All posts in “Vr”

Australian military developing VR programs to train soldiers to be more resilient to pressure

Black Mirror is way ahead of us again. 

Virtual reality training is being developed as a method to equip troops with resilience training before deployment — something a Black Mirror episode toyed with in season three.

Australia’s Minister for Defence Industry, Christopher Pyne, has announced $2.2 million for a University of Newcastle project that aims to develop enhanced resilience training for military personnel using VR and biometrics.

The program, which will work in conjunction with the ADF’s existing Battle SMART stress resilience training program, will see neuroscientists designing simulated environments to replicate real-world combat scenarios in VR.

Military personnel will use the program to train in problem-solving unpredictable situations, and build up psychological resilience to pressure. Theoretically, their superiors can use the cognitive data collected on soldiers to “objectively” measure whether a person is ready to be deployed.

Funded by the Australian government, the Defence Science Technology Group (DSTG) and the Australian Army, the project is the work of associate professors Rohan Walker and Eugene Nalivaiko, affiliates of the Hunter Medical Research Institute (HMRI), alongside Dr. Albert “Skip” Rizzo’s team at the University of Southern California.

Associate professors Rohan Walker and Eugene Nalivaiko.

Associate professors Rohan Walker and Eugene Nalivaiko.

Image: University of Newcastle

“We said, is there potentially something where we can bring VR together with an objective assessment of stress and put them together to come up with an improved, immersive, engaging way of training to get better control of your stress levels when you are in demanding workplace situations?” Walker tells Mashable.

“Imagine a helicopter is coming in with casualties on it … It’s a very life threatening situation,” Walker explains. “So, not only would emergency responders or paramedics have to deal with the fact that they may be in a conflict zone, they have to deal with a helicopter landing, but they also have to rapidly triage what might be very significant injuries. 

“Now, that would become a very stressful process. In those situations, even without obvious things you think about with combat like bullets and guns, just that immediate pressure of there being a huge number of things that you have to do, and really, the consequences … of making good decisions in those circumstances.”

“The idea will be that trainees can master the skill in a measurable situation where we can control the difficulty of the task to ensure they’re prepared before moving to a real-world conflict situations,” Nalivaiko said in a press statement.

It makes us think immediately of Black Mirror episode “Men Against Fire,” in which soldiers are equipped with a neural implant called MASS that provides instant data via augmented reality, both in training and in the field — and blocks any emotional reaction to killing enemies.

Black Mirror's "Men Against Fire" episode featured use of AR in military operations.

Black Mirror’s “Men Against Fire” episode featured use of AR in military operations.

Image: Netflix

This project isn’t exactly Black Mirror‘s proposal, but it is a project aimed at using simulation to manage psychological stress as an occupational hazard in the military — a hazard that can affect performance in the field.

“What tends to be challenging is where difficult experiences are beyond the individual’s ability to control them,” said Nalivaiko in a press statement.

“It’s imperative our troops are forearmed with strategies to ensure they remain in control of the situation and are equipped with the skills to make a level-headed decision.”

How soldiers cope with high pressure situations

There are two main factors at play, when considering performance under pressure, according to Walker.

“Firstly, cognitive reframing, which involves identifying and then disputing irrational thoughts. Reframing is taking a step back and objectively looking at the scenario to find positive alternatives.

“The second is tactical breathing. Although it may sound simple, breathing is key as it is the only thing we can regulate under pressure.

“When you’re breathing properly, respiration and heart rate are controlled and you have high levels of cognitive flexibility to make better decisions.”

Once the trainees have completed the VR exercises, biometrics can theoretically be used to analyse how ready they are to be deployed for combat.

The VR program already has a prototype, with the launch of the program planned for six months away. But it’s not just the military that could benefit from VR pressure training.

“One of the things that we can do better is the way that we train people to deal with pressure across all workplaces,” Walker told Mashable. “High levels of stress are inherent in nearly every profession.”

Maybe Michelin-starred restaurants can consider VR training program for their high-intensity kitchens. a263 c97f%2fthumb%2f00001

Facebook ‘3D Posts’ will let you interact with virtual objects in your News Feed

Tired of being limited to just text, photos, and videos when you’re posting to Facebook?

Good news! The social media giant just announced “3D Posts,” a new type of News Feed post that lets people create 3D objects, then post them directly to Facebook. All Facebook users will be able to view and interact with the 3D objects — even without a VR headset.

Facebook showed off several examples of 3D posts at its Oculus Connect 4 conference on Wednesday.

Image: oculus

The update will allow developers to create 3D objects in either Oculus Medium or Facebook Spaces and then share them to the News Feed.

For example, you could post a 3D van and then people can rotate their phone in different directions to view it from all angles. Additionally, you could swipe on things like the van’s door to open it. 

It’s a neat gimmick, but will it have any lasting appeal? It really depends on whether developers make things to post to Facebook. 

Image: oculus

Honestly, it sounds like a whole lot of work just for a single Facebook post — but it could ultimately serve as a neat way for Oculus developers to show off the things they’re making. The new type of News Feed post also has the potential to expand VR’s audience by letting people without a headset preview and play with some of the latest creations. da19 e661%2fthumb%2f00001

The Oculus ‘Santa Cruz’ headset will be the realization of a VR dream

Oculus gave more details about its its next-generation VR headset today at the Oculus Connect 4 developer conference. It also said the headset would become available “in the next year.”

The catch: The headset is still a prototype, and it will only be made available to developers.

The new headset, codenamed Santa Cruz, is the company’s first prototype headset with “inside-out tracking” technology, meaning it doesn’t require external cameras or other accessories to track your position in the room. What’s even more exciting is that the headset will also be able to track two newly designed wireless controllers with six degrees of freedom.

In short, the Santa Cruz headset will be the first high-end VR system from Oculus that doesn’t require being tethered to a powerful PC. It also crucially features positional tracking — tracking the position and head movements of the wearer in addition to tracking the handheld wireless controllers. Basically, it’s a standalone VR headset that works all by itself.

The next-level tracking system is enabled by a set of four cameras placed on the outer corners of the new Santa Cruz headset. By placing cameras around the rim, the display can actually track the position of the both the user and the controllers.

The Santa Cruz headset will be paired with new prototype Santa Cruz controllers. The new controllers feature a ring covered in LEDs aimed upward, in order to make them more visible to the tracking cameras on the outside of the headset. 

Existing Oculus Touch controllers also have LEDs, but the ring that houses them is facing downward, and they are tracked by an external camera that must be attached to a PC. The newer version should make it much easier to setup and use Oculus VR products. The new controllers also use infrared emitters, rather than LEDs, meaning they won’t have a distracting glow.

The new controllers shouldn’t be much of a change for older users. They still include a trigger, touchpad, and buttons similar to the existing Oculus Touch controllers. It is important, however, to mention that this is a prototype system, so by the time they’re commercially available, they could change significantly.

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If Oculus delivers on everything it’s promised, the Santa Cruz headset will be a realization of the dream that VR developers have long been chasing. Users have often complained that current systems require a cable being attached the headset — which makes it easy to trip over or get tangled in while you’re immersed in a virtual world.  Soon, developers will no longer have to worry about stumbling over cables that attach to their headsets or having to mount positional trackers around the room. This is a huge deal.

The Santa Cruz headset first premiered in October 2016 during the Oculus Connect 3 conference. At it’s unveiling, Oculus emphasized that the PC that typically powers VR headsets would be replaced with a small minicomputer placed in the rear of the head strap.

So what components are actually included in the Oculus Santa Cruz prototype? Unfortunately, those details are still unclear, and the company has not yet revealed specifics about the processing power and technical specifications of the system. 

For now, we have only these short demos to rely on. But if it works as well as the video showed today, it’s certainly something worth being excited about. 7167 242d%2fthumb%2f00001

The Oculus Rift and Touch controllers just got another big price drop

The Oculus Rift virtual reality headset and Touch controllers now cost $399, Oculus announced during the Oculus Connect keynote today.

The Oculus Rift launched in 2016 for $599 with the Touch controllers launching months later for an extra $99. Before today’s price drop, the bundle was available for $499.

The announcement of the price drop came after Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook (which own Oculus), revealed a new standalone VR headset called Oculus Go and shared updates on Project Santa Cruz, an updated version of the Rift that uses inside-out movement tracking, effectively making outside trackers and sensors obsolete. Both are expected to arrive in 2018. da19 e661%2fthumb%2f00001

Mark Zuckerberg apologizes for that awkward VR tour of Puerto Rico

Mark Zuckerberg has apologized, in a Facebook comment, for his recent virtual reality tour of Puerto Rico

The Facebook CEO used the VR session to discuss Facebook’s relief efforts for Puerto Rico, which is recovering from Hurricane Maria, but his smiling avatar superimposed over the island’s ravaged streets did not sit well with everyone. 

“It seems it would be way more effective if we could see your real faces. It is so distracting to have virtual characters reporting on a real disaster,” one commenter said on Facebook. 

A few hours later, Zuckerberg responded to that comment. 

“I hear that. When you’re in VR yourself, the surroundings feel quite real. But that sense of empathy doesn’t extend well to people watching you as a virtual character on a 2D screen. That’s something we’ll need to work on over time.”

Image: screenshot/facebook

And in another reply on Facebook, Zuckerberg said he was sorry for offending anyone with the video. 

“One of the most powerful features of VR is empathy. My goal here was to show how VR can raise awareness and help us see what’s happening in different parts of the world. I also wanted to share the news of our partnership with the Red Cross to help with the recovery. Reading some of the comments, I realize this wasn’t clear, and I’m sorry to anyone this offended,” he wrote. 

Image: screenshot/facebook

That’s one of the problems of virtual reality — being inside and looking at it from the outside are two vastly different experiences, and despite’s Facebook’s efforts in the space, VR is still far from commonplace. There’s no reason to assume Zuckerberg didn’t mean well, and Facebook’s efforts to help Puerto Rico are commendable. But cartoonish VR was not the right platform to raise awareness of Puerto Rico’s plight. f41a afb5%2fthumb%2f00001