Results

Search Results for: Logitech

November 7, 2017

HTC teaming up with Logitech to create a virtual keyboard

HTC-Logitech Bridge

For some time, we at bestvr.tech have been leading the call for the development of a virtual office. But the problem is that when you’re locked inside the immersive world of a virtual office, it’s very hard to enter data via a real keyboard.  Now we can bring you the news that HTC is teaming up with Logitech to introduce the BRIDGE developers kit, an SDK to help developers create a virtual keyboard.

The BRIDGE kit consists of a Logitech G gaming keyboard, an accessory that positions the Vive Tracker, and the associated software to link the two. And the great news for developers, is that to kick things off, they are giving away 50 of these kits to selected developers FREE – and if there is sufficient interest, they may bring out more kits.

HTC-Logitech Bridge-03

As Guy Godin of Virtual desktop has said:

Whether you’re doing work or surfing the web you sometimes need the ability to enter text, and Logitech has made it easier to use your keyboard in VR. With Bridge, you can see your physical keyboard, your hands and type without having to take your headset off.

The VR community is finally waking up to the fact that – as we at bestvr.tech have been saying all along – virtual reality needs a way of inputting data with an efficiency comparable to typing it in on a keyboard. Whilst speech recognition and even mind-machine interface are the holy grails of the computing industry, they are still a long way off. Despite much-touted advances in speech recognition, the keyboard is still the main method of entering data into a computer.

London Panorama

However, as long as the emphasis in VR was on games, it was assumed that body tracking, and controllers serving as stand-ins for guns were a sufficient combination to make the user experience a pleasing one.

But for some people – like us at bestvr.tech – games were always a sideshow to the main event under the big top. From the beginning, we saw the future of VR in work rather than play. And work calls for an efficient means of entering data. Even browsing, requires the ability to enter words as well as click on hot links.

But finger and hand tracking are also not quite there yet, and people like the haptic feedback of actually feeling a real keyboard. However, when one is immersed in a virtual world, the real keyboard isn’t visible, and even if one can touch type, one does occasionally need to see the real keyboard to re-orient oneself.

So how did the solve the problem? By creating the means whereby the real keyboard, that actually takes the input, can be synchronized positionally with a virtual keyboard that is shown to the user through the headset.

View 2 of Tel Aviv

What they have created is a piece of software that presents the user with an overlaid representation of their keyboard on any VR application, even to the point of showing when a key is pressed.

With the software running, the overlay appears automatically as soon as the associated Vive Tracker is turned on. It also allows the opportunity to skin the keyboard in a variety of ways. Best of all, they have even created a way for the Vive’s existing tracking to see your hands as virtual hands, mapped out against the keyboard.

HTC-Logitech Bridge-02

HTC and Logitech are now looking to the developer community, to take this interface to the next level. We believe that the next level will be the virtual office and the use of virtual reality in the workplace. Imagine turning a dull and dreary office into an executive suite with a panoramic view of a great metropolis? Instead of looking at a wall or a back yard, you can now imagine that you are Gordon Gecko looking down over Wall Street!

Luxury office in New York

Or you can turn up the central heating, put on the headset and abracadabra! You are now sitting on a sun-drenched, sandy beach looking out at the Caribbean, Pacific Ocean or Mediterranean Sea as you work. Yes it’s true, you still have to work… but in a much more pleasant environment.

At least, that’s the way we a bestvr.tech see things panning out.

Anyway, they are are now taking applications from developers for the first 50 of these developer kits. If you are interested in applying, click on this link. The application window ends on the 16th of November. The SDK is a BETA version and is intended for proof of concept rather than market ready products. HTC acknowledges that the system has bugs and you should be prepared to encounter them.

 

April 19, 2018

Tracker glove brings virtual office closer

ZeroKey glove hand and finger tracker

The tracker glove from Canadian startup ZeroKey could be just what's needed to make the virtual office a reality.  

