Monthly Archives: September 2018

Star Wars Virtual Reality Series Announced for Oculus Quest

ILMxLab, the immersive storytelling arm of Lucasfilm, has announced “Vader Immortal: A Star Wars VR Series” this week at Oculus Connect 5 in San Jose, CA.

The three-part immersive story will debut in 2019 on the new Oculus Quest VR headset.

“Our mission at ILMxLAB is to have fans ‘Step Inside Our Stories,’ and Vader Immortal: A Star Wars VR Series represents a significant step forward in that ongoing quest,” says Vicki Dobbs Beck, ILMxLAB Executive in Charge. “Our friends at Oculus share ILMxLAB’s ambition to bring compelling immersive narratives to life, and using Oculus’ hardware, we will invite fans to experience Darth Vader as never before.”

ILMxLAB has produced several Star Wars themed VR experiences, including Star Wars: Secrets of the Empire (a “hyper-reality” experience available at The VOID). This new VR series will provide a high-profile example of interactive cinematic storytelling.

Additional information is available via Oculus.



Facebook announces new Oculus Quest Standalone VR Headset

Yesterday at Oculus Connect in San Jose, Facebook unveiled a new standalone virtual reality headset, the Oculus Quest. Calling it their first “all-in-one VR gaming system,” the Quest will not require a connected PC. It will include two Touch controllers (similar to the Oculus Rift), as well as provide six degrees of freedom (the ability to look and move in any direction in a virtual environment).

Priced at $399, the Quest will be available in Spring 2019 (no specific date announced yet). It will have the same resolution as Oculus Go: 1,600 x 1,440 pixels per eye, and include 64GB of onboard storage. It will use “inside-out” positional tracking via the use of four external cameras on the headset itself.

According to Facebook, the Quest completes their first generation of headsets:

With the introduction of Oculus Quest, we’ve completed our first generation of best-in-class VR headsets. Oculus Go remains the easiest and most affordable way to get into VR, while Oculus Rift leverages the power of your PC to push the limits of what’s possible. Thanks to Oculus Quest, we’re now able to combine the best of both worlds and welcome even more people into the VR community.

The new headset was previously known as “Santa Cruz” in earlier demos. More information is available at the Oculus website.



SeaWorld Orlando Gets Rid of VR Goggles on Roller Coaster (Thank Goodness!)

Hopefully, this marks the beginning of the end for virtual reality headsets on real-life roller coasters.

From the Associated Press (Sept. 21, 2018):

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — SeaWorld Orlando has gotten rid of virtual reality headsets that were installed on its Kraken Unleashed roller coaster a little more than a year ago.

News outlets report that park officials have confirmed that the headsets, which disappeared last month, are gone for good.

SeaWorld debuted the VR headsets last June as a way to freshen up the ride, which originally opened in 2000. The VR story followed the rollercoaster’s movements as a virtual submarine evaded deep-sea creatures.

Park officials say cleaning and adjusting the goggles was slowing down the lines too much.

In my opinion, this was just a bad idea to begin with. Roller coasters are exciting enough without the need for virtual reality. I am fully supportive of VR at theme parks, but the venue and experience should be appropriate for the technology. In this case, the added hassle of equipping riders with headsets outweighed any perceived enhancement to the experience itself.

Hopefully other VR-enhanced roller coasters will follow suit, and realize the failure of this experiment.


Roy Kachur is a Media Technologist, IT Architect, and VR Evangelist. He has worked in the information technology field since the 1990’s, and in the media industry since 2014. He believes that VR will play a significant role in the future of media.


Spacial Reality Exhibit Explores the Future of XR

The sp[a]ce art gallery in Pasadena, CA will host “Spatial Reality: Artists Explore the Future of XR,” from October 12th to 28th.

Curated by Jesse Damiani, the exhibit will feature works by artists exploring VR, AR, and MR including Wesley AllsbrookBill BarminskiCan BüyükberberNancy Baker CahillIsaac “Cabbibo” CohenJorge R. GutierrezDrue KataokaKevin MackSteve Teeps, Michael Scroggins and more.

According to Damiani:

XR—a spectrum of ‘extended’ reality that includes virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR)—three-dimensionalizes the virtual world. After a half-century of computing in 2D, we are suddenly adding in the full expression of our bodies and our understanding of space.

The advent of mainstream immersive technologies is the single greatest amplification of human capability since the discovery of fire, a paradigm shift so massive we’ve only just begun to taste its impact. Marshall McLuhan famously claimed that “the medium is the message”—that the “message” inherent in any technology is the change of pace or pattern it introduces into human reality.

Further information is available at


Ringling Offers BFA Degree in Virtual Reality Development

Ringling College of Art and Design (Sarasota, FL) is offering a new Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Virtual Reality Development.

Ringling College’s Virtual Reality Development students will pioneer and push forward advancements in a new—and explosive—medium for art and artists. As a student of this complete undergraduate program, the first of its kind in the world of art and design, you will learn to design, create, and analyze immersive experiences in countless industries, including gaming, healthcare, architecture, advertising, and education.

Here is a snapshot of the curriculum:Virtual-Reality-Development-Curriculum-Map-2018-2019

Further information can be found at Ringling’s website.


The Promise of Location-Based Virtual Reality (VR)

Over the past four years, virtual reality (VR) has established itself in the consciousness of tech enthusiasts worldwide. Unfortunately, mainstream consumers have yet to fully embrace the wonders of VR, mainly due to pricing, content, and usability issues. The technology itself is still developing, with various form factors and features that have not been fully standardized. The variety of VR device types (mobile, tethered, PC- or PS4- connected) leaves the average consumer overwhelmed and confused. Mainstream adoption for home users will only be achieved when the available options are narrowed down, and pricing vs. content are more reasonably balanced.

Meanwhile, VR has been moving quickly in another direction. As the home market struggles to take hold with consumers, the location based entertainment (LBE) market is beginning to establish a foothold with consumers looking for more “out of home” entertainment options.

Home vs. Away

One of the main issues preventing VR’s popularity with home users is a lack of space to fully enjoy it. Although “room scale” VR is possible at home, the average consumer is constrained by their environment. Most users of high-end “tethered” devices are using their headsets in an office, family room, or other shared space in the home. It’s unlikely that they’ve cleared the room of furniture and other items to facilitate an optimal room-scale experience.

As a result, most home users are experiencing VR from a seated position, or while standing in place. This is fine for most VR content, but the true potential of VR lies in its ability to transport us to other places, and let us move freely within them. Most VR games and apps incorporate “teleportation” as a means to allow users to hop from place to place in a virtual environment. Others enable “smooth locomotion,” which is more like movement in the real world, allowing you to “slide” in different directions at walking or running speed. The latter method may result in motion sickness for some users, hence the option for teleportation as a more comfortable transport system.

Most of the above issues are not a problem with location based, or “free roam” VR. Currently available at venues such as The VOID or Dreamscape Immersive, these experiences are often presented in “warehouse-scale” environments. Participants must wear a backpack computer along with a VR headset, as well as a haptic vest or other peripheral device. Depending on the technology available, users have virtually unlimited freedom of movement, albeit in a “guided” experience that usually follows a specific narrative.

VRcades – a good idea?

Premium out-of-home VR experiences like The VOID are the exception rather than the rule. Besides these high-end venues, there are also locations where users can experience basic VR content in an arcade-like environment. These are known as “VRcades,” and usually offer content similar to what users can find at home (360 videos and other VR apps on the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive or Oculus Go.)

Because these venues are offering content that is also available at home, it’s questionable whether they can be successful without offering some premium experiences (with “free roam” content, omni-directional treadmills, or other location specific features). Dave and Buster’s has been extremely successful with this approach, and plans to increase their deployment of VR attractions in the near future.

At best, the VRcades will help to introduce more people to VR and get them to try a headset, with the hope that they will eventually purchase their own device when it becomes affordable.

If we build it, will they come?

Even though location based VR can offer amazing experiences above and beyond what’s possible at home, will enough people be interested to try it (and pay for it)? In my opinion, yes. But there are several key factors that must be in place to ensure success:

  1. Effective marketing
  2. Reasonable pricing
  3. Comfortable experience
  4. Easy on/off process
  5. Efficient throughput
  6. Amazing content
  7. Testing, testing, testing!

Charlie Fink has written an excellent article covering all the current free roam VR companies, and offering further ideas for success in this emerging market.

Ultimately, VR will successfully establish a foothold with home users, as well as in the out-of-home market. However, it seems likely that “free roam” VR experiences will only be possible at outside venues for the time being. It’s possible that advanced multiplayer technology may one day allow home users to participate remotely, using teleportation or smooth locomotion to play together with users at other locations. Imagine a future VR version of World of Warcraft, where players could participate remotely from home or directly in groups at a free-roam VR location.

Five years from now, immersive technology will bring us closer to experiencing the Oasis of Ready Player One. With the continuing success of location based VR, that future may finally become a (virtual) reality.


Roy Kachur is a Media Technologist, IT Architect, and VR Evangelist. He has worked in the information technology field since the 1990’s, and in the media industry since 2014. He believes that VR will play a significant role in the future of media.


FRONTLINE and Emblematic Group Publish Best Practices for VR Journalism

Based on three years of experience collaborating on immersive journalism projects, FRONTLINE and Emblematic Group have published their best practices for virtual reality journalism.

The report is an in-depth guide to all aspects of VR journalism, including:

  • State of the Technology
  • Opportunities and Challenges
  • Research
  • Guiding Principles

From the Introduction:

For the last three years, journalists, producers, designers and engineers from FRONTLINE and Emblematic Group have worked together to produce two VR experiences that each deploy the power of fully immersive, room-scale VR in the service of deeply reported narrative journalism. As part of the initiative, The Media Impact Project, a research organization at USC’s Annenberg Norman Lear Center which studies the impact of media on society, conducted testing exploring how the new technology being used by FRONTLINE and Emblematic engages and informs audiences.

What follows are the lessons gleaned throughout this collaborative effort, shared to foster future opportunities for meaningful immersive journalism, and to help establish standards to guide other journalists and media organizations participating in this developing field.

The complete report can be found here.


PGA TOUR Championship to be broadcast in Virtual Reality

For golf and VR fans, the final FedExCup playoff event of this year will be broadcast in virtual reality (VR).

Coverage will be available on four different platforms:

  • Twitter via @PGATOUR
  • Periscope via @PGATOUR
  • The PGA TOUR mobile app
  • Samsung Gear VR via PGA TOUR VR Live Oculus app

The PGA Tour has partnered with Intel to deliver live virtual reality events since 2017, and are planning future events for next year.

Further details and instructions for watching in VR can be found at the PGA Tour website.



SCAD Offers Immersive Reality Degree program at Savannah Campus

The Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) is now offering a BFA degree in Immersive Reality.

According to SCADworks, the official SCAD blog:

SCAD is at the vanguard of augmented, virtual and mixed reality education. In 2017, the university announced SCAD+, a business launcher for gaming and digital products. The yearlong entrepreneurial program is designed to help SCAD alumni develop viable, tech-driven businesses. One of the inaugural SCAD+ projects is the VR game “TSA Frisky,” created by alumni Remy Bustani (B.F.A., sequential art, 2017), Preston O’Bryan (B.A., interactive design and game development, 2017), and Christian Willet (B.A., interactive design and game development, 2017), where players enter the role of airport security agents and earn points while demonstrating the practical everyday applications of the technology.

The following courses are offered in the Bachelor of Fine Arts, Immersive Reality major curriculum:

  • ARVR 110 Immersive Revolution: Augmented to Virtual Reality
  • MOME 130 Motion Media Design Techniques I
  • SNDS 208 Immersive Sound Design
  • VSFX 210 Digital Visual Effects
  • ITGM 236 Core Principles: Game Art
  • ANIM 250 Digital Form, Space and Lighting
  • ITGM 220 Core Principles: Programming
  • MOME 221 Virtual Reality for Motion Media
  • ITGM 266 Core Principles: Game Tech
  • ARVR 300 Game Engine Applications for Immersive Computing
  • ARVR 305 Visual Effects for Immersive Environments
  • FILM 343 Visual Storytelling: Virtual Reality to Interactive
  • SDGM 310 Integration of Immersive Realities
  • TECH 312 Advanced Application Scripting
  • ITGM 347 Applied Principles: Physical Computing
  • VSFX 375 Advanced Programming for Visual Effects
  • ARVR 440 Immersive Reality Professional Portfolio
  • ARVR 471 Immersive Game Lab
  • ARVR 472 Immersive Animation Lab
  • ARVR 473 Immersive Film Lab
  • ARVR 474 Augmented Reality Lab
  • ARVR 475 Immersive Innovation Lab

More information is available at SCAD’s website.


Jurassic World VR is Dave and Buster’s Biggest Game Launch Ever

According to Variety, since launching in June of this year “Jurassic World VR Expedition” is the biggest game launch in Dave and Buster’s history:

Betting on virtual reality (VR) seems to be working out for Dave & Buster’s: The company’s new “Jurassic World VR Expedition” ride has turned into the biggest game launch in the company’s history, CEO Brian Jenkins revealed during Dave & Buster’s Q2 2018 earnings call Friday.

“Guest response has been strong and bodes well for future game releases on this platform,” Jenkins said, adding that the company planned to launch a second VR title towards the end of the year. “The plan is to build a library of VR content that allow us to capitalize on this opportunity for years to come,” he said.

Location Based Entertainment (LBE) continues to be a lucrative market for virtual reality content. Other venues such as The VOID, Two Bit Circus, and Dreamscape Immersive continue to popularize “out-of-home” virtual reality. The lower price point and capability for enhanced experiences (not possible at home) have resonated with mainstream audiences as well as VR enthusiasts.

The full article can be found at Variety.


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