Behold The Next Generation VR Technology: Part 7 — Controllers and Haptics

The following article goes over a summary of different kinds of controllers and haptics technology that are targetted for VR today (ie. Knuckles, Leap Motion, exoskeletons, etc..)

Link: here

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NASA’s virtual reality journey uses same software, hardware as gamers

The technology is now enjoying a renaissance, and NASA is rushing to take advantage of it. VR headsets that gamers purchase for a few hundred bucks and connect to off-the-shelf personal computers are supplanting those that used to cost NASA tens of thousands of dollars to design and build.

Read more:  Link

Eddie Paddock demonstrates Charlotte, which astronauts use as part of virtual reality at NASA Monday, Feb. 26, 2018, in Houston. Astronauts wear VR headsets and software turns Charlotte, a metal frame in the shape of a cube, into a piece of equipment to be installed on the outside the International Space Station.  Photo: Steve Gonzales, Houston Chronicle / © 2018 Houston Chronicle

SteamVR update automatically optimizes utilization of GPU to get maximum performance

Today we are excited to introduce a new feature in SteamVR Beta that allows customers to get the best visual experience out of their GPU, lowers the cost of VR, and makes developer’s lives a little bit easier. We’re doing this by custom-tuning application resolution so that it is optimal for each customer’s GPU and VR headset.

How it works is simple. The SteamVR runtime measures the speed of your GPU and tells applications to render at an appropriate resolution based on the power of your GPU. There are many customers right now with GPUs that aren’t being fully utilized. These customers will now automatically have their VR application resolution up-res’ed – the end result being a clearer and better looking VR experience.

Read more: Steam

A guide for new HTC Vive owners

If you’re a new HTC Vive owner, here’s a nice guide to help you get started in getting the most out your experience with your headset

Figure out what your IPD is

The first thing you want to try and do is figure out what your inter pupillary distance (IPD) is.  IPD is the distance between the center of your pupils between your eyes and is important to set properly to minimize eye strain and be able to focus on the image in front of you.

The most accurate way you can do this is by going to an eye doctor and asking them to measure it for you.   They have a machine which they can quickly and accurately measure this and tell you the number.   It nice to be able to have an accurate measurement done, but if you don’t have it, there are some alternatives.  For example, you can use a mirror and ruler to help measure your IPD by following the procedure in this link here or an online tool like this one here..  For good measure here’s another link to another reference: Link.  At least one of these should get you going.

On the Vive headset, you can mechanically adjust your IPD setting on the headset using the knob on the side and it shows you the IPD setting in millimeters.  Remember that adjusting IPD is correct for alignment, not focus.

Focus

When you first put the headset on, you should try and adjust the two knobs connected to the headstrap by pulling them outwards and rotating them to bring the screen closer or farther to find the best distance for focus.

In general, bringing the screen closer to your face will increase the field of view (FOV) and the amount of display you can see and may slightly increase the size of the sweet spot for viewing for you.

It is important to note that the screen will have a sweet spot where things will be in focus so you need to align the headset so your eyes are in the sweet spot.  By moving the headset up/down on your face, you can adjust your eye position relative to the screen and you should adjust your straps on the side and top of the headset to hold it in place securely so it doesn’t move around.  The next step will be to adjust the settings within SteamVR to improve the resolution within the headset which will be described a little bit later in this guide.

Face Cushion

The HTC Vive comes with a foam face cover.  One thing you will realize quickly is that it gets soaked with sweat easily so it’s nice to get one of these replacement leather covers instead because it’s easier to clean with alcohol wipes between uses.  There’s lots of choices for these (here’s an example Amazon link) and as I mentioned earlier, the thinner the pad, the closer your face can be to the screen to get a larger field of view (FOV).

Deluxe Audio Strap (DAS)

The standard HTC Vive comes with velcro straps and you need to also use external headphones.  There is a deluxe audio strap option which is much more comfortable to put on because it’s rigid and you can put it on like a welders helmet and you just need to tighten a knob on the back to sit comfortably.  It also has a built in headphones so you can easily take the headset on and off without a lot of fuss.  If you don’t have it already, this is a $99 add-on.  Amazon link

Wrist Straps

Perhaps HTC has improved the quality of the wrist straps, but when I got mine, they were notariously weak and susceptible to breaking.   I thought I was immune and controlled enough that it didn’t apply to me, but let’s just say the controller ended flying across the room and smashing into the wall when the strap broke.   I bought a set of Wii straps and those have worked great since.

Watch out for Sunlight and bright lights

One thing to note is that because you have powerful lenses in the HMD to magnify the screen to get a large field of view, you need to be careful not to let sunlight or very bright lights to shine into your headset.  Basically you can burn out part of the screen if you’re not careful.  Just think about the folks who looked into the sun during the eclipse and burned spots into their retina.

