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The power of mixed reality (XR) goes beyond just immersive games. Doctors, psychologists, and researchers are quickly finding out that XR’s greatest impact could be in medicine, where it’s already helping thousands of patients heal from their psychological or physical afflictions.
“We know that XR’s strength is the [cap]ability to achieve psychological presence, so that you literally feel like you are in some [virtual] world, and that’s great for gaming and entertainment. … But it can also be used tremendously to improve human health, to put the mind into fantastical worlds during its most vulnerable moments,” said Dr. Brennan Spiegel, the director of Health Services Research at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.
Spiegel was a part of an expert panel at GamesBeat Summit 2021 that discussed the benefits of XR treatments and how that might expand in the future. The other speakers included veteran developer and game design consultant Noah Falstein, clinical psychologist Dr. Kelli Dunlap, and Susanna Pollack (the moderator and president of Games For Change).
Five years ago, Spiegel and his colleagues started a therapeutic VR program at Cedars-Sinai to see how virtual experiences could help improve human health. They’ve accomplished a lot in that time, using VR to successfully treat more than 3,000 patients for a number of conditions like anxiety, depression, and high blood pressure.
But according to Falstein, VR still has a long way to go before the wider medical community adopts it. It needs more vetting for efficacy and safety. In the U.S., he said that while some VR-based therapies have FDA approval, those were usually combined with other types of treatments, like cognitive behavioral therapy and physical therapy.
Little has been done yet with using VR as a direct form of medical intervention, but it’s only a matter of time.
“Like video games, the nice thing is that the bad outcomes [of VR] usually are quite minor. And with one of the companies that’s been cleared by the FDA, the worst conditions that were coming out of the big clinical trials they did were occasional headaches and frustration. Compared to some of the side effects from medication, I think we’re in pretty good shape there,” said Falstein.
Another risk to consider is the intensity of VR games or experiences being used for treatment. When you play regular games in your living room, Dunlap said that you have constant reminders that what’s happening on your TV is fake because of the couch you’re sitting on, the pictures on your wall, and so on. But because VR doesn’t have those real-world objects in the periphery, it’s easy for your mind and body to react as if what you’re experiencing is real.
“You could have a really terrifying video game, but if you put that video game as it is into a VR space, it may be too intense [for people],” said Dunlap.
Spiegel noted that while some side effects to VR therapy do exist (like experiencing vertigo or panic attacks), it’s been extremely rare in Cedars-Sinai’s program. He hasn’t seen patients develop any kind of dependency, either, because they don’t usually like to spend more than 20 minutes in VR at a time anyway.
With few downsides and huge potential in addressing mental health and other conditions, the panel seemed bullish on XR’s future as a medical tool. Spiegel said that even commercial VR games like Beat Saber can be enough to improve someone’s mood. It won’t cure depression, but the zen-like focus needed to slash through the game’s colorful cubes can at least distract someone for a little while.
“To be able to see within minutes that the mind is medicine — that itself is a powerful insight that VR affords. We don’t want people living in Beat Saber all the time. We want them to take something out of Beat Saber that they can then apply to the rest of their life,” said Spiegel.
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Review: Zero Caliber: Reloaded
All these online, multiplayer-focused military shooters are all well and good but sometimes you just want a nice single-player campaign to delve into. XREAL Games has provided PC VR players with this outlet for several years now thanks to Zero Caliber, a realistic first-person shooter (FPS) with obsessive attention to weapon detail. Now it’s Oculus Quest’s turn with Zero Caliber: Reloaded, rebuilt from the ground up for the standalone platform.
Now we say single-player but Zero Caliber: Reloaded does in fact offer a co-op multiplayer experience for up to four people, so you can bring some mates along. You’ll still be playing the same 20+ mission campaign but at least you can have a laugh with friends, appreciating some of the videogames’ finer and rougher moments.
XREAL Games presents a fairly run-of-the-mill story-driven campaign where you’re dropped into a war-torn, dystopian America fighting a bunch of bad guys. While the narrative won’t exactly keep you gripped until the end – there didn’t seem to be much point in paying attention to it – Zero Caliber: Reloaded’s main draw is its gun handling, loadout customisation options and almost fetishistic attention to detail when it comes to the armaments.
Whether you’re playing solo or with friends completing missions quickly and with high accuracy will award you cash to spend on your kit whilst advancing your character level to unlock new goodies. And there’s an absolutely huge selection of kit to play with, maybe too much. You can head into missions with two weapons, with the usual array of rifles, SMG’s, shotguns, and pistols to play with. Then there’s are the bewildering array of attachments; stocks, extended mags, sights, and grips, you name it it’s probably there.
