New Vive Price Makes The Best VR System More Accessible to the Mass Market

It’s been a big summer for Vive and our ever-growing VR Ecosystem, and we’re ramping up for a fantastic holiday season.

Starting today (8/21), we are reducing the price of Vive by $200. The high-end, PC-based consumer Vive that is in market today, and will be for the foreseeable future, will now be available for $599.  All Vive purchases come with a free trial to Viveport Subscription, where consumers can choose up to 5 titles per month to experience, and copies of some of the most popular pieces of VR in Google’s Tilt Brush, EverestVR, and Richie’s Plank Experience.

Vive is the leader globally in high-end VR, and this new entry price will make the system available to an even broader audience. When customers purchase Vive, they are getting superior VR technology and the most complete ecosystem in VR. Vive has the best tracking technology and most compelling content. We work tirelessly to continue to iterate and improve on Vive to deliver on the promise of VR. And developers are taking full advantage of this tech in delivering the best software on the market and bringing it to Vive owners.

We have continued to invest in growing the Vive hardware ecosystem. Google, Apple, Intel, UPS, Volkswagon, SalesForce and dozens of other global brands have all lined up with Vive for their VR efforts, and there’s more to come in the back half of the year.

New Tracker software and hardware is coming online daily, and we’ll have more to share on consumer launch timing soon. In addition, many partners are working hard on wireless solutions to bring even more freedom for Vive owners.

On the software side of the house, we offer the only subscription service for VR today in Viveport Subscription, which has not only changed the way consumers get their VR content, but also provided an incremental revenue stream for developers. We’ve signed up over 200 titles on Viveport Subscription, and we’re making a host of improvements that will improve and deepen our store experience.

This is just the beginning stages of what Vive has in store. We’ll soon see more AAA content coming to Vive with Fallout 4 VR, Doom VFR, as well as some other titles to be announced.

We know price is just one component of a purchase decision, but when you line up all that Vive offers, we’re building a complete VR ecosystem that customers can rely on today and for years to come.

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Exploring Mars 2030

Before humans step foot on Mars, we’ll visit the red planet virtually with Mars 2030. We spoke with Julian Reyes, Project Lead and Director, to find out how we’re getting our headsets to Mars.

 

Mars 2030

Tell us in a few sentences – what is Mars 2030?

For nearly three years we’ve been working closely with different labs at NASA and to understand the state of technologies in place to get us to Mars. Mars 2030 encapsulates all of the research that’s been done on the topic.

What are the ‘origins’ of Mars 2030? What gave you the original idea or impetus to develop it?

It all started after reading a Mars One Feasibility study published by two graduate students at MIT’s AeroAstro Lab, Sydney Do and Andrew Owens (read the original study here). I reached out to them and began to ask them questions as to where we actually were in the process of getting humans on Mars.

Over the course of the following months, they began to provide us with several NASA technical papers related to on habitation, space suits, rovers, and other technology demonstrators. Each paper went into detail as to what this human mission would look like. It was fascinating material and we couldn’t stop thinking it being perfect for VR. It became the genesis of Mars 2030.

This lead to us reaching out to the NASA scientists involved in each of these technical studies. We presented a concept over the course of a year, they liked it, and we partnered with them to begin work. We officially signed the Space Act Agreement with NASA in October of 2015. (Ed. note: The Space Act Agreement allows NASA to work with non-government entities.)

Can you tell us what that NASA partnership involved? What did they supply to you, and how closely did you work together?

The partnership allowed us to openly collaborate with teams inside of the organization and access to all of their facilities. We conducted several dozen interviews with teams focused on the development of systems for the mission to Mars.

There’s lot to mention with regards to the data that was shared but most notably we were given access to habitat and equipment prototypes, satellite data from their Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, space suits, and robotics.

We also got to test Mars 2030 at ARGOS (Active Response Gravity Offload System), a gravity simulation system that recreates Mars’ 3/8ths partial gravity, to help us accurately represent it in the experience. (See a clip of ARGOS here.) Finally, we had a chance to drive the pressurized rover in the Mars yard at Johnson Space Center and capture ambisonic audio, which was surreal.

Mars 2030

What are some of the unique features that make Mars 2030 different from other VR sims set on Mars?

I think we really distinguish ourselves with delivering an experience that’s as close as you can get to being an astronaut and glimpsing into what this mission might actually look like. We went to great lengths to make sure every aspect of Mars 2030 is a translation of the countless hours of scientific work being done by teams inside of the organization. That and we dedicated a lot of time into making the project look and sound awesome.

