Virtual Reality Museum Puts Rembrandt in High-Def, by Molly Schuetz

Kremer Collection’s VR gallerySource: Kremer Collection

The Kremer Collection has spent the past two decades loaning out its collection of 17th-century Dutch and Flemish art to museums and galleries around the world. As of Thursday, the collection will have a new permanent home in a virtual museum.

VR has improved dramatically in recent years as Microsoft, Facebook, Samsung and others invest heavily in technology that many believe will eventually supplant PCs and smartphones as the preferred human-machine interface. With the headsets getting cheaper and less bulky, virtual reality is showing up in many more places—including museums.

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Adobe’s Project SonicScape Visualizes Audio For Easier 360 Editing, by Ian Hamilton

Adobe previewed a concept it is working on that would make it easier for creators working on VR videos to place and align sound.

Producing high-quality 360-degree video content has traditionally been a difficult affair at all stages of production, from capture to delivery. However, a constant stream of new cameras, editing tools and streaming techniques are on the way to make the process easier.

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Why the Pimax 8K headset could be a future game changer, by Sarah Redohl

Pimax

Successful kickstarter projects may be a rarity. But it would seem that the Pimax 8K VR headset is one project that is bucking the trend could offer real competition and innovation to boot.

The old adage “underpromise and overdeliver” doesn’t often apply to the tech industry, where impressive-sounding specs often outshine actual performance in headlines and companies raise millions in Kickstarter campaigns that don’t come to fruition.

But, every once in a while, an absurd sounding promise from an unknown manufacturer actually seems to pan out. Enter the Pimax 8K VR headset.

The new Pimax 8K headset makes a lot of promises. Among them, the headset promises to eliminate the screen door effect of existing headsets while nearly doubling the user’s field of view and reducing motion sickness.

On September 19, Pimax launched a Kickstarter campaign with a goal of $200,000, which it was able to reach within the campaign’s first few hours. At the time of this post, the campaign had raised more than $1.7 million from around 2,700 backers.

Although that’s certainly impressive, what’s more impressive is that, since CES 2017, Pimax has been showing off and shipping out its 8K headset to reviewers and what we’re hearing back is overwhelmingly positive: the Pimax 8K HMD truly feels like a next-gen headset.

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Sony Launches A ‘New Type’ Of Camera, by Paul Monckton

Sony’s new RX0 camera.

Sony has today announced not just a new camera, but a new type of camera in the form of the RX0 – an ultra-compact, robust and waterproof device with an unconventional set of features including support for multi-camera setups.

Featuring a 1.0-type stacked sensor similar to those found in the company’s highly regarded RX10 and RX100 series consumer cameras. However, the RX0 is instead a device aimed more at professional users who want to create VR and ‘bullet-time’ effects using much smaller and more flexible setups than the huge multi-camera rigs currently required to produce such effects.

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NEW PLAYSTATION VR BUNDLE HAS EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO GET STARTED, by Gabe Gurwin

Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

PlayStation VR may be the least expensive way to enter the world of virtual reality, but it still isn’t cheap. Previously, the headset sold for $400 in addition to the mandatory PlayStation Camera for an additional $60, but that changes this week with the newest PlayStation VR bundle.

Starting on September 1, the PlayStation VR’s standard bundle will come with a PlayStation Camera for $400, effectively giving customers a $60 discount. Sony says that this will be the “core” PlayStation VR bundle moving forward, so if you already own the camera but haven’t picked up the headset yet, you might want to act quickly.

In addition to the $400 option, those looking to also pick up a game with PlayStation VR can check out the $450 PlayStation VR Worlds bundle — previously called the “launch bundle” at most retailers. The package contains everything from the standard bundle and adds two PlayStation Move controllers and the PlayStation VR Worlds game. Coming with several different mini-games, including The London Heist, Danger Ball, and the enthralling Ocean Descent, it’s a great way to get introduced to VR technology, though not all of the games are created equal. VR Luge is a pretty mediocre racing game, and Scavengers Odyssey is all but guaranteed to make you queasy.

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New Procedural Speech Animation From Disney Research Could Make for More Realistic VR Avatars, by Ben Lang

A new paper authored by researchers from Disney Research and several universities describes a new approach to procedural speech animation based on deep learning. The system samples audio recordings of human speech and uses it to automatically generate matching mouth animation. The method has applications ranging from increased efficiency in animation pipelines to making social VR interactions more convincing by animating the speech of avatars in real-time in social VR settings.

Researchers from Disney Research, University of East Anglia, California Institute of Technology, and Carnegie Mellon University, have authored a paper titled A Deep Learning Approach for Generalized Speech Animation. The paper describes a system which has been trained with a ‘deep learning / neural network’ approach, using eight hours of reference footage (2,543 sentences) from a single speaker to teach the system the shape the mouth should make during various units of speech (called phonemes) and combinations thereof.

Below: The face on the right is the reference footage. The left face is overlaid with a mouth generated from the system based only on the audio input, after training with the video.

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The Keepers of VR, by Devar Ardalan

COURTESY OF WORLD OCEANS FESTIVAL

When I first met Jeff Olm, he told me about Under the Canopy, a VR film that was shot using moving cameras and drones in the Amazon. It felt surreal to mount the VR headset and descend into the rainforest, in full stereo might I add. I asked to learn more about the production and Olm sent me a series of links. I especially loved going behind-the-scenes with a sloth in VR.

Jeff Olm is a VR/AR creative director and also co-chair of the VR/AR Association’s Stories and Audiences Committee. Together with several other industry thought leaders, we recently published the Top 10 Virtual Reality Best Practices in an effort to capture into one source the rapidly evolving knowledge about VR.

The radically new experiences that the medium provides today have been decades in the making. As part of this living document, we seek to present not only our experiences with the hardware and software, but also to dig into the specifics of development and content production. This work is especially timely given that analysts are projecting VR will transform into a multi-billion dollar industry in the next decade.

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The best virtual reality headsets you can buy in 2017, by Matthew Field

How to choose the best virtual reality headset CREDIT: REUTERS

Virtual reality has been a long time coming, but now it is easier than ever to get an immersive experience and take your first VR steps at home.

There are a host of headsets available, from powerful, high-end ones like the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift to mobile experiences like the Samsung Gear VR, the new Google Daydream View, or the do-it-yourself Google Cardboard.

But which one should you choose? There’s a lot of variety in the technology, from the headsets you can buy, to the apps you can play and the platforms that support them. Some simply need a smartphone to plug in, others use video games consoles or PC software to play.

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For Audio Companies, VR Is the New Frontier, by Vipin Pungalia

From Beyoncé’s Lemonade to VR games, virtual reality is becoming a fixture of the entertainment industry. It has given rise to the era of 360-degree videos, on YouTube and elsewhere. These videos immerse you into the recording and make you feel a part of it. Beyond the video though, the audio side of the equation is just as important, and 360-degree sound recording is a growing trend for this reason.

As VR content continues to grow, one concern for VR and 360 content creators is recording 360-degree audio that can fully immerse viewers in an environment. Therefore, with developments in technology, audio brands are now focusing on products that have the ability to capture immersive sound, as the human ear would perceive in a natural environment.

Your brain responds to sound faster than any other sense, so sound and music cues direct attention, trigger emotions, and guide participants in very powerful ways – organising all your other senses together. Today’s consumers are accustomed to capturing incredibly realistic videos, yet as mainstream technology makes immersive visual experiences ever more accessible, the power and emotion of this footage is too often let down by the quality of sound that these devices can capture. Thus it is safe to say that 3D audio adds to the feeling of presence that we strive so hard to achieve with just visuals in VR.

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HP made an even more powerful VR backpack — but it’s not for gaming, by Jacob Kastrenakes

Image: HP

Two months after introducing a backpack PC for virtual reality, HP is introducing another one. But this time, it isn’t meant for gamers.

HP’s new Z VR Backpack is being marketed as a workstation PC for all kinds of businesses — theme parks, automative showrooms, real estate agencies, and anything else that might have a use for virtual reality. It’s designed to give them high-end performance so that, when customers are shown virtual reality demoes of a car or a house they might be interested in, they don’t get distracted by bad graphics and stuttering frame rates.

That means the Z VR Backpack is even more powerful than HP’s gaming backpack, the Omen X Compact Desktop. While both use Intel’s Core i7 processors (both Kaby Lake), the Z VR Backpack has an Nvidia Quadro P5200 GPU, instead of the GTX 1080 in the Omen. HP says the Quadro card it’s offering includes twice the frame buffer of the 1080. The backpack will also be configurable with up to 32GB of RAM.

The Z VR Backpack looks pretty much the same as the Omen, except that it’s solid black — ditching the red highlights and goofy logo that makes the other look gamery. Naturally, it’ll be expensive: the starting price is $3,299. It’ll also ship with a dock that lets the backpack turn into something vaguely resembling a desktop PC. It’s supposed to begin shipping in September.

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