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VR Storytelling Highlights from Tribeca Film Festival

loren-hammondsThe Tribeca Film Festival featured over 30 different VR experiences within their Storyscapes and Immersive Virtual Arcade, and I had a chance to catch up with curator Loren Hammonds about some of the highlights of the festival program with genres spanning from live-action narrative, animated narrative, documentary, interactive installations, guided tours, empathy pieces, and even a couple of immersive theater, mixed reality pieces. The overall focus and theme that connected all of the VR pieces is storytelling, both in terms of strong storytelling execution as well as in innovations around interactive storytelling.


Some of my personal favorite pieces included an immersive theater, mixed reality piece called with a live actor Dram Me Close. The Last Goodbye was an incredibly powerful tour of a concentration camp by a Holocaust survivor that pushes innovations around best practices in volumetric storytelling using photogrammetry and stereoscopic video capture.

Other documentary standouts include Step to the Line as well as Testimony, which used an innovative non-linear structure to feature direct testimony about experiencing sexual assault.

One of the best narrative shorts was Alteration, which used AI-processing techniques on the 360 video to great effect. My favorite animated short was APEX, which is the latest music video by the creator of Surge.

I also had some great interviews with the creators of Blackout, Treehugger, Tree, The Island of the Colorblind, Auto, Bebylon Battle Royale, Becoming Homeless, The People’s House, Remember: Remember, Falling in Love, and Beefeater XO.

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The post VR Storytelling Highlights from Tribeca Film Festival appeared first on Road to VR. Source:

Alien: Covenant In Utero Gives a Glimpse of the Horror That Awaits

Everything feels peaceful and calm, floating through a dark sparkling void with faint sounds beginning to break the eerie silence. This sounds like a nice introduction to some sci-fi movie or cartoon, awaiting the sun to break past a planet and fill your vision with glowing light light. In fact this couldn’t be further from the truth, as you’ll soon find that dark void isn’t the cosmos, and those sounds suddenly become legible screams. And so begins the Alien: Covenant In Utero virtual reality (VR) experience.

The Alien franchise is one of the best known in both the sci-fi and horror franchises. While it had a stellar beginning the series did lose its way somewhat, but luckily the original director, Ridley Scott, decided to make some prequels to bring it back on track. 2012’s Prometheus started the journey and next month sees the next instalment, Alien: Covenant hit theatres. Recently Scott has been getting more involved in VR, giving his 2015 film The Martian a VR makeover to put fans onto the surface of Mars. This month also saw him announce RSA VR studio, which brings us onto Alien: Covenant In Utero.

Alien Covenant In Utero image 1

Everyone knows the famous xenomorphs from the films but for Alien: Covenant In Utero you not only get to see some of the new neomorph creature, you get to be it. There’s been a chest bursting scene in every Alien film of some description, now though, you’re on the inside trying to get out. This is just as creepy as you’d imagine it to be – watching the short VR film before bed might not be the best course of action – as your eyes develop you can make out more and more of your hosts internals, blood vessels, bones, even listening to their heart beat, all the while you’re growing, developing. You can see a couple of fingers split and make hands, and claws, for one purpose, escape.

Just as it would be for the neomorph, leaving the host is the most confusing part of the whole experience. These creatures aren’t chest bursters, they breakout through the spine and as you drop there’s a few moments where you need to re-orientate yourself, realising you’ve now landed on the floor of a medical facility, the ruptured corpse of some unlucky space traveller strewn over a bed above you, blood and goo flying everywhere.

As is usually the case, there’s another unfortunate individual nearby locked in the same room that has the unenviable task of providing the creatures first proper meal, no matter how much they scream and fight, they are lunch.

Alien Covenant In Utero image 2

Alien: Covenant In Utero is certainly captivating for its short two minute runtime. Directed by David Karlak, the VR experience does exactly what’s intended of it, increasing the anticipation for the cinematic release of Alien: Covenant. Sure it would have been awesome if it was longer, gave more of the film away or been more interactive – being able to scuttle about would have been cool – but at the end of the day it’s a film teaser and quite frankly its done its job. The movie launches on 19th May and that seems too far away. Source:

Stories Brought To life with AR Children’s Book

A South African company have launched a Kickstarter campaign with the ambition of making a series of hard-backed children’s books that can be enhanced with the power of augmented reality (AR).

Fuzzy Logic have already begun production on the first of the books, which take inspiration from the classic Grimm’s Fairly Tales. The first book is to tell the story of Hansel and Gretel, featuring full colour illustrations and AR support. The AR app is already in development and has reached prototype stage.

The campaign aims to raise £35,000 (GBP) in order to bring the first book into full production, with most of the money going towards book production and the development of the AR app. Reward tiers range from £10 for a PDF copy of the book and a free download of the app, through to £1000 which will net the backer seven days in the company of the development team, VIP treatment during a trip to the Knysna Forest to see elephants and a personal chauffeur during the visit, in addition to the lower-tier rewards.

A prototype version of the app is already available to download from the Apple App Store and Google Play Store, and can be tested on some test images which are available on the Kickstarter page. The organisers hope that if the campaign is successful, they can begin producing the books as a commercial enterprise, and start work on the next book in the series, Rapunzel, which is also listed as the highest stretch goal.

If funding is successful, then Fuzzy Logic are hoping to be able to begin shipping the Hansel and Gretel books by December 2017, just in time for Christmas.

Further information can be found on the Stories to Life Kickstarter page. The campaign will end on 18th May, 2017.

VRFocus will continue to bring you news of VR and AR Kickstarter projects. Source:

Become an Imaginary Friend with Along Together

Los Angeles-based videogame developer Turbo Button have released a new trailer for upcoming adventure-puzzle title Along Together ahead of the release later this week.

Along Together puts the player in the role of an imaginary friend, helping a small child overcome obstacles and find their way through the environment. The player and the child need to work together to solve certain puzzles, and the player needs to move obstacles and operate mechanisms to help the child move forward. Interaction happens by way of the player using the Daydream controller to move a semi-transparent giant hand, picking up, grabbing or pulling objects to clear the way for the child companion to progress.

Along Together screenshot

The child is searching for their lost pet, and it is the players job, as their invisible companion and guardian, to help find them. The child can be either male of female, and they travel through bright, colourful worlds searching for the missing pet, and for hidden secrets. The development team say they gained inspiration from classic point-and-click adventures such as the Monkey Island series, and also from iconic ‘imaginary friend’ comic Calvin and Hobbes.

Developer Turbo Button were originally established in 2015 as a small, four person team and have since gained praise for polished mobile titles such as SMS Racing and Adventure Time: Magic Man’s Head Games.

Along Together is set to be released on 27th April 2017 for the Google Daydream platform, priced at $9.99 (USD). The announcement trailer is available to view below.

VRFocus will continue to bring you updates on Along Together and other Google Daydream titles. Source:

Gears of War’ Creator Cliff Bleszinski Wants to Make a Big Budget VR Game

If you don’t already know Cliff Bleszinski from his involvement with the Unreal Tournament and Gears of War franchises, you may remember him from Oculus’ 2012 Kickstarter video. Now under the banner of his own studio, Boss Key Productions, Bleszinski says he’s been seeking funding to develop a big budget VR title.

According to Gamasutra, who watched long time game designer address attendees of the Reboot Develop conference in Dubrovnik, Croatia, Bleszinski says he’s been into VR since the ’80s and hopes that this latest resurgence of the tech will be the time that it succeeds.

Bleszinski indeed believes in the technology. In fact, he personally invested in Oculus, and was among a number of high-profile gaming industry vets to make an appearance in the 2012 in the Oculus Rift Kickstarter video.

Bleszinski in the Oculus Rift Kickstarter video | Photo courtesy Oculus

Despite his early enthusiasm, Bleszinski hasn’t shown much interest in developing his own VR game, instead spending the last several years working under his newly formed Boss Key Productions studio on the PC FPS, LawBreakers, which is expected to launch in 2017. But it seems development of a VR game is not out of the question as Bleszinski says he’s been seeking funding to create a big budget VR title, though the ‘big budget’ part may present a problem.

“What you’re seeing right now is a lot of the wave shooter game[s]—‘here’s a wave of robots or zombies.’ They’re great, but VR, when it comes to the trajectory of the industry, is mimicking the arcade games of the ’80s. If you want to make a good VR game, start there, and move on to what’s next.”

The challenge is creating a game that goes beyond those wave shooters and tech demos that Bleszinski talks about. Gamasutra reports that he’s been pitching a game to investors, but having trouble finding investors willing to back the budget that he knows he needs to develop a game of that scope. “Unfortunately this costs a lot of money,” he said at the conference.

Bleszinski (middle right) and Boss Key Productions developers present at GDC 2016 | Photo courtesy Official GDC (CC BY 2.0)

In an early ecosystem like VR, major productions are risky because the addressable market is small compared to the wider gaming ecosystem. Facebook, Sony, and HTC—all who have VR ecosystems to jumpstart—are actively investing in the creation of high-quality VR content, but traditional game publishers and only dipping their toes into the water at this point, and will likely continue to do so until the VR install base sees significant growth.

Bleszinski has some ideas about what’s keeping VR from taking off at present, including the need for systems that are easier to use, and games that are designed for comfort.

“Oculus requires me to re-set it up on a regular basis,” he said. “If you remember VCRs, your parents could just barely connect it—they couldn’t even set up the clock […] are they going to figure out how to set up a VR headset?”

“Some people say ‘you just need to get your VR sea-legs’ [in order to avoid nausea in VR]—I say no, if you’re saying that and you’re a developer, you fucked up [by not designing your game for comfort],” he said.

Despite outlining the challenges faced by VR today, he’s still a believer. “It’ll get better, it’ll get faster. Just give it a little bit of time,” and maybe one day a VR game of his will make others believers too.

The post ‘Gears of War’ Creator Cliff Bleszinski Wants to Make a Big Budget VR Game appeared first on Road to VR. Source:

Discover Hidden Figures at Tribeca Film Festival

The augmented reality (AR) app Outthink Hidden was launched in February 2017 to tie in to award-winning 2016 movie Hidden Figures and would allow visitors and residents of certain US cities to learn more about the people featured in the film. Now, visitors to the Tribeca Film Festival will have the same opportunity.

Hidden Figures tells the story of three remarkable African American women and their contribution to the 1950s NASA space program, a contribution that had been all but forgotten by mainstream history. Dorothy Vaughan taught herself how to program the IBM mainframe at NASA, Katherine Goble developed an equation to help guide space capsules safely back to Earth and both have their stories told in the movie, with more information being available in the AR app alongside other forgotten figures from history.

The app features ten ‘hidden figures’ from history who have made significant contributions to science and mathematics, and the app acts as a virtual museum by showing 3D graphics along with written histories and audio narration. The app allows people who visit certain areas in the supported cities of Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco and Washinton DC to discover more about these people and what they achieved.

Attendees at the Tribeca film Festival will also be able to download Outthink Hidden, which runs through the T Brand Studio AR app, activating the software at certain plinths located around the Tribeca Film Festival location.

The app was created as collaboration between the New York Times and IBM and is available to download for free from the Google Play Store or iOS Store.

VRFocus will continue to bring you news on VR and AR apps as it becomes available. Source:

CloudGate Introduces Oculus Touch Support to Island 359

Up until now, only owners of the HTC Vive have been able to experience the joys of hunting down dinosaurs of Island 359, that has just changed with the launch of a big new patch with introduces Oculus Touch support along with a host of other features and fixes.

CloudGate Studios released Island 359 to Steam Early Access back in August 2016, where it was exclusive for the HTC Vive. The developers revealed earlier this month that they had been working on methods of introducing support for the Vive tracker, and the new update proves that is not all they were working on.

The new update adds in Oculus Rift with Touch support for both standing and room-scale play, along with a host of other updates, such as the new feature that allows users to highlight items on the floor around them, so they can choose what item they want to pick up. The menus have seen some improvements, and the Jungle environment has had a graphical overhaul, with improvements to layout, foliage and performance. More T-Rexes have been introduced, and Loot Drop has been introduced into the Beach map.

Island 359 - T-RexRoars

In more subtle changes, an experimental feature that auto-detects graphical settings has been included, users who already have an existing save file can take advantage of this feature by clicking a button in the graphics menu marked ‘Auto Detect Settings’. The AI has also been updated, giving raptors the ability to use jump attack, along with a host of other minor enemy behaviour tweaks.

Further information can be found on the Island 359 Steam page.

Island 359 is available through Steam Early Access for a price of £12.74, currently available with a 15% discount. Normal retails price is £14.99.

VRFocus will bring you further updates on Island 359 when they come in. Source:

Watch VRFocus Play Karnage Chronicles on HTC Vive

Nordic Trolls’ highly anticipated Karnage Chronicles made its public debut earlier this week with the launch of the Steam Early Access version on HTC Vive. Keen to jump into any and every new videogame in virtual reality (VR), VRFocus has been hands-on with this latest edition and now brings you three unique gameplay videos.

