Despite $100 price increase, Meta Quest 2 still offers historically cheap VR

Screenshot of promotional video for VR equipment.

Enlarge / You could be this gleeful, too, if you were in the Meta Quest 2! (credit: Facebook)

If there’s one rule about computer and video game hardware, it’s that prices always come down after launch. The Meta Quest 2 became the exception that proves the rule this week, as Meta announced a coming $100 price increase for the popular standalone VR headset, to $400.

The increase, which Meta blamed on “rising costs,” suggests the company may be trying to rein in subsidized hardware pricing that has contributed to nearly $1 billion in monthly losses for its virtual reality division in the most recent quarter.

But when you look at the short history of consumer-grade home virtual reality headsets, the Meta Quest 2 is still a historically cheap VR entry point, even after the price increase. That’s especially true when you account for inflation and the extra hardware needed to power most other comparable headsets on the market.

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#ars-shopping, #gaming-culture, #meta, #oculus, #virtual-reality, #vr

Zuckerberg: Apple, Meta are in “deep, philosophical competition”

Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg. (credit: Facebook)

Meta and Apple are entering a period of “very deep, philosophical competition” that will define the future of the Internet, according to comments by Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg obtained by The Verge.

Both Apple and Meta are planning to invest heavily in mixed reality over the next decade, but they have diametrically opposed visions for what the AR/VR/XR landscape should ideally look like.

The Verge obtained an audio recording of an all-hands employee meeting at Meta, in which Zuckerberg answered an employee question about the company’s future competition with Apple in great detail. His comments shed some light on how Meta, at least, sees the rivalry.

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#apple, #ar, #augmented-reality, #mark-zuckerberg, #meta, #metaverse, #mixed-reality, #tech, #tim-cook, #virtual-reality, #vr, #xr

FTC says Meta’s Supernatural purchase could ruin the VR fitness market

Artist's conception of the FTC fighting back against Meta's latest proposed acquisition.

Enlarge / Artist’s conception of the FTC fighting back against Meta’s latest proposed acquisition.

The Federal Trade Commission has filed an antitrust lawsuit against Meta in an attempt to stop the Facebook parent company from purchasing Within, which makes the popular virtual reality fitness app Supernatural.

Meta’s plans to spend a reported $400 million on Within have reportedly been under FTC scrutiny after the proposed acquisition was announced last October. That proposed deal, according to the suit, “would substantially lessen competition, or tend to create a monopoly, in the relevant market for VR dedicated fitness apps and the broader relevant market for VR fitness apps.”

Cornering the VR fitness market?

Meta has been on something of a VR acquisition spree in the last two years, scooping up game developers including Sanzaru Games (Asgard’s Wrath), Ready at Dawn (Lone Echo), Twisted Pixel (Wilson’s Heart), Downpour Interactive (Onward) and BigBox VR (Population: One). But the planned purchase of Within seems to be setting off antitrust alarm bells at the FTC because of the overlap with Beat Saber maker Beat Games, which Meta purchased in 2019.

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#facebook, #ftc, #gaming-culture, #meta, #policy, #virtual-reality, #vr

Meta Quest 2 VR headset price jumps $100 to $399, gets zero new features

This week for Meta and its Quest 2 VR system, it's all about the Benjamins. One Benjamin more, to be specific.

Enlarge / This week for Meta and its Quest 2 VR system, it’s all about the Benjamins. One Benjamin more, to be specific. (credit: Aurich Lawson | Getty Images | Meta)

Many categories in consumer tech have seen substantial jumps in cost over the past two years due to a strained supply chain, chip shortages, and other economic factors. But honestly, we didn’t see this one coming.

Starting “in August,” the Meta Quest 2 virtual reality system (formerly known as Oculus Quest 2) will receive a substantial change in MSRP, jumping from a base model cost of $299 to $399. That version includes 128GB of onboard storage, while the pricier Quest 2 headset with 256GB will jump from $399 to $499.

A $30 game for $100, then

Meta’s Tuesday announcement struggles to clarify exactly why the hardware is jumping $100 across the board (33 percent for the base model, 25 percent for the higher-capacity version). Should you take the announcement at face value, its flat declaration might sound logical: “The costs to make and ship our products have been on the rise.”

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#ars-shopping, #gaming-culture, #meta-quest, #meta-quest-2, #oculus-quest, #oculus-quest-2, #virtual-reality, #vr

PSVR 2 gets some new improvements over Sony’s original headset

You, too, can look this cool while streaming from the PSVR 2 headset.

Enlarge / You, too, can look this cool while streaming from the PSVR 2 headset. (credit: PlayStation Blog)

Users of the original PlayStation VR headset quickly got used to sliding the display away from their faces when they needed to get a quick look at their surroundings. That won’t be necessary on the PSVR 2, which will use a passthrough camera to provide a black-and-white view of the real-world environment.

In a PlayStation Blog post Tuesday, Sony discussed how PSVR 2 users could activate this passthrough function using a dedicated button on the headset or through a Control Center menu while using the device. The passthrough image—powered by four mounted cameras that also provide positional tracking without any external devices—is similar to those offered by competing headsets like the Oculus Quest.

Players will not be able to record the passthrough view using the PS5’s built-in recording options, Sony said. But players who have a PS5 HD camera will be able to film themselves while in VR and overlay that image on a gameplay view for streaming purposes.

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IDC: “All eyes will be on Apple” as Meta’s VR strategy “isn’t sustainable”

Screenshot of promotional video for VR equipment.

Enlarge / The Oculus Quest 2.

A recent media release from market research firm IDC predicts that Meta (the parent company of Facebook) may not be able to compete in the mixed-reality business in the long run if its strategy remains unchanged.

The media release offers a bird’s-eye view of the virtual reality hardware marketplace. In the release, IDC research manager Jitesh Ubrani said that, while “Meta continues to pour dollars into developing the metaverse, [the company’s] strategy of promoting low-cost hardware at the expense of profitability isn’t sustainable in the long run.”

A similar concern was raised by tech industry analyst Ming-Chi Kuo late last month. Kuo predicted that Meta would make moves to scale down investment in virtual reality, creating an opening for Apple and other competitors. He also wrote that Meta’s practice of selling VR headsets at a loss is unsustainable.

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#apple, #ar, #bytedance, #idc, #meta, #oculus, #oculus-quest-2, #pico, #tech, #vr, #xr

Meta sparks anger by charging for VR apps

BURLINGAME, CALIFORNIA - MAY 04: Meta employee Ryan Carter (L) helps a member of the media with an Oculus virtual reality headset demonstration during a media preview of the new Meta Store on May 04, 2022 in Burlingame, California. Meta is set to open its first physical retail store on May 9. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Enlarge / BURLINGAME, CALIFORNIA – MAY 04: Meta employee Ryan Carter (L) helps a member of the media with an Oculus virtual reality headset demonstration during a media preview of the new Meta Store on May 04, 2022 in Burlingame, California. Meta is set to open its first physical retail store on May 9. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images) (credit: Justin Sullivan | Getty Images)

Meta is facing a growing backlash for the charges imposed on apps created for its virtual reality headsets, as developers complain about the commercial terms set around futuristic devices that the company hopes will help create a multibillion-dollar consumer market.

Facebook’s parent has pledged to spend $10 billion a year over the next decade on the “metaverse,” a much-hyped concept denoting an immersive virtual world filled with avatars.

The investment is spurred by a desire to own the next computing platform and avoid being trapped by rules set by Big Tech rivals, as it has been by Apple and Google with their respective mobile app stores.

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#facebook, #gaming-culture, #meta, #policy, #vr

Apple’s AR/VR headset will arrive in January 2023, analyst projects

An early augmented reality demo by Apple, using a smartphone instead of a headset.

Enlarge / An early augmented reality demo by Apple, using a smartphone instead of a headset. (credit: Apple)

Tech industry analyst Ming-Chi Kuo has offered the most specific prediction about a release date for an Apple augmented reality/virtual reality headset yet: January 2023.

