Tuesday, 13 December 2016 09:37

VR or virtual shambles


ANALYSIS Virtual Reality (VR) needs standards, and fast. If there is one thing I have learned, each manufacturer has a different take on what constitutes VR and interoperability is suffering.

This interoperability refers to content – VR should be VR and playable on any VR headset but that is sadly not the case. 360° photography used for VR should produce standard VR files but sadly that is also not the case.

The industry squabbles over MP4, Webm, AVI, FLV, MKV, and WMV, 3D SBS Video and more codecs in 720 (SD), 1080 (HD) and 4K. Then there is the issue of displaying VR on normal 2D screens.

Fortunately, the Global Virtual Reality Association has just been formed and it has some, not all, the leaders in this space – Acer Starbreeze, Google, HTC VIVE, Facebook Oculus, Samsung, and Sony Interactive Entertainment. But there are some noticeable standouts – Apple and Microsoft for starters.

The goal of the Global Virtual Reality Association (GVRA) is to promote responsible development and adoption of VR globally. The association’s members will develop and share best practices, conduct research, and bring the international VR community together as the technology progresses. The group will also serve as a resource for consumers, policymakers, and industry interested in VR.

VR is an immersive experience in which your head movements are tracked in a three-dimensional world, making it suited to games, movies, home inspections, travelogues and more.

VR has the potential to be the next great computing platform, improving sectors ranging from education to healthcare, and contribute significantly to the global economy. Through research, international engagement, and the development of best practices, the founding companies of the Global Virtual Reality Association will work to unlock and maximise VR’s potential and ensure those gains are shared as broadly around the world as possible.

The various makers and different formats include:

 vr supported video formats

Oculus Rift was notably the first to market and has set a lot of default standards. It has a built-in 2160 x 1200, 90Hz refresh screen. It can use Xbox controllers.

Samsung Gear VR. It is powered by Oculus so it supports all Oculus games. It uses the 2560 x 1440, 4K AMOLED screen in a Galaxy Note 5, S6/S7/Edge/+ to its best advantage. Most reviewers say this combination produces the best, clearest images.

HTC Vive has two x 1080 x 1200 screens, a 90Hz refresh rate. It has a proprietary sensor system that works mainly with Valve’s gaming ecosystem.

Carl Zeiss VR One also uses either the iPhone 6 or Samsung – but not both.

Sony Morpheus (also called PlayStation VR) is the coolest looking of all and runs off PlayStation 4 and the Sony ecosystem is probably big enough to support a dedicated headset. It uses dual 1080 x 960, 120Hz refresh, screens.

Fove O uses infrared eye tracking that is going to need different standards for interaction. It has a 5.7”, 1440p, 90fps frame rate screen.

Google Cardboard is the original cheap, fisheye lens, do it yourself kit that produces acceptable results in MP4 format only using the phone’s gyroscope etc. You will find many similar devices using a variant of this design, from its new Google Daydream VR (Pixel phone only) headset to Alcatel’s Idol 4 VR headset.

Razor OSVR HDK 2 – gaming accessory maker Razor is developing an open source VR using a 2160 x 1200 dual OLED display. It is not part of GVRA.

Microsoft HoloLens is about mixed and augmented reality. It is not part of GVRA.

There are others that I have little information on – LG 360 VR, Magic Leap, ImmersiON-VR, StarVR, and many more.

Faster VR adoption will depend on how successful GVRA is.

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Ray Shaw

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Ray Shaw ray@im.com.au  has a passion for IT ever since building his first computer in 1980. He is a qualified journalist, hosted a consumer IT based radio program on ABC radio for 10 years, has developed world leading software for the events industry and is smart enough to no longer own a retail computer store!

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