The XR Week Peek (2020.02.17): Half-Life Alyx will launch on March, 23rd, MWC has been canceled and much more!

On this special day, let’s all talk about AR and VR!

Top news of the week
(Image by Valve Corporation)
Half-Life Alyx is going to launch on March, 23rd

With a tweet on its account, Valve has announced that the most awaited VR game of the year, Half-Life: Alyx is going to be released on March, 23rd. The game will be available only on Steam, but it will be compatible with all PC VR headsets. Index owners will be able to enjoy the game at its best, with all its finest interactions, but the game should be much enjoyable also using other headsets like the Rift S or even the OG Vive. The price is €50, but the game is free for Index owners.
 
Together with the announcement, Valve has also teased 3 new amazing screenshots (one with a big error, lol) and the news that extras for who preordered the game will be delivered starting from March, 2nd.
 
The news is overly important because Alyx is already changing the virtual reality landscape for these reasons:

  • It is increasing awareness towards VR a lot (all mainstream gaming media are talking about it);
  • It is increasing sales of VR headsets a lot;
  • It will probably show us new interactions in XR that will affect the UX of many games after it.

On the 23rd we’ll finally be able to try this amazing game and see how much it will impact VR. I’m hyped, and you?

More info (Announcement link)
More info (News on my blog)
More info (Error in one of the screenshots)

Other relevant news
(Image by MWC)
The Coronavirus is impacting the whole XR industry

The damn coronavirus Covit19 is ruining the life of millions of Chinese people, and together with this, it is also impacting various industries, XR included.
 
The big news of the week is that the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, the most important world fair about smartphones, has just been canceled. In this big phone exhibition, usually, companies also exhibit AR and VR devices and considering that this year the trend is the one of AR and VR devices connected to the phone, I bet that this year’s edition would have been very interesting for us all (in fact I was planning to go there). Instead, for security concerns, the fair is no more, and it has been completely canceled or postponed to October.
 
After Oculus, that has expressed concerns on the manufacture of the Quest, this week Tilt Five has stated that it will have difficulties in shipping devices to the first backers, while nReal, that is based in Beijing, has completely stopped its production.
 
China is the factory of the world, and now that it has stopped because of the virus, all the other countries are having troubles as well. For now, I know today some offices in China are starting to open again, let’s hope that this terrible situation ends as soon as possible. 中国加油 !

More info (MWC Canceled)
More info (Tilt Five having issues)
More info (nReal halting production)

Acer has canceled its ConceptD OJO headset

Do you remember the Acer ConceptD OJO headset? If not, don’t worry, because it has been canceled anyway.
 
Acer promised us this headset some months ago, more or less when HP started talking about the Reverb: and in fact this headset had characteristics very similar to the ones of the headset by HP. The most important features were a very high resolution (2K*2K per eye), plus a modular design that should have made it very easy to be cleaned. It looked very intriguing, and some people that tried it already praised it as a great device.
 
After many months with no news, Acer has confirmed Road To VR that the plans for this headset have been scrapped, and it will never see the light. Acer hasn’t announced the reason why it has taken this decision, but it has commented the news reassuring everyone that Acer is not abandoning XR, and it will continue exploring the technology. Anyway, since they have already announced and then aborted two interesting headsets (StarVR and now ConceptD OJO), I think that they have the ideas very confused about what to do in the XR ecosystem.

More info (Acer ConceptD OJO canceled)
More info (Acer still interested in exploring XR)

Apple now lets add you add “buy” button to AR Quick Look

A piece of simple news, but a very important one, has hit the AR industry this week: Apple now lets companies add custom buttons (usually the “Buy” one) to AR Quick Look.
 
AR Quick Look is that feature of iOS that lets you preview in AR, in the environment around you, every 3D model in USDZ format that you find on a website, by just tapping on it. Until now, you could just see it, while now, you can also have an action associated with it.
 
Why is this important? Because it can be massive for e-commerce: this means that companies could easily implement some kind of AR Stores on their website. They could just add USDZ models on the web portal, then let the visitors preview the products inside their homes, and buy them if they like how they look&feel. Augmented Reality is being a great tool for e-commerce: AR tools have increased the user’s likelihood of purchase by 11 times; Build.com found that the return rate after selecting items in AR has decreased by 22%.

