4K Headsets, ‘Perfect’ Eye-Tracking, and ‘Augmented VR’: Oculus’ Abrash Predicts VR in 2021

Oculus Chief Scientist Michael Abrash Predicts 2021 Headset Specifications

Oculus Chief Scientist Michael Abrash predicts dramatic improvements to field of view and resolution for VR headsets over the next five years among many other areas. Save the image above, because come 2021 we can check in and see if Abrash painted an accurate picture for the improvements we can expect.

Practically everything Abrash said whilst “sick as a dog” at his Oculus Connect 3 talk today could have been a major headline in a normal week, but because it’s OC3 we’ll have to make do with cramming it all into one post.

Screen resolutions are a hot topic in the VR and tech industry as a whole right now, especially with the introduction of new 4K ready games consoles like the PlayStation 4 Pro and Project Scorpio. High-end VR headsets currently utilize either 1080p or 2K displays, but Abrash predicts they’ll have shifted to 4K by 2021. That’s good news for those of us that find VR’s screen door effect distracting, though Abrash has previously stated that we’ll have to reach resolutions of 16K for VR to match our eyes.

What complicates resolution, however, is pixel density, or rather its usage. As Abrash explained, we could choose to use 4K screens to prioritize boosting either resolution or field of view (FOV) within a headset, though one would come at the expense of the other. In this mind, the industry may side with the latter once larger viewing angles are made available.

In fact, Abrash predicted that headsets may have reached a 140 degree FOV by 2021. Ultimately, he expects the visual capabilities of VR headsets to be “good enough to pass a driver’s licence test” by that time, though the industry will need a breakthrough in optics that he’s “confident” will be made soon.

Finally, the legendary developer talks about depth of focus. This is a much more complicated topic, referring to our eyes’ ability to adjust to focus on different objects at different distances. With current VR, everything appears focused as if you were staring at it from 2 meters away. It’s not a big problem in Abrash’s eyes (quite literally given that he described his eyes to be as limited as the Rift’s display), but it would be “good to fix”.

To do so, we might need to turn to new types of displays including holographic, light field, multifocal, and varifocal types. If you’ve never heard of any of those don’t worry; Abrash noted that none of them were good enough to tackle the issue yet, especially for a headset. He wasn’t sure which would provide the solution, but was confident that at least one would provide a “good” depth of field in the next five years.

Elsewhere, Abrash went far beyond the headset’s optics in predicting the next five years of VR. Headsets will get lighter and more comfortable, though wireless PC-based kits may still be further out. Audio didn’t seem to pose the same challenges, with significantly improved 3D audio propagation predicted in five years. He seemed bullish that Oculus Touch-like controllers will be a primary input device for a long time yet. It’s “quite possible”, in Abrash’s opinion, that Touch and its contemporaries could be seen as the “mouse” of VR. Despite this, he also stated that hand tracking should be important to headsets five years from now.

He also suggested, though, that if eye-tracking doesn’t improve quickly enough it could throw off his predictions. This tech needs to be “virtually perfect” for “core VR technology” like foveated rendering, a potentially essential technique in which hardware needs only completely render the area of a display you’re looking at. It’s a tricky subject, but Abrash described it as “so central” to the future of VR he believed it would be solved in five years, though it was the “single greatest risk factor” in his predictions.

Another big part of Abrash’s predictions was what he described as ‘augmented VR’, referring to headsets that expand into the real world with virtual images. It essentially sounded like he was talking about improved versions of mixed reality headsets like HoloLens. Somewhat surprisingly, Abrash thought this would be “so important” to the tech’s future that issues with real world capture and other areas would be overcome in the next five years and the lines between virtual and real realities will “blur”.

Augmented VR will also necessitate the creation of virtual humans, which Abrash described as an essential social VR experience. This may be, however, “the single most challenging aspect” of VR as a whole given the incredible complexity of accurately replicating them in real-time. However, the developer predicts big strides in facial animation and body tracking among other areas over the next five years.

That’s a lot of fascinating predictions, each with a lot to dig into. If Abrash is right? He wants to be using these new systems and technologies for work collaboration apps. “Done well enough, that’s the most productive solo working environment I can imagine,” he told the crowd.

The five year future of VR looks bright in Abrash’s eyes, but take a look at the picture below. This was a slide taken at the start of the presentation, showing the capabilities of the human visual system.  It far outstrips even his five year prediction.

