Author: vrcreators

Training AI & Robots in VR with NVIDIA’s Project Holodeck

At SIGGRAPH 2017, NVIDIA was showing off their Isaac Robot that had been trained to play dominos within a virtual world environment of NVIDIA’s Project Holodeck. They’re using Unreal Engine to simulate interactions with people in VR to train a robot how to play dominos. They can use a unified code base of AI algorithms for deep reinforcement learning within VR, and then apply that same code base to drive a physical Baxter robot. This creates a safe context to train and debug the behavior of the robot within a virtual environment, but to also experiment with cultivating interactions with the robot that are friendly, exciting, and entertaining. This will allow humans to build trust in interacting with robots in a virtual environment so that they are more comfortable and familiar with interacting with physical robots in the real world.


I talked with NVIDIA’s senior VR designer on this project, Omer Shapira, at the SIGGRAPH conference in August, where we talk about using Unreal Engine and Project Holodeck to train AI, using a variety of AI frameworks that can use VR as a reality simulator, stress testing for edge cases and anomalous behaviors in a safe environment, and how they’re cultivating social awareness and robot behaviors that improve human-computer interactions.

Here’s NVIDIA CEO Jensen Huang talking about using VR to train robots & AI:

If you’re interested in learning more about AI, then be sure to check out the Voices of AI podcast which just released the first five episodes.

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Music: Fatality & Summer Trip

The post Training AI & Robots in VR with NVIDIA’s Project Holodeck appeared first on Road to VR.

Admire Nature With The Grand Canyon VR Experience Trailer

The Grand Canyon is generally acknowledged as being one of the most impressive natural wonders of the world, but few people will ever get the chance to appreciate it for themselves. Unless you have an Oculus Rift, of course.

It’s no secret that modern life can be deeply stressful for some people, so having a way to escape into more serene surroundings holds a certain appeal. For those who have access to an Oculus Rift headset, a relaxing kayak ride into the heart of the Grand Canyon will never be too far away with The Grand Canyon VR Experience.

Using an Oculus Touch motion controller, users will be able to climb aboard a motorised kayak, the speed of which is determined by the user. You can drift slowly down the Colorado river to admire the beauty of nature, with over two billions years of geological history exposed in the canyon walls.

User can choose to tour the canyon under a blazing sun or under a cool, starry sky. Artificial intelligent generated wildlife can be spotted going through a range of realistic behaviours. Fish can be attracted towards your boat, where you can choose to feed them and observe their behaviour.

An active day and night cycle is available, along with a flashlight so users can explore the canyon during darkness.

The developers have said that there are plans for a multiplayer mode in future, allowing groups of friends of family to travel to the Grand Canyon together.

For the best experience, the developers recommend a comfortable chair in the middle of the play space, an oscillating fan in front of your, a dark room to remove excess light and your favourite relaxing music.

Further details are available on the Oculus Store page, of you can view the new trailer for The Grand Canyon VR Experience below.

As always, VRFocus will keep you informed on new and upcoming VR experiences.

Ready At Dawn Wins Two DICE Awards For VR Titles

Lone Echo

Lone Echo and Echo Arena were the developers first virtual reality (VR) titles released and now they have landed the company with award success.

Both Lone Echo and Echo Arena developed by Ready At Dawn, won the awards for Immersive Reality Technical Achievement and Immersive Reality Game of the Year. These two awards honour the hard work that goes into creating outstanding VR products, celebrating the continued development of the industry and technology.

Lone Echo is a narrative adventure title that puts players in the shoes of Jack – an advanced artificial intelligence with a state-of-the-art synthetic body- who must work to help Captain Olivia Rhose solve a mystery on board an advanced mining facility within the rings of Saturn. VRFocus reviewed Lone Echo giving the title a solid score with reviewer Peter Graham describing the title as: “…an experience that every Oculus Touch owner needs in their library.”

