Monthly Archives: January 2018
Monthly Archives: January 2018
This phone-housing headset comes with integrated headphones (cushioned with memory foam and position-adjustable), an over-the-head T-strap and magnetically attached front cover that can be detached easily. However, this snap-on/snap-off cover doesn’t really seem to have much use or purpose. For actually putting the phone in or taking it out, you have to actually open and close the hinged door. The magnetic cover is merely a removable part of the door - if that makes makes any sense.
On the subject of the headphones, we have to give the makers a big thumbs up for the audio quality.
The lenses can be moved further apart or closer together to accommodate different shaped faces and inter-pupillary distance (i.e. the space between your eyes). However, this is only between 60mm and 70mm. A 55mm minimum distance would have been better for smaller heads and 70mm is probably not enough for the largest.
The focus can be adjusted so that you don’t need to wear your glasses, while using it - up to 600 degree myopia, according to the makers. The field of view is 120 degrees and the lenses are HD resin aspherical.
While it claims that it can fit phones from 4.7 to 6 inches, in practice we found that this claim was stretching it a bit. That is, not that they are misleading, but rather that the sizes they are referring to are phone sizes not screen sizes. Thus an iPhone 6+ has a 5.5 inch screen, but a case size of 6.22 inches and will therefore not fit. The iPhone X, on the other hand fits perfectly.
Like all products, when it first comes out of the box, it takes some getting used to. You have to adjust and tighten the velcro-secured straps or else you’re going to find it slipping down your face. This may seem like an obvious point but, because the strap is elasticated, it might seem like an unnecessary step. Also, it something that is all too easy to forget when you’re looking forward to trying out the new toy! We also found that even when strapped on, the device still let in a certain amount of light at the top.
As many smartphone apps are activated by touching the center of the screen, the headset provides a button in the lower right of the headset to activate this mechanism. You might think that this could leaves marks on the phone screen, but we found that it didn’t.
The device comes bundled with a controller which can be paired with the phone via Bluetooth. The pairing process worked fine. However, because of the “basic” - i.e. limited - iOS support, it was virtually useless with an iPhone. This means that even the process of choosing and starting an iPhone game, requires taking the phone out and putting it back in again. With an Android phone, however, it worked fine.
It comes with a somewhat confusing manual and an always-useful cleaning cloth.
Airbnb has just announced that they are going to start integrating virtual and augmented and reality into their business model.
The company - having started off using the internet as an aggregator to link property owners and short-term tenants and tourists, is now adding AR and VR as an extra layer to enhance the user experience. The company has divided the use of these technologies into two areas of application: Before the trip and During the trip.
Before the trip, Airbnb explained on their website, potential travellers could use VR to enable potential customers to view properties that they were considering renting and explore them in more detail than pictures alone can facilitate.The idea is that hosts would be able to scan the apartments and houses creating 360 degree images that could then be viewed either flat (on computer monitors and phone screens) or in VR head-mounted displays. They explain:
Virtual reality gives us an opportunity to reshape where inspiration is drawn from, and take travel planning to the next level. It can also allow people to connect with their destination, host, and co-travelers. Capabilities like 360 photos and 3D scans allow a person to step inside a home or city and understand what to expect and how to orient themselves before they leave the comfort of their own home.
But the company doesn’t stop there. They are also considering ways in which augmented reality could be used to assist travellers in making use of the facilities in the house or apartment. For example, the system could also allow for customers/tenants with AR glasses to see instruction notes overlaid on specific areas of the property or even instructions for specific appliances.
...it can also be stressful when someone doesn’t know how to unlock the door or turn on the hot water for a shower, or when they’re hopelessly lost and everything is in a foreign language.
Augmented reality and related technologies let us recognize surroundings and provide contextual, timely information to navigate these pain points. Just think how welcome, pulling up directions to the coffee mugs on a mobile device will be first thing in the morning. Or, instant translations on how to work that German thermostat.
However, Airbnb is going further in its ideas of how to enrich the customer experience:
Augmented reality can also breathe life into a space and tell the story behind the personal items to connect a traveler with their host and a new city in richer, more immersive ways.This last idea might seem less practical and more a way of stretching the concept. But it shows that Airbnb are really using their creating imagination to extract maximum value from these emerging technologies.
The question’s been around for some time, but parents tend to be all too blase about it. At least that’s the impression you get when you see how little online debate there is about it.
There’s massive hype around the technology itself. But the effect of VR on children doesn’t even seem like it’s an issue at all. We’re always hearing about some new breakthrough in the technology - much of it pure vaporware - but when was the last time you heard any serious, adult, discussion on the child safety aspect of VR?
