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Game

ByteDance’s Pico reveals its latest VR headset as it aims to compete with Meta Quest 2

subsidiary Pico has . The Pico 4 will initially be available in Japan, South Korea, the UK, France, Germany, Spain, Italy and eight other European countries. Pico hasn’t revealed US release plans as yet, but it aims to bring the device to Singapore and Malaysia by the end of the year, and China at a later date.

The headset — which has a Qualcomm XR2 processor, an Adreno 650 GPU and 8GB of RAM — can be used as a standalone device. Pico claims the battery, which is in the rear strap to help keep things balanced, offers around three hours of use on a single charge, as notes. The device weighs 295 grams without the strap and 586 grams when it’s attached.

You can also connect Pico 4 to a gaming PC for higher-end VR experiences. That might be necessary to make full use of the dual displays, which offer higher than 4K resolution at 4,320 x 2,160 resolution for each eye. The displays have a 90Hz refresh rate and 105-degree field of view, according to   

The Pico 4 uses inside-out tracking with no need for external beacons. It comes with Pico 4 motion controllers (which have vibration features) and there are four external cameras, as points out. According to the Pico website, the device will offer full-color passthrough — something Meta is working on for its Project Cambria headset. 

A person wearing the Pico 4 virtual reality headset.

Pico

Given that ByteDance also owns , it shouldn’t be surprising that there’s a way to view videos from that app. You’ll be able to share VR experiences to TikTok as well. There will be hundreds more things to watch in VR and 360 formats. Pico is working to bring live sports and “avatar-based concerts” to the platform as well. 

As for games, there are 165 of them in the Pico store and more being added each week. The headset will support the likes of Peaky Blinders: The King’s Ransom, Demeo, , All-in-One Summer Sports VR and Just Dance VR (which will arrive in 2023 as a Pico exclusive). There will also be SteamVR support.

Meanwhile, there are plans to launch a metaverse-style experience called Pico Worlds next year. Unlike in Meta’s , Pico’s avatars appear to have legs.

Considering the price and specs, it’s Pico is trying to compete with Meta Quest 2 (Meta recently of that product). Whether the brand can hang with Meta on the content front remains to be seen. Users are unlikely to be able to play Beat Saber, for instance. Pico also revealed its latest device just a few weeks before Meta will show off at least one VR headset, likely to be the higher-end Project Cambria model, .

A Pico 4 with 128GB of storage costs €429 (around $422). A model with double the storage capacity will run you €499 (approximately $491). Preorders open next month and the headset will ship on October 18th. Pico also to release some accessories next year. A more accurate fitness tracker, a wireless dongle for PC connectivity and a carrying case will each cost €50 (or around $49).

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Computing

Watch Meta’s full-body VR tracking with just Quest headset

Meta Reality Labs is making big strides in avatar rendering with the latest advances combining machine learning (ML) with sensor data from Quest VR headsets to show your full body, including arms, legs, torso, and head. The result is a very realistic and accurate representation of the poses and movements of a person wearing a Quest 2 headset.

QuestSim: Human Motion Tracking from Sparse Sensors with Simulated Avatars

This is quite amazing since only the positions and orientations of the Quest VR headset and its two controllers were used to estimate leg motion and position. There are no tracking bands placed on the legs and no external cameras used for this remarkable system. Meta Research Scientist Alexander Winkler shared several videos on Twitter along with links to the scientific paper on arXiv and a YouTube video with more detail.

In a scientific sense, this is known as motion tracking from sparse sensors and ML is particularly adept at extracting meaningful information from very little, if there are enough dependencies between what is known and unknown. Since we swing our arms for balance when walking and running, arm movement is a good indicator of what the legs are usually doing. Combined with head tilt and direction, the ML system can predict most human motion very accurately.

More traditional approaches to tracking limbs rely on extra hardware, such as reflective markers placed on your legs and torso that are identified by external cameras, or bands with wireless beacons worn at various locations on your legs to transmit position and motion data.

While these methods work, those are typically sold as accessory items that cost more and aren’t well supported in most apps and games. If Meta can achieve such good results with a Quest 2 headset, developers will be more likely to build body tracking in their games and apps.