People who’ve experienced Mars 2030 talk about a real feeling of ‘otherness’. What is the first thing people tend to notice? The sunlight? The terrain? Something else?

I think its a combination of all of those. It’s special to see people’s reaction when they’re are told they’re stepping foot onto a real location on Mars. Combined with music from the London Symphony Orchestra, it becomes something visceral. Personally, watching the days pass as your explore the planet is when I forget I’m in my living room.

Earlier in development, it was said that Mars 2030‘s explorable area was ‘as big as Skyrim’ (What’s Skyrim?). Is it still that big?

It’s twice the size now! The full playable area is a 40 sq. km composite of the Mawrth Vallis region which has been a candidate site for landing on Mars due to its geological diversity.

Mawrth Vallis image

“Mawrth Vallis itself is an ancient channel carved by catastrophic floods. ‘Mawrth’ is the Welsh word for Mars and ‘Vallis’ is Latin for valley.” – Imagery and quote via NASA

What might people discover about Mars that they don’t know, by using Mars 2030?

A big focus for us was to challenge expectations and present things that aren’t widely known about Mars. We attempted to do this by presenting the experience through the eyes and mind of astronaut who has more thorough knowledge of the planet and its history. Through exploration, you’re able to travel back in time and see Mars as it was billions of years ago, recreated through the imagination of the astronaut. Also, dust storms aren’t deadly like in the Martian atmosphere!

Similarly, what might people discover about NASA’s Mars colonization plans that they might not know?

That a human mission to Mars requires a near perfect orchestration in so many different disciplines. Every last detail needs to be worked out to the most minute detail for the mission be successful.

Is the NASA equipment seen in Mars 2030 ‘real’, or did you invent some?

All of the equipment seen has either been developed or is currently under development. We tried not to ‘sci-fi’ anything in the experience as it would have done a disservice to our main focus of understanding what this mission might look like.

The only thing we had to modify slightly under NASA guidance was the Mars Descent Vehicle. We added windows which isn’t a very popular idea since it can present all sorts of issues when descending through the atmosphere. We thought it would take away some of the excitement not being able to see the planet when you’re landing, so we added them.

Tell us (and educators reading this) about your educators program.

All educators will be given a free copy of Mars 2030 when they register on the website. We feel this experience is as much about becoming an astronaut as an educational and development tool for classrooms.

In the spirit of this we’ve also partnered with HP, Autodesk, Nvidia, and Technicolor on a design competition called Mars Home Planet. We want  people to envision what a Martian colony in 300 years might look like. We will be providing a free mod tool of content available for use in Unreal Engine 4 and LaunchForth so that people can come up with their own concepts and have them evaluated.

Finally, two obvious questions. First, do you think humans will actually step foot on Mars by 2030?

Definitely. We have some of the brightest minds in the world looking at how to make this possible.

Second, if you were given the opportunity to go to Mars… would you go?

Only if it’s a round trip.

Thank you very much for talking with us, Julian!


Mars 2030 is now available on Viveport.

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UPS rewrites the rules of driver training using HTC Vive

The next time your UPS package arrives, VR likely played a part. The global leader in package delivery is now harnessing the power of Vive and virtual reality to train UPS package delivery drivers to ensure and practice safety on the road.

With more than 100,000 UPS vehicles in use each day around the world, safety, and prompt delivery are high priorities for UPS, and Vive is helping deliver on that promise.

Starting in September, UPS will start rolling out Vive in all nine of the UPS Integrad training facilities around the U.S., providing drivers with a realistic training environment using the most immersive VR available. Developed by UPS IT experts, this new training tool recreates the experience of driving a real delivery vehicle. Trainees learn to recognize and identify road hazards that could arise in their everyday delivery routes.

According to Juan Perez, UPS chief information and engineering officer:

“Virtual Reality offers a big technological leap in the realm of driver safety training.  VR creates a hyper-realistic streetscape that will dazzle even the youngest of our drivers whose previous exposure to the technology was through video games.”

Before these VR training simulations, trainees were taught to spot road hazards through touchscreen devices.

Many companies, like UPS, are turning to Vive for training their employees because of the high success rates compared to other methods. VR lessons can have higher retention rates and the immersive experiences can simulate real-world scenarios from the safety of a training facility.

So the next time a UPS package arrives safe and sound to your doorstep, you can give Vive a small piece of the credit.

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Rez Infinite Now Available For HTC VIVE

Now available on Steam, Rez Infinite is the ultimate version of the beloved adventure.

Players shoot their way through a futuristic computer’s defense system to prevent a catastrophic shut down. The beautiful futuristic geometry is the stylized representation of the inner workings of the future’s most advanced computer system. Use precision to aim and shoot down your cyber enemies. The full 3D audio effects follow you and evolve as you progress through the stages. The shooting coordinates with the music of the game, creating an even more interactive and immersive experience.

Use your sharp eyes and reflexes to progress in this colorful, rhythmic adventure. 

In a series of five stages, you will defeat everything the computer system pits against you.  From colorful bots to morphing bosses, the electronic beats of the soundtrack will guide you deeper and deeper into the hostile system.

Now available for purchase on Steam, Rez Infinite will give you a stylized, psychedelic shooter adventure.  With mesmerizing scenes that shift and a soundtrack coordinated with your shooting, this is not a VR game to miss.

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MakeVR Pro expands your virtual CAD space

With the launch of MakeVR Pro, we spoke with Steve Hansted, Product Manager for MakeVR about what improvements have been made for the latest version.

MakeVR Pro

Given the ‘Pro’ tag, obviously MakeVR is aimed at professionals – but who do you see using it? Solely designers, or other professions?

‘Pro’ refers more to the new functionality than the target audience. We still have all the Boolean tools for more freeform creation, but what we’ve added are precision tools that will allow anyone, from students to Makers and 3D print enthusiasts to 3D modelers and designers, of all ages and skill levels, to be able to jump in and start building content with positional and rotational accuracy. It’s still so easy to learn and fun to use that it’s totally accessible to everyone.

What would you say are the primary feature additions in MakeVR – the must-have stuff?

The new features are primarily the tools that provide precision. Grids, rulers, object snapping, rotational alignment tools, and mirroring are all features that allow you to place objects in the environment precisely where you want them for performing cuts, joins, sweeps, etc.

Let’s talk about those features in detail. What’s object snapping?

In MakeVR Pro objects snap to grids, rulers, or any other object in the scene, and slide over their surfaces, maintaining their depth and angle relative to the surface of the object on which they’re tracking. This gives you a very easy way to ensure that your objects are lined up right where you want them. To undo a snap, you simply grab the snapped object and ‘rip’ it free with a flip of your wrist.

How about ‘ghosting’?

Ghosting occurs when the Snap tool is active and you are in the process of snapping one object to another. Touching the held object to the target object creates a ghost preview of the held object to show you exactly where it will be attached when you hit “Go”. It may sound scary, but I assure you it’s friendly ghosting!

Grids and rulers sound obvious, but how are they used?

In MakeVR Pro we’ve added grids and rulers to which you can snap any object, affording you precise positioning of your objects in two and three dimensions. Plus, rulers and grids can in turn be snapped to any object in the scene, including other rulers and grids to build construction jigs. It equates to building a virtual drill press or milling machine. You can set the tracking increments so as to move your object over the surface of a grid or ruler, i.e. in quarter inch or 5cm increments, to specify your level of precision. And, grids and rulers can be set to either US Standard or Metric units.

Object tracking?

Object tracking is pretty cool. When you snap one object to another you can drag the snapped object around the surface of the target object to line it up exactly where you want it. When aligning objects with one another, they honor boundary conditions (faces, edges, and vertices) so there is always a sensible alignment as you turn corners.

Finally, what about mirroring?

Using a grid as a plane of reference, any object in your scene can be easily mirrored across the grid for symmetrical precision. Mirroring totally helps in my ongoing attempt to model the Starship Enterprise.

Are there any other ‘under the hood’ improvements that you’d like to mention?

Why, yes! You can now import .stl files to preview them in the virtual environment. But, at this point, you’re limited to only grabbing and scaling them. As .stl files are external meshes, and have no concept of their interiors, you aren’t able to perform any of the CAD-based functions on them.

In addition to all the new precision tools and functionality, we’re including more worlds and some pretty cool content that was built with the Pro tools.

The 3D modeling / object creation in VR space is starting to get a little crowded. What do you think keeps MakeVR ahead of the game?

Well, the fact that MakeVR and MakeVR Pro are built upon a professional, industry-standard, CAD engine really gives us a very mature and solid/deep foundation upon which to build. The Boolean tools alone have over 150 man years of development behind them. And, as you’re working with solid models when creating content in MakeVR, anything/everything you make can be sent right off to a 3D printer or, of course, imported into other modeling applications or game engines.

What’s next for MakeVR? Are there future features planned?

