Bilago is one of the developers of Riftmax Theater, which is a 4D, interactive social experience. What started as a way to watch YouTube videos in a theater environment has turned into what was voted to be the Best Social VR experience by the Proto Awards.

bilagoRiftmax hosts events like Gunter’s Virtually Incorrect talk show and has a regular karaoke night. The longest length of time that I’ve spent in virtual reality was 2 1/2 hours while being a guest on Virtually Incorrect. The fact that there were other real human beings there in that virtual space made it one of the most powerful VR experiences that I’ve had to date, and a testament to why Facebook acquired Oculus VR to do even more social experiences. I don’t think it’s an understatement when Mark Zuckerberg says that “Oculus has the chance to create the most social platform ever, and change the way we work, play and communicate.” Riftmax Theater is one of the applications that is on the leading edge of proving this out. My body has a memory of having a conversation with these avatars as if we were sitting on a theater stage because there was enough body language with the head tracking and Razer Hydra enabled hand movements.

The developers of Riftmax have started a modest Kickstarter $1 campaign in order to raise as much money as they can to continue development. Development will continue regardless, but they’ve set up a number of stretch goals to do even more features and functionality.

This video of testimonials from VR personalities is a great summary of what type of experiences that Riftmax has been able to provide to the VR community:

Mark Schramm talks about his Darkfield space dogfight VR experience that includes cooperative missions that you can do with your fiends.

mark-schrammFor Mark, part of the biggest potential of VR is to be able to go anywhere and do anything with your friends, and so he wants to designing VR experiences that you wouldn’t be able to complete on your own. He talks a bit about the networking options to be able to host your own game with your friends, and some of the design considerations in order to create a more satisfying social experience in VR.

There’s currently 4 days left on the Darkfield Kickstarter, and so check it out and help make it happen.

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Oliver “Doc_Ok” Kreylos is one of the most prolific VR hackers and very popular participant within the Oculus subreddit. He talks about his quest to roll his own Linux SDK for the Oculus Rift since there hasn’t been an official one released yet. In that process he’s been building support for different input devices for his Virtual Reality User Interface (Vrui) Toolkit.

doc-ok-kinectSince Oculus Connect, he’s had a number of epic follow-up posts on his blog (Intro, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3) about this quest towards a Linux SDK. He also discusses some of his biggest takeaways about the VR video rendering pipeline as well as some possible limitations of the graphics API in the Windows operating system that came out of this process as well.

He also talks about some of his findings of hacking the Microsoft Kinect v2 depth sensor towards the end of using it as a VR telepresence tool. He talks a lot more about this in my first Voices of VR interview with Oliver back in May.

Oliver then talks about some of his reviews of the VR hardware and input devices from SVVRCon, and some of his WILD SPECULATION™ around what type of sensor fusion combinations may make the most sense within a VR input device.

Finally, he talks about moving from the hard sciences to the soft sciences in his VR research by moving to the UC Davis Technocultural Studies department in the process of creating a VR research lab as a part of the UC Davis ModLab.

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Josh Carpenter is a VR researcher at Mozilla looking to see how to combine the best of the web with what the VR communications medium can offer. Mozilla lead the effort to release a WebVR API in June and it’s supported in Firefox as well as Chrome.

josh-carpenterMozilla is trying to answer what makes a great web experience in VR by doing a number of research experiments that they will be releasing sometime in late October or early November.

They’re trying to answer the question of “What’s the strength of VR on the web?” They want to move beyond just adding more screen real estate and look to the “Jobs-To-Be-Done theory” for insights about what people are actually trying to get from the Web. They want to learn, socialize and be connected, and so they’re thinking about what it means to connect to a friend or look up a piece of information in VR. Some of their experiments are more transient VR experiences via the web, some are more integrated social aspects, and they’re also looking at mash-ups of the web and VR.

Josh talks about building out collaborative browsing experiences with tools like WebRTC real-time communication and TogetherJS for collaborative browsing and chat. They’ve also been working with the directors of ROME: “3 Dreams of Black” on a new VR experience.

Josh is seeing a lot of interesting things happen in the JanusVR community in that if you give people easy syntax and tools to create VR experiences with a low barrier to entry, then people will create a variety of VR experiences. He’s also interested in tracking the progress of mixing the web in social spaces with AltSpaceVR and some of the video experiments by the eleVR team.

Finally, he talks about the support for WebVR for Safari and Internet Explorer, and what he sees as some of the educational possibilities and ultimate potential of creating the metaverse from the foundational components of URLs, View Source and APIs.

