Sony today announced its next State of Play, the company’s ongoing presentation series where it highlights upcoming games. The company says viewers can expect a first “sneak peek” at PSVR 2 games during the event next week.
Sony has announced that its next State of Play event will be held on June 2nd at 3PM PT (your timezone here). The presentation will be broadcast on the official PlayStation channels on Twitch and YouTube.
During the event the company says viewers can expect “some exciting reveals from our third-party partners, plus a sneak peek at several games in development for PlayStation VR 2.”
Given Sony’s curiously timed marketing of the headset thus far, it isn’t clear if we should expect to see mostly VR games that already exist on other platforms and are being confirmed for PSVR 2, or if we’ll see previously unknown VR games in the works for the headset. Luckily we only have to wait until next week to find out!
The expansion is available now and as you can imagine, it looks like true a match made in heaven.
The announcement was accompanied by the trailer embedded above which shows some footage that looks absolutely stunning (although that’s expected with any new Flight Simulator footage at this point).
The blog post also detailed exactly what is included in the expansion. You’ll get a Top Gun livery for the F/A-18E Super Hornet, along with three new training missions for the Hornet that will “allow you to master radical flight maneuvers including unrestricted take-offs, split S maneuvers, and low altitude, high-speed maneuvering through complex terrain.”
There’s also five high-speed, low-level challenges set above mountains and canyons, plus a carrier deck landing challenge.
There’s even a brand new hypersonic aircraft that can go up to Mach 10 speed and climb higher than 150,000 feet, which you’ll use in a new mission that takes you up into the stratosphere.
For a free update it all sounds pretty incredible. Of course, the timing of the update is no coincidence as it’s a direct tie-in with Top Gun: Maverick starring Tom Cruise, now in theaters.
Microsoft Flight Simulator is available for PC and Xbox, with optional VR support for the former. We recently found out that 10% of players exclusively play in VR, which is quite impressive. No doubt those players will be itching to try out the new Top Gun content as soon as possible.
A firmware finding and an experimental setting apparently made available to a redditor suggest Meta is working on cloud VR streaming.
Last month firmware sleuth Samulia found a string ‘AVALANCE_CLOUD_GAMING_INFRA_ENABLED’ in version 24 of the Quest firmware, according to YouTuber Brad Lynch (SadlyItsBradley). Version 24 would have shipped around 18 months ago, suggesting Avalanche has been in development for quite some time.
Two days ago redditor /u/technicalthrowaway posted a screenshot appearing to show an ‘Enable Avalanche (Alpha)’ option appearing in the Experimental features tab of their Quest 2’s settings, writing the following:
I pressed it, it said “finding server” for 20 seconds or so, and then loaded oculus home. For about 15 seconds, it was really decent framerate, but with a little bit of lag, then a spinning ring came up and stayed like that.
Anyone else got this working?
Meta has been known to roll out features to a small portion of users separately from the main firmware versioning, but we haven’t heard of anyone else seeing this Avalanche option.
Brad Lynch wrote on Twitter that the redditor directly contacted him about their experience, saying “they were able to get into a totally remote game of Asgards Wrath via a UK Wifi5 session”. Asgard’s Wrath is a 25+ hour action-adventure RPG released for the PC-based Oculus Rift platform in late 2019. We gave it 5 stars and described at the time as VR’s best and most ambitious game yet. Between 2016 and 2021 Facebook invested hundreds of millions of dollars to ship a number of such PC exclusive titles – cloud streaming could bring them to the majority of Quest owners who don’t own a gaming PC.
But the experience of cloud streaming heavily depends on the quality of the user’s internet connection. There is a potential for high latency, and for judder caused by packet loss. In late 2020 Oculus ‘Consulting CTO’ John Carmack had this to say, comparing it to local network streaming: “obviously it’s even worse, obviously more people are going to find that unacceptable and it will be a terrible experience for more people, but still I am quite confident that for some people in some situations it’s still going to be quite valuable”.
In 2020 Facebook Gaming VP Jason Rubin described cloud VR gaming as more than five years out, and Carmack said the company has “interminable arguments” about the minimum quality bar required to ship VR streaming. But streaming VR games remotely is already possible on Quest with third party software. Air Link alternative Virtual Desktop supports streaming from a PC outside on your local network, while Shadow and PlutoSphere even let you rent a VR capable PC in the cloud. But a Meta store and App Lab policy relegate these services to third party store SideQuest.
Could seeing these services launch have accelerated Meta’s plans, or was Rubin’s comment simply too pessimistic? We’ve reached out to Meta for comment on this apparent Avalanche leak and will update the article if we get a response.
Meta may be ramping up internal testing for its own first-party cloud gaming service which could let its latest standalone VR headset, Quest 2, play PC VR games without needing your own VR-ready computer.