Such is the amount that you’ll want to come back to the main hub every couple of missions to examine what you’ve got to further improve your chances on the next level. The attention to weapon detail isn’t purely visual either – although that’s definitely where a lot of time has been spent – as every gun excels when it comes to handling. Choose to fire one-handed and you’ll notice the recoil, so the mechanics do lean towards a more measured approach rather than running and gunning. It’s helpful stepping into the firing range after unlocking a new gun, learning where the mags/shells go and how to cock the damn thing, as each one is accurately modelled on its real-life counterpart.
The same goes for the grenades. In fact, unlike some VR titles where grenade throwing feels like an element of luck is involved, in Zero Caliber: Reloaded each throw always landed fairly on point. Plus, being able to pull a pin with your teeth is always fun and immersive.
Another great feature is the ability to hot-swap attachments in the field. Levels will contain the occasional weapon cache, usually containing a gun or two or maybe the odd extra. Find a new (better) gun for the situation and you can quickly and easily take any of the attachments off your previous weapon rather than losing them. If you die then you’ll reset back to your original loadout of course.
Big plus points where the guns are concerned, so it’s a shame that that attention to detail doesn’t come across in every other aspect. Zero Caliber: Reloaded isn’t exactly the best looking VR title when it comes to environments and NPC’s even considering the hardware it’s running on. Outside suffers the most, with some dodgy-looking foliage popping up, while inside buildings or more urban locations do fair a bit better.
And then there are the enemies. Variety and brains seem to be missing here as a bunch of shirtless dudes suddenly react in baffling ways. The AI veers widely from reasonably smart to idiotic. Some will start behind or head to cover taking pot shots then suddenly charge like they’re in a Serious Sam game. Others just stand there in the middle of the road. Get up close and they’ll do a roll for no advantage whatsoever, these are the ‘shotgun morons’ as once they stand up you can have a shotty already in their face.
Zero Caliber: Reloaded also presents other issues. There are definitely still glitches to iron out, enemies get stuck or clip through cover or a padlock on a door appears 5x the size, almost comedic in its dimensions. And then there’s the weapon belt, body inventory. In these types of VR videogames, it’s always nice when there’s no HUD, everything is on you and easy to grab. Yet in Zero Caliber: Reloaded it all felt a foot too far forward, with seemingly no way of adjusting the distance. This meant that when a gun had the grip attachment on, the handle would be in among the floating grenades. Or worse, if a gun has a cocking arm at the front then the grenades were in the way again. At the same time, the ‘weapon belt’ isn’t on your hips which gave a less than realistic feel to grabbing a new mag.
That’s not to say there weren’t enjoyable moments in Zero Caliber: Reloaded. Once you got a nicely tailored setup then dropping into a mission, kneeling behind over and taking some well-aimed headshots was very satisfying. Solo, the missions can get a bit simple and repetitive, clearing your way through an area or defending it, so having a few teammates can liven things up. Missions can last anywhere between 5-15 minutes and there are a few which have you backtracking to extend their duration.
Zero Caliber: Reloaded for Oculus Quest is a very mixed experience. On the one hand, the weapons are great and you could easily spend hours in the shooting range mixing and matching components. The 4-5 hour campaign is ok until you get further in and notice some of the glaring issues and glitches like the AI or the rather bland design choices. Best played on the hardest difficulty setting for any real challenge, Zero Caliber: Reloaded gets enough right to be worth a look, but only just.
Population: One’s Wild West Season 2 Arrives Today, Bureau Gold Code Inside
It’s finally time for Population: One fans to get their hands on BigBox VR’s next update for the popular battle royale shooter. As revealed last week, Season 2 will introduce a limited time Wild West element to Population: One, with a new environment, weapon and other features to expand upon the fast and fun gameplay.
Population: One – Season 2: The Frontier will be available for 10 weeks, with one portion of the map turned into a western frontier town. It’ll feature its own saloon, and dusty streets to fight in. Players will be able to take advantage of explosive barrels to take down opponents, breakable barrels with goodies inside, and plenty of buildings and rock formations to gain the high ground advantage.
Then there are the new items. First up are the Matadors, two small shotguns with 8 shell capacities and a very fast flick reload mechanic. Great for close-up combat, because they are dual wield you won’t have a free hand to climb anything; awesome firepower or environment flexibility, it’s your choice. Players will also find the new Harmonica very useful being able to play a catchy tune to recharge other squad members’ shields. Or there’s always the new Shield Shaker which needs to be shaken and charged for a full shield recharge.
