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JUST for Geeks

Samsung Gear VR Reaches Consumer Version

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Samsung Gear VR Reaches Consumer Version

Samsung presents the consumer version of the Gear VR, the smartphone-powered virtual reality headset developed in collaboration with Rift maker Oculus.

Improvements on the previous "Innovator Edition" headset include lighter construction (by 22%, Samsung says), foam cushioning for additional comfort and an improved touchpad controller on the temple.

The headset also fits more Samsung smartphones-- namely the Galaxy Note 5, Galaxy S6 Edge+, S6 and S6 Edge-- through the addition of sliding clamps allowing users to insert larger phones. The smartphones should provide a similar VR experience, since all have 2560x1440 resolution displays.

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How to Bring Game Cartridges to Smartphones

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How to Bring Game Cartridges to Smartphones

A Japanese startup named Beatrobo presents an interesting way to bring the game cartridge to the smartphone era-- the Pico Casette, a tiny cartridge one plugs into device headphone jacks to unlock games.

Unlike its larger, retro brethren the Pico Cassette does not actually store games. Instead it transmits an inaudible tone to authenticate games on a companion app. In addition it also connects with Beatrobo servers to allow users to play and save progress on multiple devices.

The technology behind the Pico Cassette is called PlugAir, and is already used to sell physical music and video content at Lawson HMV stores in Japan.

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Kickstarting Real-Life Wizard Battles

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Kickstarting Real-Life Wizard Battles

Harry Potter fans might soon get a means to hold real-life wizard duels against friends and foes-- the Maguss Wand, a wand powered not by magic but by a receiver badge and a companion smartphone app.

The concept behind the Maguss Wand is actually fairly simple. The wand carries motion sensors and an IR LED, while the badge holds an IR receiver. Users cast "spells" by waving the wand in various patterns picked up by the badge. In turn the badge communicates with the mobile app to keep track of duels and even provide sound effects.

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iPod Touch Gets A8-Powered Update

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iPod Touch Gets A8-Powered Update

Apple announces a long-awaited refresh of the iPod media player family-- the first since 2012-- featuring an upgraded iPod Touch complete with iPhone 6 chip and new colours for the Nano and Shuffle.

The latest iPod Touch features a 64-bit A8 processor allowing for better performance, especially when it comes to games. It also carries the M8 motion coprocessor for fitness, step and elevation tracker, and the same 8MP camera as the iPhone 6.

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The Next Oculus Rival: StarVR

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The Next Oculus Rival: StarVR

Swedish games developer Starbreeze (Payday 2, Syndicate) is the next unlikely company to take on the potentially lucrative world virtual reality as it unveils the StarVR headset at E3 2015.

The result of the acquisition of French hardware startup InfinitEye, the StarVR promises to be superior to the likes of the Oculus Rift through a super-wide field of view-- 210-degree, more than double the 100-degrees offered by the rival headset.

Further tech details include two 5.5-inch quad HD (2560x1440) displays within a fresnel lens design and head tracking through fiducial markers and a combination of gyroscopes, accelerometers and magnetometers.

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Oculus Details Rift Final Version, Controllers

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Oculus Details Rift Final Version, Controllers

Facebook-owned virtual reality headset maker Oculus reveals the final consumer version of the Rift at a press event just ahead of E3 2015, together with a companion input device dubbed the Oculus Touch.

The final version of the Rift headset is, ultimately, a refined take on earlier prototypes, if one with improved ergonomics. It features two low-persistence AMOLED displays, an IR LED constellation system for 360-degree head tracking, built-in VR audio system and "high quality" internal microphone.

Users can control VR games through a regular gamepad, but Oculus suggests an own control alternative-- the Touch, a pair of controllers (think the non-remote part of the Wii controller) featuring an analog thumbstick, two buttons and an analog trigger.

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The Eye-Tracking VR Headset

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The Eye-Tracking VR Headset

A Tokyo-based startup named Fove enters the virtual reality (VR) fray with a headset the company claims ditches the need for handheld controllers through the use of eye-tracking technology.

The headset, also dubbed Fove, promises superior interaction with virtual worlds, since the human eye is actually fast, accurate and very responsive. Said tracking is done through the combination of a pair of infrared cameras and an appropriate algorithm.

The result according to the company is games interacting with the one's gaze, such as virtual characters meeting the player in the eye or simply aiming and shooting through the power of a stare. In addition the system handles "foveated rendering," a process allowing graphics engines to concentrate processing power on the image the player is looking at.

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Oculus Rift Gets Release Window

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Oculus Rift Gets Release Window

Facebook-owned Oculus announces the shipping period of the final, consumer version its famous virtual reality headset, the Rift-- Q1 2016, with preorders to open later during 2015.

The final Rift headset builds on the latest "Crescent Bay" prototype, and promises improvement in both viewing and comfort through "highly refined industrial design" and "updated ergonomics." It should support both seated and standing use, and uses 360-degree positional tracking cameras to track head direction.

The Crescent Bay prototype also carries built-in headphones, which we expect will feature in the final headset.

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How to Add Touch to VR Games

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How to Add Touch to VR Games

Researchers at RICE University create a means for gamers to "feel" objects in a virtual world-- the Hands Omni, a glove with inflatable air bladders under each fingertips allowing for the creation of in-game touch effects.

The right-handed glove is designed to be unobtrusive, being wireless and, at 350g, fairly light. It can affect each finger, although the prototype triggers the ring and little fingers as one unit since, as the team puts it, “It’s not very often you pick something up with just your pinkie.”

"[Y]ou can hook this up to a video game and when you reach out and grab a virtual object, it feels like you’re actually grabbing that object,” researcher Thor Walker says.

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