April immersive technology

Mark manages all of the content for VRWorldTech. To discuss an idea or pitch a story, drop him a line at editor@vrworldtech.com

Welcome to my April immersive technology picks. This is the second installment of a regular feature where I choose what I think were the highlights of the previous month, and speculate as to where these developments could take immersive technology next. If you agree, disagree or have something you think I should cover, drop me a line via editor@vrworldtech.com

Ahead-mounted displays

Let’s start with hardware: the releases I covered in my last Editor’s Picks have come thick and fast. I was able to try Varjo’s VR-1 at Develop3DLive in Sheffield last month and it didn’t disappoint. What struck me was the visual fidelity apparent in the two simulations I experienced: in an apartment, I was able to read the spines of the DVD cases lined up on a shelf; in an air traffic control centre, I could read the screens in front of me as easily as the information that appeared alongside each aircraft that my eyes focused on in the distance. The VR-1 is virtual reality as its purist.

What is real Varjo has the answer
The VR-1 from Varjo

Of course, the Oculus Quest and Rift S, not to mention the Valve Index, are finally here, but I’m going to use May to take stock before commenting on their potential impact. I will say that VR gaming looks set for an upgrade, and Oculus for Business is an interesting proposition for enterprise, particularly with the arrival of the mobile, wire-free Quest. We shall certainly see.

Cost crunch

Still on hardware, but its use to fuel the further development that immersive realities so sorely need. Much has been written about the cost of headsets, not to mention the computers, controllers, base stations, haptics and more required to use them as their developers intended. Cost is an ever-present barrier to adoption, so it’s heartening to see the new headsets mentioned above retailing below £1,000/$1,000.

Magic Leap pledges 500 free headsets to developers
Magic Leap One Creator Edition

What’s equally heartening is the likes of Oculus/Facebook and Magic Leap ensuring that immersive content creators, developers and technologists get their hands on leading devices early on in their lifecycles. This is nothing new of course, but Magic Leap’s commitment to give away 500 creator edition headsets for Unreal Engine development was done so without diverting funds from the Epic MegaGrants $100 million support programme, meaning that applying creators will have more financial flexibility and freedom to create.

Seeing is believing

Still on hardware! But it’s an important development in boosting access to immersive technology.

Microsoft researchers and university collaborators have developed a set of tools to help people with low vision experience VR. The SeeingVR tools for are designed to overcome the visual disabilities experienced by up to 217 million people worldwide when it comes to using VR.

SeeingVR from Microsoft to help people with visual disabilities
SeeingVR from Microsoft

These tools include a magnifier and bifocal views, brightness and contrast adjustment for the scene, edge-enhancement to make virtual objects more salient from their backgrounds, depth measurement tools, and the ability to point at text or objects in a virtual scene to have them read or described aloud.

Boosting access to VR can go along way to ensuring its longevity, while helping those with low vision have access to an important emerging medium. I hope we see more of these developments in the weeks and months to come.

And that’s a wrap. Look out for some exciting features in the month of May, including a look at military applications for VR, as well as an examination of visualisation and the production of 3D objects for virtual and augmented experiences. The team at VRWorldTech will also be ramping up its event partnerships, so stay tuned for a steady flow of updates on immersive technology conferences and exhibitions from around the world

Image credits: Develop3DLive, Varjo, Magic Leap and Microsoft