CES 2017 is firing up again and this year promises even more VR related gadgets and developments. Last year we saw what could, arguably, be called the start of VR as a household name. But there’s still a lot of work to do. So this year looks to be the year when the competition really takes off. This year’s CES conference is about to start and speculations are already rampant about what will be showcased at the event this year.
The show floor only opens on Thursday, but there have been a few press conferences already – teasing some of what we can expect from the VR industry this year. Here’s a list of what we know so far:
Day 1: Wednesday, January 4th
Lenovo Reveals New Windows Holographic VR Headset
Microsoft revealed last year that they’re looking to work with various Microsoft equipment manufacturers to produce VR-headsets. These headsets would then work specifically with the Holographic set of APIs in Windows 10. In line with that, Lenovo has announced their launch of a new, as of yet unnamed, VR headset that will go for about $300. The look of the device is somewhat reminiscent of the PS VR in shape. But it’s weight is what’s getting people excited. According to The Verge, the headset will weigh in at about 350g, which is almost 200g lighter than the HTC Vive and about 100g lighter than the Oculus Rift.
Lenovo boasts an impressive two 1440 x 1440 OLED panel display for their device, compared to the 1080 × 1200 dual OLEDs in both the Rift and Vive. The device will supposedly come equipped with “inside-out, six degrees-of-freedom tracking”. This allows for full room scale without the need for external cameras. But, Lenovo hasn’t there hasn’t been a working prototype made public yet- so it remains to be seen if the device is as good as they say. Lenovo’s VR headset is set to release sometime later this year without motion controllers. Apparently, they’re relying on third party creators for those.
HP, Acer, Dell, and Asus are also expected to announce their own Windows Holographic headsets this year.
Japanese Company, Cerevo, Reveals Taclim – Shoes That Provide Haptic Feedback In VR
While still a very new prototype, Cerevo will be showcasing their shoes at CES this year. The shoes look somewhat clunky and reportedly still needs a lot of work – especially in the feedback area. While they didn’t talk too much about the motion controllers, the Taclim shoes are available at their booth for people to try out. They’re supposed to vibrate whenever you walk over certain surfaces like snow. Taclim, however, will not be for commercial use according to Cerevo CEO Takuma Iwasa. The device is being developed for business owners to market their products and for VR arcades. Taclim will cost around $1000 to $1500 when it releases somewhere in the fall.
Companies Are Working Hard To Get VR To Go Wireless
There have been a lot of talk going around about the possibility of a wireless version of Vive called Vive 2 or Vive 2.0. We’re not going to speculate about that here, however, and rather tell you what we do know.
There have been a couple of third-party startups popping up lately, trying to get the idea of wireless tech for VR going. One such company is KwikVR – who will be showing off their work at CES this year. It’s a little device that’s connected to the the Rift or Vive headset that you then attach to your belt. It reminds one a little of the Tpcast, which was revealed for Vive last year. No release dates have been disclosed yet.
The Hypersuit Prototype
The Hypersuit is essentially a full-body flying simulator. This is another prototype being developed for VR arcades. Shaped almost like a motorcycle, the Hypersuit lets you fly around in games using two metal arms that you hold onto and move around. They then act like metal wings you control in the game, which determines your movement. The prototype looks somewhat clunky and hard to use. Especially since you’re lying on your stomach and have to move your arms around in an almost flapping-type motion.
Except as some weird workout – I can’t really see that panning out. The Hypersuit has no release date yet, but the developers are looking to make it work with both the Rift and Vive.
Naughty America Will Be Showcasing Their VR Videos
We all know VR Porn is going to be a big, multimillion dollar industry. And so it shouldn’t be a surprise to see a Porn filmmaker at an electronics and technology tradeshow, right? Well, the truth is that the Porn industry has actually been at the forefront of new tech for a while now. And they took to VR like flies to honey. Naughty America is “a leading VR content innovator”. Well according to themselves at least. “We encourage all headset manufacturers to visit our booth to see how well Naughty America VR videos play on their devices,” said Ian Paul, the company CIO.
And according to him, Naughty America has been a pioneer in both the VR and adult industries by helping to advance the way adult video is produced for this platform. Now, we’re not entirely sure why they feel that they deserve the title of “pioneers”. But feel free to check them out and find out for yourself.
We’ll be providing more updates on VR news as it’s revealed at CES in the coming days.