Kuo has often made accurate, informed predictions about Apple’s plans in the past, based partly on information from sources in the company’s supply chain. On Thursday, he published a lengthy analysis of the VR headset industry and predicted that Apple’s device will “likely” arrive in January.

Kuo called the headset “the most complicated product Apple has ever designed,” noting that many current Apple suppliers are involved in the supply chain for the product. He also supported other recent leaks and speculation that the upcoming headset will not be exclusively or primarily focused on augmented reality (which places virtual options in real-world space) rather than virtual reality (which immerses the wearer in an entirely virtual space).

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#apple, #ar, #augmented-reality, #meta, #ming-chi-kuo, #mixed-reality, #tech, #tim-cook, #virtual-reality, #vr, #xr

What to expect at WWDC 2022: iOS 16, M2, and more

The image Apple shared alongside the WWDC 2022 announcement.

Enlarge / The image Apple shared alongside the WWDC 2022 announcement. (credit: Apple)

June 6 marks the beginning of Apple’s annual developer conference, WWDC. The week-long event will kick off with a keynote at 10 am PST on Monday loaded with announcements about new software features across Apple’s various platforms.

For the first time since before the COVID-19 pandemic started, there will be a significant in-person audience for WWDC, too. And there will be countless sessions during the week on programming APIs, Swift features, and so on. But for most people around the world, new operating systems and hardware announcements are the main draw—and we’ll see a few of those during the keynote on Monday.

It’s important to note that WWDC isn’t typically focused on product announcements for consumers. It’s a place where Apple introduces new technologies and tools to developers.

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#apple, #apple-m2, #ar, #ios, #ios-16, #ipados, #ipados-16, #m2, #mac-mini, #mac-pro, #macbook-air, #macbook-pro, #macos-13, #tech, #tvos, #tvos-15, #vr, #watchos, #watchos-9, #wwdc, #wwdc-2022, #xr

The full saga of Apple’s troubled mixed reality headset has been revealed

A man in a tee-shirt sits onstage.

Enlarge / Jony Ive speaks onstage during the 2017 New Yorker TechFest in New York City. (credit: Brian Ach/Getty Images)

A series of reports in The Information paint a detailed picture of progression, politics, and problems facing Apple’s plan to develop a virtual, augmented, or mixed reality headset since the initiative picked up steam back in 2015.

Citing several people familiar with the product, including some who worked on it directly, the reports describe a contest of wills over the direction of the device. The standoff was between Apple’s mixed reality product team (called the “Technology Development Group”) and famed Apple designer Jony Ive and his industrial design team. The report sheds light on Apple’s direction for the device, which Bloomberg recently reported is nearing launch.

They also claim that Apple CEO Tim Cook has been relatively hands-off from the product compared to others like the iPhone, and that the Technology Development Group’s location in a separate office from the main Apple headquarters has been a source of problems and frustration.

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#apple, #ar, #augmented-reality, #jonathan-ive, #jony-ive, #mike-rockwell, #mixed-reality, #reality-os, #ros, #tech, #tim-cook, #virtual-reality, #vr, #xr

Meta announces plans to monetize the Metaverse, and creators are not happy

A purchase confirmation dialog in Horizon Worlds.

Enlarge / A purchase confirmation dialog in Horizon Worlds. (credit: Meta)

Meta, the company formerly known as Facebook, announced some initial plans on Wednesday to allow content creators to monetize in its would-be Metaverse platform, Horizon Worlds. Meta’s planned revenue share for contributors’ creations could add up to nearly 50 percent.

Horizon Worlds is a network of shared 3D spaces that is currently exclusively available on Oculus Quest headsets. (Meta has plans to bring it to mobile, game consoles, and desktop VR in the coming months and years.)

There are already people creating spaces for Horizon Worlds, including a virtual yoga studio and a Second Life-like fast-food brand integration in the form of the “Wendyverse.” But to date, Horizon Worlds has not offered the tools for creators to make a living creating that content like they could on similar services like Roblox.

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#apple, #ar, #facebook, #horizon-worlds, #mark-zuckerberg, #meta, #metaverse, #oculus, #oculus-quest, #tech, #vr

Apple’s AR/VR headset isn’t just a prototype anymore, sources say

An augmented reality demo by Apple, using a smartphone instead of a headset.

Enlarge / An augmented reality demo by Apple, using a smartphone instead of a headset. (credit: Apple)

Apple’s mixed reality headset has moved beyond the prototype phases and is barreling toward production, according to a new report in DigiTimes that cites component suppliers. DigiTimes claims that Apple has already conducted “second-phase engineering validation and testing (EVT 2)” for the headset.

“EVT 2” is a phase along Apple’s path to production. The company begins with prototypes before moving on to the first EVT (engineering validation testing) phase. “EVT 2” indicates that this is the second phase of testing for the device during that phase.

After engineering validation, Apple moves on to design validation and then to production validation before production finally begins.

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#apple, #ar, #augmented-reality, #digitimes, #mixed-reality, #tech, #virtual-reality, #vr, #xr

Sony offers a first look at the orb-like PSVR2 headset

Say so long to the original PSVR's glowing blue lights

Enlarge / Say so long to the original PSVR’s glowing blue lights (credit: PlayStation Blog)

It was just shy of a year ago today that Sony first announced the (then-unnamed) PlayStation VR2. Today, the company showed off the first photos of the upcoming PS5-compatible headset’s design, highlighting a number of aesthetic and functional changes over 2016’s original PSVR.

In a blog post Tuesday morning, Sony confirmed that the PSVR2 will mimic the general ergonomics and balancing of the first PSVR. That means an adjustable headband that tucks under the back of the skull and around to the front of the forehead, offering a base for an adjustable scope area that hangs down in front of the eyes. We called that design “exceedingly comfortable” when we reviewed the first PSVR back in 2016, so we’re glad Sony hasn’t messed with those ergonomics too much this time around.

As far as significant design changes, the PSVR2 will now offer a lens adjustment dial that can slide each lens side to side in order to match the player’s interpupillary distance. Getting a good match there can be key to providing a sharp focus and preventing eye strain and motion sickness in VR, which is why such lens sliders have been a common feature on headsets like the Oculus Rift and Quest for years now.

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#gaming-culture, #psvr2, #sony, #vr

The “Peloton of boxing” is fun, challenging, and better IRL than in VR

The “Peloton of boxing” is fun, challenging, and better IRL than in VR

Enlarge (credit: Liteboxer)

The melding of fitness and video games has never been more natural than in the expanding realm of virtual reality.

I’ve been a fan of fitness games since the days of boxing with nunchucks in Wii Sports and the tethered play of All-In-One Sports VR for the Oculus Rift. Now, there’s a totally wireless boxing experience in Liteboxer VR, exclusively on the Meta (née Oculus) Quest 2.

Liteboxer is one of the newest VR games to put the gym and personal trainers right in front of you. It’s a boxing class experience that’s fun, engaging, and challenging, even for an intermediate-level boxer like me. The company is hoping to be the Peloton of boxing, but VR may not be the best place for its software, at least not yet. We took the pre-release version of Liteboxer VR for a spin to see how far we are from real gym experiences in the metaverse.

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#ars-shopping, #boxing, #features, #fitness, #liteboxer, #peloton, #tech, #vr

Apple’s “realityOS” surfaces in GitHub commits, App Store logs

An enormous ring-shaped building on a green campus.

Enlarge / Apple’s global headquarters in Cupertino, California. (credit: Sam Hall/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Software developers have discovered apparent references to a new Apple operating system called “realityOS” in App Store upload logs and in GitHub repositories used by the company.

The references were shared widely by developers Rens Verhoeven and Steve Troughton-Smith on Twitter. Verhoeven tweeted:

The tweet was accompanied by a screenshot from the logs that included “com.apple.platform.realityos” alongside a similar reference for an existing platform, “com.apple.platform.watchos.”

