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Facebook’s Oculus Store Now Accepts OpenXR Apps

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The Oculus Quest Store and Oculus Rift Store now accept VR app submissions made with OpenXR instead of the proprietary Oculus SDKs.

Most VR games are made in Unity or Unreal Engine. Unity has no announced timeline for using OpenXR, currently focused on its own cross platform in-engine VR framework & tools. Unreal Engine added support for OpenXR in December.

What Is OpenXR?

OpenXR is an open standard for VR/AR. It was developed by Khronos, the same non-profit industry consortium managing OpenGL. The working group includes the major VR companies such as Facebook, Sony, Valve, Microsoft, HTC, NVIDIA, and AMD.

OpenXR Win-Win Cycle

To clear up any confusion: OpenXR is not the same as OpenVR. That was Valve’s API for SteamVR. OpenVR works on all PC VR headsets, but it doesn’t support Android headsets like Quest and (due to Facebook’s policies) cannot be used in Oculus Store apps. In June, Valve announced that new SteamVR features would be “on the OpenXR side”.

The Problem OpenXR Solves

An API (Application Programming Interface) allows software to interact with other software or hardware. VR developers use APIs like Facebook’s Oculus and Valve’s OpenVR to build apps. The API is often part of an SDK (software development kit), and informally these terms are often used interchangeably.

The problem with the Oculus API is apps developed with it only work on Oculus hardware, with the caveat that hacks could make that software run on other systems. In addition, for developers using a custom engine, there are actually two separate APIs between Quest and Rift.

This means that if a developer wants to support all VR headsets, they need to use multiple APIs. This can be time consuming and increase complexity.

Engines like Unity and Unreal make this easier, and both are trying to separately unify VR APIs under their own new engine subsystems, but the problem still exists.

Will These Games Work On Other Headsets?

Microsoft was the first to add support for OpenXR to its Windows MR platform back in July of 2019. SteamVR has ‘preview’ support too.

This raises the obvious question: will OpenXR Oculus Rift Store games run on Valve Index, HTC Vive, or Windows MR headsets without the need for the ReVive hack?

Theoretically yes, but we’ll have to test this once such a game actually releases to confirm.

Developers submitting to the Oculus Store still need to use the Oculus Platform SDK to integrate the entitlement check (a very basic form of DRM, similar to Steam DRM). The Platform SDK is essentially the SDK for the social features, such as leaderboards, achievements and bringing Parties into the same session.

This check isn’t required for apps distributed through unofficial channels such as SideQuest, and can actually be added post-build, so shouldn’t prevent other headsets. It only tries to check whether the app was purchased, not which headset is running it.

Known Issues

Facebook notes the following known issues with the current OpenXR support, which it says will be fixed in future releases:

  • Grip pose is misaligned.
  • Action spaces continue to track even when isActive == false, which is conformant but misaligned with other runtimes. This will cause issues if relying on tracking state  vs. isActive for rendering hands.
  • Parent interaction profile bindings are missing for non-natively supported profiles (everything besides the Simple, Touch, and XBox controller profiles)

If you’re developing a VR app in a custom engine, or your own engine, and want to use OpenXR, you can find the Oculus documentation here for Windows.

Source: https://uploadvr.com/oculus-store-accepts-openxr/

AR/VR

Somnium Space’s Next Updates to Add Buildable Worlds, Web Access & More

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The race is definitely on to see who can create the biggest and most impressive social worlds, whether that’s Sansar, Facebook Horizon, VRChat, Sensorium Galaxy and others. Somnium Space has been working in this space for several years now and today announced a major series of updates which will give users more freedom to create, expand and invite people inside their worlds.

Somnium Space

There are three main components being rolled out over the next few months, with the most important for current users being Somnium Space Worlds. If you already own a parcel of digital land then the feature will allow you to broaden your creative mind, building a new interactive world for others to join.

Created by utilizing the Somnium UnitySDK, these worlds can make use of Unity components such as custom scripts, shaders and other advanced creative tools. Build your own arcade or even a multiplayer game for other Somnium Space players to try out. The only limit to the size of the worlds is the land parcel size you already own. There will be three worlds available: Small (75MB), Medium (200MB) and Extra Large (500MB). Somnium Space Worlds is expected to launch in Q1 2021.