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AJ Campbell is the founder of VRSFX, and he got inspired to getting 3D audio for 360-degree virtual reality experiences after seeing Beck’s Hello Again concert experience. He noticed the microphone rig in that experience and decided that he could write software to create a fully 360-degree, binaural experience with the right microphone hardware.

aj-cambell-vrsfx
AJ contacted Jeff Anderson of 3DIO Sound and learned that he was working on a Free Space Omni-Binaural Microphone, which he was one of the first people to buy. AJ has been working on a Unity plug-in that would allow you to use the head tracking of the Oculus Rift to be able to cross fade between the four different binaural audio recordings that would be perfect for immersive, binaural audio for 360-degree video productions.

He talks about his low-resolution 4-node, 90-degree resolution approach of fading between four different analog binaural audio feeds. This is much less processor intensive to calculating object-oriented, 3D spherical audio and gives satisfactory results in a lot of different use cases. He’s still playing with the best crossfade to provide a seamless and smooth listening experience when you’re turning your head, but expects to be finished with the Unity plug-in soon. For more information, then be sure to sign up for VRSFX’s e-mail list.

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Ben Lang
Road to VR’s Ben Lang talks about some of the highlights from Oculus Connect including the new Crescent Bay prototype, the open sourcing of DK1, Gear VR, and other demos and things that stuck out for him. To see a wrap-up of all of Road to VR’s Oculus Connect coverage, then be sure to check out this post here.

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Ben Kuchera talks about what it’s like to write about virtual reality when the majority of his readers haven’t been able to try VR yet. There’s still a sense that it might be all hype a bunch of vaporware up until you’re able to actually try it and believe it yourself.

UntitledHe talks about some of the technical hurdles that have come up a long the way, but that it’s amazing and incredible once you get everything working. He sees that Gear VR will be like developing for a console in that developers will have a fixed set of hardware that can provide a more consistent VR experience.

Kuchera also discusses violence in VR, and that as we get closer to real experiences that there is a reduced tendency to want to engage in extreme violence like murdering people. And that the type of experiences that tend to work very well are the ones where you feel immersed within an environment.

Some of the VR experiences that stick out to Ben include Sound Self because its so formless and relaxing. Technolust is one of the best, fully-formed environments he’s seen in VR, and he sees that Darknet & Dread Halls also work great in GearVR. He also enjoys flying around in experiences like Flying in Dreams.

One of the interesting observations that Ben had is that he likes feeling limited and weak with VR experiences because it creates more immersion of reality. He’s excited to see more subtle and smaller experiences are since that’s what he’s finding really compelling at the moment.

Right now, Virtual Reality is the worst that it’ll ever be in our lifetime, and there’s been more innovation in 2 years than the last 20 years. His kids are growing up with VR, and he’s excited to see the open problems of VR input controls be solved and how VR will continue to evolve and change us.

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Morris May is the CEO of Specular Theory and he gives his first impressions of the Crescent Bay demos from Oculus Connect from September 20th.

One of the the most comprehensive overviews that I saw of the 13 Crescent Bay demos was from Josh Farkas of Cubicle Ninjas on this Reddit Post: “Another perspective on Crescent Bay!”

Here’s some more reactions of the Crescent Bay demos from Road to VR:

Here’s an extended review of the Crescent Bay prototype from Norm at Tested:

crescent-bay-prototype

One of the biggest questions when you’re getting into virtual reality is “What type of PC should I get?” VR is driving the upper limits of the required technical specifications of the GPU and CPU, and an off-the-shelf solution may not have enough horsepower to drive a good VR experience at 1080p at 75Hz for DK2 and 1440p+ at 90Hz for CV1.

This podcast explores the biggest questions and tradeoffs for building your VR rig, and has lots of amazing insights shared by AltSpaceVR’s community manager and VR evangelist Cymatic Bruce, and Kite & Lightning‘s developer John Starr Dewar.

  • This is Cymatic Bruce’s budget build for around $1100 using some salvaged parts from previous builds.
  • This is what AltSpaceVR’s VR rig of “The Beast” was based upon for around $2100.
  • This is the mobile VR rig within a Pelican suitcase that John built, which drove some interesting component decisions and a cost of around $2900. Here’s a photo set of John’s VR rig build
  • I configured a Falcon Northwest Tiki with all of the high-end, recommended components along with a TB SSD & 2TB HDD, and the price was around $3,257. (I’m not sure if the motherboard would support an upgrade to 2 video cards when and if that becomes possible). EDIT: John says, “That’s a mini itx board so it can only take one card. They actually use an L-bracket adapter from silverstone so that the card will be mounted parallel to the motherboard instead of perpendicular to it as is normal. The case will only fit one card anyway. 600w is definitely more than you need. I have my card which is factory overclocked running at 106% tdp and I’m not having any power issues with the 450w.”

jstarrdewar-portable-vr-rig

Here’s some of the questions that we tried to answer:

  • What tradeoffs do you make when deciding to get for each component including CPU, GPU, motherboard, cooling system, storage, power, operating system, monitor, case, optical drive, and wireless network adapter?
  • What’s the best machine that you can get for your money and still comfortably meet these specs?
  • Should you go with the higher performance and more expensive Nvidia GeForce GTX 780 Ti 3GB GPU or the better bang-for-your-buck but less supported AMD’s Radeon R9 295X2? Spoiler alert: Most VR devs seem to prefer Nvidia, but the /r/buildapc subreddit seems to prefer AMD cards for the better performance per price but they may not know about the VR implications of going with something that’s not as well-supported.
  • If you’ve never built a PC before, then how do you go about navigating all of the various tradeoffs between price vs performance and portability vs heat management?

