Category Archives: VR

Valve tries to one-up Oculus Touch with five-finger “Knuckles” VR controller

Valve / SteamVR

We first heard about Valve's plans for a new SteamVR controller back in October when a few pictures and basic impressions started leaking out of the press-free Steam Dev Days conference. Now we're getting more details about the upcoming VR hardware—code-named Knuckles—thanks to documents posted on SteamVR's Knuckles Dev Kit group page.

The most important confirmation in the new documents is that the Knuckles controllers allow for full, independent tracking of all five fingers. Embedded, capacitive sensors in the handle of the unit track the position of the middle, ring, and pinky fingers, while similar sensors in the trigger and face buttons track the index finger and thumb. A ring of sensors around the thumbpad and the back of the hand helps track the unit in space through the standard Lighthouse system.

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Ars enters VR and destroys multiple starships in Star Trek: Bridge Crew

Ars plays Star Trek: Bridge Crew (video link)

Ars and Star Trek go together, as the great philosopher once said, like peas and carrots. You won’t find a dorkier bunch of editors assembled in any one place on the entire Internet—and that’s why playing Star Trek: Bridge Crew was such an easy fit.

The VR title, originally announced almost a year ago and now available for everyone, was a big hit here in the Ars Orbiting HQ. Even before the game's final release, we found ourselves seated in the bridge of the Federation starship USS Aegis, ready to make the Alpha Quadrant great again—even if we had to kill a few Klingons to do it. Hopefully more than a few, in fact!

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Samsung quietly acquired VR app studio VRB, sources say for $5.5M

 Samsung has been bullish on virtual reality hardware, hoping that its early moves in headsets and devices to shoot content will give it a stronger position in the space as (and if!) it continues to expand to more applications and users. Now TechCrunch has learned that as part of that effort, it’s also made an acquisition. Samsung quietly bought a New York-based startup called VRB, which… Read More

In the AI wars, Microsoft now has the clearer vision

 A week ago, Microsoft held its Build developer conference in its backyard in Seattle. This week, Google did the same in an amphitheater right next to its Mountain View campus. While Microsoft’s event felt like it embodied the resurgence of the company under the leadership of Satya Nadella, Google I/O — and especially its various, somewhat scattershot keynotes — fell flat… Read More

Google announces untethered, fully tracked, standalone VR headsets


At Google I/O today, the company announced it's expanding its Daydream VR program from the existing phone holster to a new platform based on standalone headsets, complete with positional tracking. Qualcomm is working on a "reference design" for the generalized platform, while HTC and Lenovo will have the first consumer units ready for later in 2017.

"We asked, how can we take the best parts of smartphone VR and create a kind of device with an even better experience," Google VP for VR Clay Bavor said on stage.

Unlike the existing Daydream holster, which is just a felt-covered, head-mounted container for smartphones, the standalone Daydream headsets have "everything built right in: no cables, no phone, certainly no big PC," as Google VP for VR Clay Bavor said on stage. This lets Google and hardware makers customize the displays, optics, and sensors to be perfect for virtual reality, he said.

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Microsoft announces its own motion controllers for mixed reality

 Microsoft doubled down on its commitment to what it called “mixed reality” today at its Build developer conference, revealing motion controllers that work closely with VR headsets from Acer. With a $399 bundle containing all you need coming later this year, it could be one of the more affordable ways out there to get into the VR game. Read More

Crunch Report | Rumors: Amazon’s New Echo Device

The U.S. Department of Justice has opened an investigation into Uber’s use of Greyballing, we get the first look at the rumored Amazon Echo device and Facebook shuts down its VR filmmaking division. All this on Crunch Report. Read More

Oculus shuts down Emmy-winning VR short-film division

Enlarge / Sorry, Henry. Oculus just blew your candle out. (credit: Oculus Story Studio)

If the world of virtual-reality filmmaking has a big future, it won’t be developed within one major company's offices: Oculus.

The Facebook-owned VR company announced late Thursday that its internal Oculus Story Studio, dedicated to producing short films for viewing within an Oculus Rift headset, has been shut down, effective immediately. Oculus VP of content Jason Rubin confirmed the news in a company blog post. He said that Oculus would shift its resources to "funding and supporting" projects by a growing crowd of unaffiliated filmmakers and design studios.

"In the same way we invested in the third-party game developers who made the incredible content lineups for Rift and Gear VR, we're going to allocate more resources to third-party creatives to build out the VR storytelling library," Rubin writes. That sentence spells out a strategy of buying up and securing exclusive rights to other studios' VR story projects—which will surely ruffle feathers and inspire more rogue installations of compatibility-opening software such as Revive.

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A taste of what virtual reality could be on the Nintendo Switch

This short video lays out how to test stereoscopic 3D on your Nintendo Switch right now.

Though Nintendo executives have hinted that the company might be interested in testing out the virtual reality waters, the most concrete look we've gotten at any potential plans comes from this patent application for a head-mounted Switch holster. An enterprising YouTuber wasn't willing to wait for that patent to become a product, though, and has jury-rigged an ersatz Switch "VR" demo using existing hardware and some system-level software hacks.

Nintendrew's video lays it all out pretty concisely, but in short, the test inserts the Switch into the Durovis Dive 7, a head-mounted VR holster designed for Tango-powered tablets. From there, it's just a matter of using a server proxy hack to access the Switch's hidden Web browser functionality, then using that to view some stereoscopic 720p footage of Ocarina of Time 3D captured for YouTube.

The result is a very limited demonstration of what virtual reality could be like on the Switch, lacking any sort of head-tracking or even controls. Still, as Nintendrew points out, it's "a full 3D experience on real Nintendo Switch hardware."

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