Elders check out VRChat for the first time

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

Gamers witness VRChat player having a real-life seizure and aren't sure what to do

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.

(reddit) Read the rest

Watch a mathematician explore non-euclidian geometry with a VR headset

Mathematician Henry Sagerman and colleagues developed a cool way to observe non-euclidian geometry from a new vantage point: inside the geometry itself via virtual reality. Read the rest

Paralyzed student experiences Burning Man through VR

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

The stereoscope was the virtual reality of 1838

Erin Haworth of The Smithsonian says:

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.

Read the rest

Laurie Anderson's VR experience 'Chalkroom' allows you to fly through stories

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:

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.

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The making of first hand-drawn VR cartoon

Even after a 25-year animation career, I can still remember the exact moment that I decided to become a professional animator: It was at an all-night movie marathon of Ralph Bakshi films. While watching Bakshi’s Heavy Traffic (his 2nd feature release, but his first true auteur film) I was thunderstruck by its gritty honesty. The film served up top-quality character animation supporting a fiercely street-level aesthetic. To an impressionable teenaged animation fan raised solely on a diet of classic Disney features, this film was a revelation. Here were characters as richly textured as any of the street smart hustlers inhabiting the stories of Taxi Driver or Midnight Cowboy. I was elated! I now had a vision that it was possible to create “underground” animation in the vein of R. Crumb and so many of my underground comix heroes. I decided that night to move to L.A. and fashion a career in the animation business.

I did eventually move to Hollywood, where I got trained in classic animation techniques by Disney old-timers. I used those precious lessons to great success in the era of burgeoning digital animation in the 1990s and beyond. I was there the FIRST time VR stuttered to life in the mid 90s, only to have its plug pulled for lack of technical viability. Fast-forward past 24k-baud modems, the first PDAs, internet 1.0, handheld gaming systems, theme park rides -- I have created content for all of them. But I have never been as creatively (or technically) challenged as when I set about trying to create the first completely hand-drawn VR cartoon. Read the rest

Scary 360-degree video of a house fire

The New Zealand Fire Service put together a terrifying interactive website showing how quickly a house fire spreads. They hung some clothes too close to a heater, and within a minute, the entire room was an inferno. Scroll up the ceiling for a sense of how intense it gets. Read the rest

Watch how NASA trains astronauts with VR

NASA has always been an early adopter of technology like virtual and augmented reality for training. Here's a cool glimpse into how they train future ISS and landing party astronauts. Read the rest

Woman turned her prenatal ultrasounds into a VR experience

Samuli Cantell had the interesting idea of importing her ultrasound data into a 3D modeling program to create a VR experience: Read the rest

Blortasia: an abstract art world in the sky

My friend Kevin Mack (who did the Special Effects for Fight Club and many other movies) created a VR art experience called Blortasia for the HTC Vive. Here's a preview.

​Fly freely through a surreal maze of evolving sculptures. Take a break from reality and explore an animated psychedelic sculpture park. Wander through the labyrinth, soar across the open space, or just hang out and let the mesmerizing ever-changing sculptures provide a rejuvenating refuge for your mind. Blortasia combines art and flying in virtual reality.

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Hugo Gernsback's 1963 television eyeglasses anticipated virtual reality

This oft-seen wonderfully weird photo depicts Hugo Gernsback wearing his "teleyeglasses" in 1963. Gersnback, an inventor of such innovations as a combination electric hair brush/comb and a battery-powered handheld illuminated mirror, is best known to science fiction fans as the founder of Amazing Stories magazine! Gernsback coined the term "science fiction" and the Hugo Awards are named in his honor. But back to the history of his teleyeglasses, as discussed in IEEE Spectrum:

A Life magazine profile of Gernsback in July 1963, when he was 78, described his “teleyeglasses”:

He now invents only in broad outline, leaving the actual mechanics of the thing to others. His television eyeglasses—a device for which he feels millions yearn—constitute a case in point. When the idea for this handy, pocket-size portable TV set occurred to him in 1936, he was forced to dismiss it as impractical. But a few weeks ago, feeling that the electronics industry was catching up with his New Deal-era concepts, he orders some of his employees to build a mock-up.

The teleyeglasses weighed about 140 grams and were built around small cathode-ray tubes that ran on low-voltage current from tiny batteries. (The user faced no danger of being electrocuted, Gernsback promised.) Because there was a separate screen for each eye, it could display stereoscopic images—much like today’s 3D virtual-reality glasses. Noting the massive V-type antenna protruding from the teleyeglasses, Life described the effect as “neo-Martian.”

"The Man Who Invented VR Goggles 50 Years Too Soon" (IEEE Spectrum) Read the rest

Google Earth now available in VR

A virtual reality version of Google Earth is now available on Steam for the HTC Vive. Viewers can walk around, or fly, or browse any number of recorded locations. Read the rest

Chimpanzee enjoys virtual reality

Surviga seems to like the world inside a HTC's Vive virtual reality headset. Read the rest

Atari founder Nolan Bushnell's new virtual reality startup

Modal VR, the new stealth startup co-founded by Atari and Chuck E. Cheese creator, has opened the doors a crack. According to Bushnell, their portable VR system is built for business applications (even though the demo video shows, you guessed it, a game). “We want to help enterprises solve problems by looking at them from another point of view," Bushnell said.

“For those of us who grew up on “Star Trek,” the holodeck has always been the gold standard," he said. “Modal VR is the first time that I believe we actually have the holodeck.”

"Nolan Bushnell’s Modal VR launches next-generation virtual reality platform for enterprises" (VentureBeat)

"Nolan Bushnell Says His New Virtual Reality Startup Has the Keys to the Holodeck—and it’s Portable" (IEEE Spectrum)

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Evolution of Verse is a poetic VR experience

Even if you don't have a VR headset, Chris Milk's Evolution of Verse hints beautifully at the future of immersive entertainment. Go fullscreen, don headphones, and get close! Read the rest

The first VR film to be directed by an Indigenous person in North America

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