Lots! Amongst the features we want to add first are things like collaboration, multiple users in the same environment, and physics. And, we do have access to unlock every tool in the CAD engine that we use. We plan on bringing in any/all tools that make sense to use in VR, and tools that users are asking for. So, if there’s a feature or a tool that you’d like to see, please let us know!

Thanks for chatting, Steve!


MakeVR Pro is now available on Viveport.

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Take a trip to the other side in Flatline

What happens at the exact moment of death? Religion and science disagree, but many survivors of near-death experiences have similar stories from all around the world. In Flatline, you’ll have your own near-death experience in virtual reality. We chatted to Julian McCrea of Portal Experiences about the creation of this unique app.

Flatline

Hello Julian! Tell us your part in the production of Flatline.

I’m the Executive Producer on Flatline (find us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram). The production was directed by Jon Schnitzer and co-produced between Portal Experiences, The Brain Factory and 3DLive AXO. Our website is at www.flatlineexperience.com

How would you describe Flatline?

Flatline is a non-fiction VR series where the audience have a near-death experience, go to the Other Side and come back, irreversibly changed.

In each episode you experience a Flatline, as retold by someone who had experienced it, first-hand. At the end of the episode you can hear from world expert psychologists, cardiologists and spiritualist who try and explain what happened to that ‘Flatliner’.

What was the initial inspiration for Flatline?

The initial inspiration came from the director Jon Schnitzer who had a close friend of his retell a near-death experience that had happened to him 16 years ago.

As we began digging into it, two things stuck out. Firstly the stories were viscerally very different but patterns started to emerge.It was like peeling an onion; every time you read a new one, the mystery of what happened on the Other Side grew larger and larger.

Secondly, virtual reality was perfect for telling these stories as it could allow is to retell the stories in first-person, intimately, in visceral way that no-other medium could. We try and explain it as ‘Dr Strange meets Tree of Life‘. You will understand what I mean when you do it!

The subject of ‘near death experiences’ is well used in horror movies and fiction. Did anything specific inspire you?

There have been references to near-death experiences in 2D fiction (Altered States, Brainstorm, Flatliners, The Leftovers) and non-fiction (most recently the documentary Day I Died). In all these examples you are watching the experience happen to someone else and not to you; there is a ‘distance’ between the subject telling the story and the viewer experiencing it.

Virtual reality – if crafted well – is fundamentally an experience medium, where the experience is happening to YOU. So the references were of artists that have tried to do that. A big reference was the Lyrical Abstractionism Art movement, the cosmic artwork of Jordan Belson and the psychedlic work of Louis Wain.

Do you have a personal opinion on the debate of science vs religion?

It is not for me to have an opinion, we want the audience to make up their own minds. We have made a concerted effort of offering the audience very different points of view from world renowned experts (psychologist Dr Susan Blackmore, cardiologist Dr Pim Van Lommel and president of the International Association for Near-Death Studies, Dr Diane Corcoran) who have been researching this for 40 years each – and allow the audience to make up their own mind.

Flatline

Are the subjects included in Flatline real people, with real stories?

Yes. Every person in the Flatline series is a real-person with the exact words of what they believe happened to them, when they ‘Flatlined’.

How much research into near-death experiences did the development team do for Flatline?

We researched over 4,000 near-death experiences taken over a 30 year period across Western, Middle Eastern and Far East Culture.

We then brought in the world experts who have been researching near-death experiences for 40 years each respectively across psychology, cardiology and spirituality.

You’re very specific to say ‘this is not a game’. Why?

We want to be very clear with the audience that this is an on-rails, very visceral rollercoaster experience.

Firstly in games, you have ‘agency’ to control and change the direction of the story. When you Flatline you don’t i.e. your body shuts down and you are dead. There is no agency – so sit back and enjoy the ride.

Secondly, we believe the virtual reality medium is more than a gaming medium – due to the nature of the medium itself, you think you are having an experience. With that in mind, the medium could fundamentally change how you see and think about the world. We believe Flatline starts the journey on that path.

You’re showing off Flatline at ScareLA this weekend (August 5/6, 2017) in Los Angeles. Why should someone come to the show and experience it there? Is there any sort of show specific activation you’re doing?

For the location based versions we are heightening the Flatline experience through the use of setting, atmosphere and tactile effects that heighten the simulation presented in the headset.

For ScareLA specifically, we are placing you on a gurney in the back of a real ambulance and you Flatline. It is pretty wild. If you can make it, we would love to meet some fellow ‘Flatliners’.

We will be announcing some other pretty wild activations shortly, to find out more sign up at www.flatlineexperience.com!

Thanks for talking with us, Julian!


Flatline is now available on Viveport.

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