This week has not been very important for AR and VR: no major event has happened. BUT today is the day of the WWDC, and who knows if Apple will tease something about AR glasses. I personally don’t expect a launch or a full reveal, but maybe they could at least hint something. The event kicks off at 10 am PDT and you can watch it here: https://www.apple.com/apple-events/
Besides Apple, very soon you will also discover new info about our game Hitmotion: Reloaded… this is more interesting than Apple glasses that may revolutionize all the XR sector of course… so stay tuned!
Before starting with the actual roundup of news, let’s all have a moment of silence for Ebbe Altberg, the CEO of Linden Lab that passed away after a long illness. May he rest in peace.
Top news of the week
(Image by Basti465)
Facebook may be already working on the Quest 2 Pro
This week I’ve published a very interesting article inspired by the work of Basti465, who has analyzed the runtime of the Quest v29 finding hints about future features that are going to be released.
One of his findings is a service in the Quest runtime that should perform eye and face tracking. Considering that the Quest 2 has no sensor for facial tracking, the only possibility is that this service is meant for the upcoming Quest 2 Pro, about which Zuckerberg had already said that will feature sensors for eye and face tracking. This confirms that Facebook is already actively working on the Quest 2 Pro.
We have no clue of when it will be released, but if you remember, last week Youtuber Eric For President revealed that some sources of his talk about a September reveal for the “VR hardware we want” from Facebook. It seems that so the Quest 2 Pro will be at least unveiled during the next Facebook Connect, for a potential launch in 2022. This anyway clashes a bit with the fact that Facebook has also to launch this year the smartglasses that it has made with Ray-Ban: I find it unlikely that in the same event it announces two different devices, both this important. So I am personally a bit confused about what is going to happen, but what is almost sure is that in 2022 we will see the launch of a Quest 2 Pro.
Talking about future features of the Quest 2, Basti465 has also found in the runtime an Intrusion Detection System for the Guardian, that detects if people are entering your play space; passthrough AR vision for every kind of keyboard, so it is easier to be productive in VR; and also a reference to “tablet mode” for applications, whatever it means.
Tablet mode may be a reference to how to launch 2D Android apps because a Facebook employee has inadvertently revealed that employees can already use some 2D apps like GDoc inside the Quest. This can be another cool feature for productivity on the Quest.
Last but not least, there is a new casting mode added to the Quest SDK, so the spectators of your game via Casting can see not only your first-person point of view but also a more intriguing third-person one.
Other relevant news
(Image from NOLO)
NOLO and Arpara brings new headsets from China
China is the country where all the headsets get manufactured (also the Quest and the Index), and it is also a country that is heavily investing in AR and VR, so it comes as no surprise that new devices are frequently released from it.
After the Pico Neo 3, we have now the announcement of two new standalone headsets. The first is the NOLO Sonic: NOLO is the company developing the tracking system for 3DOF devices, but since 3DOF is dying, they have started creating standalone headsets themselves. The Sonic seems a good device: 4K resolution, 101° FOV, 72Hz refresh rate, 256GB, and 6DOF controllers. It is a bit disappointing that it just has 2 tracking cameras, but the controllers are tracked with ultrasound beacons, so the tracking FOV should be good. It looks like a refreshed Vive Focus Plus. It doesn’t seem to be on par with the Oculus Quest 2, but as a first device by Nolo, it is not that bad. It is already on sale, and you can find it on AliExpress for $470. We don’t have reviews about it, and I have asked the company if I can give it a try… let’s see what they will answer.
What surprised me more is the launch of the Arpara VR, a headset from a company I had never heard of before, not even in my travels to China. And this headset looks pretty interesting. There is a 3DOF version in sale now, about which I am not going to talk, but soon a full 6DOF version is coming with ergonomic controllers, 4 tracking cameras, and everything you can expect from a modern standalone headset. To my knowledge, it is the first headset launching with MICRO-OLED displays, and this guarantees it a very tiny form factor, smaller than the Quest 2 and other similar headsets (You can see it in the header picture of this post). The resolution is a stunning 2560×2560 per eye, paired with 95° FOV, a 90Hz refresh rate, and a 4600mA high-capacity battery. The limited FOV with such a high resolution means that the PPI density is very high, so I think we have no SDE on this headset. I’m very interested both in the form factor and in the display of this headset: OLED, paired with such a high pixel density should be a marvel to see. But what I have learned in the past is that a headset must be tried and numbers never tell the full story, so I hope I can try this to tell you how good it is. And also of course I would like to understand what is the expected price: the 3DOF version can be preordered at 599 USD, so I guess the 6DOF one will be at least 799.
(Thanks KroyVR for the tip!)
More info (NOLO announcing the SONIC headset)
More info (NOLO Sonic official page)
More info (NOLO Sonic on AliExpress)
More info (Arpara VR official website)
More info (Arpara VR headset official press release)
Facebook executives talk about their vision for the future
This week there’s been a new AMA from Andrew Bosworth (I guess AMA now stands for Andrew’s Massive Answers), this time together with her data majesty Mark Zuckerberg. They have spoken a lot about their vision of the future, and while there has not been massive news from it, I still find their talk worth watching (or reading).
