The Ghost Howls’s VR Week Peek (2019.06.03)

This week has been the week of AWE, and a lot of amazing news has been announced there! This is why you will find a lot of things to read in today’s summary :)

My week has been very good, and I have special news for you all: I will be a mentor in the XR Ignite accelerator that AR influencer and entrepreneur Alan Smithson is setting up! I don’t think I am ready to be a mentor, and I don’t think that I’m in par with the other super-famous personalities that make up the mentors’ roster… but for sure I will do my best to help the AR/VR startuppers there! And if you are an AR/VR startupper looking for help, consider applying for this program. Click the link to have more details about it.

Happy VR!

Top news of the week

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(Image by Ars Tecnica)

We have detailed hands-on reviews on the Index

The embargo on Valve Index reviews has lifted and so all journalists having it (usually from at least a week), have been able to write and publish reviews about it. You may think that we already have read reviews of the device written weeks ago during the launch event, but they were written only after an half-an-hour test. These ones have been written after days of tests on the device.

The common opinion on the Index from the reviewers is that it is a fantastic device. The claims of Valve are real, and it is really a very-comfortable device that you can wear for hours. It is the first device truly made for long-term comfort sessions in VR. The visuals are stunning, especially thanks to the next-gen lenses and a 120Hz display that makes you see the virtual world in a more fluid and reactive way. The audio is really loud and realistic. The controllers make you feel all your fingers in VR and let you finally open completely your hands and let them rest.

About the downsides: the headset is very expensive ($1000 for the full package, against the $400 price of the Rift S) and requires a very expensive PC (a GTX 1080 may not be enough to run all the games at 120Hz). It is not simple to set up (it still requires Lighthouse stations to be installed in your room). The LCD display has the typical problem of all LCD displays of having washed out colors and blacks that look like grays. The Knuckles are great, but there is not enough content out there exploiting their unique features.

All summarized, the common consensus is that it sets a new standard for quality in PC VR. An amazing device.

More info (Ars Technica Review, maybe the best)
More info (Polygon Review)
More info (Upload Review)
More info (TESTED Review)
More info (Unboxing)
More info (Boneworks Preview)

Other relevant news

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(Image by Varjo)

High-end headsets are going Mixed

Varjo VR-1 and XTAL are two high-end enterprise headsets: the former is able to give you full human resolution VR if you look in front of you (so ZERO SDE), while the latter gives you very high resolution and a stunning FOV that gives you peripheral vision (while the FOV of Varjo is a bit little).

The companies manufacturing these two fantastic devices (Varjo and VRgineers) have announced at AWE that they will start offering add-ons for these headsets so that to give the user screen-through mixed reality. That is, you will be able to have augmented reality inside the VR headset, mediated by the internal screen of the device.

While you may think that this is worse than having AR through a transparent glass-like with HoloLens, it is actually better for some reasons: you can have very high-resolution AR, with very crisp colors, very high FOV (a VR headset has a FOV of at least 90°, Magic Leap is around 50°) and also the possibility of modifying your reality, as I have already shown in some posts of mine.

Varjo XR-1, in particular, can offer a very high resolutionAR vision, since it employs 12Mp cameras running at 90Hz. I have not tried it, but from what I’ve read, it can blend the real and the virtual in an amazing way. XTAL AR module, on the other side, can give you AR with full peripheral vision.

I am intrigued by these two headsets, because I think that passthrough AR/MR enables a lot of amazing applications.

More info (Varjo XR-1)
More info (XTAL AR module)

Ultrahaptics “acquires” Leap Motion for $30M

A report by the Wall Street Journal has made public the news that Ultrahaptics has acquired Leap Motion for $30M. Ultrahaptics is a very interesting American startup working on creating a device that can give you the sense of touch at a distance, so without requiring you wearing any gloves. It casts ultrasound waves against your hand, that can so feel that it is touching something. It is really a tech from the future, even if the downside is that it can’t supply the full force feedback that VR gloves can give you.

Since it is a device that doesn’t require you wearing gloves, exactly as Leap Motion, the two projects are a perfect fit: in fact, the two companies were collaborating since years. Leap Motion was in financial troubles since a lot and so it needed to be acquired by some companies and Ultrahaptics seemed the natural fit. The price of $30M seems very low, considering that LM arrived also at valuations of $300M.

The two companies actually say that they have “joined forces” and that there hasn’t been any money transfer or acquisition. This makes the picture of what happened a bit more confused… but the final result is the same: now Ultrahaptics and Leap Motion are a single company. Let’s see what this joint venture will mean for the XR ecosystem…

More info (News)
More info (Official statement)
More info (No-acquisition clarification)

nReal announces $499 AR glasses

I won’t stop repeating it: nReal is one of the most interesting XR startups of 2019. Its product is an AR glass that is incredibly trendy and light (it weighs less than 100g). The headset can perform positional tracking and shows virtual elements with a 50° FOV and 1080p resolution per eye. All reviews from CES are incredibly positive.

At AWE, they have announced a consumer version of their augmented reality glasses priced at only $499! They can be so cheap because there’s no computational unit attached: you connect them to your smartphone (that must be powered by Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 and have a USB-C port with Displayport out: the Oppo Reno is a smartphone of this kind) and they just work. Amazing. That price can really make more people enter the AR sector and disrupts all those devices like North Focals priced at $999.

There is also a dev edition of the glasses that costs $1199. The higher cost is due to the fact that they give you a little computational unit to connect to the glass (that substitutes the smartphone… something like Magic Leap’s Lightpack), assistance and support.

