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What Happens When Artificial Intelligence Can Read Our Emotion in Virtual Reality

By | BLOG
Apple: Animoji

Being surrounded by machines that understand our emotion is one of many ‘what ifs’ that is kind of creepy to even think about. Don’t get surprised. We will get to that future sooner or later owing to technological advances, but how?

How does a machine ‘sense’ our emotion?

At Apple’s September keynote, Apple X for the first time showed off its slick design to the world, and Apple phone lovers couldn’t help but shout “hooray!” with enthusiasm. What caught people’s eyes unexpectedly among others was Animoji, a dozen different animal emojis that mirror users’ facial expressions and that can be shared with others. Animoji seems interesting for sure, but what does it really mean for our communication in a digital world?

Nowadays, an overwhelming amount of human-to-human communications happen every second via different digital platforms, but they are quite often void of the essence of human nature: emotion. To facilitate machine-mediated communication, many tech giants are spending a great deal of time and effort on finding proper sensors that can empower digital machines to interpret our emotion. At least for smartphones, since we take pictures and talk on the phone in a daily basis, it comes naturally to engineers to use a camera (facial recognition) and microphone (virtual assistants―Siri, Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa) to ‘sense’ our emotion.

What about in VR?

Facebook Social VR

Social Virtual Reality (VR) is a new emerging digital platform that offers a virtual space where people with their avatars can interact with others. But how do we add an emotional texture to VR? That gets us to Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Media Lab.

A: circuit board with bluetooth connection B: PPG senor C: GSR Electrode

MIT Media Lab decided to add an extra layer of emotional skin to a virtual avatar. The researchers created an ‘emotional beast’ in VR that changes its appearance responding to a user’s emotional state. In order to detect a user’s emotion in VR, the team integrated a physiological sensing module including electrodes―for galvanic skin response (GSR) data collection―and photoplethysmogram (PPG) sensors ―for heart rate data collection―into the mask of a VR headset. GSR data reflects a user’s emotional arousal, but it is not enough to determine whether a user is aroused positively or negatively. Thus, a PPG sensor―using light to track the rate of blood flow and gauge a user’s anxiety and stress levels (negative arousal)―is needed to complement GSR data. Basically, these selected physiological sensors act as a medium for emotion recognition just as a camera and microphone in smartphones.

The researchers crafted two types of ‘emotional beasts’: fur-based and particle-based.

A fur-based emotional beast

The fur-based ‘emotional beast’ has the ability to contract and grow its fur to visually express the happiness of a user. Based on Lang’s Model, the team evaluated the four emotional states on a scale of 0 to 1. The fur-based beast grows its fur to full length if the evaluated emotion is ‘happy’ whereas the fur stays within the inner skin and thus results in the smooth outer skin if evaluated to be ‘neutral’.

A particle-based emotional beast

The particle-based ‘emotional beast’, on the other hands, takes account of two variables: the brightness and color. On a scale of 0 to 1, the arousal level of a user is estimated. At a high arousal level, the particles illuminate while at a neutral state almost invisible. In a similar manner, a user can express his/her frustration and anger to other avatars by converting the color of the particles from blue to red.

Indeed, MIT Media Lab has crafted visually scintillating artwork. These colorful and vibrant creatures enabled the users to express their emotions in most vivid way possible and thus brought a surface-level experience of VR to an emotional human-to-human interaction (See the video here).

How Can Emotion AI Revolutionize VR?

Yet what’s working behind ‘emotional beast’ is machine learning algorithm. The researchers let the system to learn the physiological data-sets and predict a person’s emotional states. Without this process, GSR and PPG data are just a bunch of numbers that tells us nothing. In fact, any system that detects emotion based on user-provided data absolutely entails machine learning process.

Although the “emotional beast” project has successfully portrayed how emotion detection technology can be used in VR, being able to perform human-to-human communication within VR may become of little interest to us if Artificial Intelligence(AI) comes into play―because VR coupled with Emotion AI will eventually touch every part of our lives and bring up so many ‘what ifs’.

“What if AI can gauge your preference towards all the products you’ve seen in a virtual shopping mall and then suggest a purchase list of the preferred products or even automatically purchase them for you?”

