Second Life Oculus Rift viewer 4.1.0.317313

The Second Life Oculus Rift project viewer has been updated to support the Oculus CV-1
The Second Life Oculus Rift project viewer has been updated to support the Oculus CV-1

Update: July 8th: Linden Lab has suspended viewer support for the Oculus Rift. This article has been updated accordingly, notably with strikethroughs on links which are no longer valid.

Update July 5th: Rai Fargis has raised a JIRA – BUG-20130 – where specific issues with this viewer can be recorded for the direct attention of l,inden Lab. Many thanks to Rai for doing so, and to Ai Austin for poking me with the JIRA number. please also refer to my follow-up article on his project viewer

Update July 3rd: Those with Oculus HMDs are reporting significant issues with this update to the viewer via Twitter, the SL forums and YouTube, with some of the problems also being added as comments to the end of this article. Any specific, reproducible issues (allowing for the apparent quantity of problems being encountered) should be reported to the Lab via the LL JIRA, if possible. 

On Friday, July 1st, 2016, Linden Lab released the much-anticipated update to the Oculus Rift project viewer.

Version 4.1.0.317313 of the viewer is a Windows only build, for a very specific reason, as all VR followers should be aware, and as explained in the headline comments in the release notes:

The SDK from Oculus Rift does not support anything but Windows, so the other platforms are not supported for use with an Oculus Rift.

This update means the project viewer should now support both the Oculus DK 2.0 and the new consumer version of the headset, the CV-1. Note, however, that it is not intended to support the HTC Vive as well (see below).

In addition, the update brings the viewer up-to-date with all viewer releases through to the Lab’s current release code base, and so includes the plethora of updates over the last two years, up to and including Avatar Complexity and graphics presets.

As with the previous version of the viewer, the Oculus Rift setting panel can be accessed via Preferences > Move & View. There is also an Advanced HMD menu option in the viewer’s Advanced menu, but I’ve no idea what this does (I don’t have an Oculus Rift of my own), and a toolbar button is available for those wishing to toggle in / out of the viewer’s “Rift mode”,  which can also be done by pressing CTRL-SHIFT-D (note that using either of these options will generate an on-screen error message if a Rift headset is not connected to your PC).

Oculus Rift Set-up floater
Oculus Rift Set-up floater

The release notes for the viewer contain a set of tips designed to help optimise the viewer’s performance (unchanged from the previous release of the viewer), as well as listing the core key controls:

  • Enter HMD mode – CTRL + SHIFT + D
  • Align to look – Q
  • Center Mouse Pointer – Z
  • Action key – X
  • Camera Mode – M (Press multiple times to cycle through 3rd Person, HMD Mouse look, and 1st Person modes)
  • Hide UI – CTRL+SHIFT+U

Performance

As has been repeatedly indicated by the Lab (e.g. the June 2016 Meet the Lindens chat with Ebbe Altberg), the nature of Second Life, where much of the in-world content (including avatars) has not been optimised for delivery at very high frame rates, the viewer is unlikely to deliver optimal Oculus Rift performance (e.g. 75 fps at all times for the DK-2 and 90 fps for the CV-1).  It should, however, offer a “comfortable” level of performance sufficient enough for people to enjoy the immersive experience presented by the headset reasonably well.

Future Intent and Vive Support

Going forward, the Lab plans to progress Oculus support through project and RC status and integrate it into the release viewer. There are no plans to offer a specific “Oculus Rift flavour” version of the viewer that will be maintained alongside a “non-Oculus Rift” version.

Speaking at the TPV Developer meeting on Friday July 1st, Oz Linden indicated that providing support for the HTC Vive in Second Life is something the Lab “would like to be able to do”, but it is not something on the horizon at present. If and / or when the Lab might offer Vive support in SL, and how far that support might go (e.g. will it include support for using the Vive’s room sensors with SL) is an open question at this point is time.

Related Links

At what price VR?

Oculus CR-1 with microphone, Oculus Remote and Xbox wireless controller
Oculus CR-1 package (image: Oculus VR)

On Wednesday, January 6th, and as I reported, Oculus VR announced the price of the first generation Oculus Rift VR headset as being US $599 (€699 in Europe and £499 in the UK) + shipping at applicable taxes, with the unit available for pre-order.