Day 2: Thursday, January 5th
The CES tech conference officially opened today. We’ve already seen some big reveals in the VR scene, so here’s an update on everything VR at CES 2017:
Intel Demo’s Their First VR Headset, Project Alloy
Intel first revealed that they were working on a VR headset last year, but it’s only until now that we’re finally getting a good look at the product. While still not finished, the Project Alloy headset is unique in a couple of ways. Firstly, it does not need a PC or other device to run. The computer is already built in. So you aren’t tethered to anything. Secondly, they revealed that the device actually scans the room you’re in. It then replaces the furniture around you with similar-sized objects in whatever theme would fit the game/experience. The Intel team calls it ‘merged reality’ – which sounds a lot like what Microsoft calls ‘mixed reality’ for the Hololens.
Intel will not be creating the headset themselves, but say that they will be relying on OEM partners to drive production forward. They will also be making the Project Alloy tech open source, presumably to get developers started on some content for their device. Intel wants to start shipping the devices by the end of 2017. Hopefully, they will have succeeded in getting this off the ground and getting people to start creating content that works with Project Alloy. Apparently, Intel’s device will work with support from Windows’ Holographic platform as well.
HTC Unveils Even More Initiatives To Drive VR Forward
The first announcement made by HTC at this year’s CES is called Vive Tracker. It’s a new tracking module that can be used to turn different kinds of objects into controllers. The Vive Tracker module is set to ship somewhere in the second quarter of 2017, but no price tag has been announced yet. The tech will also be made available to developers during the next couple of months, so they can start working on content.
HTC’s Vive Tracker module is about 4 inches in length. Its battery can also, apparently, sustain about 6 hours of use. The small module can be attached to basically anything – from a baseball bat to a pair of gloves that detect finger movement.
Another announcement that was made by HTC is a subscription service that’s like “Netflix for VR”. This service will be launched on their Viveport app and will be a monthly subscription service. HTC wants to create a platform for as much new and exciting content as possible. “We want the Hollywood studios to come to our platform,” said Viveport President, Rikard Steiber. Although, they haven’t revealed what we can expect in terms of a subscription fee yet.
SMI Reveals Eye-Tracking Tech For Future HMD’s
SMI eye tracking has been used in tablets, eye-tracking glasses, and computers. Now it will help shape the future of VR and AR.
With the help of Qualcomm Technologies SMI was able to optimize their tech. The company has stated that they are confident that they will be able to achieve even lower processing loads with shorter latency for the eye tracking. “The Snapdragon VR820 reference platform can help accelerate the development of new standalone VR devices and content, and our eye tracking technology is a key component for next generation products,” said SMI Director of OEM Business, Christian Villwock.
SMI believes that both their eye-tracking and the Snapdragon VR820 reference platform can greatly help accelerate the development of new VR devices and content.
The Star-Trek VR Experience
CBS has partnered with Alcatel, a TCL Communication cell phone manufacturer, to bring a Star Trek VR experience to CES 2017. CBS All Access is launching Star Trek: Discovery in May and so wanted to use VR to show off the upcoming series. The showcase takes viewers on a journey through the history of major ships from the iconic franchise.
If you won’t have a chance to check it out in Vegas, you can see the 360° video here:
(Note, you will need a VR device to properly watch it)
Day 3: Friday, January 6th
New Untethered Headset, Called Pico Neo CV
Pico Technologies just unveiled their own VR headset that’s completely untethered. It makes use of the Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor and Snapdragon VR SDK. This means the headset runs without any external hardware like a PC or phone.
Pico Neo CV Features:
Two 1.5K at 90Hz VR displays for high picture quality and clear resolution;
Six degrees of freedom (6DOF) for a deeply immersive VR experience;
True untethered portability, for viewing 360 degree videos and gaming on the go;
Built in Hi-Fi Speaker with world best AM3D 3D spatial rendering engine;
A comfortable, ergonomic AIO VR headset design with built in safety battery
The Pico Neo CV is set to release sometime this year, though no price tag or compatible content has been revealed yet.
Dynamic Tactile Wave Tech From Tactai And Ericsson
Ericsson has teamed up with a start-up called Tactai to create the first wearable device that lets you touch, feel and interact with virtual objects. They call it “Dynamic Tactile Wave” technology.
The two companies are demonstrating a new user interface for VR that allows content to have embedded interactive elements that respond to touch and hand gestures. Users receive tactile feedback through their interactions with the content and so the feeling of actually touching something is simulated. “Ericsson believes there is value added to video when more sensory information can be conveyed to the end user. The ability to reach into a video and pull out an object to explore its three-dimensional properties has many applications in the educational, scientific and advertising markets,” said Ericsson Experience Lab Engineer, Jonathan Talbert.
