It seems like you wait a galactic orbit for news of 360° 3D movies and then two stories arrive within a day of each other. First up is an announcement by 3D camera developer Condition One that they are shooting a 360 3D documentary about the development and implementation of virtual reality itself. Talk about meta. It might not seem like the most riveting of subject matter but it may prove to be the first full 360° 3D movie in existence and therefore you have to watch it so you can tell the grandkids about it.
Just a few hours later a second story appeared on Reddit that user Edego had posted on the official Oculus Developer Forum that he had shot a full 360° 3D movie of a train arriving at La Ciotat railway station, paying a nice homage to L’Arrivée d’un train à La Ciotat which is considered to be the first motion picture.
The film was shot using a Panocam 3D 360 camera and is available to download from the Panocam3D website. Rift users have reported that the film is a technically impressive proof of concept but not without flaw, the main issue being the not completely seamless blending and stitching of the different frames which make up the panoramic sphere.
There are now two 3D 360 video cameras in development and we can expect the field to develop rapidly over the next few years as multiple VR headsets hit the market and 360 3D movies become a major new art form.
Mind controlled virtual reality is one of the many exciting new vistas which is being opened up by the stream of astonishing technologies which are braced to hit the market in the next couple of years. This video put together by education start up Zookal demonstrates the Oculus Rift VR headset and the Emotiv EPOC ”neuroheadset” being used in tandem for a variety of applications.
Mind-computer interfaces are still in their early stages and the range of tasks that can be practically carried out by devices like the EPOC is quite slim, but as products like these become more prevalent and bio-feedback training improves, then it’s quite possible that mind-reading devices like these will soon be added to the existing means of computer input.
At present, as seen in this demo, thought control is only used to move the character through the environment leaving the user’s hands free to do virtual surgery, position models, wield duel pistols, etc.
If it’s possible for firms like Emotiv to design a working hands-free control system then the Rift could become central to some intense meditative experiences. The idea of lying comfortably horizontal on a sofa while controlling an avatar’s aerial explorations of a strange and wondrous virtual planet is hugely appealing.
Two important bits of information have slipped out in the last week. First it was revealed and then confirmed by Palmer Luckey on Reddit that there would be a second version of the development kit released before the consumer version, secondly Oculus CEO Brendan Iribe has revealed that the company is working on a 4K version of the headset although this will not be the first generation consumer version which is likely to have 1080 resolution.
Little is known at this point about how Dev Kit 2 may look but given that there is perceived to be a need for a second development kit we can guess that there will be significant improvements over version 1. Almost certainly there will be positional tracking, meaning that as well as being able to scan the environment in 360°, objects will also be able to be approached and backed away from. Positional tracking should add significantly to the level of immersion and also help to do away with nausea problems reported by some early users.
Some commentators have speculated that future versions of the Oculus will be wireless. Obviously inevitable at some point, I would be surprised if the Dev Kit 2 and even the first generation of the consumer version were untethered. Low latency is so vital to the experience that I believe Oculus will be unwilling to risk adding portability at the expense of gaining lag. Being untethered would also mean that the headset would have to be self-powered and adding a battery would increase the headset’s weight significantly which would be a major handicap.
Conceivably there might be a movie-mode where you could untether and wirelessly stream a movie from a horizontal position on the sofa. A small rechargeable battery allowing three or so hours of use would not be a great addition to weight.
Of course, any form of wireless Oculus Rift would entail the need for it to have its own native OS and I believe future versions of the Rift will almost certainly come with an embedded version of Android allowing the Rift to work as a stand-alone device for viewing video and playing ‘simple’ games. Expect to see an option to download games from the Oculus App Store straight to the headset via this OS.
Meanwhile, according to Polygon, Brendan Iribe has announced that the company is currently working on a 4K Oculus Rift prototype so start saving for Christmas 2015. He also talks about the release of the consumer version being “soon” which makes me wonder if the planned for release date may be earlier next year than previously predicted. I am tentatively changing my forecasted release date to the second quarter of 2014. The appearance of 46 new vacancies on the Oculus site certainly suggests they’re beginning to ramp up for some kind of activity.
Oculus Rift support in Second Life “coming soon”
Linden Labs, the creator of massive multi-user virtual world Second Life has released a video commemorating 10 years of existence and looking forward to the next decade. As well as a significant graphical update and improved e-commerce, it also reveals Rift support to be “coming soon”.
According to an earlier interview with AllThingsD, Linden Life CEO Rod Humble stated that Rift support was slated for late summer, so presumably the project is relatively close to its final stages.
VorpX beta now on sale
VorpX is a driver for the Oculus Rift that makes many AAA titles available to play with the VR headset. Among the games which VorpX makes playable with the Rift are: Skyrim, Crysis, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 and Fallout 3 .
The software which remains in beta is available to buy from Road to VR for $40. VorpX promise that there will be a demo version available in “a few weeks”.
Click here to see a full list of VorpX compatible games:
A game within a game – Alone in the Rift looks a fascinating and terrifying experience.
Youtuber Tyler Hodder has posted a somewhat hilarious video of himself getting freaked out by the impressively immersive horror game Alone in the Rift.
