (in prototype form) are currently being shipped to developers. It is unknown when the production versions will be available for the general public.

fEEL THE HEAT

On the output end, there are also some exciting new developments looming on the horizon. One, in particular, that has caught our eye is ThermoReal from TEGway. This is a thermoelectric material. That is, it is a conductive material that can change temperature according to the events in the game being played. Thus an incendiary explosion will make it hot, while an arctic expedition will (presumably) make it cold.

TEGway have filed patents for flexible thermoelectric devices. Their product illustrations, suggest that the material be used for gloves and for a chest-plate/vest that will presumably sent this thermal feedback to the torso.

June 23, 2017

YouTube Introduces Virtual Reality With VR 180

11-VR NEWSFEED - June 22 2017 - Is Samsung working on 2000 ppi VR - 1

Newsfeed - June 23, 2017

YouTube is introducing a solution to the problem caused by 360 Video - those all around views that look unnatural when viewed on a normal screen. It’s called VR 180 and it’s designed to bridge the gap between VR viewers and regular users, serving them both. YouTube plans to make it available to video creators to enable them to create immersive content.

Unlike 360 video which looks like you’re at the center of a rather small sphere and distorts the most central part of the image, VR 180 focuses on just the frontal field of vision. Aside from avoiding distortion, this also allows an improvement in the resolution - possibly even at the 4K level.

But the more important improvement is that while 360 created an all-around view, it was monoscopic. It relied on one camera and the image that it created was two-dimensional. In contrast, the new VR 180 standard is to be stereoscopic. It provides real 3D with genuine depth of field. This won’t of course make any difference if you’re viewing it on a 2D screen. But if you’re viewing it through a VD headset with separate screens for each eye then you get the full 3D image and the real sense of being there.

The downside is that you can’t turn around and see what’s behind you the way you could with 360. But this more than offset by the realism of 3D and the higher resolution. Furthermore, in practice - with most content - the interesting action is likely to be in one place, so the ability to “turn round” and see what’s going on behind you is of limited practicality. This is especially the case with videos, as opposed to interactive games, where you might want to turn and go in any direction.

In terms of the viewing experience, this is a major improvement.

But developing a new standard is one thing; getting content creators to take it up is another. To encourage uptake by content-creators, YouTube is working with hardware partners Lenovo, LG and Yi to create VR 180 cameras at affordable prices. According to Erin Teague, the Product Manager of YouTube VR, the VR 180 cameras will be pitched at a price point to attract the type of customer would ordinarily by a point and shoot camera.

“We took a step back to think about how to democratize VR video creation,” she explained, adding that the new standard would “unlock a whole new generation of VR content creators.

However, not to lose on higher resolution content, the Daydream team at YouTube parent Google, will be creating a certification program for camera makers to help them get their cameras working with the VR 180 format. They are also working with Adobe to adapt premiere to allow editing of VR 180 videos.

The idea is to adapt existing video techniques to VR 180 instead of requiring film-makers to relearn their core skills. On advantage that VR 180 has over 360 is that it avoids the problem of where the crew should stand. As Teague points out, traditional film-making, has the crew out of the camera’s line of sight. With 360’s all-around approach, that isn’t possible, meaning that “creator’s have to significantly change their production techniques.” With VR 180, that problem doesn’t exist.

Another area where VR180 holds an advantage over all-around is at the editing phase. 360 requires that the content of several cameras be stitched together. With the new system, conventional editing techniques can be used.

According to YouTube, content makers will also be able to broadcast and live-stream their VR 180 movies and videos, retaining both quality and the 3D characteristic that makes it so attractive in the first place.

By creating a better user experience and making the task of content preparation simpler that it is an present, YouTube could well be onto a winner here.

June 22, 2017

Is Samsung About To Up The Ante On VR Resolution?

11-VR NEWSFEED - June 22 2017 - Is Samsung working on 2000 ppi VR - 1

Samsung is developing a new Gear VR model with a 2000 ppi resolution screen.

