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My Virtual Reality Collection was, and still is, being featured on Google+. I want to welcome all of you who've started following it and I thank you. The Collection is primarily a place where I post VR and AR news stories, but I also post YouTube videos that work in Cardboard, and I post about my experiences in VR. My experiences are so far limited to Google Cardboard, Gear VR, and the Theta and Theta S 360° cameras by Ricoh. I hope to broaden my experiences and share them here.

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Pixar's first VR experience is coming soon

It's called Coco VR, related to the movie Coco that releases on November 22. And by "coming soon" I mean it's starting a promotional tour of the US, then releasing on Rift on November 15 and Gear VR on November 22. The promotional tour will take it to Día de los Muertos festivals, select Disney Stores, and select movie theaters. Details aren't fully available but it looks like the experience will have a heavy connection with Facebook so you can share the world with your friends.

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The Major Announcements from Oculus Connect 4

Oculus Rift price is now $399, down from $499
Oculus Go is a new standalone headset. It’s designed to compete with Daydream and Gear VR but doesn’t require a phone. Rotational tracking only, 3 DoF controller, 1440p LCD panel, audio drivers built into straps, runs almost all Gear VR apps. Early 2018, $200.
Oculus Santa Cruz is a new standalone headset. It’s designed to enter into the field of higher end VR for people without VR PCs – to compete with the Rift, Vive, and Windows Mixed Reality. Dev kits release in 2018. Maybe this one won’t so much compete with the Rift but replace it.
Rift Core 2.0 The system software for Rift has been completely overhauled and this new version, 2.0, will arrive in December. Here are the major changes:
Oculus Avatars 2.0: more options for colors and clothes, going cross-platform with Daydream and Steam in 2018
Oculus Dash: new made-for-touch UI, allows use of desktop windows within VR, updates the Home app laucher ane menu that appears when you press the Oculus button.
Oculus Home 2.0: it’s going to be customizable and interactive.
– Improved blocking system
– More details:

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Cambodia uses VR to train bomb disposal techs

An excellent use of the tech! The firm that's making this possible, Golden West Humanitarian Foundation, actually provides a suite of high tech solutions that are all used in conjunction.

"A lab in Cambodia is using cutting-edge technologies such as virtual reality, augmented reality, machine learning, swarm robotics and 3-D printing to try and revolutionize bomb disposal."

In addition to handling virtual bombs and living through the experience, "the other major benefit is that instructors can rapidly create a vast number of completely different bomb disposal scenarios to train students on various pressures they might encounter in the field — in a similar way to flight simulators."

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Google refreshes Daydream View

They've added custom lenses for a wider field of view and a heat sink to keep your phone cooler while in the headset. They've also modified the design to make it more comfortable. It'll be available later this year for $100. More info on their blog:

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Samsung announces HMD Odyssey for Windows VR

It's one of the bigger and more expensive headsets designed for Windows Mixed Reality platform, but it comes with top of the line specs. The other OEMs are making headsets very near to the reference design, but Samsung put in major optics and made other improvements. According to Engadget it'll be worth the $500 price tag:

"The HMD Odyssey is equipped with dual 3.5-inch AMOLED displays, each of which have a 1,440 x 1,600 resolution with a refresh rate of 90 to 60 hertz. The result is a brilliantly sharp and crisp virtual environment -- when I took a brief Holotour of Machu Picchu, I genuinely felt like I was there, floating above the mountains on a hot air balloon. Color reproduction is fantastic, and there was none of the screendoor effect that so often plagues VR headsets of lesser quality. The 110-degree field of view also contributes to the feeling of immersion, which is especially apparent when viewing 360-degree videos and photos."

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AltspaceVR lives!

They closed in July and immediately went into secretive talks. There was speculation that Palmer Luckey would buy them and keep them alive, but that didn't come to pass. Today is was revealed that Microsoft has bought AltspaceVR.

“AltspaceVR will stay AltspaceVR. Microsoft is most interested in preserving the current community that uses AltspaceVR to connect and interact with new and old friends. These first few months will focus on fostering our community and making sure AltspaceVR remains a friendly, welcoming and vibrant place to hang out in virtual reality. AltspaceVR will continue to work on PC and Mac in 2D mode, HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, Daydream by Google, and Samsung Gear VR,” says a Microsoft spokesperson.

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I would like a good horror VR app for parties

Every year I look forward to October 1 because that’s the day I get to start with Halloween. The decorations, the music, the movies, and all the spoopy stuff – October 1 is when that begins. Some years we start planning ahead and other years, like this one, we’re sort of behind. I’ve only just started thinking about having friends over to play some horror in VR. Over the last year we’ve held a few gatherings that were PSVR-centric and those experiences have revealed certain titles are better for group play than others. Sadly, horror titles so far haven’t made the list of good group play. I have a friend who has specifically requested playing Resident Evil 7: Biohazard (RE7), but I don’t think that will happen in a group setting. Sure, it’ll be fun to watch him jump, but the game itself is mostly incompatible for showing many people a good time. I know that there’s been a long and sustained call for quality long-form VR, but there’s also a need for quality short-form too.