Echo Arena artwork

Alongside the release of Lone Echo, a multi-player component known as Echo Arena was also released. The team-based sports game makes use of the same locomotion mechanics from Lone Echo, such as being able to grab any surface to move around and using wrist mounted thrusters, to build a competitive full-contact sport. Players must grab a flying disc and throw it through the opposition’s goal in order to score points. The full-contact element is possible thanks to players being able to push and punch each other in virtual space to stun them for a brief moment.

Developer Ready At Dawn, who previously had worked on titles such as The Order: 1886, created the titles with the support of Oculus Studios, seeing both Lone Echo and Echo Arena releasing onto the Oculus Store. Since their release in July last year, the two have gone on to be successful VR titles thanks to their zero gravity gameplay and compelling narrative. For both to win the Immersive Reality Technical Achievement and Immersive Reality Game of the Year awards during the DICE 2018 awards comes as no surprise and is a win worth celebrating.

For more on Ready At Dawn, Lone Echo and Echo Arena keep reading VRFocus.

Facebook Removes Violent Videogames from CPAC Booth After Public Criticism

Bullet Train 02

With the recent shootings at a high school in Parkland, Florida, the issue of gun ownership and gun violence has once again dominated the news in both the US and abroad. With such a sensitive issue, Facebook and its virtual reality (VR) subsidiary Oculus have been unwittingly drawn into the furore due to a selection of titles being shown at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC).

When Oculus takes a demo booth to an event it’ll have a standard set of experiences for attendees to play, showcasing the range of gameplay available for Oculus Rift. One of those was Epic Games tech demo Bullet Train, where players have to move around a fictional train station taking out enemies with an assortment of weaponry, in addition to several other violent experiences.

Due to the fact that during CPAC there were several talks on the issue of guns – National Rifle Association (NRA) head Wayne LaPierre, spoke on Thursday with President Trump speaking Friday – Facebook was publicly criticised for demoing the violent videogame and others so soon after the shootings at the conference.

In a statement to USA TODAY, Facebook’s vice president of VR, Hugo Barra said: “There is a standard set of experiences included in the Oculus demos we feature at public events. A few of the action games can include violence. In light of the recent events in Florida and out of respect for the victims and their families, we have removed them from this demo. We regret that we failed to do so in the first place.”

Barra also took to Twitter to apologise further: “We removed the demo & regret failing to do so at the start. We got this wrong. Our demos come w a [sic] standard set of content, some are action games w [sic] violence. These shouldn’t have been present, especially in light of recent events & out of respect for the victims & their families.”

While Bullet Train wasn’t the only title to be removed, shooting videogames in general are popular in VR thanks to motion controllers and the general popularity of the genre among gamers. It’s not been made clear which other titles were included in the demo. Oculus Rift has a wide selection of experiences available, both educational and interactive, whether users are looking to explore the world with Google Earth VR or the solar system in Discovering Space 2, to cute titles like Tethered and puzzle experiences such as XING: The Land Beyond. There are plenty to choose from when considering a demo selection for particular events so hopefully Facebook/Oculus will be more mindful in the future.

VRFocus will continue its coverage of Facebook/Oculus, especially with F8 on the horizon as well as GDC.

VR eSports Psychodrama Ctrl Remastered is Here

Ctrl Remastered Screenshot 01

London based virtual reality (VR) studio Breaking Fourth has brought back the critically acclaimed VR psychodrama Crtl in a new remastered version.

Ctrl follows the tale of champion gamer Liam, as viewers take a front row seat to the final rounds of an eSports tournament where not all is quite as it seems. With a troubled domestic life and sneering commentators overheard, Ctrl will take viewers beyond the blurred lines between the virtual world and the real world with devastating effects. As time runs out it becomes clear what Liam is really fighting for in this dark, serious drama that contains scenes some may find upsetting.

Ctrl was originally shown to an exclusive audience at London’s Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts with a follow up release on PlayStation VR. Now, Ctrl Remastered brings viewers back once again to the hot seat with updated visuals and aims to deliver an astonishing narrative experience full of emotional and compelling storytelling. This has been achieved thanks to Breaking Fourth’s commitment to embracing the limitless creative possibilities that VR technology has to offer in creating immersive storytelling.