Despite its corporate might, Samsung has been lagging (technologically) behind most of the major players in the VR niche, albeit not as much as Apple. Their Gear VR headset is little more than a well-made housing for a Samsung phone which then serves as the screen - and indeed the entire nuts and bolts of the system.

This means that even with the best phone with the highest resolution, you get a maximum of 600 ppi. This is admitted better than the ultra expensive HTC Vive, which offers a mere 447 ppi, but it falls short in other respects, such as head tracking. Despite this, the Gear VR has been a hit sales-wise, perhaps because of its low price-point and affordability. What Samsung loses in margin, they more than make up in volume.

However the rumor mill is now leaking stories that Samsung is developing a new Gear VR model with a 2000 ppi resolution screen. If so, we’re talking about a great leap forward in sharpness. After all the whole point of VR is make the experience realistic. Stereoscopic vision without high resolution is a wasted effort. If Samsung can pull this off, they will almost certainly leapfrog the competition - or most of it at any rate.

The thing to remember is that current screen resolution looks fine on a phone that you hold 12 to 18 inches from your face. But when it is used as a screen, an inch or so from your eyes, it becomes fuzzy and causes nausea. This threefold or fourfold increase in resolution will make the images less fuzzy and equally less likely to cause nausea.

There had been rumors as far back as March 21st that a new version of Gear VR was going to have a significantly higher resolution. But then the figure was put at 1500 ppi. If the higher figure is true it will be a massive increase over current resolutions by any manufacturer. But the question is, will Samsung go all the way and integrate the hardware into the device? Will it need to connect to something else for power and/or content?

None of this is really known.Nor yet is there any word of the launch date or the price. It is unlikely that a system at this advanced level could be brought out onto the market without a significant price increase over Samsung’s existing “housing only” model.

And yet… the rumors are still swirling...

June 21, 2017

Is The iPhone 8 Apple’s Foray Into Augmented Reality?

10-VR NEWSFEED - June 21 2017 - Applie iPhone 8 and VR Speculation

I am so excited about it, I just want to yell out and scream.”

These were the words that Apple CEO Tim Cook used to describe his enthusiasm about augmented reality. But so far, Apple has shown no sign of actually entering that particular competitive arena - or even the related one of virtual reality.

But are things about to change with the impending launch of the iPhone 8. As usual, the build-up to the launch is enshrouded in secrecy. The expected developments include and edge to edge screen and obviously a higher resolution camera. There is also speculation that they will do away with the physical Home button, in favour of touching the screen.

However, the rumor mill has also been grinding out stories about how this iPhone will have some integrated AR capability. It is known that Apple is pushing into AR from the software end - hence their announcement of the ARKit for the iOS 11 operating system, due out this fall. The ARKit will let developers create augmented reality apps for iOS 11. And the operating system will ship with the iPhone 8.

All of this is known. But what does it mean in practice? Well, it’s hard to say with Apple because they almost never respond to rumors. But two of the rumors about the iPhone 8 have indirectly been confirmed.

First, an executive from Wistrom, an Apple supplier, told their shareholders at their recent AGM “Assembly process for the previous generations of [iPhones] have not changed much, though new features like waterproof and wireless charging now require some different testing, and waterproof function will alter the assembly process a bit.” The iPhone 7 is water-resistant, but not waterproof and does not have wireless charging.

Secondly, it was reported in respected source Nikkei Asian Review that Largan Precision (another Apple supplier) has announced that its 3D-sensing lenses will be “ready to ship in the second half of this year.” There are already front-facing cameras that can unlock a phone, (like the Samsung Galaxy S8), but they can be tricked with a photo of a face. A camera with a 3D sensing lens, is thought to be immune from this type of low-tech hack. The 3D camera will also map the user’s face with 3D lasers, making the system yet more secure.

