June 30, 2016
MOTOR TREND //
EVOX IMAGES is positioned to take you on a virtual shopping trip for a new car. Or help designers determine the best headlights and color schemes for a future product. Or offer automakers an easier way to clinic some new vehicles in the works.
The California-based company has a blend of old-school assets and cutting-edge technology that might dovetail with a world ready to embrace virtual reality as the next best way to shop online. Evox was founded in 1995 by an aerospace engineer who wanted to use software for virtual reality in the auto industry. Virtual reality didn’t take off in the ’90s—it made people nauseous—so Evox concentrated on 2D images and over two decades has built a photo library of more than 8,500 vehicles dating back to 2000, said Dave Weber, vice president of sales and marketing. Its 360-degree images are already used by about 22,000 dealer websites.
The company, based in Rancho Dominguez, has five studios and robotic camera setups where each vehicle undergoes about 60 standardized 2D and 3D shots so all show the same angles and features, said Pat Hadnagy, vice president, virtual reality. They can shoot and process images for up to 25 cars a week and add about 650 new vehicles to the library each year. So far about 1,000 have been shot in 3D so Evox is ready when virtual reality takes off. Because they are photo-based, they do not appear cartoony like today’s 3D video games.
Evox created the RelayCars app earlier this year, which has about 20 cars available to view in VR, and the company is preparing to pull in trucks from its vast library. Available from the Samsung Gear VR store, the app has about 480,000 downloads to date.
RelayCars allows car buyers to slap on a pair of VR glasses and view a virtual showroom. A demo with an Android phone imbedded into a headset shows the ability to view a car in a showroom on a turntable that spins to view it from all sides. Click to see it in any of the manufacturer-offered colors. Explore the interior and change it up: switch to a manual transmission or change the color and fabric on the seats. Get pricing and other information from a dropdown menu. Take it for a virtual test drive and listen to the rev of the engine. Click to be transported to a beach to view some convertibles or experience some muscle cars in a warehouse.
Weber sees it appealing to the lease customer who trades in every two years, already knows how his vehicle drives, and wants to view the upgrades for the next model before putting in his order. It is also a solution for the dealer with a small showroom or lot who can give customers a virtual walkaround of a vehicle stored elsewhere.
There are about a million VR headsets in use in the U.S., mostly by video gamers, Hadnagy said. He and Weber are convinced it is poised to go mainstream as the next best way to do online shopping. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has decided virtual reality is the next step in social media—he bought Oculus Rift to push social media to VT.
Evox is convinced VR’s time has come with a growing number of manufacturers making the googles for as little as $5 for Google Cardboard VR goggles that can be easily folded and distributed. Sony is expected to offer one in time for Christmas which will further increase volumes.
Evox is talking to Detroit automakers as well as clients in Europe to set up licensing deals to use their images and virtual reality capability. The product has applications for automakers, dealers and media for everything from product development, customer clinics and sales to advertising and marketing, Weber said.
An automaker can license a customized version of their showroom that has detail on their products and popups to the location of the nearest dealer.
An automaker in development can have a protected site with their products added to a competitive set to compare headlights or wheels in a crowded showroom.
Using virtual reality in a consumer clinic allows the automaker to gauge reaction to the product using biometric feedback to measure what catches the eye and gauge the emotional response, generating hard data on that all-important first reaction. Weber said there are companies doing parallel research to see how closely a virtual clinic mirrors a real one. Evox also worked with Mini to create some VR films which can be downloaded.
The system also offers a way to provide sales training at the dealership, Weber said.
June 28, 2016
Those who browse Facebook in virtual reality can now react to the content they are seeing using the social network’s emojis.
Oculus announced on Wednesday the launch of Facebook Reactions for 360-degree videos on its platform for those who use a Samsung Gear VR headset to view posts on the social network.
No longer does the viewer have to feel a bit lonely when exploring a Facebook video in VR. Instead of feeling like the user is the only one who is seeing what is going on, those with the Samsung virtual reality goggles will now be able to get an idea of what other people think of the content because opinions will appear as Reactions pop up and drift by on the screen.
The feature allows the Gear VR wearer to “like” or react to the video using Facebook’s six emojis that include: Like, Love, Haha, Wow, Sad and Angry.
