The XR Week Peek (2021.09.13): Ray-Ban Stories get launched, Lynx R1 to come for $499, and more!


Another Monday, another newsletter! With the VRrOOm team, we have just finished working on the Venice VR Expanded VRChat worlds with last Saturday’s closing ceremony and party that was a blast (you can watch the full recording here if you are interested). The worlds will still be live until the 19th, if you want to visit them, though… just look for “Venice VR Expanded” in VRChat’s Worlds menu.
 
Ah, and with NTW we have just published HitMotion: Reloaded for Vive Focus 3! I’m happy also about this launch… what platform would you like to see it next?

Top news of the week

(Image by Luxottica)

Facebook and EssilorLuxottica launch Ray-Ban Stories

Facebook and EssilorLuxottica on the 9th have launched their first joint product: a line of smartglasses called Ray-Ban Stories.
 
Ray-Ban Stories are not AR glasses, and they don’t even have a display. They connect to the companion app Facebook View on your phone via Bluetooth can just do three things:

Shoot photos and 30s-videos thanks to two cameras installed on the frames;

Let you listen to music thanks to integrated speakers

Let you have phone calls thanks to integrated microphones and speakers.

That’s it. They are smart glasses that are not so smart and are a mix of two products that never took off: Snap Spectacles and Bose Frames. Since these two products have shown us that this is not what customers are looking for, most probably these glasses won’t succeed as well.
 
There are anyway three characteristics that may give them a (very tiny) chance of selling well:

Their design is beautiful. Ray-Ban Stories is the most good-looking smartglasses I have ever seen, and I would love wearing them in the streets. The electronics inside is very little (it just adds 5g to the overall weight of the glasses) and the glasses just look like regular sunglasses

Facebook may add new features via software updates in the future, as it is doing on the Oculus Quest 2, and make the devices more interesting

Luxottica, which has a huge distribution network, will make people try the glasses inside stores. Facebook has always had the problem of distribution of its hardware (Apple has its stores, for instance, Facebook has not), and with this partnership, it immediately has the opportunity to showcase this and its future devices in all glasses shops thanks to Luxottica. This is huge because we know that AR and VR must be tried to be understood.

Returning to the glasses, you can buy them in 3 different designs, 5 different colors, and of course, you can add prescription lenses. They are really like regular glasses, just a bit smarter. These are their specifications:

Dual 5MP camera
2592×1944 pixels photos
1184×1184 pixels vidoes at 30 frames per second
Automatic brightness adjustment depending on external light

Status LED that lights up when cameras are in use
2x Integrated open-ear speakers
3x Integrated microphones
Memory: capable to store 500+ photos or 30+ 30s videos
Connectivity: 802.11 ac Wi-fi, Bluetooth 5.0
Compatibility: iOS 13, Android 8.1 minimum
Controls: touch, voice

The starting price for these devices is $299 and you can already buy them on Ray-Ban website.
 
Personally, I’m not interested in a product like this, and I think it will succeed only in a tiny niche of creators/fashionistas/influencers. I’m sure that both Facebook and Luxottica know this: they have launched this as the first product of their partnership, to understand better the market, and to improve their production processes, so that they can work better on their true end product, that is AR glasses. And I think they launched it fast because they are afraid that Apple tomorrow may announce something and create a tsunami in the AR market…

More info (Facebook launches Ray-Ban Stories)
More info (Ray-Ban Stories on Road To VR)

Other relevant news

(Image by Lynx)

Lynx R1 Kickstarter campaign to launch at the end of September

We finally have some additional info about Lynx R1, one of the most intriguing upcoming headsets of this year.
 
Let’s start from the price: the base headset will cost $499, a transparent ‘Limited Edition’ model will cost $700, while an enterprise edition will sell for $900. Lynx claims it is not selling the device under cost, but that the margin on the “consumer” edition is low, and it plans to earn money especially from its B2B sales.
 
The headset should feature an XR2 chipset, 1600×1600 pixels displays at 90Hz, and a new special lens design. This is not only a VR headset, but it is also a powerful passthrough AR/MR one. There are no controllers, but Ultraleap hands tracking (you can use it with FinchShift controllers, though).
 
$500 for this device is a steal. Consider that it is manufactured by a small startup and not Facebook, that it features an original lens design and full-color passthrough. There are a lot of original features here, and $500 is an impressive price, considering that the originally forecasted cost was $1500. People are comparing this price with the one of the Quest, but I think that this headset is a completely different beast: it has not enough games to be interesting for consumers, but it has enough features to be interesting for enthusiasts, developers, and companies. I think that if it is good as it promises (we have no review on it yet), it can carve its niche of users. Maybe in the future, it can compete with the Quest or HoloLens, but not in this iteration for sure.
 
Lynx will launch through a Kickstarter campaign at the end of the month. I wish this cool device good luck!

More info (Lynx R1 prices)
More info (Lynx R1 features)
More info (Lynx’s launch video)

Apple Event is tomorrow 14th September

Apple has organized another Apple Event for tomorrow, September, 14th, and in it, some interesting news for AR are to be expected. How much “interesting” they will be, will depend on Tim Cook.
 
