The XR Week Peek (2023.03.27): Vive inside-out Tracker announced, Pico’s launch in the US delayed, and more!


This has been quite an interesting week. We had at the same time the Game Developer Conference (the GDC) and the GPU Technology Conference (GTC) by NVIDIA, so we had lots of announcements about 3D technology in general and also about XR. Since there are these two conferences with a very similar name happening at a similar time and a similar place, I wonder why they don’t unify them in a single one called GTDC, or GXC, or something like that. Ok, of course, I’m kidding, but, you know, the possibility of saying the wrong name is so high that my proposal actually starts making sense…

Top news of the week

(Image by HTC Vive)

HTC reveals inside-out-tracked Tracker

With a totally unexpected move, HTC has revealed a new kind of Tracker.
 
 The Tracker is one of the most successful products sold by HTC: it is mostly used by the VRChat community people to have full-body VR in their favorite social space, or by VR arcades to be able to track props in virtual reality. There have been companies that have tried to compete with HTC in this market, but they all had their big share of trouble in doing that. HTC is currently the market leader, and its Trackers have arrived at their 3rd edition.
 
 Now the company has revealed a new tracker module, this time that doesn’t require the SteamVR Lighthouse stations. The tracker mounts two fisheye cameras through which it can track its position and rotation in space without the need for any external device. And notwithstanding this new technology, it manages to also be smaller than the traditional Tracker. The fact that it doesn’t need external tracking units means that this device can easily be used to provide full-body VR to standalone headsets. Maybe Marc will finally be able to track legs on Quest thanks to this…
 
 This new Tracker has currently no name, and no associated release date or price tag. But we know that it will be OpenXR compatible, so theoretically it can be used with all standalone headsets. The first hands-on have also been very positive: HTC showcased a soccer game at GDC, and people were able to play it with trackers strapped to their feet. Reviewers told that the tracking quality was very good.
 
 It seems to me a great piece of hardware. After a few years with confusing ideas, HTC seems to have found a good path and is releasing very interesting products like the Vive XR Elite and now this tracker. I think it’s very good because it can finally give full-body VR to many Quest and Vive XR Elite users.

More info (HTC Vive Inside-out Tracker — Road To VR)
More info (HTC Vive Inside-out Tracker — Upload VR)
More info (Presentation video of the device)
More info (Mister President tweeting about the device)
More info (Road To VR’s hands-on with the new Tracker)

Other relevant news

(Image by Pico)

Pico 4 launch in the US has been halted

The GDC should have been a great moment for Bytedance: the company planned the launch of Pico 4 in the US, so that it could have finally started competing with the Quest in the biggest VR market.
 
 Everyone was expecting that, but then nothing happened. After an initial moment of confusion, a leak revealed that the headset should have actually been launched, but then the launch was canceled because of the congressional hearing regarding a possible ban or forced sale of TikTok. Let’s say that talking about a device the users put directly on their faces when your company is being challenged about the data it collects wouldn’t have been the smartest of the decisions.
 
 Now the question is if and when Pico 4 will finally launch in the United States.

More info

NVIDIA revealed news about AI and XR at GTC

NVIDIA GTC has just finished and there NVIDIA unveiled a lot of interesting pieces of news about XR, AI, IoT, and the Cloud. As with every GTC, it is impossible to keep pace with all the dozens of announcements, but I’ve selected a few of them that may interest you and that I’m linking here below.
 
 The big topic has of course been artificial intelligence. NVIDIA has started betting hard on artificial intelligence a few years ago, and of course, during this hype year, it had to make many interesting announcements in this sense. But the company has not abandoned at all XR and its vision of the metaverse and made announcements also in this sense. It’s interesting to see that while Meta is making some steps back in his public talking about the M-word, other major companies like Epic and NVIDIA are still bullish on this topic. And that’s great for me to hear.
 
 Some of my favorite news have been:

Many many many announcements about artificial intelligence and generative AI. For instance, NVIDIA Picasso is an AI service that can generate pictures, videos, or 3D models from text prompts

NVIDIA has worked with ASML, TSMC, and Synopsis, to produce computational lithography breakthroughs that will allow in the future to build 2nm chips

The company has introduced a new server called OVX 3, which is built to “create and operate the metaverse”, and includes four of Nvidia’s L40 GPUs. These servers can be combined into data centers that are meant for “metaverse applications”, whatever it means

Cloud XR has reached its 4th version, which not only introduces many optimizations but now also lets people create directly cloud-rendered VR applications on the server, without them necessarily being built on top of OpenVR

Thanks to a partnership with Microsoft, Omniverse Cloud will be publicly available inside Microsoft Azure. Furthermore, Microsoft 365 apps such as Teams, OneDrive, and SharePoint, will be connected with Omniverse

Project Mellon has been unveiled. It is a lightweight Python package capable of harnessing the heavyweight power of speech AI (NVIDIA Riva) and large language models (LLMs) to simplify user interactions in immersive environments. Thanks to this, it is possible to make XR experiences that easily react to natural vocal commands

As you can see, it has been a great event for the convergence of cutting-edge technologies like 5G, XR, and AI!