The Oculus Rift manual actually warns users of all ages that “prolonged use should be avoided, as this could negatively impact hand-eye coordination, balance and multi-tasking ability.” More specifically, regarding children, the Oculus Rift (now owned by Facebook) has a 13+ age rating - which is consistent with Facebook’s 13+ membership requirement.
Sony’s Playstation VR is rated 12+, while Samsung’s Gear VR matches the Oculus 13+ rating. The HTC Vive doesn’t specify an age limit, which might explain why the Vive was singled out for some harsh comments in an article by Sandee LaMotte, on the CNN website, covered by us on 15 December last year. In fairness, HTC gives a general warning against allowing young children to use the headset.
But who’s going to enforce these restrictions? The hardware companies can’t. Nor would they even want to. Children may not have autonomous spending power (the X factor of the business world), but they have nag power (the Y factor - as in “why won’t you buy it for me?). That makes them great customers!
The legislators? Forget it. Money buys votes. And politicians these days are always thinking about life after politics. That usually means lucrative consultancies with the private sector. But you can’t piss people off and then expect them to offer you a job. So politicians are in no hurry to pass the kind of laws that’ll alienate big business!
Of course, there are laws about selling certain video games to children - at least in some jurisdictions. Even politicians can’t stand up to the might of outraged, self-styled “moral crusaders!” But these rules and regulations don’t apply to the hardware. Ultimately it is up to parents to set their own standards and police them. What the makers offer is no more than advice.
But is the advice backed up by solid research? Or did they just lick their index finger and hold it up to the wind? And what is the motive behind the advice? To help parents make an informed decision? Or to cover their corporate asses against legal action? Let’s fact it, the west is becoming increasingly litigious (following guess-who’s lead). And while rich, powerful corporations can defend themselves against lawsuits and large payouts, it helps to create a built-in defense, to nip any cause of action in the bud!
According to Martin Banks, Professor of Optometry, Vision Science, Psychology, and Neuroscience at the University of California, Berkeley “So far I’ve seen no so-called smoking gun, no concrete evidence that a child of a certain age was somehow adversely affected by wearing a VR headset. My guess is that all they’re doing is saying that kids are developing and development slows down when they reach adolescence, and so let’s just play it safe and say that while these kids are undergoing significant development, we’ll advise people not to let them use it.”
That’s what Professor Banks says, wearing his psychology hat. However, wearing his optometry hat, he sounds a different tune “There is pretty good evidence, particularly among children, that if you do so-called near work, where you’re looking at something up close, like reading a book up very close or looking at a cellphone, that it causes the eye to lengthen and that causes the eye to become near-sighted.”
Indeed a study published in Jama Opthalmology (Increased Prevalence of Myopia in the United States Between 1971-1972 and 1999-2004, Susan Vitale, PhD, MHS; Robert D. Sperduto, MD; Frederick L. Ferris III, MD) found a statistically significant increase in myopia (near-sightedness), stating in their conclusion:
When using similar methods for each period, the prevalence of myopia in the United States appears to be substantially higher in 1999-2004 than 30 years earlier. Identifying modifiable risk factors for myopia could lead to the development of cost-effective interventional strategies.
They went on to state:
In the earliest report from a nationally representative sample of the US population, the prevalence of myopia was estimated to be 25% in persons aged 12 to 54 years. Recently, several studies have documented an increased prevalence of myopia in younger birth cohorts,suggesting that environmental risk factors for myopia may have become more prevalent. In particular, studies in Asian populations have reported epidemics of myopia in younger generations, possibly attributed to the near-work demands imposed by more intensive education.
In other words, activities like working with computers, as distinct from, say, looking at a blackboard or whiteboard as in the old days of education. And with a VR headset, one is looking at something even nearer - which might suggest that near-eye headsets are even more of a problem. However, it isn’t quite as simple as that, Professor Banks explains:
Let’s contrast a kid using a VR headset compared to a kid using a smartphone. When they use the smartphone they typically hold it very close to them and so they have to focus their eye close. You might think that with the VR headset they’d have to do the same thing because the image is close to the eye, but they have optics in the setup that make the stimulus effectively far away. So, in terms of where the eye has to focus, you have to actually focus fairly far away to sharpen the image in the headset.
Professor Peter Howarth, a senior lecturer in Optometry doesn’t believe that VR adversely affects a child’s eyesight. After all, the principle of VR is to provide different eye view to facilitate stereopsis (3D vision and perception of depth of field). Howarth even argues that the makers of near-eye stereoscopic headsets could actually provide software to test for vision problems.
