EDITORIAL

VRSimulation: 3D Vision Comparison, Rift iRacing Sneak Peak!

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This week, I wanted to examine the positives and negatives of the Oculus Rift, in comparison to the cutting edge “3D Vision Surround” technology by Nvidia. While I don’t announce a winner, it should be quite obvious that I like 3D Vision Surround better at this point.

What this video should convey, despite my preference at this point for the conventional option, is just how incredible the Rift is already….and it’s not even a consumer product yet!!! I don’t think this point could be stressed enough, and I think the promise the consumer version holds is extraordinary! The Oculus team has its work cut out for them, but if they can pull it off, it will be a huge success.

BONUS!  Jeremiah is very excited about iRacing with Oculus Rift support.  This is a sneak peak.

Jan Goetgeluk

The Story of Virtuix Omni

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Jan GoetgelukApproaching the million dollar mark on Kickstarter, Virtuix Omni is the highly touted VR treadmill that destroys the arguement that video games will only lead to obesity and a sedentary lifestyle.  Today, we welcome Jan Goetgeluk (pictured on the left) to share his story with the MTBS community!  Take it away, Jan!

I am originally from Ghent, a medium sized city in Belgium. When I was young I would dash home from school to play computer games. My favorites were the classic adventures: Space Quest, Monkey Island, and Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis. I also liked the early first person shooters—Wolfenstein, Doom, and Duke Nukem. As a child, I dreamed of a VR device like the holodeck, and I hoped to someday contribute to the realization of VR.

After studying mechanical engineering in college, I came to the United States for work and decided to stay, settling in Houston, obtaining a business degree, and working as an investment banker. But I always intended to do something entrepreneurial, and never stopped looking for that entrepreneurial opportunity.

My inspiration for the Omni began two years ago with the Microsoft Kinect: an impressive bit of technology that could track body positions optically, without the use of body sensors or other cumbersome devices—and most importantly, the device cost only $100. I believed the Kinect would enable a breakthrough in virtual reality, and I started exploring how I could contribute to what I believed would be a long-awaited VR revolution.

I became intrigued by one missing piece of the VR puzzle. No matter how amazing the sights or how intuitive the controller, the fantastic, expansive VR worlds of the future would still be explored with the user sitting down. To really achieve VR, I realized a device needed to be designed to allow natural motion in VR—a locomotion device that let you walk, run, and jump with the natural use of your own two feet.

I certainly wasn’t the first person to have this idea—more than a dozen patents for such locomotion devices were filed over the last 20 years. But there was nothing available on the market that us gamers could afford or would fit in a living room.

Jan and his Virtuix OmniI started searching for a better way. After many months of research and wild ideas, I realized that to meet my size and affordability goals I would need to design a passive device without moving or motorized parts. The final Omni design did not result out of an “aha” moment—like all inventions great and small, the Omni is the result of a long and sometimes agonizing process of research, prototyping, and trial and error.

I knew the Omni had great potential, but I wasn’t sure whether I should quit my day job until the day I published our first Skyrim demo this past February (see the earlier threads on MTBS!). The response was overwhelming, our video featured on the websites of NBC, PC Gamer, Kotaku, and many other large media outlets. When I realized other VR enthusiast were as excited as me for a device like the Omni, I left my day job and dedicated myself to making the Omni a reality.

As a community-focused company, seeking feedback and sharing our progress from the beginning, we believed Kickstarter would be the ideal platform for the launch of the Omni. Our VR community had been a primary driver of the current revolution in VR devices, and proved to be the main driver of our early Kickstarter success. I believed the Omni had potential to be big—I am a dreamer—but I am incredibly humbled and grateful that so many people, from every corner of the world, have come forward with suggestions, backer support, or just kind words of encouragement.