Rumors talk about an upcoming iPhone 13 line, with the iPhone 13 Pro featuring a new generation of LiDAR sensor. Apple will showcase how it is important to shoot better photos and videos (this will probably allow Portrait functionality to be used in videos, too), but actually, it will be also very important to offer a more stable AR and especially more precision when 3D scanning objects and people. This will be another stepping stone in the AR ecosystem that Apple is building.
 
Apple has announced the event with an AR easter egg in the invite to the event, and it shows how it cares about AR, a technology in which Tim Cook believes a lot. He has always been clear about the fact that Apple will launch AR glasses, what is not clear is when it is going to happen.
 
Some analysts think that tomorrow is the day that Apple will make an AR/VR announcement, either a pair of AR glasses, or some smart glasses, or a hybrid AR/VR visor. If this is going to happen, there will be a tsunami in the XR ecosystem. But I personally believe that tomorrow is not the D-day for the “one more (AR) thing…” yet (there has been no single leak about AR until now), and I will just lose another 2 hours of my life listening to features I’m not interested in (I’m an Android guy, sorry Tim). But there is a tiny chance, so I and many XR enthusiasts will follow the usual ritual of watching the event to then come out disappointed. It’s a tradition we can’t skip.

More info (Apple using AR to tease its Apple Event)
More info (Apple Event easter egg video)
More info (Predictions on the Apple Event announcements)
More info (Why Lidar 2 may be important for AR)
More info (Link to the Apple Event keynote)

Epic had a little win in the lawsuit with Apple, and this may have consequences for VR, too

U.S. District Court Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers has finally produced its final document in the dispute between Apple and Epic, and her decision is both a win and a loss for both companies.
 
Long story short, she has decided that Apple has no monopoly on the market, especially given the fact it just controls a tiny part of the worldwide smartphone market. Epic’s claims have been rejected, and basically, Apple can continue doing what it is already doing on its App Store, exactly like before. And since Epic has violated the rules of the App Store, Apple had all the rights to kick Fortnite out of it, and even to suspend the support in the integration of iOS inside of Unreal Engine. This is a total disaster for Epic, which has so de-facto lost the trial, and together with Fortnite, it risks also having a bad outcome for Unreal Engine, that could become less compatible with iOS devices… including future XR ones.
 
But the judge has not been tender with Apple too, and it has criticized many of its practices. It has also ruled that forcing the developers to provide payments only through its In-App Purchases system, where it takes a 30% cut, is an unfair competition practice. It should so now let all developers get payments for IAP however they want, through Apple’s system or own personal systems. This means losing millions of dollars every year for Apple: mobile is now driven by the freemium business model… if Apple is not sure to monetize on all internal transactions of free apps, this can be a huge problem for it.
 
It is a little win for Epic, and anyway a huge win for developers, and I wonder what could be the ripple effects on other markets. Oculus has a similar practice too, and developers are forced to use its payment system for all IAP, about which Facebook takes a 30% cut. Does this mean that also Facebook will have to change this rule? I really hope so… this would let us developers earn more money without needing to share everything with the store provider.
 
Both parties have some weeks to appeal, and I’m pretty sure this is going to happen. This story won’t end soon…

More info

News worth a mention

(Image by Warner Bros)

We have the trailer of Matrix Resurrections

Warner Bros has just released at first a teaser, and then a full-fledged trailer for Matrix 4 Resurrections. There is again Neo, Trinity, and a lot of blue and red pills everywhere. It is still not clear what is going to happen, nor where it sits in the Matrix timeline (it may be a prequel or a sequel), but for sure it will be a movie that millions of people will want to watch.
 
One amazing thing is that the website giving you the teaser can show you a different video depending on the time of the day you are watching it, the pill that you choose, your geographic location, and other factors. There are literally thousands of possible videos, and one developer has found a way to make you see all of them.

More info (Matrix Resurrection Trailer + Teasers)
More info (Website with the teasers)
More info (Website to watch all the teasers)

Atlas V launches Astrea distribution service for VR stories

Atlas V is one of the most renowned VR production studios, and it has been able to create and distribute masterpieces like Battlescar. Now, given its experience, it is launching Astrea, a new publishing platform for VR storytelling experiences, where it offers help in distributing this kind of content in all digital stores (e.g. Oculus Store) and LBVR locations.
 
This is very important, in my opinion, because VR stories usually live in the artificial world of VR festivals and rarely reach the consumers with a VR headset. This means that few people can enjoy them, and usually, many monetization possibilities are lost. There is an ongoing problem on how to monetize non-gaming entertainment content, and a service that can provide guidance and support is important both for the creators and for the audience that wants to enjoy stories. According to Oculus’s Chris Pruett, Story Seekers are one of the next categories of users that will embrace VR in its road towards the mainstream, and having more content for these people is important for the future of VR. Astrea can help by creating a bridge between the creators and the users of VR stories.