But what about other problems? Like dizziness and motion sickness.
Problems arise when what you see with your eyes doesn’t match what you feel with your body. If the visual image tells you that you’re moving forward fast, but your body tells you that you’re stationary, it has a disconcerting effect. If your eyes tell you that you are spinning, but your semi-circular canals tell you that you aren’t, you might feel dizzy. But this applies to adults as much as children if not more so. In fact, children are very often more resilient.
Then of course, there’s the danger of playing VR games and moving around a room in which there are solid objects. And the risk is even greater if the headset is tethered to a computer. Of course, this risk also applies to adults. And the major players (Vive and Rift) offer built-in warning systems to map out the area and warn the player if they’re in danger of stepping out of the safety zone. But what if a child innocently strays into the safety zone while big brother is battling with zombies? Tommy Toddler may not be aware of the danger, while Terry Teenager is too wrapped up in a world of his own to notice, and remains totally oblivious to Tommy’s presence until impact!
You get the picture.
But what about the long-term effect of VR on the development of the child’s brain? This is the Great Zone of Ignorance. We have centuries of experience regarding the impact of the printed word and stage drama. We have decades of information about the effects of cinema, radio and television. Heck, we’ve had 30-40 years to learn about the impact of personal computers!
But VR is different. And even mobile phones and social media have been identified as weapons of mass distraction! There is already evidence that instant on-the-go access to information and remote contact with friends is affecting the developing brains of teenagers in terms of their expectations. And it also affects their mood when they find themselves deprived of those expectations.
VR is even more of a game changer. And children are even more in a stage of susceptibility to the environmental factors that shape them for life.
But it’s a hard area to study for two reasons. Firstly, VR is newer and has yet to achieve anything like the market penetration of the smartphone. (It is questionable if it ever will.) Secondly, it would take a formal study many decades to accumulate and evaluate the information. And how will one hold constant for other factors? Most academic studies require a control group that is not subject to the stimuli or causal factors that are being tested. But where is such a control group to be found? The Third World? The Amish? Children with strict parents?
Clearly then, the only thing we know about the effects of VR on children is that we know every little. So maybe it is better to err on the side of caution and keep the VR headsets away from children. Let them explore the real world first - something that millennia of evolution has primed them for - and then when they understand reality, let them play with its alternatives inside a little electronic box!
At first we at bestvr.tech thought that April the 1st had come early. But apparently an adult webcam service - CamSoda - is pairing up sex robots with virtual reality headsets to give users the ultimate telesex is experience.
The idea, in essence, is that the headset shows the user their remote partner while the sex robot provides the… er… haptic feedback.
They are working in partnership with a company called RealDoll using a technology that has been humorously named “teledicdonics.” In effect the users are engaging mutual masturbation at a distance - hence the "tele" part of the name!
This teledildonic “service” has in fact been available for some time. That is, CamSoda has been offering a service whereby “performers" on the CamSoda site use WiFi-linked vibrators (a type called the LoveSense Nora) to capture their - how shall I put it - erotic movements. Whatever the Nora “experiences” is transmitted to its electronic partner - a male masturbator device, also made by LoveSense, called the LoveSense Max.
But CamSoda’s latest innovation is that the Max can be placed into sex dolls and the users can wear VR headsets while engaged in the.. er... action. Thus the users can both see their partner and feel their body - or at least a soft plastic surrogate - up close and personal.
However the sex dolls don’t come cheap - at $1,500 (£1000) a pop, so to speak. And of course one can get some of the experience from the Masturbator without the sex doll. On the other hand if one wants to mimic the full experience, the doll kind of fleshes out the picture.
As Daryn Parker, vice president of CamSoda said:
People have long speculated as to how the adult industry would seamlessly harness its cutting-edge technology to deliver the ultimate sensory experience, one that mimics real-life interaction and, of course, intercourse… Our partnership with RealDoll to allow our fans to VIRP is an absolute game changer.
Fans will now be able to interact with their favourite cam models in real time via live virtual reality while simultaneously feeling the sensations of actual intercourse via their RealDoll and teledildonic integration.
Essentially, users will be able to live out their ultimate sex fantasies, and quench their immediate desires, in an immersive sensory environment that allows them to have real sex with virtual partners.
He added that “we know there is an audience because we hear it from our users and models. They are seeking ways to get closer and have more physical interaction.”
But perhaps most interestingly he said, “we’ve had a number of employees, beta users, and models try out the experience. All of them were blown away by the interactive capabilities.”
Nothing like enthusiastic employees to make a company successful.
But does the product fulfill a market need?