Mention of the ‘Avalanche’ cloud PC VR streaming function was allegedly uncovered in v24 of the Quest firmware, which released in late 2020. It wasn’t until this April that data miner and Reddit user ‘Samulia’ dug into the firmware to find the following string, as reported by Tech analyst and YouTuber Brad Lynch:
Lynch, known for the YouTube channel SadlyItsBradley, now alleges to have discussed the cloud PC VR streaming with someone who managed to gain access, and was able to remotely play a game of Asgard’s Wrath (2020), an Oculus PC exclusive, on Quest 2.
Someone contacted me (and posted on Reddit) claiming they had access to the Avalanche Cloud PC VR Streaming functionality Meta is internally testing
The screenshot above shows the in-headset Quest UI sporting a feature ostensibly inaccessible to normal users, with a launch button inside the ‘Experimental Features’ section that says: “Enable Avalanche (Alpha) – Start an Avalanche session”.
Furthermore, Lynch says that according to the user, the quality was “not very good,” although this might be chalked up to the fact that they’re based in United Kingdom and had to connect to a PC in the United States.
We’re unable to verify the authenticity of that information, however Meta may be carving out its own exclusive nook for Quest cloud gaming. In the past, Meta has taken steps to disallow cloud gaming apps from both its official Quest Store and App Lab, Meta’s app outlet featuring less stringent content submission guidelines. You can only download third-party cloud gaming services, like PlutoSphere, through sideloading tools such as SideQuest.
This might suggest Meta is currently looking to make its own PC VR cloud gaming service, much like it’s done in the past with its own flatscreen cloud gaming over the last two years. Notably, the flatscreen cloud gaming project is currently headed by former Oculus exec Jason Rubin, who is acutely aware of the inherent limitations of standalone headsets when it comes to packing in high-quality content. As of July 2021, Rubin also now heads all gaming content at Meta, including AR/VR production and Instant and Cloud Play Platform inside the Facebook app.
In an quarterly earnings in late 2020, Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg addressed the intersection of Facebook’s cloud gaming and VR initiatives:
“Over the longer term, I think the VR piece will obviously come into [our gaming strategy] as well. Some of the cloud gaming stuff that we’re doing will, of course, be useful for VR as well, and we’re building a big community around that on Oculus. But [our cloud gaming service]… I do think will be a very exciting growth opportunity and ability to offer a lot of innovation over the coming years,” Zuckerberg said.
We’re hoping to learn more about Meta’s VR cloud gaming plans as well as its first upcoming mixed reality headset, Project Cambria, at the company’s annual Connect conference later in the year.
Peaky Blinders VR developer Maze Theory says the upcoming PSVR 2 headset is “of huge interest” to it.
Creative Director Marcus Morseby and Chief Creative Officer Russell Harding said as much in a recent email Q&A with UploadVR surrounding the team’s latest announcements. Specifically, Maze Theory is doubling down on VR development with 14 new hires and continuing work on its first original IP, Engram, alongside working on Peaky Blinders: The King’s Ransom for later this year.
When asked if Quest 2 would be the lead platform for these projects, the pair confirmed the standalone headset was a priority, though other devices were becoming important too. “Now that PSVR 2 is on the horizon, it’s of huge interest and something we are working towards,” the pair said. They stopped short of officially announcing projects for the device, though.
Maze Theory also reconfirmed that its first original game, Engram, is still in the works and coming soon. We first saw the experience under the name The Vanishing Act, where it was a single-player experience. “With Engram, we are also exploring the wealth of possibilities around multiplayer and social VR,” the pair said. “The core premise of the game is exploring memories, and we’re working on ways to achieve a heightened range of emotional experiences.”
For now, Peaky Blinders is confirmed for release later this year and is expected to release on Quest 2 and PC VR headsets, though final release dates for either device haven’t been confirmed. From the sounds of it, though, PSVR 2 could be a potential target for both that game and Engram. Currently we’re not expecting PSVR 2 to launch until 2023, but you can keep up to date with everything we know about the headset right here.
Billions of individuals around the world access the internet each and every day through internet service providers (ISPs). These ISPs have created partnerships and developed the infrastructure to power access to the internet around the world.
To access the internet, regardless of what equipment an individual may have, it requires a connection through an ISP. The ISP provides the necessary connectivity and bandwidth in which to interact with the internet. Without it, even a fully decentralized Web3 internet would be inaccessible.
How Do ISPs Work?
At a fundamental level, ISPs serve as major data movers by offering access through different connections (DSL or Dial-up, for instance) that come with different speeds, services, and accessibility.
Some key examples of ISPs include:
All of these providers have one particularly key feature in common – they are massive, centralized entities with considerable power over the internet. This directly coincides with the concentration of cellular accessibility between the giants of AT&T, Verizon, and TMobile.
