If you are someone who has never tried virtual reality before, you are likely to be introduced to Google Cardboard or Samsung GearVR first. Almost every time I have witnessed someone experience VR for the first time in these devices, they tried to reach out to touch what they are seeing but they aren’t able to since these Cardboard & GearVR don’t come packed with hand-tracking capabilities out the box. Because of this, what VR needs most is hand-tracking to help users retain their interest and immersion in the VR world.
So I rounded up a list of the top 5 GearVR & Cardboard apps that would benefit greatly from hand-tracking technology. (A head strap mount would be needed for Google Cardboard)
Proton Pulse is a fun game with incredibly simple head-tracking controls. It is basically a 3D version of the classic game, Breakout. The player controls the paddle simply by looking around.
Hand-tracking could make this game even more impressive and natural though. With hand-tracking, the paddle can be controlled with one hand in front of the VR headset and there can be an applied force mechanic. Players would actually have full control of how fast or slow they want to hit the ball based on their strike.
2. Oculus Social Beta (GearVR)
Oculus Social Beta is in desperate need of a feature like hand-tracking. As of now, its users’ avatars are nothing more than floating heads. This limits the overall experience of the app because all the player can do is talk to other players and watch videos. Since this app is online only, it would be ground-breaking to be able to move your hands around in the real world and have your friends see your avatar move accordingly in the virtual world. Hand-tracking could introduce a whole bunch of new activities in Oculus’ virtual world such as card games or playing catch.
Sisters is a VR horror story. It could benefit from hand-tracking by making the story more interactive. The way it is now, the story always has the same ending but with hand-tracking there could be more possibilities to make the story less linear and more reliant on the users’ action. This will ultimately make the app even scarier than it already is because of the added immersion. Even if the story retains its linearity, hand-tracking could be used to interact with the characters and objects around the room to trigger more scares.
4. BAMF (Cardboard)
BAMF is a platformer adventure game that only uses teleportation for movement. For a game about exploration, this game is sure to benefit from hand-tracking. There could be interactive puzzles that you could reach out and solve using your hands (i.e. activating switches and pushing buttons).
EndSpace VR is a solid space shooter game with a vomit inducing “turn head to steer” control method that is in need of a more hands-on piloting experience. An “air-steering” control method could work out great for this game. where the user can see and interact with the yoke (steering) and other controls/buttons in the cockpit. Yes, this game can be played with a controller but this diminishes the accessibility.
Even if these apps don’t contain hand-tracking (yet) I still suggest that everyone should try them out if they haven’t. All 5 experiences show great potential for the future of VR. Here at uSens, it is one of our goals to bring AR/VR hand-tracking into the rapidly growing mobile VR market. VR needs to be simple and intuitive for it to attain massive appeal in the mainstream audience. Samsung GearVR and Google Cardboard do a great job in making mobile VR simple but hand-tracking would be a great asset to make the experience more natural.
We’re super excited to announce the uSens Developer Challenge, an opportunity for AR/VR developers to use cutting-edge human-computer interaction tech to build amazing apps and compete for a total of $100,000 in cash prizes.
Participants will have a chance to show off their submissions to industry leaders at conferences throughout the United States and China. Also, you could potentially be in the running for a $50,000 grand prize.
Original apps made for Samsung GearVR, Google Cardboard, HTC Vive, or Oculus are eligible! The vertical does not matter; games, educational, industrial, are all fine, the app just needs to be compatible with our SDK. (Please check out our SDK documentation here)
Submissions will be evaluated based on:
- Application of the Fingo SDK (40%)
- Creativity (20%)
- User Experience (20%)
- Business Potential (10%)
- Polish (10%)
Here’s the process in a nutshell:
- Submit your application on the contest page by October 15th
- We will review applications and announce the 10 semifinalists by November 1st
- Our panel of judges will review your submissions and select winners
- We will announce the winners at GDC 2017 during 02/27-03/03
- Grand Prize: $50,000
- Second Place: $25,000
- Third Place: $10,000
We are thrilled to see what our applicants will come up with! More details and the application page can be found on the uSens contest page. Apply now!
