Tag Archives: virtual reality

The Lion King ‘Set’ Was a Bunch of VR Headsets in a Giant Warehouse

Jon Favreau, left, with some of his crew members aren’t playing a game here. They’re making The Lion King.
Photo: Disney

Long before Disney’s remake of The Lion King hit theaters, it was a beacon of curiosity. Obviously, director Jon Favreau and his team weren’t going to film real lions, they were going to use digital technology to create all the animals, as he did with great success in The Jungle Book. But The Jungle Book is The Jungle Book. This was The Lion King, a remake of an even more popular, culturally resonant film. What would making this movie look like in real life? I was lucky enough to find out.

On December 7, 2017, myself and a group of journalists traveled to Playa Vista, California to visit the “set” of The Lion King. I put “set” in quotes because, really, there were no sets. There was no grass or trees or animals in this building. The building is about three miles from the Pacific Ocean and so non-descript you could drive by it every day for your entire life and have no idea what was going on inside. It could be an Amazon distribution center or have the Ark of the Covenant in it. You’d have no idea unless you were allowed inside.

This particular building had one purpose only: remaking The Lion King. Every step of the process, from the story, to the design, all the way through the edit, visual effects, sound and more took place here. In fact, 90 percent of The Lion King was made in this building by about 150 people. (Outside visual effects houses helped too.)

Most of that is easy to picture. Conference rooms with photos on the walls. Giant computers for editing or effects. Normal movie stuff. But it’s the filming that’s so unique.

This is the room where Jon Favreau and his team filmed The Lion King. Here, a Steadicam operator is moving through the real world with results in virtual reality.
Photo: Disney

Filming took place in a large room that felt more like a Best Buy than a film set. It’s mostly empty and industrial save for all the wild tech everywhere. There are 120-inch touchscreen monitors positioned all around. Custom camera rigs for people to use. Wires, chairs, desktop computers and, most importantly, VR headsets all over the place. And that’s where the sets actually are. In virtual reality.

To visit them, the filmmakers either had to put on VR headsets or watch on the screens. Instantly, they’re transported to Africa, where Simba, Timon, Pumbaa, and everyone else lives. This is possible with custom software that, in the simplest terms, is basically an elaborate video game you could call “make a movie.” That’s how Ben Grossman, the virtual producer supervisor on the film, described it.

Grossman works at Magnopus, a company that pioneered a VR system enabling the filmmakers to create the scene they wanted in VR, then shoot it in the real world. Using the Unity game engine (which is increasingly being used for non-game stuff like The Lion King), filmmakers put on a VR headset (primarily the HTC Vive) and are transported to their virtual set. Then, using all the different options in the software, they can put down lights, change the landscapes, lay dolly track, change camera lenses, basically anything someone would be able to do on a real set, but they can do it virtually. Once everything is just right, real film production people, including director of photography Caleb Deschanel (Passion of the Christ), use real cameras hooked into a computer and film scenes in reality with the results showing up virtually.

DP Caleb Deschanel uses a crank to adjust a VR shot in The Lion King.
Photo: Disney

I know. It’s hard to picture. But imagine putting on a VR headset and then you’re standing in Africa as a huge virtual environment. You start to compose your shot. You pick the area, set up virtual lights, figure out what camera you want to use and how it’s going to move, and then shoot it. This happens around pre-animated animals which, at this stage, are very rough. Those will be greatly improved in VFX later once the shots are locked.

Plus, because the actual filming is in VR, the filmmakers aren’t beholden to any physical reality. Would the shot look better if the sun was in another place? Just move it. Want some trees in the shot? Add them. Should there be a few hills over there? Sounds good. Anything is possible. When we were watching the filming, the filmmakers were working on the “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” scene, with Simba and Nala frolicking in the plains, as the camera swept along the side of them.

It’s all very elaborate and complex. Which raises the question, “Why?” Why develop a whole new way of making movies to make a movie fans have already seen? For Favreau, the question was less “Why?” and more “Why not?”

“I don’t think anybody wants to see another animated Lion King, because it still holds up really, really well,” Favreau said back on set. “The challenge here, and I think what we laid out for ourselves as a goal, is to create something that feels like a completely different medium than either [the film or the stage show] so it could stand as yet a third way of telling this story…And also, using these techniques and really making the visual effects department a creative partner from the inception allows us to present visual effects, I think, hopefully, in a way that you haven’t seen it before. So, just the spectacle of it—of if we can present something like a BBC documentary, on top of telling the story, and having those two exist together.”

