Microsoft just democratized virtual reality with $299 headsets, By Gordon Mah Ung

VR just got a lot cheaper.

Microsoft on Wednesday morning said PC OEMs will soon be shipping VR headsets that enable virtual reality and mixed reality starting at $299.

Details of the hardware and how it works were sparse, but Microsoft said HP, Dell, Lenovo, Asus, and Acer will be shipping the headsets timed with its upcoming Windows 10 Creators Update, due in spring 2017.

Despite the relatively low price, the upcoming headsets may have a big advantage over HTC and Valve’s Vive and Facebook’s Oculus Rift: no need for separate calibration hardware to function. Both Vive and Oculus require multiple emitters on stands to be placed around a room for the positioning to function.

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How Microsoft wants to dominate virtual reality, By Steve Kovach

A VR demo from Microsoft's event last Wednesday. AP
A VR demo from Microsoft’s event last Wednesday. AP

That new Surface Studio computer may have been the star of Microsoft’s show last Wednesday, but the story that didn’t get enough attention was how Microsoft is expanding its plans for augmented and virtual reality, the platforms many think will usher in a new era of computing.

Next year, Microsoft will release a free update to Windows 10 called the Creators Update that includes the ability to plug a virtual reality headset into your PC. The headsets are relatively cheap too, starting at $299. They’ll be built by all the top PC makers like Dell, Lenovo, and Asus.

But they’re more than just affordable headsets. They also have features you still can’t get in high-end headsets like Facebook’s Oculus Rift, which costs $599. Most notably, the headsets are able to provide free range of motion without an external camera tracking you.

Alex Kipman, Microsoft’s head of the HoloLens and other augmented and virtual reality projects, told Business Insider in an interview last week that the new portfolio of VR headsets will be the “most immersive and and powerful headsets at the most affordable price.”

That last bit about affordability is a major caveat, of course. While the new headsets from Dell, Lenovo, and the rest may not match the Oculus Rift in terms of display quality, they’ll immediately be more accessible and in some ways more capable.

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HTC’s Vivepaper is a VR magazine stand, By Steve Dent

HTC has unveiled Vivepaper, an app that lets Vive users check out interactive, VR content from publishers like Conde Nast. After you don the headset and scan a physical AR booklet, you can peruse a virtual magazine and load up 360-degree videos, 3D content, audio and other content. The passthrough “Chaperone” camera enables augmented virtual reality (A-VR), letting you be in the virtual world and touch physical objects (the booklet) at the same time.

Vivepaper is launching in China with Conde Nast Traveler (China Edition), letting users play tourist with 360 degree video at locations around the world (see the video below). More publishers in the nation will release content soon, HTC says, and it’s also “in discussions with several other major western publishers to release Vivepaper version of their content outside China shortly.”
 

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Doug Liman to Adapt Indiana-Jones-in-Space Adventure ‘Unearthed’, By Charles Bramesco

Universal Pictures
Universal Pictures

The sci-fi/military fusion Edge of Tomorrow was that rarest of gifts when it debuted back in 2014, a masterful action picture with an original high-concept angle and a whip-smart script. Hollywood then scrambled to find something for director Doug Liman, a clearly skilled orchestrator of large-scale setpieces, to do with his talents. First order of business was getting him back together with his Edge of Tomorrow star Tom Cruise (their new collaboration, American Made, comes to theaters on September 29 of next year), and following that, Liman’s choice was “do everything.” He signed on for the Gambit solo picture and then bailed, agreed to bring YA dystopian franchise Chaos Walking to the screen, made plans for a Edge of Tomorrow sequel, and inked a deal to direct DC’s “Dark Universe” picture after Guillermo Del Toro dropped out.

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What’s the Virtual Reality Developers Conference?

VRDC

 

The Virtual Reality Developers Conference (VRDC) brings together creators of amazing, immersive VR (and AR) experiences to share best practices and demo new technology.

If you haven’t already, there’s still time to register online for a VRDC pass that grants you access to a wide variety of talks, roundtable discussions, demos and workshops during the show, which is happening November 2nd and 3rd (next Wednesday and Thursday) at the Park Central Hotel in San Francisco.

VRDC attendees are heartily encouraged to plan ahead and bookmark their favorite talks in the online VRDC Session Scheduler. All passholders also have access to the VRDC show floor, which will showcase cutting-edge virtual- and augmented-reality technology from some of the industry’s biggest and most influential companies.

Microsoft, HTC, Google, CCP and ARM are but a few of the notable exhibitors at the show this year — you can visit the official GDC Next website for a dynamic list of the show’s exhibitor lineup. The Expo Floor also provides attendees with numerous opportunities to learn about upcoming products, interact with developers, and establish business relationships with some of the industry’s top professionals.


And of course, it’s not all work at VRDC — make sure to leave room in your schedule to attend the very special VRDC opening night reception! Event organizers are kicking off the big show with a welcome soiree from 6 to 8 PM on the evening of the first day (Wednesday, November 2nd.) The party will take place in the Metropolitan foyer of the Park Central, and it promises to be a can’t-miss gathering!

So if you haven’t yet, be sure to visit the VRDC website now and register to attend the conference, which will feature a plethora of great VR/AR talks spanning games, entertainment, and beyond into subjects such as healthcare, journalism, travel, manufacturing, retail, live events, real estate, training, and so much more.

4 Virtual Reality Desktops For Vive and Rift Compared, By Dominic Brennan

While it’s all too easy to lose ourselves in the countless VR worlds at our fingertips, sometimes we just need to access the desktop and get things done in Windows. Thanks to a few innovative apps, this is possible without removing your headset.
The default startup environments for the Vive and Rift are comfortable spaces, designed to be as streamlined as possible, allowing you to launch into specific VR content quickly and easily. With time, these spaces are expected to become more interactive and social, but for now they’re basic launchpads. Sometimes, it can be handy to glance at your Windows desktop without having to remove the headset or perform an awkward peer-down-the-nose-gap manoeuvre.

SteamVR, which runs by default on the Vive and can be used with the Rift as well, caters for this with a basic square Windows desktop view within the launcher which can be handy for making quick adjustments. But if desktop productivity in VR is your main objective, you’ll want a virtual reality desktop that’s built around that task.

Whether you just need a decent monitor replacement, or you have grand dreams of using a PC entirely in VR, it’ll be worth trying at least one of these apps, all of which are available on the HTC Vive or Oculus Rift via SteamVR.

A popular choice due to its performance and simplicity, Virtual Desktop has the most straightforward representation of the Windows desktop, with support for multiple monitors.

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VR headsets from HP, Dell, Lenovo and more in the works, By Allegra Frank

Microsoft’s Terry Myerson at a Windows 10 event in New York City on Oct. 26, 2016. Brian Crecente/Polygon
Microsoft’s Terry Myerson at a Windows 10 event in New York City on Oct. 26, 2016. Brian Crecente/Polygon

Several of Microsoft’s manufacturing partners will release new virtual reality headsets alongside the new Windows 10 Creators Update, the company announced during a Windows-centric press conference Wednesday morning. The hardware will come from companies like HP, Dell, Lenovo, Asus and Acer, and will retail starting at $299.

The headsets will boast “inside-out tracking,” Microsoft said during the event. That allows for the headsets to track users’ movements without using any additional sensors. The PlayStation VR, HTC Vive and Oculus Rift hardware each require tracking sensors and cost as much as $800.

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AMD BB360 Virtual Reality Camera Created For Arka Mediaworks, By Julian Horsey

AMD has this week revealed it has created a new virtual reality camera specifically for the Indian film industry and Arka Mediaworks. The news was revealed at this year’s Mumbai Film Festival held last week and AMD and Arka Mediaworks have been working together to develop the new VR camera.

Arka Mediaworks is hoping to use a camera to film the Baahubali 2: The Conclusion in 360-degree virtual reality although the primary version will also be available in 2D with each scene of the film process additionally producing 360 degree virtual reality.

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Digital Hollywood: Virtual Reality Tests Episodic Story-Telling Formats, By Carolyn Giardina

Courtesy of VR Playhouse 'Defying the Nazis VR'
Courtesy of VR Playhouse ‘Defying the Nazis VR’

From ‘Gone,’ in which a child disappears, and ‘Defying the Nazis VR,’ new series formats are entering the picture.

A child disappears. A boatload of children are saved from the Nazis. Virtual reality, as it tests new models for story-telling, is venturing into some surprising subjects.

The results were on display at the Digital Hollywood conference, held this week at Los Angeles’ Skirball Center, as the Television Academy’s Interactive Peer Group presented six, unique virtual reality projects.

Gone, to cite one of the examples on display, is a 11-episode VR thriller from Skybound Entertainment with VR developer WEVR and Samsung that is intended to disturb the viewer as he or she experiences the panic of a couple whose child vanishes.

“The idea was to make you as uncomfortable as possible,” Skybound CEO Dave Alpert said of how the filmmakers tried to combine story with the potential of the technology. “Getting people to put on the goggles was hard,” he said of the model, adding that once they did, they lost the sense of time. “We got to increase the running time on a per-episode basis, since people who came back were willing to binge.” That upped the length of each episode from a few minutes to roughly 10 minutes.

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What it’s like when virtual reality gets inside your head for Denver’s newest haunted house, By Tamara Chuang

I sit in a wheelchair, my wrists strapped to the armrests, as it rolls down a dark hallway filled with cobwebs. I cringe and sink deep in my seat as the gossamer threads graze my hands. And we’re not even into the scarier parts of this virtual-reality haunted house, tucked away upstairs at Epic Brewery in Denver.

At a regular haunted house, you know costumed actors lurk behind every corner, ready to pop out and scare you. Fake blood, scary masks and darkness are all a given. You follow the crowd, cling to your friends and scream together.

But entering a haunted house powered by virtual reality? It’s worse — or scary-better, depending on your perspective.

Virtual reality gets inside your brain. The technology tricks you into believing that animated horror is really happening. When rising blood-hued water engulfs my head, I have difficulty breathing for a few seconds. The sharp, pointed teeth of a fleshy humanoid creature hovering near my neck makes me want to swat it away. But I can’t. My hands are strapped down.

With virtual reality goggles covering my eyes and headphones on my ears, I’m more immersed in this animated virtual world than any haunted house with friends. You also don’t see VR Haunted House co-founder Justin Moskowitz grinning as he uses finger pokers, netting and other tricks to keep the mind games going. I wasn’t rolling down the hall in the wheelchair, but Moskowitz’s wriggling of the handles made me feel like I was moving.

“A lot of what we’ve done here is bringing virtual reality even more to life with some 4-D effects,” said Moskowitz, co-founder of Clutch Gaming Arena in Arvada.

Moskowitz’s Halloween venture with partner Beatrice Leung is their first, but not the first for Denver. High-tech barber shop Spruce hosted a VR haunted house last year, but after a busy year doesn’t plan to do one this season. Nationwide, larger entertainment venues have expanded into virtual horror, including The Repository at Universal Studios Florida through the end of October. Knott’s Berry Farm in Southern California shut down its “Fear VR: 5150” after being open just a week following insensitivity complaints by mental-health advocates.

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