“Fifteen years ago people thought cell phones were weird and unnecessary. Look at them today. While there may be some initial hesitation, I anticipate people acquiescing and seeing this for what it is - an awesome product that fulfills people’s deepest desires.”
This phone-housing type VR headset can accommodate smartphones from 4.7 inches to 6.2 inches. Using aspheric resin lens technology, the headset offers a 120 degree field of view.
It has some nice features, such as a dial to adjust the space between the lenses (for different sized heads with different distance between the eye pupils) and a powerful focus-setting feature. They provide a cleaning cloth for the lenses, although any suitable lens cleaning cloth can be used.
It also has reasonably good sound from the earphones, although the volume is not great. There are buttons to control volume, play/pause and answering the phone, as well as a touch button for games. The phone housing has holes on both sides to help the phone stay cool.
The ergonomic design uses breathable padding for comfort and the whole thing weighs less than a pound. Further adding to comfort, there is an over the head to distribute the weight. The left, right and top straps are all adjustable, to ensure a snug fit and minimize pressure on the nose.
The package includes a user manual and company also has very good customer service that responds quickly if there are any problems.
Florida-based Magic Leap is a very mysterious company, by any standard. Founded in 2010 by Rony Abowitz. it has raised between $1.4 billion and $2 billion (depending on who you believe) in several rounds of financing. And all this without releasing a product. But in 2017 they did finally announce the forthcoming release a developer’s model and SDK, along with documentation and “learning resources” in 2018. Could this be one more to be added to our best VR list.
What they have developed is a display that projects light into the user’s eyes. This display is something between a full Head Mounted Display, of the kind that one sees with Virtual Reality, and a pair of glasses with attachments of the kind one sees on Augmented Reality hardware.
The company has raised $1.9 billion dollars in several funding rounds based on its R&D, the track record of its personnel and whatever technology it has demonstrated in private to its investors. And while we’re on the subject of investors, they include Google parent Alphabet, Alibaba and Qualcomm. And although not yet out there in the market with a product, they have been busy on several other fronts.
For example, on February 11, 2016, they joined the Entertainment Software Association and a week later they acquired the 3D division of Dacuda, a Swiss computer vision company. Then, in April of that year, they acquired Israeli cybersecurity company Northbit. Two months later, they announced a partnership with the R&D unit of Lucasfilm (a Disney subsidiary).
Although a highly secretive company, some of their known activities suggest that they are also a highly enterprising venture. For example, as far back as December 2014, they had appointed science fiction author Neal Stephenson as “Chief Futurist”. (How many companies have one of those.)
The company’s history is also quite unusual, if their Wikipedia entry is anything to go by:
According to past versions of its website, the startup evolved from a company named "Magic Leap Studios" which around 2010 was working on a graphic novel and a feature film series, and in 2011 became a corporation, releasing an augmented reality app at Comic-Con that year.
However, by late 2014, their publicly available patent and trademark applications suggested that they were aiming to create, not content but actual hardware - specifically augmented reality glasses. Moreover, the design of the product they have now released, suggests that they are aiming for a product that can superimpose a virtual image over a real-world view (i.e. augmented reality) whilst being able to block out the outside world when desired (i.e. virtual reality).
Magic Leap remains highly secretive about the technology, but analysts who have examined their patents have concluded that they use stacked silicon waveguides to project an image directly onto the retinas of the user’s eyes.
Early videos showing not the hardware but input through the device, suggested that it required further development. Overlaid “reflections” were not always where they were supposed to be and overlaid objects did not appear to be fully opaque and were therefore incapable of blocking out light from the real-world objects that they were in front of. This would prevent the Magic Leap from being fully immersive or even as versatile as augmented reality glasses ought to be.
But that was two years ago, and a lot of R&D has gone into this hardware since then.
Unfortunately, Magic Leap has still not given out any information on the price or release date. We know that it will need to be connected not to a computer, but to a dedicated device called a Lightpack. But we know very little else. The company says that the hardware will have sensors, but just what type and what they will “sense” remains a mystery. Visual sensors? Real-space location? Motion?
Magic Leap has hinted that the device will actually be able to “remember” an environment and recreate it later, or at least know how the environment is laid out. They also claim that the full caboodle will respond to voice and gestures and be able to track head and even eye positions. They also say it will have a handheld remote - although why it would need one if it can track gestures is not clear.
Evidently, then, this is a company that prefers to “get it right” behind closed-doors rather than release a kludgy, unfinished product. They have spent a lot of time getting it right and managed to raise a lot of money from companies that understand technology. If I were placing a bet on the breakthrough consumer technology company of 2018, Magic Leap would be a good candidate for my money.
