Oculus Horizon

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October 22, 2019

At the last OC6 meeting, it was revealed that a new social VR world, named Facebook Horizon is to make its debut on the Oculus Quest and Rift platforms sometime in 2020. Horizon is a product of everything learnt about virtual spaces and communities over the past few years. This is the first step into a fast growing world of communications in the VR field, where connecting with peers becomes more fulfilling than ever before.

It’s already a fun experience hanging out with friends and watching the latest movies on your VR headset. It’s also a great way to learn new skills and explore the world virtually. Human curiosity is fueling the VR revolution and this is at the heart of the Horizon project. Participants start in a busy town square where they can find people to meet and talk to. The experience then broadens into a world where everyone can explore new virtual places to go, games to play and communities created by other people, where you’re free to create your own unique experiences with friends.

Horizon lets you design and create your own avatar from many different styles and body options. The possibilities are endless in creating your avatar and it’s a great way to express yourself. From there you will find magic portals called telepods that will transport people from public spaces to unique worlds with plenty of places to explore.

This is just the start of your experience. It’s possible to move between various Horizon worlds, created using the ‘World Builder’ which consists of a collection of easy to use creator tools. Everyone has the ability to create new worlds and activities completely from scratch. The world builder tool does not require the user to have any previous coding experience. It’s up to the user whether they choose to play, build or just simply watch what others are up to. Horizon has a welcoming environment with guides called Horizon Locals, who provide assistance and answer a range of questions.

It’s possible to imagine how companies could use this to train their workers on mass. Not only could they create virtual training areas to be used in their workplace, but the trainee’s can also use that created workplace in their own time, at home or wherever the trainee has an internet connection and a place to charge their headsets.

Not only can Horizon help with training, but it could be feasible to create a space where people can come and accept online work for your company. Companies could choose to watch their workers or take a back seat and let the workers manipulate their own working environment to suit them.

Take your workplace with you!

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Oculus Quest, Powered by a PC?

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October 17, 2019

The Oculus Quest was released in May last year with a VR experience surpassing its rivals, all contained within a wireless portable headset. Since its release we have seen numerous improvements, including new features and monthly software updates. Oculus has been progressively improving their Quest headset to give their customers the best VR experience possible. Recently at OC6, it was announced that a lineup of new features for the Quest will be coming. It’s expected that this will unlock the full potential of the Quest and will further expand how the user interacts with their content.

Controlling a VR world has never been so simple, with hand tracking set to raise the bar, no longer do you need to use controllers. The need for use of external sensors, gloves or PC’s are no longer required. What does this all mean? It means its enabling the user to have a much more natural interaction with their VR environment, being a far more immersive experience.

A new feature that is creating excitement for anyone who uses this technology is the Oculus Link. This is a new way to access Rift content on Quest headsets. Beginning in November, those who own a Quest and a PC will be able to access any Rift library with the Oculus Link software. You will be able to do this with any USB 3 cable but soon Oculus will be releasing a high performance optical fiber cable to give its customers the best experience possible.

With Oculus Link it is now much easier to train workers on a large scale, and the interacting between trainees and teachers can be more valuable and much more fulfilling. With everything Oculus have updated and the effort they have put into their headsets, creating a much more immersive experience than VR technology has previously provided.

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Throw Away Your Controllers, Oculus Quest is Getting Hand and Finger Tracking!

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October 3, 2019

The Oculus Quest has something new in store, its hand tracking and its set to change how we use VR. Many users of VR in the past have had difficulties with control and natural feeling of movements. This is about to change with the Oculus Quest. Coming in November is their new hand tracking technology. This is going to allow the user to be more immersed in VR and connect on a much deeper level, which no doubt will improve the VR experience.

All users of VR, new and old, will benefit greatly from this leap forward, as the experience is going to feel more natural. Hand tracking on the Quest will also reduce the difficulty in learning for people new to VR, and those who are not familiar or comfortable with gaming controllers. Probably the greatest benefit is that you no longer have to feel around for that controller you dropped while being completely immersed in the VR experience. 

