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Monthly Archives: November 2015

  • Fumbling Towards Victory: Virtual Reality's Long and Winding Journey

     

    Image courtesy of Wikipedia Image courtesy of Wikipedia

    The story of VR has been a roller coaster ride. Time and again, it was launched for mainstream consumption amid much frenzy - only for it to fall flat on its virtual face. It got to the point that the term virtual reality became a mere buzz word. Sure, it had its moments, but VR just never seemed to live up to the grand possibilities.

    Here, we examine VR’s journey and how it is finally the success it is today despite all the failures of decades past.

    The Ghosts of Virtual Past: Struggling with Missteps, Price Tags, and Nausea

    The Sensorama. Power Glove. Nintendo (with their Virtual Boy). Virtuality. These are but some (but by no means the only ones) who rode the VR hysteria only to end up… meh. They all seemed nice. Why did they fail then?

    Consider the technological limitations of years gone by and compare that to what we have now. You can talk about potential all you want, but if you don’t have the hardware to back it up, it simply won’t fly. It might be a cop-out and simplistic to pin VR’s past failures on crappy hardware but we’ll do just that.  The technology was downright mediocre.

    Another point we need to consider is the lofty price tag. Was it really worth paying the price if, after mere minutes of usage it made you feel… we’ll get to that on our last point.

    The last point is the nagging issue of nausea. Just one look at all those grainy graphics and you’ll see what we mean. Time and again, the one constant complaint about VR was that it left users feeling sick—and that, perhaps, was what doomed incarnation after incarnation of VR.

    The Saints of Virtual Future: A Matter of Time, Hardware, and Nostalgia

    VR’s nice but how will it succeed this time around?

    For one, we now have the hardware to support a more realistic type of virtuality. Just think about the rate at which technology upgrades. Today, you can buy a mega computer or smartphone. By next week, it’s practically made obsolete by the release of a more sophisticated, slicked-up gadget. The difference with VR is that we are standing at the threshold of all its possibilities with all the available (and affordable!) hardware today. It would be silly not to take advantage of all the potential that VR has.

    Sometimes, it’s also a matter of timing. Perhaps VR just kept getting pushed towards the masses too soon. We’ve discussed in a previous blog post (*feel free to browse through our archive) how pop culture referenced the way VR would shape today’s world. The world wasn’t ready then, but it is now.

    Good things come to those who wait, but it’s also good to take advantage of technological leaps and bounds. VR is no longer just for the youth whose gadgets are practically part of their daily lives. Folks from the 90’s who were let down by the ghosts of virtual past are now finding redemption and utmost satisfaction courtesy of the saints of virtual future.

    So stop us if you’ve heard this one before. Or rather, don’t stop us because we’re telling you right now: Virtual Reality will succeed—and is already succeeding—this time around.
    Love it or not, you can’t deny its formidable presence (*refer to our last 2 blog posts) in today’s world. And with just the right software applications, even the most skeptical of people won’t be able to deny just how far VR has come since its inception all those decades ago.

  • Pushing the Virtual Reality Envelope

    Every now and then, a piece of technology takes a leap forward, and changes what we know about it. Last week, we looked at the pioneers who laid down the foundations of virtual reality. This time, we’ll look at those who are pushing the envelope and are taking VR to greater heights.

    The Dallas Cowboys

    VR has traditionally been linked to gaming. But to use it for sports training? Now that’s innovative. The Dallas Cowboys are turning to VR to help train their quarterbacks. The team hopes that the first-person perspective will aid the playmakers in crucial on-the-fly decision-making.

    Call it a glorified video game. Call it a bunch of barbarians outmuscling each other for a yard or two. Whatever you want to call it, it certainly has received a hi-tech upgrade courtesy of virtual reality.

    Jaunt, Inc.

    The late, great John Lennon may have imagined a lot of things for the betterment of humanity. But even a great mind such as his could never foresee what VR would do for his old buddy, Paul McCartney. The folks over at Jaunt, Inc. have certainly proved that there is more to VR entertainment with their immersive concert experience.