However could there be more to what is coming from Apple this Fall? No one as yet knows what the iPhone 8 will even look like, there is speculation that it will in fact resemble a single clear piece of glass. There are also reports that it will have a dual lens, stereoscopic camera.

But at this stage all we can do is wait and see.

June 20, 2017

Augmented Reality Can Reduce Maintenance Skills Gap

9-VR NEWSFEED June 20 2017 - AR can fill military tech skills shortage-2

Military technicians are now being assisted by Augmented Reality

Competition for human resources between the military and civilian engineering sectors has created a shortage of skilled maintenance engineers in the military. Although well-funded, the armed forces simply can’t compete with the kind of salaries offered by the civilian commercial sector. The result is that different branches of the military also have to compete with each other.


But a solution is on the horizon, suggested by Kevin Deal, Vice President of Aviation and Defense at IFS. The idea is that a technician wearing an AR headset can see both what he is working on and additional information flashed up in his field of view. This information can be transmitted from a distance - even the other side of the world if necessary.

9-VR NEWSFEED June 20 2017 - AR can fill military tech skills shortage-1

AR can fill military tech skills shortage

Deal has pointed out that virtual reality, involving totally immersive simulations, is already used in training. He has suggested that engineers and technicians with more advanced skills can remain at the home base, whilst being able to provide remote assistance via wearable devices worn by technicians in the field.


“Current mobile solutions support collaboration and drive better data capture and compliance, but even these devices cannot solve the ‘right skills in the right place’ issue,” Deal said.


He added that “maintenance personnel could of course contact senior technicians via cellphone, but there is no way of seeing or demonstrating how a task should be executed. These are often airworthiness decisions. Integrating the latest technology with a configuration-controlled solution adds the necessary rigor to remote maintenance tasks.”


The alternative would be to recruit more technicians with higher level skills and qualifications - at considerably greater cost - or to fly those high-level technicians to various far-flung locations on an ad hoc basis. Neither of these alternative solutions was all that attractive once one factors in the cost and takes into account the large number of widely separated locations where such skills may be needed at a moment’s notice.

June 19, 2017

Augmented Reality Can Help People Quit Smoking

8- VR NEWSFEED June 19 2017 AR to help smokers visualize

One of the problems with getting people to stop smoking is that even if they “know” it is bad for them in some intellectual sense, they can’t really imagine how bad it really is.


The problem is the gulf between intellectual or “cognitive” knowledge and human feeling.Look at a slug or a cockroach and we feel disgust and revulsion. Look at a raw chicken and we wonder what it’ll taste like when cooked. We don’t think about the fact that currently, in its uncooked state, it is laden with bacteria. The same is true of the effect of smoking on the lungs, the heart and the arteries.


But that is all about to change thanks to new software being developed for augmented reality at Birmingham City University.


The idea is to create an augmented reality view of what is going on inside the patient and showing it to them as means of encouraging them to change their lifestyles in general and to quit smoking in particular. The software creates 3D replicas of the patient’s internal organs that are far clearer and sharper than anything that an X-ray, MRI or Ultrasound scan could provide. The replica can also be rotated and shown from all sides to show the patient the full impact of their lifestyle choices as well as where they are headed.


Dr Ian Williams, heading the team, explained: “If you select the lungs, it allows you to interact with the lungs by rotating or enlarging them as if they were in front of you as an actual object. If the patient was a smoker you could put a texture to reflect the effects of smoking.”


Each patient gets a customized view relevant to them, their condition and their lifestyle. For example, “if the patient was a smoker,” Dr. Williams explained, “you could put a texture to reflect the effects of smoking.”


Another application, Dr Williams is considering, is showing patients what their forthcoming medical or surgical procedure will entail. This could both re-assure the patient and encourage them to cooperate with post operative care.

June 15, 2017

Intel Brings Wireless To The HTC Vive

HTC-Vives

One of the problems that many people have with VR headsets - and possibly one of the main barriers to market uptake - is the fact that it requires wires and cables to connect to the computer, games console or other unit that is feeding it.