“What if AI can measure the concentration and excitement level of a middle school student listening to a lecture in VR and come up with the customized curriculum specifically for that student?”

“What if…”

These ‘what if’ scenarios of AI reading our emotion will not remain as a creepy pipe-dream anymore.

Reference

  1. Emotional Beasts: Visually Expressing Emotions through Avatars in VR
  2. Apple: Animoji

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Measuring the Power of VR Education: When VR Classroom Needs EEG and Eye-tracking Technology

By | BLOG

Since Mark Zuckerberg opened Facebook’s door for Oculus’ VR technology, there have been a growing trend for the use of VR for business for the last couple of years, including learning.

Image Credit: https://www.digitalbodies.net/vr-ar-education-focus-strategic-vision-implementation/

Recently, Oculus Education announced to support several research institutions including Cornell, MIT, and Yale in order to better understand how VR can have the greatest impact on learning outcomes. In particular, the Oculus Education team sponsors new research that pinpoints and maximizes VR’s educational potential by investigating which properties of VR may have the greatest impact on learning, under which conditions, and in what subject matters and environments across academia, secondary and university-level education, life-long learning, etc.

Image Credit: Yale Center for Health & Learning Games

As a kickoff research, play4REAL, a new lab at Yale’s Center for Health & Learning Games, will develop and test VR games for health education and behavioral intervention used to investigate VR’s ability to influence the perception and experience of peer pressure and development of social norms in adolescents and young adults. MIT will develop, pilot, test, and evaluate a proof-of-concept multiplayer VR experience for high school students to understand the impact of VR in hands-on learning. Cornell’s Virtual Embodiment Lab will measure conceptual understanding, attitudes, and motivation while comparing the effectiveness of learning activities through table-top activities, computer simulations, and immersive, hands-on simulation in VR.

Image Credit: http://www.apps4oculus.com/vr-a-revolution-in-field-of-education/

While statistics on VR in K-12 schools and colleges have yet to be gathered, the steady growth of the market is reflected that education is one of the most exciting use cases for this emerging technology because VR is a useful tool to certainly add a reality to the hard sciences — biology, anatomy, geology and astronomy compared with traditional education. According to Jeremy Bailenson, who heads the VR lab at Stanford University, experiments show that students pay more attention to a lecturer if the lecturer looks them in the eye. While a lecturer can only look at each student one to two percent of the time in a traditional classroom of 50 students, the virtual imagery of the lecturer can increase the virtual reality gaze to any percentage the user want.

Image Credit: 3 Tips to Successfully Create Virtual Field Trips in Your Classroom | The Journal (By Cincy Wallace)

Thanks to VR’s capacity to represent real-life events and situations, there is a growing empirical evidence that VR is a valuable learning tool. However, there are still many issues that need further investigation including studying how its use can improve the intended performance and understanding and finding out ways to reach more effective learning when using this technology. For instance, a student’s engagement level should be measured while wearing a VR headset to help assess the effectiveness of the use of VR. It is because the immersion or engagement offered by VR is critical to its effectiveness.

LooxidVR, All-in-one mobile VR headset embedded with EEG and eye-tracking sensors

Yet, how immersive or engaged is the VR education? This is something that eye-tracking and EEG measurement is involved to quantify the student’s experience without causing distracting or discomfort. Looxid Labs’ all-in-one VR headset embedded with EEG and eye-tracking sensors can be used to record the student’s physiological information and also doesn’t place any cognitive load on the student. With both of these sensors combined, a robust measurement of the level of immersion or engagement that the student is experiencing, and understand how their brain and eyes respond too. Potentially, a collaboration between these innovative VR platform and EEG and eye-tracking technology can be the key to have the greatest impact on VR learning outcomes.

Reference

  1. Oculus Education Partners with Research Institutions to Explore VR’s Impact on Learning Outcomes | Oculus Blog
  2. Effectiveness of Virtual Reality-based Instruction on Students’ Learning Outcomes in K-12 and Higher Education: A meta-analysis
  3. Harvard University will Teach a MOOC in Virtual Reality
  4. Research Study Suggests VR can Have a Huge Impact in the Classroom

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Eye and Brain Analyses Help Stave Off The Dangers of Self-Report

By | BLOG

Have you ever given others the benefit of doubt? If you have, on what grounds? Their facial expression? Their gesture? Their tone?

