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Experiences

Gnomes and Goblins preview

Well this was completely unexpected, and a very welcome surprise return for Jon Favreau and Jake Rowell’s Wevr title that seemed to have slipped into oblivion. I had played it again when I got my Valve Index last year but there had been no further updates or information since, like many early Vive demos that are still available but appear dormant in terms of development.

I always had fond memories of the Vive demo from 2016, but 4 years was a long time ago, especially in terms of VR software. So to find a “Venice” preview available at the festival was fantastic, and much more rewarding when I discovered in-headset that it wasn’t an updated Vive demo but something entirely new.

One problem I found with the original Vive demo was the requirement for a big room (to create a big play space) to get its roomscale VR to work properly. Without going into software and moving my playscape, an important trigger event could be just out of reach, often at home I’d find myself trying to flatten my Vive controller against the physical wall to try and reach something.

During the new Venice preview I used free locomotion, shook a fairy (don’t ask!), transferred through portals, paddled down a river on a raft, lowered myself on a rope platform down into a mine, explored a series of tunnels in an illuminating way, attended a meeting of many in a cave and finally released lanterns into the sky. Hundreds of NPC’s roamed about, some singing, many doing their own stuff, with gorgeous detail and animation. Overall an incredibly rich world, which felt like being inside a big budget Hollywood animation movie.

Performance took a hit, with strange microstutters in headset, despite my frame timing not averaging over 9ms/11.1ms (90hz) though the developer graph showed very thin yellow spikes in places. I tried adjusting super resolution without it resolving the issue. Textures seemed muddy and very “2016” in places, yet sharper in other places; close up interaction with NPC’s were richly detailed, longer distances were blurrier.

Something odd was going on, could be compatibility with the Index headset, though I suspect Viveport was not playing nicely with the new Windows update, or with SteamVR. Its not the first time I’ve had problems after installing Viveport, and was glad to uninstall it at the end of the festival.

I’ll need to play the Steam release at the end of this month to see if this problem reoccurs. The recommended specification demonstrates that this title will be perfect for the new wave of Nvidia RTX 3xxx graphics cards as its going to require some serious grunt to run well. For reference I’m using 8086K @ 5.2Ghz / RTX 2080Ti.

  • i7-9700K or equivalent
  • Memory: 32 GB RAM
  • Graphics: Nvidia Geforce GTX 2080 or equivalent

I’m not going to say any more as its better discovered first person in your headset. The full game releases on 23rd September 2020 and promises many hours of gameplay in its rich environment.

It’s not an exaggeration to say that Gnomes & Goblins is the biggest project Wevr has developed. Where the G&G Preview was a quick introduction to Buddy and his world, a bit like a tasting spoon of ice cream, this all-new, full-featured, multi-hour VR simulation game is like a full pint of your favorite flavor with new interactions and story moments to discover including new characters to meet, forest areas to explore, magical collectibles to discover and a range of open-world gameplay from climbing to paddle boarding to farming and brew-making.”Wevr

Thanks for reading! Rob Cole

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Experiences

Rembrandt Reality

Use your smartphone to travel to the year 1632 and step into Rembrandt’s painting ‘The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp’.

Place the gate and walk round in the Anatomical Theatre.

See through Rembrandt’s eyes how Doctor Tulp and his fellow doctors are examining the body of the criminal Aris Kindt. Discover all the stories behind the painting.

Developer description on Google play store

This amazing ARCore application for Android smartphones has been a pleasure of mine since discovering it over a year ago. It’s great to load it up every once in a while and enjoy the 6DoF environment in all its glory (it has a huge playspace).

Scanning the floor to create a ground plane

Best used outdoors in a quiet place, with good quality audio headphones. I use my Pixel 3aXL which has a good quality display, and sennheiser HD 461 headphones which provide some isolation from background noise. The application can be used with your phone display in portrait or landscape with auto rotation.

Placing the gate on the ground plane

The application boots up quickly and takes you through an introduction to the scenario and how to interact.

You then scan the floor to create a ground plane for the application to sit on, once ARCore has worked its magic a “gate” appears which can be placed precisely by tapping on your screen.

Initial appearance of the gate

Once the gate has been placed it materializes first as an archway with a stone finish, before opening the “gateway” into the Rembrandt environment.

An open invitation… what lies beyond?

You are then invited to walk through the gate, and this is where a genuine sense of physical space is generated from physically walking forward into a rich black backdrop, with the scene itself set further back from the entrance gate.

