London Oculus Rift/VR Developer Meetup (Feb 2014)

Last week Virtual Architectures headed over to East London to check out the goodies on display at the most recent London Oculus Rift / VR Developer Meetup hosted by creative production company Inition. Is was a great evening with plenty of new technology on display so we thought we’d share.

First off was the European debut of the Avegant Glyph headset which is currently doing massively well on Kickstarter:

During the recent annual CES trade show held in Las Vegas this January the Glyph was being touted by some as the main rival in to the Oculus Rift on the basis of the high resolution achieved by its novel display technology. After Avegant CTO Allan Evans gave us a demonstration it was clear that the display really is indeed quite special.

The clarity of the image was really impressive compared with that of the current Oculus Rift development kit (DK1). However, unlike the Rift which is designed to immerse the user by expanding the displayed image to fill their full field of vision, the Glyph displays an image which appears to float a few centimeters in front of them leaving the periphery around the visor free. Rather than focusing on providing an immersive VR experience the Glyph is much more targeted at the high end consumer seeking a no fuss plug-and-play media device. In this regard it is really promising.

Unfortunately we didn’t get the opportunity to experience any VR applications with the device at the meetup although Allan assured us it would be VR ready upon release. Sure it will do VR then…but for the time being the chances are that those applications will be developed using the Oculus Rift or something like it. In the meantime we’re crossing our fingers for Oculus Rift to announce a new high resolution development kit soon.

The second item to catch our attention at the meetup was an Oculus Rift integration with SoftKinetic’s ‘DepthSense’ gestural camera. Ordinarily the camera would be placed on top of a computer monitor or laptop screen and enable the user to interact with the machine using bodily gestures such as a wave of the hand, much like the larger Xbox Kinect.

In the case of the DepthSense camera it is small enough to mount on the Oculus Rift and capture the position of the users hands so that they can be projected into the virtual scene as this test by test video by developer Gilles Pinault demonstrates:

The demo we tried was slightly different as it used a gridded referencing system to help users place virtual building blocks more accurately. It was a fascinating to interact with a virtual scene in such an intuitive way for the first time. Usually our experience of VR is oddly disembodied and awkwardly mediated by a mouse, keyboard or hand controller. It was a real pleasure to simply pick things up, put them down and feel part of the scene.

That’s not to say the experience was perfect though. The main limitation was that the cameras field of view did not match that of the Oculus Rift display. As a result the users hands would have to be held up directly in front or else disappear behind an invisible frame a quarter of the way in from the edge of the Oculus display. In doing so the system would lose the virtual block the user was holding.

Despite the limitations of this particular demo it points the way to a range of applications in manufacture, construction and other specialist fields. We’re really looking forward to seeing what’s next.

Many thanks to the folks at Inition for having us. Looking forward to the next!

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