Subject: Graphics Cards | February 10, 2016 - 05:59 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: VR, vive vr, Oculus, evga, 980 Ti
You might wonder what makes a graphics card “designed for VR,” but this is actually quite interesting. Rather than plugging your headset into the back of your desktop, EVGA includes a 5.25” bay that provides 2x USB 3.0 ports and 1x HDMI 2.0 connection. The use case is that some users will want to easily connect and disconnect their VR devices, which, knowing a few indie VR developers, seems to be a part of their workflow. The same may be true of gamers, but I'm not sure.
While the bay allows for everything, including the HDMI plug via an on-card port, to be connected internally, you will need a spare USB 3.0 header on your motherboard to hook it up. It would have been interesting to see whether EVGA could have attached a USB 3.0 controller on the add-in board, but that might have been impossible (or unpractical) given that the PCIe connector would need to be shared with the GPU (not to mention the complexity of also adding a USB 3.0 controller to the board). Also, I expect motherboards should have at least one. If not, you can find USB 3.0 add-in cards with internal headers.
The card comes in two sub-versions, one with the NVIDIA-style blower cooler, and the other with EVGA's ACX 2.0+ cooler. I tend to prefer exposed fan GPUs because they're easier to blow air into after a few years, but you might have other methods to control dust.
Both are currently available for $699.99 on Newegg.com, while Amazon only lists the ACX2.0+ cooler version, and that's out of stock. It is also $699.99, though, so that should be what to expect.
Subject: General Tech, Shows and Expos | February 4, 2016 - 07:47 PM | Scott Michaud
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.
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.
Subject: General Tech | December 31, 2015 - 07:49 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: Oculus, oculus rift, oculus touch, vive vr
Valve and Oculus are targeting roughly the same window to release the consumer editions of their respective VR equipment. While technical information will likely wait until next week, we are hearing about delays ahead of CES. In the Vive's case, they couldn't afford to wait until the show, because it was supposed to launch in Holiday 2015. That has been revised to April.
But this is about Oculus. Their headset is still expected to arrive on time, which is enough for many experiences. The Xbox One controller is supposedly the default for this platform. This puts them out of the running for motion-control software, as seen on the Vive, though. Oculus is developing their own, called the Oculus Touch. They said they were launching without it and that it is optional. We now know that this will be in the second half of the year, which could be as early as the “few months after the Rift” as we were told, or as late as a year from now.
We're already hearing concerns about incompatibility between the two systems, since it will lead to some level of platform-exclusivity. Lead time could help a platform gain ground, unless consumers outright refuse to buy in to any of them in case it ends up being the Betamax or HD-DVD. I'm not sure what we, as consumers, can do to prevent any of these negative outcomes, but it's something we need to be mindful of, especially throughout 2016.
Subject: General Tech | December 31, 2015 - 03:00 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: htc, valve, vive, vive vr
This bit of news is a little more pleasant for Valve. According to Engadget, the HTC Vive has passed FCC approval. HTC recently announced that the product would launch in April, slipping from its original launch date, Holiday 2015, by a few months. This was due to a “very, very big technological breakthrough” that was in no way elaborated on.
The linked FCC report calls the device the “HTC Base station.” This likely refers to the Lighthouse laser tracking system that are monitored by light sensors on the headset and controllers. The public notice includes the FCC warning label, which mentions that the device is a Class 1 laser system. There are five classifications of lasers, from Class 1 through Class 4 (with Class 3 split into Class 3a and Class 3b). Class 1 means that the laser is completely incapable of producing harmful radiation. Class 4 can cause fires. Since HTC's device is Class 1, this means that either the laser's intensity is too low to cause damage, even with sustained viewing, or the laser never produces a harmful amount of radiation in a way that could be viewed under normal operation. For instance, a laser printer is a “Class 1” laser, because everything occurs within the device. Laser pointers, on the other hand, are typically Class 2.
This raises an interesting question about how the lasers are used. They are clearly emitted into open space, because the sensors are on the visor. This suggests that the lasers are either very low power, or the beam is manipulated in such a way that it cannot be pointed into someone's eye for a meaningful amount of time. How? No idea.
HTC and Valve are expected to fully unveil the product at CES. PC Perspective will be at the event, and we'll probably have more information at that time.
Subject: General Tech | December 18, 2015 - 04:26 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: valve, htc, vive, vive vr
A grain of salt is needed for this one. Users on Reddit claim to have found a pair of renders, one of the headset and one of the controllers, for the HTC Vive VR system. They also have a screenshot of the page, although the first words you see are “This Is Real,” which are the most sketchy, ironic, and unfortunate words to be greeted with in a product leak.
The current HTC Vive prototype looks like a rough version of this. There are some significant differences, though. My major concern is at the front of the headset. You can clearly see a front-facing camera as well as two nubs below it, one to the bottom-left, and one to the bottom-right. If those two nubs are also cameras, then that makes a bit more sense.
If those two nubs are not cameras, then Valve would have downgraded from a two-camera system, in the original prototype, to a single camera. Valve has already claimed that the Vive will have front-facing cameras, plural, to track objects (like pets) for safety reasons. I can see them adding an extra camera, but I doubt that they would use just a single one. Two cameras allow more accurate depth tracking at low distances, which is when you risk... interacting... with the user. That sounds unlikely.
If it's three cameras? That makes sense.
Kyle Orland of Ars Technica is using the original prototype during GDC 2015.
Image Credit: Ars Technica
The controllers are also interesting, but mostly from an aesthetic standpoint. The hexagonal plates, which apparently functioned as sensors, seem to have been changed into circular rings (if the hole goes all the way through). They retain their thumb trackpads, triggers, and a couple of buttons. It's unclear whether each controller is identical, or if there's a difference between the intended-left and intended-right models. Being a lefty, I hope not.
At roughly the same time, Cher Wang, the CEO of HTC, announced that the HTC Vive will be unveiled at CES (in January). It won't be available until around April, but we should know basically all there is to know about the system at next month's trade show. Given this timing, and that multiple users have been posting the leak seemingly independently, it sounds valid. The camera configuration, on the other hand, takes a bit away from that.
Subject: General Tech, Shows and Expos | March 14, 2015 - 07:30 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: vive vr, vive, valve, re vive, Portal 2, Portal, mwc 15, MWC, htc, gdc 15, GDC
At the recent Game Developer Conference and Mobile World Congress events, Valve had a demo for HTC's Vive VR system that was based in the Portal universe. The headset is combined with two controllers, one for each hand, which sound like a cross between Valve's Steam Controller and the Razer Hydra.
When HTC briefed journalists about the technology, they brought a few examples for use with their prototype. C|Net described three: a little demo where you could paint with the controllers in a virtual space, an aquarium where you stand on a sunken pirate ship and can look at a gigantic blue whale float overhead, and a Portal-based demo that is embedded above. I also found “The Gallery” demo online, but I am not sure where it was presented (if anywhere).
Beyond VR, the Source 2 engine, which powers the Portal experience, looks good. The devices looked very intricate and full of detail. Granted, it is a lot easier to control performance when you are dealing with tight corridors or isolated rooms. The lighting also seems spot on, although it is hard to tell whether this capability is dynamic or precomputed.
The HTC Vive developer kit is coming soon, before a consumer launch in the Autumn.
Subject: General Tech, Mobile, Shows and Expos | March 1, 2015 - 05:16 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: MWC, mwc 15, GDC, gdc 15, htc, valve, vive, vive vr, Oculus
Mobile World Congress (MWC) and Game Developers Conference (GDC) severely overlap this year, and not just in dates apparently. HTC just announced the Vive VR headset at MWC, which was developed alongside Valve. The developer edition will contain two 1200x1080 displays with a 90Hz refresh rate, and it will launch this spring. The consumer edition will launch this holiday. They made sure to underline 2015, so you know they're serious. Want more information? Well that will be for Valve to discuss at GDC.
The confusing part: why is this not partnered with Oculus? When Michael Abrash left Valve to go there, I assumed that it was Valve shedding its research to Facebook's subsidiary and letting them take the hit. Now, honestly, it seems like Facebook just poached Abrash, Valve said “oh well”, and the two companies kept to their respective research. Who knows? Maybe that is not the case. We might find out more at GDC, but you would expect that Oculus would be mentioned if they had any involvement at all.
Valve will host an event on the second official day of GDC, March 3rd at 3pm. In other words, Valve will make an announcement on 3/3 @ 3. Could it involve Left 4 Dead 3? Portal 3? Will they pull a Crytek and name their engine Source 3? Are they just trolling absolutely everyone? Will it have something to do with NVIDIA's March 3rd announcement? Do you honestly think I have any non-speculative information about this? No. No I don't. There, I answered one of those questions.