The Ghost Howls’s VR Week Peek (2019.09.16): Cosmos released, iOS 13 has support for AR glasses, DAQRI fails and much more!

What a week for the XR ecosystem! HTC has launched a new headset, we have another confirmation of Apple glasses, we read about the first hands-on on Kura glasses, and many other things have happened! And all of this when in 10 days there will be the Oculus Connect 6, where there will be announced something cool for sure…
 
 I’m rather thrilled while I write this e-mail! Discover all the most important news here, like every week 😉

Top news of the week
(Image by HTC)
HTC launches the Cosmos at $699

HTC has finally launched the HTC Vive Cosmos, its new flagship headset. Preorders are open now, for $699 (at least €799 in Europe), with worldwide shipping starting from October, 3rd.
 
The headset represents a big upgrade from the Original Vive, with improved specifications, comfort, and usability. These are the main specs:

  • Screen: Dual 3.4″ LCD diagonal
  • Resolution: 1440 x 1700 pixels per eye (2880 x 1700 pixels combined)
  • Refresh rate: 90 Hz
  • Field of view: 110 degrees
  • IPD Adjustment: hardware
  • Audio: Built-in stereo headphones
  • Flip-up design: yes
  • Controllers: Two inside-out tracked controllers, with:
  • 1 Thumbstick
  • 3 Buttons
  • 2 Index finger triggers
  • 1 Middle finger trigger
  • Required PC connectivity: USB 3.0, DisplayPort™ 1.2
  • Peripheral Ports: USB-C 3.0, proprietary connection to mods
  • Tracking: inside-out, with 6 RGB cameras (4 on the device, 2 on an additional faceplate). No minimum space requirements for standing/seated, minimum 2m x 1.5m for room-scale mode
  • Module Faceplates: Vive Motion Mod (Ships with Cosmos) and Vive Cosmos External Tracking Mod (Sold separately)
  • Vive Wireless Adapter support: Yes, sold separately with attach kit. Available PCIe slot required

But its most important feature is versatility because the experience is customizable through accessories:

  • The headset may be used with SteamVR trackingthanks to a dedicated faceplate. This means that it can become compatible with Vive Trackers and Knuckles controllers;
  • It can be used wirelessly using the Vive Wireless Adapter;
  • In the future, it may work connected not to a PC, but to a phone, for further portability (this feature is not available at the moment, though).

HTC has been able to create a very interesting device, that sits in the middle between the cheap Rift S and the premium Valve Index. This being in the middle can be its strength or its problem. Personally, I think that the sweet spot for the price would have been $599, but as HTC points out since the headset comes with 12 months of free Viveport subscription that is worth $100, it is like the price is $599.
 
Since HTC has now a new flagship device, the original Vive is being discontinued. HTC will just sell the stocks and in the next 2–3 months, it is probable that it will become unavailable almost everywhere. It’s a bit of a sad news, since the HTC Vive has completely changed the VR landscape, but now the device was a bit old for current standards. It is probably the best decision, but it is a bit sad anyway.
 
 Good luck to the Vive Cosmos!

More info (HTC Vive Cosmos launch + links to reviews)
More info (HTC Vive Cosmos finger tracking)
More info (Original HTC Vive discontinued)

Other relevant news
(Image by Martin Hajek)
iOS 13 contains code to test AR apps on a headset

Last week I teased how iOS 13 contained references to an AR glass dubbed “Garta” and to an AR launcher for apps called “Starboard”. Well, this week, we had new confirmations on AR included in the new iOS 13.
 
A developer has found a readme file that explains how to launch AR apps on the iPhone so that they execute on an AR glass attached to the device. The AR apps can so be executed in “held” mode, with the phone held in hands, like happens now with ARKit, or in “worn” mode, with the app running on the glasses.
 
And it is confirmed that this code is shipping to all phones when they upgrade to iOS 13. This means that all iPhones will be able to run AR apps on a glass, even if no user will know that.
 
It is curious that the Garta glass is defined an HME: while HM stands for sure for “Head-Mounted”, it is not clear what the E stands for (Evaluator? Element? Experience?). There are also references to a controller of this glass, a controller that includes a trackpad, a trigger button, and a system button.
 
All of this shows how Apple is most probably testing internally its AR glasses and so the launch may be not that far away (probably in 2020).
 
In the meantime, Apple launch of the iPhone 11 has been a bit underwhelming of us XR fans (it has not even depth-sensing rear cameras), but the iPhone 11 Pro contains an interesting feature: a chip called U1 that has been inserted to give the device “spatial awareness”. Who knows if this chip will also be used by the Garta glass to offer its functionalities…

More info (iOS 13 Code pointing to AR)
More info (iOS 13 and AR)
More info (iPhone 11 Pro and its U1 chip)

We have the first hands-on on Kura glasses (sort of)

Upload VR has been able to visit Kura offices in San Francisco and try the technology behind the Kura Gallium glasses, the AR devices that promise a 150° FOV, a resolution that goes up to 8K, variable focus, and brightness that allows for outdoor usage. All of this for $1200.
 
Kura didn’t let the journalists take photos and let them only try some tech prototypes not involving the glasses, but strictly one feature of the glass for each prototype: so, one prototype for the big FOV, one for the brightness, one for the variable focus, one for testing the device worn on the face, etc… The startup states that those prototypes were 1 year older than the current status of the tech inside the company.
 
The journalists came up pretty impressed by what they saw: the FOV was really enormous and the holograms were amazingly bright, so they could be really used outdoor. So, Kura is not only smoke and mirrors, there is really an amazing tech behind it, and that technology is called “structured geometric waveguide” (that is different from the diffractive waveguides used by other products like HoloLens or Magic Leap).
 
Kura claims that they want to showcase a product, a real AR glass at CES 2020. And here comes the first big “IF” of the company. Going from a prototype stage to a product stage is incredibly hard. Prototypes can be buggy and expensive and may focus on only one feature (like for instance, big FOV). A product, instead, must be comfortable, safe to use, bug-free, and it must prove also to be profitable. If Kura actually manages to transform those 4 prototypes in one product, well, they can disrupt completely the market. Otherwise, they will have been just another interesting startup.
 
There is also another big IF: major companies have in their R&D departments a lot of interesting prototypes that we don’t know about. If Facebook has already a similar technology in the basement, well, Kura has not the power of disrupting the market anymore. But they can always be acquired by another major company lacking such expertise.
 
 We will discover more during CES 2020, I guess.

More info

DAQRI shuts down

DAQRI was one of the cool names in the enterprise AR segment. It produced AR helmets to be used in the industrial sector: they were really expensive, and were produced exactly to answer the needs of enterprise customers. For instance, they could be used in a helmet that the user could wear for safety reasons.
 
DAQRI had a nice product, and I think that more or less in every presentation regarding the use of AR in the industry there is at least a photo of a DAQRI device. That’s why they got more than $275M of investments over the years.
 
But in the end, notwithstanding all its pros, the company has failed and now its assets are on sale. The reasons for this failure are many, but the main ones are for sure:

  • The slow take-off of the AR sector. Even in the enterprise segment, AR is growing slowly and so a company like this has huge losses. If investors don’t continue pouring money, the company shuts down. It seems that DAQRI hasn’t managed to find new investors;
  • The competition of Microsoft. HoloLens 2 is a fantastic product, not only for the hardware but also for all the infrastructure based on Azure that it can offer. This is something with which no startup can compete at the moment.

This failure shows once more how it is hard for a company to survive in the AR/VR ecosystem. Even the rockstars fail in this environment.

