Virtual Reality…. Defining The New Digital Frontier

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As the wave of Virtual Reality sweeps over us like The Matrix, there are key tools, software, peripheral supporting devices, haptic systems and other valuable resources that have emerged. The purpose of this week’s column is to point you in the right direction of just a few of the continually emerging resources.

The first is the standardized interface for virtual reality gaming. A collaboration of engineers worldwide yielded an Open Source Virtual Reality platform to allow companies and their developers the ability to build their own apps and hardware to work across any operating systems including Windows, Android and Linux.

Essential Reading…. Top Augmented Reality Platforms, Software and Studios. Read Here

OSVR

Open Source Virtual Reality

Visit the OSVR Site

Built from the ground up to bring the best Virtual Reality gaming experience to the gaming world, OSVR is the one platform where all aspects of the industry – input devices, games, and output – are unified, collaborating and innovating to take Virtual Reality gaming into the next frontier.

Hardware & Software Resources Are Provided For All Developers

Open Source Hardware – download schematics and drawing and build your own.

Open Source Software Plugins – Accelerate your development with game plugins.

Open Source Software APIs – Make your game or hardware compatible with everything in OSVR.

OSVR provides both hardware and software support at every level of virtual reality gaming. Starting with some of the most popular game engines, including Unity 3D and Unreal 4 Engine, OSVR also works with device plugins from hardware market leaders like Bosch and Razer and the latest from Sixense and LeapMotion. Moreover, OSVR is designed to support all VR devices, including the Oculus DK 2 and Vrvana’s Totem headset.

This OSVR platform is fully open-source, so regardless of whether you’re interested in working with hardware developmental kit designs, or software plugins for everything from motion control, to game engines, and even stereoscopic video output, you’ll have complete access to all you need.

It’s all about the games. OSVR is focused on the VR Gaming experience.

The future of gaming is upon us, and the technology to be immersed in your favorite game world is at hand. To offer more gamers the opportunity to experience the exhilaration of VR-Gaming, the OSVR platform is focused on providing game engine plugins for all to use. A dedicated team of game developers, peripheral manufacturers, and virtual reality experts meticulously architected this platform, to help even more games enter this new dimension.

See more at: http://www.razerzone.com/press/detail/press-releases/industry-leaders-announce-open-platform-for-virtual-reality-gaming#sthash.qbJcoqHL.dpuf

 oculus-rift-inside

Oculus Rift Announces User Tech Specs and Indefinitely Postpones Mac and Linux Deployment (5/15/15)

View the Oculus Blog

From the Oculus Blog: Given the challenges around VR graphics performance, the Rift will have a recommended specification to ensure that developers can optimize for a known hardware configuration, which ensures a better player experience of comfortable sustained presence. The recommended PC specification is an NVIDIA GTX 970 or AMD 290, Intel i5-4590, and 8GB RAM. This configuration will be held for the lifetime of the Rift and should drop in price over time.

The Rift is specifically designed to deliver comfortable, sustained presence – a “conversion on contact” experience that can instantly transform the way people think about virtual reality. As a VR device, the Rift will be capable of delivering comfortable presence for nearly everyone. However, this requires the entire system working well.

Today, that system’s specification is largely driven by the requirements of VR graphics. To start with, VR lets you see graphics like never before. Good stereo VR with positional tracking directly drives your perceptual system in a way that a flat monitor can’t. As a consequence, rendering techniques and quality matter more than ever before, as things that are imperceivable on a traditional monitor suddenly make all the difference when experienced in VR. Therefore, VR increases the value of GPU performance.

At the same time, there are three key VR graphics challenges to note: raw rendering costs, real-time performance, and latency.

On the raw rendering costs: a traditional 1080p game at 60Hz requires 124 million shaded pixels per second. In contrast, the Rift runs at 2160×1200 at 90Hz split over dual displays, consuming 233 million pixels per second. At the default eye-target scale, the Rift’s rendering requirements go much higher: around 400 million shaded pixels per second. This means that by raw rendering costs alone, a VR game will require approximately 3x the GPU power of 1080p rendering.

Traditionally, PC 3D graphics has had soft real-time requirements, where maintaining 30-60 FPS has been adequate. VR turns graphics into more of a hard real-time problem, as each missed frame is visible. Continuously missing framerate is a jarring, uncomfortable experience. As a result, GPU headroom becomes critical in absorbing unexpected system or content performance potholes.

Finally, we know that minimizing motion-to-photon latency is key to a great VR experience. However, the last few decades of GPU advancements have been built around systems with deep pipelining to achieve maximum throughput at the cost of increased latency; not exactly what we want for VR. Today, minimizing latency comes at the cost of some GPU performance.

Taking all of this into account, our recommended hardware specification is designed to help developers tackle these challenges and ship great content to all Rift users. This is the hardware that we recommend for the full Rift experience:

  • NVIDIA GTX 970 / AMD 290 equivalent or greater
  • Intel i5-4590 equivalent or greater
  • 8GB+ RAM

The goal is for all Rift games and applications to deliver a great experience on this configuration by default. We believe this “it just works” experience will be fundamental to VR’s success, given that an underperforming system will fail to deliver comfortable presence.

The recommended spec will stay constant over the lifetime of the Rift. As the equivalent-performance hardware becomes less expensive, more users will have systems capable of the full Rift experience. Developers, in turn, can rely on Rift users having these modern machines, allowing them to optimize their game for a known target, simplifying development.