I had the opportunity to try out the Royole Moon briefly while on my travels in the USA. But now we have been loaned the latest version for a more detailed review. To get an overall perspective on the product, we recommend that you read both reviews. This will give you the full picture.
Battery life & charging
Design & appearance
Value for money
The Royole Moon is a personal cinema or movie theater. You can use it to watch movies, television, videos, internet content and even a monitor for computer games. It can receive content from any device with an HDMI, USB or WiFi output and it can store 32 GB of data on the smartphone-sized box that powers it. In other words, the box does double duty as the power source and the data source.
It can also receive data via WiFi - and in fact is WiFi-ready. Indeed, when we started using it, the first thing we did was go to settings and set it up for WiFi. It showed a list of WiFi accounts within range, we selected ours, entered the password and that was it. We were set up and ready to go.
From there we went to YouTube and proceeded to feast our eyes - and ears - on content to suit our eclectic taste. Music, comedy and live news from various sources. But let’s break it down into elements.
The Royole Moon uses touch controls for navigation. After pressing the round button on the box to switch it on the headset, you control the unit almost entirely from the right headphone with swipes or slides of the fingers on the surface. The outer rim controls the volume and the inner circle controls the rest. Slide clockwise or anticlockwise round the outer rim to make it louder or quieter respectively. Swipe left, right up and down on the inner circle of the right headphone to move between icons on the screen. To start/stop the current content, you simply single tap on the inner circle. Double tap to go back to the previous screen or operation.
Also, slide (rather than swipe) your finger along the inner circle when you are in browser mode on the internet. This moves the cursor, in much the same way as you would on a trackpad. But When you have to enter data on the virtual keyboard for the browser (or the mini-keyboard for YouTube) you must use the more awkward swiping method to move one letter at a time, whether sideways, up or down.
All of this is pretty much intuitive, and I more or less figured it out without reading the instruction manual, or even the quick start guide.
Well I say intuitive, but it was not all plain sailing. Because the swiping method (as distinct from the sliding method with a cursor) is actually quite awkward and easy to get wrong. This made it rather hard to enter letters when it came to making a specific selection on YouTube.
When you have to move a cursor one step at a time and then tap once (and only once) to select a letter, it is very easy to make a mistake and enter the wrong letter. And then, having to go to the back button to delete the erroneous letter, adds to the frustration. Then if you want to select the same letter twice and tap twice without pausing, the system thinks you have selected the go-back option and takes you to the previous screen or menu level!
In fact, it is fair to say that the single most frustrating experience with the Royole Moon is trying to correct entry errors and selection choices. Now obviously, you couldn’t have an actual touch keypad because you are cocooned inside a headset. However, they could have used the cursor and the sliding method, to enable the user to home in quickly on the relevant letter on a virtual keyboard, followed by a tap to select that letter. Hopefully. Royole will change it to this method in the future.
The Royole Moon is packed with features. Others are covered elsewhere in the review, so I'll focus on just one here: the eyepiece diopters.
Not everyone has the same sized head. Consequently, not everyone’s eyes are spaced equally apart. The Royole Moon makes allowance for this by enabling the eye pieces to be moved to the left or right, varying the distance between the pupils from 58 - 70 mm. You just press the button-dials gently in and slide them to the right positions for your eyes. I noticed that the one on the left was slightly stiffer to the touch than the one on the right. I don’t know if this is true of every model.
Ignoring the stiffness, however, I noticed a slight problem. If I had the eyepieces pushed close together, I could see the “screen” perfectly with no visible “division” between the two eye-views, but the corners of the screen (especially the lower corners) were truncated. This probably means I had the eyepieces too close together.
However, when I pushed the eyepieces further apart, while I could then see all four corners of the screen, I could also see two faint curved lines in the middle, separating the views, suggesting that the eyepieces were now too far apart. The best way to describe this is when you try to focus on something very close to your eyes and see the sides of your nose. A slightly better analogy might be when you are looking through binoculars, but do not press the eyepiece close to your eyes.
This leads to another point, that the headset doesn’t feel like it is close enough to the face. This is partly because of the weight. At times it tends to feel like it is slipping and one has to tighten it around the head to keep it in place.
In addition to being movable, the eyepieces have diopter dials that can be rotated to change the focus of each eyepiece separately between -7.0 (near-sighted) and +2.0 (far-sighted). This means most people can wear the RM without glasses! (And this is very important for maintaining a tight seal to keep out the ambient environment and make sure that the experience is truly immersive.)
