Saturday, September 26, 2015
OCULUS CONNECT-2 KEYNOTES & STREAMING VR
OCULUS RIFT just held their 2nd annual developer conference, Connect 2. It was held on the West Coast. Only the Keynotes, not other sessions, were streamed. Oddly, a view of the audience seemed to show several sections of the Keynote auditorium that were completely empty, even though they posted a "FULL" notice for the conference on the site. (One sour note was that the opening day of the conference was on Yom Kippur. Surely Facebook, even if not Oculus, should have been sensitive to this.)
As a New Yorker, I feel that New York is not getting its share of opportunities to test out VR hardware and software locally. Major developer conferences, as well as E3, CES, GDC, SIGGRAPH and other important events with demonstrations and prototypes, are all very far away.
There were no very significant announcements at Connect 2, but it is clear that Oculus is very serious about quality, and they are making a major investment in developing a platform for the best possible VR hardware and software.
The next GEAR VR will sell for $99, lighter and more comfortable than the current version and will accomodate all four top Samsung Smartphones.
The consumer RIFT will be more comfortable than the DK2, allow for eyeglass wearers, and include earphones.
OCULUS TOUCH will include powerful position sensing.
There will be a certification for RIFT READY computers.
Content available at launch of the RIFT (some sooner on the Gear VR) will include film & video streaming from NETFLIX and other partners, and will include MINECRAFT and a 3D art creation program for TOUCH.
Not announced: My access to information on OCULUS was limited by the fact that they made only the Keynotes available and not the sessions. However, I believe that, as of now:
- they expect to be tethered to a computer, and do not have cameras or distance sensors built into the RIFT
- Pixel resolution and display is above the minimal level for comfort, but still orders of magnitude below high resolution 60 fps 4π display. (Note: 4π indicates full spherical display; a sphere subtends an angle of 4π - ie the surface of a sphere is 4πRxR. -- The circumference of a circle is 360 degrees or 2π since the cirumference is 2πR. A hemisphere is also 360 degrees, or 2π steradians.)
- I did not hear any announcement on cooling the Gear VR.
THE STREAMING VR PRESENTATION
Here are some comments on what worked, what did not work, and we can learn about live streaming of VR.
When it worked, the presentation of the Keynotes by NextVR, streamed live to the Gear VR was AWESOME!
NextVR streamed 3D, front-facing, hemispherical video live (with a few seconds delay). They had two camera setups: one at the side of the stage, one at the front. It was very comfortable switching from time to time between the two views. The sound was fine.
The limitations of the live streaming were that it crashed about 4 times an hour, and only sometimes re-started by itself; and the Gear VR Smartphone overheated about twice an hour, and had to be turned off for at least five minutes to cool. (You can miss a lot in 5 minutes. -- fortunately, I had a second, regular stream running on my desktop.) The camera lost about 30% of its battery in an hour. Since regular vision is blocked while using the headset, until voice note-taking and commands are implemented, it is hard to take notes, or participate in side-chats, while watching the VR stream.
- Hemispheric, front facing stereo works fine when there is a particular subject (as opposed to a landscape, for example); streaming the back half of the hemisphere is not necessary.
- For a feeling of perspective, and to appreciate 3D live action, it is useful to have some well defined objects at short distances from the main subject.
- The best place to put a camera is a place where the viewer would like to be standing. A camera at the wings is good. A camera at the lip of the stage is good. A camera on the stage, just a little bit closer to the speaker/performers might be even more exciting.
Overall, especially for short events , VR Live Streaming works well and is very exciting.