The Quest’s hand tracking technology was showcased at OC6. It is expected to be launched in early 2020 as an experimental feature for consumers. Developers of VR apps will be able to create products using hand gestures to control their experiences. The Quest community will be able to trial this new technology early next year to get a feel of what's coming and how this will improve the experience.

This project started out at Facebook Reality Labs and has eventually turned into a great product to allow new VR input. Oculus’s computer vision team developed a new way of using machine learning to work out, in real time, where the users hands are and the position of the fingers. This is accomplished using the original monochrome cameras found on every Oculus Quest headset. Oculus didn’t need to use depth-sensing cameras, additional sensors or more processing power. 

This technology is an important milestone for VR training. The trainee can have their hands free from controllers which can aid in the learning process, as the experience will feel more realistic. In the future, it is expected that this technology will allow the user to pick up objects and use them as they would in the real world.

Bringing your hands into the VR world without the need for controllers is ground breaking. It will allow the user to feel much more comfortable in using VR. In training it is extremely important that the trainee feels comfortable in the way they are learning, as the trainee is much more likely to retain what they have learnt. VR is becoming the go to for all sorts of different training scenarios.

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Porting to the Oculus Quest – Part 2

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June 25, 2019

Not surprisingly, nothing went as smoothly as I was hoping. Once I got into Unity and began the process of converting our current PC VR projects to Android, I was met with a mix of Unity bugs, bad setting configurations and just crashing for reasons that I have yet to figure out.

I only had a very short window to get something up and running on the Oculus Quest before I had to move on to other projects. I was looking for a quick turnaround so I attempted to convert our most basic package to the new platform. After waiting for what felt like hours for Unity to switch over to the Android platform, I removed all the old cameras from the scene and installed the latest Oculus SDK. I published it to the Quest and to no one’s surprise, it crashed! Instead of spending too long debugging this I decided to start fresh with a new Unity project, import the models and publish again.

While I was creating the new project, I noticed something new, Unity has a new render pipeline specifically designed for low powered devices. I did a little research into it and got really excited; they were promising up to 100% gains in performance. Knowing how unoptimized the current render pipeline is, I believed them. But of course, nothing is that easy. There seems to be a bug with the package when exporting it to Android. Right at the end of the build process an error would pop up, “Return of the style/VrActivityTheme not found in AndroidManifest.xml” great! I did a bit of research and came across this forum thread. The general consensus seems to be that it will get patched in future releases of Unity. As seems to be the theme of this post, I didn’t have time to look further into the issues and since it is not critical to what I am wanting to achieve, I’ll put the new pipeline on the back burner. I will definitely keep an eye on it though as I’m not one to ignore a free performance increase!

Back to just trying to get anything to run on the Quest. I created a new project and started with just a cube and the Oculus SDK. I published it to the Quest and I was a little surprised this time, it still crashed instantly. I expected that the default Unity configuration combined with the Oculus SDK would be enough to get it going, I guess I was mistaken. Back to google, and it looks like I’m not the only one having these issues. I found the answer in this thread. It turns out Unity defaults to an incompatible render API. I removed Vulkan from the list and it worked! Now all I needed to do was import my model into the scene and publish to the Quest. You can see the fruits of my labour below. It performed excellently! I’m very impressed.

Just to give you some context to how amazing this is, this model is a to scale 3D model of my house. The reason I am so blown away by the demo is that I am actually walking around my house when I recorded this video. The Oculus Quest tracking did not drift even the slightest bit. I managed to walk through every room in my house, while wearing the headset, without bumping into any walls! Just as another note, no I didn’t put any time into lighting the scene, I just used what I had set up in Cinema 4D. Ignoring that the scene is a little blown out, I am surprised how great the scene looks and how well it ran with these unoptimized models.

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