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VR system can help treat people with social anxiety and speech disorders Digital Trends by Luke Dormehl Digital TrendsMarch 23, 2017

Virtual reality is pretty much the definition of an emerging technology, which means that different applications are being discovered seemingly every other day. While concepts like VR games are all well and great, however, a student at Nottingham Trent University in the U.K. has a potentially far more transformative use case: using virtual reality as a therapy tool.

24-year-old Gareth Walkom first developed a stutter when he was six years old. Now as an medical product design student, he’s in a position to help others with similar afflictions. To that end, he’s developing VR software to help individuals work through social anxieties and speech disorders by confronting a variety of virtual scenarios.

“During a session of VRET, the individual is to wear the virtual reality headset, where they see an avatar,” Walkom told Digital Trends. “The individual is to talk to this avatar, and while doing so, their eye gaze behaviors are tracked through the special VR headset. If needed, a calming environment is available, which they can easily change into if their anxiety levels become too high. Virtual reality exposure therapy [as] opposed to exposure therapy in person, presents a realistic yet safe environment for someone to better prepare themselves for a real-life, anxiety-provoking situation.”

At present, the system is still very much under development, although the signs are promising. In tests using a previous virtual reality exposure therapy system Walkom developed, participants who took part showed signs of reduced anxiety and improved speech after repeated sessions. Now Walkom is building on that promise with his latest version, which also includes eye-tracking technology.

The software offers feedback about behavioral anxiety levels, and then shows how users are progressing — or even suggests additional ways for them to improve.

“I am hoping to take my research to a PhD this year, where I have plans which I believe can be groundbreaking to improve many disorders,” he said. “I am still searching for a source to fund this research.”

Given how potentially important work like this could prove, we hope that he finds it. This is exactly the kind of technology we love to hear about.

Oral History of VR Pt.3 Compiled by Adi Robertson and Michael Zelenko

Arguably the best-known maker of virtual reality entertainment in the 1990s was W Industries (later called Virtuality), a UK-based company that produced arcade headsets. At the time of W’s first official showing in 1990, virtual reality had already received significant mainstream press coverage. Some writers were skeptical of the technology — British journalist Hunter Davies summed up Waldern’s arcade pod by saying “the helmet was annoying and the game boring.” But others saw both potential and danger in a technology that could, as one writer put it, “make users’ dreams come true.” The New York Times said that virtual workspaces developed by major companies like Autodesk could have “profound implications,” but it warned that “psychologists who now worry about children losing themselves in video game fantasy worlds would no doubt find artificial environments a bigger problem.”

Jon Waldern Inventor, entrepreneur, and founder of British virtual reality arcade gaming company W Industries / Virtuality The first show we went to was the computer-graphics show in Alexandra Palace, London. We had two interactive VR systems linked together in big wooden boxes and a little booth. We had queue lines — I’m not kidding you — all the way around the building. The original direction of the company was to use virtual reality as a development tool for computer-aided design. But very quickly somebody suggested, “Hey, this is just an amazing experience, why don’t you make a game out of it?”

“I think everyone was hopeful, and looking forward to a change in consciousness. Either that, or they thought we were a bunch of crazy hippies.”

Ben Delaney Cybersex was a big titillation. People thought you would be able to put on some sort of tactile suit and have sexual encounters with real or imaginary people in a virtual world.

Brenda Laurel Author of human-computer interaction text Computers as Theatre, interactive media expert, and co-founder of VR company Telepresence Research The public perception of the medium was that it was powerful, amazingly cool and that we were about to have our heads turned around by it. I think everyone was hopeful, and looking forward to a change in consciousness. Either that, or they thought we were a bunch of crazy hippies.

Besides head-mounted displays, no technology is so strongly associated with virtual reality as the wired glove, a sensor-equipped device that tracks the wearer’s movement and location. Many companies manufactured such gloves, but the best-known was VPL’s “DataGlove” — created by company co-founder Tom Zimmerman with the help of engineer Young Harvill. VPL, depending on who you ask, stood for Visual Programming Language or Virtual Programming Language. Founded in 1985, the company was the product of a partnership between two former Atari lab employees: Zimmerman and Jaron Lanier, a musician and programmer who is sometimes referred to as the “father of virtual reality.”