The price has caused some consternation around the globe, even though Palmer Luckey had, since September 2015, been indicating the headset would be more than the assumed price of US $350, as my colleague Ben Lang over at The Road to VR quoted Luckey saying at the time.

As it is, the Oculus Rift is apparently heavily subsidised by Facebook; had it not been so, then the price might have been north of the US $1,000 mark . Further, and like it or not, the HTC / Valve Vive is likely to have a price point somewhat more than the Rift – although it will include hand controllers and room sensors, which the Rift does not. In addition, the latest version of the Vive sports a “chaperone system”: a front-mounted camera which allows the user to overlay their VR environment with images of the room around them, making for easier physical movement when using the headset.

Elsewhere, there has been speculation about the possible price of Sony’s PlayStation VR (PSVR), particularly after Forbes reported Amazon Canada had it listed at CAN $1,125 (roughly US $800). The listing price was later removed, with Sony stating it was an error and that the final price of the PSVR has yet to be determined – but it has left people wondering.

And while the Oculus Rift price may seem steep, it might be worth pointing out that the Vuzix iWear, an OSVR-based headset initially aimed at the immersive film experience, but capable of supporting VR games and applications, is currently available for pre-order at US $499, and comes with a specification somewhat below that of the Rift.

Sony PSVR - Amazon Canada quoted a price of US $800, quickly countered by Sony - but some speculate it might be accurate
Sony PSVR – Amazon Canada quoted a price of US $800, quickly countered by Sony – but some speculate it might be accurate or at least close to the truth (image: Sony Computer Entertainment)

So does this mean the US $599 price tag for the Oculus Rift is justified? Given that the first pre-order batch apparently sold-out within minutes, one might be tempted to say “yes”. However, the initial rush could be deceptive; while there are undoubtedly a lot of early adopters out there willing to pay a premium for the hardware, they aren’t likely to be in the majority.

And here is where consumer-focused VR could end-up being hoist by its own petard, and in a number of ways, some of which are pointed to by Chris Kohler, writing at Wired.

The first is that VR as a term is already being badly abused.Much is made of 360-degree video (already a thing through Google Cardboard systems), but it really isn’t VR as many would accept it.

The second is there is already a rising tide of headsets offering “VR experiences”. Most of these are (again) Cardboard-based and utilised a mobile ‘phone. The problem here is that inevitably, the quality of the experience isn’t all it could be. What’s more, it often hooks back into the idea that VR is pretty much stuff like 360-degree video.

Samsung's Gear VR sits at the top of the mobile VR pyramid, and could be said to be indicative of where Oculus VR would like to go: a self-contained, lightweight system which doesn't necessarily tether the user to their computer
Samsung’s Gear VR sits at the top of the mobile VR pyramid, and could be said to be indicative of where Oculus VR would like to go: a self-contained, lightweight system which doesn’t necessarily tether the user to their computer (image: Samsung)

The issue here is that despite these factors, these low-end headsets and units such as Samsung’s Gear VR, are presenting VR as something that’s easily affordable (given most people are liable to have a suitable ‘phone to use with them). The experience may not be terribly clever when compared to the Rift or the Vive – but it is there, and it is coupled with a possible perception that VR is about 360 film / sports experiences.

Thus, unless the Rift and the Vive et al can convince the greater populace they offer a truly unique, high-end, head-and shoulders-above-the-rest type of VR experience that instantly compels people to shell out the readies for them, there is a risk that they could be seen a “just another headset”, and passed by in favour of the cheaper albeit less capable headsets, at least until the price point is seen to come down – and that could put something of a pin in the side of the VR bubble, if only in the short-term.

Oculus Rift now available for pre-order

The Oculus CR-1 - now available to pre-order
The Oculus CR-1 – now available to pre-order (image: Oculus VR)

Following a pre-announcement on Tuesday, January 5th, Oculus VR have confirmed that the Oculus Rift headset is now available for pre-order (for Windows users) for shipment to the following countries: Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Japan, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Spain, Sweden, Taiwan, United Kingdom, United States.

The price for the headset and accessories is a nominal US $599 (€699 in Europe and £499 in the UK), although as the announcement notes, this is exclusive of tax and shipping costs, and the price may vary for non-USD purchases.

Oculus VR indicate that pre-ordered set will start shipping on March 28th, 2016, and limited stocks will be available to retailers later in April 2016. However, Engadget report even the March 28th ship date may have slipped due to the initial volume of orders already received by Oculus VR, and that some outside of the US may have had problems in placing orders.

The Oculus Remote is "esigned to make it simple and intuitive to navigate VR experiences"
The Oculus Remote is “designed to make it simple and intuitive to navigate VR experiences” (image: Oculus VR)

The complete package comprises the Rift headset with built-in headphones and microphone, sensor, and an Xbox One controller and the Oculus Remote.

Those pre-ordering also secure the opportunity to pre-order the Oculus Touch hand controllers when they become available later in 2016 (the  release of the latter was pushed back to the second half of 2016 to allow further time for development  / testing).

Also included in the package is a copy of Playful’s Lucky’s Tale, a platform game which has enjoyed much exposure and positive response as a part of Oculus Rift demonstrations, and also EVE: Valkyrie.

Those pre-ordering are reminded that a fairly hefty PC is required to obtain a suitable Rift experience, with the specifications listed as : NVIDIA GTX 970 / AMD R9 290 equivalent or greater GPU;, an Intel i5-4590 equivalent CPU or greater; at least 8Gb of RAM; compatible HDMI 1.3 video output; 3 free USB 3 ports (and 1 USB 2 port) and Windows 7 + SP1 or greater.  Oculus also report that PCs supplied by manufacturers meeting this specification will start to ship with an “Oculus Ready” logo, and the company will be making suitable PCs with headset available for pre-order in February (presumably in the US only) at a starting price of US $1499.

A compatibility tool is available for download to help determine if your PC is “Oculus ready” and those wishing to pre-order can do so through the Oculus Shop.

The compatibility test will tell you if your PC is ready for the the best Oculus Rift experience
The compatibility tool will tell you if your PC is ready for the best Oculus Rift experience

There has already been some excitement following the announcement by those SL users who are interested in the Lab’s upcoming virtual worlds platform, “Project Sansar”, as this is being built very much with the Rift in mind (although use of a Rift headset with “Sansar” is not a requirement).

While the experience is acknowledged to be somewhat less-than-optimal, it’ll be interesting to see of the Oculus VR announcement spurs the Lab on update the Second Life Oculus Rift project viewer for those wishing to try the headset in Second Life. There have been promises that such an update is coming down the pipe, but until now it has likely been sitting at the back of the queue while the Lab pushes out updates and capabilities liable to be more widely appreciated by SL users.

Oculus CR-1 with microphone, Oculus Remote and Xbox wireless controller
Oculus CR-1 with sensor, Oculus Remote and Xbox wireless controller (image: Oculus VR)

As noted above, Engadget report that the initial response to the pre-order announcement has been positive. There is undoubtedly a lot of interest in HMDs from gamers around the world, and most likely from the curious and those with specific uses for the headset. However, it’ll be interesting to see how things go over the coming year. Whichever way you look at it, the Oculus Rift CR-1 and its nearest rival, the HTC / Valve Vive represent fairly hefty investments, and many might prefer to wait and see how the market develops in terms of newer, more compact headsets, lower prices, etc., before committing.

I confess to being in the latter category. To me, the potential of VR still lies down the road, and I’m more than happy to see how the hardware side of things shapes up, and what really develops in support of it in terms of practical applications which might appeal to me (games most certainly ain’t it). I also have to admit augmented reality holds far more fascination for me in terms of it potential for “every day” use than do most things so far imagined with VR.

CtrlAltStudio updates to Oculus SDK 0.6

CAS-logoOn Saturday, October 3rd, the Oculus Rift supporting CtrlAltStudio viewer updated on Windows to version 1.2.5.43397.

The release sees the viewer reach parity with the Oculus SDK 0.6. However, it is not at this point being regarded as a “formal” release, as David Rowe, the viewer’s developer, notes that it requires additional user testing.

David lists the other changes of note with the release as being:

  • The viewer works in both direct and extended Rift display modes
    • If using extended mode you no longer need to drag the viewer onto the Rift’s screen before toggling into Riftlook view
    • If you switch between direct and extended Rift display modes, you’ll need to restart the Oculus Configuration Utility and the Oculus VR Runtime Service.
  • Advanced Lighting Model no longer needs to be enabled in order for Riftlook to work
  • The hardware cursor used in previous versions has been replaced with a basic cross hair software cursor. It may not look pretty but it should still work as before
  • There’s a new “Mirror Rift display to desktop” option in Preferences > Graphics > Display Output
  • The scale of the UI depth Display Output option has been altered to work with the updated Rift rendering
  • A “Mirror Rift display to desktop” Display Output option has been added
  • The following Display Output options, which are no longer available in the Rift SDK,have been removed from the viewer: Timewarp, Timewarp waits, V sync, and Pixel overdrive
  • If you install over the top of a previous version you’ll probably want to press the “Reset” button for the “UI depth” Display Output option.
The 1.2.5.43397 updates sees the removal of the Timewarp, Timewarp waits, V sync, and Pixel overdrive from Preferences > Graphics > Display Output, and the addition of a new Mirror Rift display to desktop option
The 1.2.5.43397 updates sees the removal of the Timewarp, Timewarp waits, V sync, and Pixel overdrive from Preferences > Graphics > Display Output, and the addition of a new Mirror Rift display to desktop option

As always, for a full list of changes and updates, please refer to the release notes.

David also goes on to note:

I can achieve a pretty smooth 75 FPS experience on the Rift if the scene’s not too complex, though only if I have my main monitor set to 120Hz. If I set it to 60Hz I only get a somewhat juddery 65 FPS on the Rift. I haven’t looked into this yet and am keen to hear how other people get on. Note: You can use Ctrl+Shift+1 to display a statistics window in Riftlook.

The release doesn’t see the viewer updates to a more recent Firestorm code base than 4.6.9, and there is no corresponding Mac release at this time.

Related Links

High Fidelity launches US$15,000 STEM VR Challenge

HF-logoFew people involved in VR and augmented reality are unconvinced that these emerging technologies will have a profound effect on education and teaching. As has been seen in both Second Life and Open Simulator, even without immersive VR, virtual environments offer a huge opportunity to education.

Now High Fidelity is joining in, and is doing so in a novel but enticing way: by offering up to three US$5,000 grants to teams or individuals who want to build educational content within High Fidelity.

The new of the opportunity, which the HiFi team is calling the “STEM VR Challenge” (STEM being the acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics in education), was made via a blog post on the High Fidelity website from Ryan Karpf. In it, Ryan says:

High Fidelity recently had the pleasure of showing off our open source virtual reality platform to educators and technical integrators at the ISTE conference in Philadelphia.

To demonstrate one way educators can use our platform, High Fidelity worked with DynamoidApps to develop an interactive model of an animal cell that can be explored on one’s own or with an entire class. The vast alien looking environment goes beyond just showing the parts of the cell, also showing some of the processes taking place. Travelling around with your classmates and teacher allows for real time question and answers and sharing of ideas.

If you want to visit this animal cell, login and go to cellscience/start, and fly towards any cell you see to begin your journey. Hitch a ride on a motor protein and jump off at one of the huge mitochondria along the way!

The interactive model of an animal cell created by High Fidelity, working with DynamoidApps (image courtesy of High Fidelity)

The model itself, in keeping with High Fidelity’s open-source approach to their platform, is being offered free to any who wishes to modify it, with the companying hoping it will become the first of a catalogue of educational units created within High Fidelity.

To further kick-start things, High Fidelity are inviting educators, be they individuals or groups, to take up the STEM VR Challenge, to submit proposals for educational content in High Fidelity which meets the criteria set-out in the Challenge website, namely that the content is:

  • HMD (e.g. Oculus Rift) featured
  • High school age appropriate
  • STEM focused
  • Social (can be experienced by >3 people together)

Proposals meeting these criteria and abiding by the rules and are eligible to enter the Challenge, should be submitted via e-mail to eduvrgrant-at-highfidelity.com. On offer are up to three grants of US$5,000 apiece to help further develop the selected ideas. In addition, awardees will have direct access to High Fidelity’s technical support, and have their content hosted by High Fidelity. To find out more, follow the links to the High Fidelity blog and the STEM VR website.

Related Links

With thanks to Indigo Mertel for the pointer.