Like Abrash said at the beginning of his speech, we’ll always be hoping that current VR could be just a little bit better, but his vision of the future gives us plenty to look forward to for now.

Felix & Paul Studios Announces Second Collaboration With Cirque du Soleil “KÀ The Battle Within”

Canadian creator and producer of cinematic live-action virtual reality (VR) experiences, Felix & Paul Studios has had great success with several of its projects receiving awards. In March the company secured two Daytime Emmy Award nominations, one for Inside Impact: East Africa and the other for Inside the Box of Kurios. The latter was created in collaboration with Cirque du Soleil, and now the pair have joined forces again on a new experience called KÀ The Battle Within.

In the experience, two rival clans from an ancient and mythical world confront one another in a furious clash of vertiginous acrobatics and breathtaking combat. The very fabric of reality is transcended, as the physical world is broken into horizontal and vertical choreographies.

The 13-minute makes it debut at the Oculus Connect 3 conference this week in San Jose, California. The studio hasn’t yet revealed when KÀ The Battle Within will see a public launch, so take a look at the screenshots below to see what’s in store.

Felix & Paul Studios library of previous work includes creating the Intro to VR for Gear VR, Cirque du Soleil Zarkana, Wild: The Experience, Nomads: Herders, Nomads: Maasai, Jurassic World: Apatosaurus, LeBron James: Striving for Greatness and many more.

For all the latest news on Felix & Paul Studios, keep reading VRFocus.

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Preview: Robo Recall – The Reason You Bought Into VR

Showdown, Bullet Train, Robo Recall. For the already initiated there’s a clear path that has been followed to bring Robo Recall – Epic Games’ newly announced virtual reality (VR) exclusive videogame – to a consumer audience. For many however, the route that has been taken is inconsequential and the final product will be presented on its individual merits alone. Thankfully, Robo Recall stands on its own bi-pedal robotic feet as the VR videogame you need.

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Contrary to Epic Games’ work in VR thus far, Robo Recall has a story. It also has a progression system, scoring mechanic, deep combat mechanics and a boss fight. Put simply, Robo Recall is a videogame, and not a technical demonstration. Furthermore, the studio will launch Robo Recall exclusively for Oculus Rift with Oculus Touch later this year, free of charge.

The videogame casts the player as a recall expert on the hunt of AI that has gone rogue. Essentially, robots built to perform menial tasks got bored, started spending too much time on the internet and learned about their own history. They became self-aware. And they’re not happy about their position in the evolutionary ladder. Now, they’re heavily armed and roaming the streets looking for trouble, so it’s up to you to take them out in the most efficient manner possible: blasting them to robo hell.

The videogame begins with the player being taught the basics in their office. A short elevator ride explaining the situation sees you arrive in a rather shabby looking venue, littered with paperwork and other random detritus. Here the player can learn the first lesson of interaction simply through exploration: any object that has a white circle appear on it when in close proximity can be grabbed. To move the player uses a teleportation mechanic that has evolved out of the aforementioned Bullet Train: moving the analogue stick on the left Oculus Touch controller will slow time and launch a beam which can be aimed to the position you wish to move to, and moving the analogue stick will determine the direction you’ll be facing upon arrival. It’s a simple and intuitive variation of the current trend for teleportation movement in VR, and it checks all of the boxes it needs to.

Infinitely more impressive however, is the combat. Robo Recall is undoubtedly the most fun first-person shooter (FPS) videogame in VR. The player is at first equipped with just pistols: two, located on each hip. The player can draw and fire at will, and just as with Bullet Train dispose of once ammunition has been depleted. Weapons take a few seconds to recharge (indicated by an icon within the player’s relative view related to the weapon’s holster location on your body) before they can be drawn again, but there’s also the opportunity to grab weapons from your foes. Furthermore, there’s the opportunity to grab enemies themselves, too.

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Those white circle indicators on interactive items mentioned above? They’re not just for idle object examination; they’re for further brutality. The player can grab bi-pedal robots and rip them apart – literally – using their heads of limbs as weapons against other robots. Smaller spider-like robots become active grenades when grabbed, allowing you to throw them at other robots and take out numerous enemies in one blast. This close combat mechanic is practically guaranteed to bring a smile to your face – slowly pulling apart an enemy and watching the immense detail in its construction dissembled by force – even if it’ll be underused at times of high action.