I found that by shutting each eye and rotating the other, I could get the settings right. I have a slight problem related to my vision that made this a little harder. My left eye is slightly “lazy” in that it takes longer to change focus. So, when tried to set the focus right for left eye it was a little trickier as the eye took longer to settle down on what I was focusing on. Once I had it approximately right, I had to spend a few more seconds fine-tuning it to get it just right - and even then, I’m not entirely sure that I did.
But as I said, that’s a problem with my eyesight. I have exactly the same problem at the optometrist, when they narrow down the left-eye lens selection to a choice of two and then ask me which is sharper. I say, “can I try the other one again… okay, now the first… okay now the second one again…” You get the picture!
Apart from the above problem of the truncated corners, the viewing experience was an absolute pleasure. The Royole Corporation describes the view as a virtual 800-inch screen. However, that is only meaningful in relation to your notional distance from that screen. And Royole doesn’t say what that notional distance is to justify the 800-inch screen size. I myself cannot put a figure on it either. But it felt a bit like sitting two-thirds of the way forward in the stalls of a large cinema with a wide, curved screen - plus the added “pleasure” of being in the middle of the row and, better still, of being the only customer!
In terms of numbers, we are talking about a 110° field of view - comparable to the best VR headsets currently on the market, but soon to be eclipsed (rumor has it) by a couple of VR headsets breaking the 200° FoV barrier. We’ll see if Royole rises to the challenge.
As mentioned, in order to be able to show 3D, the Moon has separate displays for each eye. Each display has a full 1080p resolution (i.e. 1920 x 1080). The contrast range is 10,000:1, the color is 24-bit RGB and the refresh rate is 60 Hz. This is easy on the eyes.
There is a button for switching the images between 2D and 3D button. However, the device can automatically detect whether the content is 2D or 3D. If you press the button to override the system’s choice you end up feeling like Clarence the cross-eyed lion. (Readers of a certain age will know what I'm talking about.)
The unit includes noise-cancelling headphones that offer very good and faithful sound reproduction. While they did not completely cancel out ambient noise, they did such a good job that within a short time there was a feeling of being completely secluded in the world of whatever content we were watching and/or listening to. And of course, adjusting the volume was dead easy, with a simple slide of the finger clockwise or counterclockwise around the outer rim of the right headphone.
There is a big range of content available for the Royole Moon. Any device with an HDMI or USB output can supply content. You can upload videos from a computer to the device. And that means you can watch DVDs and Blu-ray disks via your computer. You can even upload them onto the box and take them with you. The box stores 32 GB, so you can load it with content and take it with you on an airline flight. (The promo video actually shows a passenger putting on the headset and secluding herself from the other passengers in this way.)
And you’ve also got the internet. For that you don’t have to connect via your computer, as the device has very good WiFi. Apart from a couple of occasions when the sound went a bit wobbly, we found it to have a very good connection and to run smoothly. And this was for YouTube, which sometimes has its own bandwidth problems. Also, there are many internet sources of content, including the many TV channels that also offer internet services, especially news channels. Plus of course, that vast world of content on YouTube.
As we reported on August 16, Royole Corporation has signed a deal with Sony to supply movies for the Royole Moon via an app called Royole Lounge. But in fact, any movie that is available on a disk or as a download can be relayed to the headset or transferred to the 32GB box, via HDMI, USB or Wifi. More generally, the Royole Moon has its own operating system (Moon OS).
I tried it out with news, music, sport and even some relaxation videos with quiet music, rivers and waterfalls. It was truly relaxing and the only thing I didn’t like was having to come out of it and back into the real world!
This leads to...
This is a highly subjective issue. The headset is nicely padded and contoured to fit the round shape of a human head. But it feels a bit heavy and at times there is a sense that it is “pulling downwards”. In order to ensure that it doesn’t admit any ambient light, it is important to make sure that it is fitted tightly. Both the headband that covers the top of the head and the viewing part of the unit can be expanded and contracted (like better quality headphones) to accommodate different size heads.
The padding around the eyes (together with appropriate fitting adjustments) ensures that ambient light is kept out and the experience is truly immersive. However, the bulk of the padding can also create a somewhat claustrophobic feeling. I wouldn’t call it a feeling of suffocation, but my breathing was heavy in the first few minutes of putting it on. This may have been due to the after-effects of a winter cold.
At any rate, once I got used to it, I felt fine. In fact, as I mentioned above, taking it off and coming back into the real-world was also a bit of a psychological adjustment after that wonderful feeling of immersion that I got while wearing it and watching videos.
Some people have complained of feeling sweaty. I didn’t notice that, although the lenses did eventually steam up a bit. But Royole have thought of that and provided a cleaning cloth for those occasions. I only had to use the lens cloth a couple of times and it did the job fine.