We've written in the past about the virtual office and the technologies that would be needed to make it a reality. Such technologies may include real keyboards positionally-mapped against a virtual counterpart, a wrist-worn gesture tracker (not a tracker glove as such. however depth sensing cameras that can track fingers to millimeter positions in 3D, or even technology that can sense the electrical impulses in the nerves of the lower arms, hands and fingers.

Other needed technologies are higher resolution and greater Field of View. This is promised by the the Star VR headset and the  Pimax 8K

But the latest visitor to the party is a hand and finger tracker glove from Canadian start-up Zerokey. They have developed a sleek and elegant glove that enables millimeter level tracking of your hands and even your fingers.

Zero key tracker glove

Zero key glove

The designers at ZeroKey have made the prototype gloves of an elastic microfiber material, that is porous, reducing sweat and discomfort. The elasticity, allows freedom of movement, while maintaining a tight fit, to ensure precise location tracking.

ZeroKey tracker glove in closeup

ZeroKey glove in closeup

Unlike many prototypes, this one doesn't have loose wires going all over the place. Even at this stage, they have thought about the aesthetics of the design as well as the functionality.The black microfiber that covers the hardware, has a quietly understated, conservative professional look. The blue lines - redolent of science fiction - are conductive fibres linked to the sensors.

Upon reflection, white may have been a better choice for the main color. Think 2001: A Space Odyssey. Come to think of it, consider how Apple Computers would have made it. But it's early days yet. At this stage it is only a protoype. ZeroKey are currently developing an SDK for the glove and are taking indications of interest from developers on their website.

March 21, 2018

New Vive tracker released – HTC confirms

New Vive tracker - 2018 tracker

In a surprise follow-up to its launch of the Vive Pro, HTC has now announced the release of the new Vive tracker for 2018. This was announced via Twitter by Shen Ye, an HTC team member.

The announcement was made without much fanfare, but has been confirmed by HTC. Unlike controllers, the trackers are designed to attach to other objects (guns, tennis rackets, etc) which then become peripherals.

The trackers are tracked by the Lighthouse sensors. This makes it possible to play games like tennis, cricket and baseball with the real feel of the racket or bat.

Unlike the old trackers, which only support SteamVR BS1.0, the new Vive trackerl supports SteamVR BS2.0 which offers better tracking accuracy and range. In other respects, the trackers are the same as last year’s model and are backwardly compatible.

Both the 2017 and 2018 trackers are compatible with the Vive and the Vive Pro. They also compatible with each other and can work together inside a single game without conflicts. Like the defunct 2017 model, the 2018 tracker retails for $99 (£99, AU$169).

The 2017 trackers have been withdrawn. However, third party vendors mighty still be selling the old 2017 tracker. So, to be sure you get the new Vive tracker, make sure it has the new blue label. The old (2017) trackers carry a white label.

You can even attach it to a Logitech keyboard and have your hands tracked with the forward-looking cameras. An article in November here at bestvr.tech described how the HTC tracker could be attached to a Logitech keyboard as a means of creating a virtual office.

One of the widely recognized strengths of the HTC Vive over the Oculus Rift (now the Facebook Rift) is that the Vive trackers give it greater versatility. This is even truer of the new Vive tracker.

VERDICT: An excellent peripheral that every Vive owner should have.

December 28, 2017

What is coming in 2018

Credit Shutterstock

VR predictions for 2018 - we reserve the right to be wrong

2017 was supposed to be the breakthrough year for VR and AR, according to our predictions - and in a way, it was, for VR at least.

A lot of headsets were sold: Vive, Rift, PSVR, Samsung Gear VR. The Oculus Go was at least announced as was the Microsoft Mixed Reality headset. Others like the 200-degree FoV Pimax (3840x2160) and 210-degree Star VR (5120x1440), were also announced, although they were not actually demonstrated and could yet be vaporware.

In the AR world, things were a bit different. So far all we have seen is the ability to overlay a camera view on a phone screen with a virtual supplementary image and a few high-priced headsets that are intended for developers, with no indication of when the price will down to a level that will actually attract consumers.