Karnage Chronicles Screenshot

A tutorial section and both Warrior and Archer classes are showcased in the videos below, direct from VRFocus’ hands-on with the Steam Early Access version of Karnage Chronicles. VRFocus had already been hands-on with the video at the Game Developer’s Conference (GDC), San Francisco, earlier this year, with Video Content Producer Nina getting her blades bloody and a preview in which it was stated; “Karnage Chronicles is more about the pacing of the adventure than choosing your own, which is a fair interpretation of the exploration-heavy style of RPG given the relative youth of VR as a medium.”

The three gameplay videos are embedded below for your convenience, and Karnage Chronicles can now be purchased for HTC Vive via Steam Early Access. Source:

InstaVR Introduces Spatial Audio Support to Improve its Online VR Creation Platform

Audio forms an important and oft-neglected part of the immersive experience. The audio experience isn’t just about music, it also covers sound effects, dialogue and background sounds that from a vital part of creating an atmosphere. InstaVR have recognised the need for more support for immersive audio, so have launched Spatial Audio Support.

Spatial Audio allows sounds to be presented to the virtual reality (VR) viewer that are both inside and outside their field of view. This allows for the developers to draw the users attention to a particular area or object using a directional sound cue.

The spatial audio feature has already been used by some professionals, such as Steven Poe, a VR Producer for Mandala Health, a company that produces healthcare treatment for pain management and psychology. Poe said: “The soundscape is more than 50% of the brain’s transference. We hear sound faster and more accurately than we see. Unfortunately the ability to playback spatial audio has been lagging compared to advancements in 360 video,” noted Poe. “InstaVR solved that by allowing VR Producers to upload spatial audio files once and deliver across all the popular VR viewing platforms.”

“We’re very proud that our clients can now incorporate spatial audio into their VR experiences,” said Daniel Haga, Founder and President of InstaVR. “Our goal has always been to empower clients to create the most immersive, engaging, and awe-inspiring virtual reality. Supporting spatial audio gives our most savvy clients the opportunity to do just that.”

Further information on Spatial Audio can be found at the InstaVR website.

Last year InstaVR secured $2 million USD in a funding round led by The VR Fund to build its web-based solution for the authoring of 360-degree VR apps. This February the company announced the software would support HTC Vive, with Japanese firm Toyota being among the first to utilise the new option.

VRFocus will bring you further news on Spatial Audio and other developments in immersive audio as it becomes available. Source:

Head to the Planet Valtos in Serious Sam VR: The Last Hope’s New Update

A couple of weeks ago VRFocus reported on Croteam announcing its latest update for virtual reality (VR) title Serious Sam VR: The Last Hope, titled Voltos. Today that update has gone live and the studio’s released further details on what content is available.

For the update players find themselves on the planet Voltos, featuring four different locations: The Swamp, Ancient Breeze, The Old Forest and Green Dream. Here they’ll find six new enemy types: Kalopsy, Siren, Swamp Monster, Air Trooper, Technopolyp and Air Sniper Trooper. as well as the new Swamp Hive boss.

Serious Sam VR The Last Hope Valtos Update

But they’re not going in empty handed, three new weapons are available including a bow with piercing/explosive arrows and the deadly Devastator.

Alongside these main additions Croteam has tweaked the gameplay and made several fixes to improve the overall experience.

This month also saw the release of Serious Sam VR: The First Encounter and Serious Sam VR: The Second Encounter, adding more ways for Serious Sam fans to enjoy the carnage of the series in VR.

Checkout the new trailer and the full update list below. For further announcements from Croteam, keep reading VRFocus.

Full changelog list:

– New planet, Valtos, with four different locations and five difficulty settings!
– Three new weapons!
– Six new enemies!
– New boss!
– Sword now features energy that auto regenerates with time.
– Vastly improved precision for the default sword projectile casting mode A. Removed redundant sword firing modes B and D. Kept C (original mode shaanti released with), but renamed the option to “Alternate sword shockwave firing mode”.
– Improved shield energy display.
– Ability to reset current progress.
– Made Shaanti 1 and 2 normal difficulty a bit easier.
– Added ability to “Undo buying” in the store.
– Lots of stability fixes and optimizations, as usual. Source: