Back in May 2016, Oculus announced its VR for Good initiative, a six week programme for students. One of the areas covered was 360-degree filmmaking and today Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg has released the ninth project to be made, Step to the Line.
As Zuckerberg explains in his posting: “One of the most powerful side effects of VR is empathy — the ability to understand other people better when you feel like you’re actually with them.”
“When I was in Alabama two months ago as part of my “Year of Travel” challenge, one of the most powerful experiences for me was meeting Anthony Ray Hinton, a man who was exonerated and released after 30 years on death row. There’s nothing like meeting someone like Anthony in person, but VR can get you pretty close. It’s a reminder of how much work we have to do to guarantee equal justice for all.”
So the filmmakers decided to create a short documentary about the US prison system and the stories of the inmates. Step to the Line was created by Ricardo Laganaro in collaboration with Defy Ventures with mentors Christie Marchese and Picture Motion.
Viewers will be able to see first-hand the stories of real inmates, learning what’s it’s like to be a part of the modern criminal justice system and how release from incarceration can be just as jarring as the intake.
Step to the Line can be viewed below as a 360-degree video, for a more immersive experience head to Oculus Video on Gear VR.
If you want to see move content like this head to the VR for Good website, which details more of the films from 2016 due to be released and what’s going to ahppen over 2017.
VRFocus will continue its coverage of Oculus’ VR for Good, reporting back with the latest announcements.
Google today announced what the company is calling the “next-generation” of its ‘Jump‘ 3D 360 camera initiative. In partnership with Google, Yi Technology has created the Yi Halo, a 17-camera clock-synchronized array that is designed to be optimized for Google’s automated Jump stitching process which creates impressively seamless 3D 360 output.
Google announced the Jump initiative back in 2015. Originally it was intended to be an “open” camera design that laid out the ideal camera geometry for the Jump Assembler, Google’s cloud-based automated stitching process. Over time however, the company found that an ideal 3D 360 camera for the Jump Assembler required more than just the right geometry. Having dialed back the open part of Jump, Google is today announcing the first major update to the initiative in some time.
Next-generation Jump Camera
Having worked originally with GoPro to design the ‘Odyssey’ camera for Jump, this time it’s Yi Technology who have worked with Google to create the Yi Halo, which the companies are calling the “next-generation” of Jump cameras. You can see footage captured with the camera here:
The Yi Halo shoots up to 8k x 8k at 30 FPS, or 6k x 6k at 60 FPS, and, thanks to the Jump assembler, outputs 3D 360 video. Based on the Yi 4K Action Camera, and using the Sony IMX377 sensor, the Halo houses 17 individual cameras which the company says are clock-synchronized to “work as one.” That means that when you hit the record button, all the cameras are activated simultaneously, eliminating what’s effectively a rolling-shutter distortion caused by different frame timing between cameras. An inbuilt time-lapse mode can make for some cool long-term captures.
The Halo has its own ad-hoc WiFi network which allows a smartphone to connect and control the camera through an app. The app provides preview & remote control functions, including monitoring and settings & firmware updating which are distributed to the 17 cameras all at once. The Halo also has an on-board touchscreen display which can control all the camera’s functions.
Designed for Reliability and Portability
Priced at $18,000, the Yi Halo is relatively inexpensive as far as professional cameras go, and Google says the camera is made to be a reliable workhorse for mid-level 360 productions; the companies are touting the Halo’s operating specs: rated for continuous operation between 0° and 95°, along with a 100 minute shooting duration on the single internal battery (and there’s also an optional AC input when direct power is an option). On-board bubble-levels make it easy to ensure a level horizon with each shot.
Derin Turner, Production Director at VR Playhouse, notes “This camera and Jump ranks as one of the best and easiest pieces of equipment and platform to use on the market.”
Google says that part of what makes the Yi Halo a reliable field-camera is its impressively light 7.7 lb (3.5 kg) weight, and what comes in the box. Included in the $18k pricetag is a hard-case kit full of tools, replacement parts, chargers, memory card readers and more. The Halo is designed to be field-serviceable; the kit has two spare cameras which can easily be swapped into place so that a single camera failure wouldn’t stop progress on a shoot—the kit even comes with the screwdrivers you’ll need to make the swap. Also included in the kit is an SD card reading array which makes it much easier to pull all the data from the 17 SD cards than doing things 1 SD card at a time.
Those paying careful attention might note that the Yi Halo has one more camera than its predecessor (the Odyssey). Indeed, the Halo has a single upward facing camera where the Odyssey did not. This makes it easier to capture action happening above the camera and eliminates the need to fill in the top view with post-production touchups.
Fans of the Star Wars franchise will be happy to hear that Nokia has announced a multi-year partnership with Lucasfilm providing immersive behind-the-scenes content, with the first film being Star Wars: The Last Jedi.
The virtual reality (VR) agreement between the two companies will see The Walt Disney Studios utilise Nokia OZO cameras as well as its software solutions to create immersive experiences to complement Disney’s theatrical releases.
“We’re thrilled to partner with Lucasfilm and Disney to bring the magic of immersive VR storytelling to one of the most exciting and anticipated movie experiences of all time,” said Brad Rodrigues, interim President of Nokia Technologies. “OZO will enable Star Wars fans around the world to be transported into the incredible worlds depicted in the story, and truly feel the power of The Force together.”
“We want nothing more than to share the Star Wars universe with fans around the world and fans tell us they love to have the opportunity to learn more about the process of filmmaking,” said Brian Miller, Senior Vice President, Franchise Creative & Strategy at Lucasfilm. “Utilizing the Nokia OZO to capture our behind the scenes material allows viewers to be transported to fantastical locations and virtually visit the incredible sets where their favorite Star Wars scenes were captured.”
Previously, Disney has created VR experiences for Pete’s Dragon, Alice Through the Looking Glass, and The Jungle Book.
Details haven’t been released on what the VR content will be or the availability for Star Wars: The Last Jedi VR experience. Star Wars: The Last Jedi is set to arrive in cinemas this December so expect further news nearer the time.
With it being a multi-year deal, there’s the very good likelihood that all the upcoming Star Wars movies will get the same treatment, and anything else Disney makes.
VRFocus will continue its coverage of Nokia, Disney and Lucasfilm, reporting back with the latest updates.
Zen Studios has today announced that Infinite Minigolf, the highly anticipated follow-up to Planet Minigolf, is coming to consoles and virtual reality (VR). The PC version of the videogame and the upcoming PlayStation 4 version will feature VR gameplay, allowing you to create, customise, and play your courses in a brand new way.
Having previous released editions of popular console titles CastleStorm and Pinball FX 2 for VR head-mounted displays (HMDs), it should come as no surprise that Zen Studios’ latest title will also support VR. Currently available on PCs through Steam Early Access, Infinite Minigolf will allow players craft their own course creations and experience tons of customisation options on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch this spring.
“Zen Studios released Planet Minigolf on PlayStation Network back in 2010 and players are still enjoying that game today. The community has been very vocal over the years, sharing their ideas for a new game, and they gave us more than enough new ideas to come back and develop a minigolf game for this console generation,” said Tamas Balog, Head of Studio at Zen Studios. “The team has spent a lot of time developing better tools for players to make their own content – which was the number one request from players. If you enjoy minigolf as well as creating and sharing your own content, Infinite Minigolf was designed for you.”
Using the robust toolset contained in the course editor, players are the creators, and can showcase their creative abilities to players all over the world. Players will place course tiles and a vast assortment of gameplay objects as they wish, as well as participating in eight-player online multiplayer matchups, local multiplayer matches, and a variety of single player modes.
The PlayStation 4 and Steam versions support PlayStation VR, Oculus Rift and HTC Vive respectively. No specific release date has yet been announced for Infinite Minigolf, but of course VRFocus will keep you updated with all the latest details.
Virtual reality (VR) puzzle games are a good way for people new to VR used to using the technology while experiencing the immersion that is possible with VR. Puzzle games tend to involve more thinking that waving your arms around, so they’re good for users who tend towards motion sickness as well. Just as well that PlayStation VR is getting another puzzle game to add to its catalogue with Statik.
Statik shares some DNA with puzzle games like Keep Talking And Nobody Explodes or I Expect You To Die, in that it is a type of escape puzzle. The players hands are trapped inside a box, each side of the box has a different gauge, lever or switch that correspond to a different button, thumb sticks or d-pad. The controls must be operated in the proper sequence or at the proper time in order to escape. The player must be cautious and use their eyes and ears in order to not only discern the correct sequence, but also to discover what is going on in this mysterious lab around you, and why you are being subjected to this experiment.
The synopsis for the title on the PlayStation Store page speaks of Dr Ingen and his assistant Edith and their attempts to unravel the complexities of the human mind, and also warns that not everything the player sees and hears can necessarily be trusted.
In a rare gesture, the developer Tarsier Studios have made a free demo is available so players can try out the experience and covers the first puzzle the players will need to solve.
The full version of Statik is available for $29.95 (USD) or £15.99 (GBP) in the UK. Further information can be found on the PlayStation Store.
VRFocus will bring you news on other new PlayStation VR releases at they become available.
The competition in the virtual reality (VR) headset space looks like it’ll be hotting up over the course of 2017, with new details emerging that Lenovo’s Windows Holographic head-mounted display (HMD) looks set to arrive this August at a highly competitive price.
Via Twitter, Ross McDougall, a Lenovo Insider, has detailed several unreleased specs as well as when the device is likely to launch. In an interview with Twice earlier this month, Lenovo’s VP of Consumer Business in North America, Mike Abary, said the headset would be available during the back-to-school period. McDougall has listed August 2017 as the release date, which would be about right.
Lenovo took its new HMD to CES 2017, demoing the device to attendees as well as releasing several specs. The headset boasts a pair 1,440 x 1,440 OLED panels which remains unchanged, but may have gained some weight, initially it was around the 350 gram mark, McDougall puts it at 380 grams.
With it’s pair of front-facing VGA cameras the Lenovo headset will include 6 degrees of inside-out tracking. In terms of content there will be support for certain Microsoft HoloLens apps, 20,000 Windows 10 2D apps, and a Lenovo Entertainment Hub will also be included.
While it’s been expected that consumers wouldn’t need a high-powered PC to run the new device, no minimum specs have been revealed until now. McDougall simply wrote: “Intel i5 & HD620 (RS3)” which gives a slightly better idea of what you’ll need. For those who’ve already purchased an Oculus Rift or HTC Vive and are interested in seeing what Lenovo’s product can offer, their rigs will likely fit the requirements.
And it’s not just Lenovo that’s producing these headsets. Microsoft has partnered with several manufacturers, including HP, Dell, Asus and Acer, all of whom will be releasing VR/MR headsets in the near future.
VRFocus will continue its coverage of Lenovo and its upcoming HMD, reporting back with any further updates.
BAFTA have been gradually letting virtual reality (VR) in to the rather exclusive club of movies and TV which are worthy of being nominated for any of BAFTA’s awards. Up until now, though, none had ever made it into the winner’s circle.
David Attenborough’s Great Barrier Reef Dive VR has won an award for Digital Creativity at the BAFTA TV Craft Awards, the first time a VR experience has won a BAFTA of any kind. The VR experience takes viewers down into the ocean to experience the underwater world of coral, colourful fish and dangerous reef sharks. Travelling in a high-tech submersible, Attenborough guides viewers through the intricate reef systems that make up the Great Barrier Reef.
Anthony Geffen, CEO at Atlantic Productions says: “This is a landmark moment for virtual reality as a medium and we are immensely proud to be at the forefront of this content revolution. We are delighted that BAFTA has recognised the risk-taking and innovation which is vital in pioneering a new form of filmmaking – and highlighted the massive leaps which the format has made. At a time when the Great Barrier Reef has never been more under threat, we hope that our experience in this immersive medium will continue to inspire and galvanise the public to engage in its conservation.”
The Great Barrier Reef Dive VR has been demonstrated all over the world to audiences at London’s Natural History Museum, the Australian Museum in Sydney and the Trondheim Science Museum in Norway.
David Attenborough himself will be bringing his distinctive voice to another VR experience, as VRFocus reported recently, with the upcoming historical VR experience Hold The world where VR users will be able to get hands-on with fossils and ancient bones.
VRFocus will continue to bring you news of award-winning VR experiences.
During CES 2017 in January, Lucid VR revealed an upgraded version of its 3D point-and-shoot camera, LucidCam. The new model now features 4K image capture for both lenses, and today Lucid VR has announced it’ll be taking the device to NAB 2017 this week.
Unlike 360-degree cameras such as Samsung’s Gear 360, or Insta360 Air, which can capture video and images in any direction, the LucidCam has a 180-degree field of view. Due to its duel lenses the camera can capture a 3D image rather than a flat one, giving a much more immersive picture or video.
For those that want full 360-degree coverage, Lucid VR also sells a mounting rig for three LucidCam’s, getting the best of both worlds, full coverage which is entirely in 3D.
