2016 Unity Awards Ceremony on November 1st

After reviewing hundreds of nominations and countless hours of deliberation, Unity Technologies has just announced the 2016 Unity Awards finalists, recognizing the year’s best in 2D and 3D games, VR experiences, visuals and much more. From standout titles like Playdead’s INSIDE, Variable State’s Virginia, Lara Croft Go from Square Enix to LandsEnd by ustwogames, it’s our chance to honor the creativity, talent and hard work of the millions-strong Unity community (see full list of finalists below).

The ceremony will take place during our upcoming Unite conference in Los Angeles, on the evening of November 1st. Winners are selected by a combined vote of the developer community and Unity staff.

You can check out the full list below and at the jump. Please join us in congratulating these projects, teams, and talent — and if you’d like to, please vote!

This year we have eleven award categories for Made with Unity projects including the Golden Cube, Best Desktop/Console Game, Best Mobile Game, Best VR Game, Best VR Experience, Best 3D Visuals, Best 2D Visuals, Best VizSim Project, Best Non-game Project, Best Student Project, and Asset Store Award.

The Unity community can now vote for their favorite projects at: https://unity3d.com/awards/2016

Golden Cube (best overall)

Includes all finalists from all categories:

Best Desktop/Console Game
Enter the Gungeon (Dodge Roll)
Firewatch (Campo Santo)
INSIDE (Playdead)
Satellite Reign (5 Lives Studios)
Virginia (Variable State)

Best Mobile Game
Hungry Shark World (Future Games of London, a Ubisoft Studio)
Lara Croft GO (Square Enix Montreal)
Prune (Joel McDonald)
Reigns (Nerial)
Skyforce Reloaded (Infinite Dreams)
The Room Three (Fireproof Games)

Best VR Game
Fantastic Contraption (Northway Games and Radial Games)
Ghostbusters Dimension (The VOID)
Job Simulator (Owlchemy Labs)
Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes (Steel Crate Games)
Land’s End (ustwo games)
Unseen Diplomacy (Triangular Pixels)

Best VR Experience
Apollo 11 VR (Immersive VR Education)
Tilt Brush (Google)
theBlu (Wevr)
The Body VR (The Body VR LLC)
The Lab (Valve)
We Wait VR (Aardman Animations)

Best 3D Visuals
Armello (League of Geeks)
Epistory (Fishing Cactus)
Firewatch (Campo Santo)
INSIDE (Playdead)
ReCore (Armature Studio)
The Room Three (Fireproof Games)

Best 2D Visuals
Burly Men at Sea (Brain&Brain)
Jotun (Thunder Lotus Games)
Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime (Asteroid Base)
Oxenfree (Night School Studio)
Seasons after Fall (Swing Swing Submarine)
Slain! (Andrew Gilmour)

Best VizSim Project
accuraSeat (mindtrigger)
Elbphilharmonie Touchscreen (Neutral Digital)
Factory I/O (Real Games)
Virtual Production and Virtual Cinematography (Digital Domain)
The Mercedes-Benz-AMG Powerwall (All Things Media)
Journey to the Center of the Cell (UNSW Australia)

Best Non-game Project
Apollo 11 VR (Immersive VR Education)
Augmented Climbing Wall (Augmented Climbing Wall)
Grand Designer (Ignishot)
Intel Realsense Dancer (Mirada Studios)
The Body VR (The Body VR)
Tilt Brush (Google)

Best Student Project
Chambara (Team Overly Kinetic at USC)
Code 7 (Goodwolf Studio at Cologne Game Lab)
Lily, Colors of Santa Luz (Lily Team at ISART Digital)
Pine (Twirlbound at NHTV Breda University of Applied Sciences)
Into the Black (Naomi Kotler at National Film and Television School)
Rogues with Benefits (The Rogues at HKU University of the Arts Utrecht)

Asset Store Award
Amplify Bloom (Amplify Creations)
AVPro (Video RenderHeads)
Dungeon (Architect Code Respawn)
Koreographer Professional Edition (Sonic Bloom)
Pro Camera 2D (Luís Pedro Fonseca)
TextMesh Pro (Stephan Bouchard)

Apple WILL Merge AR and VR Together In 2017

Apple may finally be joining the VR/AR trend with its own headset design THIS YEAR.

Tim Cook has given plenty of on the record indication that he isn't so bothered about VR despite it being a trend that is surging forward with gusto and shows no signs of disappearing anytime soon. It's not that Cook doesn't like VR, it's just that he thinks AR - that's Augmented Reality as opposed to Virtual Reality - is a much more compelling prospect.

What's the difference? Well on a basic level Virtual Reality games, applications and experiences render an entire world, landscape, or other experience in front of the eyes of the user and with which they can interact. Augmented Reality is what some phones have been doing for a while and what Google tried to get right with Google Glass - you can still see the real world before you, but the device imposes virtual components over the top, some of which you may be able to interact with. A really simple example is rather than having a TV screen on your living room wall, a pair of AR glasses could render a TV screen that isn't really there, streaming a program to it. However, the possibliites do extend quite considerably past this point into some pretty compelling ideas.

As of January 10, a post by respected tech expert Robert Scoble suggests that Apple is in cahoots with camera specialist Carl Zeiss, the firm which previously worked with Nokia on its phone cameras; allegedly Apple and Carl Zeiss are working on a pair of AR glasses. Scoble says he was given details by a Carl Zeiss insider, and he believes Apple will bring the product to market sometimes inside 2017.

Tim Cook has said he believes gaming and education will see a big boost from VR and that it is a very viable market, but of the AR market he thinks it "is the larger of the two, probably by far," adding that the AR market will be "huge". Certainly there is a lot of scope, looking at things like Microsoft's HoloLens AR project, for AR to be a key component in the Internet of Things, connected homes, and integrated, immersive, household and workplace experiences, tools, and applications.

Previously there was a slight hint that maybe something is cooking in the Apple camp with regards to VR/AR hardware. Apple may be poised to finally join the VR/AR trend and produce its own headset, as word emerged that the firm has been granted a patent for a headset designed to hold the iPhone in front of your eyes.

That means, essentially, that Apple is following the Samsung Gear VR and Google Daydream View route of a headset device designed to utilise a smartphone display for the VR/AR experience, rather than a device like the Oculus Rift or HTC Vive which is dependent upon a computer. Considering that Apple's own Mac computers are not particularly well regarded when it comes to gaming or similar, this makes a lot of sense for the firm to rely on its mobile devices.

As you may have noticed, the VR/AR trend has been on the rise fairly rapidly over the last year or so, with the Oculus Rift first gaining attention via Kickstarter, major device manufacturers caught wind of the upsurge in interest and naturally decided they wanted a piece of the pie. Facebook bought Oculus Rift, while HTC created the Vive, Samsung built the Gear VR, Sony has the PlayStation VR, and pretty much every other major tech firm has some kind of VR project on the go.

The USPTO has now granted Apple a patent, number 9,482,869, which describes a "Head-Mounted Display Apparatus For Retaining A Portable Electronic Device With Display".

The depicted "portable electronic device with display" is clearly an iPhone, and it looks as though it connects to the headset via the Lightning port. Another image shows what appears to be a handheld remote, which looks a lot like an iPod - although it's not expressly mentioned, feasibly this could also be a motion controller, similar to the one with the Google Daydream View, or the HTC Vive's "ladle" controllers.

The headset also appears to feature built-in headphones, a set of lenses, a wheel for controlling focus, home and back buttons, a touchpad, and a proximity sensor. Details explain that once the phone is connected to the headset it will override the touchpad and button controls. The headset has its own processor, memory, sensors, and a chargeable battery housed underneath the lenses.

While all of this is interesting stuff, we do have to mention the caveat that always needs repeating when dealing with Apple patents; which is that Apple patents a LOT of stuff on a regular basis which never actually sees the light of day. Nonetheless, it's interesting to see that Apple is at least entertaining the idea of a headset device. (source)

Artists Are Taking to ‘Tilt Brush’ with Incredible Results

Virtual reality has been described as a ‘new medium’—that is, a canvas for creation which is unique among other forms (books, radio, paint, music, video, etc). The truth of this is becoming abundantly clear thanks to artists who are adopting programs like Tilt Brush to make amazing works of art which offer undeniably

Case-in-point, artist Stuart Campbell (AKA Sutu Eats Flies) is a talented 2D artist who has taken to Google’s Tilt Brush to forge immersive artwork from his notably gritty style. The results are nothing short of amazing (be sure to enable ‘HD’ option in the players below).

This particular piece showcases four styles in four ‘rooms’ within the virtual canvas, almost like a mini-gallery, allowing the viewer to put their head through a window into a distinct reality. More so than just amazing artwork, this piece begins to explore how spatial arrangements of art scenes within the VR space can be used as a facet of the artwork itself.

Campbell has also put Tilt Brush’s reactive brushes—which respond dynamically to sound—to give life and action to a scene, dictated by the choice of music. In another work utilizing reactive brushes, Campbell brings action to still strokes by ‘animating’ a series of poses for the viewer to imagine as a string of motion. And one more worth highlighting (for now), here Campbell explores the inside of a creature at the opening of the video, making it look like he’s traveling down a tunnel or emerging from wormhole of sorts into a dark netherworld. This is a great demonstration of how the viewer themselves can be an important part of how a piece of virtual reality artwork is experienced.

Each of these pieces showcases unique possibilities of virtual reality art. Consider that artwork of other mediums has been honed over—in some cases—hundreds or thousands of years; while this is what artists are creating just a few months after being able to step into the virtual reality medium. As it grows and matures there’s much more new and amazing work to come. (source)

Augmented Reality will be bigger than Virtual Reality

In an interview with ABC News Good Morning America, Apple CEO Tim Cook reconfirmed his interest in augmented and virtual reality. However Tim Cook believes that augmented reality is going to be much more interesting than virtual reality. “There’s virtual reality and there’s augmented reality — both of these are incredibly interesting, but my own view is that augmented reality is the larger of the two, probably by far.” Tim Cook said, regarding a question about Apple’s position on virtual reality.

There’s a lot of really cool things there with VR and AR
“Augmented reality gives the capability for both of us to sit and be very present, talking to each other, but also have other things — visually — for both of us to see.” he continued.

“Maybe it’s something we’re talking about, maybe it’s someone else here who’s not here present but who can be made to appear to be present. Virtual reality sort of encloses and immerses the person into an experience that can be really cool, but probably has a lower commercial interest over time,” Cook said. “Less people will be interested in that.”

Regarding the areas of use for AR and VR, Tim Cook said “There’s some really cool areas there for education and gaming that we have a lot of interest in,”
Apple registered seven VR and AR patents, and formed a special team

In a recent news, Apple is reported to patent a wireless VR headset. Titled as “Head-Mounted Display Apparatus For Retaining A Portable Electronic Device With Display” this marks the seventh U.S. patent that Apple has received related to virtual and augmented reality HMDs. In January, the Financial Times reported that Apple has a secret team that involves hundreds of employees working to develop applications on virtual and augmented reality.

Earlier this year at the Apple earnings day conference, Tim Cook had confirmed that Apple has plans on augmented reality technology. “We are high on AR in the long run,” he said. “We think there’s great things for customers and a great commercial opportunity. The number one thing is to make sure our products work well with other developers’ kind of products like Pokemon, that’s why you see so many iPhones in the wild chasing Pokemons.” (source)

Check It Out! What Is IMAX Virtual Reality Technology

IMAX, an extraordinary experience of watching a movie, has joined ranks with the virtual reality to create an advanced technology for an extensive fun. Here advanced what you need to know and where you can have your hands on IMAX VR for yourself.

If you’ve ever visited an IMAX theater hall then you know that amazing the experience can be – an expanded screen is stretched out in front of you and the sound pounds your chest. It’s awesomely the best way to watch a movie. If you’ve ever had an experience of VR  then you know that how immersive the visuals can be and how it gives you the real environment surroundings experience.

What Is IMAX Virtual Reality (VR) Technology
Now combine Imax with VR and get the pass the totally different zone. Theatres adapting VR have are having a totally different view of new futuristic seating to host head to head multiplayer, room scale tracking and devices with haptic feedback. Whether it’s the swing of a word, bursting of a bubble, or a shot from the rifle, you’re going to feel it.

You need to enter your VR area – called a pod, strap on headset and enter a totally different world. StarVR and HTC vive headsets, both devices are available and it’s your choice to choose your experience.

There aren’t just any old VR experiences in stock- these are some of the best and most loved titles released so far. It includes star wars Trials on Tatooine, Eagle Flight, The Walk and many more.

As for the time now, there is only one IMAX VR experience center available in the entire world and if you live in Los Angeles and you are in luck.

The IMAX on Fairfax is all settled up to avail more eight experiences. You need to check out their official website to see showtimes and to book tickets, to experience the new amazing world. (source)

Doraemon VR Attraction Opens In Japan

Doraemon is a popular anime show in Japan featuring a young kid named Nobita and his robot cat Doraemon who can conjure futuristic gadgets out of his belly pocket. It started as a manga series during the 60s, which was then turned into an anime series that people all over the world still adore today.

Now, many years later, the influence of Doraemon is relived with its movie, “Eiga Doraemon: Nobita no Nankyoku Kachi-kochi Daibouken” (Movie Doraemon; Nobita’s Great Freezing Adventure at the South Pole). It is written by Doraemon’s creator itself, Fujiko.F.Fujio.

To commemorate, BANDAI NAMCO Entertainment created a special Doraemon Virtual Reality Experience, called Doraemon VR: Dokodemo-Door (Anywhere-Door). In the game, guests will experience what it’s like to go inside the famous Dokodemo door, taking them to the same places Nobita and Doraemon will go to in the upcoming movie, like in Antarctica and the top of a speeding train.

