Monthly Archives: October 2018

Roddenberry Wants to Create Star Trek’s Holodeck in Real Life

Rod Roddenberry (son of the late Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry) has partnered with cloud-based graphics company OTOY and holographic display startup Light Field Lab to build a real-life version of Star Trek’s “Holodeck.”

Roddenberry believes that advanced holographic technology exists today that will enable the creation of a Holodeck, as depicted on the TV show. Originally seen on Star Trek: The Next Generation, the Holodeck is a science fictional depiction of advanced virtual reality. Scenarios can be programmed into a computer and then “created” in a physical space. Holodeck users are able to see, touch and interact with holographic characters, objects, and environments.

Is it really possible?

Star Trek’s holodeck uses fictional transporter technology to physically transform matter into any object imaginable, including holographic humans and other physical objects. Such technology could enable the creation of an infinite number of interactive scenarios. On the TV show, the holodeck was used for recreation by the Enterprise crew, who would participate in games or adventures in various settings from literature, history, or fantasy. It’s the ultimate depiction of virtual reality. But it is possible in real life?

Although Roddenberry’s plans are ambitious, in practical terms the technology would only enable visual elements using large holographic display panels. It’s doubtful if any tactile component of these holograms would be possible, since the re-creation of physical matter is only possible in the realm of science fiction.

No headset required

According to a press release on October 22nd, the Holodeck will not require a VR headset or other device to be worn by users. It will make use of Light Field Lab’s “revolutionary headgear-free holographic displays and OTOY’s ORBX Technology, the industry’s first open source and royalty free format for rendering media and real time graphics on Light Field Lab’s holographic display panels.”

Light Field Lab’s initial prototype modules will scale to form larger holographic video walls with hundreds of gigapixels of light field resolution setting the standard for fully immersive holographic experiences. OTOY’s blockchain GPU compute network (RNDR) will provide the scale to make rendering holographic content for these experiences widely available for the first time. Light Field Lab started demonstrating holographic prototypes with OTOY-rendered content earlier this year to leading industry stakeholders including Endeavor, Roddenberry Entertainment and Richard Kerris, former CTO of Lucasfilm and Advisor to OTOY.

Realizing Gene Roddenberry’s dream

Rod Roddenberry is the CEO of Roddenberry Entertainment (which his father started in 1967). His is currently working with Endeavor CEO Ari Emanuel to develop content for the Holodeck.

“The concept of the Holodeck was extremely important to my father as well as the Star Trek Universe,” said Rod Roddenberry about his late father, Gene Roddenberry, the creator of Star Trek. “I want to see Star Trek’s technologies made real, and for the very first time, now believe that a real Holodeck is no longer limited to science fiction. Although it’s early days, my father would be beyond excited to know his vision is coming into reality thanks to OTOY’s trailblazing light field rendering, and the revolutionary holographic display systems created at Light Field Lab.”

Image credit: Future vision concept art of room scale holographic display from Light Field Lab, Inc.

 

Oculus Co-Founder Quits the Company. What Does This Mean for VR?

Let’s talk about this.

Brendan Iribe, Oculus co-founder and former CEO, has announced that he is leaving Oculus (a division of Facebook) after six years.

TechCrunch reports that his departure is a result of Facebook’s cancellation of the “Rift 2” VR headset, which Iribe’s team had been working on.  This was denied by Facebook, who told Variety that they are continuing plans for a future Rift headset.

With their recent announcement of Oculus Quest (a new standalone, wireless VR headset) has Facebook effectively killed off “tethered” VR devices? With the launch of Oculus Go earlier this year, and now the Quest (planned for next year), the company appears to have re-focused on standalone mobile headsets.

Facebook aims to make VR more accessible and affordable, but killing PC-based VR would severely limit their ability to deliver high-quality content that’s only possible with a powerful PC and graphics processor.

Here is Iribe’s Facebook post announcing his departure.

See below for more on this story from various sources:

 

My Trip to the VOID: Star Wars Virtual Reality

In October 2018, I had an opportunity to try The VOID’s virtual reality attraction “Star Wars: Secrets of the Empire” at Disney Springs in Lake Buena Vista, Florida.

The VOID is one of the top creators of “location based” virtual reality (VR) experiences. They have built facilities at a number of locations around the world, and are adding more as we speak. In addition to the Star Wars attraction, they also offer a VR adventure in the world of Ghostbusters, as well as a horror-themed attraction, “Nicodemus: Demon of Evanishment” (whatever that means).

This was not my first time at a VOID attraction. I had previously visited the Ghostbusters experience at Madame Tussaud’s in New York City, and had a fantastic time. This time, I was looking forward to going inside the world of Star Wars, through the magic of virtual reality.

The venue

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Disney Springs is a busy place, and I was a bit concerned about the crowds. I did not make a reservation in advance, but decided to drop in around noon on a busy Friday in October. At the reservation desk, I asked if I should reserve a time later in the day, or just go in now. Surprisingly, the attendant said there was a group starting in a few minutes which I could join immediately. I was by myself, so I would be grouped with three random participants. I was given a wristband with my identification as “REBEL Roy.” The price (with tax) came to $37.94.

wristband - Copy

After registration, I had to sign a liability waiver using one of the iPads on one side of the lobby. Personally, I wasn’t too concerned about dying in VR. After all, this wasn’t an episode of Black Mirror. I was just here to have a good time!

Gearing up

There was a short delay while the group in front of us took a bit longer inside the attraction, but ultimately we were underway in about twenty minutes. We entered in two groups of four, and proceeded to the introduction area. Large viewscreens were displayed on both sides of the room, with each group of four facing their own screen. First we had to activate our wristbands (using iPads mounted on pedestals in front of the screen) and select a color scheme for our stormtrooper armor, which would be visible in the virtual environment. This would enable us to identify each other inside the experience.

An introduction film played simultaneously on both screens, with the audio piped in via speakers throughout the room. We would all be disguised as stormtroopers (in virtual reality, of course), and tasked to infiltrate an Imperial base. Our mission briefing was provided by Cassian Andor (played by Diego Luna in 2016’s Rogue One: A Star Wars Story). After the short introductory film, we were escorted into the next room.

This is where we were instructed to put on our gear, which consisted of a vest/backpack and a VR headset with built-in headphones and a flip-up visor. The attendant ensured that each of us were properly fitted and fully ready to go. Once ready, we were escorted into the attraction proper and told to lower our visors to begin the experience.

Amusement and amazement

Without giving away any major spoilers, the basic story involves meeting a few characters from the Star Wars universe (good guys and bad guys), and blasting at various enemies while walking around different environments on a lava planet. The most fun part of the experience is actually seeing yourself and your companions dressed as stormtroopers, and bumping into each other as you try to get through doors, across bridges and around various droids and other Star Wars props. Although I had just met my companions for the first time, we all laughed a lot just navigating through the experience. I’m sure it would be even more fun with close friends and family members (Grandma? – maybe not).

What sets the VOID apart, besides the ability to roam freely in a VR world, is the multi-sensory experience. Early in your adventure, you pick up a blaster rifle (an actual object in the real world, which looks like a stormtrooper rifle in VR). You feel the wind and heat when you travel on a troop transport over the lava planet. You can touch other real objects (walls, railings, even droids), while your VR stormtrooper hand touches them in the virtual world. The haptic vests provide feedback from blaster fire, and other environmental effects. All of these things add up to an amazing experience that you simply can’t have with at-home VR technology.

There were moments when I truly experienced a sense of “presence” in VR, where I felt like I was actually in another place. As I traversed a narrow platform high over a lava lake, I took baby steps for fear of falling over the edge. As I was blasting enemies with with my stormtrooper rifle, it felt as real as if I were actually in a Star Wars movie.

A few (minor) issues

Overall, the VOID’s Star Wars attraction is the best experience I’ve had till now in VR. Admittedly, there were a few times when the virtual imagery was out of sync, or there seemed to be a lag when my companions would appear to jump forward  or “slide” instead of walking more naturally. These cases were few and far between, and did not take away from my overall enjoyment of the experience.

Unfortunately, there was a point towards the end of the adventure (which lasted around 10-12 minutes), where we got stuck. In one of the final rooms, the end scene did not trigger properly, and we couldn’t figure out what to do next. Open a door? Hit a droid on the head? Eventually, an attendant had to escort us out of the experience, and allowed us to start over. In my case, I didn’t have time to go through again, but thankfully I was given a voucher for a free experience on a future date.

Given the advanced technology required for free-roam virtual reality, it’s understandable that there may be some hiccups or bugs as VR continues to develop and improve. However, the potential is enormous, and I expect that this type of attraction will proliferate worldwide in the months and years ahead.

