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The Rest of SIGGRAPH 2013

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There was a lot to be excited about at this years’ Siggraph. When I went to the conference, I knew about the Nvidia Light Field HMD and had a list of exhibitors checked off to go see – but it almost always seems like its the unexpected things that turn out to be the most interesting!

Eric Mizufuka

“Exceed Your Vision” was the tagline at the Epson booth where they were showcasing the Moverio BT-100 see-through display with a collection of partners who have been working on developing applications for it.

The HMD itself is clearly an initial offering and it’s encouraging to see companies like Epson bringing a product like this to market. The device has two prism based transparent display elements which can work together to provide a stereoscopic image. But there is no integrated head tracking, camera or sensor – so getting the image floating in your vision to match up with the real reality you are also seeing requires additional equipment.

To demonstrate where things could be going, one of their partners called Meta does combine a 3D sensor for object detection and gesture recognition. The vision for the project is pretty grand, and it’s clear there is a long way to go for an immersive and intuitive augmented reality experience – but its also pretty amazing to see what they are already doing. The most impressive part of the demo was the system’s ability to detect a sheet of paper I was holding in front of me and overlay video content which was scaled, oriented and positioned properly as if it was on the paper itself. It’s not particularly practical to warp a video onto the shape of the paper, but it does show how powerful a system could be that is able to analyze the world around us to incorporate real objects into interfaces and display surfaces.

Let me be clear that I want awesome augmented reality. I think most of us do. What I expect someday is Terminator or Iron Man style visual overlays where the computer is constantly scanning and aware of everything I can see. It identifies people and objects that are of interest, looks up all the pertinent data and tells me whatever I might want to know – helping me understand the world around me with superhuman senses. I imagine natural ways of interacting with the system using voice, eye movement, and gestures. All of this needs to happen with little to no latency, and be calibrated to my personal physiology and vision so the computer display meshes seamlessly with the real world.

It goes without saying that what we have today falls short of those expectations, and these AR challenges are hard and numerous. The equipment that Epson has built and the systems that their partners like Meta are developing are the first ones we actually have – and although there is obviously room for improvement in almost every dimension, it’s clear to me that with persistence and ingenuity we will actually get there.

Julius Tuomisto – Delicode

The tag line for Delicode is “Shaping the future of natural interaction” but what I think they really have with Z-Vector is a super nifty party toy. The system uses an Oculus VR devkit with a PrimeSense sensor bar strapped on top and software Julius has written to give the user a psychedelic experience by processing and displaying the data of the space around them with color and patterns that are visualizations of the musical soundtrack you play through it. You can download it for free and use it with or without the headset or sensor bar. Its pretty trippy, and I like it.

Nvidia’s Light Field HMD at SIGGRAPH 2013

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And so begins MTBS’ coverage of SIGGRAPH 2013!  Today, Kris Roberts checks out Nvidia’s Light Field HMD protoype.  Obviously at the proof of concept stage, this new display technique holds a lot of promise for VR’s impending future.

I was really excited to see the Nvidia research project’s HMD prototype. Using a light-field display has a number of significant advantages over conventional display techniques that are very attractive for virtual reality. I very much wanted to see how it looks for myself.

The demonstration equipment they had on display was basically divided into two groups. One was a working real time stereoscopic HMD prototype built from off the shelf components and using a pair of small microlens-covered 1440×720 OLED panels and a 3D printed housing. The other was a set of film slides with a loose microlens to demonstrate what the display could look like with much higher resolution.

With the goal of producing perceptions indistinguishable from reality, a light-field display has the unique property of letting the viewer’s eye decide what to focus on in the image. With a conventional display either the entire scene is in focus, or the focus is determined by the rendering/photographic system. A light-field display presents something much more natural and realistic in letting the viewer decide not only what part of a scene to converge on, but also which part to focus – and the areas not in focus blur out exactly as they do in reality. Another really interesting aspect of this approach is that the display itself can be calibrated to accommodate the flaws in a users’ vision, eliminating the need to wear both corrective lenses and the HMD!

The stereoscopic prototype did demonstrate the focus aspect of the display very well with scenes that had fish swimming in an aquarium. It was really cool to switch between the close and distant fish and see them go in and out of focus. In my view, this plays an important part in tricking my mind into thinking what I’m seeing is actually real and not just a flat image being held in front of my eye.

Another advantage is the size, particularly the thickness of the display assembly. With a normal HMD there are one or more lenses in front of the image panel that require some significant distance to focus properly – and the result is a large and often heavy piece of equipment. With the light-field approach, both the lens membrane and the image panel are thin, light, and require a focal distance measured in millimeters. The demonstration prototype was about 1 centimeter thick. Since they were using components from an off the shelf HMD, they chose to keep it simple and mount the controlling electronics on top of the eye pieces, but really that could be relocated to a package that would go in your pocket or elsewhere and is not necessary to have be on the headset itself. Despite the extra bulk, the entire unit was still much smaller and lighter than any other HMD I have seen.

The primary shortcoming of the system in my opinion is the effective resolution of the image seen by the user. With the 720p panels in the stereoscopic prototype, I was told the image you perceive is in the range of 200p – and honestly, that seemed generous. The color, contrast and stereoscopic depth were all reasonably good, but my impression of the resolution of the actual image was very low. So, how fine a resolution would be required to meet or exceed the perceived resolution of the ultra realistic HMD we would all like to have? Well, the demonstration slides they were using were actual film with a resolution of 3000dpi, and they looked pretty good – but not flawless in clarity. So with the best contemporary mobile device screens in the ~350dpi range it seems like it will be some time before we have affordable panels that are large enough to provide satisfactory field of view and fine enough to have an acceptable perceived resolution.

Another difference which may be a significant factor for the light-field approach is the nature of the rendering process. Unlike a traditional single view display, a light-field display uses many small views of the scene. The GPUs and rendering pipelines we have today have been developed and optimized for a single output image, and their suitability for a system that requires potentially thousands of simultaneous views may not be ideal.

The stereoscopic prototype on display was running on a consumer level graphics card, but was rendering a 1440×720 image with 144 individual images which I believe were each 80×80. I’m not sure how well that will scale to the ultra high number of scenes that would be required to produce a really convincing high resolution light-field display, but Douglass was jovial when talking about how Nvidia is after all a rendering company and ideally positioned to solve those problems.

So in practice, what is easily available now with a light-field display falls quite a bit short of the image quality we can see with the current traditional HMD displays (and resolution is often cited as one of the main areas for improvement in those). I am very glad to have had the opportunity to see the prototype and do think there is tremendous potential and unique advantages with this approach – we just need ultra high resolution panels and rendering equipment that can pump out a tremendous number of tiny views.

This is just the beginning!  Come back regularly for a lot more SIGGRAPH 2013 coverage!

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

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!



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 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 :
Thomas Demenat (link :
Tom Duchêne (link :
Thibaut Dumont (link :

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

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