Unreal Editor for Unreal Engine 4 in VR

Subject: General Tech, Shows and Expos | February 4, 2016 - 07:47 PM |
Tagged: GDC, gdc 2016, epic games, ue4, VR, vive vr

Epic Games released Unreal Engine 4 at GDC two years ago, and removed its subscription fee at the next year's show. This year, one of the things that they will show is Unreal Editor in VR with the HTC Vive. Using the system's motion controllers, you will be able to move objects and access UI panels in the virtual environment. They open the video declaring that this is not an experimental project.

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Without using this technology, it's hard to comment on its usability. It definitely looks interesting, and might be useful for VR experiences. You can see what your experience will look like as you create it, and you probably even save a bit of time in rapid iteration by not continuously wearing and removing the equipment. I wonder how precise it will be though, since the laser pointers and objects seemed to snap and jitter a bit. That said, it might be just as precise and, even still, it only really matters how it looks and behaves, and it shouldn't even prevent minor tweaks after the fact anyway.

Epic Games expects to discuss the release plans at the show.

Source: Epic Games

CES 2016: NVIDIA talks SHIELD Updates and VR-Ready Systems

Subject: Graphics Cards, Shows and Expos | January 5, 2016 - 09:39 PM |
Tagged: vr ready, VR, virtual reality, video, Oculus, nvidia, htc, geforce, CES 2016, CES

Other than the in-depth discussion from NVIDIA on the Drive PX 2 and its push into autonomous driving, NVIDIA didn't have much other news to report. We stopped by the suite and got a few updates on SHIELD and the company's VR Ready program to certify systems that meet minimum recommended specifications for a solid VR experience.

For the SHIELD,  NVIDIA is bringing Android 6.0 Marshmallow to the device, with new features like shared storage and the ability to customize the home screen of the Android TV interface. Nothing earth shattering and all of it is part of the 6.0 rollout. 

The VR Ready program from NVIDIA will validate notebooks, systems and graphics cards that have the amount of horsepower to meet the minimum performance levels for a good VR experience. At this point, the specs essentially match up with what Oculus has put forth: a GTX 970 or better on the desktop and a GTX 980 (full, not 980M) on mobile. 

Other than that, Ken and I took in some of the more recent VR demos including Epic's Bullet Train on the final Oculus Rift and Google's Tilt Brush on the latest iteration of the HTC Vive. Those were both incredibly impressive though the Everest demo that simulates a portion of the mountain climb was the one that really made me feel like I was somewhere else.

Check out the video above for more impressions!

Coverage of CES 2016 is brought to you by Logitech!

PC Perspective's CES 2016 coverage is sponsored by Logitech.

Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!

Source: NVIDIA

Virtual Reality as an Art Form? Artists Compete Using VR at PAX Prime

Subject: General Tech, Shows and Expos | September 15, 2015 - 01:07 PM |
Tagged: VR, virtual reality, Tilt Brush, PAX Prime 2015, paint, nvidia, art

A group of six artists from the gaming industry were brought together at this month's PAX Prime event in Seattle in a joint vebture between NVIDIA, Valve, Google and HTC. The idea? To use virtual reality to create art. The result was very interesting, to say the least.

Wearing HTC’s VR headset the artists had 30 minutes each to create their work using Tilt Brush. What is Tilt Brush, exactly?

"Tilt Brush uses the HTC Vive’s unique hand controllers and positional tracking to allow artists to paint in three dimensions. The software includes a remarkable digital palette, letting users draw GPU-powered real-time effects like fire, smoke and light."

The artists included Chandana Ekanayake from Uber Entertainment, Lee Petty from Double Fine Productions, Michael Shilliday from Whiterend Creative, Mike Krahulik from Penny Arcade, Sarah Northway from Northway Games and Tristan Reidford from Valve.

NVIDIA is hosting a contest to pick the winner on their Facebook page; so what's in it for you? "The artist with the most votes will win ultimate bragging rights, and voters will be entered to win a new GeForce GTX 980 Ti!" Not bad.

This is certainly a novel application of VR, but serves to illustrate (pun intended) that the tech really does provide endless possibilities - far beyond 3D art or gameplay immersion.

Source: NVIDIA Blogs
Author:
Subject: Editorial
Manufacturer: Codemasters

Digging in a Little Deeper into the DiRT

Over the past few weeks I have had the chance to play the early access "DiRT Rally" title from Codemasters.  This is a much more simulation based title that is currently PC only, which is a big switch for Codemasters and how they usually release their premier racing offerings.  I was able to get a hold of Paul Coleman from Codemasters and set up a written interview with him.  Paul's answers will be in italics.

Who are you, what do you do at Codemasters, and what do you do in your spare time away from the virtual wheel?

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Hi my name is Paul Coleman and I am the Chief Games Designer on DiRT Rally. I’m responsible for making sure that the game is the most authentic representation of the sport it can be, I’m essentially representing the player in the studio. In my spare time I enjoy going on road trips with my family in our 1M Coupe. I’ve been co-driving in real world rally events for the last three years and I’ve used that experience to write and voice the co-driver calls in game.

If there is one area that DiRT has really excelled at is keeping frame rate consistent throughout multiple environments.  Many games, especially those using cutting edge rendering techniques, often have dramatic frame rate drops at times.  How do you get around this while still creating a very impressive looking game?

The engine that DiRT Rally has been built on has been constantly iterated on over the years and we have always been looking at ways of improving the look of the game while maintaining decent performance. That together with the fact that we work closely with GPU manufacturers on each project ensures that we stay current. We also have very strict performance monitoring systems that have come from optimising games for console. These systems have proved very useful when building DiRT Rally even though the game is exclusively on PC.

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How do you balance out different controller use cases?  While many hard core racers use a wheel, I have seen very competitive racing from people using handheld controllers as well as keyboards.  Do you handicap/help those particular implementations so as not to make it overly frustrating to those users?  I ask due to the difference in degrees of precision that a gamepad has vs. a wheel that can rotate 900 degrees.

Again this comes back to the fact that we have traditionally developed for console where the primary input device is a handheld controller. This is an area that other sims don’t usually have to worry about but for us it was second nature. There are systems that we have that add a layer between the handheld controller or keyboard and the game which help those guys but the wheel is without a doubt the best way to experience DiRT Rally as it is a direct input.

Continue reading the entire DiRT Rally Interview here!

NVIDIA VR Headset Patent Found

Subject: Graphics Cards, Mobile | June 6, 2015 - 04:05 PM |
Tagged: VR, nvidia, gameworks vr

So I'm not quite sure what this hypothetical patent device is. According to its application, it is a head-mounted display that contains six cameras (??) and two displays, one for each eye. The usage of these cameras is not define but two will point forward, two will point down, and the last two will point left and right. The only clue that we have is in the second patent application photo, where unlabeled hands are gesturing in front of a node labeled “input cameras”.

nvidia-2015-vr-patent-1.png

Image Credit: Declassified

The block diagram declares that the VR headset will have its own CPU, memory, network adapter, and “parallel processing subsystem” (GPU). VRFocus believes that this will be based on the Tegra X1, and that it was supposed to be revealed three months ago at GDC 2015. In its place, NVIDIA announced the Titan X at the Unreal Engine 4 keynote, hosted by Epic Games. GameWorks VR was also announced with the GeForce GTX 980 Ti launch, which was mostly described as a way to reduce rendering cost by dropping resolution in areas that will be warped into a lower final, displayed resolution anyway.

nvidia-2015-vr-patent-2.png

Image Credit: Declassified

VRFocus suggests that the reveal could happen at E3 this year. The problem with that theory is that NVIDIA has neither a keynote at E3 this year nor even a place at someone else's keynote as far as we know, just a booth and meeting rooms. Of course, they could still announce it through other channels, but that seems less likely. Maybe they will avoid the E3 hype and announce it later (unless something changes behind the scenes of course)?

Source: VRFocus

GDC 15: Upcoming Flagship AMD Radeon R9 GPU Powering VR Demo

Subject: Graphics Cards | March 5, 2015 - 04:46 PM |
Tagged: GDC, gdc 15, amd, radeon, R9, 390x, VR, Oculus

Don't get too excited about this news, but AMD tells me that its next flagship Radeon R9 graphics card is up and running at GDC, powering an Oculus-based Epic "Showdown" demo.

