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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

Categories
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