The XR Week Peek (2021.10.11): Lynx succeds on Kickstarter, Lone Echo 2 is finally launching, and more!

Let’s start this roundup with a roundup of news about me, that this October I’m doing so many things!

Ok, after these pieces of news you probably didn’t care about at all (but let me believe you did), let’s start with the actual roundup of the best AR and VR news of the past week!

Top news of the week

(Image by Lynx)

Lynx successfully launches its Kickstarter campaign

French startup Lynx has finally launched the Kickstarter campaign for its mixed reality R1 headset, and as we all expected, it has been a huge success, crushing its goal in a single day.
 
Lynx R1 is one of the most interesting products to come this year because it is the first standalone headset focusing primarily on passthrough AR, thanks to high-resolution RGB front cameras. It also has a lens design that is unique in its field, and hands tracking as its primary interaction means. It is so a headset that is completely different from the others: while all standalone headsets are currently all copies of the Quest 2 or Nreal Light, Lynx tries to compete offering something completely different. Of course, we have to see how it will be because we currently have no reviews about it, but for sure it looks interesting.
 
As for the specifications, this is the list of the main ones:

  • 1600×1600 @90Hz per eye, with ultra-low-latency Color Passthrough for Augmented Reality
  • Qualcomm XR2 chipset with 6GB of RAM and 128GB internal storage
  • 6DoF, Hand-tracking
  • Wifi 6 and Bluetooth 5
  • PCVR compatible with SteamVR over Wifi
  • SD card slot for up to 1TB of external storage
  • Stereo speakers, 4 microphone array, and a 3.5mm Jack TRRS
  • Eye Relief: 13mm, Eye-Box: 11mm

The price to get a headset is $500 for the standard model, $700 for the transparent special edition, and $900 for the business edition with enterprise licensing. All the prices are without VAT. If you are a European customer, this means that the actual prices are: €530, €745, and €950. This price is ridiculously low: it is less than what a nreal glass costs, a lot less of a HoloLens 2 and perfectly in line also with the prices of VR headsets like Oculus Quest 2 and Pico Neo 3. The only problem is content: being a new product, Lynx R1 has not enough experiences in its store, so it can’t compete with Quest 2 in the consumer market, as someone hoped, but it can for sure compete with all the above headsets in the developers, prosumers, and enterprise markets.
 
I suggest you head to the Lynx campaign and give this interesting headset a look! If you order it now, you can expect to have it by April 2022, but we all know that Kickstarter campaigns have often delays, so I would bet on something around June-July next year.

More info (Lynx R1 launch on Road To VR)
More info (Lynx R1 launch on Upload VR)
More info (Lynx Kickstarter campaign)

Other relevant news

(Image by Ready At Dawn)

LONE ECHO 2 IS LAUNCHING

It’s happening. We trained for this for years, and now it’s the moment. Don’t panic. Relax. LONE ECHO 2 IS LAUNCHING TOMORROW.
 
October, 12th won’t be remembered in history books only as the day America was discovered by Columbus (that was Italian, of course, :D), but also as the day that Lone Echo 2 launched. The game was announced in 2018, and then it became a mystery bigger than Half-Life 3. It was delayed so many times that I thought I could die before seeing it launched. It was the last one carrying the flag of PCVR games, even if now PCVR has been banned inside Facebook and they just call it “P-word”. It was the Duke-Nukem 3D of VR. And now it is coming. History is being made tomorrow, and we’ll be part of it.
 
Lone Echo 2 will be available for Rift S (yeah, the forgotten headset) and Quest + Link from October, 12th for $40 as an exclusive Oculus release. It will be the last PCVR exclusive title from Facebook, which now is focusing only on Quest. And I wonder if Facebook will try to port it to Quest 2 or at least Quest 2 Pro in the future, as it has done with Medal Of Honor. Maybe the long delay was given also by the fact that they verified a possible Quest port? I don’t know, what is important is that this game, that is the sequel of one of the best PCVR games ever, is coming tomorrow, and I think you should definitely check it out.

More info (Lone Echo 2 on Road To VR)
More info (Lone Echo 2 on Upload VR)
More info (Facebook talks about the evolution from Lone Echo 1 to Lone Echo 2)

HTC is probably going to announce a new standalone headset this week

We all know that HTC is hosting an event inside the social VR platform ENGAGE and that it is going to announce a new product. According to the rumors, it will be called Vive Flow and it is a hardware product.
 
Speculations from Road To VR based on FCC filings seem to point to the fact that it will be a new standalone headset. In this case, all the pictures that we have seen until this day could refer to the case that contains the standalone device. Many journalists speculate that this new Vive Flow is the actual realization of the Vive Proton headset that HTC teased many months ago, and that looked like a quite lightweight device, with a cable probably connected to a phone or a computer.
 
Youtuber Brad Lynch has also published a patent filed by HTC on Twitter, and it refers to a pair of “big glasses”: that could be the real shape of the Vive Flow. Maybe.
 