Follow us on Twitter for updates: https://twitter.com/usensinc
Fingo is now in open beta! On August 24, 2016, we hosted a launch event in The Village Event Space in San Francisco where we announced the open beta of our software development kit (SDK) and pre-order availability for Fingo. We also launched our uDev developer network to help the developer community integrate our hand and head tracking technology with their AR/VR (augmented reality & virtual reality) projects.. The event featured over 200 attendees with the demographic ranging from VR enthusiasts to VR developers and designers.
Fingo is a hand-tracking sensor module that supports mobile and tethered systems such as: Samsung Gear VR, HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, and Google Cardboard. The module can attach to the front of head mounted displays (HMDs) to provide expanded tracking capabilities while using less power consumption and processing on mobile devices.
During the conference, we revealed that there will be 3 different versions of Fingo, all with different use cases. The entry-level Fingo allows for the standard hand-tracking and head position tracking to be implemented in mobile/tethered systems.
The Color Fingo is very similar in design to the regular Fingo but it allows for inside-out position tracking. Being inside-out tracking capable means that Color Fingo is able to look out to the space around it and use the changing perspectives of the outside space to determine its own position in space. In addition to being inside-out, Color Fingo also has an augmented reality (AR) overlay and seamless transitions between AR and VR.
The Power Fingo is the biggest and most powerful of the Fingo family, which includes the same capabilities as the Color Fingo but with its own battery and Qualcomm Snapdragon processor. With Power Fingo, AR and VR can easily be enjoyed on the broadest range of mobile devices including those found in emerging markets.
uSens CTO Dr. Yue Fei and uSens engineers performed several live demos with Fingo and a HTC Vive HMD during the event. One particular demo showed Fei interacting with toys and instruments inside a virtual bedroom.
Near the end of the event, we had our guest panel speak on the current and future status of AR/VR and human-computer interaction (HCI) followed by a Q/A session afterwards. The speakers included Jon Peddie, Samsung’s Christopher Perl, SVVR founder Karl Krantz, CTO of ODG John Haddock, Gestigon’s Stefan Bartschat, and uSens’ Mark Morrison. Their immense insight seemed to have a profound impact on the audience. After the panel, representatives from uSens’ backers, Fosun Capital, Fortune Capital, and IDG Ventures (China) also spoke about our partnership to the audience.
With Fingo, we here at uSens Inc. aim to create a more visceral experience with AR and VR. It is apparent that AR/VR without hand-tracking is not nearly as immersive as it could be. Hand-tracking makes it possible for users to actually reach out and interact with the virtual objects that they are viewing, turning the user into an actual participant of the virtual world rather than a mere spectator.
Pokemon GO has been out for a little over a month now and the hype is still real.
Aside from the many car accidents and robberies, (etc.), one of the main issues with Pokemon GO right now is battery drain since the app has to be opened at all times during gameplay. Another huge issue with the game is safety. Some players are just too glued to their phones that they become completely unaware of their surroundings, causing fatal injuries and deaths. This is because the game requires the app to be open in order to catch and be alerted when Pokemon are near you. The upcoming peripheral, “Pokemon GO Plus”, plans to change this and solve the many problems that GO players have come across.
Pokemon GO Plus, arriving in September, was originally scheduled to be released on July but it was pushed back so that Niantic could focus more on polishing the experience on the app. The devices will pair with smartphones via Bluetooth. The most interesting feature of the accessory is that players will be able to play Pokemon GO without using their phones. The device will blink and vibrate when Pokemon and PokeStops are near and players can tap the button to catch Pokemon (of the same kind they have already caught) and swipe to grab items from PokeStops.
When the Plus device releases, it may reduce the risks of playing Pokemon GO. The recent tragedies related to Pokemon GO were likely to have happened because some players’ eyes are too attached on their phones. The vibration and interactive features of the Pokemon GO peripheral should free players from looking at their phones to play the game. This means that players can play and still be fully aware of their surroundings because a quick glance, tap, and/or swipe on their wrist is all they need. In fact, getting players to look away from their phones seems to be the ultimate goal for Niantic. Niantic CEO, John Hanke, wants contact lenses for Pokemon GO to make playing the game even more realistic and immersive. Unfortunately, technology is not at a point to make that happen yet but Pokemon GO Plus is looking to be a nice alternative for the time being.