Read more discussion on Reddit here.

This is Twitter thread I mentioned where I solicit advice for building a PC. Below are a lot of links and insights and additional feedback.

  • OliverJT’s VR rig: Asus M8, Intel Core i7-4771, 16Go Corsair DDR3 2133, SSD Crucial M500, CPU Fan AXP-200R, GTX 780ti Phantom. >9Kg.
  • Leonard Burton’s VR rig: Silverstone FT03 case, ASUS MAXUMUS IV GENE-Z, 3.3ghz i5, GTX780, Crucial M500 SSD, 16GB 1866 DDR3. Small build, handles vr nicely
  • Proton Pulse/Vanguard V VR dev Justin Moravetz has a MacPro with a dual Fire Pro D700 rig with 12gb of VRAM in my Mac, but it’s not very common.
  • This rig built by @gfodor is also close to what I’d get, but with Intel Core i7-4790K 4.0GHz Quad-Core Processor. He’s at AltSpaceVR, and this build is the precursor to what Cymatic Bruce was referring to as “The Beast.”
  • Comparison between the Xeon processor that John Dewar went with and the Intel i7 4790K
  • RedofPaw asks if there’s going to be a GPU that will top the 780Ti. It’s from 3 months ago, and Nvidia is about to come out with their 900 series. But the consensus seems to still hold true that the 780 Ti will be the best GPU out there for a while.
  • Steam’s Hardware and Software Survey of the wider gaming community.
  • Logical Increments shows a spectrum of component parts ranging from a destitute to monstrous budget
  • Check AnandTech for the latest PC part tech news.
  • The comparison pages that convinced me that the GPU performance of a self-built PC with the GTX 780 Ti was going to be far superior than the top-of-the-line, mobile GPU of GTX 880M.
  • This was echoed by @ghostmachineVR who said, “Bought a laptop w/ 880m for demos, not up to the task. Returned it and built mini ITX rig w/ 780 works perfectly.” And he jammed it into a EVGA mini case.

 

Drash is a VR developer best known for creating the educational experience of Titans of Space. Here’s the official release thread on the Oculus Developer forums that details all that’s been updated for it to be compatible with DK2. He talks about some of the changes that he made under the hood to build it out more in the future as well finding the right scale ratio, and how so many people reacted to the evocative music loops that he got from Jon Hillman’s “This is Now” music loops in the Unity3D asset store.

drash-titans-of-spaceDrash also did a number of optimizations to make it run faster as well as other refactoring to make it easier to add more tours in the future that go beyond our solar system.

He talks about some of the challenges with getting DK2 demos working in this early stage and working around some new quirks, but that overall the DK2 port was a drag and drop experience.

Drash has also been an active participant in both the in the Reddit r/oculus and Oculus Development forums, and has done a number of Rift Demo round-ups. He noticed that a lot of developers are hungry for feedback, and has gone out of his way to try as many demos as possible and provide feedback where he can.

A couple of Drash’s favorite developers to keep eye on include include /u/BaseDeltaZer0 who did the Ambient Flight & PolyWorld DK2 demo. As well as Tore Knabe, who is known as Tamulur on the Oculus Developer forums.

He talks about some of his other experimental demos including helping phantom limb pain with an Amputee VR Therapy, the TNG Engineering Star Trek engineering room, and a VR experience where you see the world as if you were color blind. Drash talks about his own hearing impairment and how that makes him particularly sensitive to making VR experiences more accessible for everyone, and suggests looking at GameAccessibilityGuidelines.com for more details.

Finally, he talks a bit about his future plans in making more educational and game experiences, and looks forward to being able to loose himself within a MMORPG VR experience while still being connected to his obligations in reality. He sees that reality and VR will eventually start to merge through AR, and that he doesn’t hold any judgements against people who choose to spend time in immersive environments because they’re building memories, and that’s what it’s all about.