While this can be a great new feature in VR gaming, it seems that Ericsson’s main focus will be on VR media and videos. Ericsson also spoke a lot about their future plans with 5G and how it will form an integral part in how operators will fulfill the needs of users.
The 3D Wireless Foot Controller
The 3dRudder is spherical in shape.
There have been quite a couple of startups popping up lately that try to capitalize on the huge problems VR is having with locomotion right now. Since it’s such a big issue, it basically anyone’s game right now. At least until the time comes when all major VR manufacturers accept one locomotion solution universally.
One such startup, called 3dRudder is displaying their shot at the locomotion solution to beat them all at CES this year. It’s called 3dRudder Wireless and is a foot controller that you place under your feet while staying in a seated position. It works by sensing the pressure of your feet. By tilting it slightly in different directions, you can go either forward or backward, left or right. The 3dRudder Wireless is compatible with a couple of platforms, including, Steam, HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, Samsung Gear VR and Google Daydream. The spherical device has a 5v battery that will last about 12hs before it needs recharging and 4.0 Bluetooth connectivity.
It works with keyboards, mouses, joysticks and D-Pads, which you can configure on the 3dRudder dashboard that comes with the device. You can get it on their website for $179. The 3dRudder has also been named a CES 2017 Innovation Awards Honoree in the Gaming Hardware and Accessories category.
Personally, I don’t know if this is the best solution to locomotion issues. But it does aim to present one solution to the problem. And it could be a great solution for disabled gamers – even though the company isn’t gearing their marketing towards the disabled market.
A 360° Portable VR Camera From Hubblo That Allows 4K Streaming
Hong-Kong based company, Hubblo, has unveiled their new 360° portable VR camera. The device allows users to stream up to 4K live and in 3D. At 30 frames per second.
The Hubblo VR camera is triangular in shape and sports pairs of 200-degree cameras on each side. Each camera has dedicated level sensors that help it provide a high-level image-captures. It uses stereoscopic output to create depth perception, which makes whatever it captures really feel 3D. Hubblo has created apps that work with Android and iPhone through which the videos and images can be stored or streamed. It’s small and lightweight and can be mounted on a tripod. You can either stream the content you create through wifi or store it on an SD card, which the camera has a slot for.
“We wanted to deliver an all-in-one package: 4K live streaming and great stitching, 360-degrees and full 3D vision, affordability and great design,” CEO of Hubblo, Eric Tsang said. “Our core innovation is to do with video streaming quality and immersiveness. This tech is at least one year ahead of the market,” Tsang added.
You can get this compact, 4K, 360° video creating device for about a $1000. Which is still a lot cheaper than Nokia’s Ozo, which will set you back about 45k. Hubblo is planning on launching the device within the next few months, but are in search of funds – which they hope to get through crowdsourcing. Early backers will receive a discount on the device.
Day 4: Saturday, January 7th
MergeVR Introduces The Holocube
MergeVR, the colorful mobile VR headset manufacturer has introduced what they call the Holocube. It’s a physical cube that you hold in your hand. You then strap your VR headset on and launch one of the compatible apps on their app store, called VR Start. The cube is compatible with both Android and iPhone devices and most mobile VR devices. So even if you don’t own a MergeVR headset, you can still use it. At the moment it’s being marketed primarily as a toy, with only three initial titles in the works; Doodle (you can probably guess what this is), a virtual pet, and Dig – a minecraftian type game.
HP, Dell, and Acer Also Reveal Their Headsets
As you probably know, Microsoft announced last year that its OEM partners will be manufacturing more affordable headsets using their Windows Holographic tech. Lenovo was the first the unveil their new Windows Holographic headset at CES this year, but the others weren’t far behind. HP, Dell, and Acer have now all revealed their upcoming headsets. It’s hard to say which one is better – as all of them are at their core based on the same tech.
All of the headsets are using two cameras at the front of the device for positional tracking in the space around the user. The Lenovo and HP headsets look a lot alike in design as well. Dell’s headset probably has the sleekest design of all four of the devices on show. It’s quite slim and looks very futuristic compared to the others. Acer’s headset, on the other hand, is quite colorful and unique compared to the others.
Only Lenovo has released a price and launch date as of yet. Though the cheapest one of the four (we don’t know which one yet) will reportedly go for about $299. Also, the other three manufacturers didn’t allow demos so we can’t really comment on their functionality either. We’ll reveal more news on these as it becomes available.
