The XR Week Peek (2024.03.26): Sony halts production of PSVR 2, Meta slashes the price of Quest 2, and more!

This has been the week of GDC and of the NVIDIA GTC, so we have a bit more pieces of news than the usual because there have been some interesting things announced there. Oh yes, also IEEE VR had its show. Actually, a lot of things happened for tech people in the US, which is good!
 Regarding my personal life, I’m traveling these days, so I will mix a bit of fun and a bit of work. I’m also experimenting a bit more with technology, and especially the interactions between the real and the virtual worlds, as I did in this Quest app about cookies. Let me know if you are curious to know a bit more about what I am doing (and if you have some collaboration proposals in mind).

Top news of the week

(Image by Sony Interactive Entertainment)

Sony paused the production of PSVR 2

It’s been a while since there were bad vibes around PSVR 2, but the news from this week depicts a picture for the headset of the PlayStation family that is even worse than we thought.
 A report by Bloomberg says that the sales of the headsets have progressively slowed down after the launch, and now they are well below the predictions. The stocks are accumulating across the supply chain, so it seems that Sony has halted the production of the device, waiting for the stocks to be depleted. This is the opposite of what we have seen with successful headsets like Quest 2 or Apple Vision Pro, where companies had to make an additional effort to produce more of their devices.
 Pausing the production of a gadget that aims to be successful means realizing that it is selling really badly. Before next week there was the possibility that Sony was having on purpose a slow start with its headset, but a slow start would have implied planned little sales, so no stocks accumulating. If we are at this point, the only explanation is that PSVR 2 is selling much worse than its company imagined.
 In my opinion, now Sony will try some strategies to try to improve its situation (I expect a price slash pretty soon), but if they don’t work, the headset will be discontinued. We are in a complicated economic situation, and companies can not afford to waste money on products that do not work… so either a strategy is found to change the destiny of PSVR 2, or it won’t end well for it.
 There is another piece of news regarding PSVR 2 that is interesting and probably linked to the above one. According to the latest PS5 firmware update, PSVR 2 now works without needing Extended Display Identification Data (EDID) and DisplayPort Compression (DSC). This basically means that it can be connected directly to a PC (with both AMD or NVIDIA cards) and provide virtual reality. The only thing that limits its connection is the cable: PSVR 2 is connected to a PS5 through a small USB-C cable that uses the Virtualink technology, which almost all graphics cards have abandoned. So if you need to connect the PSVR 2 to a PC you need an adapter (which is not exactly cheap, around $150). If Sony is so interested in making PSVR 2 compatible with PC gaming, it could even distribute the adapter itself, as it did in some cases in the past.
 Making PSVR 2 compatible with PCs seems to me one of the strategies that the company is trying to increase the appeal of the device. It is a desperate move to increase the sales of the headset, trying to get the interest of the PCVR community for a tethered headset that has pretty cool features. The problem with this operation is that even if it succeeds, it still wins only a niche part of the VR market: as much as I love PCVR myself, it is now not the majority of the VR market, which is owned by standalone gaming. So I don’t know how much this can increase the sales of the headset.
 If we add to the above news the recent layoffs in Sony that also affected some studios that made successful titles for PSVR in the past, I’m not very confident in the future of PSVR 2… but I hope to be wrong.

More info (Sony pauses production of PSVR 2 — Road To VR)
More info (Sony pauses production of PSVR 2 — Upload VR)
More info (New firmware aims at making PSVR 2 compatible with PC — Road To VR)
More info (New firmware aims at making PSVR 2 compatible with PC — Upload VR)

Other relevant news

(Image by Meta)

Meta slashes the price of Quest 2

Meta has just slashed the price of Quest 2 by $50 bringing its final price to $200 for the 128GB units and $270 for the refurbished 256GB ones. We talk about refurbished 256GB devices because they are out of stock basically everywhere.
 This price reduction is going to convince even more people to buy the device because now it has become incredibly affordable: Walmart has also a promotional initiative that includes with the sale a $50 store credit, making the price of the headset equivalent to $150.
 The fact that Meta is not replenishing the stocks of the 256GB SKU and that is now reducing even more the already low price of the 128GB SKU makes this discount look like a clearance sale. Meta is trying to get rid of the stocks of Quest 2 so that it can launch the Quest 3S (or Quest Lite), a refresh of the Quest 2 that includes a new chipset and mixed reality functionalities, to make it more similar to Quest 3, for $199.

More info (Meta cuts the price of Quest 2 — Road To VR)
More info (Meta cuts the price of Quest 2 — Upload VR)

The display specs of the Samsung headset may have been leaked

According to Daily Korea, the headset that Samsung is launching with Google and Qualcomm will use micro-OLED displays supplied by Sony, with a size of 1.3 inches, a resolution of 3,840 x 3,552 pixels, a refresh rate of 90 frames per second, and a maximum brightness of 1,000 nits. For comparison, the Apple Vision Pro has a per-eye resolution of 3660 x 3200, and the Meta Quest 3 2064 x 2208. This means that Samsung’s headset may feature the highest definition in the market.

More info

Some news on the Apple Vision Pro

This week we had a few interesting pieces of news about the Vision Pro, but nothing major:

  • Apple is working with the WebXR consortium to add to it the “transient pointer” input modality, that lets you interact with WebXR experiences using the gaze+pinch modality in a way that preserves privacy. It’s good to see Apple being committed to WebXR
  • An editorial on Upload VR described the different categories of games available on the device
  • Some job listings from Apple seem to point at a close launch of the headset in Australia and Japan
  • A video showing Cyberpunk 2077 running on Vision Pro has become pretty viral. But the author of the article described in the comments of Reddit that the game is not running natively on the device, but it is running on a PC and streamed via ALVR, and that setting it up has been an utter mess
  • The Apple Vision Pro App Store has now a webpage, so you can lurk the available titles from your browser

More info (Vision Pro and WebXR)
More info (Editorial on AVP gaming)
More info (Imminent launch in Australia and Japan)
More info (Cyberpunk 2077 on the Vision Pro)
More info (Vision Pro App Store)

NVIDIA GTC was all about AI

This year’s NVIDIA GTC, the flagship even from the graphics card company, has all been about AI. From being an event dedicated mostly to 3D and graphics cards, it has now got a very strong focus on artificial intelligence, because the new gold rush of AI has seen for now NVIDIA as the clear winner, being the company selling the shovels to the gold diggers.
 Jensen Huang has taken the stage to announce a new architecture for NVIDIA chips: Blackwell. Nvidia’s new Blackwell chip can train AI with 2.5 times the performance of Hopper (the previous chip), and perform five times better at inference, or the actual running of an AI model once trained. The company also claims that Blackwell will require up to 25 times less cost and energy to run than Hopper, which is good considering how all the AI computations were harmful to the environment. The new chip got the endorsement of the most important tech companies in Silicon Valley, who are all using NVIDIA supercomputers for their AI systems.
 Jensen has reiterated that AI will change the way we will build software: rather than writing software, he explained, companies will assemble AI models, give them missions, give examples of work products, review plans, and intermediate results. He stated that in 5 to 10 years, games will be fully made by AI (I love that he’s using Vitillo’s law of technology as well).
 Omniverse is getting cloud APIs, letting developers stream interactive industrial digital twins into the VR headsets. It is also being made compatible with the Apple Vision Pro.

More info (Official summary of news from NVIDIA GTC)
More info (Blackwell chip architecture)
More info (NVIDIA CEO on developing games with AI)
More info (Omniverse now streams to Vision Pro)

News worth a mention

(Image by Meta Reality Labs)

SceneScript analyzes your environment from the Meta Quest

SceneScript is a research project by Meta Reality Labs aimed at analyzing which objects are in your room. While the current scene analysis on Quest can only detect planes, SceneScript can detect which objects are in the scene (tables, chairs, sofas, TVs, etc…) and which are their shapes. This is fantastic because it allows for a better blending of real and virtual elements: for instance, a game could put a virtual chair exactly in the places where you have a real one.

More info (SceneScript — Upload VR)
More info (SceneScript — Official website)

We developers need camera access on MR headsets

This week I wrote an editorial to spark a debate in the XR community. Currently, all MR headsets block developers from accessing camera images for privacy reasons, and it is admirable that vendors are trying to protect users’ privacy. But on the other side, if we developers can not access camera frames, we can not apply AI algorithms to what the user is seeing, we can not even just use computer vision, and so the functionalities that are enabled by MR are limited. It is a pretty complex topic, but we need to find a solution to this to make the industry evolve faster.
 It’s been interesting that a Pico spokesperson answered the article saying that actually, Pico 4 Enterprise has an MR SDK, and that the company can enable camera access to applications on a case-by-case basis. In case you want to build an enterprise application with AI + MR, you know which headset you should use.

More info (My editorial)
More info (Pico talks about its MR SDK)

Viveport now offers a 90% revenue share to developers

To entice developers to publish on its store, HTC is offering developers that publish on Viveport a revenue share of 90%, which is much higher than the one of the other store, which is usually 70%. The offer holds both for PC VR and mobile titles.

More info

Meta’s new fund supports XR indie studios

Meta has created a new “multi-million” fund, called Oculus Publishing Ignition fund, to support newly created studios. The fund aims at supporting 20 teams that have been established after April 2023 and that are working on XR titles with mainstream appeal. If you have recently created an XR content studio, this is an interesting opportunity you should apply to.

More info

Inside the design of Electronauts

Road To VR is re-publishing past articles about XR Design and this week it has published the one about Electronauts, in which Ben Lang explains what are the coolest UX ideas to steal from this experience.

More info

Epic held its usual State Of Unreal at GDC

Epic Games CTO Kim Libreri held the keynote for the State of Unreal that traditionally is held at GTC every year. He announced Unreal Engine 5.4, which provides some new cool features to help people develop more realistic games.
 But the most important topic of the conference has been for me UEFN (Unreal Engine for Fortnite), which is the editor, based on Unreal Engine, through which creators can create worlds for Fortnite without having hard technical skills. In the first year that UEFN is out in the wild, creators have published more than 80,000 UEFN islands, and Epic has paid more than $320 million to creators in the first year of engagement payouts. All of this while the metaverse was dead.

More info

Unity shows its new XR development tools at GDC

Epic has shown UEFN as a way to support the creation of experiences inside Fortnite, and Unity, the biggest competitor of Unreal Engine, has answered by announcing at GDC tools and samples to empower the developers of XR experiences. The XR Interaction Toolkit, which serves to manage the interactivity of an XR experience, has now reached version 3.0, adding new interesting features like near and far interactors (that Meta SDK already manages quite well). Many XR teams use XRIT, and this update will help them develop experiences with better interactions.
 Unity has also released the “Multiplayer VR Template”, a template project using all the new Unity services to create a multiplayer application that features avateering, voice chat, and hand tracking. The template is also fully compatible with OpenXR. It’s an amazing piece of news because creating multiplayer XR experiences is very complicated, and if developers can start from an existing template, their work gets sped up a lot.

More info (XR Interaction Toolkit 3.0)
More info (Multiplayer VR template)

First details emerge about Meta Quest’s new UI

Meta CTO Andrew Bosworth revealed a few days ago that Meta was working to refresh the UI of Meta Quest. In an Instagram AMA session, he later unveiled some details of this refresh. First of all, users will be able to put the 2D windows of the applications wherever they want around them, copying the “Spatial Computing” concept of Apple. Then, the virtual keyboard will become multitouch, and will let you write on your Quest in a more natural way using all your fingers (even if a physical keyboard currently still remains the best tool to write in XR)

More info

You won’t guess where ChatGPT is running

The What The Fuck news of the week is about a guy that managed to make GPT-2 fully run inside Excel. To be exact inside a 1.25GB Excel sheet. While this is a remarkable result, a question pops up in my mind: WHY?

More info

Enjoy the new Fanatical Bundle

The latest VR-oriented bundle on Fanatical, called “Build your own Elite VR Bundle”, lets you pick 7 VR games at $9.99. None of the offered titles is brand new (it is a bundle, after all), but it can be the occasion to buy some VR classics that you haven’t played yet for very cheap money.