The device charges in a couple of hours and can run for about five hours on a single charge. This is practical in most situations. Even if you were using it on a long-haul flight, you probably wouldn’t be using it continuously. And on long-haul flights, you might even be able to plug it in to recharge it.
This is not a heavy-duty appliance - and probably not designed to take the kind of knocks and bruises that a gaming headset might be subjected to. However, as the unit that we received for test purposes was on loan, we couldn’t really test its durability. It felt like it could get through normal, everyday usage unscathed.
But a device like this is not always subject to “normal” usage. It is intended to be used not only at home but also “on the road” and for airline trips. In those conditions, it’s bound to take a few knocks. And because it is not really a rugged item, that could be a problem. Royole thoughtfully provides a soft bag for carrying the headset and control box. But I would have preferred a harder case for transit and travel.
But even a hard case couldn’t protect it from the hard knocks that it might take within the home environment. Let’s face it, it will sometimes be used as a pacifier for children and teenagers. As such, one would expect it to get some rough treatment over its normal lifespan.
But it’s not clear if it even could be ruggedized. To so, it would inevitably lose one of its most compelling features...
The Royole Moon is one of the most beautifully designed products I have ever seen. When we first unboxed it, we noted that it had the kind of design features we might have expected form a product by Apple. I also noted that it looks like the kind of thing that could have been a prop in Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey.
There is little more we can - or need to - say on this subject, as the pictures speak for themselves.
This is a rather difficult question, because there is no getting away from one painful fact: the Royole Moon is expensive. At $799.00 in the USA and £718.60 in the UK, it is a high price to pay for what is admittedly a wonderful viewing experience. Unlike an expensive, widescreen, high definition television that can be viewed by the whole family at the same time, this headset can only be viewed by one person at a time.
Even the benefits of 3D are to a large extent outweighed by the fact that once again (as in the fifties and thirties) 3D hasn’t really caught on. This may be due to the dizzying effects of active viewing glasses or the fact that we only really perceive 3D up to a distance of about 50 feet anyway. Sweeping panoramic views and long shots are not really enhanced by stereoscopic vision. High resolution, contrast and a high refresh rate are far more important.
But that is perhaps a point in the Royole Moon’s favour. It has all these qualities and 3D. Indeed, maybe as more products like this arrive on the market, there will be yet another resurgence of 3D and maybe this time it will catch on. But at this stage, that is pure speculation.
So, I suppose the question should be: would you buy the Royole Moon if you had the money? I don’t mean scraping the money together and forgoing other pleasures. I mean if you were a man or woman of means, and could afford the best, would this be on your shopping list? As I am not a man of means, perhaps I am not the best man to answer this question. I appreciate the beauty of a Rolls Royce, but would I instead buy a Lamborghini? Or a Tesla?
In fact a Tesla is probably the closest analogy, because - like Tesla cars - the Royole Moon is on the cutting edge of technology and its appeal is based on advanced functionality, not snob-appeal. For this reason, my gut feeling is that if you’re the kind of person who can afford the latest “boy’s toys”, this would be on your list of must have items.
I know that I’d buy it!
The next step after virtual reality is where you don’t just see it and hear it, but also feel it. We’ve reported in the past about haptic feedback. But what about the feeling of acceleration?
The technology has been around in some theme parks - the tilting seats or an entire tilting unit. One minute you feel yourself falling forward (strapped in of course), then your pushed into the back of the seat as the spacecraft accelerates.
Well now you can experience the same thing in your home with the Yaw VR motion simulator. Developed by Hungarian startup Intellisense, it has raised half of its $150,000 target on Kickstarter where it is billed as “The world's most compact and affordable virtual reality motion simulator.”
The unit consists of a padded seat inside a hemisphere - a sort of inverted dome - that you sit in while wearing a VR headset. The machine then takes you on the ride of your life. It can turn a full 360 degrees and tilt 50 degrees in either direction, So it can be used in conjunction with driving, aircraft and spacecraft simulations. And of course, it is personal.
It is designed for use with the Oculus Rift, Oculus Gear, PlayStation VR, Gear VR and PC-based games, so much of the software is already out there.
Powered by several small motors that operate almost silently, Yaw VR can support up to 330 pounds of weight. Even using only 40% of its full power, it can move 120 degrees per second.
But what about the price, I hear you ask?
Early backers can pledge $890 on their Kickstarter campaign to be first in line to receive their units in August. The normal price will be $1,190. While this isn’t cheap, it will come packaged with an adjustable pedal, steering wheel and joystick holders. And you can attach your own steering wheels and joysticks too!
