I guess all companies have finished their important announcements before US Thanksgiving and now we are in a calm moment where there is some news here and there, but nothing incredible. Probably we’ll hear new big shots fired at CES in January 2022.
So yes, this roundup won’t be amazing… interesting, but not exciting. I know, I’m too honest… and this is not good for views on my blog. So let’s try to rephrase this last paragraph using the same style used by VR Youtubers in the title of their videos to attract more people: THIS EXPLOSIVE WEEK IN VR HAS CHANGED EVERYTHING!!!!! YOU MUST READ THIS POST!!!!!!!!!!
PS I’ll be a panelist at the XR Safety Week today and at Stereopsia (remotely) on Wednesday. If you may be interested, follow me 🙂
Top news of the week
The Upload VR Showcase has been full of announcements about VR games
Upload did it again: on December, 2nd, the big XR magazine has streamed a big showcase of many news about VR games. This one has been richer than the previous one, and we had both news on existing games and announcements of new upcoming titles. It has been a great fest for VR.
Reporting all the news here will be a bit too much (there have been 23), but luckily Upload has prepared a little roundup itself where you can skim all the announcements and watch the video only about the ones you are most interested into. There are pieces of news about Fruit Ninja, After the Fall, Against, Nerf Ultimate Championship, and a lot of other titles!
I have selected for you the five ones that I have found the most interesting:
- Fast Travel Games is going to release a spin-off for Cities: Skylines built from the ground-up for VR. Called Cities: VR, it will bring the city-building and management simulation to Oculus Quest 2 in Spring 2022;
- Polyarc has confirmed that is working on Book 2 for Moss and expects to release it for PSVR in Spring 2022. The company is also exploring new ways to expand the Moss universe;
- Schell Games has announced Lost Recipes, an educational experience that teaches you the various cooking techniques of different cultures in a relaxing and entertaining way. This has probably been the most original game announced at this Showcase;
- Ramen VR has announced the release of the beta for its MMO game Zenith on December, 18th. It will be available across Quest, PSVR, and PC VR headsets. Together with this announcement, it has also released a new trailer, that shows more about the mechanics of the game;
- Smash Drums has been released on the Quest Store. The rhythm game is the last product that gets promoted from App Lab to the Quest Store and it shows how it is possible to also succeed as an indie on App Lab (Kudos to the team).
This has just been my selection… don’t forget to read the roundup linked below to read what may appeal more to your tastes!
More info (Roundup of all Upload VR Showcase news)
More info (Cities: VR)
More info (Moss: Book 2)
More info (Polyarc talks about the future of Moss)
More info (Lost Recipes)
More info (Zenith)
More info (Smash Drums)
Other relevant news
Apple may announce its headset at WWDC 2022
A new week, a new rumor about Apple. This time it comes from Bloomberg, which predicts that Apple will announce its MR headset in June 2022 during WWDC, to launch it some months later, probably during the holiday season. The launch of the headset should come many months before the release so Apple can present the device before the FCC approval. After a device is sent to FCC, leaks become more probable, and Apple wants to announce it before leaks may tell the public anything about the actual product. Also announcing it before, it should be possible for Apple to get the attention of the developers, that can so start building applications for the headset.
Of course, like everything regarding Apple, these are just rumors. But they are somewhat coherent with what Ming-Chi Kuo and Robert Scoble are saying, and also are in line with the imminent launch of Project Cambria, that Facebook is releasing exactly to compete with Apple Headset. It seems there is a converge around 2022 being the year in which Apple will announce something XR-related. But take all of this with some kilos of grains of salt, because until now all predictions about Apple have been wrong.
Learn about the m**averse in Japan
Mogura VR, one of the most important magazines about VR in Japan, has organized an event hosting a few important Japanese VR professionals to discuss the m**averse in Japan.
Japan is a country always devoted to innovation, and at the forefront in some technological fields like robotics. It is the home country of Sony, so PlayStation VR and Meta itself have clearly expressed its interest in penetrating the market. That’s why it is very interesting to understand how is the XR ecosystem growing there.
The event has already happened, but on Youtube, you can find the recording, which lasts around 90 minutes. It is a good occasion to understand what is happening in a country that is so distant from us (at least, from me) and that is very fascinating.
Nreal Light has been launched in the US
On November, 30th, finally, Nreal has launched its Nreal light AR glasses in the US with the support of Verizon. The glasses are now available in some selected Verizon stores and also online. The price is $599, but to work the glasses should be tethered to a smartphone from Samsung or OnePlus, so the overall price of the whole system is well beyond $1000.
The glasses come with the pre-installed Nebula system and some sample applications. They can also mirror the phone screen so that if you want, you can enjoy a big virtual screen with Netflix in your living room.
According to Upload that has reviewed them, the glasses are not bad, but they, of course, carry all the problems of present-time AR (e.g. limited FOV) and especially they have a very limited software ecosystem. It’s a product good for techies and developers, but not ready for the mass market yet. Anyway, it’s the first AR glasses launched in the US, and that is quite a remarkable result for the Chinese startup in any case.
News worth a mention
Oculus Quest and Vive Focus 3 get interesting updates
The Oculus Quest 2 is getting runtime v35, which adds, among the other things:
- The possibility of recording a mixed reality video of you playing the app just by using the Oculus app on your phone (only for iPhones, at the moment). This is good, but again, Meta is killing some similar products in the ecosystem (Reality Mixer and LIV)
- Messenger calls while you are in VR
- Cloud backup integrated into the operating system
- Horizon Workrooms environment customizations
- Public Test Channel: finally also on Quest the users will be able to join PTC and have new features in preview. This is very important for people like me that must be at the cutting edge of the technology
Vive Focus 3, instead, has just released a new version of the runtime that dramatically improves hands tracking, making it able to track properly also hands that are moving very fast. It’s good to see that also HTC’s latest standalone is constantly improving, even if not at the crazy rate of the Quest.
