Monday, March 02, 2015

Virtual Reality 'Game of Thrones' on Vive's stunning rival to Oculus

VR is a amazing medium not a mere gadget. I’ve been playing around with the Oculus Rift Development Kit 1 then Development Kit 2 for over a year, helped get some learning applications funded and see it playing a real role in ‘learning by doing’. Having demoed it to hundreds of people across Europe and in Africa, all I can say is that the most common reaction is ‘Awesome!”. What we’re all waiting on is the consumer launch.
Learning potential
In learning we all yearn for something that can really hold sustained attention, induce intense emotion, allow learning by doing, provide relevant context, enable transfer, increase retention, provide cognitive swap and above all, allow you to do things that are impossible in the real world. These are just seven principles in learning that suggest it has huge potential. Here's a brief selection.
Consumer tech
But what makes technology based learning fly is its cultural acceptance. The technology is always ahead of the more sluggish sociology. We’re all now comfortable with search on the internet, Wikipedia, hyperlinked content, learning from YouTube, TED and Khan videos, contributing within a network of professionals on social media. Whenever a sustained, irreversible, global, consumer base develops, learning applications follow.
This is why the Facebook purchase of Oculus Rift was sosignificant. They were first to get on their racing bike but there’s a peloton forming and the race constantly changes as new challengers emerge from the pack. Since that $2.3 billion dollar announcement, the other industry giants have gone goggle-eyed and pushed their R&D teams to get something to market soon. Samsung, Microsoft and others know that this shift from 2D to 3D may be a huge opportunity, as a new medium emerges. That doesn’t happen very often – paper print, radio, film, TV, 2d web…… what’s next?
Valve’s top ten features
Now another big consortium has emerged as pacemaker – Valve & HTC. This is big news for the following 10 reasons:
1. HTC are making the screen
2. Two 1200x1080 displays
3. Refresh rate of 90 frames a second
4. Great field of view
5. Stem VR base station for avatar control (within 15x15 ft room)
6. Wireless HTC controllers for each hand (gloves?)
7. Controller’s positions tracked
8. Headset is very light
9. Google, HBO on  board
10. Release promised in 2015
This is a big step up from the Oculus Rift DK2 with a significant technology difference. The Valve headset contains cameras that track your movement, rather than the Oculus’s cameras tracking the headset. It’s the Oculus tracking in reverse, although it still has the accelerometer and gyroscope.
There’s a pre-release video, that’s not so great, but the launch is this week (2-5 March) at the Game Developer’s Conference. Their promise – developer’s kit this Spring, then release ‘holiday 2015’, by which I take to be Christmas.
One thing most vendors realise is that this is just about gaming. The games market is huge and can drive this forward but the entertainment, education and health markets are bigger. This is not a gadget – it’s a new medium, applicable in almost every domain you can imagine. HBO are in on the Valve act, NBA in on Oculus - so expect some Game of Thrones VR and court-side viewing on launch. TV and film may never be the same again.
This is great news, but let’s not get too carried away. This is a long race, not a velodrome sprint. Competition has driven this forward. Consumer VR will be here, as I thought, this year. It all comes down to marketing, price and quality of the product. As HTC CEO Peter Chou announced when showing the Vive for the first time on stage “We believe virtual reality will totally transform the way we interact with the world. It will become a mainstream experience for general consumers. The possibilities are limitless.”
Some videos showing VR in education:
VR and 'presence'
Teach history with VR
Teach physics with VR
Teach biology with VR
Amazing reaction on Oculus

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