Users will need to wear VR goggles and strap on a special kit for them to able to experience the special Doraemon Virtual reality Experience. Blowing gusts of wind and rumbling floors are added to make the experience more realistic. Users can explore Nobita’s room as well, and find some various little trinkets typically found in the anime series.

Watch a movie here and here.

As part of the hype, The Doraemon Kachi Kochi Café in Japan is currently running a limited menu inspired by the film. For more information, you can visit their website, or visit the project’s location on the 3rd floor of Tokyo Solamachi (Area 12), 1-1-2 Oshiage, Sumida 131-0045, Tokyo Prefecture, Japan. (source)

Ericsson: AR and VR to merge with reality

Seven out of 10 consumers believe that virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) will become mainstream in media, education, work, social interaction, tourism and retail, according to Ericsson’s latest ConsumerLab report.

It adds that media is already being transformed and consumers expect virtual screens to start replacing TVs and theatres in less than a year.

The report, entitled Merged Reality, reveals insights into how consumers expect VR and AR to merge with physical reality, and that 5G will be a key technology for such experiences to become mainstream.

It also says that when boundaries between people’s perception of physical and virtual reality start to blur, this could result in a drastic impact on lives and society. The way people live, work, and consume information and media will fundamentally change.

However, realities will not merge if the user is tethered to a computer or cut off from physical reality. Early adopters of VR/AR expect next-generation networks like 5G to play a central role. Thirty six percent have expectations on 5G to provide VR/AR mobility through a stable, fast and high-bandwidth network, while 30% of early adopters also expect 5G to enable tethered headsets to become wireless.

The qualitative research in the report included an innovative focus group discussion series completely in VR with participants from North America and Europe, as well as traditional focus groups with current users of VR from Japan and South Korea.

A series of qualitative VR tests with 20 Ericsson employees were also done to understand how lag in VR can trigger nausea.

In the quantitative part of the study, the report presents insights from a survey of 9,200 consumers in France, Germany, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Spain, the UK and the US, aged between 15-69. with awareness of the concept of VR.

Existing Phones Not Qualified as ‘Daydream Ready’.

Google’s ambitious Daydream VR platform for Android hinges on a combination of hardware and software to enable a high quality VR experience. To ensure the desired level of performance, Google will certify phones of a certain minimum specification as ‘Daydream Ready’. But the company says that even today’s top phones are unlikely to qualify for the title.

At I/O 2016 last week, Google’s VR chief Clay Bavor introduced the ‘Daydream‘ Android VR platform. The branding is an umbrella which encompasses specially designed phones, headsets, and applications which work together to create a high quality mobile VR experience on Android, one that we suspect will rival Samsung’s bar-setting Gear VR.

With Daydream Ready smartphones promised to hit the market this Fall, we wondered whether any devices already released (or will be released prior to the first Daydream smartphones) would meet the bar set by Google, and possibly be retroactively branded as Daydream Ready.

Unlikely, says Bavor, who tells Road to VR that those interested in VR on Android should hold off on that tempting upgrade. “I can tell you that there will most likely not be any ‘retroactively’ Daydream-ready phones,” Bavor says. “We want to hold a very high quality bar, and for that to happen all the components need to be just right. So, to VR fans, I would say, hold off for a few months to get your next phone… and get a Daydream-ready phone.”

Interestingly, Google actually recommends the Nexus 6P as the phone of choice for the DIY Daydream dev kit, however it seems that even it won’t officially make the grade when it comes to the Daydream Ready designation.

What’s in a Daydream Ready Phone?
At I/O 2016, Google announced eight initial partners working on Daydream Ready smartphones for Android VR, some of which will see release dates starting this Fall. The company hasn’t made publicly available the precise Daydream Ready specifications which make a smartphone eligible, but they did give an overview.

High Performance Sensors
First is of course the sensor package in the phone. Every modern smartphone has a set of sensors inside which is used to tell the orientation of the device. This is useful for auto-rotation and for some basic mobile gaming. But for a great VR experience, the sensor inside needs to not only be high performance, but also highly calibrated. This is essential to enabling low-latency, high accuracy headtracking.
High Density, Low-persistence Displays

High resolution displays mean less noticeable pixels when you magnify the screen through lenses for VR. But density isn’t the only thing that makes a screen great for VR. Having an ultra-high refresh rate is necessary to enable a display technique called low-persistence which significantly reduces motion blur during head movement. All the top VR systems use low-persistence, and it seems Google plans to make it a requirement for Daydream Ready smartphones.
Android N