More info

Samsung teases new AR/VR products

Samsung has teased to Variety that new AR/VR products are coming. The company also said: “We have other plans for Gear”, referring to the fact that the Gear VR brand may survive, but in another fashion different from the one of the past.

Consider that the company said some months ago that it is intrigued by AR/VR hybrid glasses, I think that it is possible that it will release a Mixed Reality standalone headset capable of both AR and VR, something similar to the VRVANA company acquired by Apple. But this is all speculation.

Anyway, a little bird told me that Samsung plans may be great and also disrupt the Quest in some sectors… so I am intrigued.

More info

Apple may tease its AR glasses next week

There is a lot of interest in the AR glasses Apple is working on. And the reason is obvious: every time Apple enters a new sector, it disrupts it. And this may be especially true in the augmented reality sector when you have to wear something on your face and it has to be stylish… exactly as all Apple products.

Some rumors talked about the fact that Apple should release its glasses in Q4 2019 or Q1-Q2 2020. If this were true, it would probably mean that Apple should reveal them next week at WWDC or in September. My gut says that next week would be too early, but who knows…

Keep an eye on WWDC.

More info

News worth a mention

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(Image by Logitech, from Road To VR)

Logitech announces a VR stylus

Logitech has announced VR Ink, a stylus that lets you draw in VR. You can use it to draw in the air, or even on a surface, by moving the tip for instance on a table. It is a gadget that works with SteamVR tracking, so can be used with Vive, Index, Varjo and these kind of devices. It will empower companies and people in creating designs easily (it will be great for prototyping and for art, for instance).

It will be an enterprise tool, so don’t expect it to be cheap.

More info

HP Reverb is finally available

After the launch mess happened in April, the HP Reverb is finally available on HP online store in some countries (like USA, UK, Italy). In the next weeks, it will be available on all countries, both on HP website and online retailers like Amazon and JD (for China).

More info

PSVR 2 won’t be launched together with PS5

Sony has stated that launching the two devices together would make the user feel forced to spend $900 all together and this would scare him/her. They want to avoid the same error that Microsoft made with the Kinect 2 and so will probably launch the PSVR 2 some months after the PS5.

More info
More info

Blood and Truth is the new flagship game for PSVR

Still talking about PSVR, this week we had the launch of Blood And Truth, an amazing action game developed by Sony itself. It costs $40 and it sets a new quality bar for what concerns characters animations and engagement.

Its reviews are all very positive.

More info
More info

We have some little new info on Meta

The intellectual property of Meta, the augmented reality headsets producer, has been acquired by “Meta View”. This new company will probably carry on the work of the original Meta under the guide of the CEO Jay Wright.

This is all that we know until now. The future plans are still unclear.

More info

Beat Saber is coming with new songs for everyone

On June, 10th, the most popular VR game will see the release of its second music pack. According to the teaser image published on Twitter, it will probably feature some songs from Imagine Dragons.

In the meanwhile, the modding community has found a way to add mods to the Quest version of the game. For this reason, the company Beat Games has announced that it is going to release an official solution to create levels for Quest as well.

More info (2nd music pack)
More info (mods on Quest)
More info (level editor coming to Quest)

The Oculus Quest is going well, but…

Good news for the Oculus Quest: the device is sold out on multiple online and offline retailers. This is quite common for all XR headsets (it seems that everyone, every time, always goes sold out…), but it is for sure a fantastic news for Oculus and the whole VR ecosystem.

The other good news is that Carmack has announced that new features are coming: one for all is the possibility to use the headset in the dark as a 3DOF headset (so, like an Oculus Go) for instance to watch movies.

But some bad news is also popping out. After the over-hype, some critics are coming to light: the headset is unbalanced, the controllers are worse than the ones of the CV1 (they also break more easily… the ones of the CV1 were indestructible!) and the games are overpriced. The Quest is a great device, but it is not perfect.

More info (Quest sold out)
More info (Quest updates)
More info (Quest controllers break)
More info (Quest controllers break)
More info (Quest games’ high prices)

MicroLED may be the future of VR

In a post with a good summary of the AWE, I found a reference to Mojo Vision, a company building a MicroLED display to be used in VR headsets. MicroLED displays consume 10% the power of current LED displays, can be 5–10 times brighter than OLED and offer a resolution of 14,000 pixels per inch. I am quite interested…

More info

Perception Neuron vs iKinema

A great long post by Nicolas Esposito explains how to set up a mocap environment with Perception Neuron suit or with iKinema and Vive Trackers. It also highlights the pros and cons of every solution.

A must read if you are into animation recording in VR.

More info

Two interesting XR concepts that I found on the web

The first one is a MR experience in Magic Leap where your position in space influences the current time of the experience.

The second one is a VR experience that emulates an earthquake. I think that it could be interesting to train students to stay safe during such kind of events.

More info (Magic Leap experience)
More info (Earthquake experience)

You can download Charlie Fink’s book for free!

Until June 3th, you will be able to download Charlie Fink’s book Convergence for free using a special code announced at AWE! Considering how awesome Charlie is, download it now!

More info

Samsung Odyssey+ at only $299 on Amazon US!

The best WMR headset is having a huge discount now on Amazon US and costs only $299 (you spare $200). Buy it now!

More info (Amazon US affiliate link)

Some XR fun

A long but very accurate comic by Damo9000 on VR fanboyism! Funny link

If you liked this summary…

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Happy XR everyone!

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