More info (Use Google Translate)

Magic Leap plans dev days and dev programs

We all know that Magic Leap is in big trouble, and it seems that one of the paths it is trying to follow to exit the quicksands is trying to get more developers onboard.
 
For this, it has just started Access Hardware, a program that gives for free Magic Leap glasses plus dedicated support to all developers that are planning to do interesting applications using the Magic Leap 1, especially in the enterprise sector.

It is also organizing the LEAP Developer Days, a big event for ML developers, that will be held on May 19–22nd inside Magic Leap headquarters in Plantation, Florida.

More info

Are we at an inflection point for VR?

When I interviewed Facebook’s Sean Liu, he told me that 2019 was an inflection point for VR, and the data around us seems to confirm this statement.
 
This week, investor Tipatat Chennavasin has written a long editorial analyzing the gaming market and showing that in 2019 we had a big growth of sales of games. I suggest you read this report, where you can find these key insights:

  • The VR gaming market is growing
  • Always more games are grossing more than $1M, and this the sign of a healthy ecosystem (because there is a repeatable chance of succeeding)
  • In 1 year probably we’ll have the first VR game grossing $100M of compound revenues over time
  • Beat Saber has grossed the first year on the market more than Angry Birds in the same period it was out
  • Most games that are succeeding are made by AAA studios, but actually, the three best ones are from indies
  • 2019 has marked a boost of sales thanks to the release of Quest, the announcement of Half-Life: Alyx, and the release of high-quality exclusive titles like Asgard’s Wrath.

Together with this report, we had another one by Hired.com, that analyzing the demand for specialized workers has noticed that in 2019 there has been a spike of request for AR/VR developers, 1400% more than in 2018. They are the most requested type of engineers, even more than the ones that are expert in blockchain. This expertise is also paid very well, with high salaries in cities like London or San Francisco.
 
Even if someone says that these data are a bit exaggerated, I trust that the report at least captures the current trend of the market, showing that always more companies are understanding the potentialities of these technologies, especially in the enterprise sector, and so look for experts in the field. And if you need one expert, for a consultancy… you know where to find me.
 
 (Thanks VR First for spotting this report!)

More info (Analysis of the VR gaming market by Tipatat)
More info (Hired.com report)
More info (Comment on the report by VentureBeat)

Skarredghost XR consultancies
Google Chrome now supports WebAR

The news of the week regarding WebAR is that finally, Chrome 81 will implement the WebXR standard for what concerns augmented reality, making easier to enjoy WebAR experiences through Google’s browser.
 
And regarding WebAR, I want to signal you an important initiative: Nicolò Carpignoli, the creator of AR.js, wants to create an opensource web portal to let everyone create simple AR experience for free, without knowing how to code. He’s looking for collaborators for this great project, so I invite you to join him to help him in creating this!

More info (Google Chrome 81 supports AR)
More info (Nicolò Carpignoli’s initiative)

News worth a mention
(Image by Microsoft)
Consoles will probably evolve their VR offerings next year

Both Sony and Microsoft have not given clear plans on their VR offerings for their next-gen consoles, the PS5 and the Xbox Series X, but we have some interesting hints.
 
Sony has confirmed its interest in releasing a new PSVR headset, but it has also confirmed that it will be released after the PS5. This means that most probably, it will launch in 2021.
 
XBox’s Phil Spencer has clarified all his negative statements on VR of the past months, saying that he likes VR and that now it is not in the plans for the Xbox Series X, but that he hopes that VR will become so important that it will become a “no brainer” to add it to Xbox. Reading between lines, I read “VR support will come later on” when the market will be bigger, and I guess that if VR will keep growing with this pace, support will come in 2021–2022.
 
These news make me happy 🙂

More info (PSVR 2)
More info (XBox Series X)

New SteamVR devkit aims at making custom hardware easier

Tundra Labs is releasing a new SteamVR Tracking hardware development kit. It features a tiny new module which condenses the necessary control, processing, and communication components into a mere 16mm × 10mm. This module can be installed on a board with connected various SteamVR sensors so that to get all the data from the sensors and communicate them to your runtime. This makes the realization of your custom SteamVR hardware much easier than before, and this is a piece of great news not only for makers but also for those companies that want to make VR accessories (e.g. props for arcades).

More info

Humble Bundle gives you many VR classics for a very affordable price

If you like VR games, rush to Humble Bundle! There is a new bundle offering great classics like Space Pirate Trainer, SuperHot VR, Moss and many others for only $15!
 