 

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.

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Virtual Reality Pioneer Jaunt Gives Up on VR

Let’s talk about this.

In a blog post released on Monday, cinematic VR pioneer Jaunt (formerly JauntVR) announced they are laying off a significant portion of staff and re-focusing on Augmented Reality (AR). They will be “winding down a number of VR products and content services in the coming weeks.”

The post, entitled “The Future of Jaunt is AR,” provides the company’s rationale for making this change:

Today we announced that Jaunt will be focusing efforts on further developing technologies that allow for the scaled creation of AR content. This decision is driven by the exciting initial customer response to our recent advancements in volumetric XR technology and the experience and capabilities of our world-class team.

We believe these changes will allow us to concentrate on driving innovation and value in products that will continue to be at the forefront of the immersive industry and drive the highest long-term company value. Jaunt will continue to build innovative software utilizing our strong engineering team in San Mateo and our new Chicago-based engineering colleagues who joined us as part of our recent acquisition of the Personify Teleporter technology.

This is not only disappointing, but ultimately misguided. Unfortunately, in the early days of 360 video, Jaunt lost traction to competitor NextVR, who established key partnerships with sports leagues and entertainment companies to produce live content in virtual reality. Jaunt’s professional 360 camera (the Jaunt One) was too expensive and unwieldy to be practical for use in the field. Consumer 360 cameras and “prosumer” models like the Insta360 Pro quickly established themselves as equally capable for the job at hand.

Understandably, Jaunt needs to stay in business and is looking to stay relevant by pivoting to AR (which currently appears to be “hotter” than VR). But abandoning VR completely sends an unfortunate message to the immersive media community that VR is no longer relevant. Location based VR continues to develop rapidly on a global basis. These venues offer tremendous opportunities for licensing partnerships with major media companies and other content providers.

VR video continues to offer enormous potential for media and entertainment, especially as consumer headsets such as the Oculus Go become more affordable and available. NextVR has just announced their new schedule of NBA basketball games for 2018-19, including availability in Oculus Venues (the shared VR video application for Oculus headsets).

As one of the early pioneers of “Cinematic VR” (a term they coined), Jaunt made many important contributions during the new renaissance of virtual reality. It’s too bad they didn’t hang on for the long haul.

 

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.

 

Oculus to Invest in Location Based Virtual Reality

According to Variety, Facebook’s VR subsidiary Oculus is looking to invest in location-based VR. They expect that partnerships with out-of-home virtual reality providers will help to sell VR headsets for home users.

Since acquiring Oculus in the spring of 2014, Facebook has focused mainly on development of VR hardware such as the Oculus Rift, Oculus Go, and Oculus Quest. With this new approach, the company is officially embracing the out-of-home VR market. This is consistent with an overall trend in the VR marketplace, as home usage has still not reached mainstream adoption levels.

Oculus has for some time worked with a few marquee partners in location-based entertainment. Most notably, Disney-backed VR startup the Void has been using modified Oculus headsets for its VR experience centers. Oculus further validated that partnership by inviting the Void to last week’s Oculus Connect conference, where the startup showed off its latest “Star Wars: Secrets of the Empire” experience to attendees.

That experience could also be a blueprint for how Oculus is going to approach location-based entertainment: Instead of just offering scaled-down versions of those experiences for users at home, the company may rely on companion pieces to tie in-home and out-of-home VR together.

This is an exciting development for VR overall, as a combination of in-home and out-of-home experiences can only provide more options for customers.

Variety‘s article can be found here.

 

USA Network Releases Mobile AR App for “The Purge”

Released as a companion mobile game for their new horror TV series, The Purge augmented reality (AR) app is now available for Apple and Android devices.

The Purge AR app allows you to “scan your space with your phone and then add defenses to make your room Purge-worthy (think: barbed wire and bear traps).” Once your room is protected, you will face increasingly difficult stages and earn better objects to safeguard your environment.

Based on the hit movie franchise from Blumhouse Productions, The Purge revolves around a 12-hour period when all crime, including murder, is legal. Set in an altered America ruled by a totalitarian political party, the series follows several seemingly unrelated characters living in a small city. As the clock winds down, each character is forced to reckon with their past as they discover how far they will go to survive the night. New episodes air every Tuesday night on USA at 10/9c!

More information and download links are available at USA’s website.