A virtual world needs to attract as many people as possible to build a vibrant ecosystem, so making it as easily accessible as possible is a must. Somnium Space already allows both VR players on PC VR headsets and non-VR players via desktop to interact but in December this will go a stage further with Somnium Space Web. Every piece of land – or Parcel as it’s termed – will get a permanent link so it can be directly accessed via the web.

Somnium Space Worlds

The feature will offer cross-platform live voice-enabled multiplayer so that those accessing the parcel via a browser can still chat and interact with those using the native Somnium VR client.

“Mobile VR support? WebXR? Of course! We are taking Web experience to the next level. You will be able to visit your WEB PARCEL in Virtual Reality. Simply use VR compatible browser such as Mozilla or Oculus Browser and dive into your PARCEL right away. No installation nor waiting times! VR anywhere, anytime! Fire up your Oculus Quests!,” notes a blog post.

And starting on 1st November will be Somnium Space’s Second Land Offering (SLO), selling a total of 350 land Parcels and 70 Somnium Worlds tokens. For further updates on this expanding virtual universe, keep reading VRFocus.

Source: https://www.vrfocus.com/2020/10/somnium-spaces-next-updates-to-add-buildable-worlds-web-access-more/

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Captain Toonhead vs the Punks from Outer Space Unleashes FPS Tower Defense in 2021

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Years ago titles like Defense Grid 2: Enhanced VR Edition brought classic tower defence gaming to headsets but there’s been a lull of late. Developers like Teravision Games are looking to change that whilst tailoring the genre to VR, combining it with first-person shooter (FPS) action for its upcoming project Captain Toonhead vs the Punks from Outer Space.

Captain Toonhead

Revealing the first gameplay trailer today, Captain Toonhead vs the Punks from Outer Space is a quirky single-player adventure where you’re cast as the titular character who teams up with a cartoon-obsessed spaceship technician called Elliot Salazar to save the world from Earth’s last dictator, Nikolas Voorhees.

You’ll need to defend your base from an onslaught of technologically-enhanced creatures from copter cats and T-Rexes to merciless cyberchickens. You’ll be able to place and upgrade and variety of towers and then head directly into battle with a unique range of weaponry or jump into one of the towers.

“Captain Toonhead started with a fantasy,” said Enrique Fuentes, CEO of Teravision Games in a statement. “How awesome would it feel to experience a tower defence if you were fighting waves of enemies from the front lines, in first-person — while fully immersed in VR?”

Captain Toonhead

“It was very important to us to make something genuine to who we are as developers,” added Fuentes, “so we didn’t shy away from including some Latin American elements like our super-powerful chancla and a piñata-launching tower. Even our hero was designed to be a true reflection of us and our love for geek culture. All of us here at Teravision Games are ‘toonheads’, and hopefully we created something that many other toonheads out there will enjoy.”

Captain Toonhead vs the Punks from Outer Space will support Oculus Rift/Rift S, HTC Vive and PlayStation VR when it launches in the first half of 2021. As Teravision Games release further details VRFocus will let you know.

Source: https://www.vrfocus.com/2020/10/captain-toonhead-vs-the-punks-from-outer-space-unleashes-fps-tower-defense-in-2021/

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AI-Driven Dynamic Filmmaking is the Future

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In a simulation, driven by simple rules, we meet artificially intelligent creatures, called “Agents” who live on their planet, cooperating to survive. That is until you arrive with the power to maintain the balance of their peaceful existence, or, you can throw them into a state of chaos. The choice is yours, what will you do with the responsibility of your agency?

Agence

Agence (from Transitional Forms and the National Film Board of Canada) is an experience that uses real-time technology, artificial intelligence (Reinforcement Learning) and user agency to craft a story that is never the same twice. Through collaborative authorship, we are able to drive emergent behaviour and storytelling with each viewing, which we’ve coined as a “Dynamic Film”.

What is a Dynamic Film?