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#apple, #ar, #augmented-reality, #github, #ios, #mark-gurman, #ming-chi-kuo, #mixed-reality, #realityos, #rens-verhoeven, #ros, #steve-troughton-smith, #tech, #virtual-reality, #vr, #xr

Sony patent could solve the “god ray” problem in PSVR2

The small light-absorbing portions (labeled 12 in this diagram) are key to Sony's solution to the "god ray" problem.

Enlarge / The small light-absorbing portions (labeled 12 in this diagram) are key to Sony’s solution to the “god ray” problem. (credit: Sony / USPTO)

If you’ve spent any significant amount of time in virtual reality, you’ve probably encountered issues with “god rays,” a specific type of lens flare that looks a bit like a sunbeam shining through the clouds and right on your eye. Now, a recently unearthed patent from Sony suggests the PlayStation VR maker may have solved that problem for its upcoming PlayStation VR2 headset.

The presence of god rays (or crepuscular rays, to use a more technical and less religious term) in virtual reality is an artifact from the use of Fresnel lenses in most headsets. Unlike a traditional dome-shaped lens, a Fresnel lens uses precisely angled concentric grooves on the surface of a clear flat panel to focus light on a specific point.

This lets Fresnel lenses operate at a much smaller focal length and with a thinner and lighter profile than a traditional lens, making them ideal for virtual reality headsets. But the downside is that the edges of those concentric grooves sometimes throw a ray of light sideways rather than focusing it, which can show up as a crepuscular ray when it hits your eye.

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#gaming-culture, #psvr, #psvr2, #sony, #virtual-reality, #vr

First details leak on Project Iris, Google’s next AR headset

Promotional image of AR glasses.

Enlarge / Product photography of the Google Glass wearable. Project Iris won’t look like this; it is said to more closely resemble ski goggles than casual glasses. (credit: Google)

Google engineers are developing a new augmented reality (AR) headset, according to a report by The Verge citing two people familiar with the project.

Google hopes to ship the product—codenamed “Project Iris”—sometime in 2024, but that date is likely not set in stone.

Like Apple’s rumored mixed reality glasses, Project Iris would be wireless and use external cameras to send an augmented image of the real world to you. And like one of the devices Apple has reportedly worked on, the glasses would leave the heavy-duty graphics processing to an external computer. In Google’s case, the device will rely on cloud computing instead of nearby hardware.

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#ar, #augmented-reality, #clay-bavor, #google, #google-glass, #mixed-reality, #project-iris, #project-starline, #tech, #the-verge, #virtual-reality, #vr, #xr

Report: Apple’s first AR/VR headset faces delays

The "Sword of Damocles" head-mounted display, the original augmented reality headset, circa 1968.

Enlarge / The “Sword of Damocles” head-mounted display, the original augmented reality headset, circa 1968. (credit: Ivan Sutherland)

Apple may delay the launch of its first mixed reality headset, according to Bloomberg.

Multiple sources had previously claimed that the device was likely to launch in 2022, and Apple seemed poised to introduce its new mixed reality platform to developers at the company’s annual Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) this June.

But according to “people familiar with the situation” with whom Bloomberg reporters Mark Gurman, Takashi Mochizuki, and Debby Wu spoke, the announcement of the new headset could fall to “the end of 2022 or later, with the product hitting shelves by 2023.”

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#apple, #apple-vision, #ar, #augmented-reality, #bloomberg, #mark-gurman, #mixed-reality, #tech, #virtual-reality, #vr, #xr

Report: Meta pulls the plug on its AR/VR operating system ambitions

The Oculus Quest 2, Meta's most popular VR headset today.

Enlarge / The Oculus Quest 2, Meta’s most popular VR headset today. (credit: Sam Machkovech)

Meta, the company formerly known as Facebook, has pulled the plug on its current efforts to develop an operating system for AR and VR devices, The Information reported today.

Citing “two people familiar with the decision,” the article claims that Meta will return to the status quo of running Oculus devices—and perhaps future mixed reality devices—on a modified version of Google’s Android operating system for mobile phones.

The project, which was internally called XROS, had reportedly been underway for years and “involved hundreds of employees.” Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg was talking up its potential only a few short months ago. The reasons for Meta’s decision to pull the plug are not publicly known at this time.

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#apple, #ar, #facebook, #mark-zuckerberg, #meta, #mixed-reality, #tech, #virtual-reality, #vr, #xr

What to expect from Apple in 2022: ARM desktops, portless iPhones, and more

Close-up photograph of the ports on the side of a notebook computer.

Enlarge / The 2021 MacBook Pro with MagSafe isn’t the last Apple Silicon transition we’ll see. The Mac Pro and 27-inch iMac will probably be updated in 2022. (credit: Samuel Axon)

2021 might have been the calm before the storm.

Except for the introduction of a few new Apple Silicon Macs, 2021 has been a quiet year for Apple. The new iPhones offered improved cameras and battery life but were otherwise nearly identical to 2020’s models. And apart from a slight bump in screen size, the new Apple Watch is barely distinguishable from its predecessors.

As 2021 draws to a close and we look ahead to 2022, it’s a safe bet that next year is going to be a lot more interesting. So we have some predictions to share.

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#apple, #ar, #augmented-reality, #imac-pro, #iphone-14, #m1-max, #m1-pro, #m2, #mac-pro, #mixed-reality, #tech, #virtual-reality, #vr, #xr

With Mesh for Teams, Microsoft plans to bring 3D workspaces to remote workers in 2022

An interface and virtual workspace for Mesh for Teams.

Enlarge / An interface and virtual workspace for Mesh for Teams. (credit: Microsoft)

Microsoft has announced its intention to create an immersive 3D platform called “Mesh for Teams” for virtual meetings. As the name suggests, Mesh for Teams builds on the company’s existing Teams collaboration platform and implements the mixed reality features of Microsoft Mesh.

Announced earlier this year, Mesh is a platform for virtual meetings and other collaborative gatherings in mixed reality (a catch-all term for virtual reality, augmented reality, or any combination of the two) using a variety of devices like the company’s own HoloLens products and Windows Mixed Reality headsets, among others. Users would have persistent avatars that accurately reflect their body language and facial expressions and would be able to wander around a virtual workplace.

Workplaces would use Mesh for Teams to invite employees to log in to 3D or 2D collaborative workspaces. Sitting around a virtual conference table, workers would be able to do some things that aren’t possible in the real world. For example, a presenter could see her notes in 3D space near a virtual white board while those watching the presentation only see what she writes on the board.

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#ar, #augmented-reality, #meetings, #metaverse, #microsoft, #microsoft-mesh, #microsoft-mesh-for-teams, #microsoft-teams, #mixed-reality, #tech, #virtual-reality, #virtual-workplace, #vr, #xr

Apple’s first headset will focused on “high-quality” games, reporter claims

An augmented reality demo by Apple.

Enlarge / An augmented reality demo by Apple. (credit: Apple)

In the past few days, two new reports have shed light on the specifications and strategy behind Apple’s upcoming mixed reality headset. Both claim that Apple is on a path to launching its first augmented reality/virtual reality headset as soon as next year and that the product will feature ultrahigh-end specifications and technologies.

Writing in his weekly Bloomberg newsletter, reporter Mark Gurman says the new headset will feature “advanced” chips, displays, and sensors and that it will have “avatar-based features.” That latter point indicates that Apple has a similar vision for how the headset could be used to that of Meta, whose CEO Mark Zuckerberg has been declaring a vision of social interconnectedness through AR and VR experiences.

Gurman also writes that Apple’s first headset will be a mixed reality one, supporting both VR and AR applications. The long-rumored consumer AR glasses will come much later, “years down the road.” While investment has been pouring into research on AR technology, there remain numerous major technological roadblocks to mass-market consumer AR glasses, and it is unclear when all that investment might translate into a viable, mainstream product.

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#apple, #ar, #augmented-reality, #bloomberg, #mark-gurman, #ming-chi-kuo, #mixed-reality, #tech, #virtual-reality, #vr, #xr

Resident Evil 4 VR analysis: Use Sidequest to access what Facebook denies you

This faked perspective of <em>Resident Evil 4</em>'s monsters coming at you implies that playing the new VR version will make your VR lenses crack. Ars Technica can verify that this is not actually the case—and even better, after applying some manual, "developer mode" toggles, the game is quite good.

Enlarge / This faked perspective of Resident Evil 4‘s monsters coming at you implies that playing the new VR version will make your VR lenses crack. Ars Technica can verify that this is not actually the case—and even better, after applying some manual, “developer mode” toggles, the game is quite good. (credit: Capcom / Facebook)

After testing Thursday’s virtual reality launch of Resident Evil 4 (RE4VR), currently an Oculus Quest exclusive, I found myself equally impressed and puzzled. As the roughly 4,000th port of RE4 since the game’s original 2005 launch, this new version manages to establish itself as the action-horror classic’s best version. New and old players should give this one a try—even if it’s missing a few crucial elements.

But as of press time, our recommendation comes with some asterisks, so this is both a review and a technical guide. Facebook may sell the Oculus Quest as a simple “set-and-forget” path to VR, but in the case of RE4VR, I recommend going through some complicated steps to make the game far more playable on its target platform of the Quest 2—and I’ll explain the iffy method to unlock the game’s compatibility with the Quest 1. It’s unfortunate that Facebook, Capcom, and porting studio Armature didn’t straighten all this out for average customers in the first place.

Investigating the Quest 1 restriction

For now, this version of Resident Evil 4 only works on Oculus Quest hardware, not on Windows PCs or PlayStation 4’s VR mode. Capcom seems to love locking VR versions of its horror games to specific platforms, as the groundbreaking VR mode in 2017’s Resident Evil 7 remains exclusive to PlayStation VR. (Seriously, Capcom? Five years later, and you still haven’t ported that wonderful game to a more powerful VR system?)

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#gaming-culture, #oculus-quest, #resident-evil, #resident-evil-4, #virtual-reality, #vr

Vive Flow is HTC’s newest “all-in-one” VR headset, coming October 15 for $499

After a few ho-hum announcements earlier this year, HTC’s virtual reality division has returned with arguably its boldest (and most mysterious) product launch yet: the HTC Vive Flow.

The new headset, whose basic concept leaked on Tuesday via a massive Twitter image dump, will be available for preorder at some point today (perhaps right now, as this story goes live) for $499. Unlike HTC’s Vive Pro line, this new VR headset does not appear to prioritize gaming or other higher-fidelity use cases.

Instead, this all-in-one headset—whose massive, outward-facing lenses resemble something from a Venture Bros. henchman’s outfit—appears to have casual users in mind. Today’s announcement highlights apps that focus on “meditation,” “brain training,” and “collaborating and socializing,” and the latter example requires using HTC’s own Vive Sync virtual conferencing software. Additionally, promotional materials provided to Ars ahead of today’s reveal mention simple VR games for the platform, like Space Slurpies. (No, I never thought I’d type the words “space slurpies” in an Ars article, either.) The headset does not currently include any way to connect to gaming-grade computers, either wired or wireless, to run higher-fidelity VR experiences.

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#gaming-culture, #htc-vive, #htc-vive-flow, #virtual-reality, #vr

VR, AR, wearables, and smart home tech are now mainstream, research says

It wasn’t long ago that virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) headsets, smartwatches, and voice-controlled homes were the fantasies of books and movies. Today, VR, AR, wearables, and smart home tech have passed the early-adoption phase and are all firmly part of the “mass market,” according to research that the International Data Corporation (IDC) shared today. The global research firm predicted that the combined market will hit $369.6 billion by the end of 2021 and grow to $524.9 billion in 2025. 

IDC expects AR and VR combined to show the most growth out of the three categories, thanks to both businesses and individual consumers. The latter is particularly interested in “robust gaming solutions,” IDC said. Businesses represent the bulk of AR spending today, but IDC thinks the market for AR headsets targeting the general public will grow. It predicted a 67.9 percent compound annual growth rate from 2020 to 2025 for AR and VR combined, which is more than 10 times the next competitor, smart home tech (10.1 percent growth rate).

Smart home tech will represent the most valuable market, however, with a predicted 2025 value of over $400.3 billion. The biggest sellers will reportedly be smart TVs, streaming players, and other “networked entertainment devices,” which are expected to represent $229 billion in 2025. 

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#ar, #augmented-reality, #idc, #smart-home, #tech, #uncategorized, #virtual-reality, #vr, #wearables

A new “standalone” Valve VR headset teased by deep SteamVR file dive

What might the next Valve VR headset look like? Will it resemble the existing Valve Index, complete with a "frunk" and giant, hovering speakers? And will it ever launch at retail? Those details remain unclear, but our reporting suggests something that features Oculus Quest-like "standalone" operability.

Enlarge / What might the next Valve VR headset look like? Will it resemble the existing Valve Index, complete with a “frunk” and giant, hovering speakers? And will it ever launch at retail? Those details remain unclear, but our reporting suggests something that features Oculus Quest-like “standalone” operability. (credit: Aurich Lawson | Ars Technica)

What’s in the future for VR headsets made by Valve, who launched the pricey, bulky, and impressive Valve Index in August 2019? The best information in the wild right now seems to be coming from Valve themselves—with datamining discoveries and patent applications adding up to something that looks like a brand-new Valve VR system with some form of built-in wireless functionality.

Sources familiar with matters at Valve have confirmed to Ars that information in the wild is legitimate—at least, in terms of products being made within Valve’s headquarters, though not necessarily seeing retail launch.

A new, unclear “ism”

This week’s information roundup comes courtesy of VR industry reporter and YouTube channel host Brad Lynch, who received a tip after tracking months of Valve patent applications. The tip came in the form of a code-named device, “Deckard,” mentioned in SteamVR’s publicly available branches from as far back as January. Ars can confirm the legitimacy of “Deckard” as a code-named device worked on inside of Valve’s headquarters.

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#gaming-culture, #steamvr, #valve, #valve-index, #virtual-reality, #vr

VR review: Space Pirate Trainer’s new “Arena” is massive, must-play (if you can)

VR review: Space Pirate Trainer’s new “Arena” is massive, must-play (if you can)

Enlarge (credit: I-Illusions)

If you already thought the average VR use case was too inconvenient, you are absolutely not the target market for Space Pirate Arena. Later today, this brand-new mode lands as a free update to the five-year-old VR hit Space Pirate Trainer (whose new name, Space Pirate Trainer DX, still only costs $15 and is a fine VR-action option even for the smallest, weakest VR rigs).

Like other popular VR games, Space Pirate Arena requires strapping into a face-covering headset, which is inconvenient enough. In good news, this game’s wholly free new mode doesn’t require any cables, PCs, or external sensors, owing to its exclusivity to the self-contained Oculus Quest platform. You are, in some ways, quite liberated as this brand of space pirate.

But Arena‘s playable convenience ends there, as the mode pushes Quest and Quest 2 headsets to their room-sensing limit: an exact 10 m x 10 m square (32.8 ft x 32.8 ft) in your VR lasering room of choice, not a centimeter (inch) less. This is because Space Pirate Arena is a fully blown laser tag facsimile, meant to resemble the real-life zap-a-rama that you might associate with ’80s and ’90s malls.

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#gaming-culture, #space-pirate-trainer, #virtual-reality, #vr

TikTok owner ByteDance buys a top virtual reality hardware startup

TikTok parent company ByteDance seem to be looking to one-up Facebook anywhere it can. After taking over the mantle of most-downloaded social media app in the world with TikTok, ByteDance is coming for Facebook’s moonshot, buying up its own virtual reality headset maker called Pico.

