Using AR and VR to Embrace the Metaverse

In early August 2021, a playlist was added to Fortnite among the usual solo, duo, trio and squad options. ‘The Rift Tour’ would be an “interactive musical journey” featuring pop princess Ariana Grande. Before the concert, players could shop the online store and buy a skin of Ariana, which would transform their avatar into the singer. There were also accessories and emotes – animated movements – to support the concert. A popular emote made the player avatar wave a cell phone flashlight in the air.

The concert was a huge success and saw millions of players flood the servers to take part. The performance – all pre-recorded – featured a giant Ariana, endless Escher staircases, users bouncing on pink, fluffy trees and riding inflatable Llamacorns through the sky.

As we near the all-encompassing ‘metaverse’, music acts embracing technology and connecting with their fans through these events will be a surefire play to get users into web 3.0. By expanding beyond the confines of a contained show and utilising available technology, fans can get closer than ever to their idols.

Preceding the Ariana concert, Fortnite had already teamed with Travis Scott and plenty of DJs who took to the virtual stage. It’s clear that Epic Games are determined to continue in this vein given their purchase of Harmonix, a company known for creating music based videogames such as Fuser and Rock Band. Virtual concerts are clearly successful because consumers are given a new way to interact with their favourite music acts. It’s worth keeping in mind that many players may attend these gigs even if they aren’t a fan of the musical star, purely for the spectacle.

This is an easily monetised side hustle. Selling skins, items and accessories in the lead up to a concert or experience not only benefits the developers and publishers of the game but the artist too. Given the changes in the world since the COVID-19 pandemic broke out, virtual attendance is appealing, more so when you consider the interactivity virtual concerts offer compared to their ‘real world’ counterparts. Artists can sell tickets and merchandise recouping revenue lost during the pandemic.

Over on the Roblox platform, acts such as Lil Nas X and Twenty One Pilots have hosted concert experiences. Users can convert their cash into Robux and buy T-shirts and hats, showing them off within games.

More recently, Wave put on a virtual concert for Justin Bieber and the strategic shooter game Scavengers hosted K-Pop idol AleXa. It’s these latter examples that point to a possible future within the metaverse as they experiment with crowd participation and real-time performances, they also differentiate themselves from Fortnite and Roblox, by creating more fan participation.

While it looked like Justin Bieber had been fully prerecorded, AleXa interacted with the crowd in real-time, much as they would at a traditional concert. Each of these concerts asked the attendees to mash buttons to hype up the artists or throw up glow sticks to create that gig atmosphere.

With improvements in VR and AR, it makes sense that the next step in entertainment will embrace these technologies. In fact, VR is already a usable tool for concertgoers, albeit with some restrictions. MelodyVRsoon to be rebranded as Napster – an app for Oculus devices, allows viewers to purchase tickets to a show and watch it using the VR headset. MelodyVR feels a bit like those early DVD extras, which allowed you to watch a scene from different angles. Once the concert is loaded, you can choose from many positions to watch from, including mosh pits and the wings of the stage. Some angles truly make the user a part of the show by positioning them on the stage, with the performer moving around them.

Horizon Venues is another portal for entertainment, both live and prerecorded, except here your avatar is relegated to a seating area while the performance takes place on a screen. This emulates a cinema, rather than an arena, but the visual fidelity is much better. Using this tool to sit with a friend and watch the latest Marvel film or stand-up comedian would be one step closer to the metaverse often depicted.

Attempting to stand out within the metaverse, is Sensorium Galaxy. Sensorium empowers the concertgoer with a digital avatar who can be fully customised, before attending the gig. Sensorium has already announced a bucketload of virtual concerts with some of the biggest DJs in the world – Carl Cox, David Guetta, Steve Aoki, Charlotte de Witte and many more. These powerhouses in dance music are scanned and captured in motion capture creating a “photo-realistic’ avatar to perform and interact with fans. Sensorium can be used via VR for a “fully immersive experience” which will be unlike anything found in existing experience platforms.

As time passes, video quality will get better, the sound will improve and the metaverse will envelop these experiences, pulling them into the decentralised network. Going to a gig will come in two forms – visiting the arena and using your smartphone to access AR features, or watching from home via VR. It makes a great deal of sense from the artists perspective, especially given the cut to revenue during the pandemic.

We’re still quite a way from Ready Player One, but if Roblox is anything to go by, younger audiences are already preparing themselves for the metaverse revolution. With a concert on the Roblox platform, players can gather together, chat and dance, sometimes interacting with the artist via prompts. What removes this from a true metaverse experience is the lack of seamless movement. You don’t start at your house, on your own land and walk to the venue. You don’t look into the distance and see the rest of the city sprawling before you, ripe for exploration. This will be a future step.

