Category Archives: Virtual Reality

Oculus co-founder: “Free is still not cheap enough” for current VR tech

Sebastian saw the light in the HTC/Valve Vive VR headset

We’ll still use any excuse to reuse this photo of Ars alumnus Sebastian Anthony reacting to VR. (credit: Sebastian Anthony)

Even since Oculus co-founder Palmer Luckey revealed that the first consumer Oculus Rift headset would launch at $600, many industry watchers have been arguing that the high price of entry was keeping virtual reality from becoming a truly revolutionary mass-market technology. Though prices for VR headsets and compatible hardware have come down quite a bit since then, sales and usage stats are still struggling to climb out of the doldrums when compared with other tech products.

Now Luckey, who left Oculus in early 2017, argues in a recent blog post that there is no price low enough to convince a critical mass of people to regularly engage with existing VR headsets:

No existing or imminent VR hardware is good enough to go truly mainstream, even at a price of $0.00. You could give a Rift+PC to every single person in the developed world for free, and the vast majority would cease to use it in a matter of weeks or months.

I know this from seeing the results of large scale real-world market testing, not just my own imagination—hardcore gamers and technology enthusiasts are entranced by the VR of today, as am I, but stickiness drops off steeply outside of that core demographic. Free is still not cheap enough for most people, because cost is not what holds them back actively or passively.

Luckey goes on to estimate that current VR technology could attract an absolute ceiling of 50 million active users worldwide, and that only with significant industry effort. That’s a far cry from the 1 billion users Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg cites as his long-term goal for VR adoption.

Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Oculus reconfirms “future version of Rift” amid PC cancellation rumors

An Oculus Rift photo montage from Oculus Connect.

Enlarge / An Oculus Rift photo montage from Oculus Connect. (credit: Kyle Orland)

Oculus has reaffirmed it’s working on a new version of its PC-based Rift hardware. That affirmation follows a report from TechCrunch suggesting the cancellation of the “Rift 2″ was behind the sudden departure of Oculus co-founder and former CEO Brendan Iribe, announced just yesterday.

Iribe, who stepped down as CEO to help lead Oculus’ PC/Rift division in late 2016, announced his departure from the company on Facebook Monday. Iribe said he was “deeply proud and grateful for” the work he’d done with Oculus and that “although we’re still far from delivering the magical smart glasses we all dream about, now they are nearly within our reach.” That said, leaving the company “will be the first real break I’ve taken in over 20 years,” he wrote. “It’s time to recharge, reflect, and be creative.”

The TechCrunch report, though, cites an unnamed source “close to the matter” in saying Iribe had actually grown frustrated with “fundamentally different views on the future of Oculus that grew deeper over time” and was concerned about a “race to the bottom” in terms of performance. That suggests Iribe may not have been happy with the increased focus on the recently announced Oculus Quest, a $400 standalone headset powered by a mobile system-on-a-chip.

Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Video: What to expect from the Oculus Quest

Video edited by CNE. Click here for transcript.

When the consumer-level VR revolution came in 2016, it left behind a lot of potential consumers. That’s because, as Ars editor Sam Machkovech puts it, “a lot of [existing VR] is very expensive or very underwhelming.”

Oculus’ upcoming Quest headset is setting out to be the middle ground between these two poles. Unlike most cheap, untethered headsets, the Quest offers full motion and hand tracking with its built-in cameras and included Touch controllers. Unlike high-end tethered headsets, it doesn’t require external cameras or a connection to an expensive computer tower or game console; $400 will get you “all in” for self-contained VR starting in the spring.

Fresh from demoing Oculus Quest at the Oculus Connect conference in San Jose last month, Ars has put together a short video taking you through the pros and cons of the headset’s compromises. Click through to hear some nitty gritty details about the system’s hardware, comfort, frame rate, and what kinds of games we expect to see on the standalone device.

Read 1 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Hands-on: Oculus Quest is an intriguing new middle ground for VR

Let’s get one thing out of the way right up front: Oculus Quest is not the wireless, PC-free version of the Rift you may have been dreaming of. The Snapdragon 835 SoC powering Quest is much closer to a mid-range mobile phone than the Nvidia GTX 960 graphics card (and surrounding Windows PC) required to run a tethered Rift. The field of view and maximum refresh rate on the Quest both seem more comparable to the portable Oculus Go, which is a bit of downgrade from the Rift as well (though we have yet to confirm precise numbers for any of these devices).

Let’s get another thing out of the way: None of that seems to matter that much when you’re walking around an apparently solid virtual reality space without the need for any outside hardware or any external cameras or sensors.

Read 20 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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

Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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.

Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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.

Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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.

Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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.