One of the most incredible notions we can attribute to storytelling is that it is ultimately responsible for shaping human history. Over time, we have developed empathy and compassion around being able to interpret the world from another’s point of view. A Dynamic Film is an experience that puts the user at the centre of a powerful story and lets them affect it in realtime.

Isn’t that a videogame? Well, yes, but no. Yes, it certainly sounds like a videogame in nature in terms of interactivity, immersion, and real-time decisions, but the objective is different. Games are often rooted in goals, points or achievements. That isn’t to say they don’t have a story, but too often their goal is not to craft, or discover a narrative.

Agence

As a filmmaker who grew up on videogames, I can say, there is a deeply rooted, cultural foundation, that games need goals. So, when we’re trying to tell an immersive story, the natural trajectory of audience expectation trends heavily in the direction of achievements. However, a Dynamic Film such as Agence, allows users to interact with emergent narrative without the consequence of winning, failure, progress or defeat. It creates a path to great storytelling with unique outcomes from every interaction. Certainly, videogames are built upon a story as much as any other medium, but we’re taking a much more filmic angle to this definition.

With dynamic media, even if the choices are nuanced and subtle, we are (in part) putting an onus on the individual for what kind of content they will create. As this medium becomes more and more sophisticated, I believe that media will not be a one-way street, it will be an interrelated, interdependent dance between user and algorithm, turning what we now call films and games, into real, living simulations. This will help society grasp the power of each other’s creativity and imaginations, and harness a better future using audience agency.

Crucial to Dynamic Filmmaking is three-way authorship, which allows for humans and intelligent machines to shape each other’s experiences. The narrative is crafted by three parties: 1) the filmmakers, who establish the narrative structure and environment, 2) intelligent “Agents,” using reinforcement learning or scripted (hierarchical state machines) AI, and 3) the viewer, who can interact with the system to affect the simulation. Through collaborative authorship, we can drive emergent behaviour and storytelling with each viewing, creating endless possibilities for narratives to rise to the surface.

Agence

The Intersection of VR and Dynamic Filmmaking

Virtual Reality adds an additional dimension to Dynamic Filmmaking, as it takes you one step closer to a possible reality you can immerse yourself in, and gives us the power to experience what the world might be like in someone else’s shoes. With Agence, we provide the user with the opportunity to understand the responsibility of their own agency. Users become self-reflexive and even emotional at times when an Agent falls off the planet into the nexus below. It’s hard to predict what you will feel as each action and reaction is unique.

We use two types of AI to drive the behaviour of our Agents: Game AI, programmed through heuristic functions, and Reinforcement Learning AI, where neural network “brains” are developed to think autonomously. Outside of the experience, tech-savvy collaborators can actually train Reinforcement Learning brains with resources from our website… any brains submitted will be reviewed with a chance to be featured in the film!

Looking Ahead

I believe that the merging of Dynamic Film with virtual reality experiences will allow us to be closer as a species through rich storytelling. So, in essence, when I think of why Dynamic Filmmaking and VR matters, it really comes down to why the story matters. This new medium allows us to share the same dimensional space as the virtual beings we create, to observe and empathize with these artificially intelligent creatures in ways that previously weren’t possible. In that sense, I believe dynamic stories will allow humans to understand what it means to be machine, and machines what it means to be human.

Agence

The classic rule for futurism, as far as we’re concerned, is to identify patterns in the past that can help predict and/or shape the future. In this case, we wanted to push storytelling forward using more advance artificial intelligence (AI), and we looked to the earliest days of silent films (before dialogue was possible) for inspiration. So, there is a focus on visual storytelling to create algorithms that drive the character behaviour. By emphasizing visual storytelling in projects, we can narrow in on the physical behaviours of AI characters. Looking ahead to the future of Dynamic Filmmaking, we hope to build upon this foundation by adding more dynamics for script, music, and speech generation.

Dynamic Films take the audience on a journey through branching pathways, toward a moment of inner change, making them see the world a little differently than before they began. Games, without a story, do not necessarily move people to transformation outside of winning, losing or simply playing the game perpetually. But stories, particularly the dynamic kind, have the power to influence culture and shape a hopeful future.

Source: https://www.vrfocus.com/2020/10/ai-driven-dynamic-filmmaking-is-the-future/

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