The price is no more than you would pay for one of those fancy massage chairs. But this chair doesn’t relax you - quite the opposite! Check out the video below where it was showcased at CES.
The good thing about the Yaw AR is that when you aren’t using it, you can store all the parts in the dome. The whole thing takes up little room and weighs only 33 pounds.
Yaw VR currently works with 80 different simulator apps and will be compatible with SimTools.
All pre-order customers will get four free apps: Flight Simulator, Racing Simulator, Space Battle and Roller Coaster. And when the product hits the market in August, there will probably be a whole lot of new games developed to take advantage of its features. And users can even develop their own applications for it.
But the best is yet to come! The developers are thinking ahead. They are also planning on releasing the Yaw VR Pro, also in August. This Big Brother to the Yaw VR is “designed for extreme intensive use.” Pledges of $1,340 will get you the Pro edition and also let you fit your motion simulator with a custom color pattern.
This is not vaporware. They have a product and a release date just seven months away!
This VR headset is a particularly good example of a smartphone-housing headset. It aims for comfort by using leather and an elastic sponge to give it just the right amount of “give” and prevent it from becoming too sweaty.
The leather allows your skin to breathe and reduces not only the sweating per se, but also the clouding up of the lenses caused by evaporating sweat. The sponge distributes the weight and ensures that the headset has just the right amount of grip to avoid slipping without feeling too tight and suffocating. The sponge also makes the headset more flexible and accommodating to different shapes of face. The nose area is also quite deep, thus increasing support in the nasal area by greater weight distribution.
Weight distribution is further enhanced by the T-shaped headband which greatly adds to support and plays a major role in distributing the weight evenly.
The optics are very good, although ultimately constrained by the resolution and visual qualities of the display on your phone. The Pansonite has a 120 degree field of view - somewhat more than the Oculus Rift or HTV Vive - and the lenses are PMMA HD aspheric.
To round it off, the headset comes bundled with a nine button, bluetooth remote controller.
The makers have packed a lot into this headset, including a button for video/music play, a volume control and a control for pausing the action and answering incoming calls.
It has controls for varying the distance between the pupils of your eyes and the focal length of each lens can be set independently, so you can adjust it for your eyes and not have to wear glasses.
Other clever features include excellent ventilation to prevent the phone from overheating.
The makers have clearly put a lot of thought into this design, having spent two years on R & D to design, develop and fine-tune the product to customer needs.
The Pansonite fits most smartphones easily, including, Android phones and iPhones. Basically any smart phone with a screen size within 4.0 - 6.0 inches is compatible. Thus, the iPhone 5/SE/6/6s/7/7 plus, Samsung S5, S6, S6 edge, S7,S7 edge, Note 4, 5; LG G3, G4, G5, G6, V10, V20; Nexus 5, 6P etc are all compatible with the Pansonite.
The phone housing is also padded to protect the phone from moving around.
Now all you need to do is get some Android or iPhone games or content and start playing.
A new Artificial Intelligence and Augmented Reality application is being developed that makes it possible to take 2D images and not only convert them into 3D, but also to place them into a new (real) environment.
Called Volume, it is the brainchild of Israeli artists and technologists Or Fleisher and Shirin Anlen. It is very much in the early stage of development, but the creators have done a video on YouTube, showcasing the application’s potential by taking the dance contest scene from Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction and transporting John Travolta and Uma Thurman into a living room.
Fleischer explains it thus:
Our experiment with Pulp Fiction allows users to step inside one the film’s scenes in Augmented Reality, using Apple’s ARKit framework on an iPad. This experiment, is one of a few we are conducting at the moment, which illustrate the power of being able to reconstruct 3D scenes from 2D images. The possibilities of being able to reconstruct archival and static footage into 3D environments are one of the main motivations behind the development of the tool used to create these experiments called Volume.
The system is based on a deep learning tool called a “convolutional neural network” to teach the system. The neural network analyzes a two dimensional image and process, looking at contrast and changing colors of pixels and groups of pixels. It then tries to re-imagine the image in 3D and place it into the designated new environment. The extracted former 2D image thus becomes a 3D AR image in a new environment or context.
The agenda here is not to create another high-end tool for the video industry, but rather to create a web-based tool that will enable ordinary users to capture video images with their smartphone, tablet or camera and then upload them for automatic conversion.
The makers are the first to admit that the project is in its early stages. But they see great potential for the technology. It’s not just about having actors dancing in your living room. It could be Winston Churchill making a speech in war-torn England, Muhammad Ali slugging it out with George Foreman, or your favorite band making a comeback just for you and your friends.