More info (GTC Keynote summary)
More info (New server technology)
More info (Omniverse to be integrated with Microsoft Teams)
More info (NVIDIA’s new workstations)
More info (NVIDIA’s path tracing technologies)
More info (NVIDIA Jetson Orin Nano can be used for robotics or AI)
More info (NVIDIA CloudXR 4.0)
More info (Project Mellon)
More info (NVIDIA Omniverse Cloud)
More info (NVIDIA’s generative AI products)
More info (NVIDIA Picasso)

Epic still bets on the open metaverse

Epic Games is still a strong believer in the metaverse. Tim Sweeney went to the stage during the GDC to explain that today there are more than 600 million users inside the most popular social digital worlds like Roblox, Fortnite, and Minecraft. Since these are considered like prototypes of the future metaverse, and their audience is growing, Sweeney is convinced that we are slowly going towards the vision of the metaverse. In his vision, web3 and XR are nice to have but are not fundamental. What we need is more interoperability between the various platforms. Of course, Epic is completely against Apple and its vision of its own walled garden.
 
 Epic also announced a few interesting things, like a tool to record facial animations for MetaHumans that run on an iPhone; and Fab, the Unreal version of the Unity Asset Store, where the developers can find many tools and multimedia elements put on sale.

More info (Tim Sweeney talking on stage about the metaverse)
More info (Tim Sweeney talks about the metaverse and Apple)
More info (Epic’s new facial animation recorder for UE5)
More info (Epic’s Fab store)

Apple Reality may sell like Apple Watch

On Sunday, two reports by Marc Gurman and the New York Times highlighted how not everyone at Apple is agreeing with the launch of the Reality headset. Many people don’t understand exactly what is the purpose of this device or its destination market, or think it is launching too early. But according to some leaks, it is too late to have a new delay, because the headset is already in production. Which means that its launch is close. And the 100 most important managers of the company just had a dedicated demo of it in Cupertino.
 
 The headset is not expected to sell many units… the estimates are 500,000–1,000,000 for this year, which at a predicted $3000 price is still a lot. But these numbers are insignificant if compared to usual Apple’s sales volumes. The new mixed reality headset is expected to perform a bit like the Apple Watch: very slow sales in the beginning, to then increase them a lot at every iteration. So while now Apple Reality may be a bit niche, the idea is that it will become mainstream with the upcoming versions.

More info (People at Apple do not agree with the launch)
More info (Apple Reality has been tried by Apple’s 100 top managers)

News worth a mention

(Image by Meta)

Oculus name to survive inside Meta

At GDC, Meta has revealed some interesting things. First of all, it has revealed “Oculus Publishing”, the publishing branch of Meta which is helping external studios in developing and launching games for Quest. The new name containing the word “Oculus” means that the original name of the VR company is not completely going away. And this makes me a bit happy.
 
 Meta has also revealed that it’s contributed funding “more than 300 titles,” and that there are another 150 titles in active development today. Titles on the Meta Store are still going well and now 40 titles have grossed more than $10M on the Quest Store alone.

More info (Oculus Publishing revealed)
More info (Meta announces Oculus Publishing)
More info (Meta talks Quest Store revenues)

Razer reveals the price of its Quest accessories

Razer’s Quest 2 headstrap and facepad are now available for sale, priced at $70 each. Upload VR went hands-on with both and found them good. Especially the facepad seems an interesting product, able to close the light leaks and to put your eyes close to the lenses of the headset.

More info (Razer accessories’ price revealed)
More info (Razer accessories’ review)

How does ChatGPT works?

Thanks to my friend Fabio Mosca, I’ve been able to read this very interesting long article written by Stephen Worlfram about ChatGPT, and how it works on the technical side. It’s a read I advise you to have to understand better this technology, even if it is very long and sometimes too technical.
 