Adding the ability to use Reactions when viewing Facebook 360-degrees provides a way for Gear VR users to comment to video posts since no typing is involved when in virtual reality.
This new feature began rolling out, so those with a Gear VR headset will be able to see Reactions by first updating the Oculus Video app and then viewing 360-degree videos on their Facebook account.
To react to a post, the Gear VR viewer simply has to look at the Like button for a few seconds for the Reaction list to pop up, similarly to how web users hover with their mouse to enable this feature for the web.
Reactions are also expected to roll out for 360 Photos in virtual reality for Gear VR users in the near future. Support for Facebook 360 Photos was previously added to the Oculus platform back in May.
This might seem like a small update, but it shows the significance of how the Facebook-owned Oculus will continue to add new features to its platform as it relates to the social network in VR.
Gear VR users are able to view a personalized feed of stories in the Facebook app, and this new feature makes the Facebook experience on this platform a bit more social.
Support for 360 Photos for Facebook using Gear VR will be available in the “coming weeks.”
Oculus recently announced it reached its 1 million user milestone, meaning this is a whole lot of people who can start enjoying the new Facebook feature.
June 22, 2016
DISCOVERY COMMUNICATIONS // DIVE INTO ‘SHARK WEEK’ WITH RIVETING VIRTUAL AND AUGMENTED REALITY EXPERIENCES
– Fans invited to explore the underwater world with the second act of ISLE OF JAWS offered in virtual reality –
Silver Spring, Md. – SHARK WEEK dives headfirst into the stunning underwater world of sharks in thrilling virtual and augmented reality. Launching this week, with new releases throughout SHARK WEEK, shark enthusiasts will be going behind-the-scenes of some of the week’s most exciting shoots, with some experiences offering guided narration and on-screen commentary by award-winning shark cinematographer Andy Casagrande, Australian Navy diver and shark attack survivor Paul de Gelder and marine biologist Dr. Craig O’Connell. From spotting migrating great whites off the coast of Australia and swimming with hammerhead sharks in the Bahamas to getting nose-to-nose with puppies dressed as sharks, there’s something for everyone!
This year, in a Discovery first, a portion of SHARK WEEK will simultaneously be available in VR and 360 video through the Discovery VR apps for iOS, Android, Oculus Rift and Samsung Gear VR, powered by Oculus, and on Shark Week’s Facebook page. On-air messaging in the first act of ISLE OF JAWS, premiering Sunday, June 26 at 10/9c, will invite VR aficionados and newbies to test the waters, giving them the option to watch the second act through Discovery VR on Facebook and Gear VR. In the virtual reality experience, Andy Casagrande guides viewers as he searches west along the known great migration route for great white sharks that have suddenly disappeared. In his search, he stumbles up on an incredible discovery – a concentration of male great white sharks off an unchartered island.
“SHARK WEEK is the biggest television event of the year, and we are excited to add virtual and augmented reality to the frenzy this year,” said Nathan Brown, SVP of Development & Operations for Discovery Digital Networks & Discovery VR at Discovery Communications. “With more than 800,000 downloads and 50 million views across Discovery VR, there clearly is a great appetite for engaging, quality content, and Discovery is leading the charge.”
Seven additional SHARK WEEK VR experiences are rolling out over the next week, allowing fans to go deeper this year than ever before:
- Surviving Sharks: Australian Navy diver Paul de Gelder has always loved the ocean and marine life – especially sharks. Even after personally being attacked by sharks, he hasn’t let the danger keep him from diving into the ocean depths. Viewers can join him underwater as he shares his personal story of survival and speaks to the importance of sharks in our oceans.
- Dare to Swim in The Shallows: SHARK WEEK has partnered with Sony Pictures’ The Shallows to take viewers up close and personal to the one of world’s most powerful apex predators and share a special look at the film, placing the viewer in the middle of curious great white sharks who don’t shy away from the camera.