Tom Zimmerman I told Atari about my glove, and they offered me ten thousand bucks. I was considering it, and then my friend in New York said, “No, it’s going to be worth more than this dude, don’t license it to them.” And I met Jaron Lanier at an electronic music concert at Stanford — apparently he had worked for Atari, but I didn’t know him. At this point, I had left Atari. Jaron told me about his company; he invented a visual program language with the name VPL, and he had a little tablet as the interface to it. I showed him my glove, and he thought, “Wow, this is much better than a tablet.”

“I used to say, if the resurrection happened in black and white, nobody would cover it.”

Me and this marketing guy had this little startup to do a voice-control synthesizer. So I was doing that during the day and making gloves for Jaron at night. And then, it started getting more interesting. Jaron basically said, “Why don’t we start a company? We can get funding. I know some great programmers. This language plus glove, it looks like a hot combination.” It turns out not many people wanted to program. But people loved the glove and Jaron just ran with the concept of VR.

Myron Krueger VPL had color graphics. I used to say, if the resurrection happened in black and white, nobody would cover it. And Jaron might as well have been sent from Central Casting to be the crazy scientist.

Tom Zimmerman We did a joint project with NASA Ames Research out there in Mountain View. They, and a fellow Scott Fisher, had this head-mounted display and the idea of astronauts fixing satellites [from] inside the space capsule. And so, we provided the gloves and they provided the HM display, and that created the first goggle VR system.

Scott Fisher The first commercial contract VPL had was from us at NASA; we asked them to build a five-fingered glove so we could take it to interact with the virtual spaces we had. We built one glove out of the initial fiber optic sensor material, then they improved the tech and we had several more built. They went on to sell commercial versions of that of course, which was great to see.

Tom Zimmerman When we started VPL, I added some ultrasound hand-tracking technology to the glove — little tiny speakers [that] made a little burst of sound that only dogs can hear. We made an inexpensive glove, which Jaron was kind enough to call the Z Glove, and then we made a high-end one with some sensors. Young Harvill was very clever; he figured out how to make them using fiber optics.

The little Z Glove we licensed to a New York City game company, which licensed it and turned into Mattel. We hit the big time because they made 1.3 million of this Power Glove, based on the Z Glove.

A Virtual Technologies force-feedback glove (Ben Delaney)

The Nintendo Power Glove was released in 1989 at an extremely low cost comparative to available tech. Outside of its normal gaming uses, it became a centerpiece of the homebrew virtual reality community.

Joe Gradecki When I went up to University of Wyoming for my master’s degree, a couple guys in the computer science department had seen a thing on the Nintendo Power Glove. My wife and I were sitting there and said, “Hey, that’s kind of cool.” There were schematics published on connecting it to the PC, and all we needed was code. That was probably 1992, and there was nothing like that around, really.

Tom Zimmerman To me, Power Glove was the real intrigue. That was where a million people touched virtual reality. I don’t think the implementation was that great, but that was probably the widest-distributed VR system.

A full-body VR capture suit by VPL (Kevin Kelly)

VPL would go on to develop more hardware, including a full-body motion-tracking suit and a head-mounted display called the Eyephone.

Stephen Ellis They were probably one of the first companies to hop on the so-called virtual reality bandwagon. CAE, the Canadian Electronics simulation company, had been making head-mounted simulators from the mid-1980s, but those were really expensive. On the order of millions of dollars for the helmet and the computer-based display system — it was a very expensive thing. And VPL, the company where I believe Jaron was CEO, was selling systems costing on the order of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Tom Zimmerman The golden year was 1987, at least for me. I had my hand on the cover of Scientific American and National Inquirer. By that time we had production going on, so my role was pretty much done. Now it was a company cranking out products, more software-oriented. Also, I was a bit burnt out from working 14-hour days, so I took off and went to a farm in West Virginia.

That was kind of it for me in the VR world. I came back to help them out in a lawsuit [over the Power Glove], which was yucky. We were a little research company doing very innovative work. But other people started catching on, and some people started trying to use our IP without licensing it. The company started spending more money on legal defense than R&D.

Skip Rizzo Head of medical virtual reality at the University of Southern California I started off working in injury rehabilitation, brain injury, and it’s a very difficult process. It can be hard to motivate people with brain injuries to do their rehab exercises. So one of my patients, a young kid, maybe 21 years old, was sitting there one day and he had this thing called a Game Boy. He was bent over, glued to Tetris, focused on it, he couldn’t put it down. And I said, “Ooh shit, what about using this for rehab exercises?”

“What Jaron brought to the table was the ability to communicate to the public, to the press, these ideas.”