Credit HTC 

​More games and apps became available, and other used were pioneered like education, consumer visualization and - our pet project of the future - office applications.

Progress was also made in letting the “astronauts” walk untethered, with wireless relay closing the gap with wired connection and inside out tracking (relying on gyroscopes and accelerometers), closing the gap with external tracking that relies upon lighthouses and cameras. Some of the diehards moaned about poor latency and dropped frames. But the problem of the pigtail and the prospect of strangulation in one’s own living room, made it inevitable that cordless would elbow its way into the market.

In due course the latency and dropped frames problem will be solved. Some hardcore gamers will hang on to their ponytail headsets until that happens. Others will opt for the cheaper cordless models now. I had an argument about this a few months back, with a hardcore gamer insisting - with that characteristically adolescent sense of entitlement - that low latency and smooth motion were “basic requirements” for Virtual Reality. I pointed out to him that this was like a rich man saying: “one simply must travel by Rolls Royce or not travel at all.” Needless to say, the rich boy with his toys did not like that one bit!

Royole 3D Moon Virtual Mob

I have also pointed out that the aesthetics of VR headsets leaves a lot to be desired. At the moment they are so kludgy, Apple will not touch them with a ten-foot pole. Until they can achieve the elegance of the Royole Moon personal theatre, I can’t see Apple changing its attitude towards them.

​But where do we go from here?

According to a survey by the International Data Corporation, spending on AR and VR will almost double next year - from $9.1 billion in 2017 to $17.8 billion in 2018. And in the medium term, IDC projects that this growth rate will hold until at least 2021. But what is particularly interesting, is that IDC sees the biggest share of the market being held not by the games sector, nor by hardware or retail showcasing, but rather by what they call “others” - a somewhat vague and amorphous concept, covering pretty much everything that we don’t know about the VR and AR markets.

​One thing they are clear about is that the biggest growth area will be the public sector - infrastructure maintenance and government training.

On the subject of VR-based training, IDC estimates that market revenue in the sector will reach $2.2 billion by 2023. However, this is predicated on a fast rollout of 5G telecoms standards. These standards have not yet even been finalized, but IDC appears to believe - probably wrongly - that 5G will begin commercial deployment in 2018! The faster speeds that 5G promises will no doubt play a part in bringing VR to a wider audience - as it will then be possible to transmit and narrowcast VR to targeted users. But even the standards won’t be finalized until 2018 - and rollout won’t begin until 2022. So, the IDC prediction on VR training, might itself be out by two years.

While I am reluctant to make more predictions after some of our prophecies for 2017 fell short, I will still my neck out by saying that with the Vive releasing the Vive Focus, with the Oculus Go and with others poised to enter the market, we feel that 2018 will be the year of the standalone VR headset.

And as for Augmented Reality, to quote Dostoyevsky: that is the subject of another story...

December 19, 2017

Wrist-worn gesture detector

TENZR1

BioInteractive Technologies (Vancouver) is shaking up the gesture-based controller sector with TENZR™, a gesture detector worn on the wrist. Unlike most other detectors, it does not require a camera, lighthouse, sonic triangulation or any other external recognition to function.

The wristband controller works out of the box with no training and recognizes six hand gestures (left, right, up down, open and closed). It connects to the VR or other device via Bluetooth. This enables it to be used as simple controller device.

TENZR hand gestures

However, it can be trained to recognize more discriminatory finger gestures, thus enabling it to be used to play games such as darts, with the fingers simply “holding” an imaginary dart and the hand and wrist throwing it.

The company has been developing the product for the last three years. Their aim was to herald in the next generation of controllers, making them less bulky and more natural-feeling. What they have produced is a small, comfortable device - worn on the wrist - that can be used for even more discriminating applications such as Rock, Paper, Scissors.

The current unit is a developer model to be presented as  CES 2018 at Eureka Park, Sands, Hall G - 50915 and at Cypress Booth (MP25365). It is Unity3D compatible, making it an ideal plug-and-play solution for various VR platforms.

TENZR’s™ features include:

  • Built-in capabilities to recognize gestures using BIT’s custom sensing technology
  • Infinite customization: Supports the detection of custom gestures for different applications
  • Built-in heading estimation using inertial sensor
  • Integrates with connected devices over Bluetooth Low Energy
  • Weighs 45 grams.

Could this nifty little peripheral work alongside the Logitech-HTC Bridge to create the Virtual Office, that we at bestvr.tech have long been lobbying for?

TENZR6TENZR5TENZR4TENZR3TENZER2

December 5, 2017

“Game over for VR” says the Economist in convoluted prophecy of doom

HTC Vive

A recent article in The Economist (1st December) has suggested that Virtual Reality may be heading for the knacker’s yard before it’s even over the second fence. They go on to suggest that consumers are opting for Augmented Reality as an alternative to VR!

They start off by pointing out that prices for VR hardware are falling since the items were first introduced - as if this phenomenon were something entirely new, rather than par for the course. They portray this not as a normal process for a slowly maturing technology, but rather as a sign of desperation in the industry.

“Virtual reality has failed to live up to its hype,” the article declares imperiously, “and mainstream consumers never really bought into the technology. Even ardent gaming fans have been slow to embrace VR.”

Logitech-HTC-Vive-Virtual-Re

The Virtual Office?

At bestvr.tech we have always maintained that the reason VR has been slow to catch on is precisely because it has been targeted to heavily at gamers and not enough on users. That is why we have been campaigning for so long for the virtual office.

But that is not the central thrust of the Economist’s argument. Nor have they taken the “cup is half full” approach and held out the hope that the slow uptake of VR will eventually be overcome by a breach of the floodgates. Instead, they predicted that Virtual Reality would go the way of 3D TV.

Shark attack

Shark attack

But part of the problem is surely that the bar was set too high for VR and too low for 3D TV. In the case of VR, it was decided, by the business powers-that-be, that it is not enough just to let people watch a video passively in immersive 3D. Instead, it must let them interact with the view as gamers, not only sitting on an armchair, but even on their feet! It must have head tracking, change the POV accordingly and even let them dance around the living room - instead of letting them do the sensible thing and go out of doors to play their sports out in the open with real people.

On the other hand, with TV, it was decided that it was too much for people to watch a 3D movie on a personal headset. No, they had to share the experience by watching it on a big screen. But to do that, they still needed special viewing glasses. These could either be “active”, opening and closing alternate eye-views (causing dizziness), or “passive”, based on vertically or horizontally polarized light.

Avegant Glyph-1

Avegant Glyph-1

October 27, 2017

How close are we to the Virtual Reality Office?

Mind control?

The idea sounds very simple in principle: you strap on a headset, say the magic words (“Abracadabra” “Open sesame” or whatever) and instead of being in that pokey, dingy, stark or crowded office or that untidy home-office you were in a minute ago, you are now inside a luxury office with a panoramic view of New York City.

Yes, just a minute ago, you were Joe Public, crammed into a small office with three colleagues, or looking out onto a garbage-strewn backyard. Now you are Gordon Gecko looking down on Wall Street or Harrison Ford (in Working Girl) looking out across a panoramic view of Manhattan.

Once the dream of science fiction, we now have headsets with such high resolution that they can show you the office, the panoramic view beyond the window and one or more computer screens on which you can work. Or if you prefer, you can take your office with you to that sun-drenched beach. What is more, compared to the cost of downtown office real estate, it’s actually quite cheap. Even the most expensive VR headset costs less than a month’s rent per worker in Manhattan or London or Tokyo.

And with live streaming video feeds, you can plug an up-to-date view of the cityscape or the ocean into the background from pairs of 3D cameras mounted at appropriate locations the world over. Not a still picture, you understand. Not even a pre-recorded video looping through over and over again like in Trevanian’s Loo Sanction. No, a real time view of what you would see if you were actually there.

So why aren’t we all doing it already?

Tel aviv view 2

Tel Aviv

Some people would say that the reason is because the background would be too distracting. But that can’t be the answer. After all some people do work in offices in big cities with panoramic views. And some of those offices are comfortable – even luxurious. And there are people who take their laptops to the beach and even work. I’ve done it myself. I once wrote a thriller (under a pen-name) while sitting on a promontory sticking out fifty yards into the Dead Sea, listening to quiet music.

Dead Sea

Dead Sea

So it’s not the distractions that are the problem. Rather, the problem is best expressed in a recent article in the Guardian by Alex Hern (“I tried to work all day in a VR headset and it was horrible”):

It’s surprisingly hard to find and use the mouse and keyboard. You probably think you can touch-type. I certainly did… But it turns out that there’s a difference between being able to type without looking at the keyboard and being able to type without being able to see your own hands, even in your peripheral vision.

He goes on to describe the experience of “banging around the desk trying to find where I’d left my mouse without knocking over my coffee.”

Dead Sea laid back

Dead Sea laid back

And this is the only real problem. Although Hern also wrote about the problem of wearing the headset for too long, I think this was very much his personal experience and not representative of others. Many gamers wear their headsets for hours. And Aaron Frank, who wrote an article for Motherboard (“I Worked in a VR Office, and It Was Actually Awesome”) wrote, in contrast:

I wondered about the visual endurance required to stay in VR for such long periods of time, but Bob Perry, CEO of Envelop VR, said that some people in his company code in VR for hours a day without reporting any issues.

So, it is the practical problem of finding keyboard and mouse that is really the problem. The obvious solution would be to display a virtual keyboard and mouse in front of the user and to track their hands and fingers when they use it. The problem is that tracking technology is not that accurate… yet!

One solution might be to attach the keyboard to a tracker device and overlay the VR image with a positionally-matched virtual keyboard and a virtual image of the user’s hands (as tracked by the camera). This technology already exists. But it is at best a temporary, stop-gap solution.

Logitech-HTC-Vive-Virtual-Re

However, two new technologies are making their way from the lab to the market and should be with us very shortly.

The first is accurate finger tracking. Qualcomm’s Spectra Module program has created a Computer Vision kit and Premium Vision kit. These can be used to carry out passive and active depth sensing. Active depth sensing involves firing pulses of infrared light and capturing their reflection off a surface with an IR camera. The module uses over 10,000 depth points and can discern position up to 0.125mm between dots. They have used this system to accurately track a pianist’s hands as he played the piano.

And if they can do it with a 0.125mm accuracy, they can surely do it for a computer keyboard too. Moreover, as human fingers emit infrared radiation, they can presumably also achieve accurate results with passive IR.

Piano player scanning

Qualcomm Spectra

But there is an even more potent – not to say esoteric – technology, just around the corner. An Article in Wired under the headline “Brain-machine Interface Isn’t Sci-fi Anymore,” described demonstration given by Thomas Reardon of CTRL-Labs in which he placed a “terrycloth stretch band with microchips and electrodes woven into the fabric” on each forearm and proceeded to type into a computer without touching the keyboard. He actually surprised the interviewer by starting with the keyboard and then pushing it away, while carrying on with microscopic finger movements. Yet his typing continued to appear on the screen.

Wristband controller

Wristband controller

Reardon explained that the electrodes in the armband were capturing the electronic signals travelling down his nerves and the software was interpreting with high enough accuracy to be able to determine which he key he would have been pressing.

Understandably, Reardon himself described the demonstration as a “mind fuck” and the interviewer could hardly disagree. The software was so accurate that it even pick up twitches from the fingers.

This technology is not yet on the market, but it is more than looming on the horizon. And with pixel density and resolution getting better, and Microsoft working with hardware partners to bring in the Windows headset, we at bestvr.tech confidently predict that the virtual reality office will arrive some time in 2018.

:)