Ctrl Remastered Screenshot 01

Talking about the release of Ctrl Remastered, David Kaskel, Co-founder and CEO of Breaking Fourth said: “We received really positive feedback from Ctrl’s original release and found that it stimulated a lot of discussion, not just because of the medium but because of the more emotional elements of the story. It’s this level of poignancy that we can deliver with such impact in VR, so it made sense to keep the technological aspects as current as possible to ensure that delivery both for our current audience and a new one.”

For the new release Ctrl Remastered has gone multiplatform meaning viewers can experience it on their preferred choice of media. This includes the Samsung VR store, Oculus Video, Breaking Fourth’s own WARP app on the Oculus store and as a YouTube 360 video, available on Breaking Fourth’s YouTube Channel. All of these releases are available for free, meaning anyone can view this deep and meaningful drama.

For more on Ctrl Remastered and the work by Breaking Fourth, keep reading VRFocus.

This Week in VR Sport: The Next Generation

Salford University Virtual Stadium Demonstration

The weekend is here and it’s the last one for the month of February but that won’t stop us from bringing you a number of stories from the week focusing on sports. From football to stock car racing to a new demonstration of a virtual reality (VR) stadium experience, there is plenty to drive into in This Week In VR Sport.

Virtual Stadium Experience Showcased at MediaCityUK

Since the introduction of VR technology into the world of sports, fans have been itching to see how it can help put them closer to the action. Salford University Centre for Sports Business partnered with to demonstration and number of VR and augmented reality (AR) products focusing on the sports sector. One such demonstration, designed by Salford student Elena-Mary Calarasu, made use of 360 camera to record not only a match but also the crowds, before projecting them onto huge screens to create an immersive virtual stadium experience.

Calarasu, a student of Business and IT at the University of Salford Business School explained: “We wanted to get rid of the headsets but still get the same experience. It’s a very social thing. The idea is to bring fans closer to the action. It will allow fans who don’t live near their team to be involved in the action. For example Man City fans who live in China could get a much better experience if this technology is used.”

On top of the massive projection onto the two massive screens the experience can also been enjoyed with a VR headset such as the Oculus Rift. The demonstration shows that with or without a headset, that immersive sports content is very much possible and can be used in a number of different applications.

NASCAR Looking to Virtual Reality to Fuel Future Stars

From football to stock car racing, VR and immersive technology is helping to grow the next generation of racers.

Speaking in an interview with the Orlando Sentinel, 20 year old stock car racer William Byron spoke about how the use of the popular iRacing simulator as a teenager helped to home his skills for the real thing. Having won over 100 races and placing in the top five over 290 times. Talking about his early days of racing Byron explained: “For me, I had not been in a racing family and did not have any connection with this, so iRacing was my chance to really see if I had any ability to drive a car, I think from that standpoint it’s a great starter for understanding if you do have some ability and seeing if that can translate.”

iRacing screenshot 01

The accessibility of iRacing and the included support for VR headsets allows a user to become complete immersed in a race, learning invariable skills for the real thing. Jimmie Johnson, 42-year-old seven-time season champion added: “In today’s world you can get experience in a variety lot of different ways and have the hours needed to jump in a car, unlike my generation, William is a perfect example.”

He continued by adding: “I had to wait 20 times a year to go drive a vehicle for one day. You add up those hours. William can sit in his house and drive for six hours day after day after day. It’s not the real thing but in today’s era it’s pretty damn close.”

The Next eSport Might Be VR Deathmatch

Speaking of future stars, the next generations of eSports champions may find their future success in VR.

During a recent test event at the Dr. Pepper Arena in Frisco, Texas, the first two-person VR arena demonstration was create. The aim was to have two players facing off in a head-to-head live-action deathmatch in the title Raw Data. Complete with viewing screens and side-by-side pods, a stage was created to make any eSports fan happy. The event, though only small, was a successful test of the idea, setup and hardware along with a live stream resulting in an exciting event that has a lot of promise.