The next version of Android, codenamed ‘N’ is the first with core VR features built in. Daydream will require smartphones to run Android N as the software comes with an important ‘VR Mode’ which balances the device’s processing power for sustained performance over long periods in an effort to keep from overheating under the heavy processing demands imposed by virtual reality. Google says that Android N natively integrate important parts of the Android user-experience into VR; things like notifications and phone calls will be gracefully handled inside of virtual reality rather than interrupting your experience.
Powerful, Efficient Processors

And of course, powerful processors. Great VR is a demanding task that requires much more performance than your usual mobile application. Most mobile VR experiences must be output at 60 FPS and rendered stereoscopically in real time (not to mention at a very high resolution). A Daydream Ready phone needs not only a powerful CPU but GPU as well, and those which won’t overheat themselves too quickly under load. (source)

Facebook Built a 360-Degree Camera For Shooting Video

With Oculus Rift out in the wild, Facebook is giving us our first look at its design for a 360-degree video camera.

The new camera looks sleek and futuristic from the photos, but it’s an open source design, so presumably the ideas people come up with might look different.

At its core, it’s similar to designs that we’ve seen from Nokia, Lytro, and Jaunt: Its an array of many cameras arranged such that the images from each can be stitched together into one spherical photo or video. In this case, it’s a 17 camera rig: 14 cameras around in a ring, one fisheye pointing up, and two fisheyes pointing down.

Facebook says it plans to post the blueprints for rig for free on Github this summer. The software will also be free.

When Facebook dropped billions on Oculus, you better believe that the company meant to own the virtual reality future as a whole—not just the hardware headset. This means, of course, creating an entire platform for the development of virtual reality and 360 video. So here’s the last missing piece of the puzzle: a shiny new camera.

With it, Facebook has what’s referred to as an end-to-end solution for 360 video. You can can use Facebook to shoot the video, use Facebook software to process the video, and later, you can use Facebook, via the website or the Rift headset, to play it back. This is very similar to what Google did last year with its Jump platform, which included its own gnarly 360 camera designs, processing software, and playback mediums (Cardboard and YouTube).

But more than just an aggressive move in the VR and 360-video space it has endeavored to own, the new camera is a video camera. Video is very important to Facebook, as evidenced by its recent push into live streaming. Facebook wants to own your life for as many seconds a day as it can, and with a 360 capture solution perfectly tailored to its products, it’ll own you in 360 degrees too. (source)

Finalists revealed for Global VR Challenge.

The finalists for the Global VR Challenge have been chosen following a second round of intense judging.

A panel of experts have narrowed down the list of 22 games to select the final ten.

Road to Shanghai
Each team will now jump on a plane to ChinaJoy in Shanghai where they stand the chance of winning cash for their game from the $35,000 prize pool.

The finalists are:

S.P.Y. Robot by CEO’s Pet Software
Space Box: The Journey out of the Box by Tom Graczy
SwingStar by ComputerLunch
Wrath of Loki-Vr Adventure by The House of Fables
Kittypocalyse by Bolverk VR Games
Reflections by Broken Window Studios
The Town Of Light by LKA
The Body VR by The Body VR LLC
QUBE 2 by Toxic Games
Lightblade VR by Andreas Hager Gaming

The Global VR Challenge was created by Steel Media, publisher of Pocket Gamer, in association with China’s leading VR company, DeePoon. The goal is to identify the best new VR games development talent and concepts from the UK, Europe and the rest of the world, and help bring them to the world’s biggest VR market, China.

The winners of the Global VR Challenge will be announced during a special ceremony on the show floor at ChinaJoy on July 29th 2016. (source)

Galaxy S8 with 4K VR Display Planned for 2017?

While the industry as well as Samsung fans the world over will be looking forward to the recent launch of the Galaxy Note 7, there’s always something else over the horizon. For Samsung, their two biggest devices are the Galaxy S and Galaxy Note lines of devices, and while the latter launches later in the year, the Galaxy S line launched towards the beginning of every year. That means that, with the Galaxy Note 7 just over the horizon, the Galaxy S8 is next in line and according to rumors, key features and specifications have already been locked in. Including a big push to make mobile virtual reality a hell of a lot better.

Samsung is known for their high-resolution displays, and for the Galaxy S8, a 4K display is rumored to be the chosen resolution. We’ve seen devices launch with 4K displays before, like Sony’s 5.5-inch Xperia Z5 Premium, and Samsung recently displayed their own 5.5-inch 4K display during the Society of Information Displays event. This display is put together with their new Bio Blue technology, which has been designed to emit less blue light, which should help combat the blue tinge and “cold” look that some Super AMOLED displays have exhibited in the past. On top of that, a 4K display is great for virtual reality, considering that the display is effectively split in two when used in a headset, the more pixels it has in the first place, the more pixels each lens of the headset will have.