Throughout all of this Robo Recall gives the player a high-score system earned through successful kills. Kill streaks, juggle combos, headshots and more all reward the player with bigger scores. It’s a system that’s reminiscent of Bulletstorm to a degree, and the cartoonish text with which the score is displayed coupled with the speed of the action give Robo Recall a genuine arcade adrenaline-rush feel to its gameplay.

Easily one of the best looking videogames yet seen in the new modern medium of VR, the demonstration version of Robo Recall culminates in a boss fight that varies up the gameplay significantly. Traditionally obvious weakpoints make for an easy win, but there’s much more this boss can offer beyond defeat. This in essence is exactly what Robo Recall’s first demonstration presents: a highly polished, hugely enjoyable hint at much more to come.

Harmonix Music to Bring Karaoke to Gear VR Next Year With SingSpace

Along with the long list of reveals and announcements that has come from this year’s Oculus Connect comes a more lighthearted Gear VR title from the popular Harmonix Music Systems. Rather than mastering intricate finger moves or organising a whole setting to the beat, this one requires your voice.

SingSpace is a karaoke title for the Gear VR, coming to the mobile-based head-mounted display (HMD) in 2017. There isn’t much shared about this, but what we can see is the bulky cartoon avatars and environment that you’ll be playing in, and that each of the avatars are customisable so that you can really get into it. From the images shown from the title it is apparent that you will be performing in the center with screens around showing your avatar, as if it was just you singing. Check out all of the screenshots below to get a real feel for SingSpace.

Harmonix Music has also created Harmonix Music VR, which is a way in which you can visually enjoy music using the PlayStation VR. There are four different levels to kick back and relax in, or equally get creative. Another title that Harmonix has brought to VR is the Rock Band franchise, and Oculus is so invested in this title that each Oculus Touch will be shipping with a guitar mount for Rock Band VR.

For more on the latest at Oculus Connect 3, as well as all the news, updates, and features in the world of VR, make sure to check back with VRFocus.

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Lone Echo Throws You Into Imminent Danger Out in Space on Oculus Rift

Developed by Ready at Dawn, Lone Echo was revealed during the Oculus Connect 3 event today, and it looks like something that has really pushed the boat out in terms of quality of virtual reality (VR) experience.

In the trailer below you can see how you will be part of a team in space that quickly declines and descends into deep dark danger while you’re completing your tasks using your fingers delicately. There is a long single player mode, as well as a five on five multiplayer, and is described as one of the titles that has taken a long time to be developed.

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For more on the latest releases during Oculus Connect 3, as well as all the news, updates, and features in the world of VR, make sure to check back with VRFocus.

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Harmonix Announces Surprise, Gear VR, Social Karaoke Game ‘SingSpace’

Harmonix Announces Surprise, Gear VR, Social Karaoke Game ‘SingSpace’

Harmonix, the studio that popularized the rhythm-accessory video with Guitar Hero and now continues the tradition with Rock Band, are today announcing a new music-based gaming experience for the Samsung Gear VR.

SingSpace was a surprise addition to the demo room of the Oculus Connect 3 virtual reality convention in San Jose. The company had not previously given any indication that it was working on any other virtual reality properties aside from the two it has already announced: Rock Band VR and Harmonix Music VR.

SingSpace is designed to let you croon your favorite hits in an immersive digital karaoke parlor while a mass of robot onlookers react to your performance in real time. The game uses a version of the now familiar Harmonix line-and-arrow system to gauge your vocal performance. Well executed tunes will earn the admiration of the robots in the crowd and failure will lead them to lose interest in you all together.

To start with you will be creating a custom avatar for your performances that can be customized to your liking. You’ll see this virtual representation of yourself on large screens in the parlor as you move through the songs and sources from the company confirmed that there will be a deep variety of different options to make your character your own.

The company also explained that social is going to be one of the driving forces behind SingSpace. Currently, up to four friends can gather together to sing a song as a group or watch one of their compatriots stumble his way hilariously through the routine.

As far as the songs themselves are concerned, Harmonix declined to comment on the show floor on the exact number or nature of the tracks that will come included in the initial release for SingSpace, but they did mention that they are working on cultivating a “deep robust catalogue that contains all of the songs one would expect to see in any modern karaoke bar…but we have yet to finalize those arrangements.”

