Microsoft won a large US Army contract to supply advanced AR headsets for frontline soldiers, based on the HoloLens platform.
The US Army’s Integrated Visual Augmentation System (IVAS) program aims to equip infantry with AR helmets for situational awareness and convenient display of sensor outputs.
The contract is worth up to $21.88 billion over 5-10 years. While the order has been widely reported as 120,000 units, a US Army statement to Breaking Defence suggests that is the maximum, not a fixed quantity.
Early evaluation units based on HoloLens 2
In 2018 Microsoft won the $480 million evaluation contract for just over 2500 units, based on HoloLens 2 with some modifications and an extra sensor.
The current, ruggedized, upgraded IVAS
The evaluation found the hardware not rugged enough for military use, and identified problems with the sensors at night. Since then the hardware has been significantly upgraded. It’s more ruggedized and houses many more sensors.
The field of view has been significantly increased from roughly 40°x30° to 80°x40°. That’s significantly wider than any other see-through AR headset on the market.
Reported use cases for the headset include:
- overlaying icons on friendly units, objectives, threats, and points of interest
- built-in night vision & thermal view modes
- live picture-in-picture feeds from drones, including the Soldier Borne Sensors (SBS) personal drone
- simulated weapons & enemies for training exercises
- scanning nearby people for high temperature (COVID-19)
- facial recognition for hostage rescue situations
The Army is also testing integrations with vehicles, such as soldiers being able to see-through the walls of the armored vehicle carrying them. That means on dismounting they’ll be situationally aware.
Some Microsoft employees have protested providing technology for the military, but that’s unlikely to have any effect given the enormous potential value of the contract.
IVAS is still in the late testing & evaluation stage, and the scale of deployment will depend on future budgets. But if things go to plan, frontline soldiers could be equipped with these game-changing AR capabilities by the end of the decade.
How to Use VR for Mental & Physical Wellbeing
It’s Mental Health Awareness Week here in the UK with many struggling with being stuck at home, unable to see friends and family. Whilst lockdown restrictions are slowly being rolled back that doesn’t mean everyone’s wellbeing instantly improves overnight. There are various ways to improve your mental health and virtual reality (VR) can be part of that process, from exploring the great outdoors to engaging in some light fitness. So here are a few recommendations for when those stress levels begin to rise.
While you should get out for the odd walk when (and if) you can, there are plenty of studies that highlight the fact that even doing some light exercise can help lift your mood. And this doesn’t need to be intensive workout sessions as long as you’re moving. Naturally, the more often you do exercise, and for longer periods, the greater the effect.
The UK’s Mental Health Foundation also highlights the positive attributes of getting closer to nature, finding that “More than half of UK adults saying being close to nature improved their mental health.” You might not think VR and nature go hand-in-hand but they definitely do if you know where to look.
Tackling fatigue, stress or anxiety with VR Guided Tai Chi
Perfect as a form of exercise as well as being able to refresh your mind and spirit, Guided Tai Chi provides over 200 workouts, allowing you to select 20 scenic locations and the music to go with each session. These can range from a quick 3-minute warm-up all the way up to 60-minute Tai Chi endurance marathons. On Oculus Quest you even have the ability to use hand tracking for a more natural experience.
An interactive collection of 360-degree videos, Ecosphere is a nature documentary series. Featuring content from the jungles of Borneo to the rich coral reefs of Raja Ampat, viewers will be able to see a diverse selection of wildlife created in collaboration with the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF).
A rhythm-action videogame every VR player knows and has probably played, Beat Saber can help you work up a sweat on its expert difficulty levels. With its simple yet addictive gameplay Beat Saber is easy to zone into and forget about the outside world, slicing and dicing coloured blocks to your heart’s content. There are even multiplayer and 360-degree modes when you really want to turn things up a notch.
Nature Treks VR
Keeping with the nature theme, Nature Treks VR is just what you want to explore the great outdoors in VR. Get up close with 20 different animals across a range of environments where you can control the weather and time of day, activate audio visualizations and more. Music plays over each scene of you can turn it off to hear the soothing sounds of nature.
Another rhythm-action title to help get the blood pumping and loosen those muscles is Synth Riders. Rather than all the hectic slashing of Beat Saber, Synth Riders is a fluid, orb matching experience that helps to stretch your body to a variety of music, from synth-wave through to Muse. The videogame also features a 360° Spin Mode and a cross-platform multiplayer for up to 10 people because it’s nice to get a few mates involved.