BigBox VR isn’t stopping there either. The map now supports 24 players for even more carnage, there are new Titles, Sprays, and Calling Cards, plus the custom game beta is being rolled out. Players can create their own private rooms to host their own matches with a massive amount of gameplay customisation options at their finger tips, choosing which weapons can be used, the zone speed, and much more.
Oh yeah, one last teasing detail the studio has revealed; Population: One – Season 2 will see the introduction of a Deathmatch Mode. It isn’t saying anymore at the moment with further details to come.
Everything mentioned will be available as free content. Players can also purchase to optional Battle Pass for $4.99 USD that unlocks exclusive themed content and rewards such as new characters and new legendary gun skins.
While Population: One has garnered plenty of VR fans since its launch last year if you’re really new to the videogame then VRFocus has a special offer for you. Using coupon code: ‘VRFOCUS’ anyone that’s purchased Population: One within the last seven days can claim 750 Bureau Gold (worth $10!) to buy new skins and other items in the shop. The code is valid between 13th – 27th May 2021 (12 am PST). For help redeeming the code here’s BigBix VR’s guide.
Population: One – Season 2: The Frontier is available today for Oculus Quest, Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, Valve Index, and Windows Mixed Reality headsets. For continued updates to the battle royale title keep reading VRFocus.
A Rogue Escape Surfaces in June for PC VR
Back in November Spare Parts Oasis and Armor Games Studios announced A Rogue Escape, a virtual reality (VR) escape room experience based on Oasis’ first title Nauticrawl. Today, the teams have released a new trailer for A Rogue Escape, confirming an Oculus and Steam store launch will take place in June.
A Rogue Escape takes place inside a giant underwater mech called a Nauticrawl. You’ve stolen this giant machine in a bid for freedom, there’s just one small problem; you’ve never piloted one and its filled with all manner of levers and switches. So the gameplay is very hands-on, finding out what systems work and how those that don’t can be hacked.
The mech is split into five control areas, each with its own set of systems to manage. You’re not left to blindly stumble around the controls, however, as clues have been left by previous pilots. Whilst these will give you a starting point the rest is left up to you and your wits.
“With A Rogue Escape, I got the rare opportunity to realize my childhood dream of what it would really feel like to be inside a mysterious machine, surrounded by buttons and levers to experiment with, while danger lurks outside of the riveted metallic walls!” said Spare Parts Oasis’ Andrea Interguglielmi in a statement. “Combining an escape room with dungeon crawling and cockpit simulation was a daring concept back when I did this on PC with my previous title Nauticrawl, but somehow it feels right at home with a headset on and a fully immersive and tactile environment to experience. I just feel truly excited to share this unique adventure with all VR players willing to be challenged by this colossal machine!”
To help finesse the gameplay for VR headsets Spare Parts Oasis worked with Sylphe Labs – which created Steel Alive for Gear VR – to ensure the interior offered a suitable area, whether players are seated or standing.
Supporting Oculus Rift, HTC Vive and Valve Index, A Rogue Escape will launch on 10th June 2021. Check out the new trailer below and for further updates, keep reading VRFocus.
Gadgeteer Launches May 25 For PSVR
Metanaut announced that Gadgeteer will release May 25 for PSVR.
Gadgeteer is already available for PC VR and Oculus Quest and was still in Early Access up until August last year.
It was revealed last December that Gadgeteer would be coming to PSVR in Q1 2021. It’s slightly missed that first-quarter window, but it’s not long to wait now – there are less than two weeks until PSVR players can go virtual hands-on VR’s best Rube Goldberg machine simulator.
Metanaut confirmed on Reddit that it would cost $14.99 on PSVR and support both DualShock 4 and Move controllers as input methods.
Gadgeteer is the ultimate Rube Goldberg machine simulator, allowing you to create some truly crazy contraptions in VR. It has a full campaign and a sandbox mode, both of which involve creating and solving puzzles using marbles, dominoes, wooden blocks and various other gadgets. The campaign takes you through the basics and teaches you the mechanics, but the sandbox mode is where you take what you’ve learned and really unleash your creative potential.
There’s also online level sharing available, which means that after you’ve finished the campaign and messed around in sandbox mode, there’ll be plenty more content to go through. You can create your own puzzles and upload them for others to complete, or browse the vast library of existing creations from other users.
Gadgeteer is available now for PC VR and Oculus Quest. It launches May 25 on the PlayStation Store for PSVR for $14.99, compatible with both PS4 and PS5 consoles. To read more about how to connect your PSVR to a PS5 console, check out our guide.
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