26 January 2018, issue 145

Get Your Tickets to the Picture Show

Virtual reality and its connection to the video game industry is proven, but this week we're hearing a lot of buzz about VR and how it will interact with movies. The industry has been using VR behind-the-scenes for decades, but consumer-facing VR movies are still nearly non-existent. But maybe, not for much longer.

Headline of the Week: Spheres nets 7 figure deal at Sundance.
Deep Dive: We needed a new unit of time measurement, so Oculus invented one.
Hardware & Ecosystem: This driving simulator is so much cooler than a treadmill.
New Release: Nichols Cage is so good he's bad, or so bad he's good, but either way, he's coming to VR.
Worth a Thousand Words: Watch the US ski team train for the Olympics.
The Breakdown: Douglas Copeland thinks VR is coming for your books.
This game looks so fun. Hit things with lightsabers to music.
Headline of the Week

‘Spheres’ Sold at Sundance in “Seven-Figure Deal”

"Written and directed by Eliza McNitt, Spheres is an experience that explores sound while taking you to the heart of a black hole. Speaking to Oculus in a recent ‘VR Visionaries’ profile, McNitt called Spheres a story about “the human connection to the cosmos,” and how we relate to the sound of the universe—gravitational waves."

We're finally starting to see big-budget virtual reality experiences making headlines. Not only is this the biggest deal the public is aware of, it's also written and directed by a woman, showing there's more of an open playing field in new industries. The team is stocked with talent, from narration to music, and follow up chapters will hopefully reach a wider audience. Speaking of that audience, it will first reach users through the RIft, and then follow with other platforms in a direct-to-consumer push.

Deep Dive

There's a New Unit of Time Just for Virtual Reality

"A flick or "frame tick" is a 1/705600000th of a second, designed so that a second worth of flicks will divide evenly by common screen refresh rates like 24, 25, 30, 48, 50, 60, 90, 100, 120 as well as various fractional versions of those numbers and common audio sampling rates. The result is a very big number, but one that will make the precise math of dealing with single frames at different refresh rates."

Headlines originally touted that Facebook was messing around inventing their own units of time, because taking over all social interactions in the world wasn't a lofty enough goal. But it's actually a fascinating problem that they've solved in a smart way. Video frame rates are so specific that seconds end up breaking down into gigantic decimal numbers that are incredibly hard for programmers and designers to work with. Flick provides a shorthand that helps communication flow more easily. 

Hardware & Ecosystem

Yaw Turns Driver’s Seat into Immersive Experience

"Users sit inside a spherical dome and place their feet on an attached footrest. From there, Yaw achieves a full 360 degrees of movement vertically, and 50 degrees of freedom horizontally using small electric motors. Both marks, according to Intellisense, prove impressive compared to industrial motion simulators, especially when considering Yaw’s price-$890."

This is hardly the first VR wearable, but the price tag makes it attractive, and they're already lined up 80 apps that will work in tandem with the simulator. It packs up into a small sphere that's easily stored (or used as one of those fancy core-exercising desk chairs!), and it's on Kickstarter now. This is unlikely to take off as a consumer-facing product, but it's a huge leap forward in terms of industrial options for tech shows and the like.

New Releases

Nicolas Cage Makes the Leap to VR in New Movie

"The Humanity Bureau VRevolution is "based on" the main film, and it "takes the user through alternative storylines that co-exist with the feature film, but can be viewed as standalone episodes." Whether this means you're watching scenes in the movie from, say, an individual character's perspective or seeing completely new and original content derived from the theatrical cut's storyline remains to be seen."

The cool thing here is two-fold: 1) whatever the VR version of this movie is, it isn't the whole thing, or it's embracing what VR does best to deliver the movie to you in a completely different format, and 2) it's coming to VR before it comes to theatres. It seems unlikely that this is a preview of the film, and it's being described as a sort of television show, with an episodic format. 

Worth a Thousand Words

US Ski Team Trained In VR For Pyeongchang Olympics

“As athletes from the U.S. Ski & Snowboard team descend upon Pyeongchang, South Korea for the 2018 Winter Olympic Games, they’ll be doing so with months of training in virtual reality that have provided them with an unprecedented number of mental reps on a course many have never seen."

This fascinating article about how VR is altering the way atheletes train is accompanied by some great 360 videos of the course in Pyeongchang.

The Breakdown

Will VR Kill Books?

“Speaking at the Verbier Art Summit on digital art, Douglas Coupland made headlines recently by declaring that he thought virtual reality would signal the end of books. “Maybe books are overrated,” he quipped. “Maybe they are an interim technology on the way to VR and we can now get rid of our books.” ...His comments, as click-baity as they are, raise an interesting question about the role we see for VR in storytelling and society."

Virtual reality is unlikely to kill an entire medium. In the same way that video didn't kill radio, and television didn't kill movies, virtual reality will change the landscape, not destroy it.


Beat Saber is Basically Guitar Hero with Lightsabers

"If you’re like us, you’ve always felt there was one thing missing from the Star Wars movies: Interpretive dance. As exciting and dramatic as the duels and dogfights are, we’ve been itching for the chance to boogie to the beat with a lightsaber in each hand, and when the new virtual reality game Beat Saber releases, we’ll be able to do just that."

We just couldn't not share an article that includes the phrases "Star Wars" and "interpretive dance". The game actually sounds like it could be fun!

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