Optimizing the experience while wearing the headset

Now that we’ve covered the physical parts of the headset, the next section will be to discuss how to optimize your experience while wearing it.

There are two pieces of software which are highly recommended you get:

  • OpenVR Advanced Settings Overlay Link
  • Revive – Play Oculus-exclusive games on the HTC Vive Link

OpenVR Advanced Settings Overlay

The OpenVR Advanced Settings Overlay gives you the ability to control many of the settings that you want to be able to adjust while wearing the headset.    Three of the main things that I find it is most useful for:

  1. Fixing the floor calibration.  Sometimes when putting on the headset, the floor height is a little off.  You can tell because if you put your controllers on the floor, they are either floating in the air, or underneath the ground.  The OpenVR advanced settings tool let’s you fix the floor with two clicks of the button.  Without this tool, you’d have to rerun the SteamVR setup tool again so this is indepensible.
  2. Adjusting the supersampling rate and compositor render target multiplier.
    • The default baseline is 1.0 for both of these values and if you want to get higher visual resolution and sharper text you can increase these values.  Note that increasing these values will scale the workload that your CPU and GPU will need process so you want to try and get the best balance between image quality and minimizing dropped frames.
    • In general, adjusting the supersampling rate will increase the general sharpness of the images you are seeing and better to do more of this than increasing the compositor render target.  However, if you increase the compositor render target, you will see things like the text on the SteamVR overlays and some overlaid menus become much clearer.
    • Update: here is a link to a reddit thread going through adjustment and understanding Supersampling with SteamVR:  Reddit
  3. Adjusting the audio settings.  This let’s you control which audio device is used and let’s you control if the audio you are hearing is mirrored on your PC’s main audio output as well.    Sometimes the audio source selection can be finicky if you power up/down your headset and it doesn’t detect your default audio device, so sometimes you need to switch it back to the HMD when starting up.

Revive

There are some Oculus application store exclusives and Revive enables you to play them through your HTC Vive within SteamVR.  You will need to set up an Oculus account, and once you install Revive, then your Oculus store games will be available to you similar to your native SteamVR games.

So what should you get?

Here’s are some applications which you can take a look at to get started:

VR games:

  • The Lab
  • Space Pirate Trainer
  • A-10 VR
  • Audioshield
  • SoundBoxing
  • GORN
  • Onward
  • Batman Arkham VR
  • Bullets and More
  • Climbey
  • Thrill of the Fight
  • Compound DEMO
  • Holodance
  • Superhot VR
  • Job Simulator
  • Arizona Sunshine
  • To the Top
  • Raw Data
  • Robo Recall
  • Fallout VR
  • LA Noire VR
  • VR Diner Duo

Sports

  • Eleven (ping pong)
  • Racket NX
  • Hot Dogs, Horseshoes and Hand Grenades

VR Adventure

  • Vanishing Realms
  • Gallery: Call of the Starseed
  • Invisible Hours
  • Budget Cuts
  • Vertigo
  • Scanner Sombre

Scary/Horror

  • Chair in a Room
  • The Bellows
  • Emily Wants to Play

Puzzle/Escape Room games

  • Abode
  • Conductor
  • FORM
  • Accounting
  • I Expect You To Die
  • Talos Principle
  • Floor Plan
  • The Red Stare
  • Belko VR

Strategy

  • Lazerbait

Simulation

  • Elite Dangerous
  • Assetto Corsa

VR Interactive Experiences

  • Google Earth VR
  • Price of Freedom
  • Apollo 11 VR
  • Mars Odyssey
  • Star Wars: Droid Repair Bay
  • Trials on Tatooine
  • Gnomes and Goblins
  • Audio Factory
  • Irrational Exuberance:  Prologue
  • The Impossible Travel Agency
  • Body VR
  • The Cubicle
  • Google Spotlight stories:
    • Pearl
    • Son of Jaguar
  • La Peri
  • Project M:Daydream
  • CocoVR
  • Ritchie’s Plank Experience
  • The Blu
  • TheWaveVR
  • Waltz of the Wizard

Storytelling

  • Allumette
  • Invasion!
  • The Rose and I
  • Colosse
  • Elena
  • Morgan lives in a Rocket House VR

Creative

  • TiltBrush
  • Mindshow
  • EXA: Infinite
  • Google Blocks
  • Modbox
  • Kingspray Graffiti

Social

  • RecRoom
  • Bigscreen
  • AltspaceVR
  • Star Trek Bridge Crew

Update:  

Here is a link to a wiki page for multiplayer games in VR:   Reddit

Here is a link to a list for Escape Room/Puzzle games in VR:  Link