More info

I Expect You To Die has generated $1M of revenue in its first week after the launch

Schell Games’s I Expect You To Die has just launched on the various digital stores, and in only one week it has been able to generate $1M of revenues. This is impressive and shows once more how now it is possible for good games to earn good money in VR, so that game studios can live only out of virtual reality games.
 
This still doesn’t represent the majority of the VR game development scene (most indies still struggle to survive), but these always more frequent success stories (a few months ago Demeo obtained a similar result) show how the VR market is always more healthy and profitable.

More info

Some news on Facebook

Three sparse pieces of news about Facebook:

The Oculus Quest 2 had its first inflection on Steam Hardware Survey, but it is just because its sales were halted for some weeks;

Facebook has acquired some patents of the now-defunct startup Daqri. Some people say that it is a defensive move to prevent patent trolls to get those patents and then sue the company;
A new finding by Basti564 shows that Guardian Intrusion Detection got replaced with Space Sense in the v32 Oculus Quest update. I’m talking about the feature Facebook is working on to show you the people and animals that are in your play space when you are playing with your Quest 2 to increase your safety and one of the people around you. It is not released yet, but Facebook has been working on it for many months now.

More info (Quest 2 on Steam HW Survey)
More info (Facebook acquired DAQRI patents)
More info (Oculus Quest 2’s Space Sense)

People want to wear VR on planes, but not on buses

A research paper has surveyed users about the possible use of VR to entertain themselves while on a journey on a plane, bus, or taxi, to evaluate where VR can be most interesting. It seems that people are favorable to using VR on a plane, while they would find it weird to use it on buses (especially for social acceptance of people around them) or Taxis (where they would find it unpolite to ignore completely the driver). Interesting findings, most of which were predictable.

More info

Try your new shoes on the Quest

A developer on Reddit has created a simple application to let you try new shoes in VR on your Quest. The interesting trick has been putting a controller next to the foot so that it becomes tracked in VR (hoping that the foot has been washed enough before putting the controller close to it).
 
 I don’t think it can have a future as is, but I love crazy creative solutions and this is one of them. Maybe in the future, if the Quest controllers tracking improves, this can open the market to shoes for VR, where you can stick your controllers in to play soccer on your Quest, who knows.

More info

Some news on content

Cave Digger 2 launches in Early Access tomorrow, September, 14th!
Indiana Jones-style adventure Eye of the Temple will be releasing on Steam on October 14th. The demo was amazing, we hope the full game will be even cooler;

Rendever Fit is an application aimed at improving the physical and mental state of the elderly by making them exercise. I love how this application is targeting a category of people usually forgotten by VR devs;

We have a cool video about Unplugged, the VR game where you play guitar by using your bare hands;

Space Pirate Trainer DX launches its update with a new amazing trailer. Now you can play the game in a big 10m x 10m area;

Sam & Max: This Time It’s Virtual arrives on Steam and is coming to Pico headsets in China, too
Noun Town is an indie experience to learn a new language in VR in a fun way

Peco Peco adds new puzzles in its update and offers a huge -50% discount to celebrate it

Upload has reviewed Brink Traveler and found it good, but a bit short on content.

More info (Cave Digger 2)
More info (Eye Of The Temple)
More info (Rendever Fit)
More info (Unplugged)
More info (Space Pirate Trainer DX)
More info (Sam&Max)
More info (Noun Town)
More info (Peco Peco)
More info (Brink Traveler)

News from partners (and friends)

Volumetric video innovator startup Volograms today debuted the public version of its 3D content creation app, Volu, which is now available on the Apple App Store. With this application, you can record pseudo volumetric videos of a person around you just by using your iOS smartphone. An incredible solution for content creators.
Learn more

VR Therapies is a unique social enterprise dedicated to utilizing virtual reality (VR) and immersive tech for children with special needs and adults with disabilities.
It has launched a crowdfunding campaign to ask for support. Consider supporting it!
Learn more

Some XR fun

Ray-Ban Stories vision
Funny link

The VR experience we were all looking for transforms Mona Lisa in a cat
(thanks Pedro Ferreira for the tip)
Funny link

This has been one of the most viral videos of the week!
Funny link

What happens if you try to bring your cat in VR
Funny link

I want Guillermo to showcase all VR therapy applications
Funny link

Echo Arena is cool, but…
Funny link

Boxing in VR is a good excuse to punch all people around you…
Funny link

Jessie J said it’s not all about the money

… but sometimes it is. So if you like what I do please consider donating some money on my Patreon account!
 
 This is my family of supporters that made today’s roundup possible:

DeoVR
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Jonn Fredericks
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Michael Bruce
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Immersive.international
Bob Fine
Nikk Mitchell and the great FXG team
Jake Rubin
Alexis Huille
Jennifer Granger
Jason Moore
Steve Biggs
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Jan Schroeder
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Alex P
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Sb
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Paul Reynolds
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Wil Stevens
Brian Peiris
Matias Nassi

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(Header image by Ray-Ban)

The post The XR Week Peek (2021.09.13): Ray-Ban Stories get launched, Lynx R1 to come for $499, and more! appeared first on The Ghost Howls.

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