The anatomy lesson in progress

In front is the anatomy lesson of Dr. Tulp, and the surgeons keenly watching the dissection. I am able to walk forward another 5 metres before reaching the centre, the sense of scale is very impressive as it’s using 1:1 mapping.

With ARCore providing a solid geospatial anchor, I can freely walk around inside the environment, and get as close as I want with high quality assets showing rich detail in 6DoF.

The sense of presence is rewarding ‘despite’ this being presented on just a smartphone display rather than inside AR glasses.

During the experience, ‘hotspots’ can be clicked on which provide very useful insights into the original Rembrandt painting using images and audio description.

Up close and personal

Once you have selected the different hotspots you feel well informed, yet the real treat for me is always looking around the environment, with the ceiling a particular highlight – this is cleverly mentioned during one of the hotspot activated informationals.

Amazing ceiling with animated bird flying about

My other favourite element of this AR experience is exploring the boundaries of the environment and looking back through the entrance gate (to the “real world”) which causes a strong impression that you are inside the environment of the painting!

The participants appear to be taking note of the gate….

I haven’t calculated the available space inside the environment but it’s very large, I always finish by walking back through the gate.

The persistent nature of the application means that the gate straddling the boundary between the environment and real world can be carefully inspected, walked through, back through, the students and doctor remaining in place, a great example of a “Portal mechanic” in action.

Mind is blown by seeing the real world back through the gate! It’s fun to stand to one side and look around the thick edge of the gate out into the “real” street outside.

It’s always a pleasure to use Rembrandt Reality, the developers did a great job building this using ARCore. High quality experiences like Rembrandt Reality demonstrate the potential of augmented reality even on smartphones (I’d like AR glasses,but 2030?)

Rembrandt Reality is available as a free download on both the Google play store and Apple store (there is an ARkit build for Apple devices).

Thanks for reading! Rob Cole.

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Experiences

Microsoft Hololens

I’ve been fortunate enough to have had several sessions with Microsoft’s Hololens AR standalone headset; it’s always been impressive to use despite the obvious limitations of current AR technology.

Talking of technology, Microsoft list the Hololens with these specifications:

Optics See-through holographic lenses (waveguides)

Holographic resolution 2 HD 16:9 light engines producing 2.3M total light points

Holographic density >2.5k radiants (light points per radian)

-Eye-based rendering

-Automatic pupillary distance calibration

In addition, the Hololens has a fully loaded sensor array:


    1 inertial measurement unit (IMU)
    4 environment understanding cameras
    1 depth camera
    1 2MP photo / HD video camera
    Mixed reality capture
    4 microphones
    1 ambient light sensor

Compute

  • Intel 32-bit architecture with TPM 2.0 support
  • Custom-built Microsoft Holographic Processing Unit (HPU 1.0)
  • 64 GB Flash
  • 2 GB RAM

Regarding pricing, I’d only heard of them being sold to enterprise and big business (i.e. Microsoft partners) but I once saw a Hololens for sale in computer exchange (CEX) for a cool £3,200.

From my somewhat limited understanding of augmented reality technology, there is a long roadmap of development still ahead.

VR is almost seen as a solved problem with further iterations only set to improve on what is already a very immersive experience in terms of ‘presence’ (feeling of being there). Wider field of view, varifocal, eyetracking, HDR, etc. These features will be introduced to consumer headsets as costs are reduced.

VR experiences are very effective even with current consumer level technologies.

But AR has a much harder set of technical challenges and problems to solve before we find ourselves wearing the “AR glasses” seen in a number of films and television shows over many years. 2 great examples of AR glasses and contact lenses in media are Hulu’s Mars mission television show “The First” (Sean Penn), and Clive Owen’s recent film “Anon”.

AR overlay in movie “Anon” with Clive Owen and Amenda Seyfried

Facebook Reality Labs, Apple and Microsoft are amongst those companies employing lots of very smart people to try and figure it out as the race to replace the smartphone with AR glasses is underway. Of course Microsoft had their kinect sensor technology from the gaming console business, which was further developed for Hololens.

Welcome to the future….

Microsoft’s Hololens AR standalone headset has available since October 2016 in the UK, with a new version shipping right now. Being a special order device aimed at enterprise customers, it’s been difficult to get any hands-on, until Microsoft did a launch party for their new London experience store.