Limitation of Self-Report

At least for researchers, they usually put their trust in statements and numbers, a self-report survey or questionnaire mostly. Self-report is a classic method of gathering data, but at the same time, it is one of many methodologies that is frequently questioned for its reliability. In fact, there is a quite solid argument for questioning the validity of self-report:

  • Participants are not always truthful

Imagine you are asked to fill out a questionnaire on your drug use, suicidal impulse or sexual tendency. Would you be 100% honest about it?

  • Participants may not necessarily have a high introspective ability

Most people find it difficult to assess their feelings and thinking accurately and thoroughly.

  • Interpretation of rating points varies

Though more insightful than a yes-or-no question, a scale of 0–100 to rate your state of mind, for example, challenges you to “chop” your mental states into exactly 100 pieces and hand in the best representation of yourself. Even worse, everyone “chops” it in different ways.

So what can you do about it then?

More Objective and Quantitative Measures: Physiological Responses

The most desirable solution is to scrutinize every “move” people make that is so subtle to be noticed by an observer as well as the observed. Tracking such subtle “moves”, perhaps seemingly difficult at first sight, is not impossible with the help of physiological measures. In fact, people can hardly control involuntary and spontaneous responses and manipulate their physiological activities at a particular moment. Therefore, compared to self-report method, physiological responses are more objective and quantitative.

There is a variety of physiological indicators that have been frequently employed in research: electromyography (EMG) — electrical activity produced by skeletal muscles; galvanic skin response (GSR) — changes in electrical properties of the skin; electrocardiogram (ECG) — electrical activity of the heart; etc. They can bring about observations and insights that would have been difficult to capture otherwise, making up for the deficiency in the validity of subjective measures.

Clearly seeing the potential in physiological measures, one study decided to opt for electroencephalography (EEG) and eye-tracking techniques to measure cognitive load and compare self-report and physiological methods.

Measuring Cognitive Load: A Comparison of Self-report and Physiological Methods

This study compared three methods — self-report, EEG, and eye tracking — to measure cognitive load in solving puzzles with four different levels of difficulty (intrinsic cognitive load). The participants were instructed to solve four different puzzles with increasing difficulty from Puzzle 1 to Puzzle 4 and be fitted with an eye tracking device and an EEG headset during the experiment. The experiment was sequenced in the following order:

  • The operation span task (working memory capacity — recalling the consonant in between mathematical problems — and spatial visualization — paper-folding test)
  • Participant data survey (demographics, vision issues, prior knowledge, etc.)
  • Practice Puzzles 1, 2, and 3
  • Cognitive Load and Puzzle Self-Efficacy Survey (a 9-point response scale for the difficulty level)
  • Problem-Solving Puzzles 1, 2, 3, and 4, presented in a random order for each participant with Cognitive Load and Puzzle Self-Efficacy Survey in between each puzzle problem.
  • The exit survey
Table 1. Self-report Ratings of Cognitive Load (left) vs. Confusion Matrix for EEG Spectral Features (right)

The study first explored the correlation between the self-report ratings of cognitive load and the difficulty of puzzle (intrinsic cognitive load). As indicated in Table 1, the participants self-reported higher cognitive load on average as the intrinsic cognitive load increased.

Figure 1. The process by which the difficulty level of the puzzles and the self-report difficulty ratings for each puzzle are predicted from physiological data.

How about EEG? Based on the literature in cognitive science indicating that alpha waves decrease and theta waves increase as a task becomes more difficult, the spectral analysis (Figure 1) of EEG was carried out to differentiate the level of tasks. In Table 1, it should be noted that the algorithm did not classify any of Puzzle 1 and 2 samples as Puzzle 4, which shows quite accurate classification for the first two puzzles. Also, EEG analysis predicted the difficulty level of Puzzle 3 with a high accuracy of 71%. However, the algorithm failed to distinguish the difficulty levels of Puzzle 3 and 4 samples for the observed Puzzle 4.