All the hints seem to confirm that this will be a lightweight headset of some kind. But it is not public info what they exactly do: are they AR or VR? Are they connected to a phone or a standalone?
 
To discover it, I guess you have to wait until the 14th when there will be HTC’s event…

More info (Vive Flow may be a standalone headset)
More info (HTC patent hinting to a possible design of Vive Flow)
More info (Event registration link)

Facebook rebrands Horizon and offers grants to creators

Facebook Horizon is the new social VR world that Facebook is promising for two years, hoping to finally be able to compete with successful social VR worlds like Rec Room and VRChat. And now it seems to be closer to launch.
 
Facebook has just rebranded it “Horizon Worlds”, removing altogether the Facebook name from it. It is weird that Facebook is the only company that tries to hide its name from all its product: its recently launched smartglasses carry the Ray-Ban brand, too. I guess its executives realize that the continuous issues and scandals are not a good publicity for its products.
 
Horizon Worlds will let everyone easily create his/her world. The experience features a world editor that has been reported to be very easy to use, and that lets you shape your environment using basic geometric shapes and a scripting language (that can be visually implemented through blocks) to add some interactions. According to the first users, this is one of the best features of this new social world.
 
Facebook knows that to retain its users it needs a very rich social environment, and to do that, it needs many worlds built by creators. That’s why to entice creators in starting building their own experiences within Horizon, it has just kickstarted a $10M fund. Creators will be given money to build words, but it won’t be given randomly, but only to worlds following these three possible principles:

  • Worlds that participate in some contests organized by Facebook, and whose creators that get to the first three places can get up to $10K
  • Worlds that are made by creators from diverse backgrounds (I guess afro-Americans, Asians, disabled people, LGBTQ+, …)
  • Worlds that are created around some themes that Facebook periodically defines. Creators can contact Facebook to find an agreement about getting funds for this kind of worlds.

I think this is a smart move by Facebook: it knows that to compete with RecRoom or VRChat it must have a rich ecosystem, and money is a great way to attract creators. And it is doing a good job in general in populating Horizon: according to Charlie Fink, the world is much richer now than it was months ago when he tried the social VR space for the first time.
 
As someone that shapes virtual events in VRChat, it seems to me that Facebook is currently aiming at kids or teenagers with Horizon. The graphics are very similar to Rec Room and very cartoonish: Rec Room itself is in fact full of children (all Quest owners complain about that). The strong control on the behavior of Horizon users that Facebook announced some months ago is also very coherent with this choice of having a safe environment for kids. It seems a good Rec Room clone, powered by all the huge Facebook backend.
 
I don’t think the average VRChat user will ever want to move to this platform: first of all, the world’s creation tools are overly simplistic, while we on VRChat can use the full power of Unity. Horizon has just announced it has dropped Unity support, so the only way to create content is using a set of monochrome basic geometric shapes that can have basic interactions… something that is absolutely subpar if compared to what is possible to do in VRChat nowadays. Then I don’t think that the furry or lap dance communities in VRChat will ever want to be active in a place with strong Facebook curation and with Facebook’s behaviour policies.
 
I am not saying that this is a good or bad choice, I am just saying that this is what it seems to me that Facebook is aiming for: Horizon Worlds could position itself as a Roblox and Rec Room competitor. And it also already teased possible future features like an internal creators’ economy.
 
As for the launch date, nothing has been revealed. Facebook claims that for the rest of 2021 they will keep adding people to its beta program, so I guess it won’t have a public release this year. I bet that it will be formally announced at Facebook Connect 2 together with the Quest 2 Pro, which featuring face tracking is the perfect hardware for this experience… and that the two products will be launched together next year.

More info (Facebook Horizon rebranded and grant set up)
More info (Unity support dropped in Horizon)
More info (Charlie Fink visiting Horizon Worlds)

News worth a mention

(Image by Varjo)

Varjo teases an upcoming announcement

Finnish company Varjo is teasing an upcoming announcement for October, 21st defining it as the “most anticipated product reveal”. We don’t know what it is talking about, but I would speculate it is a high-end headset for prosumers, probably priced around $1000-$1500, to compete with Valve Index. Considering that Varjo is a very respected brand, I’m very curious to know what they have up their sleeve.

More info

Facebook is having big troubles lately

This is not a happy period for Facebook, and in the last days, two pieces of news have hurt its reputation (again).
 
Some days ago we have all been victims of the down status of all Facebook services, including the ones managing Oculus headsets. Many people complained about the situation, and some journalists asked how can Facebook manage the M-word (yeah, the metav… :P), if it can have such huge reliability problems. Not to be Facebook’s advocate, but all major services indeed have a crash once in a while, so I guess we’ll have shortages whatever company will manage the M-word.
 
Recently Facebook is also under attack after a previous employee has exposed the fact that Facebook has internal documents that prove that its social services are impacting negatively certain people in our society, but it is doing nothing (or very little) to solve this, while only focusing on maximizing its revenues.
 
