Archive for the ‘VR’ Category

To protect users’ privacy, iOS 12.2 will limit Web apps’ access to iPhone’s sensors

February 4th, 2019
A woman uses a smartphone to take a photo.

Enlarge / A user tries out features in ARKit. (credit: Apple)

The beta for iOS 12.2 contains a change to mobile Safari that could have implications for the advertising and marketing worlds, as well as for Web-based augmented or virtual reality more generally.

In the beta, a toggle labeled "Motion & Orientation Access" exists in the Safari privacy settings panel. This toggle determines whether sites visited in the mobile Safari browser will be able to access the iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad’s gyroscope or accelerometer. This setting currently defaults to "off," which means users would have to have the foresight to navigate to the Settings app and enable it before being able to use AR experiences from the Web.

Two Apple employees on Twitter elaborated on the change. Apple software engineer Ricky Mondello wrote in a tweet thread recounting the various notes in the Safari 12.1 release for iOS:

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Posted in apple, ar, augmented reality, iOS 12, ios 12.2, Mobile Safari, Safari, Safari 12.1, Tech, virtual reality, VR, web apps, web browser, WebKit | Comments (0)

26 years later, Groundhog Day gets revived as… a VR game?

February 2nd, 2019

Here at Ars, decades of cheap, poorly made movie-to-game adaptations have made us deeply skeptical of the whole concept. For every Goldeneye or Lego Harry Potter out there, there are hundreds of quick cash-ins that give the whole idea a bad name.

Despite that well-earned skepticism, we're still at least a little intrigued by Groundhog Day: Like Father Like Son. That's the new VR-exclusive semi-sequel to the hit 1993 Bill Murray movie being announced today (hey, happy Groundhog Day) by Sony Pictures Virtual Reality. It's coming "this year" to Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, and PlayStation VR.

If you're hoping to see Murray reprise his role as temporally-trapped Phil Connors, be aware that Like Father Like Son instead puts you in the shoes of "the charming but arrogant Phil Connors Jr." as the publisher-provided synopsis puts it. Dear old dad appears only in an Instagram-style photo montage in the trailer and in Junior's mind as a larger-than-life role model. "Living in his shadow was kind of tough," Junior opines at one point. Still, the press release does promise that "beloved characters from the 1993 film" will be making an appearance, and a slightly off-kilter version of good old Ned "The Head" Ryerson appears in a fever dream during the trailer.

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Posted in connors, Gaming & Culture, Groundhog Day, Sony Pictures, virtual reality, VR | Comments (0)

Valve data shows PC VR ownership rose steadily in 2018

January 3rd, 2019
The two leading PC VR headsets, the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift, are still growing in use for PC gamers. But how much?

Enlarge / The two leading PC VR headsets, the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift, are still growing in use for PC gamers. But how much? (credit: Kyle Orland)

As consumer-grade virtual reality enters its fourth calendar year in 2019, it seems like a good time to check in once again on how the technology is catching on with gamers. On the plus side, Steam's monthly hardware surveys suggest the proportion of PC players with a VR headset plugged in roughly doubled in 2018. On the downside, that proportion is still rather anemic, representing less than one percent of the total Steam user base.

UploadVR, which has been tracking the numbers all year, notes that total VR ownership among Steam users started at about 0.4 percent in January of 2018 and rose to about 0.8 percent in December's survey. For context, the proportion of Steam users running a Linux-based system also sits at about 0.8 percent, and Valve admitted in April that its Linux-based SteamOS machines "aren't exactly flying off shelves."

But while Linux usage among Steam players has been relatively flat, VR headset ownership showed a marked increase throughout 2018. Valve said back in July that "active VR users" on the platform were up 160 percent from a year before. As any fan of Moore's Law can tell you, that kind of growth rate can turn small numbers into big numbers relatively quickly (provided you can keep growing at the same pace, of course).

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Posted in Gaming & Culture, htc vive, oculus, Steam, steamvr, Valve, VR | Comments (0)

Ars enters VR and destroys multiple starships in Star Trek: Bridge Crew

December 26th, 2018

Ars plays Star Trek: Bridge Crew

Ars and Star Trek go together, as the great philosopher once said, like peas and carrots. You won’t find a dorkier bunch of editors assembled in any one place on the entire Internet—and that’s why playing Star Trek: Bridge Crew was such an easy fit.

The VR title, originally announced almost a year ago and now available for everyone, was a big hit here in the Ars Orbiting HQ. Even before the game's final release, we found ourselves seated in the bridge of the Federation starship USS Aegis, ready to make the Alpha Quadrant great again—even if we had to kill a few Klingons to do it. Hopefully more than a few, in fact!