Let’s compare two results. The EEG data appeared to better distinguish between Puzzle 2 and 3 than did the average self-report cognitive load ratings: there is no significant difference in mean self-report cognitive load ratings between Puzzle 2 (5.19) and 3 (5.28) statistically. However, neither of the two successfully distinguished the difficulty levels of Puzzle 3 and 4. Overall, better distinguishing puzzles from one another, the EEG analyses were more accurate in evaluating the participants’ cognitive load than self-reported cognitive load ratings.

A little digression here. You may wonder why eye tracking techniques are not discussed in the result. The study initially hypothesized that, based on the literature, there is increased pupil dilation for a complex task compared to an easy task. However, the experimenters acknowledged in the end that subtle changes in pupil and eye movement data were difficult to detect due to the low sampling rate of the eye tracking device and that cognitive load imposed during a puzzle task fluctuated over its duration so capturing changes at every moment is somewhat unnecessary.

Big Opportunities At Stake

Although the study misses out on the opportunity to explore the potential of eye tracking technology, the study successfully demonstrated that physiological measures can possibly serve as an alternative or, if not, a supplement to self-report measures.

Yes. Self-report method has its shortcoming, but its importance should not be undermined. It is ideal for large sample sizes to observe a trend and is an unobtrusive way of acquiring responses without too much hassle. However, if a research topic demands more objective analysis that is unfathomable through self-report and is confined to a small sample size, then self-report loses its effectiveness. So, it depends on what kind of research it is.

Nonetheless, with respect to evaluating cognitive ability and mental states, physiological method is unparalleled. For instance, in education, teachers can use physiological measurements to assess and improve students’ learning ability. Companies can acquire clients’ authentic feedback and improve on its product and service. Doctors can treat post-traumatic stress disorder patients with comprehensive assessment of recovery. There exists a huge room for application.

On a lighter note, in our Medium, there is a recent post about research in a virtual environment (Virtual Reality: Elevate Your Research From Mediocrity to Greatness). It highlights the advantages of integrating virtual reality into a study. A high ecological validity of virtual reality can feed a lifelike experience that can evoke participants’ genuine reactions such as goosebumps owing to phobia. So, it’s needless to mention the powerful synergy that virtual reality creates with physiological methods. Just something to think about!

(End of Document)

Reference

*For further information, contact us at www.looxidlabs.com.

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Dare To Explore: VR Helps You Conquer Your Fears

By | BLOG
Samsung VR Headsets Help Millennials Overcome Their Fears in Persuasive News Ads, Adweek (By Gabriel Beltrone)

What are you afraid of? We all like to think we’re unique, but when it comes to our fears, there are the most common fears people hold. According to the study published in the journal Psychological Medicine, birds, insects and other animals topped the list of common fears in an enormous survey of 43,093 US adults, followed by mountains, tall buildings, bridges and other heights. Some fears are just universal and innate as a response to potential threat of dangers such as a frightening experience of storms, thunder, and lightning. However, other extreme or irrational fears to objects or situations known as phobias trigger entirely different reactions including rapid heart beats, the sweats, trembling and chest pain. Since phobias have no evolutionary purpose to avoid dangers, the phobias are considered as a sort of mental illness, subtypes of anxiety disorder.

Two out of every 100 people have five fears or more. (Illustration: Mona Chalabi)

For phobias, facing a specific fear in a gradual and consistent manner is the most effective and common treatment, called exposure therapy. As Mark Zuckerberg bought Oculus Rift for $2 billion in March 2014, VR environments is on the verge of treating phobias by placing the patients in a virtual world where they experience specific fears including heights, elevators, thunderstorms, public speaking and flying with a promise of greater immersion and more realism. According to Chris Brewin, a professor of clinical psychology at University College London, the potential of VR to treat phobias and fears is huge. In VR exposure therapy, patients are placed in a computer-generated three-dimensional virtual world and guided through the selected environment. Unlike the real environment in the standard exposure therapy, the virtual environments allows the therapist ultimate control over each patient for the perfect simulation.