VR Deathmatch Arena

The possible application to take this large scale could be a key step in how the eSports industry further embraces VR technology and creates new competitions. You can see the test event in action here.

For more on immersive sport news keep reading VRFocus.

Small Startups Should Embrace Virtual Reality

Startups have had a good run over the last half a decade. With platforms like Kickstarter helping innovators and solopreneurs get their ideas off the ground, to global communities that support the rapidly growing startup world. One of the key aspect of making sure your startup is growing at a steady pace, is embracing all of the available technology that can help you do just that.

One of the biggest advancements in workplace technology is virtual reality (VR). While this might seem to be far-fetched for a small business, VR is actually more accessible than newcommers might think. Here are some resources that will help you learn more about why VR could be just the thing you small business or startup needs to experience significant growth.

Try before you buy

For small businesses budget is always important. Getting your company off the ground requires substantial resources, and leaves little room for extras, especially at the early stages of development. For small businesses that means having to focus their resource, but that doesn’t mean that they have to miss out on the latest technology available. There are various platforms that give both individuals and companies the option to rent out a VR headset. This cost-effective option will help your budding business harness the opportunity of exploring how immersive technology can benefit your business.

In fact, even if you do have the funds, renting a headset before going out and buying one might be the best solution for any company looking to embrace VR, no matter what stage of development.

VR can diversify your team

Today, it’s easier than ever to make sure your workplace is diverse, not just culturally, but also when it comes to skills. With remote work becoming more and more popular thanks to a rise in communication technologies, small businesses and startups have the opportunity to find top-notch talent, no matter where they are in the world.

Making use of VR can help you connect with potential colleagues, or help to create a sense of connectedness with coworkers, especially those who are half way about the world. While allowing employees to work remotely has contributed to many positive shifts in the contemporary workplace, it’s well understood that feeling part of a team is vital for productivity. VR could be the ideal way to bridge the gap between team strength and flexible work models.

Troopers VR HeadsetBring your product directly to your customer

It’s well understood that personalize communication with consumers has been a game changer. For those who are working in retail, using VR isn’t just good for piquing the interest of potential customers, it can also be beneficial when it comes to building a loyal consumer base. VR lets your consumer have a more immersive experience, which shows that your business is both innovative and dedicated to making sure consumers get their needs met.

Whether you want to enhance team building experience or attract more consumer, VR can help you explore ways to grow your business. In addition to helping startups increase brand awareness and revenue, embracing VR sooner, rather than later, is a wise decision as it will very likely be a staple in the workplace in the near future.

Some Scenic and not so Scenic Screenshots of Island 359

Island 359

A few days ago VRFocus reported on CloudGate Studio announcing that its Jurassic Park inspired virtual reality (VR) title Island 359 would be leaving Early Access after almost two years. With the launch only a couple of days away, VRFocus has a few more screenshots to whet your appetite for the dino hunting experience.

If you’ve not heard of Island 359 before then what have you been doing? Set to be one of the biggest virtual reality (VR) releases of the year, the videogame puts you on a massive six square mile island, filled with jungle and most importantly dinosaurs, from little compies to giant Allosaurs and the always deadly raptors.

There are three modes to play through, Mercenary, Arcade, and the all new Survival Mode. Mercenary mode is all about cash, getting as many kills as possible then returning back to base for your payday. The longer you stay out the more cash you’ll earn, and the greater chance you’ll be killed before making it back. While Arcade is all about running around having fun on the hunt, Survival will be where the true hardcore reside. Here you’ll be given minimal resources to start with, having to scavenge for food and crafting materials to stay alive for as long as possible.

As you can see from the new screenshots, CloudGate Studio has created a rich and vibrant land for you to explore. From high mountain peaks and dense jungle, to open plains and winding rivers, it’s everything you’d expect from an uninhabited island. That is apart from the dinosaurs, who want to eat you, apart from the herbivores, alas they still want to kill you.