But nevermind, we’ll forget all of this when the new shiny Oculus Quest 2 Pro will be announced!

More info (Facebook down)
More info (Facebook whistleblower)

Blippar launches “free” WebAR SDK

After having reborn from its ashes, Blippar is trying to make a dent again in the AR field. The company is now investing heavily in WebXR, and it has just released a new WebAR SDK for all developers to use to create AR experiences that can be accessed with just a web link. The SDK is currently in beta, and it will be free to use until its official release.

More info

Chip shortage may end in 2022–2023

According to AMD, the chip shortage is going to last until next year, but it should end in the second half of it. This is coherent to what also Intel CEO has told the press: it seems that in the remaining months of 2021 the situation should still be bad, but then it should start getting always better, until it gets solved in 2023.
 
(Thanks Rob for the tip)

More info (AMD claims on chip shortages) More info (Intel claims on chip shortages)

Research in mediated reality continues

You know that I am a huge fan of mediated reality, that technology that not only can add virtual elements to real ones, but that can also modify how you perceive the real elements themselves. This week I have been able to see the video of the amazing research that has been carried on that lets you see with your smartphone a road in front of you, but in your visuals, the cars get removed and get substituted by virtual elements. It is pretty rough and not real-time (7–15FPS is the current framerate), but it has mindblowing potential.
 
Notice that such a feature can only be implemented with passthrough AR, and this is why I am so excited about the Lynx…

More info

Learn about the best headsets for LBEVR

Aaron Pulkka has written a very long and detailed article on what are the most used XR headsets in LBEVR (Location-Based Entertainment in VR), and what are their pros and cons. If you work in that sector, I suggest you give it a look.

More info

Canon announces 180 VR stereo lens

Canon has just announced a professional stereo lens to attach to its EOS R5 camera to shoot 180 VR videos. The product has impressive specifications, and it also comes with a series of facilities to easily edit the videos shot with it. The price is also very professional oriented: the lens costs $2000, with the camera costing $4000.
 
Many people in the community asked what is the need for this device if 180 VR videos have never taken off. Well, I can assure you that there is a special sector where this kind of videos is very popular…

More info

Wildman’s CEO was dead, but now it is not anymore

The WTF news of the week regards Wildman, the company behind the game Panzer Dragoon VR. A tweet appearing this week from the game’s official account claimed that the game had been canceled because the CEO of the company, Haruto Watanabe, had died. But some time later, actually, the replies to the tweet claimed that Haruto was alive and kicking, and these claims have actually been verified.
 
We will never know how Mr. Watanabe managed to come back from the world of the dead, but we are all pleased by this news and we all wish a bright future to Panzer Dragoon VR.

More info

Be careful about Windows 11 if you are a VR user

Windows 11 has just been launched, and some VR users have already started using it. David Heaney from Upload claims that the update has ruined the performances of Quest + Link or AirLink for him, while other users say that actually, the update has made VR performances better. So be careful when you perform the update, and be ready to roll it back in case it doesn’t work for you.

More info

Some news on content

  • Song in the Smoke has been positively reviewed by both Road To VR and Upload VR
  • VR party game Loco Dojo Unleashed (by my friend Sam Watts and all his team at MakeReal) has been positively reviewed by Upload VR
  • Jurassic World Aftermath Part 2 adds some variation to the gameplay of the saga
  • Tinker Pilot, which lets you pilot a plane with full 1–1 matching between real and virtual plane controls is launching in alpha
  • Jousting VR lets you try jousting in VR (you don’t say)
  • Some Resident Evil fans are not happy that RE4 VR on Quest has some slight changes in the dialogues if compared to the original version
  • Fitness VR game VRWorkout is introducing feet tracking!

More info (Song in the Smoke review on Road To VR)
More info (Song in the Smoke review on Upload VR)
More info (Loco Dojo Unleashed)
More info (Jurassic World Aftermath Part 2)
More info (Tinker Pilot)
More info (Jousting VR)
More info (Resident Evil 4 VR)
More info (VRWorkout)

News from partners (and friends)

NVIDIA is hosting its famous GTC conference, where it will announce all its latest news, on November, 8–11th, online as the last time. As always, I expect some news on hardware, but also updates on software products like Omniverse, or its AI services. If you are interested in it, register following the link here below.
 
But there is more: NVIDIA is offering you readers some codes to follow its online training courses (about deep learning and other topics) free of charge. If you want them, feel free to contact me via e-mail… first come, first served, until they finish!
Learn more (GTC registration)
Learn more (NVIDIA online training)

Puzzle game Rainbox Reactor: Fusion is now available for Oculus Quest for €14.99! If you are into puzzles and color matches, you should definitely check this out.
Learn more

Some XR fun

Of course people made a lot of fun about Facebook going down!
Funny link / 1
Funny link / 2
Funny link / 3

I’m sure Decagear is going to launch soon! Well, sort of
Funny link

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(Header image by Ready At Dawn)


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