One interesting tidbit of the session was when Mark and Andrew highlighted that they are building a new operating system at Facebook. They said that glasses have so tight constraints even on the heating of the device and battery consumption, that you can’t rely on existing mobile solutions, but you have to do your R&D building the whole stack. This means custom chips, operating systems, drivers, and applications. So they are building everything custom at the moment and will be able to delegate things later on when they have cracked the right formula.
Boz has also said that sure, the advertisement will be a part of VR, and Facebook will work towards making these ads unobtrusive and personalized, so we won’t hate them. I appreciate this idea, what I don’t appreciate is how they are going to customize our ads…
Zuck has also candidly admitted that they are selling the Quest under cost and that they are replicating the console’s business model, selling the hardware undercost to sell more units, and then be able to recoup the money years later thanks to the sales of the software. Just to make you understand how much money this could mean, my reader Sir Gamedev has sent me a link where one of the previous Xbox executives has revealed that the initial undercost sales of the first Xbox units cost Microsoft between $5B and $7B. A decent budget for Microsoft and Facebook… but something impossible for companies like HTC or Magic Leap (do you remember when we all thought that $2.5B was a lot of money?). I think that in the end, Facebook, between AR and VR, will lose a similar amount of money.
I also expected some news and reveals from the Facebook F8 Refresh event, but actually, VR was never mentioned there, and AR was just cited to talk about the vision of future AR glasses, and then to talk about some nice updates to SparkAR, and nothing more. I even participated in one-to-one sessions with Facebook people, and the person I have interacted with had never worked with VR. This shows us that XR is the future of Facebook, but the present is still 2D social media and all its marketing power.
More info (Facebook is working on an operating system)
More info (Transcription of Zuck&Boz’s talk)
More info (How much money Microsoft has lost selling undercost its consoles)
More info (All AR and VR news from F8 Refresh)
Some reviews of VR hardware
This week, like the last one, we had some interesting articles with reviews and insights on just released XR devices.
The first one is the review of the Vive Pro 2 from my review hero Ben Lang. The headset has been criticized by the journalist, that expected more from a “Pro” device: the optical system has a small sweet spot, the microphone is bad, and the wands are old controllers. All of this for a high price. He’s always very critical and very objective in his analysis, so I think it is a review worth reading.
The second one is a Chinese video comparing some technical characteristics of consumer Pico Neo 3 and Oculus Quest 2. In the video, you can see that both the headset and the controller tracking of the Neo 3 are not as accurate as the ones of the Quest 2. Also, the Wi-fi streaming is not as fast as Air Link. I think no one is surprised about this, given Facebook’s enormous investments in its tracking algorithms. I think Pico still needs time to get on par.
Upload has reviewed the Decamove, and confirmed what all other journalists have said: it is a solid device to move in VR games.
Karl Guttag has performed a very in-depth teardown of the Nreal AR glasses. If you love technical hardware details about XR devices, I recommend you read this article!
More info (HTC Vive Pro 2 review)
More info (HTC Vive Pro 2 review — cached link if the previous one doesn’t work)
More info (Pico Neo 3 vs Quest 2)
More info (Decamove review)
More info (Nreal teardown)
Neural implants make a disabled person to type again
You know that I’m an enormous fan of BCIs because I think that they are the future of technology, the ultimate man-machine interface. And I’m incredibly amazed by what is also the potential to help disabled people in the short-medium term.
This week I have found an article about a study of a new method to let people write by just using the power of their mind. Using 200 electrodes installed in the brain, a user has been able to write up to 75 characters per minute, with 98% accuracy, just thinking about what letters to write. The previous methods reached a speed of 25 characters per minute according to the article, so this new method represents a 300% improvement!
The idea of the researchers is similar to what CTRL+LABS is doing, but done on the brain instead of the wrist: the user has to think about writing the letters with the hands, and then the electrodes analyze what areas of the premotor cortex activate, understanding so what is the letter that he’s imagining to write.
It is all very fascinating, but it is currently just a prototype used by a single person, so a wider study is necessary. It also requires sensors inside the skull, and the system is only working with letters. But I think that as a first result, it is already amazing.
News worth a mention
(Image by NVIDIA from Upload VR)
Nvidia reveals RTX 3080 Ti and 3070 Ti
NVIDIA has revealed two new graphics cards: the 3080Ti, priced at $1199, and the 3070Ti, priced at $599. As always, the Ti version is more powerful than its standard version but not as powerful as its upper-tier card: that is the 3080Ti is more powerful than the 3080, but not as much as the 3090.
I don’t know why I am giving you this piece of news: in any case, because of the scalpers and the chip shortages, no one of us will be able to buy these cards. But we can still dream.
In the meanwhile, at Computex, AMD has also announced three new graphics chips for laptops, using its latest RDNA 2 architecture: RX 6600M, RX6700M, RX6800M. AMD promises performances comparable to the ones of NVIDIA RTX cards, but for a more affordable price.