And of course I went back several times in the following weeks to use it again, including a quiet morning where I had a full hour using the Hololens 😘

Interesting form factor and ergonomics:- rotate the headband, push it back, adjust the wheel on the rear of the headband.
Sensors galore and awesome looking waveguides

The device was reasonably light (reported at 579 grammes) and comfortable to wear with easy adjustment system using an rotating headband which is pushed back to fit, and then a simple adjustment wheel on the rear of the headband to change the circumference.

The holographic display was surprisingly impressive with the limited field of view not as severe as I had been led to believe. Yes it was limited especially compared to my VR headsets, but after all…it was using holograms 🤯

Holographic resolution and brightness were sufficient to create a convincing illusion, it was better than I had expected from reading many reviews prior to trying it myself.

I first did an experience focused on the current London location but with an AR overlay showing a historical scene with horse and carriages rolling past outside, which felt really magical.

Then I used several applications which were already onboard, with one showing how to use hand gestures; it was here the limitations of hand tracking were evident with it sometimes requiring several gestures actions to trigger. Despite that, it was great fun when it worked with the freedom of hands free computing.

However the lighting conditions were not optimum with lots of sunlight and people moving about,vso it would need testing in another location to determine the reliability of the gesture recognition.

Microsoft list the device capabilities as follows:-

Using the following to understand user actions:

    Gaze tracking
    Gesture input
    Voice support

Using the following to understand the environment:

    Spatial sound

Having an amazing time playing with Hololens

Overall I found Hololens to an impressive demonstration clearly signalling the huge potential for AR glasses.

Most importantly, it passed the “WOW!!” test, which is the potential of any HMD to make you pull the wow! face. This is clearly seen in the image below, wow!

Having now used Hololens several times, I’m really looking forward to trying it’s successor the Hololens 2.

I’m also very interested in following the development of augmented reality glasses as the successor to the smartphone. Google glass, Microsoft, Magic Leap, Apple, and many more to follow…

Making the transition to a “head up, hands free” computing platform has substantial benefits for skeletal posture, reduction of repetitive strain injuries, increased spatial and environmental awareness, and hand freedom to interact with the computing interface and the real world.

My experiences with the Hololens and Magic Leap has firmly convinced me of AR’s potential to change our world.

However, these 2 devices remind me of early VR headsets from the 1990’s, where potential was clear to see despite the technology being immature.

I don’t expect to see really competent AR glasses until the early 2030’s, but do look forward to trying further developments as AR technology continues to improve.

Big thanks to the people at Microsoft London for letting me use the Hololens. And thanks to you for reading! Rob Cole

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Experiences

immersivecomputing @ Saturnz Barz, Gorillaz (Spirit House)

“This was hugely impressive on Google’s Daydream headset; using a Google Pixel XL smartphone and Sennheiser HD461 hi-fi headphones showcased the quality of this expertly crafted experience.

I preferred the original Daydream headset for this incredible gorillaz VR experience, as the second generation headset’s had Fresnel lenses which introduced unpleasant god rays.

There are 2 versions both free to download; the Daydream application, and the YouTube VR experience. The Daydream version was the premium version, no doubt.”

Rob Cole, immersivecomputing.org

Platform: Google Daydream+ Pixel XL

For more information please follow this link:

Gorillaz ‘Saturnz Barz (Spirit House)’

Thanks for reading! Rob Cole, immersivecomputing.org

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Experiences

immersivecomputing @ Sky4DVR, Westfield, London

Visited June 2017

Sometimes the best experiences are the surprise ones, unexpected but very welcome.

During a visit to one of the Westfield shopping centres in London, I noticed a futuristic booth with Sky 4DVR branding and a lady wearing a HTC Vive VR headset.

Walking closer I saw an HTC Vive and Vive wand in the booth, both covered with white Hyperkin sleeves, which looked very cool. The Vive was fitted with the new DAS (Deluxe Audio Strap) but with the headphones removed.

The demo area was relatively large with a floor plate, air vents and camera on one side.

Vibrating floor plate for haptic feedback
Hot and cold air vents and GoPro camera

After speaking with the friendly people running the booth I was soon handed the Vive headset and a single controller, and a lovely pair of Sennheiser headphones to wear.

HTC Vive with Hyperkin sleeve

Stepping into the demo area, I realized the floor plate was actually a heavy duty vibration unit, whilst the air vents blasted hot and cold air across the area. A single GoPro camera was busy filming each demo so the Sky staff could email a copy to each attendee.