Oculus VR acquires Surreal Vision, and Connect 2 announced

My colleague Ben Lang, over at Road to VR, brought news my way of the latest acquisition by Oculus Rift, following the company’s formal announcement on May 26th.

Surreal vision is a UK-based company which grew out of Imperial College London, and is at the bleeding edge of computer vision technology. One of the founders is Renato Salas-Moreno, who developed SLAM++ (simultaneous localization and mapping) technology. As Ben explains in the Road to VR blog post:

Using input from a single depth camera, SLAM++ tracks its own position while mapping the environment, and does so while recognizing discrete objects like chairs and tables as being separate from themselves and other geometry like the floor and walls.

SLAM therefore offers the potential to take a physical environment, scanning it, and literally dropping into in a virtual environment and have people interact with the virtual instances of the objects within it.

The other two founders of Surreal Vision are equally notable. Richard Newcombe is the inventor of KinectFusion, DynamicFusion and DTAM (Dense Tracking and Mapping) and worked with Salas-Moreno on SLAM++, while  Steven Lovegrove, co-invented DTAM with Newcombe and authored SplineFusion. All three will apparently be relocating to the Oculus Research facilities in Redmond, Washington.

The acquisition is particularly notable in that it follows-on from Oculus VR acquiring 13th Lab at the end of 2014, another company also working with SLAM capabilities. They were acquired alongside of Nimble VR, a company developing a hand tracking system. However, at the time of those acquisitions, it was unclear what aspects of the work carried out by both companies would be carried forward under the Oculus banner.

Richard Newcombe, Renato Salas-Moreno, and Steven Lovegrove of Surreal Vision (image courtesy of Oculus VR)
Richard Newcombe, Renato Salas-Moreno, and Steven Lovegrove of Surreal Vision (image courtesy of Oculus VR)

Surreal Visions, seem to have been given greater freedom, with the Oculus VR announcement of the acquisition including a statement from the team and their hopes for the future, which  reads in part:

At Surreal Vision, we are overhauling state-of-the-art 3D scene reconstruction algorithms to provide a rich, up-to-date model of everything in the environment including people and their interactions with each other. We’re developing breakthrough techniques to capture, interpret, manage, analyse, and finally reproject in real-time a model of reality back to the user in a way that feels real, creating a new, mixed reality that brings together the virtual and real worlds.

Ultimately, these technologies will lead to VR and AR systems that can be used in any condition, day or night, indoors or outdoors. They will open the door to true telepresence, where people can visit anyone, anywhere.

Connect 2, the Oculus VR conference, is promising to provide
Connect 2, the Oculus VR conference, is promising to provide “everything developers need to know to launch on the Rift and Gear VR”

On May 21st, Oculus VR also confirmed that their 2nd annual Oculus Connect conference – Connect 2 – will take place between September 23rd and September 25th at the Loews Hollywood Hotel in Hollywood, CA.

The conference will feature keynote addresses from Oculus VR’s CEO Brendan Iribe, their Chief Scientist, Michael Abrash, and also from John Carmack, the company’s CTO. It promises to deliver “everything developers need to know to launch on the Rift and Gear VR”. As noted in the media and this blog, the launch of the former is now set for the first quarter of 2016, while it is anticipated that the formal launch of the Oculus-powered Gear VR system from Samsung could occur around October / November 2015.

System specifications for the consumer version of the Oculus Rift were announced on May 15th, and caused some upset / disappointment with the company indicating that the initial release of the headset would be for the Windows environment only – there would not be support for Linux or Mac OS X.

At the time the system specifications were release, Atman Binstock, Chief Architect at Oculus and technical director of the Rift, issued a blog post on the system requirement they day they were announced, in which he explained the Linux / OS X decision thus:

Our development for OS X and Linux has been paused in order to focus on delivering a high quality consumer-level VR experience at launch across hardware, software, and content on Windows. We want to get back to development for OS X and Linux but we don’t have a timeline.

The Windows specifications were summarised as: NVIDIA GTX 970 / AMD 290 equivalent or greater; Intel i5-4590 equivalent or greater; 8GB+ RAM; compatible HDMI 1.3 video output; 2x USB 3.0 ports; Windows 7 SP1 or later. All of which, Binstock said, to allow the headset to deliver, “to deliver comfortable, sustained presence – a “conversion on contact” experience that can instantly transform the way people think about virtual reality.”