Working as a technology journalist is a privilege that allows me to play with hardware that I could never afford to own. Last week, while I was in Montreal for the opening of Sennheiser's new Canadian office, for example, I was able to spend some quality time with the company's crazy $50,000 made-to-order HE 1 headphones. For a guy that reviews audio hardware for a living, it was a ridiculous treat.
There are times that the privilege of doing what I do extends beyond all of the gear that I get to play with. Among the Sennheiser employees, audio nerds like me, and other folks attending the company's opening day bash was Dr. Andreas Sennheiser. Andreas, an electrical engineer by trade, has been co-CEO along with his brother Daniel of their family's 70-year-old audio company for the past five years.
Here in North America, Sennheiser is mostly known for their professional audio products -- microphones and reference headphones for the rich and musically famous, and conference-call hardware for high falootin' boardrooms. In Europe, Asia and Africa, the German company's footprint in consumer audio is massive. They’re one of the oldest names in audiophile-grade headphones and an early, much-respected maker of audio hardware designed to augment virtual and augmented reality experiences.
They make cool shit.
Once the celebration was over and the caterers had absconded with the all of leftovers, Andreas was good enough to spend a few minutes with me, talking about his company, his family and the notion of legacy. Read the rest
I have questions about this VR ice cream incident. First, where is this taking place? And second, was the ice cream vendor intentionally trying to kill the customer?
Singer-songwriter Chase Holfelder of Raleigh, North Carolina did something cool. He used virtual reality to perform a cover of Jamiroquai's 1996 hit "Virtual Insanity." With an HTC Vive rig, he made all the sounds and instruments needed to play the song.
He explains how he did it in this behind-the-scenes video:
Oculus Rift headset users were unceremoniously dumped out of virtual worlds and back into the real one, yesterday, and it was all because of an "expired certificate". The workaround, until they fixed it: setting the clock back.
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Rift is back online as of ~12am. This was a mistake on our end, and we apologize. Folks impacted by today's downtime will be provided with an Oculus store credit. More details to follow soon. Thanks again for everyone's patience as we worked through this one.
This Ready Player One fan, who wasn't an admirer of virtual reality, test drives the Seattle-based Haptx haptic glove. The experience converts him into a VR "believer." The Haptx glove isn't yet on the market, but according to their press release, will be available to "select customers" this year. Read the rest
In Elders React to VRChat, a group of senior citizens put on their VR headsets and explored the online social space of VRChat for the very first time. There are some amusing moments when other players say inappropriate things to them but, overall, they liked the experience.
I think Libby nails it on the head when she said, "This is really good for people who don't want to go out and socialize. 'cause they can socialize in their own space." Read the rest
Players in VRChat were surprised to see another gamer experiencing an apparent seizure in-game. The video of the incident, uploaded by YouTuber Rogue Shadow VR, is rather surreal. You see a red robot writing around on the ground, unable to communicate. Soon, the mood changes in the room and all the cartoon-y avatars come to see what is going on. When he does come to, the community, save a few bad eggs, does their best to help and comfort him.
The robot, who goes by the moniker DrunkenUnicyclist, shared with Kotaku:
“I honestly don’t remember a lot of it. I do remember feeling cold all the sudden. After that, I woke up and I was on the floor. I could hear these voices.” DrunkenUnicyclist added that he has had a seizure in the past, when he was five, although he says he doesn’t suffer from epilepsy or any other condition that might have caused this.
Musical theatre student Evan W. Gadda has heard stories about Burning Man but hasn't made the journey himself. He is asthmatic. and because of cerebral palsy, paralyzed and confined to a wheelchair, so making the trip to Black Rock City has been deemed impossible, until now. Through a HTC Vive VR headset, he has been able to attend the desert event virtually.
His response? "Oh my God."
The team at University of Nevada, Reno who created the experience for Gadda, also sent him to Squaw Valley to (virtually) ski, something he hasn't done since he was 15 years old. It brought him to tears.
Here are the two videos he watched:
Thanks, Andie! Read the rest
Erin Haworth of The Smithsonian says:
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Thought you might be interested in Clive Thompson’s latest tech column in the October issue of Smithsonian magazine, which takes a look at virtual reality and how its shocking power was all the buzz once before — about 150 years ago!
Thompson admits he once thought modern day virtual reality might be a fad. He changed his mind about it as he researched the similarities between VR and the stereoscope, a curious illusion discovered in 1838 that used vision and perspective to make the brain assemble two slightly varied images into a three-dimensional view. Thompson now predicts VR is here to stay.
The stereoscope became wildly popular in its day, crossing all cultural and class boundaries, transforming science, inspiring artists and being used as an educational tool. As VR edges into the mainstream, Thompson also takes a look at the various applications of today’s technology as it gets better and cheaper.
Artists are creating experiences in virtual reality, and it's especially exciting to hear that multimedia pioneer Laurie Anderson has entered this space. With Taiwanese new media artist Hsin-Chien Huang, she has created "Chalkroom" (aka "La Camera Insabbiata"), an immersive virtual reality experience that lets its viewers to fly through words and stories.
Prompted by this interview with the Louisiana Museum, Open Culture writes:
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The piece allows viewers the opportunity to travel not only into the space of imagination a story creates, but into the very architecture of story itself—to walk, or rather float, through its passageways as words and letters drift by like tufts of dandelion, stars, or, as Anderson puts it, like snow. “They’re there to define the space and to show you a little bit about what it is,” says the artist in the interview above, “But they’re actually fractured languages, so it’s kind of exploded things.” She explains the “chalkroom” concept as resisting the “perfect, slick and shiny” aesthetic that characterizes most computer-generated images. “It has a certain tactility and made-by-hand kind of thing… this is gritty and drippy and filled with dust and dirt.”
Chalkroom, she says, "is a library of stories, and no one will ever find them all.” It sounds to me, at least, more intriguing than the premise of most video games, but the audience for this piece will be limited, not only to those willing to give it a chance, but to those who can experience the piece firsthand, as it were, by visiting the physical space of one of Anderson’s exhibitions and strapping on the VR goggles.