Right now, this device is of course mostly rumors and speculation, with a rumored codename of Project Dream, which some think could hint at Daydream certification for Google’s upcoming new virtual reality platform. Regardless of the rumors and speculation, it is more than likely that the next Galaxy S smartphone is already underway, after all this is Samsung’s biggest release of the year, and they’ll definitely want to make sure they have something great in store for consumers. With virtual reality one of the biggest tickets right now, it’s no surprise that Samsung will be upping their game next year, and as always, it’s one more feature Samsung can offer that Apple simply can’t. (source)

Gloves Ready To Freeze, Burn, and Shock You

PowerClaw is a haptic glove that lets you feel heat, cold, and a number of sensations on the tips of your fingers. Coming to Gamescom 2016 right after the recent launch of their IndieGogo campaign, the team is now showing off a near finished version of their hardware in hopes that the burgeoning virtual reality industry will make way for a glove that effectively lets you feel VR.

In the business center of Gamescom 2016, I happened upon PowerClaw, a Mexican start up that’s integrated a series of miinature motors and thermoelectic cells into a glove that really lets you feel the cold of an ice cube, the heat of a flame, and simulates electric shocks and whatever else you can possibly simulate via the spasmatic whirring of the same  you find in ordinary smartphones.

Putting on the glove and seating the individual haptic units onto the tips of my fingers correctly, I was put through a virtual torture chamber of iceguns, flame throwers, needle machines, and electric shocks to demonstrate the haptic power of the glove while using the Oculus Rift DK2. Iteractions like the last two mentioned depend purely on the frequency and duration of the motors’ buzzing – something that, given the right visual cues, can be surprisingly convincing.

All of this however was done without any sort of tracking, a duty that PowerClaw has rested on the backs of optical hand tracking devices like Leap Motion. The gloves each had a thick cable leading to a single 3D printed breakout box that provided the voltage necessary to run the glove’s interactions. A single USB connection snaked back to the computer driving the demo from the box.

After popping out of the gloves and making sure the tips of my fingers were in good shape, project creator Alyed Tzompa told me that until they cranked down the voltage to the current setting, the thermoelectric components actually had the ability to burn developers’ finger tips. (mine were just fine)

PowerClaw is currently bottoming out at $595 for a pair of gloves (super early bird special), a steep price for something that doesn’t really work out of the box in VR without the aid of a separate and decidedly imperfect tracking solution (although with Leap Motion’s Orion update tracking has improved). The company will be releasing their SDK and a number of development examples upon release of the haptic gloves, which is slated for delivery in February 2017. (source)

Click here to see a video.

Google Daydream VR will reportedly launch in ‘weeks'

Google is recruiting YouTube stars and other creators to build a catalog of exclusive material for its Daydream virtual reality platform, which will launch in "the coming weeks," says a Bloomberg report. Sources have told Bloomberg that Google is funding 360-degree videos from YouTube celebrities like Justine Ezarik, known as iJustine, and is spending "hundreds of thousands of dollars apiece" on various VR content and apps.

This isn’t necessarily surprising, as Google already announced a number of games and apps for Daydream during its reveal at Google IO this spring. Video platform Hulu will have a presence on Daydream, as will IMAX, the NBA, and major game companies like Ubisoft. Google will reportedly spend a "high six figures" on video games, and smaller amounts for films, which are made using Google’s Jump 360-degree video platform. It’s not totally clear how much of this funding goes to projects that will be exclusive to Daydream, when YouTube already hosts 360-degree videos that can be watched on a phone or desktop computer. Hulu is reportedly timing some pieces for release when Daydream launches, but they won’t be exclusively available on the platform.

Daydream is Google’s attempt at a ubiquitous VR platform built into the Android mobile ecosystem. Most of Google’s major mobile partners have pledged to build Daydream-compatible phones, which will meet certain standards and can be clipped into special Daydream headsets in a manner similar to Samsung’s Gear VR. Apps will work with a small, handheld motion controller, which will be included with headsets. So far, Google has released only a reference design for these headsets, seen above. While Daydream isn’t here yet, developers can get a taste of its capabilities through Android Nougat, and Google has previously said that it will launch sometime this fall. (source)

Google Is Finally Selling VR Headsets Directly

Google’s Cardboard VR viewer is the cheapest way to get in on the virtual reality game, but up until now, they’ve only been sold by third parties (or given away en masse).If you’ve got a cheap, slightly abrasive Cardboard-faced hole on the front of your face, Google will now help fill it.

The new VR section of Google’s web store has a couple of options: the $15 Cardboard, or comfier options from Mattel and Goggle Tech. The options don’t rival Amazon (or virtually anywhere else on the internet), and $15 is more than say, McDonald’s free Happy Goggles.