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Inside the box...

During my meeting with AMD today I was told that inside that little PC sits the "upcoming flagship Radeon R9 graphics card" but, of course, no other information was given. The following is an estimated transcript of the event:

Ryan: Can I see it?

AMD: No.

Ryan: I can't even take the side panel off it?

AMD: No.

Ryan. How can I know you're telling the truth then? Can I open up the driver or anything?

AMD: No.

Ryan: GPU-Z? Anything?

AMD: No.

Well, I tried.

Is this the rumored R9 390X with the integrated water cooler? Is it something else completely? AMD wouldn't even let me behind the system to look for a radiator so I'm afraid that is where my speculation will end.

Hooked up to the system was a Crescent Bay Oculus headset running the well-received Epic "Showdown" demo. The experience was smooth though of course there were no indications of frame rate, etc. while it was going on. After our discussion with AMD earlier in the week about its LiquidVR SDK, AMD is clearly taking the VR transition seriously. NVIDIA's GPUs might be dominating the show-floor demos but AMD wanted to be sure it wasn't left out of the discussion.

Can I just get this Fiji card already??

Author:
Manufacturer: AMD

Liquid...get it?

As GDC progresses here in San Francisco, AMD took the wraps off of a new SDK for game developers to use to improve experiences with virtual reality (VR) headsets. Called LiquidVR, the goal is provide a smooth and stutter free VR experience that is universal across all headset hardware and to keep the wearer, be it a gamer or professional user, immersed.

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AMD's CTO of Graphics, Raja Koduri spoke with us about the three primary tenets of the LiquidVR initiative. The 'three Cs' as it is being called are Comfort, Compatibility and Compelling Content. Ignoring the fact that we have four C's in that phrase, the premise is straight forward. Comfortable use of VR means there is little to no issues with neusea and that can be fixed with ultra-low latency between motion (of your head) and photons (hitting your eyes). For compatibility, AMD would like to assure that all VR headsets are treated equally and all provide the best experience. Oculus, HTC and others should operate in a simple, plug-and-play style. Finally, the content story is easy to grasp with a focus on solid games and software to utilize VR but AMD also wants to ensure that the rendering is scalable across different hardware and multiple GPUs.

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To address these tenets AMD has built four technologies into LiquidVR: late data latching, asynchronous shaders, affinity multi-GPU, and direct-to-display.

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The idea behind late data latching is to get the absolute most recent raw data from the VR engine to the users eyes. This means that rather than asking for the head position of a gamer at the beginning of a render job, LiquidVR will allow the game to ask for it at the end of the rendering pipeline, which might seem counter-intuitive. Late latch means the users head movement is tracked until the end of the frame render rather until just the beginning, saving potentially 5-10ms of delay.

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Continue reading our first impressions of the new AMD LiquidVR SDK for virtual reality!!

CES 2015: Razer OSVR Dev Kit, Forge TV Android Gaming Streamer, and Nabu X Fitness Band

Subject: General Tech | January 6, 2015 - 03:04 PM |
Tagged: OCVR, VR, virtual reality, razer, google tv, fitness band, ces 2015, CES, nabu x, Forge TV, Android 5.0, lollipop

Razer, maker of gaming peripherals and components, has some announcements today that are a big departure from their previous products.

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First we have the announcement of an open VR standard, the Open-Source Virtual Reality (OSVR) ecosystem. Razer is contributing to this with the OSVR Hacker Dev Kit, "a virtual reality device and open-source software that enables programming for any variety of VR technology". The kit will be shipping in June for $199. There's a lot more information about this new VR platform on the Razer's OSVR page.

Next we have Forge TV, an Android gaming device for the living room that Razer says is "powered by a quad-core processor and gaming-grade graphics", which doesn't sound like your usual streamer.

forge_tv.jpg

Essentially a high-powered tablet in a box, the Razer Forge TV has impressive specs for an Android device:

  • OS: Android 5.0 Lollipop
  • SoC: Qualcomm Snapdragon 805 - Quad-Core Krait 450 CPU (2.5GHz per core), Adreno 420 GPU, 2GB RAM
  • Storage: 16GB
  • Connectivity: Wireless 802.11ac 2X2, Gigabit Ethernet, Bluetooth 4.1 + HS
  • Ports: HDMI 1.4, USB 3.0
  • Dimensions: 105mm X 105mm X 17mm

There is a product page up for the Forge TV on Razer's site, but no word on pricing or availability yet.

Finally we have Razer's entry into the popular fitness wearable market, the Nabu X.

RzrNabuX.jpg

This is compatible with Android and iOS devices and promises "5 to 7 days" battery life per charge. More info from Razer here.

Coverage of CES 2015 is brought to you by Logitech!

PC Perspective's CES 2015 coverage is sponsored by Logitech.

Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!

Source: Razer

Oculus Announces Crescent Bay (Prototype)

Subject: General Tech, Displays | September 21, 2014 - 01:55 AM |
Tagged: Oculus, VR, crescent bay, oculus connect

As they progress toward a consumer product, Oculus announced another prototype at their Oculus Connect developer conference. Dubbed Crescent Bay, the headset contains a new display, with a higher refresh rate and higher resolution, better optics, and 360-degree head tracking. It is also lighter and includes built-in speakers.

oculus-crescent-bay-prototype.png

Of course, these features were not quantified with hard specifications.

Brendan Iribe, CEO of Oculus, stressed that this is not the consumer product yet. He claims that this is an increase over DK2 that is equivalent to the increase DK2 saw over the original Oculus Rift. It is not all about hardware, though. This company is engaged in hardware and software, video and audio. This should make sense considering their early acquisition of John Carmack and hundreds of other engineers. They, rightly, see themselves as a platform and, while they see game engines as necessary for VR, due to the ability to reposition the camera in milliseconds of notice, compared to film's never, they are not limiting themselves to just "games" (but yes they consider it a big part of it).

oculus-crescent-bay-prototype2.png

Honestly, months ago, I was sitting at my desk with its five monitors, each with bits of news posts, chats, reference material, and maybe a StarCraft tournament live stream, and Oculus was being discussed. I started to wonder if monitors, especially multiple displays, are just an approximation -- our current best effort -- of how to receive video cues from a PC. I could see a VR platform take on entertainment and even productivity with its infinite, virtual environments.

Currently, there is not even a hint about pricing and availability (as far as I found).

Source: Oculus

Now Valve Doesn't Have Michael Abrash OR Jeri Ellsworth

Subject: General Tech, Displays | March 28, 2014 - 04:21 PM |
Tagged: VR, valve, Oculus, facebook

Today, Oculus VR issued a statement which claims that Michael Abrash has joined their ranks as Chief Scientist. Abrash was hired by Valve in 2011 where he led, and apparently came up with the idea for, their wearable computing initiatives. For a time, he and Jeri Ellsworth were conducting similar projects until she, and many others, were forced out of the company for undisclosed reasons (she was allowed to take her project with her which ultimately became CastAR). While I have yet to see an official announcement claim that Abrash has left Valve, I have serious doubts that he would be employed in both places for any reasonable period of time. With both gone, I wonder about Valve's wearable initaitive going forward.

Abrash at Steam Dev Days

This press statement comes just three days after Facebook announced "definitive" plans to acquire Oculus VR for an equivalent of $2 billion USD (it is twice the company Instragram was). Apparently, the financial stability of Facebook (... deep breath before continuing...) was the catalyst for this decision. VR research is expensive. Abrash is now comfortable working with them, gleefully expending R&D funds, advancing the project without sinking the ship.

And then there's Valve.

On last night's This Week in Computer Hardware (#260), Patrick Norton and I were discussing the Oculus VR acquisition. He claimed that he had serious doubts about whether Valve ever intended to ship a product. So far, the only product available that uses Valve's research is the Oculus Rift DK2. Honestly, while I have not really thought about it until now, it would not be surprising for Valve to contribute to the PC platform itself.

And, hey, at least someone is not afraid of Facebook's ownership.