We’re a long way from achieving the level of miniaturization that would make such units self-contained. But there is an alternative: wireless. To some extent, this problem has already been addressed by a wireless accessory for the HTC Vive by TPCast, that sells for $250. It has enough power for about 90 minutes, but there were some minor synchronization issues.


Now however, another contender has entered the fray: Intel. They have developed a wireless add-on with DisplayLink that they showcased at E3. Using WiGig technology, which is based on the 802.11ad standard, it has a latency of less than 7ms. Moreover, as the 60GHz spectrum is as yet not very crowded, it can easily reach gigabit speeds.


Intel announced development of the product at CES and then at Computex they announced a partnership with HTC. At the design level, the Intel add-on is placed on top of the Vive’s headstrap.


While it may appear to add weight and bulk to the headset, it actually serves as a counterweight to the Vive itself. Also, the final product is quite likely to be smaller. In tests, the Intel add-on showed no human-noticeable latency in the way that the TPCast system did. And the absence of an umbilical cord felt like veritable liberation.


As long as Intel is able to work successfully on reducing the size of the final product, this add-on shows every promise as a potential market winner. However, there are so far no announcements on price or release date. Whenever it comes out, it will have to compete with the impending wireless version of the Oculus Rift - codenamed: Santa Cruz. So far the Santa Cruz is also still in the prototype stage.


We at bestVR.tech will keep you informed.

June 12, 2017

Intel Teams Up With Oculus And ESL To Create VR eSports League

6-VR NEWSFEED - June 14 2017 - Intel Teams up withn Oculus for VR eSports League-2

Newsfeed - June 14, 2017


Intel is teaming up with Oculus and gaming network ESL in a bid to create a virtual reality eSports league called VR Challenger League.


There is already an established market for eSports, but combining them with VR is a potential growth area as hardware speeds increase and more competitive, multiplayer VR games are developed.

The plan has been developed hot on the heels of the success of the first US-wide Virtual Reality eSports Championship held in New York in May of this year.

Oculus Rift

Intel Teams up withn Oculus for VR eSports League

The first round of gaming will start on July 12 and will take place online. The finals will take place in 2018 at Intel’s Extreme Masters World Championship. On the conditions of the deal is that the PSs used in competition both by the contestants and the organizers and administrators will use Intel microprocessors.


Unlike the New York event, the VR Challenger League will offer worldwide gamers the chance to compete. A combined purse of $200,000 is being put up for the winners.


The first two events scheduled are The Unspoken (from Insomniac) and Echo Arena (from Ready and Dawn due for release on July 20. 2017). The Unspoken is a game of magic, sorcery and supernatural powers. Details of the forthcoming Echo Arena are more sketchy, but Mashable have described it as “Ender's Game (as seen in the 2013 film) meets Tron (in terms of visual aesthetics).”


Figures about the uptake of The Unspoken are also sketchy, as Insomniac refuses to release them. But it is known to be popular within the hardcore VR gaming community.

June 12, 2017

Augmented Reality Company Sues Former Employee Over Trade Secrets

5-VR NEWSFEED June12 2017 - Augmented Reality Company Sues Former Employee

Augmented reality startup Meta is suing a former employee, claiming that he stole trade secrets. Zhangyi Zhong, the former head of optics at the California company is being sued along with rival augmented reality company DreamWorld USA and 20 unnamed defendants.


Zhong was employed by Meta between March 2015 and July 2016 before leaving to create his own company, DreamWorld and develop a competitive product for them. The lawsuit alleges that:


Evidence in the public domain provides compelling proof that Zhangyi Zhong and his start-up company, Dreamworld USA, Inc., have shamelessly leveraged Zhong’s sixteen months of employment at Meta Company to misappropriate confidential and trade secret information relating to Meta’s technologies, supply chain, manufacturing methods and relationships, as well as business, investment and market strategies. Through the use of that confidential and trade secret information, Zhong and Dreamworld have jump-started their development of a prototype augmented reality device, and are on the verge of launching a campaign to steal what they can from Meta’s market share and investor base for personal gain.