The deal first reported on by Bloomberg last week was confirmed by the company on Monday, though ByteDance didn’t disclose a price tag for the deal. Pico had raised some $62 million in venture funding from Chinese firms including a $37 million Series B in March. Like Oculus, they create both hardware and software for their VR devices. Unlike Oculus, they have a substantial presence in China. Pico may not hold the same name recognition as Oculus or HTC, but the company is a top VR hardware maker, selling to consumer audiences in China and enterprise customers in the Western world.

With Pico finding its home now at ByteDance, two of the world’s largest virtual reality brands now reside inside social media companies. Ironically, many of the company’s North American customers I’ve chatted with over the years seem to have at least partially opted for Pico headsets over Oculus hardware due to general weariness of Facebook’s data and ads-dependent business models which they fear Oculus will eventually become a larger part of.

It’s no secret that the virtual reality market has been slow out of the gate, but Facebook has blazed the trail for the technology dumping billions of dollars into an ecosystem that traditional investors have largely seemed uninterested in, in recent years.

Without knowing broad terms of the deal (I’m asking around), it’s hard to determine whether this is a moment of resurgence for VR or another sign of a contracting market. What seems most likely to me is that ByteDance is indeed interested in building out a consumer VR brand and is aiming to follow in Facebook’s footsteps closely while learning from their missteps and capitalizing on their contributions to the ecosystem. Whether the company solely focuses on the consumer markets in China or loosely pursue enterprise clients stateside as well is a big question ByteDance will have to address.

#bytedance, #china, #companies, #display-technology, #facebook, #mixed-reality, #oculus, #oculus-rift, #social-media, #social-media-app, #software, #technology, #tiktok, #virtual-reality, #virtual-reality-headset, #vr

Upcoming game turns Quest VR headsets into real-life laser tag machines

Coming September 9. We've only played a few minutes of this, but rest assured, Ars Technica will absolutely have a review of this real-world VR laser tag option upon the game's launch on Oculus Quest VR headsets.

Enlarge / Coming September 9. We’ve only played a few minutes of this, but rest assured, Ars Technica will absolutely have a review of this real-world VR laser tag option upon the game’s launch on Oculus Quest VR headsets. (credit: I-Illusions)

If you own either of the Oculus Quest VR headset models, you’re about to get one heck of a must-buy gaming option… especially if you have access to a massive play space and a friend with a Quest system.

Space Pirate Trainer, one of the first arcade-shooter games to launch on the HTC Vive VR system in 2016, has continued receiving support on newer VR systems in the years since. The game’s next update, launching on September 9, is its biggest yet—and it’s entirely free for existing game owners. Dubbed Space Pirate Trainer Arena, the long-teased mode is currently an Oculus Quest exclusive, and it requires a massive play space and up to two untethered VR systems to enable real-world laser tag.

In the real world, you and a friend will stand on opposite sides of a large play space, like an indoor tennis or basketball court, and map out a Quest “chaperone” space for your system, no smaller than 10 m x 10 m (33 ft x 33 ft). Once the game starts, onlookers will see the two of you flailing around with headsets, looking like danged fools. In the VR space, however, your and your friend’s play will sync up, and you’ll each see a far more complicated virtual battlefield full of walls, hallways, and other architecture, as if you’re inside an elaborate laser tag arena—with the object of finding and blasting your opponent before they do the same to you.

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#gaming-culture, #htc-vive, #oculus-quest, #space-pirate-trainer, #virtual-reality, #vr

You can now buy the $299 Oculus Quest 2 with 128GB of storage

Following its announcement late last month, Facebook’s new 128GB model of the Oculus Quest 2 is now available to buy. You can purchase the VR headset from the company’s website for the same $299 price as the previous 64GB base model. “Long story short? We’ve created this 128GB model so that players can easily store and access more games and apps on a single device,” Facebook says of the new variant.

Facebook announced the 128GB model at the same time it issued a voluntary recall of the Quest 2 to address an issue with the original face insert that came with the headset. The company temporarily stopped selling the Quest 2 for about a month so that it could add a new silicone face cover inside the box of each new unit. If you’re a current Quest 2 owner, you can request Facebook send you the new silicone cover by visiting the My Devices section of the account settings. The new 128GB model also comes with the silicone cover inside the box.

Editor’s note: This post originally appeared on Engadget.

#facebook, #oculus, #oculus-quest, #tc, #tceng, #virtual-reality, #vr

Facebook’s “Metaverse” gets a bit closer today with Horizon Workrooms

On Thursday, Facebook launched Horizon Workrooms—its first major step toward CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s imagined metaverse, an all-encompassing alternate reality that blends the real world with digital imaginations and enhancements.

Zoom for nerds in goggles

This isn’t the most flattering way to describe Horizon Workrooms, but it’s not exactly inaccurate. The basic concept is that instead of videoconferencing with a webcam, participants use virtual reality gear—like Facebook’s own Oculus Quest 2—to meet up in a VR workspace.

We haven’t been able to run the app yet; my own Oculus Quest is an original model, sadly unsupported for Horizon Workrooms. (We don’t know why the OG Quest isn’t supported but suspect it has something to do with enhanced controller-less hand tracking on the newer model.) Two-dimensional recordings almost certainly don’t do the experience justice—they look like Habbo Hotel and Bitmoji got together and had a baby.

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#collaboration, #facebook, #horizon-workrooms, #oculus-quest, #online-meetings, #tech, #vr, #workrooms

Holoride’s in-car VR gaming system leaves the track for the real world

Holoride’s VR gaming system for passengers caught our attention a few years back at CES when we were given a ride in an Audi on a track and had the game react to the movement of the vehicle while we played. Well, the company is back and this time they demoed two games and threw off the shackles of the track for the real world.

We took a ride in an Audi with the Holoride system and again enjoyed video games while someone else drove. The company is currently courting developers to build games via their recently announced SDK and are partnering with automakers to make sure that the data they need from the car to make their games a reality is available. Watch the video above for the full story.

Editor’s note: This post originally appeared on Engadget.

#automotive, #column, #holoride, #tc, #tceng, #transportation, #vr

Zuckerberg is turning trillion-dollar Facebook into a ‘metaverse’ company, he tells investors

#andrew-bosworth, #augmented-reality, #ceo, #cfo, #computing, #facebook, #gaming, #horizon, #instagram, #mark-zuckerberg, #metaverse, #oculus, #roblox, #software, #tc, #virtual-reality, #vp, #vr, #wearable-devices

Microsoft Flight Simulator’s new PC boosts: Yes, the VR mode is finally good

Anyone who has played a flight simulator knows that screen real estate is critical. Your average 16:9 TV or monitor is fine for most video games, but flight simulators are all about the spatial awareness of sitting in a cockpit, peeking at a massive console of virtualized buttons and screens, and having your midair view framed by a plane’s windshields and windows.

A wider monitor is better for that simulation, while a freakin’ virtual reality headset opens up the virtual skies—but at the cost of VR’s high processing demands.

Since July 2020, the teams responsible for Microsoft Flight Simulator have been pledging to deliver a truly playable VR version of the game. That pledge kicked off months later with serious turbulence, and after my earliest tests, I warned interested fans to prepare their stomachs for a bumpy ride.

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#flight-simulator, #gaming-culture, #microsoft-flight-simulator, #oculus-quest, #oculus-quest-2, #valve-index, #virtual-reality, #vr

Facebook’s metaverse gambit is a distraction from its deep-seated problems

Mark Zuckerberg demonstrates an Oculus Rift headset at a 2016 event.

Enlarge / Mark Zuckerberg demonstrates an Oculus Rift headset at a 2016 event. (credit: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Facebook mastered social media by giving people an easy way to share their offline lives with friends, family, and complete strangers on the Internet. So why is the company now trying to invent a virtual universe that effectively turns its back on reality?

Over the past week, the social media company has blitzed media outlets with news about its “metaverse” initiative, a plan to create virtual worlds where people can interact to play games, have meetings, and so on. Last week, CEO Mark Zuckerberg shared his metaverse plans with the public in an interview with The Verge. Then, earlier this week, Facebook announced that it would be putting together a metaverse team staffed with a handful of longtime VPs.

