A bunch of quick related updates on headsets, webVR and phoneVR stuff, and new cameras.
1. Wearality Sky prototype and kickstarter
Wearality is kickstarting their first commercial headset, the Wearality Sky. We expect it will have no problem reaching the funding goal, so this isn’t a plea to help them out. But if you do phoneVR or are interested in VR and have a 5 or 6 inch phone, I highly recommend preordering a headset on the kickstarter.
We’ve gushed about Wearality’s beautiful optics in previous posts, and David Smith guest starred on Talk Chat Show Thing episode 3. We’ve been working with the new design for the last couple months and are excited we can finally talk about it! Basically, I prefer a Galaxy Note 4 inside the Wearality holder over any other thing you can buy right now (including the gearVR and Oculus DK2).
Like Wearality’s previous prototypes, the field of view is amazing. After seeing David’s work, it’s hard to imagine how other headset designers settle for such a narrow field of view. Unlike previous prototypes, it folds up and fits in my pocket. And it really does. It’s a functional item.
Mostly though, I love Wearality’s approach to open VR and the web. Their vision of what VR can be, who will use it, and who will make things for it, is, much like their lenses, open and flexible to many viewpoints and many kinds of faces. (Rather than the metaphorical narrow exit pupil of companies with narrow expectations of what VR is and who it is for.)
Also, GLASSES. If you wear glasses, you will very much appreciate this design.
At first I thought the open design was a concession to foldability, but after working with it I found it to be a huge asset. The optics make the field of view wide enough that there is less need to block out the sides and no need to put a divider between the two halves of the screen. The openness makes it feel good, instead of being trapped in a black box you’re still in the world. This is extra good for sharing, and is less intimidating to those new to VR. You can see what people are looking at, or if you’re the one looking, actually hold a conversation and talk with shared context. Also it feels cleaner and can be used even on a hot day.
Talking to David Smith, we learned that the open design was actually based on a body of research about what makes people feel sick, that having a stable world in your peripheral vision is important to avoiding nausea. I’ll note that it’s still possible to get nauseous using the Wearality Sky (especially if you’re in love with roller coaster apps), and I’m not the best person to ask for comparison because I don’t easily get nauseous in either case.
The best part about it being open, though, is that you can access the screen. Finally, actual interactivity and controls in a wireless device, beyond the inconsistent single-button magnet of a google cardboard or peripheral-heavy gearVR!
We immediately needed to experiment with this, which brings us to:
2. webVR experiments, now on mobile (and Firefox Nightly).
For a while everything was broken everywhere, and then Andrea did Andrea magic. Maybe she’ll post more about that later, but if your webVR stuff is all broken (right now even Mozilla’s own demos are broken), might want to check out Andrea’s new version of VREffect.js on github.
Also, now we have a lot of our old webVR stuff working on mobile. Works best in Chrome, needs a phone that can run webGL. Tap to go fullscreen.
There’s still a lot to experiment with, but I wanted to try tap-to-move controls for use with open phoneVR holders like Wearality’s.
“Child” (which I blogged about earlier) now has tap-to-move, where a tap sets your forward speed depending on how high you tapped. Near the bottom to stop, near the top to go fastest, or anywhere in-between. Already I can see where I might want to improve or add things, but a good starting point.
“Monkeys” is probably our most popular demo, because it uses awesome monkey models (by Will Segerman) transformed into various 4 dimensional symmetry groups and then projected back down (done in collaboration with Henry Segerman and Marc ten Bosch), also the 4d normal rainbow shading is very pretty. Tap to change symmetry groups. More on this and related 4d Virtual unReality soon.
“underConstruction” is a very important example of web technology. Tap to change between three choices of obnoxious background color. I aspire to add more tap-to-do-thing technology, as well as a page visit counter, but we’ll see.
All my old webVR experiments on my github also work (though cannot access movement and keyboard options), our other stuff will be working soon, and many better experiments will work in the future.
3. New Cameras!
All our new camera equipment arrived yesterday in a giant pile of awesome. Here’s some initial thoughts.
3a: Gyroptic 360cam dev kit
It’s pretty cool, auto-stitching footage from three lenses in almost a full sphere (no bottom). Not very high resolution and as a dev kit still has some bugs to be worked out, but very awesome to have an easy-to-use mostly-spherical camera that autostitches (not perfectly, but, it does it!). It will be very exciting assuming we can get the gyroscope and livestreaming working, but, we’re not there yet. We’ll talk more about it and share footage soon.
3b: Ricoh Theta
We are extremely impressed with it. Almost never in VR does a thing actually do what the marketing claims it can do, but the Theta delivers. A truly consumer-ready device, takes real pretty fully spherical photos with good automatic stitching, has an app that lets you access all sorts of real camera photo options like ISO and exposure. The video option is low-res and limited to 3 minutes, but the ease of use makes it very appealing. Think YouTube 2005. Very excited about it, also will share lots of stuff soon.
3c: CamRah 235-degree clip-on phone lenses
We got clip-on super fisheyes for our phones, and are pretty surprised at how easy and cheap it can be to make a video that, while it might not exactly be spherical or have good resolution, is effective at sharing an experience in an immersive way, with just a phone and an inexpensive fisheye. We’ll share that soon too.
Finally, lots of easy-to-use camera options for actually making content! After a year of hacking together gopros and hours of frustrating stitching, the future looks light and breezy. It is such a weight lifted.
Combined with upcoming headsets and increased support of webVR by Mozilla and Google, I’m pretty optimistic! Everything is so much easier now!
We’ll cover all this stuff in more detail, including footage of and from various devices, in a Talk Chat Show Thing coming soon.