- Sharks Among Us: A New Way: Shark encounters are more prominent than ever, and sadly, many solutions to protect humans result in the death of sharks. Marine biologist Dr. Craig O’Connell has been studying hammerhead sharks in Bimini, Bahamas for many years and looking for ways to protect both sharks and humans. This year, he takes viewers on a special dive at of his favorite sites. This site is also where he starts his research journey in the upcoming SHARK WEEK special SHARKS AMONG US. Along the way he is joined by curious nurse sharks and unpredictable bull sharks for a fully immersive, and very shark-filled experience!
- Sharks Among Us: Why Sharks?: Dr. Craig O’Connell fell in love with sharks when he was a child and no puts his life on the line to protect them. Craig shows us some of his favorite moments from the filming of SHARKS AMONG US. He also shares his story of why he loves these apex predators and conducts his research with some of the most dangerous animals in the world.
- Sharks Among Us: Getting the Shot: Ever wanted to know what it’s like to be a cameraman for SHARK WEEK? This year, viewers can dive in and be in the middle of the action, going behind-the-scenes in Bimini, Bahamas with Dr. Craig O’Connell and the crew of SHARKS AMONG US.
- Shark Pups: Everyone loves sharks and puppies – so what about puppies dressed as sharks? Discovery VR will immerse viewers in a simulated underwater world of cuteness at the Washington Animal Rescue League, where Shark Pups recreate some of SHARK WEEK’s most iconic moments.
- Sharks 360: Dive into a high energy, fun compilation featuring some of our favorite shark species: hammerheads, bull sharks, nurse sharks, Caribbean reefs and the ultimate predators, great white sharks!
Additionally, within the Discovery VR apps, fans can access an exciting new augmented reality experience, providing an up-close-and-personal exhibit of their favorite sharks in a unique mobile setting – including a 360-degree interactive game and a thrilling shark breaching that takes place in the environment of the user. Each part of the experience features photo tools for sharing with fellow finatics. The AR experiences are powered byAIREAL, a leading geospatial augmented reality platform that leverages geospatial coordinates to anchor digital content at nearby locations.
To experience SHARK WEEK in VR and 360 video, go to the Webby Award-winning DiscoveryVR.com, download the Discovery VR apps for iOS, Android, Oculus Rift and Samsung Gear VR, powered by Oculus, or head to the SHARK WEEK Facebook page and Discovery Channel on YouTube. To learn more about AIREAL, visit http://aireal.io.
About Discovery Channel
Discovery Channel is dedicated to creating the highest quality non-fiction content that informs and entertains its consumers about the world in all its wonder, diversity and amazement. The network, which is distributed to 100.8 million U.S. homes, can be seen in 224 countries and territories, offering a signature mix of compelling, high-end production values and vivid cinematography across genres including, science and technology, exploration, adventure, history and in-depth, behind-the-scenes glimpses at the people, places and organizations that shape and share our world. For more information, please visit www.discovery.com.
About Discovery Communications
Discovery Communications (Nasdaq: DISCA, DISCB, DISCK) is the leader in global entertainment reaching 3 billion cumulative viewers in more than 220 countries and territories. Discovery satisfies curiosity, entertains and inspires viewers with high-quality content through global brands, led by Discovery Channel, TLC, Investigation Discovery, Animal Planet, Science and Turbo/Velocity, as well as U.S. joint venture network OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network, and through the Discovery Digital Networks portfolio, including Seeker and SourceFed. Discovery owns Eurosport, the leading pan-regional sports entertainment destination across Europe and Asia-Pacific. Discovery also is a leading provider of educational products and services to schools, including an award-winning series of K-12 digital textbooks, through Discovery Education. For more information, please visit www.discoverycommunications.com.
June 22, 2016
OCULUS HEAD OF CONTENT JASON RUBIN SAYS FUNDING EXCLUSIVE GAMES IS WHAT’S MAKING VIRTUAL REALITY GROW.
Valve boss Gabe Newell recently said he doesn’t think VR exclusives are “a good idea for customers or developers” — his company worked with HTC to release the Vive headset. Now, Oculus head of content Jason Rubin said in an interview withGamesIndustry.biz that his company’s policy on exclusives is good for virtual reality in general.
Rubin says that Oculus wants to kick-start the VR development community, which might feel a little wary of creating games for a small consumer base. He says that Oculus doesn’t want to wait a decade for VR development to get where it wants, so it funds games to help get there faster — in exchange, it wants the games to be exclusive to its platform for at least a period of time.