HTC is having RMAs issues with the Vive Pro 2
This week on Reddit there have been some complaints about the Vive Pro 2: it seems that some people had problems with the display (with lines appearing, or half of the screen not working anymore) or the headphones (with a light buzzing sound happening). Many of the users are asking for a substitution of the device. The company is investigating the matter.
(Thanks Rob Cole for the tip!)
You can probably get a free Quest 2 facemask
I already told you how Facebook had a little problem with some substances in the face mask that caused skin irritation to a tiny percentage of people and for this reason it has been temporarily removed from Amazon EU. Now the company is offering a new facemask without the irritating substances to whoever has a headset manufactured before January, 1st 2021 (so if you preordered it, for sure you can have it) even if you had no skin irritation because of it. If you want a new facemask, you just have to ask Facebook’s support.
Get ready for the UploadVR Showcase!
Upload VR has just announced its new upcoming Upload VR Showcase, where we’ll get lots of news on upcoming games! You can tune on UploadVR’s channel on June 12, 3pm PT/6pm ET/11pm UK for nearly an hour of VR goodness!
Join Tilt Five developer program!
Tilt Five, one of the most interesting AR headsets on the market, has just started its developer program! If you are a developer that already has a board or tabletop game and want to port it to AR for TiltFive, be sure to get in touch with the company: if your game gets approved, you can receive a free multiplayer kit, support, and also optionally some funding! It’s an amazing opportunity, that I suggest you take…
Read Ecorys’s report on AR/VR
Ecorys has written a very in-depth report on the AR/VR market in Europe, highlighting everything from the market projection to the job opportunities. If you are in the business/marketing sector, I suggest you have a look at this.
Skydio 3D scan looks like a marvel for reconstructing environments
Skydio has just announced 3D Scan, a new complete suite to perform a semi-autonomous 3D scan of places through drones. From the launch blog, it seems like a marvel: you tell the system what space to scan, and it automatically finds what is the most optimal path that the drones have to follow to scan it, makes the drones perform the scan procedure (supervised by a human), then it reconstructs precisely the textured 3D model of the environment. They sell it for 3D inspection, but I think it could be great also to scan environments for other uses, like training, or gaming. I haven’t tried it personally, so I can’t tell if it delivers what it promises, but it seems that some companies have already successfully used it.
Magic Leap partners with AMD for its next-generation device
Magic Leap has announced that it has partnered with AMD to build the next generation of its glasses. It seems that this partnership has alredy been in place for some years, so most likely the Magic Leap 2 will already use AMD chips. Let’s see what advantage this decision will give to ML, considering that all its competitors are using Qualcomm reference designs.
At PSVR Spotlight some news on VR games were announced
Sony Interactive Entertainment has just held an event called PSVR Spotlight, in which there have been announced some nice pieces of news about upcoming PSVR games:
It has been announced Arashi: Castles of Sin
We have a new gameplay video of Fracked
We have a new trailer for Wanderer
Sniper Elite VR is coming on July, 8th
Winds & Leaves is coming on July 27th
We had a closer look to some enemies of After The Fall
Puzzle Bobble VR is coming to PSVR (and also to PS4 and PS5 with the name Puzzle Bobble 3D)
Lots of fun is coming for PSVR users!
Some news on content
Arkio VR is a well-conceived architecture collaborative tool in VR, that can also work without controllers
Yuki VR is the new bullet-hell game from ARVORE, the studio behind Pixel Ripped
Everslaught is another monster slashing game, but it features an interesting dashing mechanic (not for the sensible stomaches!)
We have the first gameplay video of Warhammer: Age of Sigmar Tempestfall, and it looks very cool
Othersight is an upcoming app for Quest that lets you visit amazing places scanned with photogrammetry. The first location will be a little part of Tokyo
Little Witch Academia VR Racing is coming to PSVR and PC VR next month
Sushi Ben VR game is a VR experience that uses 2D comic “manga-style” panels to explain better its story. This is a very unique idea, and I find it interesting
Nathie has been able to try one of the games I am awaiting the most: Sam & Max: This Time It’s Virtual
News from partners (and friends)
Finally, the recording of the Awe Nite Florence event about XR Glasses For Enterprise we did with Heitor Bravi (Pico), Alessio De Gaetano (VisionAR), and Mauro Rubin (Joinpad) is available! Many people asked for it because it was one of the best events that we have made these months and I suggest you give it a look!
If you like these roundups of mine, can I suggest you other cool roundups that I personally read? You can find the list here below:
Tom Emrich’s AR Roundup
Charlie Fink’s This Week in XR
Mathew Olson’s Reality Check
Tom Ffiske’s The Immersive Wire
Some XR fun
We should rebrand the Oculus Elite Strap
I’ve just discovered that JOHN PORK is a virtual influencer. WTF
(BTW the site I’m linking is an amazing resource to discover all the virtual beings available out there! Thanks Alan Smithson for the tip!)
We all bought VR for… gaming
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(Header image by Arpara)