Congratulations to Bryn Oh on Arts Council grant

Bryn Oh by Tara Cetti
Bryn Oh by Tara Cetti

Second life artist Bryn Oh recently announced she has received a grant from the Ontario Arts Council.

Bryn, whose work is known and appreciated by many in Second Life, is one of 17 recipients in the latest round of grants awarded by the Council, and this marks the third such time her work in the virtual medium has received funding via a Canadian government grant.

The funds will in part be used to re-assemble and film The Singularity of Kumiko, and to create a first life exhibit using the Oculus Rift and Stem system. In addition, Bryn also notes the grant will additionally be put towards various other projects and activities, including marketing, voice acting, music, and travel.

From the thrust of Bryn’s post, it seems she is hoping the film project will help further her work in seeing immersive virtual arts gain wider appreciation, understanding and acceptance within the arts community as a whole. In making her announcement she notes:

I have spent a long time working in this area now and have witnessed the resistance of some curators to see outside their comfort zone.   Many curators have spent a life learning how to evaluate and understand painting, sculpture, film etc and to be honest, I think some of the resistance is from being intimidated by the prospect of having to learn something completely new and difficult for them.

The truth is that to understand an immersive artwork then one must become immersed, so the simplicity of pictures and text don’t apply to the Immersivist artwork and a curator just can’t hope to evaluate our artform by looking at pictures or even watching machinima.  They have to experience it and it’s not easy to do so.

Using a VR HMD with 360-filming would certainly help those unfamiliar with immersive, virtual art better understand the creative potential without the added complication of them having to need to understand the use of avatars, the viewer, and so forth.

The opening scene of The Singularity of Kumiko
The opening scene of The Singularity of Kumiko

The Singularity of Kumiko, which I reviewed here, originally opened in February 2014, and takes the form of a an immersive narrative which takes the visitor on a journey of discovery, focus on the exchanges between Kumiko and Iktomi (the latter communicating by means of letters placed inside bottles the visitor must find, while Kumiko uses a mixture of bottled missives and the spoken word.).

The journey the visitor must take, as with the flow of conversation between Kumiko and Iktomi is not always linear, further drawing the visitor into the piece and making them a part of the unfolding story. If you didn’t managed to visit it the first time around, I hope Bryn will leave it standing for visitors to enjoy for a while after she has completed filming.

In the meantime,her current work at Immersiva, The Gathering (which you can read about here), will remain open, Bryn says, for another month, after which it will be packed away to make room for The Singularity of Kumiko. so if you’ve not yet witnessed The Gathering, now is the time to do so!

Many (and belated) congratulations to Bryn on receiving the award!

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HTC: Vive pre-orders open Feb 29; company split denied

The HTC Vive Pre (image: HTC)
The HTC Vive Pre (image: HTC)

Following the end of the 2016 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) earlier in January, HTC announced that their Vive VR system will be available for pre-order from February 29th, with shipping to commence in April.

The Vive demonstrated at CES was the “2nd generation” Vive Pre, which boasted significant improvements over the first development unit in terms of headset sized, general ergonomics, fit, comfort and capabilities. In particular the unit boasts a front-mounted pass through camera, (which HTC has sometimes referred to as the “chaperone system”), and a correction tool to present a clearer view of the VR environment on the headset screens.

The Vive Pre features a central, front mounted pass through camera system (image: HTC)
The Vive Pre features a central, front mounted pass through camera system (image: HTC)

The pass through camera allows the user to see an overlay of the room around them projected into their virtual view. This fades in if they approach a physical object (e.g. a wall or desk, etc.), or can be manually triggered via the hand controllers. While some have critiqued it as “breaking” the VR experience, others have seen it as a useful means for a Vive user to re-orient themselves within their physical space.

Mura correction” (“mura” being a Japanese term meaning “unevenness” or “lack of uniformity”) removes the inconsistent brightness levels between one pixel and the next on earlier Vive headsets, giving rise to what HTC called a “linen like quality” to VR scenes. The result is a far more uniform and cleaner image, as shown in the exaggerated image below, courtesy of Road to VR.

"Mura correction" improves the VR image seen on the Vive's headset lenses, as illutrated by this exaggerated representation, courtesy of Road to VR - click to enlarge
“Mura correction” improves the VR image seen on the Vive’s headset lenses, as illustrated by this exaggerated representation, courtesy of Road to VR – click to enlarge

The pre-order price for the Vive has yet to be confirmed, but it is anticipated it will be somewhat more that the Oculus Rift. Even allowing for the  fact the price will include hand controllers and room sensors, this leaves HTC with a potentially awkward situation.

