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Introducing the Vive Pre!

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Introducing the Vive Pre!

The Vive Pre has arrived! If you're not aware, this is the latest developer version of HTC / Valve's VR headset, and it's absolutely incredible. 

If you've used the original HTC Vive you'll know it was already very impressive hardware, and the wireless controllers added a new dimension to interaction in VR. The Vive Pre takes an already astonishing experience and refines it even further.

Firstly, the HMD is noticeably smaller and looks much more like a final version. The photosensors are now hidden by plastic that is transparent to IR light. It also has a USB hub for accessories, and a 3.5mm headphone jack. HTC also bundled some decent in-ear headphones. There's also a camera on the front of the HMD, though the new chaperone system is yet to be enabled for developers.

 

The Lighthouses (or Basestations) are smaller, make no noise, require no sync cable if the lighthouses are in LoS of each other, and only have a couple of visible LEDs. This makes it much easier and more practical to mount in the home. Interestingly, the only way to power them off is to unplug them. It seems HTC intend for us to keep them on permanently.

The controllers have absolutely wonderful ergonomic and aesthetic design. The hockey-puck design is gone, replaced with a far more pleasing look. The weighting of the controllers is perfect - it rests easily in the hand, and the underside of the trigger can balance on just one finger. 

 

Overall, this display on the Vive Pre is much improved. The 'linen screen' effect is entirely gone. Colours are more vivid, the contrast is fantastic, and the screen-door effect is barely perceptible. I've only noticed the SDE when looking at large areas of solid colour, and even then I was intentionally looking for it.

While the hardware is undeniably great, the original Vive took a few hours to get it set up and working. However, the Vive Pre was set up in about 30 minutes, with only a few issues in getting one of the controllers paired. Valve have done a great job with the software, making something that could be difficult very straightforward. I've heard some developers have had a few problems, but my experience has been almost plug-and-play.

My only criticism would be the headphones. While they're good, I'm not keen on sharing in-ear headphones! Of course, these can easily be swapped due to the 3.5mm jack. It remains to be seen if this will be the solution in the consumer version.

Overall, the Vive Pre feels like a consumer product. I feel they could probably release this as-is. 

How does this compare to the Oculus CV1? Well, I don't have one to compare it to yet, although the Oculus CV1 Kickstarter Edition should arrive in the near future. 

Exciting times for VR!

Finally, BAFTA for scale ;)


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Unity VR Samples

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Unity VR Samples

Unity asked me to work with them on the Unity VR Samples, which is aimed at people who are interested in starting VR development in Unity. I'm very happy to say it's now been released!

It consists of a VR Sample project for Gear VR and DK2, with a menu scene and four minigames:

It's also backed by extensive documentation about various aspects of VR and how they're applied in the VR Samples:

 

If you're new to VR dev, take a look! There's tons of information in there that's bound to be useful to you.

Big thanks for the Unity team for their hard work and putting up with me :)

 

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HTC Vive has arrived!

Very happy that I have now received a Vive dev kit! I was blown away after originally using the Vive at EGX in March 2015. Not only is the quality of the screens and lenses way ahead of the DK2, but room-scale VR is something that you need to experience to believe it. It's the closest to the holodeck that we're going to get for some time.

Another fantastic aspect of the Vive are the two wireless controllers. Positionally tracked with sub-millimeter precision, being able to reach out in VR and grab the controllers is an astonishing feeling.

Valve and HTC have done an amazing job with the Vive. I can't wait to see what the consumer version will be like.

If you're based in Brighton and would like a demo, get in contact and I'll try and sort something out.

 VR development - now with lasers!

VR development - now with lasers!

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Oculus Touch Demo

I was invited to a VR developers day at Oculus in London to try the new Oculus Half Moon controllers and the final engineering sample of the CV1. 

Input has always been a challenge in VR. I've used gamepads, LeapMotion, Kinect, Razer Hydra, Myo, and gaze-based input - but none of them feel right. Oculus have pretty much nailed it now: These Half Moon controllers are absolutely fantastic. Not only are they incredibly precise, but they're an ergonomic delight: From the moment you pick them up, it's obvious an enormous amount of effort has gone into creating these.

The final engineering sample of the CV1 is also an engineering masterpiece. Lightweight, sleek, and with excellent displays and lenses, it's very exciting to see what the first consumer version will look like.

 

 Me, trying the Half Moon controllers

Me, trying the Half Moon controllers

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Column published in PC Pro on VR development

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Column published in PC Pro on VR development

Very happy to say that a column I was commissioned to write for PC Pro has now been published, and is available in UK shops! 

If you, or the company you work for, has an interest in VR development, it's worth a read - there's lots of useful info in there.

You can also buy the issue for Android and iOS

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FESTIVE VR Brighton!

2014 has been an amazing year for VR. I love developing VR experiences and games, and I’m convinced that it will continue exploding in popularity over the coming months and years. We’re at an incredibly exciting point in the birth of a new form of entertainment and interaction, and we're helping define the future of a medium.

I set up VR Brighton in early 2014 to get like-minded people together to share their excitement, show off their work and to get the technology into the hands of those who don’t have it yet. 
It's been eight months since our first meet up, and Festive VR Brighton on December 8th was our largest, most popular and most successful event so far. We had 70 people in total, mainly from Brighton and London, but also from Dorset, Yorkshire, and Edinburgh! Yes - people came from another country to VR Brighton!

 

There are lot of people I need to thank! First up is Brightwave, a very forward-thinking eLearning company based in Brighton who hosted the meetup on the top floor of their gorgeous office for the evening. In particular, my thanks goes to: Colin Welch, Hayley Maisey, Laura Ward, and Rob Keery for helping out with the organisation and the invaluable assistance on the evening.

A huge thank you to everyone who bought demos along! Thank you SO MUCH. It would be really quite boring if you didn’t come along. So in no particular order..

Also, a huge thankyou to everyone who attended! If you have any feedback, positive or negative, please let me know.

Massive apologies to Peter Brophy for bringing the HOTAS & Vest, but being unable to use it as my PC couldn’t connect to the internet to authenticate Elite: Dangerous. Next time!

Kerry: Thanks for all the help. You're a star.

To everyone who didn’t come along and didn’t change your RSVP to "no" despite all the reminders.. shame on you! You’re on Santa’s naughty list now.

Finally, thanks to Lloyd Digital (oh wait, that's me) for sponsoring the drinks and mince pies. And for the two strands of tinsel.

Hope to see you at the next VR Brighton meetup! Let’s make 2015 an even more exciting year for VR.

Merry Christmas!

Iestyn

Edit: There's a video of the event here, thanks Kevin!



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Radial-G

 

Radial-G is one of the best VR games I've played, and now I'd say it's by far the best. But then I would say that, as I'm now credited as a Supporting Developer!

Admittedly it was only a small amount of work, however it was an absolute pleasure working with the team. Shame I didn't have more availability, as I love working on shiny 3D, particularly in VR.

Radial-G also won "Best Overall VR Experience Finalists Public Choice" at the Virtual Reality Awards.

Radial-G has been greenlit on Steam, and will be available on December 11th, 2014.

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