More info (Techcrunch reporting the news)
More info (Road To VR commenting DAQRI shutdown)

Oculus Rift has already OpenXR support

It seems that Oculus Rift has already hidden support for the OpenXR environment. In a Slack group, it has been found a message that shows how to activate the “preview release which is fairly complete” of the implementation. UploadVR’s journalist David Heaney has tested this method and it actually works. So, the Rift runtime already supports OpenXR. Facebook has commented the fact saying that they will share more on this soon (I guess at OC6).
 
OpenXR is the standard that finally will reduce the current far west of VR, letting all OpenXR-compliant applications to run on all VR devices, reducing the fragmentation of the market. This will make all us developers happy, since we will just have to develop an application once, to make it run on all VR devices.
 
The fact that Oculus has already almost finished implementing it and that Microsoft has already implemented it, make us confident that in 2020 the most important headsets will all be OpenXR-compliant, and this will be great for the whole XR market.

More info

News worth a mention
(Image by Road To VR)
Vality is showing an interesting VR prototype

German company Vality has showcased to Road To VR its prototype of a VR headset with quite interesting features: a sleek design, 2K x 2K per eye, and 80° x 80° FOV (around 110° diagonal).
 
The headset appears interesting especially for being quite little and for offering a near-retina resolution. The sleek design is what I loved the most of the headset. All of this is possible thanks to the use of microdisplays. What is worrying is that the startup plans releasing it for enterprise customers in 2021 (with specs a bit improved), and I think that for that date, we will have better headsets on the market.

More info

Google updates ARCore with Persistent Cloud Anchors

Google has improved its AR framework ARCore adding improved Persistent Cloud Anchors, that is the possibility of saving in the cloud a particular position in the world, so that in the future the AR experience can be recovered in the same exact place, or can be shared with other players being in the same place. Google describes it as “the save button for AR experiences”.
 
Personally, I see it as one of the foundations of the AR Cloud, considering that the main features of the AR Cloud are persistency and sharability of AR experiences in precise locations of the world…

More info

Minecraft porting on Quest is “Under Review” by Microsoft

One of the most requested features for Minecraft in its dedicated suggestion page is porting to Oculus Quest. And after having seen so much interest from the community, Microsoft is finally evaluating the possibility of the porting. In that, it would find for sure the support of Oculus, where John Carmack has always dreamt about porting Minecraft to Go and Quest, after having ported it to Gear VR.
 
Having Minecraft on Quest would be amazing for all the VR ecosystem, so I hope that it will happen!

More info

The community is asking a VR mode for Cyberpunk 2077

On the Steam page of Cyberpunk 2077, there is a dedicated forum to suggest features for the game, and guess what is the most requested one? Yes, you got it: virtual reality. With more than 182 comments on the dedicated thread (mine included), we of the VR community are asking CD PROJEKT RED to offer us the possibility to try this amazing game in VR. Let’s see if they will listen to us…

More info

A Nintendo patent filing suggests a new Nintendo Switch VR headset

An interesting patent by Nintendo seems to point to a new VR headset for the Switch: no more a cardboard holder, but a more elegant and durable plastic one. If this happens, that would be a piece of good news for all people that love using VR on the Switch.
 
Personally, apart from underlying that it is just a patent, I think that Nintendo should work first on its VR games, that are mostly disappointing, before thinking of changing the VR viewer.

More info

Google patents a wireless VR headset and works on Glass 3

Another patent that got some popularity this week is one by Google about a wireless headset that is able to stream content from the network. It may be the foundation of a VR viewer that streams the content for Google Stadia… but it is too early to tell, considering that it is just a patent.
 
What is sure, instead, is that Google is working on its third generation of Google Glasses. The new smartglasses should be lighter and more comfortable, but, if the rumors are true, would only feature 30 minutes of battery duration (???). I hope this is not the case, of course, otherwise I find it hard imagining it used in enterprise environments, unless every worker has an enormous battery pack attached to his belt.