This is due to the massive barrier to entry that has formulated due to the required infrastructure necessary to create a competitor. Many ISPs have concrete contracts in place with both major data centres (typically run by tech giants like Google or Amazon) and cities themselves to build out infrastructure like fibre optic cable lines.
In fact, there are thousands and thousands of miles of fibre optic cable that transfers data across the world on just the east coast of the United States alone. This centralized infrastructure also has secondary risks such as overload due to damaged infrastructure resulting in a massive amount of rerouted internet and telecommunications traffic.
Hyper-growth in Internet Demand & Technological Development
The other side of this coin is Nielsen’s Law which states that internet bandwidth roughly doubles each year, residing in a 57x increase in growth over ten years. However, bandwidth overall grows at a noticeably slower rate.
For example, someone paying more for a bandwidth upgrade will only see improvements up to a certain point. Bandwidth doesn’t just rely on higher-level access but is limited by the speed of centralized ISPs in the upgrading of equipment and necessary infrastructure. Upgrading existing infrastructure for a 50% boost in bandwidth speed can cost upwards of billions of dollars and take considerable time to implement.
Additionally, as the technology improves, there is a higher demand for high-level internet access including a rise in things like streaming. The COVID-19 pandemic coincided with a growth in internet demand of roughly 70%. Per AT&T Labs, internet traffic is approximately doubling each year. When considering the building out of a metaverse, this demand could skyrocket and further outpace the expansion of ISP infrastructure and capabilities for the average user.
Development of Decentralized ISPs
For the metaverse to truly function and remain as decentralized as possible, there must be unrestricted access available to it. This raises the question of how feasible decentralized ISPs could really be.
Distributed internet access has been sought after and researched for some time now. This has led to the development of different concepts, two of which have been highlighted below:
Microgrids for Distributed Internet Data Centers
Part of the systemic centralization issue falls directly on data centres themselves. With centralized ISPs creating strategic partnerships with centralized data storage providers, a decentralized ISP would still have to rely on those very same data centres and thus only partially solves the problem.
There have been multiple proposals to plan and develop a microgrid to power distributed internet data centres. A microgrid is a concept for distributing the power grid itself. It works as a localized energy grid that can function in par or autonomously from the main power grid. These microgrids would have the durability and capacity to host localized data centres, ensuring that the stress of traffic overall on the local system is lower due to the smaller sample size.
Another working concept is that of mesh networks – a way of distributing WiFi connectivity more efficiently. Mesh networks have models that work from the individual household up to entire cities. The network is formed through distributed nodes that are interoperable, meaning that they can communicate to share a wireless connection with each other. This covers larger areas with coverage.
This is a truly wireless distribution of internet connectivity. When considering this concept for smart cities, it would vastly cut down on the necessary infrastructure required to distribute internet access across a city among many thousands of residents. Fewer infrastructure requirements mean all of the following:
Lower upgrade costs
More distributed access
Smaller barrier to entry for new participants
Less systemic risk due to environmental factors
Wireless mesh networks are projected to have steady growth through 2026 based on a research report released in February 2022.
There are a handful of different cryptocurrency-powered projects that are working on the idea of decentralized ISPs. With bootstrapped crypto-powered funding rounds, it can assist the project in being funded through community building and would also help distribute ownership over the ISP.
One such example is Nexus (NXS). The Nexus Protocol aims to provide decentralized routing services for users to bypass traditional ISPs and is “driven by a security-focused operating system (LX-OS), utilizing the immutability of Nexus to verify its internal states, making it resistant to most known operating system level exploits”. To achieve this, Nexus Protocol aims to establish a robust network built up from a combination of tokenized micro-satellites and ground stations in which to interact with said satellites, similar to Elon Musk’s Starlink (but decentralized).
The micro-satellites are to be launched into low Earth orbit and run the Nexus Protocol operating system. The ground stations are established through phased array antennas, which are “electrically steered and are capable of realizing high gains and mobility“. These antennas may be installed on top of buildings or vehicles, and “connect to transceivers on the 5.8 GHz ISM (Industrial, Scientific, Medical) band, commonly used in Wi-Fi routers”, per the Nexus Protocol website.
The successful launch and implementation of such a technology, should it work appropriately, would take the concept of Starlink and distribute ownership of it throughout Web3. Other examples of decentralized ISP development include Blockstream (Bitcoin) and Althea.
Accessibility to the internet will remain a major challenge for the development of a global, decentralized metaverse and Web3 in general. Censorship through ISPs obviously has some workarounds (take the explosion in popularity of VPNs for example), but a large percentage of the global population lives with at least some restrictions to internet access.
Decentralized internet access puts the power of the internet fully into the hands of the users themselves. While development is sluggish for decentralized ISP technology, concepts and ideas are emerging that have adequate examples of how to potentially do it. Should Web3 and the metaverse ever reach their full adoption and developmental potential, unrestricted access to both is vital.