BCI can help us understand motion sickness, and more
A new study published by researchers at Germany’s University of Jena shows that it is possible to detect when someone is experiencing motion sickness by analyzing the data gathered by EEG sensors. It seems that motion sickness triggers some specific areas of the brain, and this information can be used to study motion sickness in further detail and assess the validity of methods to contrast it. It’s an interesting finding that can help in fighting simulation sickness in the future: imagine for instance that an EEG-equipped headset may detect we are going to experience sickness and take reaction in the app accordingly (e.g. reducing our field of view). It’s very fascinating.
Read about the announcements of some XR products
This week there have been some interesting announcements of products:
- Razer and Qualcomm have announced Razer Snapdragon G3x, the devkit of a handheld console designed to run both Android apps and stream games from consoles and PC. The console has a USB-C port to attach XR headset to it, but it is not clear how this is going to work;
- A leak is showing us Project Ironman, an AR headset developed by Lenovo and Motorola. These AR glasses are tethered to a computational unit, that instead of being a box to put in the pocket, is a collar. This is pretty weird but has the advantage of keeping the tether very short and safe;
- iQiyi, the Netflix of China, has released its Adventure Dream standalone headset, which is basically a clone of the Quest 2. The headset is priced at 1,999 yuan ($314), so it is incredibly affordable;
- Qualcomm has announced its new chipset, the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1, which is an evolution over the previous 888 model. It will be the new chip to power Android phones, but it is not clear if it will be the basis for the new VR reference design for the future standalone headsets or not.
CCS Insights has some positive forecasts about XR
Market Analysts at CCS Insights have just released a positive report about immersive realities titled “Extended Reality Deserves Optimism”. This shows how the market is becoming positive about the technology, and it’s a good sign for investments to come.
It’s interesting to see that this, like many other forecasts, predicts slow growth for VR. According to CCS, in 2025 there will be 71 million VR and AR devices… a good number by today’s standard, but very far away from the 1B units that we hope for the mainstream adoption. This is just to highlight once more that XR still has a slow and long road to go.
(Thanks to Tom Ffiske for the tip!)
Manus launches Polygon mocap system
Manus, the producer of tracking gloves, has just announced Polygon, a full suite for mocap and virtual production, compatible not only with Manus trackers and gloves but also with VR controllers and Vive Trackers. The solution is very versatile, and can track the full body and also the hands. It also has a free tier for developers and creators that want to start experimenting with it.
Google details Project Starline
In a research paper, Google has detailed the design of Project Starline, the innovative booth for remote one-to-one meetings that look realistic. The hardware required for each booth is really a lot and makes the system interesting only for a very small niche market. Honestly, I think it will be the next project abandoned by Google.
New drama for DecaGear
It’s not been a happy week for Megadodo Simulations (usually referred to as “Deca”), the company behind the Decagear. The reputation of the company was already quite low after having announced a hard pivot two weeks ago, declaring that the initial vision of the Decagear couldn’t be fulfilled (you don’t say), but this week it has been hurt even more when a former employee, “WireWhiz”, has written on Discord an angry message towards the company, inviting everyone to even cancel the orders of the DecaMove, the only hardware the company had shipped. The message got viral on social media channels, and this has not shed a good light on Deca.
After a WireWhiz, he has explained his reasons and said he was sorry for the harm created to the company. He said that Decamove is actually ok, but he was angry because Deca wants to make money using NFTs and a virtual casino, and he doesn’t agree with this vision. So, problem solved, Deca has not done anything bad yet, but this new drama has not helped its reputation…
Masterpiece Studio gets free version
Masterpiece Studio, one of the most known VR programs for 3D modeling, rigging, and animations in XR, is getting a free tier. The free version will have almost all the functionalities of the Pro version but without the ability to export your creations to FBX or similar formats. Creators can only export to a public gallery to showcase their work: so the free tier is good for learning and experimenting, but not for actually creating for production.
Gorilla Tag reaches 1.5M players milestone
Gorilla Tag is one of the craziest success stories in VR. It’s a crazy rough game made by a solo developer that got super popular almost overnight. Now the game has reached the incredible milestone of 1.5M players, and thanks to the addition of In App Purchases to App Lab apps just released by Meta, the developer can finally earn good money from the game and establish a team that works on it. I’m very happy to hear this news because the dev deserves to earn money from his great success.
Return to monke. Reject humanity.
Some news on content
- Dead Second is a Time Crisis-esque VR cover shooter coming to Quest. Kudos to the developers that managed to implement 4x MSAA with a 90Hz frame rate on it!
- ‘s&box’, the sequel to the popular ‘Garry’s Mod’, has got a VR interface via VR controllers
- A Cyberpunk 2077 VR mod may come in January 2022 from a popular VR modder
- The Kickstarter campaign for the cool Japanese Ruins Magus is now live!
News from partners (and friends)
XR professional and diversity advocate Christopher LaFayette is organizing an event called “Gatherverse Summit” for February, 22nd-23rd. The mission of the event is to talk about what is the metaverse and how to build it in a responsible way, putting “humanity” as the first design principle for it.
Learn more (Christopher LaFayette announcing the event)
Learn more (GatherVerse Summit official website)
Some XR fun
Zuck introduces you to the real Metaverse experience
Tell me you are obsessed with VR without telling me you are obsessed with VR
This is how us VR developers work every day
Get ready to update your curriculum
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