Our crew consists of Ars Gaming Editor Kyle Orland, Ars Culture Editor Sam Machkovech, Ars Executive Video Producer S.I. Newhouse, and me. Now, dear reader, allow me to pause for a moment and prepare you: based on our impeccable credentials, I know that this news will come as somewhat of a shock, but once we sat down and got going, things quickly became…very silly.

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Posted in DERP, dumb, Gaming & Culture, lol, Star Trek, star trek: bridge crew, stupid, video, VR | Comments (0)

Oculus co-founder: “Free is still not cheap enough” for current VR tech

November 1st, 2018
Sebastian saw the light in the HTC/Valve Vive VR headset

We'll still use any excuse to reuse this photo of Ars alumnus Sebastian Anthony reacting to VR. (credit: Sebastian Anthony)

Ever since Oculus co-founder Palmer Luckey revealed that the first consumer Oculus Rift headset would launch at $600, many industry watchers have been arguing that the high price of entry was keeping virtual reality from becoming a truly revolutionary mass-market technology. Though prices for VR headsets and compatible hardware have come down quite a bit since then, sales and usage stats are still struggling to climb out of the doldrums when compared with other tech products.

Now Luckey, who left Oculus in early 2017, argues in a recent blog post that there is no price low enough to convince a critical mass of people to regularly engage with existing VR headsets:

No existing or imminent VR hardware is good enough to go truly mainstream, even at a price of $0.00. You could give a Rift+PC to every single person in the developed world for free, and the vast majority would cease to use it in a matter of weeks or months.

I know this from seeing the results of large scale real-world market testing, not just my own imagination—hardcore gamers and technology enthusiasts are entranced by the VR of today, as am I, but stickiness drops off steeply outside of that core demographic. Free is still not cheap enough for most people, because cost is not what holds them back actively or passively.

Luckey goes on to estimate that current VR technology could attract an absolute ceiling of 50 million active users worldwide—and that number only with significant industry effort. That's a far cry from the 1 billion users Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg cites as his long-term goal for VR adoption.

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Posted in Gaming & Culture, oculus, plamer luckey, price, quality, revolution, rift, virtual reality, VR | Comments (0)

Oculus reconfirms “future version of Rift” amid PC cancellation rumors

October 23rd, 2018
An Oculus Rift photo montage from Oculus Connect.

Enlarge / An Oculus Rift photo montage from Oculus Connect. (credit: Kyle Orland)

Oculus has reaffirmed it's working on a new version of its PC-based Rift hardware. That affirmation follows a report from TechCrunch suggesting the cancellation of the "Rift 2" was behind the sudden departure of Oculus co-founder and former CEO Brendan Iribe, announced just yesterday.

Iribe, who stepped down as CEO to help lead Oculus' PC/Rift division in late 2016, announced his departure from the company on Facebook Monday. Iribe said he was "deeply proud and grateful for" the work he'd done with Oculus and that "although we're still far from delivering the magical smart glasses we all dream about, now they are nearly within our reach." That said, leaving the company "will be the first real break I've taken in over 20 years," he wrote. "It's time to recharge, reflect, and be creative."

The TechCrunch report, though, cites an unnamed source "close to the matter" in saying Iribe had actually grown frustrated with "fundamentally different views on the future of Oculus that grew deeper over time" and was concerned about a "race to the bottom" in terms of performance. That suggests Iribe may not have been happy with the increased focus on the recently announced Oculus Quest, a $400 standalone headset powered by a mobile system-on-a-chip.

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Posted in Gaming & Culture, oculus, pc, rift, virtual reality, VR | Comments (0)

Video: What to expect from the Oculus Quest

October 18th, 2018

Video edited by CNE. Click here for transcript.

When the consumer-level VR revolution came in 2016, it left behind a lot of potential consumers. That's because, as Ars editor Sam Machkovech puts it, "a lot of [existing VR] is very expensive or very underwhelming."

Oculus' upcoming Quest headset is setting out to be the middle ground between these two poles. Unlike most cheap, untethered headsets, the Quest offers full motion and hand tracking with its built-in cameras and included Touch controllers. Unlike high-end tethered headsets, it doesn't require external cameras or a connection to an expensive computer tower or game console; $400 will get you "all in" for self-contained VR starting in the spring.

Fresh from demoing Oculus Quest at the Oculus Connect conference in San Jose last month, Ars has put together a short video taking you through the pros and cons of the headset's compromises. Click through to hear some nitty gritty details about the system's hardware, comfort, frame rate, and what kinds of games we expect to see on the standalone device.