Despite these significant advances, Meta Reality Labs admits that more work needs to be done. If you move fast enough, the ML model fails to correctly identify your pose. Unusual stances are difficult for the computer to estimate and if the virtual environment has obstacles that don’t exist in reality, the movement won’t match. The overall effect seems to be very good, however, and it would be a nice upgrade to be able to see a full body instead of floating torsos when chatting with friends in VR.

Hopefully, this technology will be ready for launch soon. With Meta’s Quest Pro headset announcement expected in just a few weeks, the timing for full-body avatars seems perfect. The Meta Quest Pro can track eye movement and facial expressions, providing an improved sense of presence to your friends, family, and coworkers might be greatly enhanced in the near future.

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Computing

We finally might know what Apple will call its AR/VR headset

We have been patiently waiting for Apple to drop its much-anticipated virtual reality headset, and now it seems we’re closer than ever. Apple filed some trademark names for its upcoming AR/VR headset, indicating it’s one step closer to launch.

The trademarks were filed simultaneously in the U.S., U.K., Europe, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Saudi Arabia, Costa Rica, and Uruguay. The trademarks protect the names “Reality One,” “Reality Pro,” and “Reality Processor.” Apple used the same law firms it has used in the past in these countries to file the trademarks.

Apple AR/VR headset render Ian Zelbo

The trademark filings were all made under a shell corporation called Immersive Health Solutions LLC, which is itself owned by another shell corporation named The Corporation Trust Co. While Apple has neither confirmed nor denied the existence of an Apple AR/VR program, these filings follow closely on its trademark application for realityOS earlier this year, which was also filed under The Corporation Trust Co.

Apple’s entry into virtual reality represents the first new Apple hardware release in seven years, when the Apple Watch first dropped. It also represents a serious threat to Meta’s Quest VR line of business.

Meta’s Quest 2 line of VR headsets dominate the virtual reality market thanks to their ease of use and cheap price. While Apple’s AR/VR headset is expected to cost thousands, it could put a dent in Meta’s business model.

Rumors point to Apple releasing a headset that offers both augmented reality, or AR, and virtual reality, or VR. The AR setting would allow you to wear the headset out and about while seeing everything around you. However, there would be digital overlays you could potentially interact with, such as maps and messages. The VR mode would allow you to become fully immersed in VR, much like the Meta Quest 2.

We still have no idea when Apple will officially release this headset, or if Reality One or Reality Pro will be the final name. Apple could simply be protecting all possible names and there could be more coming in the future. We’ll just have to continue waiting.

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Computing

This monitor does VR without a headset — for a huge price

If you’d like to indulge in some virtual reality (VR) games, but you don’t love the bulky feeling of a VR headset, Dimenco has a solution for you — a 3D monitor that dials up the immersion to a much higher level.

Equipped with a set of tools that help achieve the 3D effect, Dimenco’s new product doesn’t even require a pair of 3D glasses, let alone a whole VR headset. However, the price is certainly going to be a huge roadblock — it costs well over $10,000.

Dimenco

If you’re familiar with the 3D effect provided by a Nintendo 3DS, you probably already kind of know what to expect from Dimenco’s innovative 32-inch monitor. Officially dubbed the SR-Pro-Display, referring to simulated reality (SR), the display comes decked out with a lot of different tech that helps it achieve that 3D immersion. This includes proprietary image processing technologies, eye tracking capabilities, and special lenticular lenses.

The new SR monitor arrives in a single 32-inch configuration sporting an 8K resolution. Unlike many monitors, you’ll need a reasonably beefy computer to support this screen. Dimenco recommends at least an Intel Core i7 processor from the 10th generation or newer as well as an Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Ti graphics card. However, you might need even better hardware depending on your game of choice.

Dimenco’s new product was first introduced during CES 2022 alongside a host of other impressive monitors, such as the enormous Samsung Odyssey Ark. It then reappeared at Siggraph 2022, where TechRadar’s Hamish Hector was able to see it and take it out for a spin in Project Cars 2. Hector praised the display’s ability to crank up the immersion, comparing it to that of a VR headset and saying that it improved his gameplay by a considerable margin.