“Our goal is to transform the way we create content live and share experiences with people around the world,” said Han Jin, CEO, Lucid VR. “LucidCam is the first and only 4K 3D VR live production camera. It’s versatile enough to mount on a tripod or fit into your pocket. You can livestream to your phone or VR headset in seconds so people feel like they are there with you. More importantly, because it is very compact, it is mountable so in a sports game, for example, you can even place it above the basket or behind the goal or fly it on a drone to get amazing footage that people have never experienced before. LucidCam allows you to scale your 3D VR broadcasting projects from one to fifty angles, so you can keep your viewers interested and show the game flow of an exciting sports match.”
“Imagine the creating, sharing and broadcasting opportunities with 3D VR in real-time. Livestreaming a sports game, a concert or event taking place anywhere in the world and making the audience truly feel part of that experience. It’s priceless,” continued Jin. “Having the ability to create this kind of content without expensive equipment and a tedious setup will empower more broadcasters and individuals to access the power of 3D VR livestreaming.”
The 4K LucidCam features include:
4K images, 4K 30fps videos (4K per eye)
180° x 180° field of view (upgradable to 360° x 360°)
32 GB internal storage
Improved image stabilization
Waterproof case to film underwater, up to 12 meters depth (accessory, available separately)
Mobile phone clip to leverage your phone as viewfinder at the back of a LucidCam (accessory, available separately)
Currently LucidCam is available to pre-order through the company’s website for $499 USD, with shipments beginning this June. VRFocus will continue its coverage of LucidCam, reporting back with the latest announcements.
A couple of months ago indie developer Ojas VR Studios launched its space-based shooter Vyom: The Combat for Samsung Gear VR. Today the team announced support for Samsung’s two new flagship smartphones, the Galaxy S8 and S8+.
With both devices offering more CPU and GPU power thanks to the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835, this has enabled Ojas VR Studios to graphically improve the virtual reality (VR) title, aiding the user experience.
Players are put in charge of a heavily armoured spacecraft that’s found itelf stuck inside an asteroid belt. They have to find a way out by destroying anything in their path using a variety of weapons, from machine guns and lasers, to special abilities that can mean success or failure.
Vyom: The Combat is one of the first videogames to confirm specific support for the Galaxy S8 and S8+ handsets. This should continue as developers learn how to leverage the performance they offer, creating smoother, more graphically impressive content.
Samsung officially launched the S8 and S8+ at its Unpacked event in March. That showcase also involved the unveiling of the new Gear VR and its controller, as well as a redesigned Gear 360 camera. The new controller launched on Friday with 20 titles supporting the device on day one, while the Gear 360 features a new body that’s supposed to make it easier to hold.
Yesterday VRFocus reported on Samsung releasing a bundle deal for its ‘Spring Offers’ promotion. For a limited time customers can get a Samsung Galaxy S7, a Gear VR HMD and Gear 360 camera priced at £718 GBP, or the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge bundle is available for £778.
VRFocus will continue its coverage of Samsung and the latest content releases for Gear VR, reporting back with the latest updates.
As VRFocus have reported before, Ridley Scott is keen on virtual reality (VR) technology. The new division of his studio, RSA Films recently announced that it was launching a specialist VR division. The first fruit of that studio’s labours will be released soon.
Alien: Covenant In Utero is a 360-degree VR film that will allow VR users to come into terrifying proximity to an alien Xenomorph as it is violently born, with the trailer indicating that VR users might actually be put in the position of the newborn Xenomorph. The short film is a co-production between RSA VR Studio, Fox Innovation Labs and AMD. The VR film will be made available to Oculus Rift users from the 26th April 2017, as part of the promotion for the upcoming Alien: Covenant movie.
Alien: Covenant is a sequel to Prometheus, which was released in 2012 and was itself a prequel to the events depicted in the other films in the Alien franchise. Alien: Covenant is being directed by David Karlak with Ridley Scott acting as executive producer and is due out in cinemas on 19th May 2017.
The plot synopsis for Alien: Covenant reads as follows: “The crew of the colony ship Covenant, bound for a remote planet on the far side of the galaxy, discovers what they think is an uncharted paradise, but is actually a dark, dangerous world. When they uncover a threat beyond their imagination, they must attempt a harrowing escape.”
Previous statements from 20th Century Fox regarding the Alien: Covenant VR experience indicated that it would be available on ‘all major VR platforms’. It is not known at this point if Alien: Covenant In Utero will be ported to other VR platforms or if it will remain an Oculus Rift exclusive.
You can watch the trailer for Alien: Covenant In Utero below.
VRFocus will bring you further information on Alien: Covenant In Utero when it becomes available.