Facebook’s Next Hardware Product Will be the Ray-Ban Smart Glasses

For those hoping that Facebook’s next immersive piece of hardware would be an Oculus Quest Pro, CEO Mark Zuckerberg has confirmed that rather than a new virtual reality (VR) headset its smart glasses route was next. As part of Facebook’s recent Q2 earnings call this month Zuckerberg said that the company’s smart glasses collaboration with Ray-Ban would mark the next hardware arrival.

Facebook - Project Aria
Facebook’s Project Aria

“Looking ahead here, the next product release will be the launch of our first smart glasses from Ray-Ban
in partnership with Essilor Luxottica,” Zuckerberg remarked. “The glasses have their iconic form factor, and they let you do some pretty neat things. I’m excited to get these into people’s hands and to continue to make progress on the
journey towards full augmented reality glasses in the future.”

While he does say augmented reality (AR) these Ray-Ban glasses won’t be a Facebook version of Microsoft HoloLens or even Facebook’s own research hardware Project Aria. The design will likely be much closer to Snapchat Spectacles with basic functionality geared towards taking photos. Currently, nothing has been shown of these upcoming smart glasses or what the feature set will be, just that a launch should be taking place this year.

Project Aria is the company’s main AR development revealed so far, unveiled as part of Facebook Connect in 2020. This is much closer to others in this field, providing a digital experience overlaying the real world. One which you can connect to your smartphone and then operate it completely hands-free. The eventual goal would be like current mixed reality (MR) devices for enterprise, a completely self-contained device. For consumers at the moment, devices like Rokid Air or Nreal Light are the closest they’ll get.

Facebook - Project Aria
Facebook’s Project Aria

The Ray-Ban smart glasses will be another stepping stone towards Zuckerberg’s much talked about vision for the metaverse, a virtual world everyone can connect in no matter the hardware they own. He reiterated this in the earnings call saying: “You’re going to be able to access the metaverse from all different devices in different levels of fidelity —
from apps on phones and PCs to immersive virtual and augmented reality devices. Within the metaverse, you’re going to be able to hang out, play games with friends, work, create, and more. The defining quality of the metaverse is presence – which is this feeling that you’re really there with another person or in another place.”

As Facebook has already held its F8 developer conference in June it’s likely that Facebook Connect in September will be used to reveal the smart glasses. For further updates on those AR plans, keep reading VRFocus.

Mixed Reality Lynx R-1 Gets Huge Price Drop, Launching September Kickstarter

Lynx-R1

In 2020 French startup Lynx unveiled a very bold looking headset design, the Lynx R-1, an all-in-one (AIO) mixed reality (MR) headset. At the time it was firmly focused on the enterprise market, planning to retail the device for $1500 USD. Those plans have dramatically changed with the founder Stan Larroque revealing new details about its price, tech and consumer focus.

Lynx-R1

In a recent 30 -minute live stream – which you can see below – Larroque announced that the Lynx R-1 would no longer be $1500, instead, due to changes made to the hardware the cost will now be sub-$1000. In fact, he goes onto say the price will be “a few hundred dollars”. Which is quite the reduction. Amazingly, Larroque says that most of this reduction is to do with the lenses and the removal of eye tracking from the Lynx R-1.

The headset uses some very funky looking lenses called a 4-fold catadioptric freeform prism, and due to their complexity required eye tracking to be enabled because the eye box – that coveted sweet spot – was so small. So in collaboration with its optics partner Lynx managed to redesign the lenses creating a bigger sweet spot and therefore ditching the eye-tracking cameras. Whilst removing those cameras, Lynx actually went onto add front-facing IR cameras to improve its hand tracking which is powered by Ultraleap software. Previously the Lynx R-1 used the 6DoF tracking cameras which Larroque admits wasn’t great, so now the system is much improved. Important considering hand tracking will be the main input method.

Apart from these changes all the other specifications for the Lynx R-1 remains the same, providing a 90° FOV with 1600 x 1600 per eye resolution at 90Hz. It’ll have colour pass-through for augmented reality (AR) applications, a 3-hour battery life, SteamVR compatibility thanks to OpenXR and it’ll all run on the Qualcomm XR2 platform.

Lynx-R1

Because of these changes anyone who pre-ordered the Lynx R-1 last year will be reimbursed and given a promo code towards the company’s next initiative, a Kickstarter crowd-funding campaign. Expected to launch in September 2021 for one month, Lynx hopes to attract more consumers to the headset, not just enterprise customers, with the current plan for an official launch in February 2022.

More details are expected to be released in the coming weeks, as they are, VRFocus will keep you updated.

Quill is Returning to PlayStation VR in Moss: Book II

Moss Book II

It’s been a while since Polyarc made any announcements regarding its videogame plans. Its massively popular title Moss launched three years ago and fans have been hoping for sequel news, finally arriving during PlayStation’s State of Play event. Polyarc has just revealed Moss: Book II for PlayStation VR and the return of its enigmatic heroine Quill.

Moss Book II

Alongside the first teasing trailer which showcases new locations and interactions, the studio has revealed that Moss: Book II will continue right where the original concluded, with Quill rescuing her uncle Argus from within the hexed castle. In the sequel, Quill discovers a winged tyrant who leads the Arcane forces is hunting her, embarking on a journey through the castle filled with new puzzles and enemies.

There are going to be some epic looking locations to explore whilst encountering new allies and old friends. Some of the new features revealed so far include wielding a big ole hammer and creating new pathways with a nature attunement ability. Plus Quill’s ability to charge her weapons has been enhanced.

“We were blown away by the reception from fans to the Moss storyPlayers built an extraordinary bond with Quill. Countless emails, tweets, streams, and fan art postings made us feel like we had created something special,” said Josh Stiksma, principal software engineer and design director, Polyarc, in a statement. “We’ve since poured our hearts into ensuring Book II is a worthy continuation of Quill’s journey, and hope fans around the world are ready to join Quill in the next chapter of her story.”

Moss Book II

“In Moss, players not only guided Quill throughout gameplay, but they also reached into the world as their own character—their every action had an impact. Players return to this role in Book II and it’s our hope that they are once again reminded of the joy of physical interaction and the power of emotional feedback they can experience within VR,” Stiksma adds. “And it’s that immersion that makes the journey feel all the more real and the stakes even higher.”

Moss became a firm favourite in 2018 with VRFocus’ own review remarking: “Moss is a flawlessly crafted experience starring a character that absolutely deserves to be the face of modern VR. Every inch of the world shows attention to detail, and a story is woven that draws you in, making you truly invested in the world and in Quill as a person.”

Polyarc has yet to say when Moss: Book II might be arriving for PlayStation VR or whether other platforms will be supported in the future. When those details are available VRFocus will let you know.

VR Collection Brings More App Lab Savings From Indie Studios

VR Collection

Since its launch earlier this year the App Lab distribution method for Oculus Quest has seen a huge uptake by indie developers with a large array of titles now available. Finding them all on the actual Oculus Store isn’t easy so it’s simpler to go through a platform like SideQuest. A group of 23 indie developers also came up with another solution, offering bundles via a dedicated website. Lab Surprise was the first instance of this initiative but only run until May. Now the same group is back with a new version, VR Collection.

VR Collection

VR Collection works in a similar manner to Lab Surprise in that 19 videogames are made available for purchase, all in bundles for a discounted price. The indies have added a fun twist depending on how much of a discount you want and whether you like a little gamble. All you do is head to the VR Collection website and you’ll be shown between 2-5 cards, each representing a VR game on App Lab, you just don’t know which ones.

Take the blind gamble and you’ll get a 50% discount on the bundle, with the codes displayed directly after purchase to be redeemed – you also get the codes emailed. Or, if you want to know what you’re getting then the bundle can be revealed with the discount then dropping to 15%. You can always refresh the page to get a new bundle collection.

A new feature the creators have implemented in VR Collection has to do with duplicate apps. Once you’ve made your first purchase you’ll get a Collector ID which can then be inputted so that you’ll never get any duplicates, great if you love purchasing those 5 card blind bundles. All the titles are the same ones in Lab Surprise, featuring the likes of Peco Peco, Rhythm ‘n Bullets, Sep’s Diner, Quest for Runia, Crazy Croquet, The Final Overs and Perpetuum Mobile.

VR Collection

Unlike Lab Surprise, VR Collection looks to be a more permanent initiative to support and promote indie titles on App Lab as there’s no time window. VR Collection’s content selection will also be expanded in the future with one of its creators Julien Dorra – who developed Peco Peco – saying to VRFocus: “Our goal is to have new games every week joining the collection, giving exposure to more indie VR developers and new games to discover for players on a regular basis.”

So as more VR videogames are added to VR Collection’s mystery bundles VRFocus will keep you updated.

Kat Walk Mini S Steps Into VR Arcades This July

KAT Walk Mini S

KAT VR has always been in the business of omnidirectional treadmills for virtual reality (VR) applications, mainly for the professional and enterprise market with devices like 2018’s Kat Walk Mini. Today, the company has announced its second generation of that model, the Kat Walk Mini S, set to hit the market this month.

KAT Walk Mini S

The Kat Walk Mini S aims to refine the walking VR experience for users with a range of improvements over the previous model. A new vibration module built into the base adds immersive feedback from events happening in their surroundings such as explosions or earthquakes, so when a player is running through a battlezone it’ll certainly feel like it.

Even more importantly, the overall walking experience is said to be easier thanks to an optimised base. The learning curve for using the device has been reduced, accommodating a user’s natural gait more effectively whilst supporting both KAT VR’s quick-boarding shoe covers – great for location-based entertainment (LBE) venues – and its own dedicated shoes which have four adjustable levels of friction.

Also on the improvement list are better ergonomics, allowing users to more easily bend down, squat or kneel if they need to reach an item low down or use the environment for cover. The overall look and feel of the Kat Walk Mini S has also been enhanced with a far more professional, eye-catching design, built-in lights to give it a nice futuristic look and a new cable management system when venues are using PC-tethered headsets.

KAT Walk Mini S

As the Kat Walk Mini S isn’t a consumer product KAT VR hasn’t released pricing information but it has confirmed it’ll be available to purchase worldwide this month. KAT VR does sell consumer products, the most recently released being the Kat Walk C treadmill which completed a Kickstarter last year and retails for $1,499 USD on Kat VR’s website.

As further details on the Kat Walk Mini S are released, VRFocus will keep you updated.

Teslasuit Partners With Surgical Institute for Immersive ХR Training

HSS & TESLASUIT pic 2

When it comes to training healthcare professionals using the latest immersive technology precision is everything. While platforms like Osso VR provide virtual scenarios, hardware companies are also being tapped for their solutions. VR Electronics Ltd – the maker of Teslasuit – has announced a new partnership with the Innovation Institute at Hospital for Special Surgery (HSS) to use its full-body system to help collect data on use cases such as performance training and next-generation rehabilitation.

TESLASUIT

A specialist centre for orthopaedics, rheumatology, and related disciplines, HSS will be using the diagnostic capabilities of the Teslasuit – its sensors cover 95% of a users muscle mass – to develop advance personalized, real-time diagnostics, training and physical rehabilitation. Thus allowing physicians to analyze biometry and movement data for diagnostics and monitoring purposes.

“Our products’ effectiveness for enhancing human performance is already proven for XR synthetic training across many of the world’s largest companies and research institutions. So partnering with HSS makes perfect sense to utilize Teslasuit’s technologies in innovative medicine, combining our advanced systems’ technologies and joint expertise. Together we can significantly improve the quality of patient care,” said Sergei Nossoff, CEO of VR Electronics Ltd in a statement. “Our partnership with the Hospital for Special Surgery will extend our capability to be at the forefront of immersive technology, powering the future of medical healthcare solutions.”

The Teslasuit has been on the market for a couple of years now, originally debuting at CES 2018. Priced at $12,999 USD, the full-body suit has been designed for a range of professional use cases, whether that’s for biometric data as mentioned, to haptic feedback to improve situational awareness and motion capture.

HSS & TESLASUIT pic 1

“HSS has a unique responsibility and opportunity to advance the field of musculoskeletal health, combining our expertise and state-of-the-art technology for better wellness, injury prevention, diagnosis, treatment and recovery,” Louis A. Shapiro, President and CEO of HSS adds. “This partnership with Teslasuit is another example of how we are fulfilling our purpose, to help people get back to what they need and love to do better than any other place in the world.”

There are a lot of exciting developments when it comes to the XR and healthcare industries collaborating with HSS and VR Electronics Ltd’s new partnership just the latest example. As further updates on this collaboration are revealed, VRFocus will let you know.

Magic Leap 2 Rollout Begins Late 2021, General Availability Early 2022

Magic Leap

Mixed Reality (MR) headset manufacturer Magic Leap didn’t have a particularly great 2020, even though it raised $350 million USD, as there were layoffs and CEO Rony Abovitz stepped down. Now with ex-Microsoft and Qualcomm veteran, Peggy Johnson at the helm the company is looking towards a brighter future, confirming Magic Leap 2 is on the way with the initial launch beginning later this year.

Magic Leap enterprise
Magic Leap One. Image credit: Magic Leap

Talking to Protocol this week, Johnson said the Magic Leap 2 will be focused on enterprise customers with those part of the early adopter programme gaining access to the new headset in Q4 2021. This will then be followed up by a general release in Q1 2022.

While no images or detailed specifications have been released just yet for Magic Leap 2 Johnson did have this to say: “For frontline workers, the product has to be something comfortable that they can wear all day long. So we’ve made the product half the size, about 20% lighter. But most importantly, we’ve doubled the field of view.” She went onto comment: “That’s a hard thing to do. The optics around that are complex, but we have a very talented engineering team.”

Making the product lighter and more convenient will be an important step when it comes to offering a product that can offer a better experience than Magic Leap’s competitors. The main one is Microsoft’s HoloLens 2 which recently secured a $22 billion deal with the US Department of Defense to supply soldiers with augmented reality (AR) headsets based on HoloLens technology. Even though Magic Leap lost that deal it will continue to look at the military sector. “I think our next-generation product hits all the right feature sets that are needed for soldiers to wear the device for longer periods of time. It needs to be comfortable indoors, outdoors and [in] all types of environments,” she mentions.

Magic Leap enterprise
Magic Leap One. Image credit: Magic Leap

It’s certainly a focused shift away from the gaming apps that Magic Leap One has seen appear. Studios like Resolution Games have released titles such as Glimt: The Vanishing at the Grand Starlight Hotel and Angry Birds FPS: First Person Slingshot whilst BBC Studios and Preloaded have taken a more educational route with BBC Earth – Micro Kingdoms: Senses.

Hopefully, the new Magic Leap 2 will offer a lower price point allowing more companies to get involved in AR and the possibilities it brings. For further updates from Magic Leap, keep reading VRFocus.

Everything the Oculus Gaming Showcase had to Offer

Lone Echo 2

Yesterday turned out to be a big Oculus Wednesday. First, there was the Oculus Quest flash sale (hopefully you didn’t miss it), then there was the little matter of the Oculus Gaming Showcase. The event was jampacked with announcements, from anticipated updates to brand new virtual reality (VR) titles being revealed. There was a lot to take in, so here are the highlights.

Warhammer 40,000: Battle Sister

It was a 30 minute whirlwind of information, dispensing with the sort of fluff most other these events have, getting down to the good stuff. That meant lots of VR videogames, some getting updates right away whilst other are coming later this year.

Oculus Gaming Showcase Roundup

  • Lone Echo II – The long-awaited sci-fi epic is now scheduled for a Summer 2021 launch supporting Oculus Rift!
  • Resident Evil 4 – There was new footage as well as gameplay details for this Oculus Quest 2 exclusive, weapons will be body mounted and there will be smooth and teleportation options.
  • Star Wars: Tales From the Galaxy’s Edge: Part 2 – The first teasing details for the second installment, introducing you to a mysterious Ithorian called Dok-Ondar.
  • Pistol Whip: Smoke & Thunder – The next campaign for the popular rhythm action shooter, it’ll be set in the Wild West and arrives this summer.
  • I Expect You To Die 2: The Spy and the Liar – Schell Games confirmed the spy sequel will support Oculus Quest and Rift which it launches in 2021.
  • The Walking Dead: Saints & Sinners Aftershocks – A massive update for the apocalyptic experience, it’ll continue the story with new missions, collectibles, and hours of gameplay. Due for release in May.
  • After the Fall – Looking forward to Vertigo Games’ co-op shooter, see it in action with a new gameplay trailer.
  • Carve Snowboarding – The only completely new videogame to be revealed, Carve Snowboarding sees Chuhai Labs team up with 1080° Snowboarding creator Giles Goddard to get players back on the slopes.
  • Warhammer 40,000: Battle Sister – Released in 2020, Pixel Toys announced that the horde mode was getting a co-op element so you can fight the hordes of Chaos with a mate. Plus, it’s available now as a free update!
  • The Climb 2 – Another big update, Crytek releases the Freestyle Expansion Pack today, adding six new courses with new gameplay elements to really challenge the best climbers.
Star Wars: Tales from the Galaxy's Edge

And that’s your lot from the first Oculus Gaming showcase. So there’s plenty to look forward to before the end of 2021 and then there’s always Facebook Connect later in the year. For all the latest Oculus updates, keep reading VRFocus.

AmazeVR Raises $9.5m Towards Immersive Concerts

AmazeVR

Originally starting out as an immersive entertainment platform offering unique series from filmmakers, for the last year or so AmazeVR has gradually moved into concert experiences. The company has just announced that its latest funding round has managed to raise $9.5 million towards this endeavour, with music now the main focus going forward.

AmazeVR

Led by Murex Partners, the funding round saw participation from We Ventures, Bass Investment, and Dunamu & Partners as well as existing investors– Mirae Asset Venture Investment, Mirae Asset Capital, Partners Investment and Timewise Investment. “AmazeVR represents the future of music promotion and fan interaction,” said Dohan Kim, the CEO of Timewise Investment.

AmazeVR’s shift into immersive concerts features both digital and physical activations. So fans can watch artists at home through VR headsets but there will also be movie theatre locations with D-BOX seats showcasing content. This is further aided by unique pop-up events thanks to a tour bus fitted with D-BOX seats, recently highlight via a collaboration with Roc Nation R&B/Hip-hop duo Ceraadi.

“Working closely with artists and labels over the past several months, it has become apparent that AmazeVR has the potential to take the music industry into the future while completely reinventing the fan experience,” said Ernest Lee, co-CEO of AmazeVR in a statement. “We’re rapidly building out our artist pipeline and striking broad distribution agreements to bring stellar artist-to-fan engagement to millions of people worldwide.”

AmazeVR

“Our efforts are further assisted by interest in the VR market, with Apple preparing to release a VR headset and the Oculus Quest 2 representing a growing percentage of Facebook’s revenue,” Lee continued. “As more and more consumers gain access to VR technologies– be they through headsets, theatres, or even their phones– there is enormous potential for Immersive Concerts.”

With most live events still not taking place AmazeVR is one of a number of companies aiming to keep artists and fans connected. Taking a different approach is Sensorium Galaxy which is creating an entire social world where superstar DJ’s like David Guetta will be performing. As this segment of the industry continues to gain traction, VRFocus will keep you updated.

The Enduring Hope of VR on Xbox

Xbox Series X

There was a sudden spark in the world of virtual reality (VR) this week when reports circulated of an error message appearing on an Xbox Series X that seemed to indicate that VR support could be on the cards. No sooner had the rumour mill kicked into high gear Microsoft quickly debunked the news saying that the information was ‘inaccurate’ and a ‘localisation bug’. One thing made perfectly clear from all this is the fact that even if Microsoft still has no outward intention of Xbox supporting VR, we’d all still love it to happen.

xbox

So if you managed to somehow miss the furore a couple of days ago, IGN Italy reported on an error message one of its journalists noticed when installing the new Xbox Wireless Headset which read: “The VR headset needs to be updated.” Naturally, this was instantly flagged because Microsoft has made no mention of VR support in any way, yet there it was “VR headset”. However, the term ‘headset’ can be used for both VR devices and for headphones which can get a little confusing.

With VR really starting to kick-off thanks to Oculus Quest 2 and details about a new PlayStation VR surfacing, it seemed too good to be true that an Xbox VR head-mounted display (HMD) could be in the works. And that bubble was quickly popped by Microsoft, releasing a statement saying: “The description in this error message is inaccurate due to a localization bug. Console VR is not our priority right now.”

So that quickly put the fire out on that piece of short-lived excitement. It still begs the question as to why the Redmond-based company continually refuses to show any interest in console VR when most are still surprised it doesn’t already exist. Sure, the naysayers will point towards it still being niche or even going so far to claim that the technology is dead – which it definitely isn’t – but the lack of VR on Xbox still comes across as a big miss.

xbox-headsetvr_gb3y
Image credit IGN Italy

Those with good memories will remember that it was Microsoft that started the Xbox VR rumours when it revealed Xbox One X (Project Scorpio) back in 2016, with Head of Xbox Phil Spencer actually mentioning VR in his E3 address. After that, VR was very quickly dropped from any Xbox dialogue with Microsoft only talking about the tech in relation to PCs. As we now know this then turned into the Windows Mixed Reality (WMR) system – which hasn’t been that successful really.

But with WMR in one hand and Xbox in the other surely they could’ve worked, especially on the new Xbox Series X? At the moment the focus is more on trying to get enough of the new consoles built than worrying about VR implementation, maybe once the Xbox Series base is established VR might become an option? Having the feature would certainly be another sales point.

Xbox really could do with considering its main rival PlayStation is very much invested in VR.  Since launching in 2016 PlayStation VR easily became the top headset, selling millions of units whilst attracting AAA exclusives like Resident Evil 7 Biohazard. March 2021 has seen Sony Interactive Entertainment (SIE) whip up a storm confirming a new headset is on the way followed by images of the “orb” controller with lots of fancy haptic features. The promise of a VR device for PlayStation 5 might not be its main sales feature as customers scramble to get their hands on one, however, this does mean PlayStation 5 has something the Xbox Series X definitely doesn’t.

PlayStation 5 VR Controller

And quite frankly we all love a bit of competition, it’s healthy and spurs innovation. Microsoft has VR headsets, it bought AltspaceVR, and it bought VR-capable studios like inXile Entertainment and let’s not even get into augmented reality (AR). Plus, just imagine if Xbox’s cloud-streaming service was piped into a standalone headset rather than a mobile phone…oh the possibilities. Hopefully, one day this will be made a reality and Facebook would have some proper competition.