The metaverse needs to bring all of this together, grouping the disparate ventures and creating an experience that benefits the user both digitally and physically. If you were to walk from your house to the arena, meet friends along the way and use VOIP chat to converse, that’s one step. If, when you arrive, you can buy an NFT poster for your digital bedroom, plus a T-shirt for your avatar – all from a digital avatar vendor – it would help if the physical versions of these were then dispatched to your home.

Combining current and emerging technology will bring a rounded experience to everything from games to concerts; work meetings to dating. However, a few things need to change first – VR headsets must become more affordable, or be pushed via government programs. Seamless experiences will only develop if corporations begin working together to decentralise the digital space. Early adoption must try to offer metaverse existence through AR or VR as the cherry on the cake, where our current lives are the cake beneath. The first rung on the ladder is getting everyone together in sections of the metaverse, using the technology available to us. The next step will be folding them all together.

Hitman 3 PC VR System Requirements Revealed, No Reverb G2 Support

Hitman 3’s PC VR support launches today, but it looks like you won’t be able to play it with an HP Reverb G2.

Developer IO Interactive has revealed the supported headsets and system requirements for the game, which is due to get an update adding in the VR support in a few hours from now (along with launching on Steam and Game Pass). The page confirms that the game supports the Valve Index, Meta Quest 2, Oculus Rift and HTC Vive Pro and Cosmos devices. But it also specifically states that the G2 is not supported, and doesn’t make any mention of support for other Windows MR devices.

We’ve reached out to IO to ask if Reverb G2 support could be added to the game later down the line. Reverb G2 is an impressive headset with very high resolution displays, so it’d be a shame not to be able to experience the game this way.

The page also confirms that the game supports the Valve Index controllers, Oculus Touch controllers and Vive Cosmos controllers. The original Vive wands, meanwhile, will work with the game to some degree, but haven’t been specifically optimized for the game.

Hitman 3 PC VR System Requirements Revealed

Finally, we have minimum specs. IO says you’ll need:

CPU: Intel 6-core i7-8700 / AMD Ryzen 7 2700
GPU: NVIDIA RTX 2060 Super / AMD 5700XT

This base requirement will apparently allow you to run the game at a consistent 90FPS on lower-end headsets with graphics sets on low. Anything more than that and you’ll probably want to invest in some better gear.

We’ll be bringing you impressions of Hitman 3 on PC VR as soon as we can, so stay tuned.

VR Narrative Game The Last Worker Reveals New Trailer

A new trailer for VR narrative game The Last Worker debuted, giving us a closer look at some of the characters, story and gameplay.

The Last Worker, developed by Oiffy and Wolf & Wood, is set for release on Quest, SteamVR and flatscreen devices later this year. It’s a dystopian narrative VR game where you play as Kurt, a factory worker joined by his robotic companion stew, voiced by Jason Isaacs.

We got our first teaser last year, but it didn’t reveal a whole lot. This new trailer introduces us to the ‘Jüngle Fulfillment Centre’ and gives a closer look at some more gameplay.

We went hands-on with a 10-minute demo of The Last Worker back in September. Visually, it stunned us, but we were left with a few questions around what the actual gameplay will entail a bit further into the experience.

Here’s an excerpt from our hands-on:

The game has an assured confidence to its storytelling and a high level of production that feels rare in VR right now. For starters, it straight up looks better than most games I’ve played on Oculus Quest … even if that’s down to its handpainted art direction. It allows the teams to get far more out of the visuals than we’re used to seeing on Quest, from the exaggerated wrinkles lining Kurt’s forehead to the tiny details decorating his craft and making it feel like a real, lived-in vehicle.

Thankfully, this new trailer released today does give us a bit of a closer look at what to expect from the gameplay. You can see Kurt using a gravity gun-like device to pick up items and move them around, it looks like some environmental puzzles are on the cards.

The Last Worker releases this year for Quest, SteamVR and flatscreen devices. It is available to wishlist on Steam now.

Quest, PC Mech Shooter Iron Rebellion Gets 4v4 Combat & More In Huge Update

Promising VR mech combat game, Iron Rebellion, has added significant new features in its latest update.

As promised by developer Black Beach Studio ahead of early access launch last year, the game’s been updated with 4v4 player combat. When it launched on Steam and App Lab for Quest in 2021, Iron Rebellion only supported 1v1 multiplayer, but assured that expanded options were on the roadmap.

New Iron Rebellion Update Goes Live

There are some other new additions to this update, too. For starters, there are two new weapons including a long-range single-shot weapon and a fast fire, medium-range alternative. You’ll also get an early look at a new map, Junk Yard, and the mech bay has been updated along with new additions to the cockpit.

Next up on the game’s roadmap is a full release that has all of the multiplayer content included. So you’ll see nine mech classes, 12 weapons, three maps and more game modes included in the final package. From there, the developer plans to add in single-player and co-op features including, if the game really took off, a full single-player campaign mode. Fingers crossed we get to see some iteration of that later down the line.

Are you going to be checking out Iron Rebellion’s new update? Let us know in the comments below!

Quest v37 Update Adds Hand-Tracking Quick Menu, Apple Magic Keyboard Support & More

The full version of Meta Quest v37 is rolling out from today with a handful of new features to talk about.

Firstly, there’s support for a brand new keyboard – Apple’s Magic Keyboard. Once v37 is installed you’ll be able to enable support for the device in Quest’s experimental features settings, meaning your headset will track the position of the device and show you it inside VR. This is the first new keyboard to be added to Quest since the feature debuted with the Logitech K830 last year. We just launched a guide on the best keyboards for Quest, so expect an update to that soon.

Quest v37 Update Released

Meta Quest v37 update

Elsewhere, v37 introduces link sharing between your Oculus app and headset. Simply share a website link with your headset via the app and it will take you to it when you next put your Quest on.

Perhaps more interestingly, there’s a new Quick Action Menu for hand tracking. Previously you could pinch your thumb and index fingers to effectively press the Oculus button and access the same menu you would with Touch controllers. Now this action will bring up a quick menu specific to hand tracking that includes options to take screenshots and activate voice commands.

Finally, the update allows you to change display modes for 2D panels. The ‘tablet mode’ is essentially the same as the existing setup, with a larger window closer to you. But ‘desktop mode’ allows you to move the display further away, allowing you to more easily multitask. The Explore section of the menu has also been updated.

Not bad for the first set of updates for the year, then. As always, the update will roll out gradually so, if you don’t have it right now, give it a little time. Previously, we reported that the Public Test Channel version of the v37 update included a hidden peak at the Horizon Home multiplayer feature, though that doesn’t appear to be materializing just yet.

 

Gorgeous VR Adventure Unbinary Reveals New Trailer

We’ve got another trailer for the gorgeous upcoming VR adventure, Unbinary.

The new footage introduces us to a new character, a sarcastic AI known as Webby.

New Unbinary Trailer Revealed

Unbinary caught our attention last year for its striking hand-painted style and unique concept, in which players prepare to audit Webby and ensure she’s ready for a demanding job – to rule Earth.

Currently the game is in early access over on Steam, which the new trailer introducing some big updates including a new map with more puzzles and different movement options. There’s more to come for the game’s official release, though. For now, the full version of Unbinary is due for release on Quest and PC VR in early 2022. Are you looking forward to the game? Let us know in the comments below!

Ubisoft Developing VR Escape Room Set During Notre-Dame Fires

Ubisoft is developing a new location-based VR experience in partnership with Pathé, according to Variety. The experience will put players right in the middle of the 2019 fires at the French cathedral of Notre-Dame.

The experience will tie-in with Jean-Jacques Annaud’s upcoming IMAX documentary, “Notre-Dame on Fire”. It was Annaud who spearhead this virtual immersive tie-in with the movie, by reaching out to Ubisoft in early 2021 while shooting the documentary

Set to release in March alongside the doco, the Notre-Dame on Fire immersive experience will take the form of a puzzle-based VR escape room. It will run for one hour, during which players will be placed in the shoes of the Parisian fire brigade inside the cathedral on April 15, 2019, when the building went up in flames.

“Like any escape game, it’s a question of puzzles and co-operating with your teammates,” says Ubisoft senior VP new business and strategic alliances Deborah Papiernik. “The idea is to make your way through the cathedral to find relics and to fight the fire, because you have to save Notre Dame [before the clock runs out].”

Ubisoft are no strangers to featuring Notre-Dame in its properties — a model of the cathedral first appeared in Assassin’s Creed: Unity. That model, in the wake of the fires, was spun out into a free PC experience called Notre-Dame de Paris: Journey Back in Time in September 2020.

The Notre-Dame on Fire VR experience will release globally in March, available to all of Ubisoft’s international partners. “We have 630 international partner locations that all have access to our games,” said Papiernik. “[In March] they’ll have access to this latest one as soon as we push the button.”

Keep an eye out for more new on Notre-Dame on Fire soon.

Virtual reality is no match for the real thing | Brief letters

Living in the real world | Rot at the top | Playing away | BBC brouhaha

The philosopher David Chalmers asks us to embrace virtual worlds as a new reality (Report, 17 January), as “this is where humanity is heading”. Not for this human it isn’t. Thanks, but no thanks. I’ll stick to reality.
Pete Lavender
Nottingham

• While preparing for my interview for a headship, I came across the old adage that schools, like fish, rot from the head down. For some reason, that reminds me of the government.
Bob Forster
Shipton-under-Wychwood, Oxfordshire

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Best Wireless Bluetooth Keyboards For Meta Quest 2

Looking to use an external wireless keyboard with your Meta Quest 2 headset? Here are the options.

Quest 2 now supports using Bluetooth keyboards with the headset in VR, both across the system and in Meta’s remote work solution, Horizon Workrooms.

While you can connect most Bluetooth keyboards to the Quest, only a few are fully compatible and considered ‘tracked’ keyboards in VR.

When connected, a tracked keyboard is represented in VR with a 1:1 model that matches the position and orientation of the keyboard in real life. It also shows an overlaid view of your hands above the keyboard, as pictured above. This allows you to use the physical keyboard as normal while in VR.

However, there aren’t many keyboards that support fully tracked functionality on Quest 2. Meta has said it wants to expand support to more keyboard models, but it’s proving “harder than expected.”

Without tracking, you will still be able to use a Bluetooth keyboard but you won’t be able to see it while in VR, making it much harder to type reliably.

So without further ado — here are the best keyboard options for Quest 2.

Logitech K830

logitech k830

The Logitech K830 is the best keyboard to pair with a Meta Quest headset.

This keyboard was the first to receive support and remains the best option, as it includes a trackpad on the side. This allows you to have full mouse and keyboard control with just one device in VR. The trackpad isn’t the most responsive but its inclusion is still welcome.

It’s also worth noting: this is specifically relating to the US model of the K830. Some users previously indicated that other international K830 models, such as the UK model, are not supported, but we haven’t be able to verify this ourselves.

Apple Magic Keyboard

magic keyboard apple

The Apple Magic Keyboard is the second supported tracked keyboard on Quest 2. This keyboard is Apple’s standard wireless keyboard, often shipped with iMacs and other desktop Mac computers and also sold separately.

If you have an iMac or other desktop Mac with a Magic Keyboard, you’ll be able to disconnect it from that device and connect it to your Quest 2. Similarly, if you own a standalone Magic Keyboard or if you buy one, it can easily connect to Quest 2.

Any Bluetooth Keyboard

As mentioned above, you can connect any Bluetooth keyboard to Quest 2 and it should work fine. However, you won’t be able to see the keyboard at all while in VR, which is quite inconvenient.

However, if you’re using Horizon Workrooms specifically, you can use any keyboard and turn on the passthrough cutout feature on your desk. While using Workrooms, this will let you see your keyboard on your desk while in the app using passthrough — slightly better than the alternative. It should be noted though – in this instance, the keyboard should be paired with the computer you’re using in Workrooms via remote desktop, not your Quest.

Horizon Workrooms Bonus – Apple MacBook Pro

quest ar keyboard label

When using the virtual desktop feature of Horizon Workrooms, there is support for one additional keyboard type: the Apple MacBook Pro laptop keyboard.

This will only work when using virtual desktop in Workrooms — there’s no way to use or connect the keyboard directly to the Quest for general use — but it does give you one more tracked keyboard option for that service specifically. You can use it with the passthrough cutout and AR button labels (pictured above) or fully in VR with a tracked virtual keyboard model.


What keyboard are you using for your Quest 2? Let us know in the comments.

Report: FTC Investigating Meta’s Competitive Practices

The United States Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is investigating Meta for potentially anti-competitive practices, Bloomberg reports.

The recent report from Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman and Naomi Nix indicates the FTC is investigating Meta’s virtual reality units over potential anti-competitive practices.

Last month, a report from The Information indicated the FTC opened an antitrust probe into Meta’s acquisition of VR fitness platform Supernatural. The new report from Bloomberg indicates the FTC’s investigation is “scrutinizing how Meta, the world’s largest social media company, may be using its market power in the VR space to stifle competition,” including asking about Meta’s sales strategy for Quest 2 which sees it priced starting at just $299, far below the nearest competition.

Apps like Virtual Desktop and Bigscreen have faced situations where Meta (formerly Facebook) made it either difficult or unprofitable for certain aspects of those products to function on Quest. In the case of Virtual Desktop, for example, developer Guy Godin wasn’t allowed to release a PC VR streaming feature for his app through official channels for more than 20 months. When Facebook finally allowed the feature officially it was just a couple months before Facebook launched its own version of PC VR streaming called Air Link. The Bloomberg story reports the FTC “quizzed outside developers that make Oculus apps in recent months as part of the inquiry,” particularly in relation to how the company might discriminate against third-party services or apps that compete with solutions or apps offered by Meta directly.

The full report from Bloomberg, which may be behind a paywall, is available here. It’s been a busy start to the year — other recent reports indicate that Apple’s unannounced mixed reality headset might not ship this year, amid reports of lucrative hiring pushes between Meta, Apple and Microsoft.