The same friend that wants to play Resident Evil 7 in VR also really wanted to play Batman: Arkham VR (B:A VR). He got that experience but it was drag for everyone else in the room. After I completed B:A VR for the first time I remember being really excited, but it also felt too short. When my friend went through it he was removed from the party for about an hour while he worked through it. At that time, from my perspective as the host, the experience felt too long. One person monopolized the PSVR for an hour. When he was done he was sweaty and VR weary and that was basically it for him at the party. He had a great time and I’m glad he did, but the duration of the experience kept others from using it. The game has breaks built into it, but they’re not obvious when you’re going through it and plus he really wanted to experience it in full. I suspect he’ll want the same thing from Resident Evil 7 – and that’s a considerably longer experience. It’s possible that, like me, he’ll get so spooked in RE7 that he can’t continue beyond a certain point. Even if he can’t, though, RE7 isn’t a good choice for a party.

When I first got Farpoint I played for as long as I could stand it. I got pretty deep into the campaign. When my friends came over to try it I was really reluctant to let them at first because I didn’t want them to affect my position. The good people at Impulse Gear who made Farpoint had my back. They built in non-campaign experiences. My friends got to try those. We all had a good time and I didn’t need to stress. One of the other problems with Resident Evil 7 is that it’s all campaign play. When my friend tries it he either advances my play or starts again at the beginning. I’m okay with him starting over because I wussed out so early on, but it’s just another strike against the game as being something fun at parties.

Some games are a lot of fun to watch the player and to watch their progress on the television. Single track games aren’t those type. Watching someone play The Heist reduces the experience for the next person to try it, whereas Carnival Games VR is improved by having friends watch and compete. I think horror games can get away with being single track. They create such as sense of stress to the person wearing the goggles that those watching the TV can still go second and get an equivalent stress, which really is part of the fun of VR horror. The problem would come with people watching campaign play and seeing secrets revealed that take away from the experience of going second.

Last year in October I didn’t have the PSVR so I got my horror VR fix with my Gear VR. There’s an app called Face Your Fears that really worked for me. It’s a series of short experiences that are similar but not interconnected. There’s a main menu from which you select which experience you want, you experience it, and you’re back at the main menu. The experiences have you seated in place as the room around you becomes possessed or otherwise moves you around. Each one concludes with a jump scare to provide the thrill. It’s a good Gear VR app, but I wouldn’t call it good horror. Jump scares are cheap. I wouldn’t use this app as the cornerstone of a VR horror party, but it is the blueprint of what I think a good VR horror party app would look like. All of the experiences would be designed to be short form; I don’t know the exact duration but something that lets the headset move around a few times in an hour. The experiences would each be standalone, with each one comprised of a complete story. There would be enough experiences that they wouldn’t need to be duplicated. Again, I don’t know an exact, but something that can be played for a couple or three hours before repetition is required. If they really wanted to get fancy they’d let the people watching on the TV interact with the goggled player, much like how Playroom VR allows.

There are VR horror experiences that I think will work for party play. I’m looking at Arizona Sunshine’s non-campaign play and Until Dawn: Rush of Blood. The latter is all campaign play, but as far as I’ve gotten into the game it all feels more like different levels than a building story. I’m okay with that. I don’t own all of the horror apps because VR horror is mostly too intense for me, so I still have a few to research. Maybe some of what I haven’t tried is just the thing. All I know is here at the beginning of October I’d like some more good quality, short form horror that I can share with friends while we take turns under the goggles.

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Cisco Spark in VR moves from concept to "early access"

Back in March, Cisco Spark announced that they were making a virtual reality add-on for their existing communication/productivity tool. Their existing does a bunch of stuff like allowing people to share screens, ease into conference calls, and all that stuff that modern businesses would want. They've gone one step further now by creating a virtual shared space that your avatar can visit if you own a Rift. In the space you can manipulate objects including menus, shared screens, a white board, and you can interact with other people in the space. It's feeling a lot like the 21st century.

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Students can look for housing in VR

University Cribs offers students looking for housing in 30 UK cities the ability to see potential flats in 360° walk-throughs before deciding on which to rent. They can explore dwellings from the comfort of their existing home. When I was a kid the process involved the newspaper, a printed map, and a drive-by. This is a great idea.

"Having recently secured £450,000 GBP in seed funding, University Cribs has created an end-to-end solution for letting agents and other accommodation providers, to supply 360-degree photography, image stitching and VR tour creation to help better showcase their properties. This has been done because University Cribs conducted research earlier this year that found 71 percent of students are likely to book a physical viewing after they’ve had a virtual tour."
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