Category Archives: Virtual Reality

iFixit dissects the $2,299 Magic Leap One so you don’t have to

Every time a new, expensive gadget becomes commercially available, you can expect the glue-and-screw crew at iFixit to quickly pounce. This month’s Magic Leap One headset, now available for a cool $2,299, is no exception, and iFixit has now posted a treasure trove of photos and thoughts on the “mixed reality” device’s tech, performance, and repairability.

“This device is unlike anything we’ve torn down in the past,” the site’s authors write in their lengthy ML1 article. This teardown includes an unusually lengthy explanation of how Magic Leap’s first commercially available headset renders virtual images, à la Microsoft’s Hololens.

iFixit

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Nintendo’s Switch has been hiding a buried “VrMode” for over a year

A previous, browser-based proof-of-concept test from YouTuber Nintendrew shows how Switch-based VR could work. (credit: YoutTube / Nintendrew)

Hackers have uncovered and tested a screen-splitting “VR Mode” that has been buried in the Switch’s system-level firmware for over a year. The discovery suggests that Nintendo at least toyed with the idea that the tablet system could serve as a stereoscopic display for a virtual reality headset.

Switch hackers first discovered and documented references to a “VrMode” in the Switch OS’ Applet Manager services back in December when analyzing the June 2017 release of version 3.0.0 of the system’s firmware. But the community doesn’t seem to have done much testing of the internal functions “IsVrModeEnabled” and “SetVrModeEnabled” at the time.

That changed shortly after Switch modder OatmealDome publicly noted one of the VR functions earlier this month, rhetorically asking, “has anyone actually tried calling it?” Fellow hacker random0666 responded with a short Twitter video (and an even shorter followup) showing the results of an extremely simple homebrew testing app that activates the system’s VrMode functions.

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VR rivals come together to develop a single-cable spec for VR headsets

USB Type-C, the most exciting boring connector in the industry right now. (credit: Andrew Cunningham)

Future generations of virtual reality headsets for PCs could use a single USB Type-C cable for both power and data. That’s thanks to a new standardized spec from the VirtualLink Consortium, a group made up of GPU vendors AMD and Nvidia and virtual reality rivals Valve, Microsoft, and Facebook-owned Oculus.

The spec uses the USB Type-C connector’s “Alternate Mode” capability to implement different data protocols—such as Thunderbolt 3 data or DisplayPort and HDMI video—over the increasingly common cables, combined with Type-C’s support for power delivery. The new headset spec combines four lanes of HBR3 (“high bitrate 3″) DisplayPort video (for a total of 32.4 gigabits per second of video data), along with a USB 3.1 generation 2 (10 gigabit per second) data channel for sensors and on-headset cameras, along with 27W of electrical power.

That much video data is sufficient for two 3840×2160 streams at 60 frames per second, or even higher frame rates if Display Stream Compression is also used. Drop the resolution to 2560×1440, and two uncompressed 120 frame per second streams would be possible.

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Qualcomm launches a new chip specifically for standalone AR and VR devices

Enlarge (credit: Qualcomm)

Qualcomm on Tuesday announced the launch of a new chip explicitly designed for standalone augmented reality and virtual reality devices: the Snapdragon XR1. The chipmaking giant debuted the tech ahead of this week’s Augmented World Expo in Santa Clara, California.

The company is staying tight-lipped on technical details about the new SoC for the time being. Qualcomm says the SoC will use a Kryo CPU and Adreno GPU, as Qualcomm chips typically do, but exactly how those and the rest of the XR1’s building blocks will be configured isn’t yet clear.

That said, Qualcomm is slotting the XR1 below its existing Snapdragon 845—the chip powering most of the year’s highest-end smartphones—in terms of memory bandwidth and GPU power. It is primarily aiming XR1 devices at “lean back” experiences like 360-degree video viewing, at least to start.

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Qualcomm VR and AR Press Event: Live Blog (7pm PT, 2am UTC)

Qualcomm is attending the AWE Event, an AR and VR expo. We're here at their press event in Levi's Stadium, ready for the Live Blog. Event starts at 7pm Pacific.