He’s right. Visiting the set of The Lion King wasn’t like any set I’ve visited before. It felt more like what I’d imagine visiting a video game studio would be like, rather than a movie studio. Innovation like that is exciting—but, if this was a project that was less well-known than The Lion King, maybe it wouldn’t have taken place. Maybe the fact it is such a popular title is what made it okay to film in such a unique way.

Which, ultimately, could be the legacy of The Lion King. Sure it’s making a ton of money, but more importantly, it could be a movie that opens the door for other filmmakers to one day make their own unique visions using this technique. If that’s the case, the fact that The Lion King is still just The Lion King won’t matter as much. Peeking behind the curtain could give the film an added layer of appreciation.

The Lion King is now in theaters.


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Source: Kotaku.com

Playing VR Alone Is Terrifying

I recently bought Beat Saber for PSVR and have been playing it with my girlfriend. It’s fun and is a great way to get up and move around more. But when she is out of the house, I still sometimes want to play VR. But I’ve tried playing Beat Saber and other VR games alone and I always end up nervous, paranoid and scared.

I’m already not the perfect person for VR. I don’t have motion sickness or get headaches from 3D or anything, but I do have claustrophobia. So the idea of slipping on a big headset, wrapping cords around my head to use headphones and locking myself away from the real world makes me feel uneasy. But Beat Saber and Job Simulator are too much fun to ignore, so I push past my fears and put that headset on and play. It’s been fine and over time I’ve gotten more comfortable with VR headsets.

That all goes out the window when I decide to play VR alone.

For anyone who hasn’t played VR, it is like shutting yourself off from the world. Especially if you use headphones. Suddenly you aren’t in your living room, but instead, depending on the game, you are standing in the middle of a digital void or convenience store or wintery forest. It’s incredible. And it is very easy to get lost in these new worlds.

I can easily get lost in these worlds when playing with people around me. But when I play alone there is always this part of my brain that won’t fully let me relax or enjoy myself. A part of my brain that keeps repeating the same thing, over and over.

“You have no idea what’s going on around you or if you are alone right now.”

It is completely silly. Of course, I’m alone. I live in a relatively safe and quiet area, I’ve never experienced any crime or incidents here and the apartment is locked up. But the longer I spend in my VR headset, the louder the voice in my head grows.

“You can’t even hear what’s going on near you. Are you really safe?”

This leads to me pulling out my earbuds constantly, listening for any weird noises in my home. I freeze, like a cat who is spooked, and spend a moment listening for anything out of place around me. Whenever I do this my brain momentarily breaks a bit due to the disconnect that happens. I’ll be standing on top of a mountain in Skyrim VR, but I can hear my fan and dishwasher.

Eventually, after a few sound checks, my fear and paranoia will grow too large and I’ll pull the headset off and investigate my surroundings. The moment I stop playing VR and walk around my apartment, I feel like an idiot. Almost immediately my brain flips on me.

“Wow, you really are paranoid. Calm down, dude. It’s 3 pm on a Tuesday in Kansas. You honestly think you are in danger?”

But once I put the headset back on and start playing again, that voice returns and begins making me feel paranoid all over. This all adds up to mean I can only play VR alone for about 20-40 minutes at a time before having to take a break to search my home for a deadly assassin or thief.

The scariest moment of wearing a VR headset alone, for me at least, is in the moments when the real world is shown to me while in VR.

This happens when first booting up a PSVR game or recalibrating the headset, which I have to do often. In these moments, the PS4 shows me a live feed from my PlayStation camera. Every time this happens while I’m playing alone, I tense up. Because what if someone was standing next to me or behind me? What would I do? And do I even want to know if someone is quietly walking around me? (No. The answer is no. Just take what you want and leave.)

Some VR headsets include small cameras on them to help give players a better sense of what is happening outside their VR world. This seems like a great feature to include! Beyond just my own random fears and paranoid thoughts, being able to see your actual world while in VR, without taking off the headset, sounds like a great safety feature.

And it would probably let me hang out, alone, in VR for longer than 15 minutes before freaking out and ripping my headset off because my cat decided to knock over a cup.

Source: Kotaku.com

The Oculus Quest Is How Virtual Reality Should Work

Within 15 minutes of opening the package containing the Oculus Quest, Facebook’s new standalone virtual reality headset, I was playing a game. I wasn’t playing some watered-down mobile phone app or preinstalled demo, but a full-featured, console-quality VR game. This is great.