VR inside a shopping centre is quite novel

The content was created by UK based film special effects company “Framestore” which meant super high quality assets and a very polished experience.

The ice king from Game of Thrones

I started in a kitchen as formula 1 cars zoomed around me, some footballers playing around me, and then an amazing section with the “Ice king” from The game of thrones…wow!

The icy air from the air vents and vibrations as he came closer were very convincing!

Awesome Sennheiser headphones and Vive DAS
Formula 1 cars in the kitchen!
Vive base station for steamVR tracking

Overall a very high quality experience which shows how the extra budget associated with television and film companies can be used to create very effective and memorable VR experiences.

Placing this inside a very busy shopping centre is a huge win to expose many new people to VR in a good way.

Thanks to Sky 4DVR for the free experience.

Thanks for reading! Rob Cole, immersivecomputing

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Experiences

Immersivecomputing @ Beat Saber, Namco, London

Visited February 2020

During a recent visit to Namco at County Hall in London to see the new Mariokart VR installation (previously at the 02), I noticed a bona fide Beat Saber standalone arcade machine.

Beat Saber standalone arcade machine

I’d read about these online but never expected to find one in London; of course I had to give it a try!

Exciting video quickly demonstrates the concept of the game and makes it inticing

After pushing several pound coins into a slot on the front right side, it all came to life with an electric whirring noise as the HTC Vive headset and wand controllers lowered on a special motorized array.

It looked like something from a transformers movie or cyberpunk game, perhaps a real world example of the matrix now available at your local arcade!

Ingenious array supporting headset and controllers

Getting into the headset was a little tricky because it was attached with 3 armoured cables which resisted my efforts to pull the headset down.

Once fitted I tried to set the IPD but found it fixed, one less thing to go wrong; I guess they set it on an average IPD of 64mm.

Grabbing the Vive wands I navigated through the menus see selecting a familiar track by KDA “popstars” and setting expert mode.

KDA Popstars on expert mode

It was fun to be back in Beat Saber, but also strange being restricted by the 3 cables connecting the headset to the gantry above, and to a lesser degree by thinner cables to the controllers.

I’m used to be tethered on PCVR but this was different and felt perhaps more like a piece of gym equipment?

Whereas in comparison on my Valve Index I can happily dance about very freely / badly with its wireless controllers and 5 metre long thin headset tether which sits on the floor behind me.

Moving took extra effort but it was possible to adapt

Movement here took extra force to overcome the drag I was feeling from the cables making me work harder to hit the right moves; timing was challenging but I quickly learned to compensate especially trying to move sideways

I reached the end of the song with B grade, removed the headset and watched with fascination as the entire apparatus lifted back up into the overhead gantry ready for the next player.

At this point I noticed a plastic bracket or hinge piece was broken and not doing whatever it was supposed to be doing making one side of the headset mechanism to slump; this may have contributed to extra drag in the tethering system?

I alerted the supervisor who immediately shut the machine down, I then noticed I hadn’t used any wipes or santising products before starting! Set several feet further back in the dark on the walls either side of the machine, was a hand santising dispenser and an empty box of wipes. The message at the start now made sense…

Impressive stuff despite the movement restriction, which was the result of an ingenious solution to create a standalone unsupervised VR arcade machine. It certainly would be huge fun to play in a shopping centre or airport and could tip someone into purchasing a home VR system.

Satisfied with the self-service Beat Saber standalone arcade experience but keen to try again once repaired, I went off to find the bathroom and give my face a good wash.

Thanks for reading! Rob Cole, immersivecomputing

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Experiences

Immersivecomputing @ Vertigo VR, Milton Keynes

Visited May 2019

I needed to travel to Milton Keynes for a family gathering but managed to sneak in a visit to Vertigo VR which is located next to the Central shopping centre.

Arriving early, I had a good look at the building which was quite substantial, the VR centre seemed to occupying the entire upper floor.

Soon enough the doors opened, as the first visitor I had the place to myself so had a good look at the artwork across the walls.

Heading upstairs I found the staff behind a bar, and bought some tickets to try out the solo experiences.

Ferocious motion platform

I started with a funfair ride simulator hosted on a standing motion platform and using Rift CV1. The ride was a platform on a long arm lifting me about 100 feet into the air before swinging back down, above a carpark.

