Thoughts on the GearVR

The other day I upgraded to a Samsung Galaxy Note 4 phone.  I had preordered the GearVR but I wasn’t able to use it until I got the phone.

“This is the future.” – everyone who’s used my Gear VR, including myself.

The killer app for VR is probably going to be Oculus Cinema.  I have a movie theater that I can throw in a backpack.  I also took a flying tour over Ireland and played Breakout with my face in Proton Pulse.

Screenshot_NormalAppImage(3)Setup is as easy as plug and play.  Considering how much of a hassle getting anything to work well on the DK2 is, this is really a point not to be overlooked.  The trackpad interface is intuitive and really quite nice; I hope the Oculus Rift consumer version and other headsets adopt this as a standard.  The trackpad works based off of simple gestures, and its nice to have physical input on the headset itself.  Very very elegant.  The interface is high quality and the app store is full of polished demos and games.  Screenshot_NormalAppImage(2)

The resolution is better than the DK2, and good enough for me though it could still use some improvement.  I had no problems with heat or battery life issues, despite my worries.  I do wish there were built in headphones though, a feature that the consumer Rift is apparently going to have.

There’s some noticeable motion blur at times, and the lack of positional tracking is sometimes jarring but is honestly not a big deal.  Beyond that the tracking is perfect in every app I’ve tried.  Screenshot_NormalAppImage(4)

There will be room for more complex experiences that are worth tethering yourself to a PC and dealing with all the nightmares of getting the software to work properly, but there’s also room for something like this.

That’s really all I have to say… it works as well as could be hoped.  Things will get better and I have ideas for software but this is an excellent start.  I hate it when I have to return to flatland.

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Thoughts On Recent Happenings

Well, the first bit of news is that my startup has announced the release date for our first iOS app (December 22nd) and released the trailer!

I’m really proud of how the final app turned out and I’m also really pleased with the trailer.  I’ve never edited a video before in my life and within a couple evenings I was able to capture all the footage with Quicktime and edit it with iMovie into what you see above.

I have a couple thoughts about this:

First, the song is stuck in my head after all the time editing the video, but it’s great and catchy so that’s not a bad thing.  Jamendo is a great resource for this sort of thing.  I even found some pretty excellent instrumental metal on there.  A few years back I remember checking out all the creative commons music and thinking there was some decent stuff but nothing amazing.  Times have changed.

Second, I want to slap the next person who claims that Apple machines are “toys” or “overpriced” or “fascist”.  Programs like iMovie and Garage Band empower anyone to become content creators in a matter of hours.  I have a <$750 notebook with a 10 hour battery life that can run games, let me make a polished trailer for my app, has a full office suite, and has presets in their music software that sound better than my physical guitar amp and effects pedal. As far as being a “toy”, I do more power user command line things on my Mac than I ever did on my Windows machines.  Power of UNIX.

There are legitimate reasons to criticize Apple the company, their hardware, and their software, but there’s these tired memes that have no basis in fact (at least not anymore) that make up much of the criticism I hear online and in person.  I feel like debunking these might merit its own post at some point in time.

What else?  I ended up having to install Windows 8 (upgrading from 7) on my desktop for various reasons.  My first impression was that it was the most beautiful OS I’d ever seen.  The colors and typography are tailor made to look amazing in commercials.  The welcome screen alone was seriously enough to amaze.  My second impression was “Oh my God, they’ve ruined everything.”  It’s overall maybe more stable and more efficient than 7, but every interface decision they made is objectively wrong.  Hiding basic functionality behind unintuitive gestures, defying 20 years of user conditioning and muscle memory by getting rid of the start menu, adding layers and layers of steps to the workflow for no real reason… I’m actually kind of astonished they broke it this much.  This is itself worthy of another dedicated writeup sometime.  If Windows 10 makes the mobile interface more intuitive and makes a dedicated and better interface for desktop while keeping the under-the-hood improvements (nay, expanding on them) I’ll be happy I guess.

Finally, Gear VR Innovator edition and public Mantle SDK announcements. As a graphics programmer, I can’t wait to start playing around with Mantle and see what I can do to max out my desktop GPU, and what sorts of new engine architectures will be enabled.  The Gear VR might be enough to get me to upgrade to a Note 4 instead of an iPhone 6+ when I’m eligible for a phone upgrade.  It’s just an early adopter device but it’s going to be really exciting to see what happens with it.  I expect much of the content (but not all, I’ve seen some “real” games in development for it) is going to be video/multimedia/“experience” software though, since mobile at high framerates and resolutions is really demanding.  I should do a writeup comparing this eventuality to the 90s CD-ROM boom and why this is and isn’t a good thing.

Thoughts on the Oculus Rift

I recently had the privilege of testing out an Oculus Rift.  I felt compelled to write up my first impressions.  I’ve been meaning to start a personal blog to write about whatever for a while, and this is as good a place to start as any.  Feel free to skip to the next paragraph if you want to skip the intro stuff.  My name is Chris, and I’m a graphics programmer.  I will use this space to write about whatever I’m thinking about that I feel merits sharing and discussion, regardless of topic, but there will be a bias towards computers/programming, music/metal, and fictional media since that’s what occupies a lot of my headspace.  I’ll probably write up a proper intro at some point, but for now, on to the Rift!

I got to try a demo setup of the Rift Dev Kit 2 at work two weeks ago.  This first demo had some issues; certain demos had some kind of weird flickering when you moved your head, and some had some kind of RGB color separation.  Later on I got to demo the Rift again on a setup without these issues and it was an even more amazing experience, but even with these issues I was still impressed.

The first demo I tried was the Oculus World Tuscany demo.  It’s basically a Unity Engine test demo where you walk around and look at some okay art assets.  Normally it’s something I wouldn’t even bother to download, but with the rift, it’s fuckin’ cool.

The first thing I noticed was the head tracking.  The word I would use for it is “immaculate”.  Every other virtual reality type experience I’ve tried was missing this.  I played some sword fighting game at Disney Quest something like a decade ago between the weight of the headset and the touch of lag, it felt like I was playing a virtual reality video game.  While I’m hoping that the consumer headsets are a bit lighter, the Rift doesn’t really have this problem; it’s like being transported to a place.  I felt like I’d become a ghost when, seconds after putting the Rift on, I held my hand in front of my face and saw nothing.

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