Ubisoft hops on VR train as OSVR reveals updated HMD

by Matthew Terndrup • March 4th, 2015

Well-renowned gaming company Razer teamed up earlier this year with professional VR corporation Sensics to bring the Open Sourve Virtual Reality (OSVR) movement to the world. They announced their partnership at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2015 with a new head-mounted display (HMD) ‘Hacker Dev Kit.’ Now, they have released an updated prototype at the Game Developers Conference (GDC) and have announced a slew of new partners including gaming giant Ubisoft.

The Open Source Virtual Reality Revolution is Upon Us, and it Starts with the OSVR Initiative

The press release contains the details of the newest iteration of the HMD. It boasts an impressive list of technical specs and describes the several partners that have joined the OSVR collective.

The OSVR Hacker Development Kit v1.1 comes with an all-new full-HD OLED display for higher contrast and lower latency due to faster pixel-switching compared to the previous IPS panel, as well as improved mechanics and increased comfort. The HDK also includes a selection of faceplates with modules that can better enable augmented reality, natural interaction, positional tracking and more. Full designs and drawings for the HDK v1.1 are publically available for download from the OSVR website and will be available to ship from June 2015.

The latest round of partners mostly focuses on hardware integration that will go hand-in-hand with the OSVR platform. Not only are virtual reality related companies joining the open-source movement, but augmented reality ones are coming to the metaphorical VR table too. In addition, mobile VR has a strong presence, and eye tracking is starting to be discussed too. Yet, the biggest news coming from OSVR at GDC is the partnership with Ubisoft.

Ubisoft has been relatively quite recently in regards to virtual reality despite the expansive growth the VR community. There was Gamespot article mid-2014 about how virtual reality devices need to sell 1 million units before Ubisoft gets interested in the new medium. An update was added later to that post with a response from Ubisoft mentioning that the 1 million figure is “not a literal number that Ubisoft takes into consideration when looking at delivering game experiences and content for new platforms.” Still, it was clear then that the large gaming company was hesitant about entering the virtual reality market. Now, the tables have turned, and Ubisoft is indeed dipping their toes into the VR realm through this partnership with OSVR.

Optimized-Ubisoft_-_Flickr_-_map

Gael Seydoux, the new business development director at Ubisoft says:

“The Open Source Virtual Reality framework has the potential to push the boundaries of virtual reality gaming. Our teams at Ubisoft are known for pioneering game development using the latest technologies, so we’re looking forward to demonstrating what we can do by working with Razer and Sensics, building on the OSVR platform.”

What makes the Ubisoft partnership particular exciting is their past experience creating top-notch, high-quality games. Among the notable titles, Assassin’s Creed, the Tom Clancy’s video game series, and Far Cry are by far some of the most popular. Each game has a loyal fan base that will surely follow the series wherever they may roam.

What type of Ubisoft game they make for VR is undetermined at this time (if they even make one at all); but I personally would like to see future versions of of all three made primarily for VR later down the line. Obviously, this is pure speculation to if Ubisoft will attempt such a thing. However, having an immersive full-length game like Assassin’s Creed or Far Cry would surely peak gamers’ interest in VR which could potentially lead them to buying an entire virtual reality system just to play those games.

Assassin's Creed Fan Art

Assassin’s Creed Fan Art

Moving forward, the OSVR software platform is available as an open-source via the OSVR website. This includes newly developed plugins like Unreal Engine 4, a distortionizer tool to provide support for the 11 currently supported brands of head-mounted displays, and an imager interface to allow for new technology modules like augmented reality, positional tracking or eye tracking.

The full list of new OSVR partners and technical specs are shown below. The release date is at the end of this article:

New OSVR Supporters:

Aesthetic Interactive is a one-man software development company, specializing in projects that require a high degree of creativity, design, and user experience.

ARCortex provides technological guidance, proof of concept, and system architecture design for the augmented reality market and promotes the industry by developing and licensing core technology.

castAR provides a 3D, holographic experience to your table, wall or other objects. The device also allows users to move around naturally so they can work or play together while sharing a Mixed Reality experience that blends a virtual world into the real world.

GODHEAD VR is a hybrid software and electronics company based in the Silicon Valley that promotes is best known for its upcoming head-mounted display, “NEO,” designed to be the most modular and upgradable commercial HMD on the market.

Homido is a virtual reality headset for smartphones. Homido is committed to offering the best possible mobile VR experience to the masses.

Hydra Interactive Entertainment is a young indie development studio based in Madrid, Spain. Hydra is focusing on creating unique, innovative and high quality multi-platform titles.

Mindfield Games Ltd. is an independent Finnish developer that focuses on virtual reality games. Their first title, Pollen is in production and will be released in 2015.

Seebright, Inc. has unveiled the Seebright Wave™ head-mounted display (HMD) system with a unique optical design supporting a new generation of augmented and virtual reality applications on iOS & Android smart-phones.

Seven Hills Games is an independent studio dedicated to creating new ways to play games, learn, tell stories, and visualize data.

Stompz is a wireless, wearable input controller that lets users run naturally and comfortably in virtual reality settings. Stompz enables 360 degree movement in VR while seated, standing or with fitness equipment for highly immersive, low-intensity, locomotion.

Ubisoft is a leading creator, publisher and distributor of interactive entertainment and services, with a rich portfolio of world-renowned brands, including Assassin’s Creed, Just Dance, Tom Clancy’s video game series, Rayman, Far Cry and Watch Dogs. The teams throughout Ubisoft’s worldwide network of studios and business offices are committed to delivering original and memorable gaming experiences across all popular platforms, including consoles, mobile phones, tablets and PCs.

Vuzix is a leading supplier of Video Eyewear and Smart Glasses products in the consumer, commercial and entertainment markets. The Company’s products include personal display and wearable computing devices that offer users a portable high quality viewing experience, provide solutions for mobility, wearable displays and virtual and augmented reality.

Updates to OSVR Platform:

The following upgrades have been made to the OSVR software platform that is currently in Alpha stage:

  • Unreal Engine 4 Plugin
  • Imager interface to allow video streams such as those from color cameras, IR cameras, and depth sensors to be allow functions such as positional tracking, eye tracking, SLAM, face recognition and augmented reality
  • Distortionizer tool that allows estimating the optical and chromatic distortion of HMDs and a shader that uses the measured parameters to correct such distortion
  • Performance improvements

As announced at CES, OSVR binaries are now also fully open-source and publically accessible at access.osvr.com.

Hacker Dev Kit updated to v1.1

The OSVR Hacker Developer Kit is designed to be open-source and affordable, without compromising on quality or functionality. As the HDK is still in development, Razer is making improvements to the design and adding modules for additional functionality.

Improvements:

  • 1080p OLED display with higher contrast and faster pixel-switching for lower latency
  • Improved optical mechanics for easier adjustment to individual preferences
  • Ergonomic facemask design for optimal comfort
  • Support for standard 1080p video:
    • Ability to use the HDK with a low-latency wireless video link
    • Ability to mirror the HDK video feed to external monitor
    • Ability to connect smartphones to the HDK* via a SlimPort or MHL standard adapter
    • Ability to convert standard video to side-by-side format in real-time

New Faceplate Modules:

The following modules have been designed for technology evaluation and can be downloaded from the OSVR Website to be 3D-Printed or modified for development needs.

  • IR-LED Faceplate Module – In conjunction with an infrared camera this module will enable positional tracking using pattern detection.
  • Dual-Camera Faceplate Module – With an integrated dual-camera system, this module will enable positional tracking and augmented reality applications.

To find out more and download the designs, go to www.osvr.com/hardware/

Price: $199.99

Availability: shipping by June 2015

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