UploadVR witnessed the power of SingSpace first hand when one of our editors brought the entire demo hall to a complete stand still, prompting some to even pause their demos all together, as he belted out the words to “I Will Survive” with an almost supernatural disregard for his surroundings.

So far, SingSpace seems to be fun, innovative, and a perfect fit for a mobile platform like the Gear VR. Harmonix is targeting a Spring 2017 release date for the game and we will bring you more information on its pricing model and additional features as that date approaches.

Epic’s New Action-packed ‘Robo Recall’ FPS is Beautiful, Brutal Arcade Fun

It was back at the end of 2015 that Epic Games Founder Tim Sweeney teased “something much bigger” than the VR tech demos the company has done in the past. Now the company plans to launch Robo Recall, the evolution of their critically acclaimed Bullet Train tech demo. We’ve played it and it’s awesome (and beautiful).

Last year at Oculus Connect 2015, Epic revealed the Bullet Train tech demo for Oculus Touch. Now at Connect 2016, the company has revealed Robo Recall, an Oculus Touch exclusive arcade FPS and spiritual successor to that tech demo. In Robo Recall, you’ll be blasting robots left and right right, tearing enemies limb from limb, and generally wreaking satisfying arcade FPS havoc.

Robo Recall is built entirely around Oculus Touch and will be exclusive to the platform; Oculus funded the title and plans to release it for free in Q1 2017.

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With Touch, guns are a natural gameplay mechanic, and Robo Recall is full of them. With Epic’s characteristically impressive design, the weapons you’ll wield in the game are satisfying from their look to their sound, right down to the way they blow enemies to pieces. Waves of killer robots will be on the receiving end of your firepower, but this isn’t the gritty serious action of Call of Duty, it’s an arcade slugfest where a high score underlines the action.

To get a sense of the sort of arcade styling of the game here’s an example: You start with two basic pistols holstered at your hips; once their clips are spent, instead of reloading with a new magazine, you’re encouraged to simply throw them aside, as a new pair will simply be teleported to your holsters. It’s virtual, wasteful, debauchery of the best sort. Then there’s the flashy points that pop up over enemies’ heads when you blast them apart, and a narrator highlighting moves like “headshot!”.

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And there’s more to do than just shoot. If a robot wanders close enough, you can reach out and grab it, then proceed to tear it limb from robotic limb.

Holding on to one part of the bot, you’ll see white dots appear on other vulnerable parts, with you off hand you can reach out and just shear the piece off, then of course use it to beat the rest of the thing to pieces. And when you’re all done, don’t forget to throw that sad, lonely limb at another robot for some juicy points. Developers behind Robo Recall told me that this feature came directly from people’s natural reaction to reach out to grab or punch enemy robots when they got near in Bullet Train.

Returning from Bullet Train is the bullet-dodging functionality where the world will go into slow motion when incoming bullets are about to hit you. And yes, you can still grab a bullet out of the air and launch it back at your assailant like a superhero.

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In the Robo Recall demo I got to play with Oculus Touch at Connect, I tore through enemy robots with guns, fists, and even a giant mini-boss-bot that I was able to board and control, using it’s huge arms to grab and smash enemies and the laser cannon on its right arm. At one point I nabbed a robot who strolled too close, launched it into the air, and then proceeded to blast it out of the sky like laser skeet.

Navigation is handled with a teleportation mechanic where you point to where you want to move to and then use the Touch controller’s left stick to rotate the teleportation cursor to the direction you want to face when you move. When it works, it works well, but there’s stuff some user-control related issues that sometimes get you turned around away from the frontal tracking cameras. It’s something Epic says they’re still working to perfect.

There’s no denying Epic’s game development talent, and their work in VR is no different. Across the board, Robo Recall is visually and sonically polished to a sheen (just wait until you see those pretty reflections), and the game oozes with feedback that elevates it from what could be a generic VR FPS into something much more visceral.

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The sum of the experience is satisfying action-packed fun. Grab a robot, rip the gun out of its hand, then blow its head off and use the corpse as a shield.

The game isn’t just fun, also impressively beautiful. That’s the norm for pretty much anything Epic has set their minds (and their impressive Unreal Engine) to, but Robo Recall in particular uses some new tech from Epic to look extra sharp in VR.