More info

Some news on content

  • VRIDER is a VR Superbike Racing Game that is coming to Quest and PC VR in the second half of this year
  • Cyan Games is working on the remake of Riven, the sequel to Myst. It is going to be released on Steam also with support for VR headsets. The release period is “later this year”
  • Survios is still working on a VR game based on the Alien franchise
  • The asymmetrical multiplayer VR game Mannequin has been released in an alpha version on SideQuest
  • Lawn Mowing Simulator VR has been released on the Quest Store, priced at $20
  • Bandai Namco and Atlas V have just released the first teaser trailer of Mobile Suit Gundam. The title is being pitched as a “virtual reality interactive movie” and will be released only on Quest
  • Soul Covenant is headed to Quest 2/3/Pro, PSVR 2, and PC VR platforms on April 18th, priced at $40
  • Toy Monsters, the tower defense game inspired by Plants vs Zombies, will be released on the main Quest Store on April 11 for $14.99

More info (VRIDER)
More info (Riven — Road To VR)
More info (Riven — Upload VR)
More info (Alien)
More info (Mannequin)
More info (Lawn Moving Simulator VR)
More info (Mobile Suit Gundam)
More info (Soul Covenant)
More info (Toy Monsters)

Some reviews about content

  • Both Upload and Road To VR journalists have tried the current alpha of Laser Dance and praised it for being a game that truly exploits mixed reality and it is able to also adapt the room of the user
  • VRIDER is a promising motorbike racing game, according to Upload. It is good that it doesn’t need a gamepad to play, but it lets you handle the motorbike using both your Touch controllers, for added realism.

More info (Laser Dance review — Upload VR)
More info (Laser Dance review — Road To VR)
More info (VRIDER)

Other news

Pokemon Go has totally revamped its avatar editor

Learn more

Xreal has showcased at GDC some upcoming games for its Air 2 Ultra AR headset

Learn more

It is now possible to fully track WMR headset and controllers with Monado, the opensource VR runtime for Linux

Learn more

Meta Quest Browser is rolling out beta support for extensions

Learn more

Ready Player One author announced Open, a metaverse experience based on Web3 and open principles

Learn more

IEEE VR was the occasion to showcase many XR research projects, some of which were also pretty crazy
 (Thanks Ivan Aguilar for the tip)

Learn more (All demos from the event)
Learn more (One crazy experiment with a person lying on a bed while walking in VR)

News from partners (and friends)

Become an Egg in VR

My friends at IRONHEAD Games have just published their first Multiplayer VR title, The Egg VR! Egg VR is a multiplayer social VR game, currently in beta, where you can socialize and engage in various game modes and mini-games as an Egg. The game seems fun and is getting a lot of positive feedback, so I invite you to try it.
Learn more

Learn with Zappar

Zappar is hosting a webinar to teach how you can build immersive headset experiences with WebXR for the Apple Vision Pro, Meta Quest, and more in Mattercraft. All of this is for free.
Learn more

Sponsored Area

Put your sponsored news here

There are no sponsors this time, so I just use this space to wish you a wonderful week. And in case you may be interested in having your news put under the spotlight in this newsletter, get in touch with me, and I’ll put it in this section next week!
Get in touch

Some XR fun

It hurts. But IMHO the forehead after having worn the Quest Pro hurts more.
Funny link

The Meta metaverse, with a VRChat touch
Funny link

Cuteness overload
Funny link

Donate for good

Like last week, also this week in this final paragraph I won’t ask you to donate to my blog, but to the poor people who are facing the consequences of the war. Please donate to the Red Cross to handle the current humanitarian situation in Ukraine. I will leave you the link to do that below.
 Let me take a moment before to thank anyway all my Patreon donors for the support they give to me:

  • Alex Gonzalez VR
  • DeoVR
  • GenVR
  • Eduardo Siman
  • Jonn Fredericks
  • Jean-Marc Duyckaerts
  • Reynaldo T Zabala
  • Richard Penny
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  • Nikk Mitchell and the great FXG team
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  • Sb
  • Pieter Siekerman
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  • Vooiage Technologies
  • Caroline
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  • Francesco Salizzoni
  • Alan Smithson
  • Steve R
  • Brentwahn
  • Matt Cool
  • Simplex
  • Gregory F Gorsuch
  • Matias Nassi

And now here you are the link to donate:

Support The Red Cross in Ukraine

(Header image by Sony Interactive Entertainment)

The post The XR Week Peek (2024.03.26): Sony halts production of PSVR 2, Meta slashes the price of Quest 2, and more! appeared first on The Ghost Howls.

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