‘Vivepaper’ Is HTC’s Immersive Reading Experience That Mixes AR With VR

by Jamie Feltham • October 27th, 2016

Based on our recent talk with VP of content, Joel Breton, HTC has plenty of experiences in the works for its Vive VR headset across a wide range of categories. Though you probably wouldn’t have guessed it, one of those categories is virtual reading.

Vive this week announced Vivepaper, an intriguing new VR app developed in partnership with the Chinese-branch of magazine publisher Condé Nast. Rather than simply letting you flick through virtual pages with the Vive wands, the software utilizes the headset’s front-mounted camera, currently used for its Chaperone system, to scan QR codes on a patent-pending paper booklet. That then appears within a virtual world and the user can flick through issues of Condé Nast’s publications, including GQ and Vogue, using tactile and gesture interfaces.

The app doesn’t just bring the magazine into VR, however. As you read travel articles, you’ll be surrounded in 360 degree images and videos of the destination in question. If you were to read a piece about a specific product, a 3D render of it might appear that you could swipe on-page to spin around. Tapping specific panels will bring up videos too.

Interestingly, a press release for the app labels it as “Augmented Virtual Reality”, a term recent used on-stage by Oculus Chief Scientist Michael Abrash when he spoke at Oculus Connect 3 earlier in the month. That said, Abrash’s description referred to using VR to augment the real world.

It’s set to launch in China early next week on October 31st, though you can expect it to grow from there. Speaking to UploadVR, Alvin W. Graylin, China Regional President of Vive confirmed that the company is in talks with Western publishers, describing the app as “too useful” to be kept in China. We have some concerns about reading text within Vive because of the screen door effect, but we’ve asked if the app will feature text enhancement options to remedy this.

“With Vivepaper, we will enable the millions of books, magazines, newspapers and periodicals that have existed throughout history to come alive in the virtual world,” Graylin said in a prepared statement. “We are so excited to have Condé Nast as our launch partner and look forward to having all their amazing content available to VR users around the world soon.”

HTC is also making this an open platform, with an SDK currently in private beta. Applications for the testing phase are available through an official website. It includes both a Unity plug-in and a dedicated editor that the company says doesn’t require any programming experience.

Vive isn’t the only headset that will be getting Vivepaper either. The app will also launch on Viveport M, the recently revealed Android version of the storefront that supports mobile VR devices like Cardboard. An iOS version will also arrive later down the line. The mobile versions will also support gesture and tactile feedback.

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