Island 359 will launch out of Early Access on Steam, Humble, and Oculus Home 26th February, 2018 for $24.99, with a 20 percent launch sale reducing down to $19.99 for a limited time. For any further updates or announcements form CloudGate Studio, keep reading VRFocus.

Island 359
Island 359

‘Gorn’s’ New ‘Giant’ Update is Bigger, Badder, and (Optionally) Less Violent

Physics-based VR brawler Gorn, got a free update today which brings a host of new weapons, a big new baddie, an optional mode to tone down the game’s over-the-top blood and gore, and more.

Gorn, one of the top rated VR titles available on Steam, has players battling against comically proportioned baddies, using gladiator style weapons to cause as much damage as humanly possible. Available on Steam in Early Access July 2017, the game has seen regular content updates. Following the ‘Flying Firsts of Fury’ update back in December, the game today got the ‘Giant’ update, just in time for a 25% off weekend sale which lasts until February 26th.

The suitably named ‘Giant’ update brings a new champion for players to battle, the hulking Giant, complete with ‘Mitch’, a tiny bow wielding warrior who rides on the Giant’s shoulder.

Image courtesy Freelives

The ‘Giant’ update also brings a slew of new weapons, including a hand-mounted crossbow, huge greataxe, chainblade (a chain with a knife on the end, of course), a throwing shield for some Captain America action, and what the studio calls their “most requested weapon,” the massive greatsword. The update further includes an all new arena which is bigger and includes environmental hazards to further enhance the violent spectacle.

Image courtesy Freelives

Speaking of violence, Gorn’s over-the-top violence can now optionally be toned down. A new ‘Low Violence’ mode gives enemies the appearance of being made from paper or wood, and, instead of spewing blood and guts, they’ll spew candy like a piñata instead. A thoughtful option which may make the game more suitable to a wider audience.

Image courtesy Freelives

As of December, Gorn developer Freelives confirmed that the Early Access title has already garnered over 50,000 sales; SteamSpy data suggests the game may have picked up another 10k to 20k units since then. The game is currently on sale for 25% off through February 26th.

The studio has previously said they expect Gorn to be in early access for up to one year, which would put a prospective 1.0 launch of the game sometime around July of this year.

The post ‘Gorn’s’ New ‘Giant’ Update is Bigger, Badder, and (Optionally) Less Violent appeared first on Road to VR.

Meet Meep, Mindshow’s Latest Character

Mindshow Meet Meep

Mindshow lets users make animated movies in virtual reality (VR) by using their voice, body and some creative thinking. The latest addition to the show is Meep, an alien who even brought along their flying saucer.

Thanks to the technology available from VR programs like Mindshow are able to transform motion and tracking data to give users a complete animation suite right in their home. What would normally require countless hours of hard work and high costs is now streamlined into an accessible concept. With the addition of Meep, Mindshow continues to grow it’s cast of available cartoon characters and assets for user to bring any story or joke to life.

Alongside Meep joining the cast of Mindshow, a new feature is being added as well to give users the chance to use vertical video. Currently a prototype, the camera orientation can be adjusted by squeezing the grip buttons once to freeze the camera in its place, then doing so again over the left side of the camera frame. This will allow for more creation possibilities when designing animations and even for exporting work. As users can link to their YouTube accounts to share finished work or work-in-progress animations, the new vertical video feature will offer a chance for users to focus on mobile devices as their target viewing platform.

Mindshow Improvatar 3

With the inclusion of Meep, Mindshow will be hosting their third Improvatar competition later on today, Friday 23rd. Every episode of the Improvatar competition challenges viewers to remix three shows for a chance to win a $25 USD Steam gift card. For this third round of Improvatar users have until the night of Sunday 25th to complete their entries. The winners will then be complied together and shown off on Mindshow’s YouTube channel. Mindshow has been able to build up a loyal community and the Improvatar competition looks to be set to continue for sometime.

Mindshow is available as a free download on Steam and is currently in early access. Though only supporting the HTC Vive at the moment, compatibility with the Oculus Rift is expect to be added to the game in a future update.

VRFocus will bring you further news on Mindshow as it becomes available.