I was driving to the gym in 1992 and Jaron Lanier is on NPR doing a segment where he’s talking about a virtual kitchen in a department store in Japan. Here I am, having one of those driveway moments listening to this interview. I didn’t go into the gym, I just sat in my car because I had to finish the show. I thought shit, we could improve brain function with these patients, we could rehab and train these patients in a way that’s immersive and fun. There was a bookstore next to the gym. I went in and I said, “Give me every book you have about virtual reality.” I think they had maybe three books. I went to the gym and read while I worked out.

 

VR’s Oral History Pt2. Adi Robertson and Michael Zelenko

As Myron Krueger developed his own system of projector-based VR, the computer was invading American businesses, and eventually, homes. The Apple II was released in 1977, followed two years later by VisiCalc, a groundbreaking software application that moved personal computing beyond the realm of mere curiosity. Atari was at its peak, having expanded from arcade games to home consoles in the late ’70s and early ’80s. Meanwhile, a new generation of researchers was coming of age, crafting successors to Sutherland’s head-mounted display and Heilig’s entertainment supersystem.

Scott Fisher I’d been working with stereoscopic imaging since I was a teenager in the ‘60s. I’ve always been obsessed with the idea of images that you are immersed in. I worked on many different ways to present 3D imagery. It wasn’t until the late ’70s and early ’80s, when we started getting some new tech to track where you were in a space, that I started prototyping things to take that into account.

Tom Zimmerman Engineer, co-founder of pioneering virtual reality company VPL, and inventor of its most famous product, the DataGlove In the late ’70s, I was an undergrad at MIT, and me and my classmate were fantasizing about virtual orchestras. We started thinking about how you could play different chords with your fingers, and that’s as far as we got. It was all on paper. I finished MIT and went to the University of Amherst, and then I went to New York to study electronic music. So then, I started thinking about the orchestra thing again. This time, I was thinking about air guitar. Here I am in Queens now, luckily with no job, and I’m living at my parents’ house. The dreamer in me was saying, “Wouldn’t it be cool if you could play air guitar and really hear it come out of the speakers?” So I set out to make a sensor to [measure] finger-bending.

Howard Rheingold Journalist and author of Virtual Reality, one of the definitive historical accounts of VR The personal computer was getting really mature because of the visual graphic user interface that Macintosh and Windows provided. When VR came along, some people looked at that as okay, the next step. The last step was moving from a command line interface to the visual interface. Maybe the next one was when you might be totally immersed in the world.

“The last step was moving from a command line interface to the visual interface. Maybe the next one was when you might be totally immersed in the world.”

Tom Zimmerman I was in New York, I’m studying electronic music, and then I decided to study Assembler programming because I got an Atari 400. Someone decided to give this class on Assembler, and there were 20 people in the class and maybe four of us had Ataris. Everyone else had Apples. One of the people was a woman named Nancy Mayer, and she said, “Oh, why don’t you come to my apartment…” (meaning us four people) “…and my husband, he knows Ataris really well, he can help us.” Well, her husband happened to be Steve Mayer, one of the major founders of Atari.

So her husband’s teaching us how to use the Atari computer and I told Nancy, “I’m moving to California, I fell in love with a ballet dancer, and she got into the Oakland ballet, so I’m leaving.” Her husband said, “Oh, you know, there is this music research group forming at the Atari research lab in Sunnyvale, California; would you be interested in interviewing?” And I was like, “Damn, yeah.” So I got interviewed and they accepted me and flew me out.

An early omnidirectional treadmill, used for walking in virtual reality (Ben Delaney)

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The Atari Sunnyvale Research Laboratory was founded in 1982 to explore the future of digital entertainment. The lab was headed by Dr. Alan Kay, an influential computer scientist who had previously worked at the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center. It operated for only two years, shuttering in the aftermath of the 1980s “Atari crash” that decimated the video game market. The lab employed several individuals who would go on to play major roles in the development of virtual reality — including Zimmerman, Scott Fisher, Jaron Lanier, and Brenda Laurel.

Scott Fisher I went to Atari in California to work in corporate research with Alan Kay. I started working on an immersive display for coin-op arcade environments. A head-mounted display wasn’t feasible, so we built it into something more like an arcade cabinet that you just look into.

[The researchers] were given a big budget and asked, “What’s the home of the future in 20 years? What’s entertainment and education?” It was a wonderful think-tank of brilliant people making stuff and trying things.

When Atari crashed, NASA Ames offered to put a position together for me as a research scientist observer. I started in ’85 and we built one of the first versions of a head-mounted display using the wide-angle optics I found and was working on at Atari.