DreamWorld has responded by describing the charges as “completely baseless.”


The background to the case is that DreamWorld has just announced the release of its first product - an augmented reality headset called DreamGlass, priced at $350. In contrast, the Meta 2 headset, which was launched last year, is priced at $950.


The Meta lawsuit further claims that:


On July 21, 2016, Zhong emailed his direct manager and Meta’s Human Resources staff and informed them that he was resigning from his employment at Meta, effective the following day (i.e., July 22, 2016). In that message, Zhong attributed his decision to resign to “some old medical conditions which need serious attention now. My doctor suggests avoid [sic] any work activities.” Zhong further represented that he had decided, in light of this medical advice, “. . . to take a break and stop working for a while.”


The suit goes on to accuse Zhong of secretly setting up DreamWorld under a variation of his name and running the company through an intermediary whom Meta allege is Zhong’s wife or girlfriend.


Meta claim that they initially accepted Zhong’s explanation of his resignation in good faith but then became when an article in Upload reviewed the DreamWorld glasses, pointing out that they were lighter and cheaper than both the Meta 2 and the Microsoft Hololens. The article also stated that the DreamGlass has: “a Meta-esque optics system that places the screens at an angle above the lenses.”


The meta lawsuit alleges misappropriation of trade secrets, breach of contract and fraudulent business practices. DreamWorld has disputed the allegations, describing them as “completely baseless and without merit.” They further state that they they will respond in due course.

June 9, 2017

Can Virtual Reality Be Used To Identify Potential Sex Offenders?

4-VR NEWSFEED June 9 2017 - VR to ID sex offenders

A new and potentially sinister use of Virtual Reality is being developed: assessing potential paedophiles and other sex offenders.

The test involves showing suspected paedophiles artificially generated images on children while the subjects of the tests are strapped with a Penile Plethysmograph device, a cuff-shaped sensor that measures blood-flow to the penis. The theory is that paedophiles are more likely to be sexually aroused by images of children and that this can be measured by the plethysmograph.

Penile plethysmography itself has been around for many decades and has been used to assess the risk of re-offending. But there has always been an ethical problem regarding what images can be shown to the subjects. Now, scientists at the University of Quebec in Outaouais have developed a test that works around these ethical objections.

In the present tests the subjects wear stereoscopic 3D headsets in addition to the penile plethysmograph. They are then shown, through the headset, artificially generated images of nude people of both genders and various age groups to identify what types arouse them sexually.

The headset it also equipped with eye-tracking technology to ensure that they are avoiding looking at the images by looking away.

'We do develop pornography,” said' Patrice Renaud, the head of the research. “But these images and animations are not used for the pleasure of the patient but to assess them.”

The research - which was conducted in August 2016, involved some 60 male subjects, some of whom had been convicted or were accused of sex offences and others who had so criminal records or accusations pending against them pertaining sexual interest in minors. The subjects were shown 3D animations of virtual characters for five 60-second periods, in each case followed by a 30 second period without the virtual character.

Renaud was able to reach conclusions about 54 out of the 60 subjects. However Renaud is mindful of that fact that sexual propensity alone is not a strong indicator of behaviour. Those with psycho-sexual disorders might also possess an ethical sense, cognitive faculty and capacity to empathize with human suffering, all of which might enable them to resist the temptation to indulge their aberrant sexual desires.

So his team is now using a combination of electroencephalography and Virtual Reality, using a head cap with multiple electrodes to identify whether the subject shows an empathy response to facial expressions of pain, fear and sadness in the virtual child.

'If we find that the guy is attracted to children and doesn't feel empathy for the fact that the child is in pain,” Renaud said, “that's good information for predicting behavior.'

Nevertheless, we at bestvr.tech remain skeptical.