Still waiting for MacOS VR Support

It was an exciting keynote at Junes WWDC2017 not just because Apple finally introduced new upgraded mac computers, but also because they seemed to have teamed up with Valve to bring native support for the HTC Vive and finally gain support for VR on MacOS.

On the day of release for MacOS High Sierra there was much Tech Media fanfare announcing that the latest high end Macs ‘finally support VR’, they obviously had not even tried to run VR on the new OS. Even Apples website declares that High Sierra has ‘Optimised support for Valves SteamVR.

 

The reality for me has been one of frustration as while the HTC Vive connects and is recognised by valves SteamVR beta software and displays a white grid room complete with tracked controllers , i’m unable to run any MacVR titles from the store. I am also unable to run the VR Headset alongside the MacVR Preview of the Unity Application.

The interesting thing is that even though i can not preview VR experiences created in Unity on my Mac, i am able to build them. I was able to build a VR Experience in unity on MacOS that could be run in windows, just not on the mac. It’s as if SteamVR on Mac is unfinished and prevents VR Apps from being played on the headset. Yet Valve keep updating SteamVR on the mac and every time its not working. Someone isn’t telling someone something. Either SteamVR is broke and not bridging the apps to the headset, or SteamVR is working but valve has not updated the unity plugin for Unity, or High Sierra changed something and apple didn’t inform Valve. In any case its very frustrating being so close to creating VR Experiences on Mac.

While there are plenty articles online spewing out how MacOS finally has VR support, it’s very hard to find any information about actual VR usage on MacOS after the release of High Sierra. There is no push from Valve towards mac users finally having access to VR Applications, there is nothing on HTC Vive website about Mac support arriving. It’s all surprisingly dead silent with very little information at all.

I’ve posted questions on SteamVR support, and on Unity MacOS VR Preview forums and had no answer at all, only replies from other confused mac users searching for clues on where Mac VR is.

There is only one app on SteamVR i’ve found that works, Blobby tennis. I’ve messaged the developers asking what they are doing thats different to everyone else. So until the fog lifts from the whole sorry scenario i’ll just play some tennis… against a blob.

My Experiences with PSVR

Yeahy i finally got a consumer VR Headset… and no its not the Oculus or Vive, it’s the lower cost PlaystationVR. This is the first VR Headset I’ve used since the old Oculus DK2 before Oculus pulled the plug on Mac support. So i won’t be able to compare PSVR performance with the higher end VR rigs, instead im just going to write my thoughts as a casual gamer and Second Life creator.

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First off The PSVR looks awesome as a headset. It fulfils my retro geeky expectations rocking cool tron style glowing lights which it uses to track your position. Being that my only previous VR experience was my iPhone in google cardboard and the oculus DK2, i found the PSVR display to be a lot better and decently clear, although I found that this sometimes comes down to what content you are viewing. The head tracking is great and while not room scale, i did find myself walking left and right for some experiences sticking my head over edges and out car windows. The other satisfying thing with PSVR was its ease of use. You just click a button on the PSVR and stick the thing on your head and you are IN.

 

PSVR Gaming

I have not bought any full games yet, and i’m not sure when i will as there isn’t really anything that screams out to be purchased. There are plenty of great demos though and free short experiences to try. Game demos i enjoyed were Battlezone, which sits you in a tank speeding around and shooting things in a tron style landscape. I was quite surprised how i did not get VRsickness in Battlezone. I don’t like driving games much, but the demo of drive club was fun because it was another fun VR experience, sticking my head out a car window at 100mph like a dog was simply fun as was glancing over at the car racing beside you.

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I think my favourite gaming experience was part of Sonys PlayRoom VR. A short platform game called ‘Robot Rescue’ where you are basically standing in the platform world and remote controlling a little robot on the ground infant of you. It never occurred to me that this would be how a platform game could be played in VR and moments where i looked up guiding my robot up the side of a cliff, scurrying in between nooks in the rock for coins just blew my mind. But really everything feels like short demos and arcade experiences so far. I’m waiting for an an epic experience, one where i just wanna get back in and push further into the experience. Maybe we are just testing the water, seeing how PSVR users feel about it, but im demanding right now for more!

 

PSVR Non-Gaming

It was nice to see some non gaming experiences on offer for the PSVR. One such experience was a 360 short film called ‘Invaders’ about 2 rabbits meeting aliens. There was an instant lack of depth to it and i don’t think it was even in 3D. The second VR short film i saw was another ‘blew me away’ experience.

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Allumette is a free VR story experience, i don’t think it can be called a film as its entirely 3D rendered real time (i think) telling the story of a little girl remembering the past in a town in the clouds. As a viewer you stand over the floating town like a Stop/Go Animator watching the story unfold around you. You can lean right in to see the characters faces, look around them as they act. It’s one of those experiences that people say ‘you have to see it to understand how awesome it is’ because it really is that magical. Allumette is also inspiring as it’s exactly the sort of thing i would love to do myself in something like Sansar if it would allow me.

 

PSVR Content Creation

While predominantly focussed on playing PS Games, the headset does also open doors for user generated content in the form of 360 photos and video through its media player. I was able to create 360 images from within Second Life and view them in PSVR and they looked much more stunning than in Flickrs low rez browser viewer.

I also did some tests rendering 360 video from Blender which looked great but lacked the depth of a 3D image. On top of the equirectangular ratio, 360 images also need to be in side by side (SBS) 3D format for there to be depth. Hopefully Sony will update the media player to accept SBS in future and maybe Linden Lab can add SBS or OverUnder to their 360 snapshot feature?