Mark Bolas Director of the University of Southern California’s Mixed Reality Lab and founder of VR hardware company Fakespace My first encounter with VR really was computer music at UC San Diego. It was one of the first systems where you could synthesize sound completely from a computer. And that gave me a taste for this idea that you could create a perceptual experience that nobody had ever had before. To me, VR is just a visual extension of that. So I did graduate work in computer music. And then at the same time I was doing that work, I was building an underwater telepresence system where you would look into a display and see through the eyes of the underwater robot.

So I’m in grad school, and I’m pretty sure I’m going to get a job as a product designer. I had an offer from the company I really wanted an offer from. Then, a professor said, “Hey, go visit this Scott Fisher guy down at Ames, because he’s interested in your robot work.” I visited him and put on his head-mounted display, put on the glove, and I remember staring, wiggling my fingers in front of my face. It was this horrible feeling, because I realized that I was going to have to say no to this job I just had been offered. I just had to play with this system.

In the early ’90s, virtual reality’s growing appeal created a broad market for related books, magazines, and newsletters. Ben Delaney’s CyberEdge Journal addressed the business of VR, and MIT launched Presence to cover virtual environment research. University of Wyoming masters student Joseph Gradecki, with the help of his wife, produced 17 issues of PCVR, a bimonthly how-to guide for building home VR systems.

Ben Delaney I was working for PC World magazine and one of my teammates there said, “Hey, there is this interesting presentation going on — it’s this new technology called VR. You want to check it out?” It consisted of about 47 polygons, all in bright primary colors, no curves, and it operated at about 5 or 10 frames per second. It was remarkably crude, but the promise was pretty amazing.

“It was remarkably crude, but the promise was pretty amazing.”

Sitting in the audience I said, “This is going to be hot and I want to be involved in it.” I arranged meetings with the two or three VR companies that were big enough to have marketing directors. One of them said, at the end of a lunch, “You know what we need? We need a newsletter. No one knows what is going on.” So, in January of ‘91, the first issue of CyberEdge Journal came out.

Joe Gradecki Software engineer and creator of homebrew virtual reality magazinePCVR In the beginning [PCVR] was just for other enthusiasts; other people that had an interest in virtual reality. It was the Make Magazine of virtual reality: I’m going to try and experiment with it, build it, and I’ll tell you how to do it. We were playing around with 1½-inch TVs — everything — trying to build a good head-mounted display that gave you reality within that immersive environment.

Cyberedge Journal editor Ben Delaney (left) presents an award to W Industries/Virtuality founder Jon Waldern (Ben Delaney)

Get Ready for IMAX VR Arcade

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by JAMIE FELTHAM • DECEMBER 30TH, 2016

Earlier this month we reported that IMAX’s first VR Centers, showing 360 degree companion content for films in cinemas, had been delayed into 2017, with no reason given. News from today could provide an explanation.

IMAX just launched a website for its flagship ‘IMAX Experience Center’, set to open in Los Angeles, and it looks like it’s seeing a big expansion. It doesn’t look like the center will be launching with the immersive film content the company had previously talked about, filmed using its own 360 cameras. Instead, the experiences listed to be on display largely consist of games that are either already available on, or coming to the HTC Vive, and the Vive itself will be used in the center alongside Starbreeze’s StarVR, the original headset that IMAX partnered with.

Specifically, towards the bottom of the page we can see Star Wars: Trials on Tatooine, ILMXxLAB’s short demo that offers a taste of the Star Wars universe in VR. There’s also John Wick Chronicles, due for release on Vive this February, but actually published by Starbreeze itself. Survios’ Raw Data, Sourcenity’s Escape The Basement and Ubisoft’s Eagle Flight [Review: 7/10] will also feature, as will unreleased apps like Ubisoft’s Raving Rabbids and Sony Picture’s The Walk.

The center is starting to sound like a VR arcade just as much as it is a viewing experience.

What the list doesn’t state is which of these experiences will be showing up on Vive, but the site does say the center will use “Room-tracking technology” for single and multiplayer experiences. You might assume room-scale software would be used with the Vive, though the top of the page shows two StavVR users in a Star Wars experience similar — but not identical — to Trials on Tatooine, wielding lightsabers. The page also mentions you’ll be able to “Face off against a Sith lord”, which you don’t do in the Vive experience.

This suggests StarVR might be getting both multiplayer and position-tracked controls at the very least. The headset’s own website notes the kit has position-tracking, but makes no mention of room-scale tracking. We’ve reached out to Starbreeze to see if the headset has had an upgrade on this front.

No launch date as been given, and the option to buy tickets for a visit is “Coming Soon”. We’ve reached out to IMAX too as there’s still a lot of questions to be answered about these pods. We’ll update this page when we have more information.

VR is changing the world as we know it.

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VR is everywhere today from the All Star Basketball Game to the Superbowl LI. You can run from virtual zombies in Resident Evil or walk through Google Earth. But why is this experience so important? Jason Brush answers this question in his RECODE article below.http://www.recode.net/2016/6/28/12046730/virtual-reality-vr-creative-content-industry-investment

As a new medium, virtual reality is in a peculiar predicament: Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Sony and others are making significant, high-profile investments in VR, with VR on center stage at their industry events and featured prominently in their company roadmaps; it’s regularly hailed as a new multibillion-dollar industry.

But at the same time, VR is in its creative infancy. There’s some remarkable content — just look at the amazing VR showcased at the Sundance and Tribeca film festivals — but VR content creators are really just in the early stages of understanding how the medium works. Not only is there no “blockbuster” VR piece yet, if you make an investment in a headset today, you’d be able to watch the majority of the best work in a weekend.

Because of this, VR faces many critics who decry it as a bubble waiting to burst. So, what makes VR a medium with potential? Why should consumers, brands, content producers and artists take a chance on its future?

Every popular medium was built upon its early advocates’ fervent belief in its unique potential. The early advocates of cinema saw its potential to bend time and transform space magically; the pioneers of recorded music saw the potential to immortalize sound, which was previously just ephemera. The early advocates of the web saw the potential to connect people to information and make it universally accessible. These are the reasons why those mediums mattered.

So, why does VR matter? Why is it so revolutionary?

There’s no channel-surfing in VR. Falling asleep in it is hard to imagine.

The most common answer is presence: VR has the promise of making you feel present in another place, another time, or to have a perspective that you couldn’t have otherwise. This is perhaps why so many of the best VR experiences thus farhave been documentary in nature, and why companies interested in telepresence, like Facebook, have invested in it so heavily. If presence is the defining attribute of VR as a medium, then the key to shaping meaningful, impactful VR experiences will be found in shaping presence.

Manipulating presence is a wholly new creative challenge. There’s no prior art or technology that is quite analogous. When making VR, we can certainly build upon knowledge of how cinema successfully manipulates time, architecture manipulates space, theater manipulates performance and so on. But the language of shaping presence, and its attendant creative potential, is a new frontier.

Consider what it means to “be present” in our lived existence: It means to be focused, thoughtful, empathetic and aware of one’s self and surroundings. If this type of experience is VR’s defining attribute, think of it in contrast to every other medium: None demands so much of its audience. There’s no channel-surfing in VR. Falling asleep in it is hard to imagine. In contrast to the way in which we flit through social posts, websites and apps in our always-on mobile existence — often twitchy and unfocused — to use VR is to engage mindfully in an experience. The result is that VR experiences, even unsuccessful ones, are almost never unmemorable. VR has the potential to become our most mindful medium, an antidote to the continuous, noisy invasion of our lives that so much digital media, at its worst, can be.

Navigating this evolving environment requires content creators to thoughtfully consider not just what goes on inside their VR experience, but how people discover and access those experiences.

There are massive, thrilling creative challenges ahead to discover and realize the full creative potential of VR. What does it mean to have the viewer operate the camera? How do the familiar building blocks of cinematic visual language — the close-up, the cut, the traveling shot — translate into this new environment? How can performances be blocked and staged for best effect? How can interactivity be meaningfully added in a way that audiences can readily understand and use? How does storytelling work in a medium where the audience has agency?

Likewise, there are significant practical concerns. Google, Facebook, Samsung and others are investing heavily in building development tools, distribution platforms and the overall technology infrastructure of VR — but navigating this evolving environment requires content creators to thoughtfully consider not just what goes on inside their VR experiences, but how people discover and access those experiences.

Whether it’s worth it depends on your faith in technology to be a positive force in our lives. VR — like the web, TV, cinema, radio and recorded music before it — is simply another technology, with no greater or lesser inherent virtue or vice. What VR can accomplish, like all mediums before it, will be based on two things: The curious creativity of the people making work for it and their optimistic passion for exploring what it can do that has never been done before.

Why your VR Headset matters?

This is the excerpt for a featured content post.

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With the many VR Headsets available, how can you choose the one that works for you. Well Will Greenwald wrote an informative article for PC that solves this problem.

Sony PlayStation VR

Virtual reality is here. Well, it’s here in the sense that all of the big names in VR have launched or are very close to launching their VR platforms. Whether it’s here for good as an established and widely accepted product category remains to be seen. VR is a fascinating way to put you somewhere else through the power of technology, using a headset and motion tracking to let you look around a virtual space as if you are actually there. It’s also been a promising technology for decades that’s never truly caught on.

That could change with the current wave of VR. Oculus has released the consumer-ready Rift, HTC and Valve have put out the Steam-friendly Vive, Sony has finally launched the PlayStation VR, Samsung continues to incrementally improve its Gear VR, and Google’s getting ready to let its Daydream platform emerge like a butterfly from its Cardboard coccoon. There are a lot of promising headsets across a lot of different price and power spectrums. Let’s look at what they cover.

The Big Question: Mobile or Tethered?

Modern VR headsets fit under one of two categories: Mobile or tethered. Mobile headsets are shells with lenses into which you place your smartphone. The lenses separate the screen into two images for your eyes, turning your smartphone into a VR device. Mobile headsets like the Samsung Gear VR and the Google Daydream View are inexpensive at $100 or less, and because all of the processing is done on your phone, you don’t need to connect any wires to the headset. However, because phones aren’t designed specifically for VR, they can’t offer the best picture even with special lenses, and they’re notably underpowered compared with PC- or game console-based VR. Qualcomm showed off some cool Snapdragon 835-powered prototype headsets at CES that let you walk around a virtual space without needing to be plugged into anything or have sensors installed around your room.

Tethered headsets like the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, and PlayStation VR are physically connected to PCs (or in the case of the PS VR, a PlayStation $297.87 at Amazon). The cable makes them a bit unwieldy, but putting all of the actual video processing in a box you don’t need to directly strap to your face means your VR experience can be a lot more complex. The use of a dedicated display in the headset instead of your smartphone, as well as the use of built-in motion sensors and an external camera tracker, drastically improves both image fidelity and head tracking.

The trade-off, besides the clunky cables, is the price. The least expensive option is the PS VR at $400, and it requires $60 to $160 in additional accessories on top of that to really work. The Oculus Rift is $600, but it only comes with a simple remote and an Xbox One gamepad; the Oculus Touch controllers are another $200 on top of that. And while the HTC Vive is the most comprehensive package, it’s also the most expensive at $800. And that’s before you address the processing issue; the Rift and the Vive both need pretty powerful PCs to run, while the PS VR requires a PlayStation 4.

Sony PlayStation VR

Sony PlayStation VR

Sony’s PlayStation VR is our current Editors’ Choice for virtual reality, offering the most polished and easy-to-use tethered VR experience with a relatively reasonable price tag. You can only play proprietary titles on it, like Resident Evil 7: Biohazard, but a theater mode lets you play any PS4 game as if you were sitting in front of a large screen, and the VR games we’ve tried have impressed us. Like the Rift, it also requires an additional investment for full functionality; you need a PlayStation Camera$51.01 at Amazon for the headset to work at all, and a PlayStation Move controller bundle for motion controls. Still, for a $400 headset, that means the total is still less than the price of the Rift.

HTC Vive inline front

HTC Vive/SteamVR

HTC’s Vive is a comprehensive package that includes a headset, two motion controllers, and two base stations for defining a “whole-room” VR area. It’s technically impressive, and is the only VR system that tracks your movements in a 10-foot cube instead of from your seat. It also includes a set of motion controllers more advanced than the PlayStation Move. But that $800 price tag is pretty hard to get past, and PC-tethered VR systems like the Vive need plenty of power, with HTC recommending at least an Intel Core i5-4590 CPU and a GeForce GTX 970 GPU.

Oculus Rift

Oculus Rift

The Oculus Rift has become synonymous with VR, even if the brand has lost some of its luster against the HTC Vive and the PlayStation VR. The retail version of Oculus Rift is out, and while it’s more expensive than the developer kits were, it’s also much more advanced. From a technical standpoint, the headset is nearly identical to the Vive. It costs $200 less than the Vive as well, but it lacks the Vive’s whole-room VR, and if you want motion controls you’ll need to spend that $200 for the (admittedly excellent) Oculus controllers.

New Samsung Gear VR

Samsung Gear VR

Samsung’s Gear VR is one of the most compellingly polished and accessible VR systems, with a catch. To use the Gear VR, you need a compatible Samsung Galaxy smartphone (currently six devices, including the Galaxy S7$669.99 at T-Mobile and the S7 Edge$789.99 at T-Mobile). This narrows down potential users to people who already own compatible Samsung phones, since buying one just to use with the Gear VR pushes the price to HTC Vive levels. If you already own a phone to go with it, though, the $100 Gear VR features controls built into the headset, a pass-through connector for keeping your phone charged, and is fairly comfortable to wear. Samsung collaborated with Oculus to build the Gear’s software ecosystem, which already has a handful of games and apps, including virtual theaters for watching Netflix and other streaming video services.

Google Daydream View inline 2

Google Daydream View

Google’s new Daydream is similar to Google Cardboard in concept. You still put your phone in an inexpensive headset (the $79 Daydream View), and it functions as your display thanks to a set of lenses that separate the screen into two images. A pairable remote you hold in your hand (similar to the Oculus Remote) controls the action. It’s impressive when you can find apps that work with it, but the software library is currently very light and it isn’t backward compatible with Google Cardboard apps (though Google is working on that with an SDK update).

Windows 10 VR Partners

Windows 10 VR Headsets

Microsoft recently announced partnerships with multiple hardware manufacturers to offer a variety of Windows 10-compatible VR headsets on top of the Vive and Oculus Rift (which have their own software ecosystems with Steam and the Oculus Store). These headsets will use outward-facing sensors for motion sensing, so they won’t need external cameras or sensors like the Rift, Vive, and PS VR. Microsoft says the headsets will start at $299, and the confirmed partners include Acer, Asus, Dell, HP, and Lenovo. Specific models and availability have not yet been revealed.

Microsoft has also been working on the HoloLens, an augmented reality headset with a lot of potential. Just keep in mind that AR is not VR.

The Best VR (Virtual Reality) Headsets:

An oral history of a technology whose time has come again Compiled by Adi Robertson and Michael Zelenko Pt.1

This is the excerpt for a featured content post.

What does the history of VR really entail?

Some people identify the birth of virtual reality in rudimentary Victorian “stereoscopes,” the first 3D picture viewers. Others might point to any sort of out-of-body experience. But to most, VR as we know it was created by a handful of pioneers in the 1950s and 1960s. In 1962, after years of work, filmmaker Mort Heilig patented what might be the first true VR system: the Sensorama, an arcade-style cabinet with a 3D display, vibrating seat, and scent producer. Heilig imagined it as one in a line of products for the “cinema of the future,” but that future failed to materialize in his lifetime.

In 1965, Ivan Sutherland — already known as the creator of groundbreaking computer interface Sketchpad — conceived of what he termed “The Ultimate Display,” or, as he wrote, “a room within which the computer can control the existence of matter.” He demonstrated an extremely preliminary iteration of such a device, a periscope-like video headset called the “Sword of Damocles,” in 1968.

Meanwhile, at the Wright–Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio, military engineer Thomas Furness was designing a new generation of flight simulators, working on a multi-decade project that eventually became the hallmark program known as the Super Cockpit.

A few years later, in the late ’60s, an artist and programmer named Myron Krueger would begin creating a new kind of experience he termed “artificial reality,” and attempt to revolutionize how humans interacted with machines.

Jaron Lanier Co-founder of pioneering virtual reality company VPL, musician, and technological philosopher Ivan Sutherland proposed a head-tracked head-mounted display in ’63 as part of the initial invention of computer graphics itself. [He] built one, which is on display at the Computer History Museum in Silicon Valley. When I was a teenager in the ’70s, I was so excited by Ivan’s work that I used to almost jump up and down — stop random people on the street like, “Look at this! Look at this!” — and just make an ass of myself.

Ben Delaney Market researcher and creator of VR industry newsletter CyberEdge Journal It was a head-mount that was suspended from the ceiling because it was just too heavy to wear. The display was all wire frame, but they were 3D models, and you could change your position and see different views thanks to a tracking system built into the head mount. Ivan was really the father of VR.

Nicole Stenger Digital media artist, creator of influential virtual reality film AngelsThere were two inventors who basically found the secret of VR in the ’60s: Ivan Sutherland and Tom Furness. Ivan Sutherland started a major computer company, while Tom Furness was developing the technology inside the Air Force. When he started his lab, he had been kicked out of the Air Force because they didn’t believe in it anymore. They were wrong, of course. After the first Gulf War, when his system was being used by the Air Force, everyone realized that [it] was a major breakthrough.

Stephen Ellis Head of the NASA Ames Research Center’s Advanced Displays and Spatial Perception Laboratory The first time I saw something that provided full immersion experience was here at Ames [NASA’s Ames Research Center]. Though I’d been in aircraft simulators, Ames was at the forefront of developing [VR technology]. In the ’50s and ’60s, they built a model train-like environment, with all the little buildings and aircraft, and flew a miniature camera across the surface to create a visual that could be fed into the cockpit and looked like an out-the-window scene. And then, while I was here, it actually switched to computer-based imagery using Evans’ and Sutherland’s equipment. Ivan Sutherland was involved in developing some of the fast hardware that would make it possible to do the perspective transformations quickly enough so you could have some degree of interactivity in the systems.

VPL co-founder Jaron Lanier in a DataGlove and head-mounted display (Kevin Kelly)

Jaron Lanier Flight simulation was really the first practical digital-simulation application. There are people who put a lot of effort into them and some of them are really cool. When I was coming up in the ’70s, the flight simulators were definitely the highest art.

Scott Fisher Head of interactive media at the University of Southern California, founder of the NASA Ames Research Center’s Virtual Environment Workstation Project, and co-founder of VR company Telepresence Research [Mort Heilig] was just so brilliant and ahead of his time. He just didn’t have good luck with this stuff. There are four [Sensoramas] left. I feel bad; it’s groundbreaking work. He should absolutely be acknowledged and be a common name in these discussion and he’s not.

Linda Jacobson Author, founding staff member of Wired, and former “virtual reality evangelist” for supercomputer company Silicon Graphics A lot of new science museums have interactive displays: basically, you’re interacting with projection images that are generated by a computer while your body is being tracked by a camera that interpolates where you are in space and alters the graphics accordingly. The intersection of those two technologies really are at the basis of VR as we know it today, and was first developed by Myron Krueger.

“It just seemed to me that I was important and the computer wasn’t.”

Myron Krueger Groundbreaking early virtual reality artist and innovator When I got to the University of Wisconsin, I decided to find the biggest computer that I could use by myself and make it interactive. Because of my liberal arts background, I had a much different idea about what computers were for, and so I imagined a more romantic search for a relationship between a human and a machine. I decided to try to find the essence of interactivity. Most people were either on the far end of theory — and I mean stuff that would never be practical in a thousand years — or on the other end, making arguments about what was practical at that minute, and there wasn’t much in between. I just imagined what it would be like to use a computer in the extreme, sort of, and I thought that being able to move around physically was one of the things. I don’t know why I thought all of this was important, but it just seemed to me that I was important and the computer wasn’t.

As I worked towards thinking about what it would mean to do the computer as a full-body experience, I got involved with a dynamic environmental sculpture called “GlowFlow.” I decided from then on that I would focus on interactivity. I vowed to create an experience that would allow a person to go into a room and come out with their attitudes about computers changed.

I didn’t know about Ivan Sutherland’s statement that the ultimate display would have you sitting, but I knew that I wanted to be able to walk around. So that in this environment, everything you saw and everything you heard would be a response to your physical movement.

Citi, Live Nation, NextVR Launching Virtual Reality Concert Series by Billboard Staff

The future is now as the ability to virtually chill with anyone, anywhere is becoming a reality and, inevitably, a marketing opportunity.

The future is now as the ability to virtually chill with anyone, anywhere is becoming a reality and, inevitably, a marketing opportunity.

Citi, Live Nation and NextVR today announced a partnership to produce a series of up to ten live virtual reality concerts as part of the banking concern’s longtime “Backstage with Citi” initiative, which rewards card members with thousands of events annually. Here, however, the series will transport fans via virtual reality technology into an immersive experience with what the companies’ claim are the “world’s biggest artists.” The initiative will include select concerts and “backstage” experiences with artist

“‘We want to push the boundaries of the very meaning of access beyond attendance and as technology evolves, it’s allowing us to do so,” said Citi managing director Jennifer Breithaupt in a statement. “We are thrilled to be announcing this new initiative with Live Nation and NextVR that will offer ‘front-row’ and behind-the-scenes VR concert experiences for millions of fans.”

The first VR live concert is slated for later this year and will be available via the Live Nation Channel on the NextVR app. Artists will be announced soon. The app will be available on all major platforms since 2016.