Virtuix Omni

The Omni experience is a leap in entertainment that sparks the imagination of a large audience. I believe this is just the beginning. VR will be front and center in our daily lives, and sooner than most think. Since ancient times, entertainment has been designed to transport you out of the real world and into one designed by the entertainer. Virtual reality takes this experience to its maximum. But the potential of VR goes far beyond gaming and entertainment, and I think the Omni will be a critical aspect of future applications such as training and simulation, education, fitness, and virtual tourism. We have all waited a long time for true VR to arrive. It’s finally here.

I would like to encourage anyone with an idea for a VR or any other device: do your research, build prototypes, and don’t give up. So far, the VR revolution has taken place in the garages and living rooms of everyday tinkerers, not the R&D labs of big corporations. With perseverance and resourcefulness, there’s no reason you can’t be the next person to contribute to our shared dream of true virtual reality.

To close, I would like to thank Meant to be Seen’s community and our backers for the incredible support in these past few months. We would not be here without you, and we will continue to look for your guidance and feedback going forward. Let’s make VR happen.

Best regards,
Jan Goetgeluk

VRSimulation: E3, VR Concerns

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In this episide of VRSimulation, Jeremiah shares his latest Rift updates, talks about some E3 highlights, and points out some odds and ends that that could impact the ability to enjoy VR gaming.

The man doesn’t pull any punches as he expresses his…trepidation…about his shipping delays from Oculus.  Keep calm and carry on, Jeremiah! ;=)

The HD Oculus Rift prototype at E3 2013

Kris Roberts’ Take on HD Oculus Prototype

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The HD Oculus Rift prototype at E3 2013

The HD Oculus Rift prototype at E3 2013

I stayed an extra day at E3 and am really glad I did because in the afternoon Jim Redner was able to get into the Oculus meeting room to see the HD Rift prototype first hand. I really appreciate getting the opportunity to check it out in spite of how obviously saturated the whole team’s schedule was. Even though the Oculus booth was up away from the main exhibit hall and everything was being shown behind closed doors, it was obvious from all the people hanging out and trying to talk their way in that this was a hot spot.

Oculus' Joseph Chen gives a Rift demo at E3 2013

Oculus’ Joseph Chen gives a Rift demo at E3 2013

Joseph Chen was the product manager who went through the demo, showing both the familiar current Oculus Rift Devkit and the new HD prototype. The other people in the group I was with were all new and seeing the Rift for the first time – overall their response to the regular Rift was overwhelmingly positive. Switching to the HD version, they were blown away. For me, I was chomping at the bit to see the prototype since I’m already very comfortable with the normal devkit and really wanted to see what it was like with more pixels!

Oculus' Nate Mitchell and Kris Roberts at E3

Oculus’ Nate Mitchell and Kris Roberts at E3

It did not disappoint.

Sure, there is clearly still room for improvement with resolution and I fully expect that as the pixel density goes up we will have other trade offs with artifacts and rendering, but the step up from 1280×800 to 1920×1080 – with each eye getting 960×1080 is an obvious improvement. I think it will need to go up another level or two before the screen door effect is totally eliminated but this prototype display shows how much better even a relatively small resolution increase can help. Like everyone else, I’m really excited to see what level the equipment gets to for the first consumer models.

Talking briefly to Brenadn Irbe and Nate Mitchell after the demo it sounded like this has been a great E3 for them, with overwhelming interest from press, developers, publishers and the general gaming public. From their point of view, its awesome to see the difference just a single year has made since the initial Rift prototypes, through the launch of the devkit, and now looking forward to further improvements with this HD prototype and beyond.

We asked Kris if he noticed any motion blur similar to the first SDK, and he couldn’t give an answer on it.  He wasn’t looking for it, so it’s probably a good sign that it wasn’t an obvious artifact!

Need For Speed Logo

First VRSimulation Episode on MTBS!

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MTBS would like to welcome our latest contributor: Jeremiah Allen.  Jeremiah has the gift for gab, and has a demonstrated long-term interest in VR and immersive technology.  He’s also a talented overclocker too.  We had no idea overclocking PCs was such a competitive sport!  Please welcome Jeremiah to the team and check out his first episode.  The man has rythm!

I’d like to start by introducing myself. My name is Jeremiah Allen, I’m an American EXPAT living in Japan since 2006. I’m 33 years old, married with two elementary aged children. I’ve been playing with computers from a young age, and in 2007-2010 I got very heavily into the competitive computer overclocking scene with substantial success winning two North American Titles and even a World Championship in Paris, in December of 2008. My overclocking handle is “miahallen”. After moving to northern Japan in mid 2009, it became more and more difficult to stay competitive, and I found myself turning back to an old passion, sim racing.

Need For Speed LogoI started sim racing back in 1994 with the original “Need for Speed” on the PC. I played it with an analog joystick and have fond memories of the experience. I played all of the early NFS games during my high school years, then in 1999 picked up a Playstation and Grand Turismo, and shortly thereafter GT2. I played the GT series for several years, and then bought an XBOX and played the original Forza Motorsports which I really liked. However, I never got very serious about sim racing until FM3 came out, and I picked up my first FFB wheel for the XBOX360 back in 2008. In 2011, after FM4 was released, I started playing online for the first time, and caught the bug. I started iRacing in late 2011 and in 2012 upgraded my PC and racing peripherals, and left my XBOX on the shelf collecting dust.

Like many other tech enthusiasts, I’ve been waiting for the holy grail of gaming for years, I remember reading about VR back in the early 90s and dreaming of using it someday. Last year, when the Sony HMZ-T1 was released, I pre-ordered a unit and got my hands on it as soon as possible. I promptly tore it apart and started modding it for better comfort and gaming utility. I mounted a tracker clip on the front and tried to use it as a VR headset. My efforts were in vein, and I never got it comfortable or configured well enough to make it usable as a VR headset. And besides that, the FOV was horrible!

Oculus Rift

So, that brings us up to today!  The Rift seems to have the entire industry on the edge of their seats; myself included. In this podcast episode, I wanted to introduce the driving games and simulators which are known to support the rift right now (such as DiRT 3 via third party drivers), or will have support in the future. Since I do not yet have my Oculus Rift dev kit, you may wonder why I’m starting my podcast series already. The idea is that I wanted to be able to give you my basic evaluations on each title in advance, so that when my kit does arrive later this month, we’ll have the formalities out of the way, and I’ll be able to better focus my attention on how well the titles translate into a VR environment.

I realize that I am not the most experienced sim racer, and that my amateurish opinions may not jive with all my viewership. I’m comfortable with that and I welcome your comments & criticisms. Thanks for watching VRSimulation on MTBS!

Great work, Jeremiah – and welcome to the MTBS team!

Maere: When LIghts Die

The Story of Maere : When Lights Die

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Maere: When LIghts Die

Maere: When LIghts Die

The Beginning

We are a team of four young developers from the French engineering school called IMAC, which stands for Image, Multimedia, Broadcasting (“Audiovisual”) and Communication. It’s basically the only place (in our country at least) focused on combining programming and art.

espie imac logo

In October 2012, before starting our yet to be defined one year long project, we heard about the Oculus Rift, watched the first videos…and we knew. We wanted to use the huge potential of Palmer Luckey’s device to create a new kind of gaming experience. It was affordable enough to be bought by our school, and let’s face it, we badly wanted to try it for ourselves!

We teamed up under the name “Lucid Dreams” and before long we had our goal: create a game that is meant to be played on the Rift and be able to generate an emotional response. Following the advice of one of the greatest horror, fantasy and sci-fi authors, we chose to focus on the emotion of fear.

H.P. Lovecraft Quote

The Story

{vimeo}https://vimeo.com/64924082{/vimeo}
In Maere : When Lights Die, your character is a volunteer tester for a virtual reality experiment. A team of scientists places a VR headset on your head and the game begins as their voices start explaining what is going to happen as they begin generating a lovely virtual dream for you to peacefully explore. Unfortunately, things start to get a little bit out of control, the audio transmission fails, and the program creates…a nightmare!  Full of dark corridors, it’s clear that the place you’re trapped in is not only scary, there have been previous VR experiment failures. So much for long pony rides, flowers, and unicorns!

Maere

Maere

We spent a lot of time watching horror movies and playing scary games to better understand what induces fear, and the different shapes it can take. It helped us a lot with finding out how horror stories and games work. It gave us the keys to our ideal game, which we could sum up in only two words: “No jumpscares”. We didn’t want to rely on cheap surprise effects to scare the player; we wanted real emotion. Our tools include a rich background story, some psychological tension and a scary environment. Apart from that, the game is a pretty typical “survival horror” where you explore the level and always be prepared to run for your life!

Thomas Demenat Doing Scientific Research

Thomas Demenat Doing Scientific Research

A member of the team doing “scientific research”.

The Rift, Some Actors, and a Pulse Sensor

As mentioned earlier, the game was designed for the Rift, so VR issues have been in our mind at every step of the creation and development. We’ve spent a lot of time on frame rate optimization (even though it’s not perfect yet), the game has no visible user interface, and every sound is coming from a localised source inside the environment, which means there is no background music.  We did our best to never break the immersion unless it supports the story, like when the scientists try to contact you.

Unfortunately, we ordered our Oculus development kit in October, which means we haven’t received it yet. So even if everything is planned and integrated in the story, Oculus Rift support still has to be implemented. We are expecting to get our unit in July, so if everything goes well, the Oculus-ready version will be available this summer.  We will also try adding more content to the game so it lasts anywhere from five to thirty minutes longer.

Our final presentation for the project is May 17th, so we had to focus on the traditional consumer version for a while which was released last week and is available for free. This is already a big achievement for us, but we want to go even further.

From the beginning, we wanted to question the link between the game’s virtual world and reality. VR was of course the first bridge, but a big part of our project was also to create an experiment.  We envisioned an exhibit lead by actors dressed as scientists who would guide the player to a white room very similar to the one at the beginning of the story.  They would place a gamepad in the user’s hands, adjust the Rift to his head, and give him a safety warning before starting the game which would ultimately fail and create the nightmare. The idea isn’t to make the user believe that there was really a bug in the program, but to instead break the boundary between the reality and a virtual world and guide the players through it.

Pulse Sensor

Pulse Sensor

The pulse sensor we integrated has the same purpose. The data is collected on an Arduino prototyping platform and sent to Unity so we can use it directly in the game. Right now it only generates an audio heart beat matching the player’s, but we’re working on changing the game’s behavior on the fly when the fear makes the user’s heart race.  Ideas being looked at range from triggering audio messages asking the player to calm down to distorting the view when the user panics. Everything is possible! Studies suggest that your heartbeat can change to the pace of a music…what if we could artificially make the player’s real pulse go up by increasing the virtual beat he’s hearing?

Conclusion and Thanks

Maere is our first real game and will soon be our first attempt at virtual reality. Even after working so hard on it, we didn’t expect to take it further than the limits of our school.  I can’t believe I’m writing an article for MTBS right now! This is a powerful and thrilling experience for all of us.

If you want to try Maere now, it’s free and available on PC, Mac, and Linux at WhenLightsDie.com. You may want to wait until the Rift version is ready to avoid spoiling elements of the game before your try it in VR…your call !

We would also love to know what you think about it in MTBS’ forum (thread attached to this article) and on our facebook page or by email.

Thanks for reading!

Tom and the Lucid Dreams team

Creators and developers :
Aurélie Beauprez (link : http://aureliebeauprez.alwaysdata.net/)
Thomas Demenat (link : http://thomasdemenat.free.fr/)
Tom Duchêne (link : http://tomduchene.fr/)
Thibaut Dumont (link : http://thibautvdumont.fr/)

Special thanks to :
– Patrice Bouvier
– Vincent Nozick
– All the IMAC students who supported us and beta-tested the game
– The fans, bloggers and youtubers who helped us spreading the word

James Iliff, Producer, Project Holodeck

The Story of Project Holodeck

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Project Holodeck is a virtual reality platform designed to make effective VR experiences affordable and possible with readily available off the shelf parts and components.  Their goal is to bring 360-degree full-body virtual reality out of the research lab and into a fun, accessible consumer gaming platform.

Sharing their story and announcing their latest software release is James Iliff, Producer at Project Holodeck and member of the leadership team.

The Moment of Conception

James Iliff, Producer, Project Holodeck

James Iliff, Producer, Project Holodeck

Project Holodeck got started back in March 2012 at the IEEE Virtual Reality conference.  I was visiting there with Nathan Burba and Palmer Luckey as part of the Mixed Reality Lab’s exhibit, and at the time Nate was presenting a research paper on motion tracking and Palmer was working with the Lab on their head-mounted displays. 

Palmer, Nate, and I found ourselves riding in a limo with some famous researches to go check out a telepresence demonstration, and then we realized something:  What if we could get 90% of the VR immersion that you find in a research lab, for 1% of the cost?  We had been working with virtual reality installations for some time, and they were amazing – you could cover your entire body with motion capture markers and achieve full avatar embodiment in a virtual world.  Military-grade HMDs were expensive but had incredible field-of-view.  But few people had access to this experience but researchers at the top of their field and the occasional lucky intern.  Why did it have to be that way? We wanted take this incredible VR experience and do two things:  Make games for it, and make it cheap.

Then Project Holodeck was born.  Palmer had been working on his own HMD for quite some time, and he had numerous iterations (called PR1 – PR4, and others).  His new HMD was made with cheaper components, and we could combine it with consumer-facing motion tracking controllers to have a fully embodied VR play space, not unlike the concept of the Holodeck from The Next Generation!

We instantly started brainstorming all the possibilities.  A zombie apocalypse, an interstellar travel simulator, a pirate ship battle!  A steampunk-style airship game sounded perfect, because players could interact in a 20’ by 20’ play space that would be represented as the ship deck in the virtual world, while at the same time they could fly around in a massive environment and explore.  This idea of micro / macro space got around the spatial limitation problem. 

The ship deck could have cannons, a helm, altimeter, machine guns, afterburners, and all kinds of gadgets.  Players could frantically run around using various instruments and weapons, while having cannon balls and bullets whiz past their heads from enemy ships.  And it all happens hundreds of feet in the air, which is particularly titillating in virtual reality.

This is how our Wild Skies project began – the first game for Project Holodeck.

Vireio Perception Logo

MTBS’ VR Settings Guide

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Introduction

Now that the Oculus Rift kits are getting in game developers’…and let’s face it…gamers’ hands, there is a serious concern to be aware of. With a stereoscopic 3D display like a TV or monitor, it’s very easy to see the left and right perspective at the same time and quickly make adjustments so your S-3D gaming experience is a comfortable one. Unfortunately, we don’t yet have the ability to do the same thing with a Head Mounted Display like the Oculus Rift. We can see some interactions that are cloned on our computer display, but it doesn’t really tell us anything useful.

This is a serious issue because if the settings are wrong, the gaming experience will not only be unfulfilling, it will be needlessly painful.

Vireio Perception Logo

While many game developers are planning dedicated VR support, a lot of consumers are enjoying immersive games today with the open source Vireio Perception drivers.  Unlike a dedicated VR game, drivers can run by the seat of their pants, and gamers really need at least some understanding of how 3D works so they can comfortably play their games and get the best results.

This step by step guide will tell you everything you need to know to get your games running with stereoscopic 3D drivers in the most comfortable and effective manner possible. While it won’t solve problems like game or driver bugs, we think this will enhance your VR experience immeasurably.

These techniques only apply to drivers that use true left and right camera stereoscopic 3D rendering (e.g. The Vereio Perception drivers). 2D+Depth or 3D rendering based on a single camera view isn’t the same type of 3D, and we don’t know if these recommendations will be applicable.