This was brutual with the simulator almost flooring my legs everytime the ride swung around, I managed to hang on (for life!) until thankfully it ended. Probably not one to try again…

Cool space pods

The second experience was slightly more tame, taking place inside what looked like a space pod from the 1970’s. The experience itself involved rapid flight with lots of banking and turning around big buildings in a city.

I enjoyed this much more than the funfair simulator, and had a long session until a family member arrived, thankfully they agreed to try VR for the first time so we booked a multiplayer session in the HTC Vive booths at the rear of the venue.

We had a great session across several games ending with cooperative mode Arizona Sunshine – the first time I’d tried it, it was awesome protecting each others backs as the zombie horse advanced.

Soon enough, our time finished; thanking the staff we walked away talking about their first experience of VR (basically a wow!)

Thanks for reading! Rob Cole, immersivecomputing

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Experiences

Immersivecomputing @ Raindance Immersive Festival 2019

Following my first visit to Raindance in 2018, I was keen to go again and waited patiently for the organisers to open up their website ticketing for the 2019 event.

It was tricky working out which experiences to visit during each timeslot so I tried different combinations until I had a full day of experiences booked for the final Sunday.

The venue was the same at The Oxo Tower in London, it felt comfortable to be back at a familiar venue as I walked up the stairs.

After signing in I received an armful of coloured wristbands and a programme of events with a floor layout showing where each of the experiences were located. The event was starting to fill up with guests eager to get into VR.

HTC Vive Pro Eye

I started off with “Gloomy Eyes” on the HTC Vive Pro Eye headset, my first time seeing one or using one since HTC launched the new model.

With the eye tracking inoperative it was the same Vive Pro I’m familiar with, generally a decent headset with a robustness ideal for public or enterprise use where they don’t always get well treated!

The experience itself was very…gloomy…but very cinematic and awe inspiring. Hopefully it will get a home release very soon!

I was getting some light leakage at certain angles due to the large windows facing the River Thames, so tried to find a better pose in which to enjoy the experience. I was glad to be using an OLED display headset as it was very dark inside Gloomy Eyes.

Eye tracking module inside Vive Pro Eye

After Gloomy Eyes, I tried more experiences, all using Vive Pro Eye.. they were everywhere at the festival alongside some older headsets.

Doctor Who: The Edge of time was fun though I managed to get snagged in some virtual scenery which prevented me completing the demo.

No man’s Sky VR was my next experience, I failed to get out of the crater before being irritated as I grappled with the Vive wands. 🥴

My final experience from my first session was “The curious case of the stolen pets” which was on the new Oculus Rift S; a headset I’d not been available to demo anywhere in London.

Oculus Rift S in all its glory!

This was a great opportunity to see how different it was from the Rift CV1 which I’d owned in the past, it was reportedly using the single display panel (overclocked) and new Fresnel hybrid lenses from the Oculus Go.

The fixed IPD and lower refresh rate (80hz) were something that had concerned me, though my IPD at 63.5 was right in the sweet spot with the lenses proving Oculus’s prowess with lens design (often requiring a lot of ray simulation involving a supercomputer).

Pet rescue on the Rift S

I was initially impressed with the Rift S, the display was clear with minimal screen door and the lenses were clear of artifacts. The experience was very fun with a large puzzle I spun around as I tried to rescue the pets, I solved the first two before running out of time.

However after months of using the Valve Index, the lower 80hz frame rate on the Rift S was very noticeable and felt sluggish in VR.

Great lenses in the Rift S

It didn’t give me a great feeling of presence, partly the lower frame rate and partly the smaller FOV, which felt like scuba goggles again after Index and actually seemed slightly smaller than CV1.

Touch insight (left), Touch CV1 (right)

The Touch insight motion controllers worked well, but felt a bit creaky and unbalanced compared to the sublime Touch CV1 controllers which perhaps shall remain the gold standard.

Oculus Touch insight controller

Overall the Rift S felt like a sidegrade in some ways with steps forward and backwards, certainly very good value at £399 although the frame rate remains a concern – 90Hz should be the minimum for PCVR with Index proving 120Hz the new standard.

As my first session finished I felt very satisfied having tried the Vive Pro Eye and Rift S, but these were quickly forgotten when it dawned on me that my next session was using something even more rare, that I didn’t think would be available to demo.

What could that be??