Pokemon GO Plus is sure to make playing Pokemon GO a more natural experience for exploration. Hopefully, it will be able to reduce the number of accidents and misfortunes as well. It’s watch-like appearance and functionality may even disrupt the wearable/fitness device market which includes Apple Watch and Fitbit since many players have reported that the game has helped them lose weight. Possibly, if the device sells well, there may be upgraded versions with displays and even more gameplay possibilities.
Pokemon GO has only been out for about a week and it is already garnering massive worldwide attention. The addicting game has greatly increased Nintendo’s stock market value and it surprisingly has nearly as much active daily users as Twitter. Many longtime Pokemon fans have always dreamed of seeing and catching Pokemon in real life and they are finally able to experience this dream with the help of their smartphone.
Pokemon GO is a location based augmented-reality mobile game developed by Niantic Labs. The objective of the game is to capture and train the animal-like creatures known as Pokemon. Players are meant to travel the overworld of the game, which is a Google Maps-like 2-D representation of the real world’s landscape, with their customized GPS-tracked avatars. One of the greatest aspects of the game is that players can find different types of Pokemon depending on their surroundings. For instance, water-type Pokemon usually appear near the ocean, and ghost-type pokemon normally appear near cemeteries. This incentivises players to roam around their environment and it makes playing this game extremely social. In fact, there will be a “Pokemon GO Crawl” happening in San Francisco on July 20th and an outstanding 27,000 Pokemon GO players may show up to the event.
Although many have claimed that Pokemon GO has made AR mainstream, this game only exemplifies a fraction of what true AR has to offer. During encounters, players are not able to get a full 360 view of Pokemon, the Pokemon appear to be floating in mid-air most of the time, and player’s are not able to see the real relative sizes of different Pokemon. More advanced AR technology will be able to fix all of those faults to create a more believable AR experience. With that said, this version of Pokemon GO is a great start that shows a ton of opportunity and potential. Huge core elements of the established Pokemon games have yet to be added such as trading and battling Pokemon with other players. Niantic CEO, John Hanke, has confirmed that these features are coming. He has also hinted that Pokemon GO may support VR with Google Cardboard and more advanced AR with Microsoft HoloLens in the future.
Many people have been taking advantage of Pokemon GO’s use of AR. For instance, some businesses only allow paying customers to catch Pokemon and capture PokeStops within their vicinities and some people have even used the game to commit robberies. Players should be sure to follow the game’s opening loading screen and be alert and aware of their surroundings to avoid harm. Despite this, the negative press has strongly helped the virality of Pokemon GO.
It will be extremely exciting to see this game evolve. Niantic seems to be working hard to provide steady, progressive updates that is sure to delight the mass market of Pokemon GO players. This game is fantastic for the future of AR software because it is giving the mainstream audience a peek at what AR can do and it provides a decent reference point. Perhaps our hand-tracking can be implemented into the game so that players can interact with their Pokemon like virtual pets (i.e. petting, feeding etc.). Judging by the continuous success of Pokemon GO, the future of AR is sure to be a lot more social and practical than VR.
This year’s Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3 2016) was virtual reality’s opportunity to make its big break within the mainstream audience. Since companies like Oculus Rift and HTC Vive have already made their mark within the VR industry, E3’s audience were mainly awaiting VR-related announcements from the 3 gaming company giants: Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo.
In Sony’s conference, they finally announced the official release date for Playstation VR. PSVR will be released on October 13, 2016 and will retail for $399 USD. Sony is also partnering with Best Buy to include PSVR demos in select locations. Alongside PSVR, Sony announced many software titles that will support it. The titles include: Resident Evil VII, Final Fantasy XV, and Farpoint, which utilizes a peripheral from Sony called the PSVR Aim Controller. The special controller aims to make VR first person shooter games become more immersive.
Arguably the biggest announcement of E3 2016 was Microsoft announcing that their next VR/4k compatible Xbox, codenamed Project Scorpio, will launch next year. This was a bold move considering that Microsoft also announced a slimmer version of the Xbox One called the Xbox One S. Project Scorpio’s VR capabilities may be just as good as HTC Vive or Oculus Rift with a smooth frames per second (FPS) count of 90.
Surprisingly, Nintendo did not announce any upcoming VR technology. It’s surprising because Nintendo brought motion controls to the forefront and it seems that the next step would be to also become leaders in virtual reality gaming. Nintendo did already release a VR system in 1995 but it was deemed a failure quickly after release. Obviously, it was way too early to launch a VR capable system at that time. Nintendo now plans to wait and see the virtual reality network flourish before getting involved once again.
Nintendo did announce that their highly anticipated mobile augmented reality game, Pokemon GO, will be launching sometime in July.
It’s refreshing to see gaming begin to shift in a different direction with the implementation of VR and AR at this year’s E3. Next year’s E3 should be a lot more impressive considering that there will be further refinement and expertise in VR/AR content and technology.
The Augmented World Expo (AWE 2016) is the 7th annual trade show event that took place in the Santa Clara Convention Center on June 1st and 2nd. The expo focused on augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), and wearable technology. The event itself was very similar to the Silicon Valley Virtual Reality Expo (SVVR) but it was more focused on AR. The main purpose of AWE is to help developers, start-ups, and mobile/hardware companies cultivate new technology into a productive, sustainable, and entertaining medium. The expo was also very interactive, encouraging plenty of attendees to try out demos from exhibitors.
This year’s AWE show was the biggest one yet, featuring over 4000 attendees from 47 countries, 200 speakers, and 200 exhibitors. We here at uSens Inc. were part of the exhibitor list along with a balanced mix of big, medium, and small sized companies and startups such as Leap Motion, DAQRI, Intel, and Epson. The audience was also comparable to SVVR 2016. It included developers, content creators, designers, entrepreneurs, and investors, with involvement in AR, VR, and wearable technology. Our booth was extremely popular with the audience and we enjoyed their consistent enthusiasm for our AR/VR hand-tracking technology.
On June 1st, our CTO, Dr. Yue Fei, was one of the speakers at AWE 2016 and he presented a case study on Inside-Out tracking and he demonstrated our Fingo technology, which tracks the hand skeleton using infrared stereo cameras on a mobile head mounted display. The next day our development team provided a developer tutorial and demonstration for ARVR Inside-out tracking. The session included recommended best hand tracking use cases and examples for uSens hardware and software development kit. Our developers also demonstrated how to integrate our hand tracking technology with Unity 3D, Java, or C++. At the end of AWE, attendees of our developer conference were able to receive our Beta Dev Kits, which included hardware and software needed to develop with uSens hand tracking.
AWE 2016 featured the Auggie Awards which showcases the best AR technology. The 11 categories ranged from: best app, best hardware, and best game. We were nominated for Best Tool but Vuforia by PTC ended up winning the award. One of my favorite new products that I demoed at AWE was the winner of “best headset or smart glasses”, which was the Epson Moverio BT-300. These smart glasses, reminiscent of Google Glass, features an OLED HD display, a 5-megapixel camera, and a clever design that can fit over regular glasses. The BT-300 is scheduled to ship in October this year. The complete list of the other winners at AWE 2016 can be found here.
The excitement at AWE was amazing this year and it was also one of the busiest tech expos that we have been a part of. I did not expect this much popularity from an augmented reality focused event because of the massive trend of virtual reality right now. Judging by this event, AR has a great chance of hitting the mainstream faster than VR.
Below is a montage video that I filmed at AWE 2016. Enjoy!
Even though it was a small venue, Silicon Valley Virtual Reality Expo’s attendees were immensely enthusiastic about the latest virtual reality technology. The 3rd annual SVVR (2016) is a VR focused expo and conference that took place on April 27-29 in the San Jose Convention Center. The goal of the event is to bring together VR supporters and build up the VR network. The audience featured everyone from developers, content creators, designers, investors, and entrepreneurs who are involved in and or interested in virtual reality.
Over 100 VR companies came to San Jose to showcase their products at the event. It was a nice mix because there were several big companies like Oculus and NVIDIA, some medium sized companies including Leap Motion and OSVR, and dozens of small indies bringing tools or content to the VR landscape. The variety of VR technology exhibited at the expo included 360 video, motion & gesture control, 3D point cloud mapping, audio, controllers, and more.
In addition to demoing our product to attendees at the show, uSens CTO, Dr. Yue Fei, had the opportunity to present our Inside-out tracking for mobile and tethered ARVR. Dr. Fei also discussed how uSens is working to release this technology to Unity 3D, C++, and Java developers on June 1, 2016.