The Quest is Oculus’ first all-in-one gaming headset. It requires no PC connection, unlike the original Oculus Rift and its recent upgrade, the Rift S. Like last year’s Oculus Go headset, the Quest is completely wireless. But the Go was virtual reality at its most basic, just a headset with a pair of monitors inside. The Quest has all the VR bells and whistles. It can track head and hand movement and room-scale body positioning without the use of external sensors. It’s the full virtual reality experience in one box. Bear in mind the price. It starts at $399 with 64 gigabytes of storage, with a 128 GB version available for $499 (I’ve got 16 games and apps loaded on my 64 GB unit and am only using half the space).

There’s not a lot inside the Oculus Quest box. There’s the headset, an understated design wrapped in textured cloth. The front is matte black plastic with four cameras in the faceplate’s four corners, which are used for the headset’s inside-out tracking. There are a pair of redesigned Oculus touch controllers. The original controllers had rings on the underside to be tracked by external sensors, where the new ones have rings on top so the headset cameras can track them. There’s a pair of batteries for the controllers, a face spacer for users with glasses, and a single wire—a USB type-C charging cable.

All one needs to set up the Oculus Quest is an iOS or Android device running the Oculus app. The app is used for the initial hardware setup, connecting the unit to Wi-Fi and such. A quick setup sequence will pair the controllers (mine were paired right out of the box) and walk the user through adjusting headset position and lens spacing. The user defines a safe play area by tracing empty space with their Touch controller. From there they are free to browse the store, play games, fiddle with apps and explore the Oculus VR environment.

Once the Oculus Quest is configured, entering virtual reality is as simple as slipping on the headset. I can’t overstate how amazingly simple and worry-free the process is. I’ve used the original Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive, and the biggest obstacle to my enjoyment is the initial set up. I’d have to plug and unplug HDMI cables to and from the back of my PC, set up satellites and sensors, make sure those sensors could see my headset, and keep my headset tethered to my computer via thick cables—tethered to normal reality. The Quest cuts all those cords. It’s full-featured virtual reality that’s easy to transport and easy to share.

Last month I attended the Atlanta anime and gaming convention Momocon as one of the judges of its annual indie game awards. My fellow judge, Vlambeer’s Rami Ismail, broke out his Oculus Quest in the judging suite late on Friday evening. A group of us had a blast playing Keep Talking And Nobody Explodes, Rami manipulating a virtual explosive device while myself, Destructoid’s Chris Carter and IGN’s Janet Garcia walked him through the defusing process. It was spontaneous virtual reality fun that’s just not possible with a device that needs to be wired to a PC and depends on external sensors.

Freedom from cords is very important to me these days. Last year I found myself paralyzed from the chest down. My days are spent either in bed or in a 470-pound electric wheelchair. Getting tangled up in wires was bad enough when I could walk. If wires get caught up in my wheels, the hardware is going to die. With no wires save the power cord, the Oculus Quest leaves me free to spin about my office with abandon. The defined safe play area lets me know if I am getting too close to obstacles. Should I stray outside of it, the external cameras on the headset automatically kick in to show me where I am and what I am about to destroy. It’s actually quite a bit of fun, being in virtual reality in a wheelchair. All I need now is a Doctor Who game that lets me play as a Dalek, and I am set for life.

My Quest was already too well-loved for the top of the article shot.

Being a self-contained piece of hardware has another benefit. Games and apps made for the Quest can be specifically tailored to its specifications. Developers don’t have to account for an endless array of PC hardware configurations and can focus on delivering the best experience possible. Oculus is curating the Quest store to ensure apps and games for the device are the best they can be. According to the official submission guidelines, Quest apps must be intuitive and polished. They must run at 72 frames per second a majority of the time, matching the headset’s 72hz refresh rate.

This means that Quest games, while not as robust as those for PC-powered headsets, run smoothly and comfortably. My time with Polyarc’s mouse adventure game Moss on the Quest has been much more satisfying that it was on the original Rift. It’s crisper, clearer and more stable. Playing Beat Saber (ducking and dodging obstacles as best one can in a wheelchair) is a joy, blazing fast and fluid. I’ve spent a ridiculous amount of time playing Angry Birds VR: Isle of Pigs, warping about each level to get the best angle with my bird slingshot to take out those porcine bastards

The same goes for more experiential virtual reality apps. National Geographic Explore VR, a launch title for the Quest, is one of the more impressive virtual reality learning experiences I’ve come across. Navigating Antarctica on foot or in a canoe, climbing the ice shelf, getting lost in a blizzard—it’s so good.

The downside to a curated store is that some popular virtual reality apps won’t make it to the Quest as readily as they do other VR platforms. I’m bummed I have to wait until August for virtual community AltspaceVR while the developers work to polish the program and bring it in line with Quest standards. But it also means I will be getting the best, most stable version of AltspaceVR. I won’t have to worry about purchasing a game or app only to find it’s a quick-and-dirty VR cash-in with little substance or sub-par technology implementation.

It feels like all hardware leading up to the Oculus Quest has been virtual reality’s beta testing stage, as engineers tried to figure out how best to deliver enjoyable simulated environments and experiences to the end user. Speaking to Stephen Totilo back in 2012, gaming wise man, Doom co-creator and current Oculus Chief Technical Officer John Carmark predicted that in a few years we’d see a wireless headset powered by mobile phone hardware that uses camera for optical positioning. This is exactly that. They lost the wires, stripped away the need for external cameras and got rid of the dependency on external hardware. Now all anyone needs to experience full-featured virtual reality is a bit of space and the Oculus Quest.

Source: Kotaku.com

Introduce Your Kid to Virtual Reality With Nintendo Labo VR

Nothing about Labo VR Kit, Nintendo’s foray into virtual reality, should work. Compared to other virtual reality systems, the frame-rate is sluggish and the graphics are kind of crap. It’s so cheaply constructed it’s literally made of cardboard. There’s no huge, immersive world to get lost in. There’s not even a strap to keep it attached to your face. But Nintendo has defied video game conventional logic and created one of the most interesting, useful, and fun application of virtual reality I’ve seen.

Instead of figuring out how to inject gamers deeper into often-alienating and lonely digital spaces, Nintendo re-thought the concept of virtual reality with Labo. This suite of colorful mini-games and imaginative cardboard constructions encourages real-world creativity, exploration, expression, and social play instead of a slack-jawed injection of digital smack. It’s VR, but it’s not virtually fun. It’s actually fun.

Like the best toys, Labo expands with the interests of your child. If they just want to chill out with a fun little VR game, Labo offers dozens. If they’re into art, they can mod their projects into cardboard masterpieces. If your kid likes working with their hands, they’ll love the actual building of the toy-cons, and Labo provides a ton of tools and instruction so young programmers can code their own games and toys.

Make things

The idea behind Labo is that you and your kid build cardboard “toy-cons,” motion-controlled creations, for use in specialized little games. The VR kit adds a new dimension (literally) to the Labo library, with a collection of six new projects and many, many VR mini-games to go with them.

With a little effort and some folds and creases, you and your kid will transform a few sheets of cardboard and some rubber bands into a majestic bird with flapping wings, a camera with a working focus ring, a bazooka-looking space-blaster, and more cool toys.

We built all the currently available Labo VR projects: the VR goggles, the camera, the elephant, the blaster, the wind pedal, and the pinwheel. They range in complexity from the relatively simple and quick construction of the cardboard VR goggle housing to more complicated builds like the blaster. That one took a couple of hours.

Photo: Stephen Johnson

The on-screen instructions are clear and easy to understand. The Switch lets you look at a project from any angle and repeat steps as often as you need to get it right. The building process is simple enough for most kids to understand (although smaller ones will probably need a little help from an adult), and it’s fairly fun to put them together—although you might hear a few “are we finished yet?” when working on more time-consuming toy-cons.

The finished toy-cons are solid, durable and work exactly as advertised, and they often contain surprising details: the ring on the camera lens clacks like a real one would when you pull focus. The bird controller can be paired with the wind pedal and the pinwheel, letting you control your virtual bird in different ways.

Play games

Photo: Stephen Johnson

Once you’ve built a toy-con, it’s time to put it to the test. The games for each project combine motion-sensing and virtual reality into bite-sized, easy-to-learn games designed to be experienced quickly and shared.

While the fun quotient of each game varies, every title we tried (and we tried dozens) is solid and playable, and many are amazing little slices of video game nirvana. None of the included games are huge, world-shaking experiences, but, in true Nintendo style, even the smallest rewards exploration with moments of surprising depth beneath their shining surface.

You can use your cardboard camera to explore and photograph a gentle, undersea world, diving to the virtual ocean floor to capture the strange light-emitting creatures that live at the lower depths, or you can swim upwards and break the surface to photograph seagulls circling a lighthouse. Another player can even strap on a cardboard snorkel and swim through your world.

Photo: Stephen Johnson

The bird controller offers the chance to fly through an avian world by flapping your cardboard wings. You hatch your eggs and feed your little chickies until they join you and fly by your side. It’s gentle and reminds me a bit of ancient N64 favorite Pilotwings 64.

There is no elephant game to go along with the elephant controller. Instead, the “trunk” is a sectional arm with a joy-con controller at its end, allowing you to manipulate objects in 3D space. We loved the Pictionary-style co-op drawing game where you take turns drawing a 3D object in space and guessing what the other player drew. It’s silly and fun little game, but Nintendo included a surprisingly complex set of drawing and coloring tools to render 3D models, hinting at the deeper possibilities of VR.

Maybe the silliest and most surprising of all the Labo VR toy-cons and games is the wind-pedal and its accompanying frog-based gaming experience. You put the bulky cardboard contraption on the floor, and make your froggy jump by pressing down on the pedal. Cool enough, but the fan attached to the pedal directs a puff of air into your face with each hop. It sounds silly, but feeling the wind in your face in the virtual world will definitely make you laugh.

Photo: Stephen Johnson

The main event of the toy-cons for most kids will likely be the blaster. The most complicated build, the blaster has you folding cardboard into a bazooka-like gun. You pull back the barrel to cock, it, and it makes a satisfying “wonk” sound when it fires. Not bad for some cardboard and rubber bands. The games that come with it, an on-rails alien shooter and a two-player strategy game that involves feeding little hippos, demonstrate why there’s no strap to hold the Labo onto your face. You play them for a little bit, and pass the device to your friend. No strap needed. No calibrating and adjusting the VR. Just a fun little novelty to share with a pal.

Learn how stuff works

Photo: Stephen Johnson

All these projects and games would have been more than worth the price, but Labo VR also contains a deeper level that’s way more educational than teaching your kids how to follow cardboard-folding instructions.

In a world where technology can seem like magic (I mean, does anyone really knows how an iPhone works?), Labo invites users behind the tech scenes by carefully explaining and demonstrating the ingenious mechanisms that power the toy-cons and the Nintendo Switch itself. For example, the pinwheel controller works by using the IR camera embedded at the end of the joy-con to read reflective stickers on the pinwheel’s blade: The faster they spin, the faster the on-screen action happens.

Once they understand the basics of how the Switch’s IR camera, accelerometer, rumble, and other features work together with cardboard and stickers, your kids are free to make their own working projects. They can start from scratch with their own creations, or mod one of the existing mini games in any way they can dream up.

If you have a budding coder on your hands, Labo is a non-threatening and fun way to learn coding and express creativity. Sadly, there’s doesn’t seem to be any way to share Labo projects online. I’d love to see the cool home-brew games and toys people are cooking up with Labo VR.

Source: Kotaku.com

Introduce Your Kid to Virtual Reality With Nintendo Labo VR

Nothing about Labo VR Kit, Nintendo’s foray into virtual reality, should work. Compared to other virtual reality systems, the frame-rate is sluggish and the graphics are kind of crap. It’s so cheaply constructed it’s literally made of cardboard. There’s no huge, immersive world to get lost in. There’s not even a strap to keep it attached to your face. But Nintendo has defied video game conventional logic and created one of the most interesting, useful, and fun application of virtual reality I’ve seen.

Instead of figuring out how to inject gamers deeper into often-alienating and lonely digital spaces, Nintendo re-thought the concept of virtual reality with Labo. This suite of colorful mini-games and imaginative cardboard constructions encourages real-world creativity, exploration, expression, and social play instead of a slack-jawed injection of digital smack. It’s VR, but it’s not virtually fun. It’s actually fun.

Like the best toys, Labo expands with the interests of your child. If they just want to chill out with a fun little VR game, Labo offers dozens. If they’re into art, they can mod their projects into cardboard masterpieces. If your kid likes working with their hands, they’ll love the actual building of the toy-cons, and Labo provides a ton of tools and instruction so young programmers can code their own games and toys.

Make things

The idea behind Labo is that you and your kid build cardboard “toy-cons,” motion-controlled creations, for use in specialized little games. The VR kit adds a new dimension (literally) to the Labo library, with a collection of six new projects and many, many VR mini-games to go with them.

With a little effort and some folds and creases, you and your kid will transform a few sheets of cardboard and some rubber bands into a majestic bird with flapping wings, a camera with a working focus ring, a bazooka-looking space-blaster, and more cool toys.