It’s clear that Zuckerberg has been thinking about this metaverse idea for a while. But the timing of Facebook’s announcement is interesting, to say the least. Facebook has “a history of doing these kinds of technical projects that look like they might be revolutionary at times when they’re being criticized for their lack of social responsibility,” Jen Goldbeck, a computer scientist and professor at the University of Maryland, told Ars.

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#facebook, #mark-zuckerberg, #metaverse, #policy, #social-media, #virtual-reality, #vr

Facebook recalls 4 million Quest 2 VR face masks over “rashes and hives”

One day, the VR industry may be boosted with sensory tricks like smell-o-vision. That's different from the itching and burning sensations reported by Quest 2 users—unless one of Quest 2's VR zombie games is really, really ahead of its time.

Enlarge / One day, the VR industry may be boosted with sensory tricks like smell-o-vision. That’s different from the itching and burning sensations reported by Quest 2 users—unless one of Quest 2’s VR zombie games is really, really ahead of its time. (credit: Oculus | Aurich Lawson)

Facebook’s VR division is recalling every single foam facial liner included in its Oculus Quest 2 VR headset in North America, the company confirmed, as part of a US CPSC recall notice. An investigation found 5,716 reports of “skin irritation” from system owners, along with “approximately 45 reports of consumers that required medical attention.”

The recall applies to “about 4 million” customers, which is the closest public estimate we’ve yet seen for Quest 2 hardware sales in the US since the system went on sale in late 2020. Since this estimate includes standalone purchases of face covers, it’s not an exact measure, but considering how ho-hum the default face masks are, we’re confident that few people were rushing to buy duplicates of it, as opposed to superior third-party options.

In light of the recall, Facebook is also taking the extreme measure of pausing all Oculus Quest 2 sales in North America, in addition to offering silicon-liner replacements to all existing owners. This news comes after UploadVR confirmed Facebook’s plans to launch a new price point for the VR system in August: $299 for a 128GB model (up from 64GB) and $399 for a 256GB model (up from 128GB). Facebook now says that the August 24 relaunch will mark the system’s return to retail outlets with an updated silicon face cover packed in by default.

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#facebook, #gaming-culture, #oculus, #oculus-quest, #oculus-quest-2, #virtual-reality, #vr

Facebook’s entry into VR advertising isn’t going too well

Facebook’s efforts to bring advertising to the Oculus virtual reality platform it has spent billions of dollars building out doesn’t seem to be off to a great start.

The company announced last week that they were planning to roll out their first in-game ads inside the title Blaston from the prolific VR game developer Resolution Games, and just days later the game studio has shared that after hearing an earful from users they’ve decided to abandon the ad rollout.

“After listening to player feedback, we realize that Blaston isn’t the best fit for this type of advertising test,” a tweet from the Blaston account read. “Therefore, we no longer plan to implement the test. We look forward to seeing you in the arena and hope you try the Crackdown Update that went live today!”

This potential ad rollout had been particularly noteworthy because the ads were being tested inside a title from a third-party developer. Facebook has purchased a handful of VR studios in recent months and owns a number of the most popular Quest titles inside its marketplace, so the opportunity to roll out advertising with a third-party partner gave Facebook an chance to frame the advertising rollout as a way for other developers to open up their monetization channels, rather than for Facebook to do so.

The announcement last week still brought out plenty of critics in the VR community who weren’t thrilled about Facebook’s broader struggles with balancing advertising efforts with user privacy, but other users seemed to be more annoyed by the prospect of ads being rolled out inside a paid title they had already purchased. Blaston retails for $9.99 in the Oculus store.

Update: Resolution Games reached out to TechCrunch with a statement, floating the possibility of further ad tests down the road inside one of the developer’s free apps. “To make it clear, we realize that Blaston isn’t the best fit for this type of advertising test. As an alternative, we are looking to see if it is feasible to move this small, temporary test to our free game, Bait! sometime in the future.”

Resolution Games abandoning the test before it even started is an early setback for Facebook’s VR advertising efforts that showcases just how skeptical the Oculus platform’s most vocal users still are of Facebook. In a blog post last week, Facebook sought to address early concerns with what user data would be used to serve up advertising in VR, specifically noting that conversations recorded by the headset’s microphone and images analyzed by the onboard tracking cameras would not be used.

Facebook saw considerable backlash last year from virtual reality fans when they shared that new headset owners would need a Facebook account in order to activate their devices. While criticism poured in following the announcement, the recently released $299 Quest 2 headset has already outsold all of Facebook’s previous VR devices combined, the company has said.

We’ve reached out to Facebook for comment.

 

#computing, #facebook, #facebook-horizon, #mixed-reality, #oculus, #oculus-quest, #player, #software, #tc, #virtual-reality, #vr, #wearable-devices

Facebook buys game studio BigBox VR

Facebook has bought several virtual reality game studios over the past couple years, and they added one more to their portfolio Friday with the acquisition of Seattle-based BigBox VR.

The studio’s major title, Population: One, was one of the big post-launch releases for Facebook’s Oculus Quest 2 headset and is a pretty direct Fortnite clone, copying a number of key gameplay techniques while adapting them for the movements unique to virtual reality and bringing in their own lore and art style.

As has been the case for most of these studio acquisitions, terms weren’t disclosed. BigBox raised $6.5 million according to Crunchbase, with funding from Shasta Ventures, Outpost Capital, Pioneer Square Labs and GSR Ventures.

“POP: ONE stormed onto the VR scene just nine months ago and has consistently ranked as one the top-performing titles on the Oculus platform, bringing together up to 24 people at a time to connect, play, and compete in a virtual world,” Facebook’s Mike Verdu wrote in a blog post.

It’s not unusual for a gaming hardware platform owner to build up their own web of studios building platform exclusives, but in the VR world things are a little different given that Facebook has few real competitors.

While many of the developers inside Oculus Studios continue to build titles for Valve’s Steam store which are accessible with third-party headsets, most non-Facebook VR platforms seem to be a shrinking piece of the overall VR pie, having been priced out of the market by Facebook’s aggressive pursuit of a mass market audience. Facebooks Oculus Quest 2 retails for $299 and the company has said that it outsold all of its previous devices combined in its first few months.

In April, Facebook acquired Downpour Interactive, maker of the VR shooter Onward.

#bigbox-vr, #display-technology, #downpour-interactive, #facebook, #facebook-horizon, #gsr-ventures, #mixed-reality, #oculus, #oculus-rift, #onward, #pioneer-square-labs, #seattle, #shasta-ventures, #virtual-reality, #vr, #wearable-devices

Holoride deploys Elrond blockchain and NFTs in prep for 2022 market launch

Holoride, the Audi spinoff that’s creating an in-vehicle XR passenger entertainment experience, is deploying blockchain technology and NFTs as the next stage in its preparation for a 2022 market launch. 

The company, which closed a $12 million Series A in April, announced it would be integrating Elrond blockchain into its tech stack to bring transparency to its ecosystem of car manufacturers and content creators. Holoride hopes to use NFTs, or non-fungible tokens, to incentivize developers into creating more content on holoride’s platform for the promise of more money earned off token purchases, and to attract passengers who want to personalize their in-car experience. 

Blockchain… NFTs… is holoride just trying to be internet trendy? Maybe, but the blockchain integration at least has been in the works for the past year, says holoride CEO and founder Nils Wollny.

Holoride’s immersive in-vehicle media platform doesn’t need blockchain to function. Its passenger experiences sync to the real-time motion and location-based data of the vehicle, so content adjusts to vehicle motion (meaning no motion sickness!). Where blockchain plays a role is to help holoride fairly and transparently distribute content and compensate developers based on user engagement time and value distribution. 

