All posts in “Virtual Reality”

Inside Oculus and Black Eyed Peas’ VR comic book


“When people view VR, it’s an over-sensory experience like “What the fuck?!” will.i.am says, wildly spinning his around as you can see in the GIF below. That was the Black Eyed Peas’ frontman’s inspiration for creating a 90-minute VR comic book that moves at your pace and lets emotion sink in instead of battering you with visuals.

Today, “Masters Of The Sun” debuts at Sundance Film Festival with the backing of Oculus before becoming available for Oculus mobile VR headsets. While Facebook’s VR division recently shut down its in-house Story Studio, Oculus has traded the heavy-handed control for a lighter touch, funding unique products it couldn’t conceive itself.

Masters Of The Sun is part Marvel, part Dolemite, brought from augmented reality-enhanced print into VR with voices like Queen Latifah, a score by Hans Zimmer, and the guidance of Stan Lee. It tells the story of regular people turned into super heroes as they try to save their community from drug-ravaged zombies…and the world from an angry alien god the Egyptians abandoned.

But what’s special is that Masters Of The Sun isn’t a video game. Will.i.am insisted you not be able to shoot the Zombies. And it’s not a movie, racing forward no matter what direction you’re looking before you’ve processed the last scene. It’s purposefully built as a comic book, where gazing at familiar text bubbles nudges the story forward. That way if you want to let the action or romance linger under your observation, you’re in control.

“Working with people like Hans Zimmer, we had to invent music for it” will.i.am tells me. “We had to have the music breathe and extend and be elastic at the speed at which the person experiences it. We had to invent new ways of composing.” The concept is sure to become a building block for future VR where you control the tempo.

As for the visuals, they’re far from polished, looking more like a PlayStation 1 title than today’s console or silver screen blockbusters. And the script haphazardly oscillates between silly and melodramatic. But the core message that love and peace can repair the world — the same message the winds through Black Eyed Peas’ music — is deeply woven into Masters Of The Sun. “There’s a parallel from the story to reality” says BEP’s apl.de.ap. “All of us came from poverty, and now we have the voice and the means to help out other kids like us.”

And since Masters Of The Sun is longer than almost any piece of VR content available, akin to a feature film, you walk away feeling like you had a techno-spiritual meal, not a five-minute demo.

What’s Good For VR Is Good For Oculus

We’ve evolved beyond the “Train Pulling Into The Station” phase of merely testing the potential of VR hardware. The narratives of stories like Masters Of The Sun or Wolves In The Walls are starting to shine through. But for VR to develop into an artistic medium that compels people to buy headsets even if they’re not gamers, there’s more experimentation to be done.

Oculus’ willingness to fund big external creative projects that stray from the family friendly features like Lost, Dear Angelica, and Emmy-winner Henry it’s produced in past years could accelerate the ecosystem in ways its in-house Story Studio couldn’t. It’s fully embracing the idea that what’s good for VR is good for Oculus.

That’s offered up the resources of a giant company like Facebook to pioneering developers like Fable and eccentric artistes like will.i.am, without the regressive oversight that can reign in their vision. Masters Of The Sun was basically finished when Oculus came in. “We were just there to remove obstacles wherever we could” says Oculus’ head of experiences Colum Slevin.

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The moment the Black Eyed Peas knew they’d really made something successful was when the creator of most of Marvel’s super heroes Stan Lee enjoyed it. “It was the equivalent of creating an amusement park and having Walt Disney come and say ‘this is amazing’” BEP rapper Taboo tells me.

Rather than VR being just a temporary daliance for Black Eyed Peas, work has already begun on part 2 of Masters Of The Sun, as well as another property called Wizards And Robots. “I think this is the ultimate art form for the next 100 years” will.i.am concludes, calling it “the jump off for a whole new way of telling stories, engaging people, and giving them an escape.”

Sketchfab launches a store to become a stock photo site for 3D models


Sketchfab just launched a store so that you can buy an sell 3D models and reuse them in commercial projects. This is a major new feature for Sketchfab, which has become one of the biggest repositories of 3D models on the web. It feels like Sketchfab is becoming a sort of stock photography site, except that it’s all about 3D models.

While Sketchfab already has 2 million 3D models on its website, most of them aren’t available to download or are available under a Creative Common license. So if you’re building a video game, a virtual reality experience or anything that involves 3D objects, Sketchfab isn’t as useful as it could be.

That’s why Sketchfab is launching a separate store. Everything you can find in there is available to buy and download. Most prices range from ten dollars to a hundred dollars, with a few ultra premium models that cost hundreds of dollars.

Compared to other 3D asset stores out there, Sketchfab lets you view 3D models right there in your browser. It’s a much better experience than looking at screenshots. You can use the model inspector to see the wireframe, the model with and without post-processing and more.

Sketchfab uses the glTF file format, which is slowly becoming a standard format for 3D models and scenes. Files should work in Unity or Unreal Engine for instance.

It’s going to be interesting to see if creators of the 2 million models on Sketchfab are going to leverage this new store to sell their work. The Sketchfab viewer seems like the perfect storefront for this kind of items.

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Kolibree Magik toothbrush lets kids play with augmented reality while they brush

Augmented reality is slowly seeping into our everyday lives. It’s not just for snaps and video games anymore. Case in point: a new kids toothbrush with AR. 

French company Kolibree announced at CES 2018 a smart toothbrush that uses AR to make brushing teeth fun for kids. 

The device is paired with a motion-tracking app that uses your smartphone’s front-facing camera to put your kid right in the middle of the fun. It comes with a phone stand, so your kids don’t have to worry about holding up a phone while they brush. 

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Kids can choose from 15 different games, featuring pirates, princesses, monsters, and a whole cast of fantasy characters. 

In one version, kids are tasked with shooting a monster who is spreading cavities across the land. As it runs around the screen, the child in turn moves the toothbrush around her mouth to shoot it. 

The toothbrush also allows parents to monitor their children’s brushing habits. They’ll see how many times a day their kids are brushing, how fast, and for how long. 

Oh, and you don’t need to stress about over-brushing: The app can only be used three times per day. 

Another interesting feature: It teaches kids to brush. The Magik toothbrush app offers kids guidance on where to brush, how thoroughly to brush, and how long to stay in each spot. 

This is not Kolibree’s first go at a smart toothbrush. The company released Ara, a toothbrush that uses artificial intelligence to track oral health and encourage healthy brushing habits, in early 2017. 

Magik will launch later this year for under $30. That’s significantly more than your average toothbrush, but you get the brush, the mobile game, the stand, and a much happier kid for that price. 

Check out more of our CES 2018 coverage here.

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Nvidia CEO clarifies its GPUs are ‘absolutely’ immune to Meltdown and Spectre


Nvidia issued a security bulletin on Tuesday detailing updates it made to its driver software to address the so-called Meltdown CPU vulnerability revealed by Google’s Project Zero. The bulletin was misinterpreted by some outlets as an admission that Nvidia’s GPUs were also affected.

“Our GPUs are immune, they’re not affected by these security issues,” Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang said during a general press Q&A this morning. “What we did is we released driver updates to patch the CPU security vulnerability. We are patching the CPU vulnerability the same way that Amazon , the same way that SAP, the same way that Microsoft, etc are patching, because we have software as well.”

Huang explained that anyone running any kind of software has to patch that software for the CPU vulnerabilities discovered by researchers. He stressed that in no way is Nvidia patching for any issues in its own hardware.

“I am absolutely certain that our GPU is not affected,” Huang said, in no uncertain terms.

Nvidia also updated its security bulletin to make clear that its own hardware products are not affected by the disclosed vulnerabilities, to the best of their knowledge right now.