How virtual reality overcame its ‘puke problem’

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For years, VR devices caused motion sickness – known as the “barfogenic zone”. Have engineers finally solved it, asks Colin Barras, or just replaced it with a different kind of queasiness?

Back in the early 1990s, virtual reality was poised to revolutionise gaming. Games giant Sega, makers of the hugely popular Genesis console, had just unveiled the Sega VR project. At the project’s core lay a headset that coupled state-of-the-art graphics with movement tracking software to immerse gamers in a rich and vibrant virtual world. At least, that was the plan.

The reality of Sega’s virtual reality fell some way short. The biggest problem was that the onscreen graphics didn’t keep pace with the gamer’s head movements, triggering a form of motion sickness. Thomas Piantanida, then principal scientist of SRI International’s Virtual Perception Program, test drove a prototype in 1993 and came up with a name for the vomit-inducing phenomenon. The headset’s graphical output, he said, lay in the “barfogenic zone”. By 1994, Sega had quietly shelved the project.

Virtual reality is back in the news this week, as Facebook has just forked out $2 billion for Oculus VR. The social media giant is betting that immersive virtual and augmented reality will become a part of people’s everyday life, which raises the question of whether the technology has managed to escape the barfogenic zone during the last 20 years.

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HTC is prototyping an AR headset that looks like sunglasses

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The HTC Proton concept rendering

It’s still a work in progress

HTC just announced updates to the Vive Cosmos, its lineup of consumer-ready virtual reality headsets. But it’s also testing a more streamlined mixed reality device codenamed “Project Proton.” While the Proton is just a prototype, HTC shared concept images of its design, shedding some light on the company’s goals.

The Proton headset seems functionally similar to the upcoming Cosmos XR. Both are built for mixed or augmented reality experiences, but unlike Microsoft or Magic Leap’s mixed reality glasses, they use passthrough video instead of transparent waveguide lenses. (So basically, you’re looking at a VR-style screen, but it shows you live video overlaid with virtual elements.) But where the Cosmos XR looks like the Cosmos VR headset, the Proton looks more like ski goggles or — to put it generously — very large sunglasses.

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Can video games replace the outdoors?

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Maybe not in our hearts, but certainly in our brains. Plus, they can make you love the indoors far too much—which is why there’s now a full-fledged, woodsy rehab center for joystick addicts who need a soothing pathway back to a normal life.

Joining game in progress.

You materialize at a sprawling ranch near a snowcapped mountain covered with freshly powdered pines. Three horses graze nearby behind a purplish wooden fence.

To open the gate, click the lock.

A jet-black mare wearing a striped blanket approaches, its hooves sinking into the slush and white puffs blooming from her nostrils.

Click horse.

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Logitech made a VR stylus you can use on a table or in the air

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Less Tilt Brush, more CAD

Logitech has announced a new VR stylus called the Logitech VR Ink Pilot Edition that’s designed to make it easier to draw and sculpt in virtual reality. Unlike existing VR controllers from the likes of HTC, you hold Logitech’s VR stylus like a traditional pen, and it can seamlessly transition between drawing in the air and drawing on a flat surface.

It’s a neat idea, but it sounds like Logitech is still going through the process of working out its reason for being. A teaser video shows the stylus being used mainly for 3D CAD work to design cars and planes, but the company also says it’s seeking industry partners and app developers to work out more use cases for the accessory. Either way, Logitech seems to be aiming this squarely at professional designers rather than part-time Tilt Brush hobbyists.

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Top 5 Predictions for VR/AR Breakthroughs

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Convergence is accelerating disruption… everywhere!

Exponential technologies are colliding into each other, reinventing products, services and industries.

In this third installment of our Convergence Catalyzer series, I’ll be synthesizing key insights from my annual entrepreneurs’ mastermind event, Abundance 360, which takes place every January in Beverly Hills. This five-blog series looks at 3D Printing, Artificial Intelligence, VR/AR, Energy & Transportation, and Blockchain.

Today, let’s dive into Virtual and Augmented Reality…

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The U.S. Army is using virtual reality combat to train soldiers

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War Games

The virtual battlefield can simulate millions of “intelligent entities.”

The U.S. military has constructed a massive virtual reality platform to help train infantry soldiers in realistic battlefields filled with millions of artificial intelligence agents.

Futurism first reported on the Synthetic Training Environment (STE) back in April, when the U.S. Army published a whitepaper describing its ability to simulate real cities in the U.S. and North Korea.

Now software developers who contributed to the VR platform opened up about their work in an interview with Digital Trends, describing how virtual reality can help the U.S. train a more combat-ready and versatile military.

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What software engineers are making around the world right now

A new study published by the data science team at Hired, a jobs marketplace for tech workers, shows why it’s becoming harder for software engineers to afford life in San Francisco, even while they make more money than their peers elsewhere in the U.S. and the world.

Based on 280,000 interview requests and job offers provided by more than 5,000 companies to 45,000 job seekers on Hired’s platform, the company’s data team has determined that the average salary for a software engineer in the Bay Area is $134,000. That’s more than software engineers anywhere in the country, through Seattle trails closely behind, paying engineers an average of $126,000. In other tech hubs, including Boston, Austin, L.A., New York, and Washington, D.C., software engineers are paid on average between $110,000 and $120,000.

Yet higher salaries don’t mean much with jaw-dropping rents and other soaring expenses associated with life in “Silicon Valley,” and San Francisco more specifically. Indeed, factoring in the cost of living, San Francisco is now one of the lowest-paying cities for software engineers, according to Hired’s lead data scientist, Jessica Kirkpatrick. According to her analysis, the $110,000 that an Austin engineer makes is the rough equivalent of being paid $198,000 in the Bay Area, considering how much further each dollar goes in the sprawling capital of Texas. The same is true of Melbourne, Australia, where software engineers are paid a comparatively low $107,000 on average, but who are making the equivalent of $150,000 in San Francisco.

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New VR cabinet will let you smell and touch a virtual world

Ever wanted to get so immersed in a virtual world that you can feel and smell it? Thanks to Koei Tecmo, you might be able to!

Koei Tecmo showed off their new cabinet, called “VR Sense” in a press conference this weekend. It’s a sturdy silver monstrosity, about the size of a dresser.

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Sports make a virtual reality revolution

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Most evenings after work Dundee-based computer-software designer Aaron Puzey can be found in his living room, cycling the gruelling 1,500-kilometre route from Land’s End to John O’Groats, using a virtual reality programme he created for himself.

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Hanging out with my past self in virtual reality

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I checked out a replay of a Reggie Watts show and definitely felt like the energy and movement of his character came across. Since the show had been recorded before the capture feature was announced, however, AltspaceVR had erased all the avatars in the crowd, as those people had not consented to be filmed. I was alone in a room with a prerecorded avatar of Reggie Watts, and sea of emoji rising toward the ceiling, reactions from the ghost of an audience I could no longer see.

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