“We said we want to connect all our ecosystem partners in a very fair and transparent manner from the beginning, and blockchain technology delivers exactly on that,” Wollny told TechCrunch. “Every transaction and engagement can be stored in the blockchain. For car manufacturers, they can see how much time was spent with holoride experiences in their cars, and for content creators it’s transparent on how much time was spent with their title they have created for our platform.”

NFTs are unique digital tokens that have a marked place on the blockchain and cannot be replaced with anything else. Most NFTs are part of Ethereum’s blockchain, but holoride’s will be supported by Elrond’s blockchain. 

Wollny hopes the enticement of buying or collecting NFTs while immersed in holoride’s experiences will lead to more engagement. He also anticipates the acceleration of what futurists and other tech nerds are calling the ‘metaverse’ or the concept of the digital and virtual world increasingly intertwining with physical and augmented reality.

Need help visualizing how this works while you’re strapped into a headset being driven to your next destination? For holoride, an NFT might start by connecting elements in the virtual world to locations or events in the real world. 

“Imagine people are traveling in their virtual vehicle, maybe it’s a spaceship or a submarine, as their physical body is in a car driving through the real world,” said Wollny. “They might pass by a certain location where a content creator decided to put something passengers can collect on their way.”

So it’s kind of like Pokémon GO, but you’re sitting in a car with a VR headset on rather than walking around outside holding your phone in front of you and following augmented reality anime pets like a lunatic. And when you catch the Pokémon, it’s unique and yours and no one else can have it unless you decide to trade it.

“Or maybe the user is really good at a game they’re playing and they earn rewards while playing,” Wollny continued. “You can maybe display them to other users or trade them in the future, bringing the real world and the virtual world closer together.”

The future of holoride’s NFTs really depends upon the extent to which passengers find themselves so immersed in their in-car experiences that they seek attachment and personalization in the form of digital tokens. Maybe Wollny has been spending too much time in virtual reality, or maybe he knows something we don’t about our inevitable reliance on extended reality. But as he told TechCrunch, this is only the genesis of the startup’s ecosystem, a step towards making holoride the “transportation company for the metaverse.”

#audi, #blockchain, #entertainment, #holoride, #nft, #transportation, #virtual-reality, #vr

Facebook VR exec Hugo Barra is leaving

Four years after joining as Facebook’s first VP of VR, ex-Xiaomi exec Hugo Barra has left the company, he said in a social media post Tuesday.

Barra led Facebook’s VR efforts during a particularly tumultuous time for Oculus, coming aboard to helm the division as the once independent arm was folded deeper into its parent company after the departure of co-founder and CEO Brendan Iribe. During Barra’s time at Facebook, the company pivoted from PC-based VR systems towards all-in-one designs, relying on a partnership with Barra’s previous employer Xiaomi to help the company scale its entry-level Oculus Go headset which has since been discontinued.

The executive was eventually replaced in his role leading AR/VR inside Zuck’s inner circle by long-time Facebook veteran Andrew Bosworth and subsequently moved to a role leading partnerships. Barra leaves months after the launch of Facebook’s $299 Quest 2 headset, which arrived to positive reviews, and on the cusp of the company’s first foray into AR-based smart glasses.

“When Mark Zuckerberg approached me 5 years ago to come to Facebook to lead the Oculus team and work on virtual reality, I knew I was jumping into an ambitious journey to help build the next computing platform but I couldn’t have imagined just how much this team would get done in just a few years,” Barra wrote in a public Facebook post.

Barra didn’t detail where he’ll be landing next, but said he’s joining an effort in the healthcare technology space.

#andrew-bosworth, #arkansas, #brendan-iribe, #companies, #computing, #display-technology, #executive, #facebook, #hugo-barra, #mark-zuckerberg, #mixed-reality, #oculus, #quest, #technology, #virtual-reality, #vr, #wearable-devices, #xiaomi, #zuck

Demeo is the best multiplayer, virtual-reality D&D clone ever made

Have you ever liked something so much that it made you sad? It’s that weird moment when your emotional swingset goes over the handlebars, passing joy and turning into a strange version of regret. I’ve had this happen with movies I caught years too late, when finally getting a decent pair of headphones, or after learning that cool trick to instantly remove the stickers and plastic on a CD case. The sensation is something along the lines of, “I would’ve turned out differently as an adult if I’d had this sooner.”

That’s how I feel about the new virtual reality game Demeo. You can see it in the above gallery: This Dungeons & Dragons-styled video game recreates the franchise’s tactile, turn-based battles with friends. And it’s awesome.

I can move clunky, fantastical miniatures around a board, then watch them come to life to do battle while nearby friends scream in delight and/or agony when a dice roll changes everything at a moment’s notice? And all of that happens on-demand within a genius VR implementation? Yes, please. I love this stuff—a blend of tabletop and digital co-op gaming with a dash of real-life presence—and I wish I’d had it earlier. (Specifically, I wish I’d had it for the past 15 months.)

This recent VR game, available on SteamVR and Oculus Quest for $30 as of May 6, is absolutely not perfect. In fact. it’s arguably missing a critical “early access” tag. Getting through a session of this D&D facsimile without inventing a wish list of additional features may be a challenge, especially if you and your adventuring party have an established regimen of tabletop co-op adventure games.

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#dd, #demeo, #dungeons-dragons, #features, #gaming-culture, #oculus-quest, #steamvr, #virtual-reality, #vr

HTC’s newest headsets signal end of Vive’s 5-year “VR for the home” mission

Today’s VR-centric ViveCon 2021, presented by HTC’s Vive division of VR headsets, kicks off with two new headset models slated to launch this year.

That’s probably the headline HTC wants VR fans to focus on—hooray, new stuff to strap to faces—but a closer examination of both headsets (and feedback directly from HTC’s executive team) puts a damper on that, at least for any average consumer interested in buying either.

The Vive Focus 3, HTC’s newest “all-in-one” untethered VR headset, competes directly with the Oculus Quest 2, but it costs a whopping $1,000 more than the Facebook-branded option, at $1,299 MSRP. And the Vive Pro 2, a long-overdue spec bump to 2018’s Vive Pro, resembles the earlier model all too much while costing either $799 by itself or $1,399 for its “full kit.”

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#gaming-culture, #htc-vive, #oculus, #oculus-quest, #steamvr, #virtual-reality, #vr

HTC’s wireless Vive Air headset outed by a premature award

HTC’s next major product-reveal event is looming in May, but for at least one of its upcoming VR products, the surprise has been spoiled—by an award, of all things.

The IF World Design Guide Awards, held in Germany for decades and bestowed upon many disciplines, released its latest pool of winners earlier this month. It’s unclear when HTC’s new “Vive Air” VR headset was uploaded to IF World’s awards list, but its appearance began making the rounds on Monday after images appeared on Discord chat feeds, and then the award itself was found by VR critics Cas and Chary.

As described on its award page:

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#gaming-culture, #htc-vive, #tech, #virtual-reality, #vr

Extra Crunch roundup: Clubhouse UX teardown, YC Demo Day favorites, proptech VC survey, more

Since the pandemic began, I have been pushing the limits of my imagination to try to picture what cities will look and feel like in the coming years.

If your town looks like San Francisco, where I live, it’s a pressing question: Our once-bustling financial district is a ghost town, but even in outer neighborhoods, the number of vacant storefronts is unsettling. People are starting to emerge after sheltering in place for a year, but we are a long way from fully restoring our shared spaces.

What’s going to happen to those semi-vacant office towers, some of which are still under construction? There’s been renewed talk of converting some skyscrapers into residential housing, but there are real economic/logistic hurdles to clear before that can be broadly applied. Scores of restaurants have closed in recent months; who will take over those spaces? I spend a lot of time walking around, and it’s been a long time since I’ve noticed a “Grand Opening” sign.

Seeking answers, Managing Editor Eric Eldon interviewed 10 VCs who are active in proptech and found that most were generally “optimistic.”

Several expressed genuine uncertainty about the future of offices, but most were bullish about prospects for remote work, the rebirth of physical retail and the emergence of “third spaces” that will fill the gap between work and home.

In a companion article on TechCrunch, Eric explores these broader shifts, concluding, “you can start to see a world emerging that sounds a lot more like the fantasies of a New Urbanist than the world before the pandemic.”

Here’s who he interviewed:

  • Clelia Warburg Peters, venture partner, Bain Capital Ventures
  • Christopher Yip, partner and managing director, RET Ventures
  • Zach Aarons, co-founder and general partner, MetaProp
  • Casey Berman, general partner, Camber Creek
  • Vik Chawla, partner, Fifth Wall
  • Adam Demuyakor, co-founder and managing partner, Wilshire Lane Partners
  • Robin Godenrath and Julian Roeoes, partners, Picus Capital
  • Stonly Baptiste, founding partner, and Shaun Abrahamson, managing partner, Urban Us
  • Andrew Ackerman, managing director, Dreamit

Thanks very much for reading Extra Crunch this week. Have a great weekend!

Walter Thompson
Senior Editor, TechCrunch
@yourprotagonist


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It’s time to abandon business intelligence tools

Image Credits: Jon Feingersh Photography Inc / Getty Images

Ideally, BI transforms raw data into actionable information, but according to Charles Caldwell, VP of product management at Logi Analytics, “a gap exists between the functionalities provided by current BI and data discovery tools and what users want and need.”

Few BI tools actually integrate with existing workflows and most offer clunky user experiences, “leaving many individuals feeling like they need an advanced computer science degree to actually be able to pull insights out.”

Instead of requiring workers to abandon workflow applications to access data, embedded analytics are more efficient and easier to use, says Caldwell.

In short, “it’s time to abandon BI — at least as we currently know it.”

Pre-seed round funding is under scrutiny: Is VC pandemic posturing here to stay?

Image Credits: nadia_bormotova / Getty Images

Amid the pandemic, investors became laser-focused on sections of the pitch deck that address monetization and business viability — signs that founders need to come to the table with better-defined businesses in order to succeed.

Investors’ heightened expectations for monetization potential and a company’s positioning within its competitive landscape are unlikely to lessen in the years to come, even in a post-COVID economy.

Clubhouse UX teardown: A closer look at homepage curation, follow hooks and other features

In this photo illustration, the Clubhouse app seen displayed

Image Credits: Rafael Henrique/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Clubhouse’s hockey-stick growth is something most startups would kill for.

However, it also means that UX problems can only be addressed while in “full flight” — and that changes to the user experience will be felt at scale rather under the cover of a small, loyal and (usually) forgiving user base.

Our favorite companies from Y Combinator’s W21 Demo Day

We’re not investors, so we’re not pretending to sort the unicorns from the goats.

But TechCrunch reporters spend a lot of time talking with startups, hearing pitches and telling their stories; if you’re curious about which companies stood out from Y Combinator’s W21 Demo Day, read on.

A look at 4 IPO updates and 2 late-stage funding rounds

There’s a lot going on: The venture capital market is redlining its engines while public markets remain sympathetic to growing, unprofitable companies.

Let’s round up IPO news from DigitalOcean, Kaltura, Robinhood and Zymergen, and big rounds for Lattice and goPuff.

Dear Sophie: When can I finally come to Silicon Valley?

lone figure at entrance to maze hedge that has an American flag at the center

Image Credits: Bryce Durbin/TechCrunch

Dear Sophie:

I’m a startup founder looking to expand in the U.S. I was originally looking at opening an office in Silicon Valley to be close to software engineers and investors, but then … COVID-19 🙂

A lot has changed over the last year — can I still come?

— Hopeful in Hungary

Staying ahead of the curve on Google’s Core Web Vitals

Image Credits: Aleksei Naumov / Getty Images

Aside from improved SEO, small business websites optimizing for Google’s new Core Web Vitals will reap the rewards of an improved user experience for their site visitors.

While many are looking at the Core Web Vitals as a big hoop to jump through to please the search powers that be, others are seeing — and seizing — the opportunities that come along with this change.

Steady’s Adam Roseman and investor Emmalyn Shaw outline what worked (and what was missing) in the Series A deck

Image Credits: Steady

When it comes to Steady — the platform that helps hourly workers manage and maximize their income and access deals on things like benefits and financial services — the strengths of the business are clear.

But it took time for founder and CEO Adam Roseman to clearly define and communicate each of them in his quest for fundraising.

 

Discord’s reported $10B exit; Compass and Intermedia Cloud Communications set IPO price ranges

Alex Wilhelm dug into Discord’s possible $10 billion exit to Microsoft and explored IPO price ranges for real estate tech company Compass and Intermedia Cloud Communications, a unified-communications-as-a-service company.

“It’s a lot,” he noted, “but if we don’t get through it all now, we’ll fall behind and feel silly later.”

Will fading YOLO sentiment impact Robinhood, Coinbase and other trading platforms?

The consumer trading frenzy could be slowing.

What would happen to Robinhood and its cohorts if the apparent cooling in consumer trading demand continues?

How VC and private equity funds can launch portfolio-acceleration platforms

Rocket taking off

Image Credits: Miguel Navarro (opens in a new window) / Getty Images (Image has been modified)

Almost every private equity and venture capital investor now advertises that they have a platform to support their portfolio companies, “however, most of us don’t have the budget of an Andreessen Horowitz to support almost every major need” for each startup they’ve bet on, says Versatile VC founder David Teten.

If you’re prioritizing a platform buildout for your firm, consider using the framework he’s outlined.

Automakers, suppliers and startups see growing market for in-vehicle AR/VR applications

hologram-car-interface

Image Credits: Bryce Durbin

Despite all of the pomp and promises about the potential for AR and VR, there isn’t a clear understanding of market demand for bringing the technology to cars, trucks and passenger vans.

Estimates of the global market range from $14 billion by 2027 to as much as $673 billion by 2025, showing just how nascent the market currently is and how much opportunity is present.

Amid pandemic, Middle East adtech startups play essential role in business growth

yellow fish chalkboard

Image Credits: phototechno / Getty Images

The Middle East is a promising region with growing digital advertising solutions despite locals’ attachment to traditional means of advertising.

In recent years, there has been a shift to the active use of social media and online shopping, meaning the Middle East embodies great potential for adtech startups.

Social+ payments: Why fintechs need social features

Image Credits: Getty Images

Social+ products are seeing mass adoption because they marry community with functionality.

This applies even to fintech companies as taboos around money fall away.

The lightning-fast Series A that was 3 years in the making

Image Credits: Mironov Konstantin / Getty Images

It took Christine Tao, founder of Sounding Board, just over three years to recognize the value of executive coaching and get her company to a Series A.

Here’s how she did it.

NFTs could bridge video games and the fashion industry

Music companies, celebrities and fashion brands are some of the latest entities to dip a toe into the burgeoning NFT market.

In part two of a three-part series, we take a look at why NFTs are “the next chapter of digital art history.”

Where is the e-commerce app ecosystem headed in 2021?

woman in cafe with tablet and holding credit card because you know she's about to buy something

Image Credits: Charday Penn (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

The pandemic-induced growth of e-commerce is, by now, well documented.

What is happening in the app ecosystem that supports e-commerce? Is it growing, or are we more likely to see consolidations and IPOs?

Let’s explore.

ironSource is going public via a SPAC and its numbers are pretty good

You’ll want to pay attention to this one: Israel’s ironSource, an app-monetization startup, is going public via a SPAC.

It’s the second SPAC-led debut from an Israeli company in recent weeks worth more than $10 billion, and ironSource is actually a pretty darn interesting company from a financial perspective.

Coursera set to roughly double its private valuation in impending IPO

Money floating in space

Image Credits: Bryce Durbin / TechCrunch

The market views Coursera’s edtech business warmly ahead of its impending public offering.

Coursera is being valued as a software company, likely a breathe-easy moment for still-private edtech companies, since the debut could be an industry bellwether.

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