All posts in “Virtual Reality”

Covering “Virtual Insanity” in virtual reality

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A musician from Raleigh, North Carolina named Chase Holfelder, recorded a cover of Jamiroquai’s “Virtual Insanity,” a stonerific acid jazz anthem that should be familiar to ’90s kids. This version, however, is recorded entirely inside a virtual reality rig with the help of the HTC Vive and VRScout.

Holfelder used the SoundScape VR project to play and sequence the music, allowing him to snap drums with virtual drumsticks and play the piano using the Vive paddles. In all it’s a pretty exciting of Vive’s interactive elements.

There is very little real commercial utility in VR… yet. However, when artists like Holfelder fire up their rigs and make artistic stuff like this they show us the possibilities of the medium and how we might be interacting with complex systems in the future. Sadly, he did not slide across a virtual floor or wear a furry hat in this video, an oversight that sets VR research back by at least a few years.

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James Murray from the Impractical Jokers talks about the future of VR

James Murray is a funny man. A producer, actor, and writer, Murray is best known as Murr on the show Impractical Jokers. I spoke to him for a Technotopia interview about the future of TV, VR, and media and he has a lot to say.

His dream? To offer immersive experiences to his audiences using VR, a dream that he thinks is still far off. Until the VR experience is out-of-the-box easy, he said, there isn’t much hope for the medium. He’s a funny guy and this is one of my favorite interviews.

Technotopia is a podcast by John Biggs about a better future. You can subscribe in Stitcher, RSS, or iTunes and listen the MP3 here.

Nvidia stuns by driving a car in real life through virtual reality

Today at Nvidia’s GTC conference the company unveiled a wild technology demo and it’s straight out of Black Panther. Simply put, a driver using virtual reality was remotely controlling a car in real life.

“He’s not with us,” Jensen Huang, CEO of Nvidia, said pointing the driver on the stage. “He’s looking at this virtual world through live video.”

The driver was sitting on the stage of the convention center wearing an HTC Vive and seated in a cockpit-like car with a steering wheel. Using Nvidia’s Holodeck software, a car was loaded (the same Lexus used in Black Panther). Then, a video feed appeared showing a Ford Fusion behind the convention center.

The demo at the show was basic but worked. The driver in VR had seemingly complete control over the vehicle and managed to drive it, live but slowly, around a private lot. He navigated around a van, drove a few hundred feet and parked the car.

The car was empty the whole time.

Nvidia didn’t detail any of the platforms running the systems nor did he announced availability. The demo was just a proof of concept. Jensen even exclaimed “we don’t know what to call it. What do we call it?”

Self-driving technology is a massive market for Nvidia, and the company is a leader in supplying technology. And demos like this are a great way to keep the attention on the company’s capabilities.

TPCast unveils adapter to enable multiple wireless HTC Vive VR headsets

Late last year, TPCast announced an adapter that cut the HTC Vive cords. The company is back with an enterprise version that delivers 2k content to several HTC Vive units with sub 2ms latency.

Unveiled at Nvidia’s GTC 2019 conference in San Jose, California, the product is aimed at VR uses cases where multiple people are sharing content across different VR headsets. The company says this includes medical, automotive, real estate, and training.

Like the consumer version, the units strap on the back of HTC Vive headsets and streams the content wirelessly from the connected PC to up to four VR headsets. At launch only the HTC Vive is supported though the company says it intends to support more models by the third quarter of 2018.

The unit, called the TPCAST Business Edition Wireless Adapter, will be available directly from TPCast at first and then available from retail channels. Pricing was not announced but it’s logical that it will cost significantly more then the $220 the company charges for the consumer version.

HTC had a terrible holiday quarter

Smartphone and VR headset maker HTC has published its consolidated results for Q4 2017 — and it makes for grim reading.

The topline figures are:

  • Flat quarterly revenue of NT$15.7 billion (~$540M) with gross margin of -30.8%
  • Quarterly operating loss of NT$9.6 billion (~$330M) with operating margin of -60.8%
  • Quarterly net loss after tax: NT$9.8 billion (~$337M), or -NT$11.93 (-$0.41) per share

HTC says this latest quarterly loss was due to “market competition, product mix, pricing, and recognized inventory write-downs”. So pretty much a full house of operational and business problems.

The one bright spot for HTC’s business is a deal worth $1.1BN, in which Google acquired a chunk of HTC’s hardware business — which was completed at the end of January.

That one-off cash injection is not reflected in the Q4 results but will rather give some passing uplift to HTC’s Q1 2018 results.

HTC says it will be using the Google windfall for “greater investment in emerging technologies”, writing that they will be “vital across all of our businesses and present significant long-term growth opportunities”.

There’s no doubt that any business revival would require hefty investment. But exactly what long-term growth opportunities HTC believes it can capture is questionable, given how fiercely competitive the smartphone market continues to be (with Chinese OEMs making what running there is in a shrinking global market); and how the VR market — which HTC bet big on in 2015, with Vive and Valve, to try to diversify beyond mobile — has hardly turned out to be the next major computing paradigm. Not yet anyway.

So the emphasis really is on the “long-term” earning potential of VR — say five or even ten years hence.

HTC flags the launch of its VIVE Focus standalone VR system in China — which it last week said it would also be bringing to the UK and other global markets later this year — and the launch of a VIVE Pro premium PC VR system in January, which it was showing off at CES, as examples of focused product innovation in the VR space.

Following a strategic business review aimed at optimizing its teams and processes — both for smartphones and VR — it also says it now has “a series of measures in place to enable stronger execution”, and it touting fresh innovations coming across its markets this year.

But HTC is going to need a whole lot more than squeezable gimmicks and shiny finishes to lift out of these doldrums.