An award-winning meditation app, Tripp offers 40+ meditative experiences with a mobile app to help personalise and track your Tripp’s. “TRIPP uniquely integrates game play mechanics, breathing exercises, beautiful visual landscapes and sound frequencies. Based on scientific research and used in several clinical studies.” So get comfy on the sofa and enjoy a relaxing journey in VR.
As you might expect from an app called Wander, this is all about travelling the world and being able to visit locations like the gardens of the Taj Mahal or the Great Pyramids of Egypt. Using data from Google StreetView, you can navigate around using voice controls as well as other input methods. Plus, if you want to learn something along the way Wander features Wikipedia integration.
Where Thoughts Go
A very existential, award-winning social experience, Where Thoughts Go is the work of indie developer Lucas Rizzotto. It lets you uncover the dreams, fears and secrets of other players by waking up creatures – and also leave your own for others to find. Unusual and highly thought-provoking, “These anonymous stories are revealing and inspiring, encouraging reflection and introspection,” explains the synopsis. “Participants have no way to discern who they are hearing from, only how considerate and sensitive each and every person is.”
Real VR Fishing
Time for more VR videogame fun. Fishing has always been considered one of those relaxing, Sunday afternoon past times and with Real VR Fishing, every day can be Sunday. Designed as a realistic fishing simulation, you can head to real-world fishing locations to cast off and see if you can get a bite, on your own or with friends. You’ve got your own aquarium to put the fish you’ve caught in and there’s even a web browsing option so you can pull up YouTube and listen to some tunes out on the water.
National Geographic Explore VR
Last on the list is National Geographic Explore VR an interactive experience where you can explore two locations, Antarctica and Machu Picchu, Peru. In the frozen wastes of the southern continent, you can kayak around icebergs and search for a lost emperor penguin colony. While in Peru wander through digital reconstructions of the ancient Inca citadel, encounter alpacas and take photos of your journey.
Vive Focus 3 is HTC’s New Business AIO Headset With 5K & 120° FoV
The time has finally come for HTC Vive to reveal what its been teasing these last few weeks. As expected it’s a new all-in-one (AIO) headset designed for the enterprise market, the Vive Focus 3. The third-generation of HTC Vive’s standalone Vive Focus product line, the new device strikes a very different aesthetic to its predecessor, the Vive Focus Plus.
As a standalone headset for companies looking for the best quality virtual reality (VR) experience with any cables, the Vive Focus 3 certainly has the stats to raise a few eyebrows. Offering users 5K resolution from dual 2.5K displays with fast-switching panels combined with real RGB subpixels, there shouldn’t be any worry when it comes to the screendoor effect. This is in addition to a 90Hz refresh rate and a wider 120-degree field of view (FoV) to make collaborating with colleagues even more immersive.
The images showcase a radically overhauled design, with the magnesium alloy frame 20% lighter and 500% stronger than traditional plastics. There’s a new strap design with the weight balanced for premium comfort. Part of that is thanks to the rear-mounted battery which can be charged to 50% in 30 minutes plus there’s a power indicator so you know how much charge is left. And for the first time ever, the Vive Focus 3’s battery is swappable, so users can keep a spare on charge for those longer VR sessions.
Other features include a manual inter-pupillary distance adjustment between 57mm to 72mm, quick release magnetic front and rear face gaskets for easy cleaning, and new open-back speakers featuring a pair of dual drivers. Built into the side arms, the speakers are contact free so users can still hear the outside world whilst a special audio privacy setting means that VR meetings can’t be heard by others in the room.
All of this is powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon XR2 platform with the Vive Focus 3 able to provide accurate inside-out tracking for its four cameras which utilise an AI algorithm. Rounding out the feature set are a new pair of 6DoF controllers which have built-in batteries providing 15 hours of use per charge. HTC Vive has also confirmed that Vive Focus 3 will support hand tracking in the future.
“Vive Focus 3 heralds a new era of business VR – crafted for stunning visuals while also being durable and lightweight, with superior comfort and ease of use. Our new VIVE Business solutions make it easier than ever for an organisation to use VR, so whether it’s a small start-up or a multinational, everyone can benefit from the transformative potential of VR.”