“Rise of the Animals with David Attenborough” immersive AR experience on the Magic Leap was awaiting, of course I needed to have a really good look at the hardware 🤯

Sensor array on Magic Leap
The ML goggles
See the waveguides?
Compute unit on belt
Remote

After looking very thoroughly at the entire kit, it was time for my first Magic Leap AR experience.

The lady running the experience helped me fit the Magic Leap on my head, I hung the compute unit belt on my shoulder but didn’t need the remote as the hand tracking was being used.

Making gestures using hand tracking to start the experience

The experience was…. very impressive. I’d read so much negatively and poor reviews about Magic Leap I wasn’t sure how it would work and how effective it would be?

I’m not going to spoil the experience itself with any spoilers; the field of view was limited (as many had mentioned in reviews) but serviceable, the 2 depth focus planes were very welcome after several years of fixed focus VR headsets.

I had dinosaurs crawling about everywhere in a huge space so I went wandering about following the creatures…much to the amusement of the other guests!

Overall I was impressed with Magic Leap which gave a really good impression of how powerful AR can be once the technology develops.

It certainly got me moving about and using the entire space, the image quality was good and effective. Environmental tracking and hand tracking also impressed. I’ve used Hololens in the past, recently only a week before Raindance, and thought Magic Leap was a superior device in many ways.

After Magic Leap it was time for lunch, before another round of experiences. I spent my lunch talking XR with developers, volunteers and people from different companies and university’s, including some people from Bose who were showing their new AR sound glasses.

These were interesting to try and quite effective, I tried a couple of different audio experiences. The glasses provided good audio presence but were a bit overpowered by background noise.

After Bose, I had some fun using the Oculus Go which has always been good for shorter sessions as it’s a bit front heavy like the Quest.

Many Oculus Go charging alongside a Vive Focus

Oculus Go experiences included Anonymous, Playing God and Afterlife. This was pretty creepy showing the aftermath of a child’s death and it’s impact on remaining family members specifically the mother.

Go is still a great device for media consumption and 3DoF experiences especially when paired with good audio headphones. Its ideal for festivals being inexpensive and easy to deploy in volume.

Probably the strangest thing about going to immersive festivals is lifting off a headset to realise you are in a room full of people wearing headsets! It’s a bit odd to witness, and I had the thought that many headset owners would appreciate the opportunity to try the experiences and demos at home.

I spoke to the organisers and proposed an idea for the next festival; offer ticketed access so headset owners could participate online during the festival with time limited access to the different experiences.

Perhaps the last time I’ll see Oculus’s Rift CV1 at a festival? This solitary headset did it usual stellar duty!

I thoroughly enjoyed my time at Raindance Immersive Festival 2019, huge thanks to the organisers, the developers and hard working volunteers assisting the guests.

Thanks for reading! Rob Cole, immersivecomputing

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Experiences

Immersivecomputing @ Raindance Immersive Festival 2018, London

Visited October 2018

I heard that Raindance were holding an immersive festival in London at The Oxo Tower, right at the end of their month long film festival.

I managed to book an entire day’s worth of experiences before they sold out.

The festival had taken the entire first floor, providing a large long space ideal for multiple VR demos.

I arrived on the Sunday morning for opening and it quickly filled up with people eager to try their booked experiences.

Walking around I noticed many different experiences on offer across a wide variety of headsets.

A big draw of these festivals is the opportunity to try experiences and applications which are not generally available as home releases, or are exclusive to the festival.

A big draw for me was the World premiere of HTC’s “7 Miracles” on the Vive Focus; the second time I would get to use the Focus and the first opportunity to use it for any length of time.

The Archivist :VR

I found my first experience which was “Transference” by Spectrevision which was super creepy in the Oculus Rift CV1; Spectrevision is partly owned by actor Elijah Wood who is apparently heavily into VR!

Transference on Rift CV1…thanks Elijah Wood!
Vive Pro – Awake part 1
Oculus Go being used by many people
7 miracles on HTC Vive Focus
HTC Vive Focus standalone headset

The HTC Vive Focus – 7 Miracles

I’d enjoyed using the Vive Focus briefly at the HTC launch event but only had 5 minutes of playtime so couldn’t get a sense of comfort.

One reason for booking the 7 Miracles demo was the offer of 1 hour and 20 minutes runtime, available in one sitting. The experience was extremely well put together and not overly religious (I do not practise any faith). I found the story effective, acting was excellent and you could tell some serious money had been spent on the production. The resolution of the headset was impressive compared to the Vive and Rift which I was more familiar with.

I featured in “The Verge’s” coverage of Raindance

After about 30 minutes, I started feeling a bit uncomfortable in the headset, with pressure building on my forehead in the sinus area. I tried shifting the headset around which provided a temporary solution. The headset felt front heavy due to onboard compute, and the halo style band didn’t really work for my head shape. This left my forehead supporting the weight, after 45 minutes I started getting a mild headache, but struggled on to the end.

I thoroughly enjoyed the actual VR experience, but found the focus incompatible with my headshape; I would need to modify the face cushion or headstrap for it to work. Despite the seemingly plush looking face cushion, it didn’t have enough density to support the headset weight causing a hard plastic part to press through the cushion against my head.

I ended my morning session with a headache and sore forehead which was cured with some painkillers and a quick freshen up with warm water in the bathroom before taking an hour break for lunch.

Still, i was very glad to try it out and my afternoon session started with the comfortable Oculus Go, so no further headaches!

A gaggle of Go’s?
7 Miracles on the Vive Focus
Oculus Go – Grenfell experience
“The Apple” – Backpack PCVR with 4 x steamVR 2.0 lighthouses
“The Apple” – Backpack PCVR with Leap Motion

I had a great day at Raindance Immersive Festival, and thoroughly enjoyed the different experiences as well as getting to use a number of different Headsets.

Something going on in there!

It’s always great meeting new people in the immersive computing space, and getting to talk with them about their applications and experiences, and how people are receiving them.

Doing something intricate in VR

Many thanks to the organisers and all the developers for bringing their applications and experiences to Raindance Immersive Festival.

Thanks for reading! Rob Cole, immersivecomputing.org

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Experiences

Immersivecomputing @ EGX 2018

Visited September 2018

After earlier accepting an invite from my friend Callum to be on the discussion panel for “The Future of VR” at EGX 2018, I travelled by train to Birmingham’s NEC.

Having never been to EGX before, I wasn’t sure what was happening across the show, but was pleasantly surprised to find a good number of VR demos and experiences on offer.

Sony in particular had made a huge effort for PSVR with numerous demo booths and events occurring.

With several hours free until the panel discussion started I hit the show floor and set out to demo everything I could find.

It’s always a pleasure to use PSVR with its clear display, comfortable fit and wonderful software library, “The Persistence” was very impressive. Sony had a neat booth setup taking digital photos and giving out colour prints so I obliged!

After trying several PSVR demos I moved onto PCVR and found multiplayer game “Skyfront”.

Skyfront on the HTC Vive was great fun and very challenging. After talking to the developers I understood more about their development process and the difficulty of optimization for large maps.

Moving on, I found “Titanic VR” running on the Oculus Rift CV1 with a gamepad instead of Touch controllers.

The eyewitness scene in the lifeboat was unnerving and effective with some great character animation and voicework.

The ROV section gave a great feeling of presence, but started making me feel motion sick due to the disconnect between the ROV movement and my seated position; enjoyable to witness but good to know when to stop.

I then found an Oculus Go with a starfighter game (cannot remember the name) which was great fun and banished any feelings of motion sickness as I engaged in combat until I’d hogged the demo for too long!

Walking around the show I also found lots of simulator rigs being test driven with some very expensive and exotic setups as well as more affordable offerings.

After finding some lunch, I came back to the show with an hour to spare and wandered about looking at all the shiny stuff until I met this chap, legendary overclocker Ian “8 Pack” Parry.

Talking tech was interesting and he said he’d sort out a nice overclocked 8086K motherboard bundle if I got in touch with him at Overclockers.uk (I took him up on this offer a month later)

As usual, all kinds of ridiculous PC were on display showing off liquid cooling, RGB and custom modifications.

It was time to head over to the theatre where the discussion was taking place so I threaded my way back through the show watching many people having fun in VR.

“The future of VR” discussion started with a good number of people in the audience, and 3 other panel members including a prominent YouTuber, a VR specialist from The VR Concept and a Public Relations manager from Skyfront VR. Callum did a great job in hosting the event and keeping the discussion going forward as there was much to discuss.

I had a great day at EGX and made to check out some other VR experiences I’d missed before lunch; of course I had to go and look at the crazy PC’s again before getting a train home!

Thanks for reading! Rob Cole, immersivecomputing