 

Looking ahead as a mac user.

Im also looking at wether its possible to connect my PSVR to my Mac, and what doors that might open for other content and experiences. A guy has created some software called Mac Morpheus that apparently allows your mac screen to appear on PSVR so you can watch 3D 180/360 movies

While i wait for Apple to get their VR arse in gear, Sansar to open and save up me pennies for an HTC Vive, i’m quite pleased with how good PSVR is. It will keep me entertained and busy with simple 360 projects in the meantime.

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I’m Eleven

No not the girl from stranger things, though with a shaved head my avatar does look a lot like her. No, i mean of course that my Second Life Avatar is now eleven years old after celebrating his 11th Rez Day. 

From last year my avatar has not changed much at all. Usually i add one or two improvements but this year i haven’t changed anything. I did test the new Bento avatar features, but decided to wait until the tools are truly finished before staring on a new mesh avatar, plus im locked out of the Beta Grid.

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So what else has been going on?

Well we are not in Sansar yet, which is what i predicted on my last rez day. Instead i put all my efforts into Second Life content starting with my clothes which i made compatible with more kid avatars. I also rebuilt my store before redeveloping the Goodocks Pirate area on Escapades Island. I still have yet to rebuild some other Sculpty builds on Escapades, perhaps in 2017 i’ll get round to it.

In April i started work on Echtra for Fantasy Faire which i really enjoyed doing, that was followed up quickly with SL13B Dungeons and Nightmares experience.

It was in May that i changed permanently from using the official Second Life Viewer to Firestorm due to corrupt old system prefs that lead to me changing the name of my hard drive, which lead to Cache issues. At the same time some bugs were uncovered in the official mac viewer that caused a massive delay in texture picker opening and moving objects on screen. This lead to me needing to log into beta grid to test out a reorganised texture folder, but found i can’t log into the Beta grid… and thats where we currently are in that tale. I’ve got used to Firestorm now though, not the user interface, i’m used to the higher frame rate. When ever i log in using the official mac viewer i instantly realise and go ‘Oops, wrong viewer again’.

As i head into my 12th year in SL i wish i could do more stuff faster, but I’ve hit the technical limits so many times now that i’m kind of starting to sit back and relax. The New Babbage Chronicles will take up most of my time for the next 6 months and the Bento avatar i hope to play with in the new year. If Sansar turns out to be super simple to use maybe ill find time for that too, but i need a new computer first which might get announced this week XD.

So heres to another year in Virtual Worlds! 🙂

#VR is as much about hardware as it is software.

I’ve heard a lot in the past few years how the future is all about the software, it’s the era of the app. But in the worlds of VR it’s still very much about the Hardware.

Within the virtual realms of Second Life i remember a few attempts to expand the experience via hardware. The most successful for me was the 3D space navigator mouse without which i find Second Lifes navigation cumbersome and i panic. Other hardware experiments were the Xbox Kinnect, 3d cameras and more recently leapmotion and even the oculus rift. But these experience never made it into the official viewer.

I do wonder how Project Sansar will tackle the topic of VR hardware though. For VR to immerse you there is a lot of different types of hardware on offer. The most obvious being the goggles, but there is also lots of work being made on gloves to experience touch, mocap suits to transport your real movements into VR. Cameras that transpose your facial expressions and spacial sensory devices to track you in a room. There is bound to be more as this technology space is explored with furious capitalist incentives.

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Manaus VR Gloves, just one of the many trying to add touch to your VR experience

I imagine its easier just to make a game for one of the three main VR platforms, OculusVR, SteamVR and PlayStationVR, rather than make your own VR Platform? and as a creator i’d expect these VR start ups making gloves to supply SDKs that can be used in Unity and Unreal game engines to take advantage of the new ideas. But i doubt you’d be allowed to do that with Project Sansar.

So what will Project Sansar be? is it to be another VR Platform? How will Linden Lab tackle the continuously growing VR peripherals industry with Sansar? Will they be the first to try support everything or wait years for the one VR glove to rule them all to emerge?

Painting the Stranger Escapades Poster

Some might find this of interest, so thought i would share some steps in the process i used to create the Stranger Escapades Poster.

It was inspired by Kyle Lambert‘s Drew Struzan style poster to the tv show Stranger Things that i am quite obviously crazy about at the moment.

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While Kyle didn’t use iPad Pro exclusively to create his poster, i wanted to see if i could do my own poster for the Escapades Anniversary weekend just using Procreate with Apple Pencil. The Poster would feature my closest Second Life friends in front of recognisable landmarks from the virtual world Island of adventure in Second Life.

Composition planning stage

Composition planning stage

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Penciling in over blue sketched work

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More pencilling, you can see sometimes i don’t follow my original sketch

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After blocking in colours i then start blendshading. To a 3D artists this is like baking ambient occlusion.

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Adding the background which will define how the whole thing comes together.

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Finally, i cheat by adding water colour and paint splatter texture layers to emulate a Struzan painting style. Also start adding highlighting.

It was fun seeing what i could do with Procreate on iPad Pro, and while i tried to emulate Drew Struzan, my own style unfortunately still shines through. But in some ways thats fine 🙂 I still am amazed at how well the iPad Pro with Apple Pencil combines what’s swift and simple about drawing/painting on paper with the powerful tools of digital picture editing.

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Final Poster