There was an overwhelming amount of VR tech demos to experience at the show so it was nice to try out a few of them. One of the first VR demos that I got to try out was the Pico Neo. The Pico Neo was very interesting because it had a small SNES-like controller that was attached to the Head Mounted Display. Many of the internals are actually located inside of the controller so this allowed for the HMD to be more lightweight. The game that I played was a space shooter demo that had me looking around to aim and pushing a button on the controller to shoot. It was pretty difficult to attain a steady aim with my shaky head but I got better at it the more I played. With Pico Neo supposedly releasing next month in China in June, it should be interesting to see if controller attached HMDs will catch on.
SculptrVR is another exciting game that I tried out that allows users to sculpt objects in virtual reality. The aesthetic of the game was very similar to Minecraft. A unique aspect of SculptrVR was that I was able scale myself to my desired height at any time. With this scaling, it makes it very intuitive to sculpt your own detailed world. Users are also able to upload and share their worlds over Steam.
VirZOOM was one of the most mesmerizing products that I tried at SVVR. The product is actually a bicycle controller that can be hooked up with PSVR, Oculus Rift, and HTC Vive HMDs. The HMD provided position tracking so that I could lean to the left or to the right when maneuvering through the virtual landscapes. The game demo that I played for this system was great. In one of the mini-games, I was riding a horse that could fly and I seriously had the sensation that I was hovering in the air. After playing for about 8 minutes I felt like I got a decent workout without even realizing it while I was in action. This product is sure to introduce VR to the fitness world at a rapid rate. VirZOOM is available for pre-order with Mobile VR support coming soon.
Noitom’s Project Alice was my last demo that I tried out and it was the stand-out virtual reality experience at SVVR. Many attendees were excited about it being that people were required to set up an appointment and wait for hours just to try it. Luckily, some of the uSens team and I experienced the demo together. The demo took place in a private room but after we donned our headsets, the room became completely virtualized. We were then given Nintendo Wii Remotes that allowed us to create virtual objects and interact with them. The twist was that we were also able to interact with real world objects and their movements were simulated in real time (with little to no latency!) via the HMD. Being able to interact with virtual objects and real objects and the very same time while still being in a virtual reality experience was truly magical.
Getting the chance to see and try out our VR peers’ demos inspire us greatly to continue working on our technology. We are so excited for next year! Below is a short montage video that I filmed at the show.
Facebook F8 is an annual conference keynote that took place on April 12 and 13 at Fort Mason in San Francisco, CA. The event was directed at developers and entrepreneurs who build products and services for the social network. During the conference, Zuckerberg mentioned that virtual reality could be the best form of social networking because of its strong communal immersion. He illustrated this idea by showing off the Toybox Demo for Oculus Touch.
Facebook also presented an open source camera rig that they are calling the “Surround 360 Camera”. The camera, made with 17 combined cameras, will be able to shoot 3D-360 8K video at a smooth 60 frames per second. According to Chris Cox, Facebook’s vice president of product, the company plans to share the hardware design and stitching algorithm on Github this summer.
The Oculus team also demoed their VR selfie stick that aims to make VR social. With the virtual stick, users will be able to take photos of their avatars in front of famous landmarks. Once the photo is taken, the user can share it with their Facebook friends’ virtual mailbox so they could post it on the site.
After talking about VR, Zuckerberg, shifted the topic to augmented reality. Surprisingly, it was the first time that Zuckerberg revealed Facebook’s interest in AR. The Facebook CEO said that we could use AR apps to replace physical objects such as an AR TV set. Facebook also showed that they wanted to combine both AR and VR into their devices, which is also what we are working on here at uSens Inc. Near the end of the conference, Zuckerberg presented a photo of a pair of black glasses. These glasses were only a glimpse into the future of Facebook tech with Zuckerberg saying that VR/AR headsets will look like a regular pair of eyeglasses in 10 years. VR and AR were also featured at the end of Facebook’s 10-year road map, along with artificial intelligence and connectivity.
Now that Facebook is officially on the AR train with Google and Microsoft, it should be interesting to see how this competition will help bring AR to new heights.