 (I know this piece of news is not strictly about XR, but with all the hype about AI, and with the many integrations happening between the two technologies, it’s worth to speak also about some AI-related stuff)

More info

Two interesting XR experiments

I’ve found two interesting XR-related experiments I want to tell you about:

Someone made a research project about how to trigger the blink of the eyes of the users in XR. Triggering a blink is relevant because while the eyes are shut down, it is possible to perform some actions, like slightly moving the environment in redirected walking. This study evaluated various possibilities: some of them are very effective, but it’s hard to not make the user aware of them (Thanks Ivan Aguilar for the tip)

A guy created an AR application so that while you are having a job interview, ChatGPT can listen to what the other person says, think about an answer, and show you what to say, in AR, on your glasses. A very cool experiment.

More info (Blink trigger)
More info (ChatGPT + AR)

Discover the new New Humble Store VR

There is a Humble Store VR sale that is now live, and it is discounting nearly 100 PC VR games. You can find there for instance Bonelab at $31.99 and Red Matter 2 at $22.49!

More info

Some news about content

Polyarc, the studio behind Moss, has announced that it is developing a new competitive multiplayer VR game. Signups for the beta are now available

Arvore and Atari have partnered to create the new nostalgia game Pixel Ripped 1978. It should feature old Atari games such as Crystal Castles (1983), Fast Freddie (1982), and Yars Revenge (1982). The launch is going to happen this summer

Another Fisherman’s Tale is the sequel of the amazing game A Fistherman’s Tale. This game features new innovative mechanics: this time the user can detach his hands and throw them to make them perform remote actions. The user can also substitute his hands with other more advanced ones. The game is coming in Q2 2023

Retro-style shooter Amid Evil VR arrives on April 20 for Quest and PC VR

C-Smash VRS, inspired by Sega’s old Cosmic Smash, arrives on June 23. There is now a free available PlayStation VR2 demo for those who want to try it

We have a new trailer for Into The Darkness, an upcoming physics-based VR action-adventure game

Genotype, an upcoming sci-fi adventure VR game, is targeting a late 2023 release on Quest 2

Road To VR has tried Not For Broadcast VR and found it a fun and well-developed game, even if the VR factor is not that relevant to it

Upload VR has tried Ghost Signal: A Stellaris Game, and found it to be one of the best VR roguelite games

More info (Polyarc’s new game)
More info (Pixel Ripped 1978 — Road To VR)
More info (Pixel Ripped 1978 — Upload VR)
More info (Another Fisherman’s Tale announcement)
More info (Another Fisherman’s Tale trailer)
More info (Amid Evil VR)
More info (C Smash VRS)
More info (Into The Darkness)
More info (Genotype)
More info (Not for broadcast VR)
More info (Ghost Signal: A Stellaris Game)

Other news

Virtuix Omni One VR is shipping to early investors. Price is $2,595

Learn more

Blockchain company Lamina1 has opened its Early Access Program to selected partners like HTC and Mystic Moose

Learn more

Jaron Lanier has spoken about the risks of technology for our future

Learn more

Comedians are performing in Meta Horizon, but Meta is not giving them the spotlight

Learn more

News from partners (and friends)

Discover Enso

Enso is a VR meditation app that blends Zen wisdom with VR tech for an immersive, transformative experience that boost mental health and well-being. According to its creator, “It’s perfect for meditation newbies and pros alike!”
Learn more

Discover Toy Monster

Indie mixed-reality game Toy Monsters is releasing on the 30 March for $4.99. It is a tabletop tower defense inspired by classic Plants vs Zombies. It has been built from the ground up with hand tracking and passthrough in mind
Learn more

Some XR fun

Fanboys gonna fanboy
Funny link

Donate for good

Like last week, also this week in this final paragraph I won’t ask you to donate for my blog, but to the poor people that are facing the consequences of the war. Please donate to the Red Cross to handle the current humanitarian situation in Ukraine. I will leave you the link to do that below.
 
 Let me take a moment before to thank anyway all my Patreon donors for the support they give to me:

Alex Gonzalez VR

DeoVR

GenVR

Eduardo Siman

Jonn Fredericks

Jean-Marc Duyckaerts

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Immersive.international

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Lynn Eades

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Qcreator

Ristband (Anne McKinnon & Roman Rappak)

Stephen Robnett

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Sb

Enrico Poli

Vooiage Technologies

Caroline

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Dimo Pepelyashev

Alan Smithson

Steve R

Brentwahn

Pieter Siekerman

Simplex

Matias Nassi

And now here you are the link to donate:

Support The Red Cross in Ukraine

(Header image by HTC Vive)

The post The XR Week Peek (2023.03.27): Vive inside-out Tracker announced, Pico’s launch in the US delayed, and more! appeared first on The Ghost Howls.

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