We built all the currently available Labo VR projects: the VR goggles, the camera, the elephant, the blaster, the wind pedal, and the pinwheel. They range in complexity from the relatively simple and quick construction of the cardboard VR goggle housing to more complicated builds like the blaster. That one took a couple of hours.

Photo: Stephen Johnson

The on-screen instructions are clear and easy to understand. The Switch lets you look at a project from any angle and repeat steps as often as you need to get it right. The building process is simple enough for most kids to understand (although smaller ones will probably need a little help from an adult), and it’s fairly fun to put them together—although you might hear a few “are we finished yet?” when working on more time-consuming toy-cons.

The finished toy-cons are solid, durable and work exactly as advertised, and they often contain surprising details: the ring on the camera lens clacks like a real one would when you pull focus. The bird controller can be paired with the wind pedal and the pinwheel, letting you control your virtual bird in different ways.

Play games

Photo: Stephen Johnson

Once you’ve built a toy-con, it’s time to put it to the test. The games for each project combine motion-sensing and virtual reality into bite-sized, easy-to-learn games designed to be experienced quickly and shared.

While the fun quotient of each game varies, every title we tried (and we tried dozens) is solid and playable, and many are amazing little slices of video game nirvana. None of the included games are huge, world-shaking experiences, but, in true Nintendo style, even the smallest rewards exploration with moments of surprising depth beneath their shining surface.

You can use your cardboard camera to explore and photograph a gentle, undersea world, diving to the virtual ocean floor to capture the strange light-emitting creatures that live at the lower depths, or you can swim upwards and break the surface to photograph seagulls circling a lighthouse. Another player can even strap on a cardboard snorkel and swim through your world.

Photo: Stephen Johnson

The bird controller offers the chance to fly through an avian world by flapping your cardboard wings. You hatch your eggs and feed your little chickies until they join you and fly by your side. It’s gentle and reminds me a bit of ancient N64 favorite Pilotwings 64.

There is no elephant game to go along with the elephant controller. Instead, the “trunk” is a sectional arm with a joy-con controller at its end, allowing you to manipulate objects in 3D space. We loved the Pictionary-style co-op drawing game where you take turns drawing a 3D object in space and guessing what the other player drew. It’s silly and fun little game, but Nintendo included a surprisingly complex set of drawing and coloring tools to render 3D models, hinting at the deeper possibilities of VR.

Maybe the silliest and most surprising of all the Labo VR toy-cons and games is the wind-pedal and its accompanying frog-based gaming experience. You put the bulky cardboard contraption on the floor, and make your froggy jump by pressing down on the pedal. Cool enough, but the fan attached to the pedal directs a puff of air into your face with each hop. It sounds silly, but feeling the wind in your face in the virtual world will definitely make you laugh.

Photo: Stephen Johnson

The main event of the toy-cons for most kids will likely be the blaster. The most complicated build, the blaster has you folding cardboard into a bazooka-like gun. You pull back the barrel to cock, it, and it makes a satisfying “wonk” sound when it fires. Not bad for some cardboard and rubber bands. The games that come with it, an on-rails alien shooter and a two-player strategy game that involves feeding little hippos, demonstrate why there’s no strap to hold the Labo onto your face. You play them for a little bit, and pass the device to your friend. No strap needed. No calibrating and adjusting the VR. Just a fun little novelty to share with a pal.

Learn how stuff works

Photo: Stephen Johnson

All these projects and games would have been more than worth the price, but Labo VR also contains a deeper level that’s way more educational than teaching your kids how to follow cardboard-folding instructions.

In a world where technology can seem like magic (I mean, does anyone really knows how an iPhone works?), Labo invites users behind the tech scenes by carefully explaining and demonstrating the ingenious mechanisms that power the toy-cons and the Nintendo Switch itself. For example, the pinwheel controller works by using the IR camera embedded at the end of the joy-con to read reflective stickers on the pinwheel’s blade: The faster they spin, the faster the on-screen action happens.

Once they understand the basics of how the Switch’s IR camera, accelerometer, rumble, and other features work together with cardboard and stickers, your kids are free to make their own working projects. They can start from scratch with their own creations, or mod one of the existing mini games in any way they can dream up.

If you have a budding coder on your hands, Labo is a non-threatening and fun way to learn coding and express creativity. Sadly, there’s doesn’t seem to be any way to share Labo projects online. I’d love to see the cool home-brew games and toys people are cooking up with Labo VR.