By placing the player in a virtual living room and drawing focus to the game being played on the virtual big screen TV, the game adds an extra level of depth which is harder to remove yourself from. When things get tense, the natural instinct is to look away from the screen and ground yourself in reality. In this trailer the added dimension of the virtual living room gives you no release from the slowly building feeling of terror.
Developers Greenwood plan to launch a Kickstarter campaign for the game later this month.
Edit: Apparently, I’m an idiot. This rig doesn’t shoot stereoscopic 3D, so we’re still waiting for that big one.
This is a slightly
hugely important step for consumer VR. While there are already firms who shoot 360 degree video such as MakingView and Visualise ,TotalCinema360 is the first another company which shoots 360 films in VR friendly 3D.
This technology puts you right in the center of the action and could make for some incredible cinematic experiences and even a major new form of entertainment.
In addition to building a library of panoramic
3D videos, TotalCinema360 also offer to bring their cameras to any event you wish to have recorded. While initial videos are likely going to be short and gimmicky, it is surely only a matter of time before someone kickstarts this into the world’s first VR movie.
On this Reddit thread a TotalCinema360 developer also reveals that the technology is already in place for live 360 streaming and infers that this might happen relatively soon.
As well as producing panoramic 3D films, TotalCinema360 also supplies the VR player to view them. Currently the player is only available for Mac OSX but they promise a Windows version will be available on October 15.
EDIT: Here is the official Pod Rift thread from Duncan Trussell’s website.
Joe Rogan and Duncan Trussell spend the first hour of Joe Rogan’s latest podcast waxing lyrical about the Oculus Rift and where the technology might be taking us. Duncan Trussell announces that he is trying to crowdsource a virtual 3D podcasting arena so the podcaster can stare back at an audience of avatars as the podcast is being recorded. He goes into greater detail in the latest episode of his own podcast, The Duncan Trussell Family Hour and the discussion continues on the forum.
Here’s a look at some of the most recent Oculus Rift games to hit the demo scene. The quality of some of these releases is impressive and shows how much of a sea-change the Rift is bringing to the gaming scene.
First up is Oculus Maximus a Roman Gladiator simulator which takes place in the Colosseum. I love the way the Gladiator emerges from the dark into the glaring light of the stadium and raises his arms to the cheers of the crowd. A Razr Hydra would seem to be essential to get the most out of this game. With careful sword and shield play the Gladiator dispatches a series of ever more serious adversaries usually by removing their heads with a well timed swing. It looks well fleshed out for a demo but is still a little basic but clearly has the potential to be developed into an amazing final product.
Sightline is an extraordinary looking experience. It’s a beautifully rendered adventure game which uses quantum weirdness as the backdrop to its story. For example,the act of not observing objects in the gameworld can cause them to change. The 3D effects look to be used to particularly good effect. This is the kind of game that the Rift could excel at and also harks back to the phrophetic vision of VR from the 90s which saw VR as capable of being a transcendent, psychedelic experience.
Epic Dragon VR was one of the most talked about demos to emerge from the recent VR Jam. The gameplay is a little basic for my taste but graphically it looks very atmospheric and immersive and is one of the most polished experiences to emerge for the Rift yet.
Sony stepping into the VR arena
Eurogamer produced the big exclusive this week with its scoop that there has been significant development on a PS4 VR headset. It claims that the product is so far along that it was due to be unveiled at the recent Gamescom event but the plan was dropped in the final moments.
Oculus CEO Palmer Luckey has previously claimed to welcome competition from the likes of Microsoft and Sony as it would “validate the market”.
Hawken for Rift about to drop
After many months of anticipation and delay Hawken is about to release a patch making Oculus Rift support official. This could make Hawken the go-to Rift experience when showing off the Rift to envious friends and grandparents.
If it doesn’t hurt to think about it, we’re not going to try it.
Second Life founder Philip Rosedale recently left Linden Labs in order to start work on High Fidelity, a next generation virtual world. In this fascinating podcast from Leo Laporte’s Triangulation show, he talks not only about the challenges involved in creating next generation virtual worlds but also the philosophical implications of following this particular path.
Oculus Rift is only briefly discussed but it’s clear Philip is extremely enthused by it and it seems a fair bet that when the environment eventually launches (in whatever form that may be), virtual reality technologies such as the Rift will be central to the experience.
In a revealing interview with Engadget released today which echoes our own speculation in a previous article (Will the consumer Rift be self-contained?), Oculus CEO Palmer Luckey confirmed that the consumer edition of the Rift will probably function as a stand-alone unit – meaning that it won’t be necessary to connect it to a PC/mobile/console to perform at least some functions, for example, surfing the web or watching a movie. Presumably there will need to be some way of connecting to higher powered machines to run more processor intensive applications.
Also hinted at was that there is significant software development proceeding in-house. Presumably part of this would be developing the Oculus OS (OculOS?) for the stand-alone Rift platform but Palmer also spoke of the need for there to be a “killer app” to really demonstrate the uniqueness of the VR experience and which might be something they produce themselves.
Other hints suggest that a release date of 2014 remains in place.