    Now we’re waiting for a full concert to be made available in the near future. Hint, hint.

    Virtual Reality Medical Center

    A person’s mind can determine how he or she perceives reality. With VR, experts can augment and alter the mind to treat it of disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). VR has been used with much success to treat US soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. Through visual representations of Middle Eastern settings, soldiers can confront, and ultimately copy with, trauma.

    Though the treatment still raises eyebrows from some, many advocates argue its effectivity—especially when used with other traditional psychological and psychiatric treatment.

    Los Alamos National Laboratory

    The Chernobyl and Fukushima disasters were some of the worst nuclear-related tragedies in history.  Given the stakes, investing in disaster-prevention and response is of utmost importance.  To help train in emergency response situations, the Los Alamos National Laboratory uses VR to help staff practice on nuclear reactors in a much safer way.

    Facebook and GoPro

    If you’re on Facebook (and who isn’t these days?), you’ve probably seen Mark Zuckerberg’s video upload last November 13th. In it, we see a full, 360-degree surfing video in Tahiti. With their focus on the immersive aspect of videography, you can be sure that they’re standing right on the edge in terms of virtual reality.

  • Five Pioneering Industries For Virtual Reality

    Image courtesy of the British Museum

    History has known many great pioneers. The same rings true for virtual reality. It is a medium that’s transforming the world as we know it—from entertainment to communication to  virtually anything in-between. Not surprisingly, there are industries that blazed a trail and laid a solid foundation for it. Here are five (plus one!) noteworthy industries that did exactly that.

    Music
    Paul McCartney. Jack White. These are but two artists whose live performances have been captured and thus immortalized through VR—courtesy of Jaunt Inc. While some may still argue that video was responsible for killing radio stars of days gone by, we argue that it won’t be the same case for VR because it has the potential to bring any artist—past, present, or future—right to the forefront in full immersive fashion.

    The Arts
    Through various collections of artifacts, museums give visitors a chance to go on an immersive walk through history. So it makes sense for that world to collide with VR. One of the finest moments of virtual reality meets art  was when the British Museum used VR to give visitors a feel for what life was like during the Bronze Age.

    Medicine (Education)
    It is a looming reality in the medical world that there are procedures that doctors rarely perform but must be done with speed and pinpoint accuracy when needed. As such, medicine has seen an increase in the use of medical simulations to prepare medical practitioners. This includes delicate procedures (such as cricothyrectomy) to more common ones (such as CPR). VR allows doctors to practice procedures without the possible consequences.

    Gaming
    There’s just no denying that the gaming industry was and is the most fertile ground upon which VR applications grow, continue to grow, and thrive on. Though the VR console from Sega never came to fruition all those years ago, the seed that was planted definitely took root and sprung like hope eternal as seen in the abundance of gaming apps available today.

    The Adult Industry
    Whenever a new piece of technology comes along, you can be sure that adult entertainment will be right in front of the cue. It is, after all, a multi-million dollar industry that caters to one of humanity’s most primal instincts.

    And as an interesting plus one...

    Politics
    Politics could be a dirtier world than the previous industry. Regardless, President Obama’s virtual appearance  makes it clear that politics and VR can mesh. It might not be far-fetched to think that the 2016 elections can be influenced by it. Just as MTV was utilized for Bill Clinton’s presidential bid back in the nineties as a way to reach the youth, so too can VR play a pivotal role in the 2016 presidential race.

    Virtual reality has always been touted as a "tomorrow" technology; one we could only dream of. With these pioneering industries cashing in on that promise, you can bet your bottom dollar that the dream is now a reality we can enjoy.

  • Virtual & Real: The New York Times Taps Into VR

    Unfolding the New York Times—with a nice cup of coffee on the side—is a morning ritual for many (not just New Yorkers). While it’s cool to get your daily dose of news the traditional way, there are other ways to get the news… such as actually getting inside the news, for instance.

    Recently, the revered broadsheet introduced stunning new VR content under the NYT VR banner. To coincide with the release, the paper gave away over a million free cardboard viewers to its subscribers. It released VR-based stories such as The Displaced (a film that tackled children uprooted by war) and Walking New York (which showed the making of its Walking New York cover with artist JR).

    You may call VR a gimmick, or a fad. But at the moment, we’re only seeing the tip of the VR iceberg. Projects such as NYT VR show the larger potential of this iceberg.

    Machinations and Potential: Redefining the News

    Timeliness and proximity have always been key components in journalism. Think about it- minor events in Timbuktu from a month ago would hardly be of interest to a busy city dweller. Those limitations, however, can be bypassed with VR. Virtual Reality can transport users and put them right smack in the middle of the news when it happens, and (virtually) where it happens.

    Revolution and Evolution: Changing the Media

    Imagine being one of the first to witness recorded news at the dawn of film. The New York Times’ application of VR is yet another milestone in media, and we’re all here to witness it expand.

    The downside? As with traditional ways of delivering the news, journalistic biases can still surface as camera angles can still be used—or abused—to put a spin on news coverage. You know the saying– the more things change…

    Also, one aspect that could use some tweaking is the execution itself. Historically, virtual reality has often flirted with greatness, but most of the executions have failed to live up to that hype. If this isn’t addressed, the marriage between news and VR might be short-lived. Even if the New York Times delivers the most relevant, groundbreaking news through VR, it still wouldn’t make a difference if it doesn’t have an audience to reach out to.

    With the progression of affordable VR hardware in recent years, however, VR already offers a more accessible—and much more “relatable”—experience for users.

    Application: Virtual Reality Finds Practical Application

    To those who think that VR has no practical application, we say we beg to differ and offer this project as proof. The way The New York Times has used VR breathes life into the medium, making it almost unavoidable… and undeniable.

  • Behind the scenes of our design process

    We consider great design a process, not just a result. Our dscvr and XGVR/PC headsets took form after repeated sketching, rendering, and tinkering. We wouldn’t have reached that final design without going through a ton of initial, exploratory designs. That’s why we value the design process.

    To give you an idea about our process, here are the steps the dscvr headset took, from conceptualization to production.

    Get messy

    This is the freest, most fan part of the process. We just empty our brains onto the paper. No editing, no critiquing. Just get those ideas out.

    1 Initial ideas for a VR viewer that would end up being the dscvr headset.

     

    Cull your ideas

    This is the least fun part of the design process. We look at our initial designs with a critical eye, toss out what doesn't work, and consider those with potential. As writers would say: write in white heat, revise in cold blood.

    2 From the torrent of initial ideas, we focused on a design that had a slot for smartphones.

    Refine, refine, refine... then refine some more

    We liked the idea of putting a slot for smartphones, but felt that it could still be improved upon. Subsequent rounds of design took us far from that idea. We moved forward with a silicone flap that grips the smartphone. And while the production model of the dscvr uses that flap, even that went through several iterations before being finalized.

    4 This sketch also shows our plan for the headset's input method.

     

    Rendering  

    Once we were satisfied with our concepts, we rendered the headset. This gave the design a clearer form, and enabled us to take the design to the next stage.

    IMG_1584 A rendered design enabled us to fine-tune the dscvr headset's spring-loaded chassis.

    Prototyping

    After the seemingly endless rounds of sketching, rendering, and brainstorming. It's time to create the first prototypes. This is where our ideas take shape and, most importantly, are put to the test.

     

    11940343_10153078318236272_1526810152_n Prototype frames.

     

    Packaging

    Even the packaging isn't spared from critique. We initially thought of a "cheeseburger" case for the dscvr headset.  We nixed that idea in favor of a more streamlined package that also served as a carrying case for the viewer.

    IMG_1562 Want a cheeseburger?

    The final product

    After all those steps, here is the final product - the dcsvr headset. We're super-psyched the headset made it all the way to production. We're also excited for you to try it. Pre-orders are now open at our shop. Check it out!

    input The finish line.

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