Which design do you prefer?
Huawei Reveals Its Third-Party Google Daydream Headset, Called Huawei View
As you know, Google released its own headset called Google Daydream View last year. Along with an app store called Google Daydream. Up until now, you could only access the app store with a Daydream View-ready device – which meant that only one of Google’s Pixel phones would do. Now, however, there are a couple of mobile providers working on getting their own mobile devices working with the Daydream View. Chinese manufacturer, Huawei, however, decided to go another route.
Working with Google, they’ve created their own fully-functioning headset called the Huawei View. Currently, the headset will only be compatible with the Huawei Mate 9 Pro and the Huawei Mate 9 Porsche devices. In terms of design, the headset bears a resemblance to the Samsung Gear VR. The device will reportedly also come with the same motion controller as the Google Daydream View. This will the first third-party version of Google’s Daydream View headset, Though there hasn’t been any talks of more to come.
The price tag for the Huawei View has not been announced yet, though the company is planning on launching their Huawei Mate 9 device in the U.S. sometime this year. Which means that the headset launch won’t be far off either.
Panasonic Unveils The Latest Iteration Of their VR Headset
And, finally, it seems that everyone and their brother pitched up with a VR headset prototype at this year’s CES. Not only are there hundreds of small start-ups with booths displaying VR headsets this year, but also large, well-funded companies. Panasonic also unveiled the latest iteration of their VR headset this weekend.
What makes their device noteworthy? Most devices found at CES offer an almost standard 100-degree view. Panasonic’s headset? A full 220° with the help of four lenses. Two forward facing and two peripheral lenses. Making it the first of its kind. And they didn’t stop there. Another interesting feature is the sound. The device doesn’t have earphones as such. Rather, Panasonic decided to incorporate some cutting-edge bone conduction technology in the form of little pads that hug the side of your face. The pads take sound waves and convert them into vibrations. These vibrations are then received by your Cochlea, conferring the vibrations to sound in your brain. This means you can hear whatever is going on in the VR experience while still hearing everything that’s going on around you.
Panasonic hasn’t revealed a price tag or launch date for their headset yet. Though talks are veering more towards 2018. There’s also no news yet on the display or planned content. But it looks like they are gearing the headset more towards businesses, education, and training.
Update: Sunday, January 8th
It’s the last day of CES 2017. Here’s what you need to know about what’s happening in the world of VR:
AxonVR Paves The Way For Haptics
Being able to actually feel the things you see in VR seemed like something of a distant future. But not only have AxonVR brought the future of to us, they are incorporating cold and heat as well. At first, people were quite skeptical of putting their hands into the bulky box they had on display at CES this year. But their feelings soon turned to wonder. AxonVR used an HTC Vive headset to display a couple of objects, ranged from an apple to a dragon. They then let you pick up the object using a Vive controller and place it onto your palm. At the forefront of haptics, AxonVR’s box is able to replicate tactile and thermal sensations. Even better – it does it so compellingly that there was virtually no latency.
The people from AxonVR were a little vague on how exactly they’ve made this work, not even wanting to say what’s in the box. They did mention something about ‘microfluidic actuators’, but refrained from saying more. It will definitely be interesting to see where they go with this – as we don’t know how much their tech relies on being inside that box. Would they be able to recreate the same sensations with an external source not limited to four small walls? At the moment, they’re also working on an entire haptic exoskeleton. So that might be their answer. But, unfortunately, it was not on display.
Samsung Goes Big With Arcade-style Rides
Samsung showed off their multiple VR rides at CES this year. Not content with staying in the headset sphere when it comes to VR, they have begun their foray into 4D VR rides, to really show off the potential for VR.
There were a couple of rides at their CES booth. Including a single chair that you get strapped into which then proceeds to swivel in all directions. They used an air show over Bondi beach in Sydney, Australia to make your chair move. It’s fun, but terrifying when it feels like you’re actually in a small plane falling to the ground at dizzying speeds. Another ‘ride’ consisted of what looks like a futuristic boogie board that you lay down on.
The ride then transports you to a skeleton track at the winter sports in Canada. Where you proceed to ‘slide’ down a 1,450 meters track. But the star of the show was probably their 3 person rollercoaster ride or space race (which was the more intense of the two for many people). With the use of hydraulics, people were spun every which way in simulation of a rollercoaster ride being displayed on their headsets.