Dimenco's 3D SR 8K monitor.
Dimenco

On the other hand, it wasn’t quite as powerful as a VR headset, nor should it be — after all, you don’t need any extra hardware, only your own pair of eyes. Hector also talked about the fact that being unable to interact with the screen using your own hands feels weird. It’s still a regular monitor, which means that when you play a game, you’ll be using your keyboard and mouse or perhaps a controller. In VR, your hands play a big part and that affects how real it all feels.

Whether it’s intensely realistic or not, it’s still a good middle ground for those of us who can’t, or don’t want to, use a VR headset instead. However, the pricing of this monitor is quite hard to swallow. You can now buy it directly from Dimenco for a whopping sum of $11,690. At that price, even those who might be interested in trying out this technology may be put off.

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Computing

This could be Valve’s wireless VR headset, Deckard

A recently published U.S. patent application might provide a good preview of Valve’s wireless VR headset.

The rumor mill has been heating up recently with deep dives into Steam code, uncovering intriguing details that seem to suggest a new head-mounted display system, possibly called Deckard, is in development. So far most signs point to this being a stand-alone, wireless headset similar to Meta’s Quest 2 — or at least a device that has the option to be used without a PC connected.

Much of the patent discusses the headstrap and how it allows various adjustments for optimal comfort while still holding securely — as well as preventing outside light from leaking inside. The patent contains several drawings that show two dials at the back for adjusting the fit, allowing fine-tuning even in the middle of a game or other VR experience, without the need to use both hands or to remove the headset.

The design shown in the patent might not ever be manufactured; however, it’s interesting to see what Valve has been working on and it’s likely that at least some aspects of this design will be used in a future product. The ear speakers look quite similar to the current Valve Index and there is still a center strap that runs front to back with hook and loop straps for adjustment.

In addition to the center strap, the dials are described as a way to adjust both the top and the side tightness, so perhaps the added dial will make fine adjustments to the top strap more quickly and without having to unhook it before tightening. This can be critically important in the middle of an intense VR session if the headset is slipping, causing the image sharpness to suffer.

Valve VR headset back headstrap dials patent Deckard?

While fit and comfort are very important aspects of any VR headset, the hardware specifications are what is of most interest. Unfortunately, no details were provided in that regard. Earlier speculation suggests Valve’s rumored Deckard headset could have many of the same features as Meta’s Quest 2 while retaining the ability to connect to a PC to run higher quality games and more demanding apps.

With Meta’s Cambria and Apple’s first VR headset expected to arrive in 2022, it seems Valve might join the fray with Deckard as well, making this the biggest year ever for virtual reality hardware.

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Game

Meta’s latest VR headset prototypes could help it pass the ‘Visual Turing test’

Meta wants to make it clear it’s not giving up on high-end VR experiences yet. So, in a rare move, the company is spilling the beans on several VR headset prototypes at once. The goal, according to CEO Mark Zuckerberg, is to eventually craft something that could pass the “visual Turing Test,” or the point where virtual reality is practically indistinguishable from the real world. That’s the Holy Grail for VR enthusiasts, but for Meta’s critics, it’s another troubling sign that the company wants to own reality (even if Zuckerberg says he doesn’t want to completely own the metaverse).

As explained by Zuckerberg and Michael Abrash, Chief Scientist of Meta’s Reality Labs, creating the perfect VR headset involves perfecting four basic concepts. First, they need to reach a high resolution so you can have 20/20 VR vision (with no need for prescription glasses). Additionally, headsets need variable focal depth and eye tracking, so you can easily focus on nearby and far away objects; as well as fix optical distortions inherent in current lenses. (We’ve seen this tech in the Half Dome prototypes.) Finally, Meta needs to bring HDR, or high dynamic range, into headsets to deliver more realistic brightness, shadows and color depth. More so than resolution, HDR is a major reason why modern TVs and computer monitors look better than LCDs from a decade ago.

Meta Reality Labs VR headset prototypes

Meta

And of course, the company needs to wrap all of these concepts into a headset that’s light and easy to wear. In 2020, Facebook Reality Labs showed off a pair of concept VR glasses using holographic lenses , which looked like over-sized sunglasses. Building on that original concept, the company revealed Holocake 2 today (above), its thinnest VR headset yet. It looks more traditional than the original pair, but notably Zuckerberg says it’s a fully functional prototype that can play any VR game while tethered to a PC.

“Displays that match the full capacity of human vision are going to unlock some really important things,” Zuckerberg said in a media briefing. “The first is a realistic sense of presence, and that’s the feeling of being with someone or in some place as if you’re physically there. And given our focus on helping people connect, you can see why this is such a big deal.” He described testing photorealistic avatars in a mixed reality environment, where his VR companion looked like it was standing right beside him. While “presence” may seem like an esoteric term these days, it’s easier to understand once headsets can realistically connect you to remote friends, family and colleagues.

Meta’s upcoming Cambria headset appears to be a small step towards achieving true VR presence, the brief glimpses we’ve seen at its technology makes it seem like a small upgrade from the Oculus Quest 2. While admitting the perfect headset is far off, Zuckerberg showed off prototypes that demonstrated how much progress Meta’s Reality Labs has made so far.

Meta Reality Labs VR headset prototypes

Meta

There’s “Butterscotch” (above), which can display near retinal resolution, allowing you to read the bottom line of an eye test in VR. To achieve that, the Reality Labs engineers had to cut the Quest 2’s field of view in half, a compromise that definitely wouldn’t work in a finished product. The Starburst HDR prototype looks even wilder: It’s a bundle of wires, fans and other electronics that can produce up to 20,000 nits of brightness. That’s a huge leap from the Quest 2’s 100 nits, and it’s even leagues ahead of super-bright Mini-LED displays we’re seeing today. (My eyes are watering at the thought of putting that much light close to my face.) Starburst is too large and unwieldy to strap onto your head, so researchers have to peer into it like a pair of binoculars.

Meta Mirror Lake VR concept

Meta

While the Holocake 2 appears to be Meta’s most polished prototype yet, it doesn’t include all of the technology the company is currently testing. That’s the goal of the Mirror Lake concept (above), which will offer holographic lenses, HDR, mechanical varifocal lenses and eye tracking. There’s no working model yet, but it’s a decent glimpse at what Meta is aiming for several years down the road. It looks like a pair of high-tech ski goggles, and it’ll be powered by LCD displays with laser backlights. The company is also developing a way to show your eyes and facial expressions to outside observers with an external display on the front.

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Computing

Apple’s AR headset release gets adjusted after missing WWDC

There is bad news for those who were hoping to get their hands on Apple’s rumored upcoming augmented reality headset. It looks like shipping dates will shift from Q1 2023 to Q2 2023 — that is, if you believe the rumors.

This bit of speculation comes courtesy of the ever-reliable Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo. The delay is apparently due to the lockdowns in Shanghai, which have interrupted development timelines. Kuo tweeted out the bad news along with his own predictions for the headset:

(2/2)
1. EVT starting from 3Q22.
2. Media event on Jan 2023.
3. Delivery of development toolkit within 2-4 weeks after the event.
4. Starting pre-order in 2Q23.
5. Hitting store shelves before WWDC 2023.

— 郭明錤 (Ming-Chi Kuo) (@mingchikuo) June 7, 2022

Kuo believes Apple will hold a special media event to announce the AR headset around January of next year with pre-orders starting in 2Q23. He also predicts the device will land in stores before Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference next year.

That last prediction is a bit interesting because Apple normally uses WWDC to highlight new software products including updates to operating systems. That would be the perfect time to unveil “realityOS”, the rumored name for the OS powering the headset. That said, with Apple usually showcasing no less than five operating systems (iOS, iPadOS, MacOS, watchOS, tvOS), adding a sixth may be a little overkill.

Apple could choose to unveil both the AR headset and realityOS before WWDC and still provide more developer-specific announcements at the actual conference.