While the US $599 (+ tax and shipping) for the Rift took many by surprise, the take-up among early adopters has been positive; so much so that orders are now being backdated to July 2016. That’s good for Oculus VR – but it also means HTC could find the market for early adopters considerably smaller given so many have pre-ordered the Rift; and if the Vive does come in at a significantly higher price, they could find those who have held by from placing an order with Oculus VR to see what HTC do offer, swinging back towards it in favour of the Vive. Nor do the problems necessarily end there.

As I recently noted, tethered VR systems could face an uphill battle in trying to reach a more general market among the populace at large when compared to the cheaper, more accessible opportunities available through mobile VR.

Nvidia plan a "GeForce GTX VR Ready" logo for computer systems capable of meeting tethered VR requirements, and will be offering Nvidia has set out specific minimum requirements that must be met in order for consumer PCs to be able to cope with virtual reality graphics
Nvidia will offer a “GeForce GTX VR Ready” label for consumer PCs capable of meeting tethered VR requirements, and is working on a new range of GPUs specifically to meet the needs of VR (image: Nvidia)

While the latter may limited in capability and scope in comparison to tethered rigs, they are far more affordable and accessible, dampening any interest people have in paying for the tethered rig and the necessary hardware on which to run it. Particularly given that Nvidia estimate less than 1% of computers in household use will be capable of running tethered VR systems. Thus, HTC could find themselves right out in the cold if the Vive is significantly more expensive that the Rift among the wider public who might have a system capable of supporting VR headsets and are willing to give it a go as units hit retail outlets.

HTC was also the subject of intense, if brief, speculation on Sunday, January 18th and Monday, January 19th 2016. It started when the Chinese language Commercial Times, Taiwan’s largest financial newspaper ran a story claiming HTC’s Chairwoman, Cher Wang, was considering spinning-off the fledgling VR business into a separate company.

HTC Chairwoman Cher Wang: enthusiastic about VR, but not planning to split it into a separate entity.
HTC Chairwoman Cher Wang: enthusiastic about VR, but not planning to split it into a separate entity.

The report was picked-up through other news outlets, and gained widespread reporting in the VR media, and saw HTC’s share price rise by 5.23%. However, on Monday, January 19th, the company issued a statement to investors, labelling the media claims as incorrect, and stating the company has no plans to split the VR business into a separate entity.

SL project updates 16 3/1: Server updates and Bento examples

Telrunya - Forest of Dreams; Inara Pey, January 2016, on Flickr Telrunya – Forest of Dreams (Flickr) – blog post

Server Deployments

As always, check the server deployment thread for any updates.

On Tuesday, January 19th, the Main (SLS) channel received the server update package previously deployed to the three RC channel. This comprises:

  • Feature Request: llGetObjectDetails() constant OBJECT_TOTAL_INVENTORY_COUNT – when targeting an object, OBJECT_TOTAL_INVENTORY_COUNT will return the total of all inventory types in each link of the linkset. See BUG-10575 for further details
  • Feature Request: llGetObjectDetails() constant OBJECT_PRIM_COUNT – provides a means to get a worn attachment’s prim count (rather than just returning 0).  See BUG-10646 for further details.
  • Simulator crash fixes.

On Wednesday, January 20th, the three RC channels should be updated with a new server maintenance package. However, at the time of writing, it looked questionable if the deployment would go ahead. On  Tuesday, January 19th, Simon Linden informed the Simulator User Group meeting attendees that there was a problem on the latest deployment image for update which caused it to refuse to start, and was under investigation.

If the deployment does go ahead, it will comprise a simulator crash fix and a further feature request: llGetObjectDetails() functionality to get the parent_id of any task in the region (OBJECT_REZZER_KEY). This returns the parent_id of any task in the region:

  • If the object came from an object rezzer it returns the ID of the parent object
  • If it was rezzed by an avatar, it returns the agent ID of the avatar.

It will only return details for those objects rezzed in-world after the code has been implemented. Objects already in-world prior to deployment will be ignored (NULL_KEY is returned).

Project Bento

no major news here, other than initial filming for The Drax Files World Makers special on Bento took place on Tuesday, January 19th, 2016. There will be a further round of filming on Wednesday, January 20th. If you are an animator  / content creator who has something you’d like to demonstrate and possibly have filmed for the episode, please contact Draxtor Despres in-world ASAP.

In the meantime, a short piece I stitched together at the filming session, showing an avatar rigged to use the Bento finger extensions compared to a avatar without the rigging; a centaur and a part of bat wings (both by Aki Shichiroji)  utilising the Bento bones.

Finger animation in the video by Abramelin Wolfe. Elephant in the splash image by Medhue Simoni.