Yungchin Realty Group Partners with iStaging

Subject: General Tech | May 27, 2017 - 10:11 PM |
Tagged: xr, VR, mr, istaging, AR

iStaging is virtual-, augmented-, and mixed-reality company that focuses on the real estate, interior design, furniture, and related industries. The news that lead to this post is that Yungching Realty Group, based out of Taiwan, has partnered with iStaging to enhance their real estate business with VR and AR. The demo that they are showing at their press conference was a virtual street, which presented information about restaurants, schools, and other points of interest for someone researching the neighborhood.

istaging-2017-threedemos.jpg

I’d expect our audience is more interested in the technology side of this, although let us know in the comments (or via email – my address is in my author page linked on the byline) if you’re interested in the enterprise / real-estate side. From the technology standpoint, it’s interesting to see applications like these push high-end graphics into more and more businesses, large and small. Likewise, these applications give a stable income that XR technology companies (ex: HTC Vive) can rely upon while they find a foothold in fickle, but potentially lucrative consumer market.

Lastly, I’m curious what applications will be possible when another round of innovation learns from this generation. What does this enable, even if only by expanding what people think is possible?

Definitely something to think about.

Source: iStaging

GTC 17: NVIDIA Demos (Professional) Multi-User VR

Subject: Graphics Cards | May 9, 2017 - 07:01 AM |
Tagged: VR, quadro, nvidia, gp102

Four Quadro P6000s installed in a single server, which looks like a 4U rack-mounted box, are shown running four HTC Vive Business Edition VR systems through virtual machines. It isn’t designed to be a shipping product, just a demo for NVIDIA’s GPU Technology Conference that was developed by their engineers, but that should get the attention of this trade show’s attendees, who are mostly enterprise-focused.

nvidia-2017-fouruservrserver.png

For context, this system has roughly equivalent GPU horsepower to four Titan Xps, albeit with twice the RAM and slightly different clocks; there’s plenty of power per headset to harness. Still, running this level of high-performance application on a virtual machine could be useful in a variety of business applications, from architectural visualization to, as NVIDIA notes, amusement parks.

Given that it’s just a proof-of-concept demo, you’ll need to build it yourself to get one. They didn’t mention using any special software, though.

Source: NVIDIA

Move Over Nintendo Power GLove!

Subject: General Tech | March 29, 2017 - 09:04 PM |
Tagged: CaptoGlove, AR, VR, gaming, controller, bluetooth 4.0, BTLE 4.0, glove

There’s a new sheriff in town!  The jauntily named “CaptoGlove” promises to be a true game and VR controller in a handy glove.  Originally developed some five years ago by an Italian air force pilot for his recovering father, he has continued development of the unit so it is actually a useful game controller with a precise 3D space positioning system.  Codeveloped with the Reusch group in Italy, the CaptoGlove looks to be a pretty polished piece of gaming equipment useful in a wide variety of applications.

The glove features 10 degrees of freedom and a variety of potential actuations.  The glove caries about 10 hours of charge and can be quickly recharged.  It features Bluetooth Low Energy 4.0 connectivity.  It is essentially plug and play and the user can assign functions to the different fingers.

capto_01.png

It is a somewhat stylish looking product, which is not surprising given that Reusch has been making sporting gloves for some 80 years.  The material looks robust and should last a long, long time.  There are no details about replacing the battery, in fact many of the specifications about the glove are still unknown.  It does look to be a pretty dextrous implementation that supersedes products coming before it.

This glove is on Kickstarter and they have almost achieved their goal in the past 6 days.  A single glove will be $160 through the Kickstarter and a pair will run $299.  The highest level includes two extra sensors that allow even more precision with gaming and VR/AR, but that comes at a steep $599.

capto_02.png

The gloves have been tested with all kinds of games and functionality is good.  The videos that CaptoGlove show off have decent performance and accuracy in many titles.  Currently there is no force feedback enabled nor announced.  This is not to say that it won’t show up in the future, but this first generation consumer product still has plenty of functionality to keep people interested.

AR/VR applications show the most promise for CaptoGlove.  It has been tested with all of the major projects out there and seems to work fine.  I will be very curious how well it works in applications like Tilt Brush!  If eventually they make a haptic version of the glove, it could be a killer application for it.

The Kickstart continues for the next 25 days and there are still many interesting bundles to be had.

