Dec 18, 2012

Demo Day 2012, Showcasing in Dublin, and Latest Hardware Updates!

Demo Day at the USC School of Cinematic Arts went down this past Wednesday, here’s some photos of Project Holodeck in action:

  

And now we are in Dublin at the Science Gallery for their GAME: NEXT exhibition!

Unfortunately we weren’t able to bring the latest models of the Oculus Rift with us to showcase in Dublin, as they’re just fresh from their Chinese manufacturing line and there simply aren’t enough to go around at the moment. However, we met up with Palmer and the Oculus team at their new offices a few weeks back, and they want get us a couple early devkits as soon as its feasible.

You can read more about their manufacturing process in a recent update.  Manufacturing is a very real challenge, and even large corporations don’t have it easy when it comes to producing massive orders of a new product in a quick turnaround. We are really excited for the devkits, and can’t wait until March when they will be widely available for thousands of game developers to play with!

In the mean time, the MxR Lab at USC has graciously provided us with their own VR head-mounted displays (called the “Socket” HMD) to use for prototyping with our other hardware like Hydra and PS Move. These HMDs are based on the same technology as the Oculus Rift, and there are a few differences between these displays and the latest Rift models.

Here’s what the latest Oculus Rift casing and lenses look like:

  

Check out more details on the latest Rift model in a post by Ben Lang on Road to VR.

The Socket HMD has a 5.6″ screen, which is smaller than the 7″ screen on the latest Oculus Rift model.  There are advantages  to the Rift’s  7″ screen, namely a higher pixel fill factor and contrast ratio, which lowers the “screen door” effect by covering more of the screen with each pixel.  The Rift also has a “ski goggle” fitting that is built into the casing, and it potentially offers other adjustments as well, such as interpupillary distance like you would with a pair of binoculars.

The Socket HMD casing has two lenses that protrude outwards from the screen.  In order to get the Socket to fit more comfortably, we decided to combine it with actual ski goggle frames!

  

It looks a bit like WALL-E, we know, but the ski goggle design is very usable in a fast-paced exhibition environment.  Without a comfortable foam fitting, the HMD has to be mounted onto the helmet, which we discovered can be a bit more difficult for players to use. With the helmet mounted design its not as easy to adjust the height of the lenses to be in front of the eyes, and as a result the lenses would not always be in focus for people with different head sizes.  Here’s what the Socket looks like by itself without any frame (compared next to a laptop and the Leap devkit):

 

The minimalist design of the Socket casing allows for a lot of flexibility when it comes to prototyping different kinds of VR experiences.  The biggest advantage for us is that we can use it right now with our current VR games, and playtest various compilations of hardware on the helmet to maximize usability.  The pre-warping code is also adjustable in Unity, and integrating various HMDs is fairly simple.  The primary disadvantages are the pixel fill factor of the screen and lack of a comfortable built-in fitting.

Ultimately we look forward to playing Wild Skies with the new Oculus Rift devkits and testing it with our other hardware.  Currently the Socket HMDs have been a lot of fun to playtest with, and work great for our winter showcases. Huge thanks to Mark Bolas and the MxR Lab for their incredible support!  Here’s a bit more about MxR and the new MxR Studio happening at USC:

MxR at USC’s Institute for Creative Technologies is a research and development lab under the direction of Mark Bolas. The goal of the MxR Studio is to provide new opportunities for students to research and create immersive experiences using body-tracking technologies developed at USC.  As an on campus research space, MxR Studio facilitates cross-disciplinary teams from engineering, computer science, communications and cinematic arts. Check out more on the MxR website!

Now back to showcasing in Dublin! Here’s some pictures we just snapped of the exhibtion space we have been given for the next four days:

  

More updates on the GAME: NEXT showcase coming soon!

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Holodeck Collaborators

Holodeck Collaborators