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A growing number of companies want to break into virtual reality, and while most of the attention is on the Oculus VR Rift headset, there are opportunities for others in the market. One such company is FOVE, which hopes its hands-free virtual reality experience can yield an even more immersive experience.
"Eye-tracking is game-changing in VR," said Lochlainn Wilson, co-developer and CTO at FOVE, in a statement published by Reuters. "It allows for much more complex and subtle interaction than has been possible previously. By knowing exactly where the user is looking, characters in virtual reality can react to your gaze and return it naturally or avoid it or respond or question."
Wilson also points out that new possibilities are opened when eye-tracking is used in VR, creating "really sensitive emotional experiences" that more closely mimic real life. The headset has two built-in cameras that are able to track eye movement - scanning the eyes and tracking iris movement.
Rejoice! Oculus VR won't block pornography on the Rift virtual reality headset, in a change of pace from Facebook's typical stance on adult-themed content shared through the social networking website.
"The [Oculus] Rift is an open platform," said Palmer Luckey, founder of Oculus VR, while speaking during a tech conference in Silicon Valley. "We don't control what software can run on it." It was an open and honest answer from Luckey, as panelists representing other companies with VR hardware carefully tried to dodge similar questions.
Even so, Facebook will still have full control of all apps and software available in the Oculus Store - but won't block third-party apps that provide porn. The decision means adult entertainment producers can create their own channels to release Rift-based porn apps if they choose to do so.
Casey Hudson, former BioWare executive and creative director of Mass Effect, will join Microsoft to serve as creative director for HoloLens, Xbox and "other awesome projects." Hudson will reportedly spend most of his time focused on HoloLens, serving as creative director for the blossoming project.
"I am particularly excited about working on HoloLens," Hudson said in a statement. "I was fortunate to try an early prototype of HoloLens before it was announced, and I was blown away by the technology and what it was already capable of. Walking on Mars while sipping coffee in an office setting, Skyping with a friend who can draw on the walls of my environment, sculpting an object in 3D modeling software while a hologram of it sits on a table next to me..."
This is a strong effort by Microsoft to bring knowledgeable, passionate people to HoloLens, with the company expecting big things from its augmented reality project. Hudson left BioWare last August, welcoming new challenges, though apparently took some personal time before announcing he was joining Microsoft.
There is extremely high interest in the Apple Watch smartwatch in China, helping drive sales of the wearable, according to a survey from UBS. The company previously estimated there would be 40 million Apple Watch units sold during the company's fiscal 2016, but has decreased that number down to 31 million units.
"It's finding that Apple continues to be extremely strong, the stickiness is very clear, and it's China, China, China," said Steve Milunovich, managing director at UBS, in a statement on CNBC's "Squawk on the Street." "We're finding that Apple's retention rate is very strong in China, and we're also finding that actually Apple Watch interest is highest in China relative to the other five countries that we surveyed."
Prior to the global launch of the Apple Watch, analysts expected China would have a major role in selling Apple Watch units. Consumers are frustrated with supply problems related to the Apple Watch, with eight percent of consumers claiming they may purchase a watch model.
Oculus VR announced the recommended requirements for its Rift headset yesterday, with the Facebook-owned VR company set to launch their first consumer VR headset in early 2016.
When the Oculus Rift does launch, it will not work with Apple Mac or Linux systems, at launch. Oculus VR has been working on Rift support for the Mac and Linux for quite sometime now, but the VR startup paused development of Rift support for those operating systems to get the Windows-based software ready for the launch in Q1 2016. Atman Binstock, Oculus VR's Chief Architect, explains: "We want to get back to development for OS X and Linux but we don't have a timeline".
Binstock added: "Note that almost no current laptops have the GPU performance for the recommended spec, though upcoming mobile GPUs may be able to support this level of performance". This will change in the near future, especially with 16nm GPUs and HBM right around the corner. Technology is shrinking and getting faster, quicker than ever.
Professor John Rogers, materials scientist from the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, hopes his team's Biostamp prototypes prove to push biometrics to the next level. Using the Biostamp, they can monitor and identify stimulation functions, such as firing neurons.
Before the Biostamp and other competing sensors, researchers would need to use complicated and bulky helmets with large amounts of heavy electrodes. These helmets could only be worn for a limited amount of time, in a controlled environment, though the Biostamp could eliminate these hurdles.
"The history of electronics is about getting closer to the individual," Rogers recently said in a statement to CNN. "At first it was a computer down the hall, followed by a desktop, then a laptop, a phone in your pocket and a watch on your wrist. Now it could be electronics integrated the skin, bioelectronics, and fully implantable devices. To go fully into the realm of integrated electronics makes sense to me."
Oculus VR has released the recommended requirements for the Oculus Rift, which will launch in the first quarter of 2016. You'll need an Intel Core i5-4590 or equivalent, along with an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970 or AMD Radeon R9 290 to get an optimal experience out of the VR headset.
The Facebook-owned VR giant has said: "The goal is for all Rift games and applications to deliver a great experience on this configuration. Ultimately, we believe this will be fundamental to VR's success, as developers can optimize and tune their game for a known specification, consistently achieving presence and simplifying development". The full specs you'll need:
- NVIDIA GTX 970 / AMD 290 equivalent or greater
- Intel i5-4590 equivalent or greater
- 8GB+ RAM
- Compatible HDMI 1.3 video output
- 2x USB 3.0 ports
- Windows 7 SP1 or newer
Mark Zuckerberg, CEO and founder of Facebook, says that virtual reality is the next big computing platform. VR is something that Zuckerberg is most looking forward to, in that it will transform the world. Especially since Facebook owns Oculus VR, the makers of the Oculus Rift.
During a town hall hosted at Facebook's HQ in Menlo Park, California, Zuckerberg said: "What I think is going to be really cool is as the form factor keeps on getting smaller and smaller, [it] stops being big goggles or headset. But instead it just looks like normal glasses or sunglasses where you can use it without being tied to a computer".
Zuckerberg sees a world in the not-too-distant future where people won't need to use their phones to show photos to their friends, he added: "In the future you'll be able to snap your fingers and instantiate a photo album or a big photo, make it whatever size you want, and people will be able to see it through their glasses". This won't happen in the short term, but that's something the Facebook founder is very aware of, where he said: "It's going to take five, seven, 10, I don't know, maybe 12 years to build that out and have that be something that really works and is cheap enough for everyone in the world to use".
It looks like Google is expanding its Google Glass team, which is now working on "smart eyewear and other related products". The Mountain View-based giant is hiring a slew of new people to expand its products and services.
With Google going on a hiring spree, we could expect Google Glass 2.0, or a totally new Glass to be unveiled at Google I/O at the end of the month. The company has been posting job listing ads for its Glass team, something that has included an Audio Hardware Manager, a Human Factors Designer, an RF Systems Engineer, and a Hardware Automation Engineer (Manufacturing).
Google has said that it is working on a new version of Glass for consumers, but we haven't heard much about it lately, until now. The new description for the Glass team teases: "The Google Glass division is a world-class team focused on the cutting edge of hardware, software and industrial design. It is charged with pioneering, developing, building and launching smart eyewear and other related products in line with Google's ambitious and visionary objectives".
Microsoft wants to push augmented reality to the next level, and hopes it can use its HoloLens headset to win over customers. A recent US patent application indicates Microsoft could try to use HoloLens to help read and respond to wearers' stress levels, based on heart rate, pulse oximetry, sweat production, and other biometric signals.
"A person may experience stress that is related to a situation or current context," according to the Microsoft patent application. "For example, a person may have difficulty performing a task and grow frustrated as the number of unsuccessful attempts at completing the task grows."
There is concern that the biometrics feature could be more trouble than it's worth, depending how Microsoft includes it in HoloLens. However, the idea that the AR headset can identify when a person is struggling to repair their kitchen sink, and then super impose step-by-step instructions, could prove to be helpful.