Dubai Future Accelerator Program Backs zSpace

Subject: General Tech | March 28, 2017 - 09:54 PM |
Tagged: zspace, VR, AR

A few weeks ago, we posted about an education company that joined the Khronos Group’s OpenXR Working Group for VR and AR APIs. As I mentioned at the time, I have a personal interest in education technologies, due in part to my background before joining PC Perspective. While the education field is in need of more than just technology, companies like zSpace are building infrastructure to deliver information in new and more varied ways, which will hopefully reach more students (and reach the rest more deeply).

As for the news: after the previous post, zSpace followed up to let us know that they’ve been accepted into the Dubai Future Accelerators (DFA) program. This is a fairly large (hundreds of millions of dollars, USD) investment fund that primarily focuses on their amount of innovation. The fund has a handful of “challenge” areas, such as health and water / electricity, that are considered for the “public good” and thus eligible. I’m guessing zSpace qualified under “Knowledge and Human Development Authority” but their press release doesn’t elaborate.

Previously accepted companies, according to Forbes, are Honeywell and Hyperloop.

I'm not sure how much of our audience is focused in the education / IT sector, so let us know in the comments if you found this follow-up relevant to you. (PC Perspective allows anonymous comments, so you don't have to jump through too many hoops to leave your opinion.)

Source: zSpace
Author:
Manufacturer: Various

Background and setup

A couple of weeks back, during the excitement surrounding the announcement of the GeForce GTX 1080 Ti graphics card, NVIDIA announced an update to its performance reporting project known as FCAT to support VR gaming. The updated iteration, FCAT VR as it is now called, gives us the first true ability to not only capture the performance of VR games and experiences, but the tools with which to measure and compare.

Watch ths video walk through of FCAT VR with me and NVIDIA's Tom Petersen

I already wrote an extensive preview of the tool and how it works during the announcement. I think it’s likely that many of you overlooked it with the noise from a new GPU, so I’m going to reproduce some of it here, with additions and updates. Everyone that attempts to understand the data we will be presenting in this story and all VR-based tests going forward should have a baseline understanding of the complexity of measuring VR games. Previous tools don’t tell the whole story, and even the part they do tell is often incomplete.

If you already know how FCAT VR works from reading the previous article, you can jump right to the beginning of our results here.

Measuring and validating those claims has proven to be a difficult task. Tools that we used in the era of standard PC gaming just don’t apply. Fraps is a well-known and well-understood tool for measuring frame rates and frame times utilized by countless reviewers and enthusiasts, but Fraps lacked the ability to tell the complete story of gaming performance and experience. NVIDIA introduced FCAT and we introduced Frame Rating back in 2013 to expand the capabilities that reviewers and consumers had access to. Using more sophisticated technique that includes direct capture of the graphics card output in uncompressed form, a software-based overlay applied to each frame being rendered, and post-process analyzation of that data, we could communicate the smoothness of a gaming experience, better articulating it to help gamers make purchasing decisions.

vrpipe1.png

For VR though, those same tools just don’t cut it. Fraps is a non-starter as it measures frame rendering from the GPU point of view and completely misses the interaction between the graphics system and the VR runtime environment (OpenVR for Steam/Vive and OVR for Oculus). Because the rendering pipeline is drastically changed in the current VR integrations, what Fraps measures is completely different than the experience the user actually gets in the headset. Previous FCAT and Frame Rating methods were still viable but the tools and capture technology needed to be updated. The hardware capture products we used since 2013 were limited in their maximum bandwidth and the overlay software did not have the ability to “latch in” to VR-based games. Not only that but measuring frame drops, time warps, space warps and reprojections would be a significant hurdle without further development. 

vrpipe2.png

vrpipe3.png

NVIDIA decided to undertake the task of rebuilding FCAT to work with VR. And while obviously the company is hoping that it will prove its claims of performance benefits for VR gaming, it should not be overlooked the investment in time and money spent on a project that is to be open sourced and free available to the media and the public.

vlcsnap-2017-02-27-11h31m17s057.png

NVIDIA FCAT VR is comprised of two different applications. The FCAT VR Capture tool runs on the PC being evaluated and has a similar appearance to other performance and timing capture utilities. It uses data from Oculus Event Tracing as a part of the Windows ETW and SteamVR’s performance API, along with NVIDIA driver stats when used on NVIDIA hardware to generate performance data. It will and does work perfectly well on any GPU vendor’s hardware though with the access to the VR vendor specific timing results.

fcatvrcapture.jpg

Continue reading our first look at VR performance testing with FCAT VR!!

Tested Tries LG SteamVR Headset Prototype at GDC 2017

Subject: General Tech | March 8, 2017 - 07:01 AM |
Tagged: VR, steamvr, LG

While SteamVR is practically synonymous with the HTC Vive, Valve intends it to be an open platform with multiple OEMs. At this year’s Game Developers Conference, GDC 2017, LG was showing off one of their prototypes, which the folks at Adam Savage’s Tested got some time with. The company repetitively said that this is just a prototype that can change in multiple ways.

There are some differences between this and the HTC Vive, though. One change that LG is proud of is the second app button. Apparently, the company found that developers liked to assign buttons in pairs, such as a “forward” button to go along with a “back”. As such, they added a second app button, and placed all three above the touchpad for less accidental presses. The weight distribution is, apparently, also adjusted slightly, too. The difference that Tested seems most interested in is the pull forward and flip up hinge holding the mask, allowing the headset to be moved out of the way without fully taking it off the head, and for it to be easily moved back into place around glasses. (Thankfully, I’m far-sighted, so I can just take off my glasses when I use my Daydream headset, which I assume holds true for other VR devices.)

It’s unclear when it will come to market. Tested speculated that it could happen sometime later this year, which would put it just before when we expect the HTC Vive 2, but... speculation.

GDC 2017: zSpace Joins OpenXR Working Group

Subject: General Tech | March 3, 2017 - 07:01 AM |
Tagged: zspace, VR, Khronos

About a year before I joined PC Perspective, I acquired a degree in Education, which involved teaching at a local high school. Even though that was just five years after graduating high school, the amount of available technology has exploded in that time. SmartBoards were relevant enough to be taught at my teacher’s college just in case you got one. Contrast this to when I was a high school student, where “overhead projector” was assumed to mean “transparent paper and erasable marker”.

Why do I mention this? Well, basically everyone in the tech industry has been investigating the potential of VR and AR for the last couple of years, and education is a very obvious and practical application of it.

In this case, zSpace reached out and informed that they just joined the Khronos Group’s OpenXR Working Group. They hope to guide the specification from the educational technology perspective. From what I can see on their website, their products are basically like Wacom Cintiqs, except that the pen can function the volume of air in front of the screen, and glasses with markers adjust the output image to make it look like objects are floating between you and the display.

If you’re in the education sector, then be sure to check out what zSpace is doing, if only to be aware of the teaching tools that are available in the world. Every teacher I knew enjoyed browsing Staples, looking through the various bits of stationary for ideas, like recipe cards for cheap, impromptu student polls and challenges.

As for the rest of us? The more mainstream VR and AR is, the more innovation will occur, especially when they contribute back to open standards; win win.

Source: zSpace

GDC 2017: $200 Off Oculus Rift and Touch

Subject: General Tech | March 2, 2017 - 02:59 AM |
Tagged: Oculus, VR, pc gaming

Alongside the release of Robo Recall from Epic Games, which is free of you own an Oculus Rift and the Oculus Touch controllers, Oculus has changed up how you can purchase the Oculus Rift. As was the case since the Touch controllers shipped, the Oculus Rift is bundled with these motion controllers. The difference is that, now, the bundle will cost $598 USD. This is a $200 reduction in price compared to someone who purchased the headset and the controllers separately last week. The controllers, alone, are now $99 USD.

So this is interesting.

According to recent statements by Gabe Newell, who is obviously in the HTC Vive camp, the VR market doesn’t have “a compelling reason for people to spend 20 hours a day in VR”. This assertion was intended to dispel the opinion that a price cut would help VR along. From his perspective, VR will have a huge bump in resolution and frame rate within one or two years, and current headsets are basically the minimum of adequacy.

So, from both a software and technology standpoint, VR can benefit from more time in the oven before tossing it down the garbage disposal. I see that point and I agree with it, but only to a point. A price reduction can still help in several ways. First, the games industry has made some drastic shifts toward the individual. Free tools, from IDEs to AAA-quality game engines, seem to be picking up in adoption. A high entry fee for a segment of that mind share will push those with creative ideas elsewhere.

But, probably more importantly, even if the market is small, pulling in more users makes it grow. The more lead users that you can acquire, the more risk can be attempted, which will make an even better situation for whenever we need to start considering mass market. Imagine if a factor of two increase in user base would be enough for Microsoft (or Linux distros) to consider virtual desktops for VR. If we reach that threshold a year or two sooner, then it will have a more significant impact on the value for mainstream users whenever the technology catches up to their interest.

And yes, this is coming from the guy who is currently surrounded by four monitors...

Anyway, rant aside, Oculus has jumped in to a significant price reduction. This should get it into the hands of more people, assuming the injunction order doesn’t get accepted and drop on them like a hammer.

Source: Oculus

GDC 2017: The Khronos Group (re-)Announces OpenXR

Subject: General Tech | March 1, 2017 - 08:12 PM |
Tagged: VR, pc gaming, openxr, Khronos

While the Vulkan update headlines the Khronos Group’s presence at GDC 2017, they also re-announced their VR initiative, now called OpenXR. This specification wraps around the individual SDKs, outlining functionality that is to be exposed to the application and the devices. If a device implements the device layer, then it will immediately support everything that uses the standard, and vice-versa.

khronos-2017-openxr-logo.png

OpenVR was donated by Valve, leading to OpenXR...
... because an X is really just a reflected V, right?

Like OpenGL and Vulkan, individual vendors will still be allowed to implement their own functionality, which I’m hoping will be mostly exposed through extensions. The goal is to ensure that users can, at a minimum, enjoy the base experience of any title on any device.

They are aiming for 2018, but interested parties should contribute now to influence the initial release.

Author:
Manufacturer: NVIDIA

VR Performance Evaluation

Even though virtual reality hasn’t taken off with the momentum that many in the industry had expected on the heels of the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift launches last year, it remains one of the fastest growing aspects of PC hardware. More importantly for many, VR is also one of the key inflection points for performance moving forward; it requires more hardware, scalability, and innovation than any other sub-category including 4K gaming.  As such, NVIDIA, AMD, and even Intel continue to push the performance benefits of their own hardware and technology.

Measuring and validating those claims has proven to be a difficult task. Tools that we used in the era of standard PC gaming just don’t apply. Fraps is a well-known and well-understood tool for measuring frame rates and frame times utilized by countless reviewers and enthusiasts. But Fraps lacked the ability to tell the complete story of gaming performance and experience. NVIDIA introduced FCAT and we introduced Frame Rating back in 2013 to expand the capabilities that reviewers and consumers had access to. Using more sophisticated technique that includes direct capture of the graphics card output in uncompressed form, a software-based overlay applied to each frame being rendered, and post-process analyzation of that data, we were able to communicate the smoothness of a gaming experience, better articulating it to help gamers make purchasing decisions.

pipe1.jpg

VR pipeline when everything is working well.

For VR though, those same tools just don’t cut it. Fraps is a non-starter as it measures frame rendering from the GPU point of view and completely misses the interaction between the graphics system and the VR runtime environment (OpenVR for Steam/Vive and OVR for Oculus). Because the rendering pipeline is drastically changed in the current VR integrations, what Fraps measures is completely different than the experience the user actually gets in the headset. Previous FCAT and Frame Rating methods were still viable but the tools and capture technology needed to be updated. The hardware capture products we used since 2013 were limited in their maximum bandwidth and the overlay software did not have the ability to “latch in” to VR-based games. Not only that but measuring frame drops, time warps, space warps and reprojections would be a significant hurdle without further development.  

pipe2.jpg

VR pipeline with a frame miss.

NVIDIA decided to undertake the task of rebuilding FCAT to work with VR. And while obviously the company is hoping that it will prove its claims of performance benefits for VR gaming, it should not be overlooked the investment in time and money spent on a project that is to be open sourced and free available to the media and the public.

vlcsnap-2017-02-27-11h31m17s057.png

NVIDIA FCAT VR is comprised of two different applications. The FCAT VR Capture tool runs on the PC being evaluated and has a similar appearance to other performance and timing capture utilities. It uses data from Oculus Event Tracing as a part of the Windows ETW and SteamVR’s performance API, along with NVIDIA driver stats when used on NVIDIA hardware to generate performance data. It will and does work perfectly well on any GPU vendor’s hardware though with the access to the VR vendor specific timing results.

fcatvrcapture.jpg

Continue reading our preview of the new FCAT VR tool!