As an enterprise-only device, the Vive Focus 3 will go on sale from 24th June, retailing for £1060 GBP/ $1300 USD/ €1180 EUR – the price includes 24-month Vive Business Warranty and Services. Don’t forget to check out HTC’s other new headset, the Vive Pro 2, and for further updates from ViveCon 2021 keep reading VRFocus.
The 5K, 120° FoV HTC Vive Pro 2 Starts From £659, Available June
It’s the start of ViveCon 2021 and as expected HTC Vive has some big hardware news lined up. With reports initially teasing a possible HTC Vive Pro 2 the keynote today has confirmed its existence as well as plenty of juicy details including price, launch date and some very exciting specifications.
The Vive Pro 2 will be HTC’s new flagship virtual reality (VR) headset. It’s still tethered to a PC but it comes with a range of improvements to enhance your gaming experience. So yes, the Vive Pro 2 is going to be for consumer and enterprise customers alike. Mostly retaining the same shape and style as the original Vive Pro, the 2021 model now comes with a striking Black/Blue design – two colour combos seem to be a new fashion trend.
As for what’s inside, the Vive Pro 2 now boasts a 5K resolution, fast-switching panel with real RGB sub-pixels display delivering 2.5K to both eyes. The refresh rate has been upped to 120Hz for buttery smooth gaming, plus there’s even more to see as a new bespoke dual stacked-lens design provides a 120-degree field-of-view (FoV).
Inter-pupillary distance (IPD) is still manually adjustable to fine increments, the quick-adjustable sizing dial at the back remains, and HTC has ensured the weight balance is evenly distributed so the Vive Pro 2 should be comfortable for longer gameplay sessions. While it supports third-party headphones the Vive Pro 2 comes with its own Hi-Res Audio Certified headphones so you’re ready to go right out of the box.
“At ViveCon we redefined premium VR for both businesses and consumers, with stunning 5K resolution and 120-degree field of view setting a new benchmark for PC VR and all-in-One headsets. Vive Pro 2 delivers an amazing immersive experience, with beautifully fluid visuals, comfort, and precise tracking, for when every pixel and polygon counts,” said Graham Wheeler, HTC VIVE EMEA General Manager in a statement.
The Vive Pro 2 is fully compatible with the SteamVR ecosystem, working with 1.0 and 2.0 Base Stations, Vive Wireless Adapter, Vive controllers, and the Valve Index controllers. Plus, all generations of the Vive Tracker and the new Vive Facial Tracker will work with the headset.
HTC Vive will be selling the Vive Pro 2 in both kit and headset-only forms. If you already have a SteamVR setup and wish to upgrade then pre-orders are going live today, with a special discount promotion during the pre-order period offering the device for £659 GBP/ $749 USD/ €739 EUR. The Vive Pro 2 will officially launch on 3rd June 2021. The full HTC Vive Pro 2 kit will go on sale in August, retailing for £1299 / $1399 / €1399. It’ll include the Vive controllers and Base Station 2.0.
For continued updates from ViveCon 2021, keep reading VRFocus.
‘Painting VR’ for Quest Aims to Bring Out Your Inner Bob Ross
There’s a few really great art apps on Oculus Quest already, such as Tilt Brush, Kingspray, and Gravity Sketch, but very few focus solely on painting on virtual canvas. Enter Painting VR, a new painting simulator that lets you mix and use unlimited amounts of fresh paint while creating on realistic canvases. That’s right, there’s no ‘undo’ button here.
Developer Oisoi.studio bills Painting VR as an app that’s “very hands-on, easy to understand, and aimed at all ages.”
“Play around and feel the relaxing satisfaction of putting unlimited amounts of fresh paint on a huge canvas,” Oisoi, says. “Teach yourself the basics of colors, the painting process and composition. Sharpen your skills by experimenting with the tools and techniques at hand, and become part of a new wave of digital artists. All without having to bother about cleaning up afterward.”
Check out the trailer below to see Painting VR in action:
Painting VR is available via Oculus App Lab for Quest, and is priced at $10.
Painting VR is planned to stay in early access on App Lab for “about a year,” the studio says, with updates coming every trimester.
The studio says its second update will add more creation tools, whilst the third update will focus on “connecting with the world and other users.” A fourth update will introduce the ability to add new environments and tools through the game’s upcoming market place.
The art app is currently only available for Quest and Quest 2, however the studio says it’s considering a port for other VR platforms as well.
The post ‘Painting VR’ for Quest Aims to Bring Out Your Inner Bob Ross appeared first on Road to VR.
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