(Thanks Max for having gifted it to me!)

More info

Some info on the potential use of standalone headsets in arcades

LBVR super-expert Kevin Williams has written a very interesting post on the potential use of standalone headsets in LBVR centers, and I think you could find worth reading it.

More info

The shooting of Matrix 4 has started

We fans of cyberpunk all love Matrix (the first and the only movie, of course) and so we are all curious about this reboot of the saga with Matrix 4. It seems that the filming of Matrix 4 has just started in San Francisco and people on social media are already getting crazy.

More info (News on filming)
More info (A shot recorded by a fan)

Watch the unboxing of nreal light

Chinese company nReal has released various new videos of its glasses nReal Light this week, and some lucky developers that have received the kit have also shared the unboxing of the device.

More info (Unboxing of nReal Light)
More info (nReal’s Youtube Channel)

Add custom environments to your Oculus Quest… if you can

Upload VR has published a very easy-to-follow tutorial on how to add custom environments to your Oculus Quest. With that, you can for instance make your home become the house of the Simpsons or other cool places! The problem is: it seems that in latest update Oculus has removed this feature…

More info (How to change your Oculus Home)
More info (Oculus Quest custom homes)

We now know how much Sony has paid for Insomniac Games

A report from this week has finally revealed that Sony bought Stormland’s developer Insomniac Games for $229M. It is a great amount, and I would be curious to compare it with the money that Facebook has spent to acquire Beat Games.

More info

Some interesting XR experiences

This week I have got to know about some interesting XR experiences:

  • One makes you feel in XR how it is having Cotard’s Syndrome, that is a psychiatric condition that makes you perceive parts of your body as if they were dead;
  • Another one is a special VR dinner, where you eat edible pills while you see incredible animations happening around you that represent the tastes that you’re supposed to feel;
  • The third one is a very cool FX demo inside Unity, with flaming point clouds of environments (I don’t even know how to describe it, you should watch the videos), for which the developer plans to release a VR demo.

More info (Cotard’s Syndrome)
More info (Special VR dinner)
More info (Flaming point clouds)

Dreams has been released, and VR support is almost done

Dreams is an amazing experience for PlayStation that lets you create games and other experiences without knowing how to code. It is a sandbox that lets you create what you wish and then share your creations with the other PlayStation gamers. It is amazing for people that don’t know how to develop stuff but want to enter the world of gaming.
 
After years of await, finally, Sony has released it. It is not compatible with VR, but devs have said that the support is almost done, and will be surely released in a future update. VR creatives should be much excited about it!

More info (Dreams hands-on)
More info (Dreams PSVR support nearly done)

Some news on content

Some interesting news on content from this week:

  • Stormland is 25% off!!! Get it now 🙂
  • We have a new trailer for Paper Beast, that should also feature a Sandbox mode;
  • Into The Radius is coming to Quest;
  • Down The Rabbit Hole releases next month;
  • VRtuos is a genius app for Quest that teaches you how to play a virtual piano in VR while you play a real piano by calibrating the real and the virtual world!

More info (Stormland on sale)
More info (Paper Beast Sandbox Mode)
More info (Into The Radius)
More info (Down The Rabbit Hole)
More info (VRtuos)

News from partners (and friends)

The Virtual Reality nordic is an interesting event about Virtual Reality organized by my partners at MeKiwi (who sponsor some posts on my blog), that will take place in Oulu, Finland. There you can discover more the VR landscape of Northern Europe, make community, and get to listen to the talks of people from Nokia and Hugo Boss!
 
I’ve managed to obtain a big discount for all of you my readers: if you use the code GHOST20 during checkout, you get a 20% discount on the price of the ticket!

Cave Digger VR
Cave Digger VR

Learn more

This week there will be a big event about education in VR, all in VR! It is called “2020 Educators in VR International Summit”, and will take place on February 17–22 (so for the whole week) on all major social XR platform: Engage, Rumii, Somnium Space, etc… There will be amazing speakers talking about all topics related to education in VR, and all of this for free! You can’t miss it!

Learn more (Event)
Learn more (Podcast related to the event)

Some XR fun

When you play VR games for too much, your PC may become a little hot

Funny link

The best Pistol Whip review ever

Funny link

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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!)