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Posted in Ars Technica Videos, ars video, Gaming & Culture, oculus, oculus quest, professor gamer, virtual reality, VR | Comments (0)

Now Dell has a mixed reality headset, and the XPS 13 has 8th-gen Intel CPUs

August 28th, 2017

Enlarge (credit: Valentina Palladino)

Dell has a wide array of products under its name and brands, including Alienware, but the company has never had its own mixed reality headset until now. Dell announced the Dell Visor ahead of this year’s IFA conference, along with a number of updates to its XPS and Inspiron systems. Most notably, all of Dell’s updated laptops and convertibles will have 8th-generation Intel processors, making them some of the first devices to launch with the new CPUs later this year.

Dell jumps into mixed reality

Dell has made a number of VR-ready desktops and laptops, but now it has its own VR headset to go along with them. The company’s first mixed reality headset looks most like HP’s or Acer’s headset, with an oval-shaped ring that fits around your head with an attached, goggle-like viewfinder. The head-wrapping ring adjusts easily using a thumbwheel that expands and contracts the sides, similar to adjusting the length of a pair of over-ear headphones. With the ring opened just wide enough for your head, you can tilt the viewfinder up to put the device on, then snap it down into place when you’re ready to enter a mixed reality experience.

Overall, the Visor feels less cumbersome on your face than an Oculus Rift. With no external sensors needed, it’s also easier to set up than an HTC Vive. Users will still need to draw a five-by-seven-foot boundary for their mixed reality situations to live in, but that’s done by simply hovering the headset over your boundary lines. The Visor connects to a compatible PC through a single USB Type-C connector, and you only have to manage that one cord, so it creates less of a mess around your PC. Similarly to HP’s and Acer’s headsets, it has 1440×1440 panels for each eye.

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Posted in ar, dell, dell visor, Gaming & Culture, inspiron 5000, inspiron 7000, mixed reality headset, Tech, VR, xps-13 | Comments (0)

I was one of the first humans to see a solar eclipse in virtual reality

August 21st, 2017

Enlarge / Look all you want… in VR, this kind of view of the Sun is completely safe to stare at.

I’ve been told that being present for a total eclipse of the Sun is a life-changing experience. But I wasn’t able to get my act together to travel to the path of totality for today’s event. Luckily, I am part of the first generation to be able to experience an eclipse vicariously through the magic of virtual reality. While seeing a total eclipse in VR wasn’t exactly a life-changing experience, it was one of the best examples I’ve seen of the power and promise of live, 360-degree video.

I first tried to view CNN’s 360-degree Facebook Live video coverage of the eclipse on my Oculus Rift. Despite numerous tries, though, the livestream never showed up as a choice on the list of “New” or “Top Pick” videos available on the Oculus Video app. Without a built-in search function or any way to navigate to a specific URL or some such, viewing the eclipse on the Rift was a bust.

As a backup, I dug out the latest Samsung Gear VR headset and a Galaxy S7 Edge. While I waited for some necessary updates to download, I was able to watch CNN’s “VR” coverage in a simple Web browser window. I used the mouse to tilt the virtual camera between the people on the ground and the Sun in the sky. Having control of the viewpoint was nice, but watching through a small window on a laptop screen didn’t really feel all that different from watching similar coverage on TV.

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Posted in Eclipse, Gaming & Culture, science, VR | Comments (0)

Reddit users re-enable Alien: Isolation’s VR mode with unofficial patch

July 30th, 2017

Enlarge / You’d never be able to tell that a crewmate turned inside out on this very table only a few short hours ago!

Although 2014’s Alien: Isolation was a well-written, beautifully stylish exercise in terror, it failed to sell in large enough quantity for publisher Sega to justify a sequel—something for which we are all lessened, because the game is an exquisitely crafted love letter to the Alien universe. It’s also—as can be attested by numerous Youtube reaction videos—pants-wettingly terrifying.

The game was released just before the consumer versions of the Rift and Vive VR headsets became available, but it had a hidden Rift DK2-compatible gameplay mode that could be enabled by editing a configuration file. The VR mode mostly worked—the camera clips through the player’s body a lot, and folks prone to VR sickness would likely get nauseated within minutes due to the lack of any kind of VR accommodation in the game’s design, but even in its limited unsupported form the VR mode was stunning—and provided an even more terrifying experience than playing on a regular screen.

Unfortunately, the extended screen method by which Isolation’s VR mode functioned made it incompatible with the release versions of the Rift or Vive. The game’s sales figures were too low for Sega to justify bringing the coding team back together to update the feature for consumer headsets, and it would have passed into history as little more than an experimental footnote.

Except, of course, for the fan community—thanks to them, you can once again play Alien: Isolation in VR. Mostly.

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Posted in alien, alien isolation, aliens, Gaming & Culture, oculus rift, rift, virtual reality, VR | Comments (0)