More info (Wireless VR headset for Stadia)
More info (Google Glass 3)

First feedback on VR concerts are encouraging

In this period, we had the very interesting VR concerts of Billie Eilish and Lindsey Stirling.
 
Eilish concert was streamed in Oculus Venues, and on Upload VR I have found a very interesting article about how it is attending a concert in VR. It seems that it is a bit like meeting with people in a cinema and seeing the video of a concert together. You don’t experience the same realism, you don’t have the same excitement and the same involvement, but it is anyway a pleasant experience. You can anyway enjoy some good music and have fun with the people around you, and that’s good. The technology is not ready yet for having realistic VR concerts: we would need more realistic visuals, better audio (the Valve Index is on the right path) and far more senses involved (e.g. smell, haptics). Also, the interactions with people around us should be better and more realistic. And the avatars should be more believable, like the ones that Facebook is working on.
 
Lindsey Stirling went for another approach, instead, and played and danced in Wave VR, as a completely full virtual avatar, thanks to the use of a mocap suit. This made the experience more intriguing since she could exploit the fact that she could play in a fully virtual environment, where everything was possible. Of course, this also meant that the experience was completely different from being at a concert of her, for the good or the bad. I guess it was for the good since 400K people connected to watch her perform! (Most viewers weren’t VR ones, of course)

More info (Impressions on Billie Eilish Concert)
More info (Lindsey Stirling concert)

Kerry Davis has said nothing about Valve’s upcoming flagship games

Last week, most magazines reported that Valve’s developer Kerry Davis should have had a talk at DigiPen talking about VR development and the upcoming flagship VR game. Well, someone has attended his talk, and while it was interesting, there were absolutely NO updates on Valve’s upcoming Half-Life game.

More info

Jack Ma has sent an AR message in a bottle

To celebrate the 20th anniversary of Alibaba, Jack Ma has sent a bottle of liquor to all the staff. It is interesting that putting the phone in the box of the bottle, it was possible to see a message of his appearing in the bottle in augmented reality. Quite an original approach from him.
 
 (Thanks David for the tip)

More info

Dirt Rally is free on Steam (again)

Until today, September, 16th, you can get Dirt Rally for free (with included VR support) on Steam!

More info

Attend the View Conference!

In my city, Turin (Italy), from October 21st to October 25th there will be the View Conference, featuring amazing speakers from all over the world. Last year there I interviewed important people like Magic Leap’s John Gaeta. And this year, I will be there again and I will also hold a Masterclass together with Simone Favarin!

More info

Some XR fun

We don’t live in a simulation, don’t worry

Funny link

VR takes people culture and education

Funny link

A teledildonics company claims that using VR + sex toys may also help dealing with climate change!

Funny link

Show me the money!

I hope you got the quote from the movie Jerry Maguire, when Cuba Gooding Jr asks Tom Cruise to show him the money

Jerry Maguire Money GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

I spend every Sunday working all day to create these round-ups of best news and I do that to be helpful for people that have not the time to read all the XR news during the week. If you find them useful, please consider supporting me on Patreon, so that I will continue writing them and I will continue informing the community.
 
Many other people have already decided to support me, and I want to thank them all, one by one:

  • DeoVR
  • Ilias Kapouranis
  • Paolo Leoncini
  • Vooiage Technologies
  • Jennifer Granger
  • Jason Moore
  • Matias Nassi
  • Caroline

Join the group you as well and access instantly the dedicated growing donors’ community on Patreon by clicking the link below!

Show me, show me! 😉

(Header image by DAQRI)


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Skarredghost

AR/VR developer, startupper, zombie killer. Sometimes I pretend I can blog, but actually I've no idea what I'm doing. I tried to change the world with my startup Immotionar, offering super-awesome full body virtual reality, but now the dream is over. But I'm not giving up: I've started an AR/VR agency called New Technology Walkers with which help you in realizing your XR dreams with our consultancies (Contact us if you need a project done!)