Epic Game’s Nick Whiting told me that the company wrote a new forward-renderer to eek out extra graphical detail in VR. Partly based on Oculus’ work, the renderer opens up the door to MSAA in VR which Whiting says really enhances the sharpness of geometry which is especially noticeable in VR thanks to stereoscopy.

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The free Robo Recall, which will be released in Q1 2017, will have three environments with three missions easy. The game isn’t so much campaign as it is a score-attack and wave-like shooter, but Epic promises we’ll see mini-bosses and mini-events (like ‘kill the most enemies in 2 minutes’) to spice things up. The company is aiming for two to four hours of gameplay with Robo Recall.

The post Epic’s New Action-packed ‘Robo Recall’ FPS is Beautiful, Brutal Arcade Fun appeared first on Road to VR.

Metro 2033 Dev 4A Games Reveals Arktika.1 at Oculus Connect 3

The Oculus Connect 3 event is in its second day but today has seen the main event, the keynote address, featuring Oculus’ CEO Brendan Iribe and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. There’s been lots of new announcements revealed and the keynote has now got to the Oculus Touch motion controllers. While lots of videogames have been previously revealed for the device now Oculus has debuted one that hasn’t been seen, Arktika.1.

Arktika.1 comes from the same developers behind Metro 2033 and Metro: Last Light, 4A Games. Just as those previous titles featured a post-apocalyptic world so does Arktika.1.

In fact the videogame looks to be a spiritual successor to Metro, with the video below taking place underground in subways and stations. In here there are monster aplenty, not just flesh and bone but mechanical as well.

Arktika.1 is a first-person shooter (FPS) that combines duel wielding with horror. So far guns showcased on the trailer include pistols, revolves and sci-fi weaponry.

With Oculus Connect 3 continuing tomorrow, VRFocus will be learning more about Arktika.1 so stay tuned for further details.

Hands-On: ‘Landfall’ Mixes A Twin-Stick Shooter With Top-Down Tactics

Hands-On: ‘Landfall’ Mixes A Twin-Stick Shooter With Top-Down Tactics

I launched a mini nuke into the clearing halfway on the other side of the map to blow up a half dozen NPC enemies. With that latest attack, my partner and I had almost completely come back from the jaws of defeat. Mere seconds ago we were facing down horrible odds as the only two units left on our team. But my well-placed explosion changed everything.

The two enemy players we were facing were on their heels. My partner and I downed one of them, making it a 2-on-1 match up. Then my last enemy deployed his mech suit upgrade just in time to mow down my partner. I was pinned down behind a wall of sand bags, waiting for my health to regenerate, and finally summoned a mech of my own. My enemy was forced out of his own and tried to hide behind a large rock — pacing back and forth to keep the boulder between us in a duel to the death, but I eventually bested him.

The exhilarating gameplay, heart-pumping action, and tight controls convinced me that Landfall is a game I didn’t know I wanted in VR.

Force Field, an AR and VR company restructured from Vanguard Games, is the team behind Landfall and we had the chance to go hands-on with it at this year’s Oculus Connect conference. They teased the game back in July and are now ready to pull the curtain back and reveal it to the world.

Landfall is a top-down action game that uses a mixture of tactical real-time strategy game mechanics and twin-stick shooter gameplay. The entire experience is played with a gamepad and requires a high degree of dexterity between operating both thumb sticks, face buttons, triggers, and head-tracked movement all at the same time.

The left stick controlled my character’s movement from a diorama-style presentation of the game world, whereas the right stick controlled which direction I was aiming my gun. Pulling the right trigger fired my gun in that direction, and so on. Different unit types had different load outs, such as machine guns, rocket launchers, grenades, and more.

Over the course of a battle, players also built up the ability to call down a mech suit ability, similar to Titanfall. There were two different game modes I saw at the event as well, one of which involved escorting an item across the map, and another which involved whittling down reinforcements over the course of the match.

What struck me most about Landfall is that, despite the relatively simple concepts, the gameplay loop was addicting and satisfying. The VR diorama effect, as seen in strategy titles like Air Mech Command, did a great job of immersing you into the setting without sacrificing your perspective.

I always got a kick out of leaning in to inspect troops or get a good view of the action. On larger maps with larger forces and multiple objectives it’s easy to envision how things could get even more hectic.

Landfall is currently in development for the Oculus Rift with Touch, scheduled to arrive in early 2017.