At CES, HTC (which REM5 uses) announced two new VR headsets, the Cosmos due out later this year and the Vive Pro Eye. This follows Oculus's announcement of the Quest in fall 2018, meaning 2019 is going to be a big year for new headsets in VR. What does this mean for you? Should you buy one? Let's dig into these headsets to get some answers.
The first headset I want to cover is the Oculus Quest, which is slated to be a $400 standalone headset from Oculus that's due out in Spring 2019. The Quest's biggest differentiators are price, portability, and inside out tracking.
On portability, basically Oculus has taken the computing power needed to operate Quest from the computer to the headset. If you've tried and Oculus Go, you know that eliminating the teather of the computer is a nice feature when in VR. But there are tradeoffs. The graphics card is the single most expensive component in a VR computer and a standalone headset that costs $400 can't take a modern graphics card (either from a price or space perspective), so Quest will use the Snapdragon 835 processor, which was originally intended for mobile phones. The chip was originally announced in 2016, so this won't be the most powerful headset on the market. That's the price Oculus is willing to pay for being low-cost.
The inside-out tracking is arguably even more revolutionary. Instead of lighthouses that track a specified area (like we have at REM5), the headset itself will be tracking a person's movement. This will allow developers to build a much larger virtual world and eliminate the restriction of cords. The downside for inside-out tracking is blind spots that the headset can't see. Switching to a shield in Space Pirate Trainer or making a big swing in Beat Saber may lead to some wonky controller locations when hands come back in view, so watch for how headsets and developers handle this potential hiccup.
How does REM5 view the Quest? It's a great consumer product and hopefully it will sell into millions of homes. But it's far less powerful than the Vive Pro headsets we have today, so it won't replace our existing equipment. That said, if it's a good experience, we'll find a way to use Oculus Quest at REM5.
HTC isn't going low-cost
In stark contrast to Oculus HTC's recently announced Cosmos isn't going low-cost. Shown below, it's also using inside-out tracking but will be tethered to a computer (for now) and HTC has said it will have better resolution than the Vive Pro. That could open up the possibility of VR backpacks that would allow for a huge roaming area.
Price and other specs aren't out, but HTC says Cosmos will work with Steam VR and has indicated that it will try to push its own "Vive Reality System" as its platform of choice. Exactly what that looks like is unknown, but HTC clearly doesn't want to be reliant on Steam forever.
Another welcome change is new controllers, which resemble Oculus's Touch controllers. Vive's controllers have long been a sore subject for developers and users alike, so getting a more natural controller is a nice change.
What does REM5 think? Pricing for Cosmos hasn't been released, but it's likely the headset will be closer to the $1,400 of the Vive Pro rather than the $400 Oculus Quest. That means Vive is going after enterprise customers, like REM5, with this headset. Rest assured, we'll get one and if it brings better resolution, solid tracking, and better comfort to customers this could be our headset of the future.
Vive Pro Eye
Finally, we have the Vive Pro Eye, which is basically just the Vive Pro (like we have at REM5) with eye tracking. The idea is to increase resolution at the location a person is directly looking and reduce resolution in the periphery. This will optimize use of the critical graphics card.
REM5 will likely test a headset when it comes out, so stay tuned for more on this new upgrade from HTC.
2018 ended with a bang and REM5 was packed between Christmas Day and New Years Eve. We took a few days off the spend with family and friends, giving us time to recharge as a busy January begins.
Team Building in VR
As we break down the stigma virtual reality has of being only for gamers or kids, we're seeing more and more interest in corporate events, including full buyouts of our space. We usually have a few confused faces as people come in for these events, but invariably confusion turns into smiles of joy as people experience VR for the first time and find a new way to bond with their co-workers. And with more multi-player experiences being added to our menu, you can literally build a team in a virtual world. That's a next-level team building event.
Tweaking the lineup
As we evolve, we keep changing what we're offering on our VR menu to meet customer demand. This week, we're taking Hoops VR and Final Goalie off the regular menu and adding HoloBall, a simple but incredibly fun racketball-type experience. To take HoloBall to the next level, play against a friend in The Quad, where your location in the virtual and real world are almost identical.
Peripherals are coming to REM5
If you've been to REM5 recently, you may have seen that we've also been playing with peripherals like a hockey stock and tennis racket that track in the virtual environment. As of yesterday, we are playing table tennis with a real paddle in VR. Mind blown! And that's just the beginning; we will be one of the first locations in the world to have the Striker VR gun for HTC Vive, so stay tuned for more.
St. Louis Park Business Council
We hosted the St. Louis Park Business Council meeting on December 6. About 20 local business leader attended and demo’d virtual reality. We are proud to be part of this chapter of the Chamber of Commerce and look forward to continued collaboration with local businesses.
Best of MN
We were fortunate to be chosen as one of the “Best of MN” presenters last week, where we demo’d VR to about 50 people from around the state. Beat Saber was on the menu and, as usual, everyone was incredibly impressed. We opened some eyes to the possibility of VR and even made some interesting connections in law enforcement and education that could lead to long-term partnerships for REM5.
Schools are excited about VR
We've had a busy few weeks showing educators virtual reality at REM5. Charter school AGAMIM visited on Thursday, December 6 with 15 teachers demoing VR. Beacon Academy teachers were here Thursday, December 13 with 18 teachers and staff experiencing VR. They’re very excited about bringing the ENTIRE SCHOOL to REM5.
Benilde teachers continue to be early adoptors with math teachers exploring Calcflow, Google Blocks, and Make VR Pro for teaching calculus and geometry (Blocks and Make VR). This was a continuation of demos we did with Benilde in November, so this relationship is maturing as teachers learn more about VR.
Continuing the education track, representatives from Macalister and Hill Murray also stopped in to REM5 to discuss how they’re using VR and how we may be able to expand their capabilities. Schools are
VR in Architecture
We recently had the pleasure of assisting our architecture firm on a pitch for a new project. We used Iris Prospect to show a project they designed and proposed using VR as a tool in the design phase of the project. Instead of having meeting at their offices, where they would pass around 2D drawings and images, REM5 could host design reviews and the architects could pull up different design options in the virtual space to give customer employees more context in their design options. Architecture is one area where VR has a lot of potential to both save money and improve results.
One of the great powers of virtual reality is we can simulate experiences without taking on real-world risks. The military was one of the first to recognize this benefit in the early 2000s, building tank and aircraft simulators with virtual reality built-in.
The Army is using what it's calling a Synthetic Training Environment to simulate military exercises in a variety of environments. Soldiers will be able to team up with counterparts at 20 locations across the country to train in close-combat environments.
Simulating military exercises will reduce injury, save money, and increase the number of reps a soldier can get in simulated field exercises. Those are all big wins for everyone in the military and virtual reality is making it possible.
Walmart is betting big on virtual reality as a training tool, sending four Oculus Go headsets to each Supercenter and two to each Neighborhood and discount store. In total, the company will have 17,000 VR headsets in the field, giving employees quick and easy training on new initiatives like pickup kiosks. See the video below to see how Walmart is using VR.
The lines between the real and virtual world are becoming blurred as VR and AR technology improve. Here are a few of our favorite examples.
Disney is testing throwing a physical ball that is rendered in the virtual space, allowing a user to catch the ball in real time. The technology can even predict where a ball will land in the physical world.
The Void allows you to interact with the Star Wars world in its experiences and is adding new content and locations regularly.
Expect the real and virtual world to collide more and more in the future, something we're very excited about at REM5.
One of the VR applications we're most excited about is training and we're starting to see some amazing content hit the market. "Wrench" is coming to early access this fall and makes it possible for even the most novice mechanic (like me) to build a car from scratch. Find out how the inner workings of an engine work and see just how many parts go into the piece of equipment we take for granted everyday. Check out the trailer here:
Training is one of the biggest potential markets for virtual reality and one area we have high hopes for is first responder training. Real life police, ambulence, and fire simulations are difficult to set up and expensive to operate. VR can help save cost in training and simulations and improve performance as well.
Flaimtrainer is a company that does VR simulation with haptic feedback combined with a virtual environment for training firefighters.
ECU School of Medical and Health Sciences has built a paramedic training experience in VR to help train people assessing a scene. Check out their work below.
At REM5, we think training is going to be a huge use of virtual reality and we're already talking with partners about their needs. Contact us if you want to find out more about training in VR.
One of the most incredible things about virtual reality is that it gives an entirely new perspective to places most people have read about before. Reading a book about Mount Everest or seeing pictures of the Titanic are great, but actually visiting them in a virtual world puts their scale into an entirely different perspective.
Everest VR takes users through climbing Earth's highest mountain from basecamp to the summit. If you've ever wondered what it really looks like on the top of Mount Everest, this is the most realistic way to see it (without climbing the actual mountain).
Titanic VR allows you to explore the sunken ship in a way never possible before.
A favorite at REM5 is the Anne Frank House VR experience, which puts Anne Frank's story into a new context. If a picture is worth a thousand words is a VR image worth a million words?
A year ago, at Facebook's Oculus developer conference, the company announced the standalone Oculus Go and teased the fully immersive Oculus Santa Cruz. Go has hit the market, but Santa Cruz has been a tease for the VR industry since then.
According to Upload VR, Santa Cruz will be announced at Oculus Connect on September 26-27 with a launch expected in the first quarter of 2019. If true, standalone VR headsets could be a reality within months, enabling the next generation of virtual reality.