Apart from the recommended spec, the Rift will require:

  • Windows 7 SP1 or newer
  • 2x USB 3.0 ports
  • HDMI 1.3 video output supporting a 297MHz clock via a direct output architecture

The last bullet point is tricky: many discrete GPU laptops have their external video output connected to the integrated GPU and drive the external output via hardware and software mechanisms that can’t support the Rift. Since this isn’t something that can be determined by reading the specs of a laptop, we are working on how to identify the right systems. Note that almost no current laptops have the GPU performance for the recommended spec, though upcoming mobile GPUs may be able to support this level of performance.

Our development for OS X and Linux has been paused in order to focus on delivering a high quality consumer-level VR experience at launch across hardware, software, and content on Windows. We want to get back to development for OS X and Linux but we don’t have a timeline.

In the future, successful consumer VR will likely drive changes in GPUs, OSs, drivers, 3D engines, and apps, ultimately enabling much more efficient low-latency VR performance. It’s an exciting time for VR graphics, and I’m looking forward to seeing this evolution.

sony-morpheus-virtual-reality

3) Sony Promises Project Morpheus by the first half of 2016 for the Playstation platform.

View the Morpheus blog

From their blog: Our goal with VR is to deliver a sense of presence, making the player feel as though they’ve stepped inside the world of a game. The new Project Morpheus prototype brings us closer to that goal, as it improves the visual experience and tracking accuracy, both of which are critical to achieving sense of presence.

Key changes:

  • OLED display: In exchange for the 5 inch LCD, the new Morpheus VR headset is equipped with a 5.7 inch 1920 X RGB X 1080 resolution OLED display. This new screen expands the field of view and enables low persistence, removing motion blur.
  • 120hz refresh rate: The previous refresh rate spec has been doubled for this new prototype, which means games for Morpheus can be rendered at 120fps. When combined with the OLED display’s high refresh rate and the power of PS4, Morpheus is able to output amazingly smooth visuals.
  • Super low latency: We know how critical low latency is to delivering a great VR experience, and we’ve reduced latency to less than 18ms, about half of what the first Morpheus prototype had. Low latency is critical to deliver a sense of presence, at the same time making the VR experience comfortable to players.
  • More accurate tracking: To make positional tracking more precise, we’ve added three LEDs to the headset – one on the front and two on the side – for a total of nine LEDs to support robust 360 degree tracking.
  • User-friendly design: We’ve made the Morpheus VR headset easier to put on and take off, with a single band design and quick release button. The headband supports the weight of the unit on the top of your head, so there is no pressure on your face. Other components have also been adjusted and configured to make the headset lighter, so that players do not find the headset cumbersome or uncomfortable to use.

Project Morpheus games

This is a list of the PS4 games that are Morpheus compatible, along with the games in development that will also work with the VR headset.

Project-Morpheus23

  • Among The Sleep (Krillbite Studio)
  • The Assembly (nDreams)
  • The Castle (SCE)
  • Cult County (Renegade Kid)
  • The Deep (SCE London Studio)
  • Eve Valkyrie (CCP Games)
  • Five Nights at Freddy’s 2 (Scottgames)
  • Jurassic Encounter (Supermassive Games)
  • Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes (Steel Crate)
  • London Heist (SCE London Studios)
  • Magic Controller (SCE)
  • Project CARS (Slightly Mad Studios)
  • Q.U.B.E² (Toxic Games)
  • Street Luge (SCE London Studios)
  • Surgeon Simulator (Bossa Studios)
  • Summer Lesson (Katsuhiro Harada)
  • Thief (Eidos Montréal)
  • The Toybox (SCE)
  • War Thunder (Gaijin Entertainment)

Vive-controller

Vive – The Long Awaited Steam VR Headset

View the Vive Website

From their site: Vive, the headset developed in conjunction with Valve, whose revolutionary games such as Portal and Half-Life have set industry records worldwide, and HTC who manufactures some of the world’s most utilized consumer electronics, promises to be the first to market and have perhaps the most compelling of all the VR platforms which are about to emerge. Powered by Valve’s SteamVR. Vive will take advantage of the many compatible games on the Steam service.

Dual 1200 x 1080 Panels refreshing at 90Hz that “..that fills your field of vision in all directions”

Vive features a Gyrometer, Accelerometer and a laser position sensor interacting with the base stations to provide positional and rotational tracking.

As Vive releases in the Steam platform, the system will offer a pair of wireless Ergonomic VR game controllers to allow you to use virtual objects and interact with the virtual world. The position of each controller is tracked in x,y,z coordinates, allowing developers to simulate a wide range of interactive experiences. Audio is completed with a headphone jack to plug in your brand of choice.

Omni

Omni Successfully Completes Kickstarter Campaign For VR Peripheral Support Platform

Visit the Virtuix Website

The Omni takes virtual reality to the next level— allowing anyone to stand up and traverse virtual worlds with the natural use of their own feet. The Omni is the first virtual reality interface for moving freely and naturally in your favorite game. Moving naturally in virtual reality creates an unprecedented sense of immersion that cannot be experienced sitting down. That’s why we developed the Omni.

Walk, run, jump, crouch: the Omni will keep you on your feet and in motion. It’s a healthier way to game — working out has never been this much fun. Our software even tracks your distance traveled and calories burned along the way.

The Omni will free gamers from passive, seated gameplay, unleashing the full potential of virtual reality gaming with the Oculus Rift and future head mounted displays. Gaming on a keyboard, mouse or gamepad while seated pales in comparison to the intense experience and fun that comes from actually running and jumping in games.

 

As the VR revolution unfolds, IllusionQuest Studios continues to explore the ever changing frontier of technical and creative boundaries. We will continue to bring you our experiences, lessons and findings along the way.

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