Apple VR Headset Concept Antonio De Rosa

There are many who hoped that Apple would provide some kind of tease at this years’ WWDC, but alas there was none there. Allegedly, overheating issues prevented Apple from showing it off during the keynote presentation. The company has been demoing it internally, however.

As its latest new product category since the Apple Watch, this AR headset is one of the most highly anticipated new products from the company in many years. Apple will likely try to position the headset as a game-changer like the original iPhone was in 2007, the iPad in 2010, and the Apple Watch in 2015.

The headset is rumored to be powered by an Apple Silicon chip more powerful than the M1. If the rumored release date proves to be true, that means it’ll almost certainly be based on the recently announced M2. Apple claims the new 2022 MacBook Air with the M2 has about the same power efficiency as the M1 while being 20% faster.

While you may be a bit bummed out that we’ll have to wait even longer for Apple’s AR headset, there were quite a few interesting things announced at WWDC yesterday.

The iPhone will finally get customizable lock screens with iOS 16. You’ll also be able to use your iPhone as a webcam with MacOS Ventura.

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Computing

Pimax Crystal VR headset to ‘take clarity to another level’

The virtual reality headset wars seem to be heating up with Pimax announcing the Pimax Crystal. This new VR headset marries QLED with mini-LED technology that Pimax says will “take clarity to another level.”

Another reason Pimax has to brag about its visual clarity are the lenses that the Crystal uses. Pimax uses glass aspheric lenses instead of plastic lenses that other headsets use. The company says this allows them to improve clarity by increasing transmittance and reducing stray light and aberration.

Glass lenses allow more light to pass through than plastic lenses and Pimax claims a 99% transmittance rate. Using glass also lowers the amount of stray light coming into the lens and precludes the need for software to adjust for light aberration.

Pimax also says that glass allows them to adopt a new three-layer coating process. The first is a blue light coating that filters 99% of blue light, the second is a dust filter, and the third is an antireflective coating.

In terms of specifications, the Pimax Crystal boasts a resolution of 2880 x 2880 per eye with 42 pixels per degree (PPD). That’s well above the PPD of most headsets. With a speedy 160Hz refresh rate, it should reduce the “screen door” effect.

The combination of the QLED and mini-LED technology also allows for a much wider color gamut for better color reproduction.

Owners will also be able to swap out the lenses to adjust the field of view (FOV). One set has a120 degree FOV while the other has a 140 degree FOV.

Internally, the Pimax Crystal sports a Qualcomm XR2 chip, Wi-Fi 6E, auto-IPD (inter-pupillary distance), and Tobii eye tracking. This makes the Crystal a highly capable VR headset — and highly expensive.

The Pimax Crystal ships in the third quarter of 2022 and includes the headset, two controllers, a 6000mAh battery, and the 140-degree lenses for a whopping $1,900. That’s a far cry from most consumer VR headsets that are a couple hundred dollars.

Pimax Crystal VR headset and controllers.

To that point, Pimax Associate Director Joshua Son compares it to a high end gaming console or gaming PC that allows gamers to get the best graphics on the market. The Pimax Crystal aims to provide the best visual fidelity of any available consumer VR headset.

Speaking of competing VR headsets, San Francisco startup Viture recently unveiled the Viture One, a mixed-reality headset that allows users to play games or consume content anywhere there’s a wireless signal. While it doesn’t have nearly the amount of visual fidelity, it is much cheaper and potentially more useful.

The VR headset wars seem to only be starting and it’ll be interesting to see other competitors take on established brands such as Meta.

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Apple’s AR/VR headset gets one step closer to a reality

Apple’s rumored first step into AR and VR has been hush-hush, but a new report indicates that the mixed-reality headset may be getting closer to its grand unveiling.

As reported by Bloomberg, Apple’s board got a sneak peek at the company’s upcoming mixed-reality headset at a quarterly meeting. This meeting was attended by “eight independent directors” and CEO Tim Cook.

Antonio De Rosa

Bloomberg’s report indicates that Apple demonstrated the capabilities of the headset, according to unnamed sources familiar with the matter.

Apple is also ramping up development of the headset’s operating system, dubbed “realityOS” or just rOS for short. This continues the OS naming scheme that Apple uses for its other products.

The report also says that Apple initially wanted to unveil the headset at its Worldwide Developers Conference this year, but had to delay it due to issues with overheating. Additionally, ongoing supply chain issues and inflation have made things difficult for the tech industry in general.

There have been some conflicting rumors about what Apple’s mixed-reality headset will actually look like and function. However, most rumors agree that there will be a number of cameras and sensors to allow you to see the outside world.

It will also likely feature micro-LED displays with an amazing 8K resolution for both eyes. There might even be a third display for peripheral vision. Noted Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo alleges those lenses might include iris recognition for authentication.

The headset will most certainly be powered by Apple Silicon, one that might even be more powerful than the current M1. Of course, having a powerful chip that’s highly energy efficient would be perfect for a wearable. Hopefully, Apple can work out the rumored overheating issues.

Looks like #Apple just accidentally confirmed #RealityOS. 🥽

Whoops!https://t.co/IEowqdVcf2 pic.twitter.com/LsNRRalGld

— matthewdavis.eth (@IAmMatthewDavis) February 9, 2022

The operating system powering the headset, realityOS, has been seen a number of times in Apple code. Developer Matthew Davis apparently found references to “realityOS” on an Apple GitHub page.

While this will be Apple’s first foray into virtual and augmented reality, other companies like Meta have much experience. Meta’s Project Cambria is aiming to eventually replace a laptop and work setup.

However, despite the complete dominance of the Meta Quest 2, Apple may be one of the few companies that can truly challenge (and surpass) Meta.

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Apple’s New AR Headset Will Track Hand Gestures Via Face ID

Apple has an augmented reality (AR) headset in the works, and a well-known analyst now predicts that it will use Face ID to track hand movements.

The upcoming headset is said to be equipped with more 3D sensing modules than iPhones and, according to the report, may one day replace iPhones altogether.

Antonio De Rosa

The information comes from a note for investors prepared by Ming-Chi Kuo, a respected analyst, which was then shared by MacRumors. In his report, he elaborates on the kind of performance and features we can expect from the upcoming Apple AR/MR (augmented reality/mixed reality) headset.

According to Kuo, the new headsets will feature four sets of 3D sensors as opposed to the one to two sets currently offered by the latest iPhones. The use of extra sensors opens up the headset to a whole lot of new capabilities, extending the realism of the user experience.

The sensors used in the new Apple headset rely on structured light to detect motion and actions. Kuo predicts that this will make it possible for the headset to track not just the position of the user, but also the hands of the user and other people, objects in front of the user, and lastly, detailed changes in hand movements.

Kuo compared the headset’s ability to track small hand movements to the way Apple’s Face ID is capable of tracking changes in facial expressions. Being able to detect small hand and finger movements allows for a more intuitive user interface that doesn’t take away from the realism of using an AR/MR headset.

Apple VR Headset Concept by Antonio De Rosa.
Apple VR Headset Concept Antonio De Rosa

Both the iPhone and the yet unnamed Apple headset rely on structured light, but the headset needs to be more powerful than the iPhone in order to offer proper hand movement detection. Kuo notes that this means that the structured light power consumption of the AR/MR headset is higher.

“We predict that the detection distance of Apple’s AR/MR headset with structured light is 100% to 200% farther than the detection distance of the iPhone Face ID. To increase the field of view for gesture detection, we predict that the Apple AR/MR headset will be equipped with three sets of ToFs (time of flight) to detect hand movement trajectories with low latency requirements,” said Ming-Chi Kuo in his investor note.

Kuo believes that Apple may one day wish to replace the iPhone with the AR headset, although that won’t happen anytime soon. He predicts that in the next 10 years, headsets may very well replace existing electronics with displays.

With the added hand gesture tracking, the new Apple headset may offer an immersive user experience. As rumors suggest that Apple may be looking to join Meta and other companies in expanding toward the metaverse, it’s possible that this headset might be the first step toward just that.

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