But the tiny addition to Google’s online store could be important down the line. Google is rumoured to be producing a full-on VR headset sometime later this year, and opening a store of VR viewers to the masses is a logical move that just maybe hints at some future ambitions. For now though, it’s just a more convenient way to get your cheap VR fix. (source)

Grabbing Virtual Objects with the HaptX Glove

The HaptX Glove that was shown at Sundance was one of the most convincing haptics experiences that I’ve had in VR. While it was still primitive, I was able to grab a virtual object in VR, and for the first time have enough haptic feedback to convince my brain that I was actually grabbing something. Their glove uses a combination of exoskeletal force feedback with their patented microfluidic technology, and they’ve significantly reduced the size of their external box driving the experience from the demo that I saw at GDC (back when they were named AxonVR) thanks to a number of technological upgrades and ditching the temperature feedback.

I had a chance to talk with CEO & co-founder Jake Rubin and Chief Revenue Officer Joe Michaels at Sundance where we talked about why enterprise & military training customers are really excited about this technology, some of the potential haptics-inspired interactive storytelling possibilities, how they’re refining the haptics resolution fidelity distribution that will provide the optimal experience, and their collaboration with SynTouch’s texture-data models in striving towards creating a haptic display technology that can simulate a wide ranges of textures.

HaptX was using a Vive tracker puck for arm orientation, but they had to develop customized magnetic tracking to get the level of precision required to simulate individual finger movements, and one side effect is that their technology could start to be used as an input device. Some of HaptX’s microfludic technologies combined with a new air valve that is 1000x more precise could also start to create unique haptics technologies that could have some really interesting applications for sensory replacement or sensory substitution or start to be used in assisting data visualizations in a similar way that sound enhances spatialization through a process called sonification.

Overall, HaptX is making rapid progress and huge leaps with their haptics technologies and they’ve crossed a threshold for becoming useful enough for a number of different enterprise and military training applications. Rubin isn’t convinced that VR haptics will ever be able to fully trick the brain in a way that’s totally indistinguishable from reality, but they’re getting to the point where it’s good enough to start to be used creatively in training and narrative experiences. Perhaps soon we’ll be seeing some of HaptX’s technology in location-based entertainment applications created by storytellers who got to experience their technology at Sundance this year, and I’m really looking forward to seeing how their textures haptic display evolves over the next year. (source)

How VR and AR will impact businesses in the next 5 years

Although not yet in the hands of everyday consumers, virtual and augmented reality are gaining traction.

From the Oculus Rift becoming a well-known name to other products showcasing at major conferences, VR and AR are finding their place in the market. And from virtual meetings to robust new ways of prototyping, both have the potential to impact the business world in the near future.

To learn what we can expect, 13 technology executives from Forbes Technology Council offer their insights into the next five years of VR and AR technology.

1. We'll Experience Our Reality Through Virtual Reality
Companies are realizing that VR/AR are viable options for capturing knowledge. PowerPoints are now embedded in VR. VR offers a practical way to convey knowledge and its immersive nature caters to the workforce. AR takes the manuals to the field and aids installation. These technology-driven tools are getting better, more realistic, and are already accepted by those entering the workforce. – Joseph D'Angelo, D'Angelo Technologies, LLC

2. Prototyping Will Go to the Next Level
Companies will use virtual reality and augmented reality to visualize what they're building in a way that's never been possible before. This level of prototyping will give unprecedented insight into a product at the beginning of the process. Decision makers and end-users will be able to provide better and more valuable feedback early in the game. Businesses will end up wasting less time and money. – Ashley Saddul, Recruiter.com
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3. Certain Niche Markets Will Be Impacted
I love the idea of virtual/augmented reality taking off. Already, I can see nursing home patients pretending they're at the beach, not to mention practical applications like telemedicine. Unfortunately, the price tags and social stigma will limit the customer base for the next decade or two. – Alan Romans, Ashland Health Center

4. Advanced VR Will Become the Social Laboratory of the Elite
The company Improbable enables realistic virtual worlds and complex "life." So, their stakeholders don't geek over "immersive experiences" like a dad at RadioShack. They're simulating business strategy, government policy, etc -- choices with billions in capital, human and otherwise, on the line. Sure, a Home Depot AR app will let you visualize a kitchen remodel; but for major players, they're not gaming. – Gurpreet Singh, TalkLocal(source)

HTC has sold more than 140,000 Vive VR headsets

On March 1st, HTC began taking pre-orders for its Vive VR headset. Within the first 10 minutes, 15,000 units were reserved. That is about $12 million in orders. Not too shabby huh? The numbers get better.