To keep track of Drash and his future VR ventures, then be sure to keep tabs on DrashVR.com

TOPICS

  • 0:00 – Developed Titans of Space to see scale and flying in space. Started as a Hobby, but it’s getting more serious now.
  • 0:44 – Made the Top 20 demos of 2013, and was the only educational demo on there. What type of feedback have you gotten. Lots of positive and constructive feedback. People really respond to the music that changes in intensity as you go through the tour.
  • 2:12 – Jon Hillman’s “This is Now” music loops in the Unity3D asset store (preview). Cross fade from one sample to the next.
  • 3:24 – Approach to scale in Titans of Space. 1:1,000,000 was the end result of an iterative result. Moving away from multiple camera.s
  • 4:30 – Experience of porting Titans of Space from DK1 to DK2. Still things that need to be ironed out. Toggle between VR and non-VR mode. Work it on non-VR mode and then build it out to take a look. Zooming is an experimental feature that messes with the field of view to zoom, and it breaks with every new SDK.
  • 6:26 – Rearchitected Titans of Space, but not because of DK2 because the first version was a bit rushed and sloppy. Had to realize new issues to take into consideration once
  • 7:40 – Options low persistence, time warp, black smear correction. Turn off low persistence to see what it’s like.
  • 8:35 – Challenges getting stuff running. CymaticBruce’s 25-minute troubleshooting video. A little bit of black magic because it’s not idempotent, and have to try things multiple times. A bit more stable to run as Direct to VR HMD mode. Helps to have a trivial scene pop up immediate at the beginning. Some vertical tearing, and you can disable and re-enable sync.
  • 10:47 – Challenging to test every combination of hardware and software. Turn off time warp because issues from the graphics card. That’s why he put in that feature. Demos need to run at 75fps, and shouldn’t rely on Time Warp.
  • 12:00 – Optimizing Titans of Space. Went from 4 million to 100k vertices. Have planets come and go, and some people like the planets like to stay put and people like to be able to compare.
  • 13:15 – What provides immersion in VR. Realistic lighting and self-shadowing really help with immersion.
  • 14:07 – Special lighting? A lot of stuff is faked. Special tricks for on-bard lights
  • 14:48 – Controlling the path of the camera. Set up some curves beforehand.
  • 15:28 – Compact version was something that was requested by viewers
  • 16:11 – Planning on exploring beyond our solar system. Exoplanets. Galaxies. Nebula.
  • 16:50 – Building specific 3D models for these since there’s not a lot of freely available models.
  • 17:36 – Active in the Reddit r/oculus and Oculus Development forums. Checks 10-20 times a day to see what’s new. The rate that new posts and topics are coming up are so much that he can’t keep up. Others have stepped up. CymaticBruce’s DK2 resources post that was made sticky. VRApps.co is a new site that sends out e-mail notifications with each new VR app release.
  • 19:15 – Spent a lot of time trying out every demo that was coming out for a while. A lot of novel and interesting ideas that are out there that may seed other ideas, and it contributes to the whole ecosystem.
  • 20:40 – Experiences that may be beneath the radar. Developers to keep an eye on include: /u/BaseDeltaZer0 (Ambient Flight & PolyWorld DK2 demo) & Tamulur on the Oculus Developer forums. (aka Tore Knabe)
  • 21:37 – Did a top 5 list for a while. So many good different ones
  • 22:31 – Experimental minor demos listed on Drash VR website. A series of small to medium experiences.
  • 24:00 – Color blindness to make it more accessible for people. Has a hearing disability and is sensitivity to making VR experiences as accessible as possible. Check out http://gameaccessibilityguidelines.com/ for more details
  • 25:46 – Amputee therapy
  • 26:48 – TNG Engineering demo of a Star Track Engineering room, and wanted to experience it in VR and learn more about lighting in VR
  • 27:37 – Building educational experiences in VR. Make it entertaining and use gameplay mechanics. Lots of things you can do in VR that you can’t do in reality. Possibilities are endless
  • 28:40 – Want to do both more educational experiences and gaming as well.
  • 29:36 – Learning with surprise was delightful. Some people felt vulnerable in space. Other surprising reactions. Some people are really muted while others have wild over the top reactions. Lack of positional tracking in DK1 is uncomfortable after using DK2.
  • 31:14 – Text broke immersion for some people. Low res or turning off anti-aliasing seemed to break immersion for some people. Debates about scale.
  • 32:18 – Changing scale warning so that he could use a single camera for the entire experience
  • 32:49 – Ultimate potential of VR. Played some MMORPG and wonder if it was wasting his time, but looking forward to loosing himself to a certain degree in VR to create new memories. Reality and VR will merge over time.
  • 34:12 – Regrets of playing games? Or worth it? No regrets, but getting serious about purpose in life later than he thought he would. 35 years old now and wishes that VR had come along sooner in his life. Need to have all his ducks in a row in reality first include obligations, marriage and day job. Enjoys that stability. No judgments for people who choose to spend time in immersive environments building memories.
  • 35:45: http://www.drashvr.com/ to keep posted.

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