“The average gamer is now aware of $100 million games,” Rubin said. “And while we certainly cannot build a $100 million game that takes four years, in the year we’ve had dev kits, we can try to get closer to that by funding significant leaps beyond the financial certainty that a developer would need to have to do it on their own.
“As a developer looks at a multimillion-dollar production in VR right now, they say there’s no way that will earn its money back in any reasonable amount of time, so instead I’ll go make a non-VR PC game of that scale if I want to because that’s a better bet. We don’t like that. We don’t want it to be $500,000 games this year, million-dollar games next year, two-million-dollar…and take decades or at least a decade to build itself to the point where you can afford bigger games.
“So what Oculus has said is, ‘Why don’t we throw more money into the ecosystem than is justified by the consumer base,’ which will lead to a consumer base that’s larger, which will leave that second generation of developers to say, ‘Hey, let’s go build these games because now the consumers are there, and kick-start that decade long process in a much shorter length of time.’ And, to do that, we have put huge amounts of money into the ecosystem, more than any of our competitors.”
Rubin also made a point to mention that Oculus isn’t looking to have control over any intellectual property or make the games exclusive forever.
“So if the first game barely makes its money back, the second game can be profitable because the consumer’s there,” Rubin said. “That’s theirs to do on their own on any platform they want. And in a lot of cases, we’re looking at software that’s in process, where the developers are running to the end of their logical stream of cash and they come to us and they say, ‘I want to put this in your store,’ and we say, ‘That’s awesome. However, we can tell it’s kind of unfinished.’ And they’re like, ‘We can’t finish it. We don’t have the money to finish it.’ And we say, ‘Well, how about we give you a little extra to finish it and in exchange you bring it out as an exclusive in our store for a limited amount of time, continue to develop for all platforms, and then put it out on all platforms?’ The better game gets to all consumers in that case. And those are the deals we’re making. And that, to me, makes a lot more sense than just let this thing work itself out over a decade.”
Even first-party games, like Crytek’s The Climb, could eventually see life on other platforms in sequels. Rubin talked about how Oculus worked alongside Crytek to fully fund and conceptualize its mountain-climbing VR game.
“Having said that, they own The Climb IP,” Rubin said. “The Climb 2 can come out on any console, any PC, any anything, anywhere. We don’t own that.”
Rubin also talked about Oculus’s shipping issues and how the company is going to “do it the right way this time” with its hand-tracking Touch controllers. You can read the full interview at GamesIndustry.biz.
June 19, 2016
If the future of Facebook is video, as a top company executive said recently, the gaming industry is already predicting that a lot of that video will show live-action professional gamers, using virtual reality.
Minkonet, a Seoul-based company, is rolling out what it says is the very first technology that will allow live-streaming of VR versions of popular video games to social media in the coming months.
“360º virtual reality is the next video gaming platform,” founder Peter Kim said recently in Seoul.
Minkonet, started with just 130 million Korean won ($110,000) in seed capital, attracted $1 million more from the Korean government’s tech incubator program and local accelerators, and is expected to close a multimillion-dollar funding round this summer.
The company’s Swing software, which will be introduced in beta format this August, will allow game developers to live-stream VR versions of their games to platforms like Facebook and YouTube. Swing360, due out in November, will let anyone upload their live game play to YouTube or Facebook.
About 150 million people will be watching “e-sports,” or professionals playing video games, online this year, Deloitte Global predicts, generating half a billion dollars in revenue globally. Some 15% of the videos on YouTube are related to gaming. Popular YouTubers likestampylonghead and the EvanTubeHD are earning in millions annuallythemselves by playing games online.
Adding live-streamed VR to the mix will allow viewers to become immersed in games, Kim said. It could enhance, for example, the experience for his 10-year-old son, who is a huge Minecraft fan. “To my surprise, he spends about 80% of his ‘Minecraft time’ on watching the Minecraft clips in YouTube,” he said.
You can see a snippet of what the game Mortal Blitz looks like in Swing-enabled VR by viewing the video below through the YouTube app in VR mode: