Category Archives for "News"

May 15, 2018

Oculus Rift v HTC Vive v HTC Pro – quick snapshot

oculus-rift-v-htc-vive

This is brief snapshot of the key differences between the Oculus Rift v the HTC Vive and HTC Vive Pro. We offer a more detailed comparison for techies and anyone else interested.

HEADSET:

Display:

Resolution:

Refresh Rate:

Platform:

Field of View:

Tracking Area:

Audio:


Controller:



Sensors:





Connections:

OCULUS RIFT

OLED

2160 x 1200

90Hz

Oculus Home, SteamVR

110 degrees

5 x 5 feet (2 sensors)
8 x 8 feet (3 sensors)

Headstrap earphones


Oculus Touch,
Xbox One controller


Accelerometer
Gyroscope, magnetometer
Constellation tracking cam


HDMI
USB 2.0
USB 3.0

HTC VIVE

OLED

2160 x 1200

90Hz

SteamVR, VivePort

110 degrees

15 x 15 feet

Headstrap earphones


Vive controller
PC compatible gamepads


Accelerometer gyroscope
Lighthouse laser tracking
Front-facing camera


HDMI
USB 2.0
USB 3.0

HTC PRO

AMOLED

2880 x 1600

90Hz

SteamVR, VivePort

110 degrees

33 x 33 feet

Headstrap earphones w/ in-line amplifier

Original Vive controller, 
PC compatible gamepad
New Vive controller,

Accelerometer
Gyroscope
Lighthouse laser tracking Dual front-facing cameras, Support for Lighthouse 2.0


USB-C 3.0, DisplayPort 1.2, Bluetooth

As mentioned above, this is just a quick summary. We go into more detail for those who like the details..

May 14, 2018

Higher screen resolution is on its way

Higher screen resolution

When Apple first launched its “Retina display”, they chose the term “retina” not because these higher screen resolution displays would sit close to the eye. Rather, it was because it was supposed to be so good that the eye couldn't distinguish the individual dots. That was at the distance people held their smart phones - about one foot.

Retina gave users a resolution of about 300 ppi (pixels per inch). Indeed for computers (laptops, desktops and tablets) a lower pixel density also worked. Viewers couldn't see individual pixels on Retina displays. However when it came to VR displays, that resolution fell short. Even at 300 ppi, virtual reality headsets suffered from the so-called “screen door effect.” This meant that it was as if you were standing in front of a mesh screen door.

However, this is about to change in a week’s time at the SID’s Display Week in Los Angeles, on May 22. That's because displays of 1000 ppi and even 2000 ppi will appear there. This is something of a quantum leap over what is currently available. (Back in June 2017, we reported that Samsung was working on a GearVR model with 2000 dpi density. Currently we have no further information on that effort into higher screen resolution.)

However, it is worth remembering that the Apple first introduced the Retina display for the iPhone 4 in 2010. Older readers may remember that 25 years earlier, Apple introduced 300 dots per inch resolution for their LaserWriter printer. Ironically, printers have evolved beyond that. Printer density went up to 600 dpi and then to 1200 dpi. And this despite the fact that we don’t hold printed pages any close to our eyes than we used to.

Higher screen resolution: increasing pixel density

Unfortunately, similar improvements in pixel density for video displays have been stubbornly evasive. But this is a problem. The smartphone brought the screen closer to our eyes and the VR and AR display close still. So we can now look at printed images without seeing the dots, but we aren't so lucky with the pictures on our screens.

Now obviously some progress has been made in achieving higher screen resolution. Manufacturers have managed to push the 1080p screen format (1080 pixels height x 1920 width) into smaller screens. That's why we've got smartphones. Thus Apple introduced the 458 ppi “Super Retina display” on the iPhoneX. In effect, they maintained the existing resolution but improved brightness, sharpness and color fidelity.

However we still hold smartphones a comfortable 12 inches from our eyes. Not so for VR headsets. With head mounted displays, we have the screen an inch or so from our eyes. At that distance, the image must actually be focused on the eye. But even with the lens to focus the image, 400 ppi so close to your eyes creates a screen door effect. This the motivating factor behind the push for higher screen resolution.

Virtual Reality is driving higher screen resolution

The latest HTC Vive Pro, has improved resolution by 50%, achieving a pixel density of 615 ppi. But even this doesn't completely eliminate the screen door effect. Moreover, the Field of View of the Vive Pro is still only 110°. This still falls significantly short of the holy grail of Virtual Reality: filling the user’s central and peripheral vision with an FoV of 200° or 210°. To achieve that sort of FoV, and eliminate the screen door effect, will take lots of work. Aside from the screen display technology itself, it’s going to be pretty demanding on processing power. This is especially true given that VR gamers have grown accustomed to a 90 Hz refresh rate!

With VR it is not just about proximity. The lens doesn't just focus the image, it magnifies the dots. And this causes the user to see those dots. But the stronger the lens, the greater the distortion. If we can increase lens strength without loss of sharpness, then the screen can be made smaller. This will make it possible to build smaller VR headsets.Then we can get rid of the oversized monstrosities we have at present.

In an effort to develop higher screen resolution, Sony have teamed up with Toshiba and Hitachi on a venture called Japan Display (JDI). Last year JDI was working to achieve a pixel density of 803 ppi. However, they decided that even this was not enough and so they set their sights on 1001 ppi. And they achieved it. These advances, were aided by advances in lens technology, to focus the image over shorter distances, enabling the headset to shrink.

Higher screen resolution means Crossing the 1000 ppi barrier

JDI has also reduced the response time from 4.5 milliseconds to 2.2 and increased the refresh rate to 120 Hz. In effect, JDI has decided to bypass its own 803 ppi breakthrough and go straight to 1001 ppi. But while they will be showcasing the technology next week, commercial products with this resolution will not be available until March 2019. However JDI promises that even more advanced products will follow rapidly.

However, the Sony-Toshiba-Hitachi alliance isn’t the only player in the running. INT, a Taiwanese company claims to have developed 2228 ppi displays for Virtual Reality, under a team headed by David Chu, using “ultra high pixel density” AMOLED technology. However, whilst Chu’s team have announced the pixel density, they haven’t revealed the overall resolution, colour contrast, brightness, refresh rate or FoV. One thing is for sure: such resolution will not only reduce screen door effect, it will also alleviate vergence-accommodation conflict (VAC).

Meanwhile a partnership between LG and Alphabet (Google’s parent) has developed a 4.3 inch OLED display, built around 18 megapixels, with a density of 1443 ppi. That’s more than JDI, but less than INT.

We need processing power to match the graphics

In a week’s time, these displays will be unveiled to the public for the first time. All such technologies offer the prospect of sharper images and higher, more all-encompassing, FoV.

However, such resolutions - especially at the high refresh rate and low-latency required by VR gamers - will make heavy demands on computing power. Even high-end desktops struggle to deliver consistent and good performance at present-day, VR resolution, latency and refresh specs. And the trend - or at least the aspiration - is that VR will be liberated from the constraints of physical connectivity or even wireless connectivity to an external box. To bring these graphics advances to fruition on VR platforms, will require similar progress in graphics processing technology.

And it remains to be be seen how quickly that can be accomplished.

May 1, 2018

VR Theme Park in China

Robot in China's new VR theme Park

If anyone doubts China’s capacity to lead rather than follow, this report should come as a rude awakening. China’s new VR theme park is unlike any other in the world. Instead of physical rides like roller coasters and shootout games, it has 35 Virtual Reality rides. These include VR equivalents of roller coasters and shoot-em-up games, as well as spaceships, castles and outsize robots.

China's VR theme park


Castles in the air? Well, almost

Welcome to Oriental Science Fiction Valley, a 330 acre VR theme park in Guizhou province in south west China. Initial reports erroneously stated the cost of the theme park as $1.5 billion. This would have rather made a mockery of one of the principal benefits of VR: lower cost. However, the cost was actually $470 million.

VR theme park roller coaster

A VR roller coaster ride

Chen Jianli, the theme park’s CEO explained:

There’s fierce competition in the theme park market right now. We are trying to give customers a new experience by combining modern technologies such as VR and [augmented reality] with traditional recreational facilities. The sci-fi part of it is important for the feeling it creates.

VR theme park novelty

Virtual reality has been used in other theme parks in the past, but always in addition to conventional rides, never as a complete replacement. For example, In the USA, Samsung collaborated with the Texas based Six Flags Entertainment Corporation to create virtual reality rides.  Similarly, the Florida-based Legoland combined a real roller coaster with VR to create the Great Lego Race VR Coaster. That's obviously not the same as a true VR theme park.

The Oriental Science Fiction Valley theme park, however, relies largely, almost entirely on VR on all its rides. The Chinese authorities took a conscious decision to locate this VR theme park in one of the poorest provinces in China, in the hope of generating a tourist boom that could benefit the local economy. Apple computers has a data centre in the province.

VR is seen as a new growth area for China, and this latest investment shows that they are more than just dipping their toes into the water.

April 27, 2018

Cheaper AR glasses coming from WaveOptics – EVG partnership

Cheaper AR glasses from WaveOptics and EV Group

Cheaper AR glasses, are on the way to the market thanks to a new collaboration between Britain’s WaveOptics and EV Group. WaveOptics is the world leading designer and manufacturer of diffractive waveguides. EVG is an Austrian manufacturer of process equipment for the semiconductor industry.

The aim is to combine WaveOptics’ advanced waveguide technology with EVG’s manufacturing expertise to mass produce cheaper AR glasses. As David Hayes, the CEO of WaveOptics has explained.

This partnership marks an AR industry inflexion point and is a critical step in the mass manufacture of high quality AR solutions – a capability that has not been possible to date.

A combination of EVG’s expertise together with our scalable and versatile technology, will allow AR-end user products to be on the market for under $600 by the end of next year.

This collaboration is key to unlocking the development of AR wearables; together we are well positioned to bring mass market innovation in AR, opening new paths to scalability at a lower cost than ever before.

Cheaper AR from EV Group and WaveOptivs

EVG lab

But WaveOptics is at pains to emphasize the scalability of their technology and foresees its waveguides as the optical component for cheaper AR glasses. Indeed, Markus Wimplinger, their director of Corporate technology development and IP, has stated:

We develop new technologies and processes to outperform the most complex challenges, helping our customers to successfully commercialise their new product ideas. For the proliferation of our leading edge Nanoimprint Lithography (NIL) technology, we have created our NILPhotonics Competence Center.

Within this framework, which has strong policies to protect our customers’ IP, we support our customers on their product development and commercialisation journey from the feasibility to the production phase. This is exactly what we are doing today with WaveOptics, an established leader in AR, to provide a truly scalable solution to end customers.

Competitors

But the alliance is not without its competitors. Thus, industry insiders note that the WaveOptics-EVG partnership will be vying with Vuzix (WaveOptics’ main rival in the manufacture of cheaper AR glasses) for such customers as Apple and Facebook for their technology.

Apple has been hovering on the edge of both Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality. They are poised to make their move when the time is right. Facebook has already jumped into the deep end of VR, with their purchase of Oculus, but are now planning on branching out into AR too.

WaveOptics

In fact, as recently as March, Vuzix claimed that it has signed non-disclosure agreements with 10 potential customers whom they claim are now in the due diligence review phase. Furthermore, last December, Quanta (a member of Apple’s supply chain) and Israeli optical technology company Lumus teamed up to make headsets costing less than $1,000.

EV HQ above

New technology needed

One of the things that has been holding back cheaper AR glasses, according to Evan Spiegel, the CEO of Snap is the cost and quality limitations of the existing hardware. Indeed one of the reasons that Apple has yet to enter the fray with anything more than operating system support for AR is because of the lack of the necessary developments in hardware.

cheap AR glasses from WaveOptics

WaveOptics glasses

"The technology itself doesn't exist to do that in a quality way," he told Vogue in 2017. He added that "Something that you would see out in the market any time soon would not be something that any of us would be satisfied with," emphasizing Apple’s ongoing striving not just for quality, but for perfection.”

A worker in the production lab

However this may change with the WaveOptics-EVG partnership. For example, EVG reckons that they could supply machines for implementing WaveOptics' existing technology in as little as four months. And David Hayes has made clear that WaveOptics is open in selling its technology to AR product makers and platforms on a non-discriminatory basis.

Indeed, one of WaveOptics great strengths and market advantages is that their technology can be implemented in both glass (the traditional medium for AR) and plastic, which is both cheaper and more reliable.

April 23, 2018

Military augmented reality

Military augmented reality

In the past we reported in the past how AR is being used to reduce the maintenance skills gap in the US armed forces. So it should come as no surprise that even while AR struggles to get a foothold in the overpriced civilian market that military augmented reality technology is still going strong.

According to a 124-page report published by Research and Markets, the world’s military will spend about $1.79 billion on AR by December 1, 2025. Going back only as far as last year, the figure for 2017 was $511 million. This marks a compound growth rate of 17.4% per annum over an eight year span.

The report - Military Augmented Reality Market to 2025 – Global Analysis and Forecasts by Components, Product Type & Functions - takes both a broad and a detailed look at how developments in augmented reality is having an impact on the military.


Of course, one of the key differences between the military and civilian sectors is that price is no object to the military. In contrast, all but the wealthiest would balk at a set of AR goggles costing $3000. But that is peanuts for the military.

The key piece of military augmented reality hardware for the military is the so-called “heads-up” display: a Head Mounted Display (HMD). This enables the wearer to see the real-world about them, while at the same time, supplying the kind of data that would normally appear on a screen. Thus the wearer need never look down, or take their eyes off the surrounding environment. In the military, this is called “situational awareness”.

The main piece of data that military personnel need, while in the field, is navigational data. But they need to be aware of the presence and location of hostile forces and other dangers (e.g. land mines) at the same time.

Besides navigational data, heads-up displays can be used to supply information from HQ or other units, field orders, status updates, etc. This can facilitate better coordination between land, air and sea combat and intelligence units.

Military augmented reality in Future warfare

Future warfare

Old and new players

However, the most important and compelling use of military augmented reality is to assist combat units with rapid friend-foe identification. This is a vital component of combat readiness in order to avoid the horrendous mishap of friendly fire - which both costs lives and is extremely damaging to combat morale and national consensus.

But it is not just the big boys like the USA, Russia and China that are procuring these military augmented reality systems. It's not even just hi-tech countries with advanced military needs, like Israel and South Korea. On the contrary, hi-tech but recently peaceful Japan, oil-rich Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are buying into the new military technology.


And even less wealthy countries are getting in on the act. For example, South American market leaders like Brazil and Mexico, and third-world but populace India. Not to be outdone, the United States Defense Department is putting increased financial resources into military augmented reality technology, specifically to facilitate heads-up navigation.

One of the core technologies being developed for the US military is BARS (Battlefield Augmented Reality Systems). This development is being spearheaded by the Advanced Information Technology of Naval Research Laboratory. They are working in collaboration with Columbia University on this project.

But other companies such as the old mainframe computer manufacturers and some of the new hi-tech players are also getting in on the act. Companies mentioned in the report include: BAE Systems, Applied Research Associates, Inc, Google (now a subsidiary of Alphabet), Osterhout Design Group and Six15 Technologies.

But what is significant in this report, is that while the US and Canada remain the biggest procurers of military augmented reality, it is likely that their combined percentage share of the market will drop from its 2017 level of 70%.

April 19, 2018

AR Projectors – a partial solution at best

Desktop projector

HTC is offering an AR projector as an alternative to a conventional AR visual overlay.

The problem is how to overlay a transparent lens with an image or text? A mini-projector that projects an image onto the lens such that it bounces back to the eye? Build LEDs or liquid crystals into the lenses themselves? Or maybe an external projector in front of the lens, that projects the image into the eye?

HTC and Swift Creatives have come up with another solution - and something of a low-tech one at that! Project the images outward onto real-world objects themselves - in short, an AR projector

This solution is devilishly simple, because it taps into age old technology. One can be cooking in the kitchen, doing woodwork in the shed or playing chess on the living room coffee table. What this AR projector does is turn the work surface - or play surface - into a screen. With the appropriate sensor technology, the work surface would even be a touch screen.

Worktop desktop projector

Worktop projector

New lamps for old

None of this is really new. It has been offered as a commercial product by Sony, a developer's kit by Lampix, developed in prototype by Carnegie-Mellon University and some of us even remember a monochrome keyboard projected onto surfaces as far back as the beginning on the nineties. In fact this projected keyboard has been given a new lease of life and is available to this day as a virtual keyboard peripheral for smart phones. (There are a number of models in fact.)

Both the HTC and the Lampix versions are literally camouflaged as lamps. In contrast, the Sony Xperia Touch is box. one significant upside is that these AR projectors produce an overlay that is visible to everyone in the vicinity. It is not a one-person only product. Of course, in some cases, this may actually be a downside. After all, one of the uses of AR could be to give an alert. As in... "person of interest!"

AR projector

Desktopology

However, there is another downside to these AR projectors - or rather a limitation. It is a fixed place product to be used indoors. Yes, the Sony Xperia Touch can be moved from room to room. But it is still too bulky for the out of doors, and not a smart enough product to interact with the current situation.

Now, there is one prototype that can be used out and about. See the video below:

Unfortunately, it can still only project onto a flat surface. Therefore, if you want to be able to walk down the street and be guided by a map hovering in front of you, then none of these AR projectors will suffice.

In the meantime, you can pick up a virtual projection keyboard or trackpad for a bargain price.

March 26, 2018

Virtual Reality Shopping has arrived

Virtual reality shopping at Ikea

In the past, online shopping has been limited to looking at a few product pictures or occasionally a video, accompanied by a description of the product. For some reasons, online vendors never quite got around to virtual reality shopping. You couldn’t take a virtual walkthrough of a store, pushing a trolley, seeing the goods on shelves and picking them and taking a look at them from all sides. Even Amazon, despite its size and deep coffers, preferred to be little more than a text and picture catalogue for online purchase.

Now, however, things are changing. And all thanks to Virtual Reality headsets. The obvious and sensible way to provide online shopping - mimic the experience of a physical shop rather than a printed catalogue - has skipped a generation. You still won’t see it on a flat 2D screen any time soon. But it is now coming to 3D. Strap on a VR headset and you can quite literally walk through an online store and make purchases. Virtual reality shopping has arrived.

Ikea leads the way in virtual Reality shopping

With the IKEA app below, you can mimic the experience of walking through an IKEA store an making purchases.

But with this one, you can even move things around, change the colors, and really see how different variations would look. This is true virtual reality shopping!

You can do the same with their kitchen app, where you can move things around and design your kitchen the way you want it. We have talked about visualizing furniture in situ in the past.

In some cases, you can even take items off the shelves and buy them. This should be de riguer for virtual reality shopping, because most stores these days are self-service. Take for example this demo (below) of ShelfZone from InVRsion, for the HTC Vive. Their virtual store app and platform can not only enable you to walk through a virtual store and pick up the items you want to buy. It has eye-tracking, voice recognition and speech simulation. This means that you can talk to it and obtain help in finding what you are looking for, just as you could with a friendly and helpful member of front line staff in a real store.

Alternatively, Santa Clara based company Cappasity is offering online shopping for Software as a Service. With their platform, even a small online retailer can be up and running very quickly with their own virtual reality shopping store. And it is scalable.

Other retail technology

But even more a conventional shopping trip can be enhanced with modern technology. Take for example, the Google Glass augmented reality app below. It flashes up product information and advice when you walk through the shop, according to what you are looking at. You can ask it questions, select recipes and ask where the ingredients are, make a video call and share what you are looking at for advice. Strictly speaking, this is not virtual reality shopping. But it is impressive nevertheless.

More conventional still is Amazon Go. This is a self-service store which cuts out the need for standing in a check-out queue. You log in with an app and cameras and sensors track you (and every other customer) what you take off the shelf and what you put back.

So far, they have only have one store - in Seattle - which opened on December 5, 2016, and to the public on January 22, 2018. It is all explained in the following video.

Again, this is not virtual reality shopping. But it is high tech shopping that will inevitable compete with its virtual counterpart, because it offers immediacy and convenience.

Finally, there is the virtual interactive mirror, that enables you to try on clothes without actually changing into them. It would mostly be located in stores - although in theory there is no reason why it cannot be located in people’s homes too, to help them make their selections and choices. Of course, it can only you tell you what the clothes look like, not whether they feel comfortable. But it’s still a useful technology for eliminating the items you don’t want.

March 22, 2018

Video game shooting – or shape-shifting, illuminati, Zionists?

Dijonae White - video game shooting victim

Passions sometimes run high when people play video games – or in this case, don’t play them – but on Sunday March 18, these emotions crossed the line into homicide when a nine-year-old boy shot and killed his 14-year-old sister (Dijonae White) when she refused to hand over a game controller in a tragic video game shooting incident.

The video game shooting took place in the Mississippi home of Dijonae White.  According to early reports, Dijonae (a pupil at Tupelo Middle School) took over playing the game and then refused to hand the controller back to her brother. He responded by going into another room, retrieving a 0.25-caliber gun from a nightstand and then shooting his sister in the back of her head. She was brought to Memphis children’s hospital Le Bonheur but died at 6.45 p.m.

Early reports claim that the gun belonged to the mother’s live-in boyfriend. At the time of the shooting, Dijonae’s mother was in the kitchen feeding three of her other three children..

Dijonae While victim of the video game shooting

Dijonae While

Video game shooting victim Dijonae White and her mom

Dijonae White and her mom

The video game shooting case falls under the jurisdiction of Sheriff Cecil Cantrell, who is taking a cautious approach and not jumping to any conclusions. Cantrell stated: “I’m not too fast to say anything because there are juveniles involved. We want to do what’s right and we’re going to get it right.”

Cecil Cantrell - the sheriff in charge of the video game shooting case

Cecil Cantrell - the sheriff in charge of the case

However, the sheriff also said: “In my opinion, kids watch video games where they shoot each other and hit the reset button and they come back to life. It’s not like that in the real world. I’m not saying that’s necessarily what happened, but kids now are different than what they were when we were growing up.”

Is the problem video games or guns?

The video game shooting case will throw a spotlight on the whole issue of violent video games, that President Trump raised after the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida in February. “I’m hearing more and more people say the level of violence on video games is really shaping young people’s thoughts,” Trump said at a meeting in February.

President Donald Trump

President Donald Trump

At the White House meeting, Donald Trump raised the issue, not only of video games but the internet in general. “We have to look at the Internet, because a lot of bad things are happening to young kids and young minds and their minds are being formed, and we have to do something about maybe what they’re seeing and how they’re seeing it."

NRA spokesperson Dana Loesch

NRA spokesperson and former Breitbart writer and editor Dana Loesch

However, Trump’s assertions were seen by some as an attempt to distract attention from alternative explanation of gun killings generally and not just the video game shooting. That explanation - i.e. the TRUE explanation - would throw the blame onto the widespread availability of guns in the US. Despite the power of the National Rifle Association – which spends millions of dollars supporting politicians who oppose gun control and attacking those politicians who support gun control – the tide is beginning to turn against second amendment absolutists.

Paranoid/dishonest conspiracy theorists, gun control and the illuminati

People are now coming to realize that it is the abundance of guns – not their legality per se – that is the main cause of the problem. This also explains why the gun violence problem is so hard to tackle at the state level.  States that have strict gun control laws, can (and in many cases do) refuse to recognize gun licenses from other states, but once the guns are out there, controlling their use by criminals is well nigh impossible.

On the other hand, countries that have strict gun laws (like Britain and Japan) fare much better, despite the occasional anecdotal case that throws a spanner in the works. Indeed, it is the anecdotal evidence that is widely seized upon not only by the NRA, but also by the other joker in the pack: conspiracy theorists.

The internet is full of lunatic conspiracy websites, self-published Amazon Kindle books by paranoid people and of course YouTube videos by charlatons. These websites, books and videos claim variously that gun attacks outside the US prove that gun control is ineffective or that gun attacks and mass killings are “false flags” by people seeking to ban guns or create world government. Some the wackier conspiracy theorists claim that guns are necessary to "defend ourselves" against the “illuminati” shape-shifting reptiles or other such alleged conspiracies.

This explosion of stupidity and paranoia has been created largely to be exploited by the smarter, well-heeled conspiracy theorists, who monetize their websites at the expense of the gullible. It is tolerated and even fueled by companies like Google (owners of YouTube), Amazon and Facebook who prefer to maximize profits than employ enough people to provide human vetting of user-generated content.

But ultimately the victims are not the gullible people who believe the conspiracy theorists, but the secondary victims of the policies that such gullibility shapes. Thus, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms is obliged to keep records of guns sold in the US (provided by the sellers) but are not allowed to have a searchable computerized database of such guns when they need to cross-check a specific weapon.

According to anti-gun-violence organization The Trace:

To perform a search, ATF investigators must find the specific index number of a former dealer, then search records chronologically for records of the exact gun they seek. They may review thousands of images in a search before they find the weapon they are looking for. That’s because dealer records are required to be ‘non-searchable’ under federal law. Keyword searches, or sorting by date or any other field, are strictly prohibited.

This is the legacy left by corrupt politicians in the pocket of the NRA and spineless politicians who care more about being re-elected than the lives of American citizens.

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.

March 21, 2018

HTC Vive Pro now available for pre-order

HTC Vive Pro

HTC has announced to day that their Vive Pro headset will ship on April 5th and will include six-month Viveport Subscription for those who buy before the 3rd of June. This will entitle the buyer to choose up to 5 titles per month from a range of 400. The price of the headset will be $799 in the USA and £799 in Britain.

At the same time, the price of the current Vive (full kit including 2 controllers and 2 Lighthouse base stations) will be slashed by $100 to $499. The price of the Vive Pro covers the headset only, but the controllers and lighthouses from the current Vive are the same and will work with it. 

This is a piece of exciting news that we have all been waiting for! HTC promised the headset by the end of the first quarter of 2018. So they have more or less lived up to their boast.

The launch of the Vive Pro marks a clear shift in the battle lines. Before now, the HTC Vive and the Oculus/Facebook Rift were battling it out for the high end of the market in terms of responsiveness, low-latency and price. But now the Rift has been moving down in price and aiming for standalone device that uses inside-out tracking and does need to be tethered to a PC or other external device.
 
This leaves the field clear for HTC in the upper end of the market, for those customers who are ready to endure being tethered and requiring base stations as the price to be paid (along with those good ol' greenbacks) for the low latency and quick response time.

Old HTC Vive link box

Old HTC Vive link box

With the best tracking on the market already, HTC is concentrating on improving the Vive in other areas. This includes improving physical comfort, increasing the resolution and minimizing the cable mess. To that end, they have redesigned the Link Box for the Pro version. Instead of having a USB Type-A port, an HDMI port and an AC power port, on the headset side, they now have a single, integrated cable. 

On the computer side, out of practical necessity, they still have a USB Type-B port, a power port for an AC adapter, and a Mini DisplayPort for the video. The old HDMI connection is gone. 

The New HTC Vive Pro Link Box

HTC have redesigned the Link Box for the Vive Pro

In the comfort area, they have completely redesigned the head strap, drawing. The viewing portion is hinged, like the Windows Mixed Reality visors, making it easier to put on and take off. Also like the WMR headsets, you can tighten or loosen it by rotating a dial at the back. But because it is somewhat heavier than the WMR headsets, it still needs - and has - an overhead strap. 

This arrangement serves to distribute the weight well, adding to user comfort. It also stays in place well, even when moving around vigorously in the course of active and intense game play! 

HTC Vive Pro from behind

HTC Vive Pro - improved headset design

As far as visual quality is concerned, the Vive Pro matches the Samsung Odyssey and beats the other Windows Mixed Reality headsets currently on the market. The AMOLED display has a resolution of 2880 x 1600. This is a 78% increase in overall pixels over the original Vive's 2160 x 1200. At 615 PPI, it is also a 37% increase in Pixels Per Inch. And like the WMR headsets, it achieves this resolution at a 90 Hz refresh rate. 

It has to be said that even this high resolution is not quite enough to completely eliminate the screen door effect. And while 110 degree FoV is great, others are talking about the more truly immersive 210 degrees, that covers the entire field of vision. 

Also, it still uses the same old Fresnel lenses. This means that those occasional, annoying circular bands of light, still appear every now and then. And of course, to get these benefits you need a high-spec PC on your desk.

However, the new headset is better blocking out of ambient light from external sources, thanks to a redesigned nose pad which is also more comfortable than before. 

HTC Vive Pro frontal view

HTC Vive Pro - the real deal

Another area, where HTC have pushed ahead is in audio quality. The Vive Pro comes with built-in, noise cancelling audio its own headphones attached. On the left earpiece is a two button volume control.

HTC Vive Pro from the side

HTC Vive Pro from the side

But maybe the most interesting feature of all is that the headset will also have a pair of forward facing cameras. It is not yet clear what these are for. It could be for use with the VR Chaperone system, to prevent you from bumping into walls or other obstacles when you play highly active games. But it may be that HTC have other uses in mind. Watch this space... 

The HTC Vive Pro arrives

The HTC Vive Pro has arrived!

VERDICT: Major improvement on the Vive, could be improved more in the resolution and FoV areas.  And the price is WAY too high! 

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