Source: Kotaku.com

Valve’s Index VR Headset Ships In June, Full Set Costs $1,000

Following last month’s tease, today Valve officially announced the Valve Index, a “high-fidelity” virtual reality headset with impressive specs, cool new controllers and a $1,000 price tag.

The Valve Index headset features a pair of 1440×1600 RGB LCD displays running at 120Hz (with an experimental 144Hz mode.) It also has built-in stereo headphones that are off-the-ear, to provide a more natural soundstage for VR applications.

The Index headset is controlled by the new Index controllers. Each controller features 87 different sensors for detecting finger and hand position, movement speed, and other measurements necessary to translate real-world hand motions into virtual space. The Index controllers are compatible with all existing HTC Vive games and apps.

The controllers and the new Index base stations are also compatible with existing HTC Vive hardware. The controllers, which sell for $279 a pair, can be purchased separately, as can the $149 base stations. Vive owners with Vive controllers and the original base stations can opt to upgrade to the Index headset by itself for $499.

The full Valve Index kit comes with the headset, two controllers, and a pair of base stations for $999. That price tag makes the package seem like it’s not an entry-level VR setup, but more for people who’ve tasted what virtual reality has to offer at lower levels and want to take the next step.

Hit up the official website for more information on the Valve Index.

Source: Kotaku.com

I Played No Man’s Sky VR And Almost Punched Sean Murray In The Face

I did not punch Sean Murray in the face when I played No Man’s Sky in PlayStation 4 virtual reality last week at a demo event in New York. I almost did, as I reached out to open the canopy of the spaceship I was virtually sitting in, but from the sound he made, I think the game’s lead developer scooted away.

“That’s okay, I’ve been punched a few times today,” he said, gathering himself. “The best one today is I asked someone to punch a rock and they punched me square in the jaw. And they didn’t say anything. So I think they just thought: ‘Oh, that’s where that rock was.’”

Murray showed no signs of injury once I took off the PlayStation VR’s headset at the end of the demo and saw him squatting next to me. The whole experience of playing No Man’s Sky in VR was appropriately otherworldly, though slightly more feature-rich than what players will be able to experience when the VR mode comes to PS4 and PC as part of this summer’s free Beyond update.

Players will get a VR mode that Murray said is entirely compatible with existing saves.

Players will get the ability to interact with the world from the first-person perspective of their character in the game.

Players will be able to do cool things like walk through the bases they’ve made and pilot their spaceship using virtual throttles and joysticks.

They won’t, sadly, be able to do as I did and have Hello Games’ Sean Murray standing next to them offering help. I started playing No Man’s Sky VR all on my own, got a little lost in the world, and then heard the voice of the main visionary behind the game.

“Hi, it’s Sean,” is what I heard after I was playing for a couple of minutes. I suddenly realized Sean Murray had walked over to chat. How convenient! You just play this game in VR and suddenly Sean Murray is next to you.

I kept the VR headset on at first. I had a virtual reality planet to explore and I needed someone to tell me what to do, since the demo had skipped the tutorials for the new mode’s special controls. Murray could explain, but it was weird and also great to have Murray chatting with me as a disembodied voice.

“It’s the weirdest thing to demo VR to people,” he said as I observed my virtual hands. In reality I was sitting in a chair, wearing the PSVR headset and holding two Move motion controllers in my hands. In the game I was seeing through the eyes of the character you’d normally control from afar. The movement of my in-game hands matched the movement of the controllers I held.

“I’ve skipped the tutorial because we want to show you that anything you can do in No Man’s Sky you can do in No Man’s Sky VR,” Murray said. “You can boot up a 100-hour save and just launch straight into the game.”

At Murray’s direction I extended my left hand to observe the side of my glove. I then pointed at a sphere near my left wrist with my right hand and a menu popped up over it. I was able to tap through some options and get a flashlight to appear in my hand.

Alternately, I could point my left hand at the in-game gun in my right and switch it to terrain manipulation mode to destroy or add to the scenery. I’d found myself down in a cave and Murray suggested I use the gun’s destruction ability to tunnel my way up and out. Later, he encouraged me to switch functions and build.

“Fire at the world and you can add terrain,” Murray said. “People use this for base-building, sculptures, that kind of thing, drawing phalluses, all of that.”

You holster your gun by reaching your right hand to your right shoulder as if you were placing it into a backpack.

No Man’s Sky VR is meant to be a magnificent option for the game’s players. It doesn’t technically add anything to what you can do in the game, just changes how you do it and how it appears. From the 20 or so minutes I played of the game in VR, I was struck by the sense of presence I had in the world and my appreciation of its scale. Now you’re deep in a cave looking up as you try to tunnel out. Now you’re standing inside the base someone made. Now you’re talking to an alien who appears to be in front of you.

“Exploration is what the game’s about, and exploration is more interesting in VR,” Murray said. “You can get vertigo. You can stand at the top of a mountain and just feel like you’ve got a real view. You can be in that cave and feel claustrophobic. That lifts the whole game experience.”

There are some hazards and pitfalls. The game looks more grainy in PSVR than it would in a standard view. Murray said it looks sharper when played in VR on PC, since that hardware is more powerful, but it’s never going to look as sleek as the game looks like on a monitor, a downgrade in visuals that will compete with the grandeur of having No Man’s Sky’s worlds wrap around you.

It also poses some nausea risks. The developers at Hello Games are offering a range of movement options, including a teleport-and-turn system for moving through the world and stuttered rotational turning, which tends to diminish the risk of feeling sick in a VR game’s 3D world. Murray still cautioned that some moments during a spaceship flight might be hard for some players to take in and that the game will offer a range of comfort settings there, too.

I did not feel queasy when I played, not even during my brief moments flying a spaceship. You can summon your ship from a wrist menu and then climb into a cockpit to see controls that are represented as objects you can interact with. In the ship I entered I could grab a horizontal throttle with my left hand. With my right, I could hold a joystick. Pushing the throttle up and pulling the stick back made me take off. I flew briefly. As I took off, Murray warily suggested I look around out of my cockpit, noting that I should only do that if I felt well enough. I did.

It was wonderful to be able to fly, in first-person VR, in a virtual spaceship up out of the atmosphere into space, to look back on the planet I left behind and then to activate warp speed to go to a space station. I’d play No Man’s Sky this way again.

It’s smart to offer VR as an option for the game and to let players use their existing saves. Long-term players, Murray mused, will see their in-game creations and familiar planets in a whole amazing new way. It seems worth trying if players have a VR headset. Players should just be sure it’s comfortable for them and that, when it’s time to punch a rock or open a cockpit, that no one, not even Sean Murray, is within striking distance.

Source: Kotaku.com

Nintendo Announces Labo VR Kit For Switch

Coming out of absolutely nowhere, Nintendo just announced a new virtual reality set for the Nintendo Switch, which will make use of the platform’s Labo cardboard-building concept.

The full pack’s name is the “Nintendo Labo: VR Kit”, and will come in two versions: a full set ($80) that includes software, goggles and five cardboard designs (above), and a smaller stater kit ($40) that only includes the goggles and one of the designs, a blaster/rifle (below).

Anyone who only buys the smaller set will be able to buy the additional designs as expansions later on.

Note that this is just a virtual reality set for the Labo, this won’t suddenly let you play Breath of the Wild in VR.

The VR kit will be available in North America on April 12.

The contents of the full set, including the naked goggles.

Source: Kotaku.com

Valve Updates Steam VR Because Beat Saber Players Are Too Fast

Real-world data collected from Beat Saber players has changed what Valve developers had previously thought to be “humanly possible.”

In a recent post announcing the latest update to Steam VR, one of the changes listed reads: “Increase limits of what we thought was humanly possible for controller motion based on tracking data from Beat Saber experts.” In other words: Some people are so good at Beat Saber, a rhythm game where you use lightsabers to slice correspondingly colored red and blue blocks, that Steam VR wasn’t previously able to track them.

The fix to address that shortcoming affects the Vive hardware’s Lighthouse tracking sensors which are responsible for recording players’ positions and movement while playing Steam VR. In order to be more accurate Valve increased the max threshold for how quickly a player could move one of the VR controllers.

In the comments section of the post, a Valve developer wrote that “the tracking system has internal sanity checks to identify when things go wrong.” He went on:

“For example, if our math says you are *behind* your only basestation, clearly we made a mistake, because we wouldn’t be getting any signal from behind the basestation. One of these checks relates to how fast we thought it was physically possible for someone to turn their wrist. It turns out that a properly motivated human using a light enough controller could go faster (3600 degrees/sec!) than we thought.”

To put that in perspective, rotating 3600 degrees a second is the equivalent of flicking your wrist 90 degrees, from horizontal to vertical, in .025 seconds. Like the developers at Valve, I would have guessed players with super twitch skills would be able to move fast, but not that fast.

Some Beat Saber players are indeed strong with the force.

Source: Kotaku.com