The device then launched on April 5th, and has sold more than 140,000 units according to Chialin Chang, president of HTC’s smartphones and connected devices business. The news was revealed during a conference call between investors and HTC.

Chang said that every HTC Vive sold adds profit to the company. A rumor last month did say that HTC had sold 140,000 Vive units. During the call, Chang addressed the rumor by saying that the actual sales total is higher. How much higher, we don’t know because HTC won’t say.

The Vive is priced at about $800. If each unit sold at that price, the company grossed over $112 million selling this product. They have to be very happy about that. Back in January HTC co-founder and CEO Cher Wang said that the company was moving away from smartphones to focus on VR. I would say that this move is certainly paying off big time. The company has continued to report red ink for each quarter, but it is losing money at a slower pace. Which means that eventually all will be well if they can continue this trend. (source)

HTC officially announces its standalone VR headset

It’s time to cut the cord.
At the Vive Developer Conference in Beijing, HTC announced its long-awaited standalone headset, called Vive Focus. Since we first started hearing about the prospect of a Vive standalone a few months ago, the VR community has been eagerly awaiting its public release.

Vive Focus takes us from room-scale to “world-scale” tracking. Users don’t need any lighthouses or sensors to move about and operate in the virtual worlds of Vive Focus.

At the event, Vive China President Alvin Graylin took the stage to deliver the keynote. He took a look at the state of VR over the past year, as well as highlighting the work being done by Vive X, Viveport, and Vive Studios to grow the industry. In particular, he showed how the Vive ecosystem has brought about 6000 pieces of new content since its launch in 2016.

He addressed concerns of the VR industry’s growth, highlighting the fragmentation in the headset market; in China, HTC estimates there are over 400 different HMD options, yet Vive makes up 82% of the Chinese VR market. He also shone a spotlight on some of the Vive X companies working to creating the future of VR, building toward a look to the future of VR, particularly into 2018.

Then, with a knowing grin, he said, “Shall we dim the lights?” After which, he emerged with the Focus in hand.

Over 40 pieces have been developed as part of Vive Wave for Vive Focus. As was announced in September, the Focus will host Viveport content in China, and will run on the newly announced Vive Wave.

Vive Wave marks a push by HTC to expand the scope of the Vive platform and unite its community. According to the official website, Vive Wave “an open platform and toolset that will enable easy Mobile VR content development and high-performance device optimization for third party partners. The VIVE Wave VR SDK offers an open interface enabling interoperability between numerous mobile VR headsets and accessories, supporting mainstream game engines. This allows players with different VR devices an easy access to your extraordinary content.”

In 2016, Vive became the first room-scale VR system, and singlehandedly changed the VR landscape. With Vive Focus and Vive Wave, HTC is poised to again completely shift the landscape—this time for true mobile, world-scale VR. (source)

HTC Opens VIVELAND VR Theme Park in Taiwan

One week after opening their first Vive branded VR cafe in Shenzhen China, HTC has now unveiled a VR theme park in Taiwan, touting over 20 different VR experiences.

The VR theme park, being dubbed VIVELAND, spans over 3,500 square feet in a Taipei technology shopping center in the capital city of Taiwan. Built in collaboration with the Ministry of Economic Affairs, Syntrend, AMD, and gaming accessory manufacturer SteelSeries, the VIVELAND theme park is the first of its kind in Taiwan.

Setup like an arcade where visitors are charged a time-based fee to demo VR content, the theme park is decked out with a variety of popular Vive content to choose from. Vive experiences include summiting in Everest VR, slicing fruit in mid-air with Fruit Ninja VR or battling the undead in Zombie Camp.

In addition to multiple VR stations, VIVELAND has four themed zones to experience games like racing simulator Project Cars, bunker diving gallery shooter Front Defense, the fear-inducing high-rise simulator The Walk, and the Bounty VR in 4D that will have you shooting aliens and driving spaceships in a haptic seat.

And of course, one of our favorite things to do at VRScout HQ, VIVELAND has its own green-screen mixed reality zone that lets others watch you battle it out in VR and when you’re all done sweating it out, save a video of your play session to share on WeChat or Weibo later.

The VIVELAND mixed reality experience lets you choose from the following content: Front Defense, Human We Have a Problem, A-10 VR, Basketball Babe, Fruit Ninja VR, Cloudlands: VR Minigolf, Audio Arena, and Pierhead Arcade.

VIVELAND officially opened on October 29th and will run for an initial six months as a test pilot before expanding globally.

HTC has been making a big push lately in China to rollout VR retail locations hoping to gather valuable consumer feedback on VR experiences and create spaces to further test their Viveport Arcade platform in the market. (source)

Image Credit: HTC