We have seen the future: Keanu Reeves in The Matrix Reloaded. (Photograph: Allstar/ Warner Bros/ Sportsphoto Ltd)

Samsung’s ‘Be Fearless’ Gear VR campaign is one of the most impressive use cases that helped people face their fears of heights and public speaking and overcome them. In the campaign, Samsung gave 27 people the chance to participate in a four-week training program delivered with Gear VR before offering the chance to face their fear in real life. The participants were taken through virtual scenarios from travelling upwards in an transparent elevator to heli-skiing. Before advancing to the different levels of difficulty, they had to pass a scientific evaluation such as heart rate, eye movement, and self assessment of anxiety levels. According to Samsung, this training helped 87.5% of the group afraid of heights reduce their anxiety level by 23.6%.

https://medium.com/media/ad96a2dbc91c56356456d54766ace50a/href

Although clinical use of VR is in its infancy, VR therapy has slowly but surely made its way to the US shores for years, specifically to treat veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. Findings of a study published in Advances in Integrative Medicine reported that VR therapy significantly reduces in severity of PTSD symptoms and result in rapid extinction . The findings also suggested combining VR and EEG biofeedback as a potential treatment of stress-related disorders. It is because real-time neurophysiological data such as serum cortisol levels, heart rate variability and mid-frontal alpha EEG asymmetry may provide useful inputs for adjusting VR exposure therapy protocols to enhance stress resilience or accelerate treatment response.

Big Idea of 2015: Healing with Virtual Reality, PBS. org (by Allison Eck)

A little bit of fear is normal and sometimes useful, but phobias can interfere with an individual’s ability to lead a normal life. Is fear holding you back? Let VR and EEG biofeedback train you and overcome your phobias.

Reference

  1. Halloween scare: what are the most common phobias?

2. Our Most Common Fears

3. Can virtual reality cure phobias?

4. Samsung’s ‘Be Fearless’ Gear VR campaign combats fear of heights

5. Virtual Reality Therapy for PTSD in the military

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가상의 경험을 현실과 유사하게 몰입해 체험하는 가상현실(VR) 연구를…

By | NEWS

가상의 경험을 현실과 유사하게 몰입해 체험하는 가상현실(VR) 연구를 상상해 보셨나요?

기존에 VR은 주로 엔터테인먼트 분야(게임, 영화 등)의 큰 화두였는데요. 최근에는 VR 환경에서 진행된 여러 연구 논문들이 저명한 국제학술지에 실리면서 VR 연구가 집중적인 조명을 받고 있습니다.

현실에서는 발견하기 힘든 인간의 심리, 인지, 행동에 대한 통찰력을 제공하는 연구부터 가상 상황을 통해 심리적 불안감, 공포감, 외상 후 스트레스 등의 심리, 감정 장애를 더욱 효과적으로 치료한 연구까지 향후 연구 분야에서 VR의 무궁무진한 활용 가능성이 주목받고 있습니다.

평범한 연구도 위대하게 만들어주는 VR 연구, 그 한계는 어디까지 일까요?

룩시드랩스의 Medium 글에서 지금 바로 확인하세요!

https://medium.com/@looxid.labs/virtual-reality-elevate-your-research-from-mediocrity-to-greatness-eb59852b72be


“You open your eyes and find out the electricity in the building has been cut off. Then, you hear an emergency evacuation message over the…

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Virtual Reality: Elevate Your Research from Mediocrity to Greatness

By | BLOG

“You open your eyes and find out the electricity in the building has been cut off. Then, you hear an emergency evacuation message over the public address system: ‘Fire has broken out. Please evacuate the building immediately.’ While the sound of the emergency alarm keeps ringing in your ears, you follow the emergency signs to exit the building. You keep coughing and barely see what is going on beyond the smoke. After a while, you finally see the exit but encounter an injured person, trapped under a huge cabinet, asking for your help. Facing an agonizing dilemma, you feel light-headed and hear your heart pounding.”

Patil, Indrajeet, “Neuroanatomical Basis of Concern-Based Altruism in Virtual Environment”, 2017

What would you do? Risk your own life to rescue the person or continue on your way pretending not to have seen anything?

Profound Insights into Human Nature

What you just experienced through the text is the virtual-environment-based scenario constructed by a team of neuroscientists in Italy to study costly altruism which entails helping others at a cost to self.

Prior work in this field suggests that empathic concern (EC), a feeling of compassion or sympathy towards someone in need, is a primary motivation that drives costly altruism. However, existing research fails to effectively evoke self-relevance and underscore the “costly” aspect of altruism. This team of neuroscientists verifies that virtual reality (VR) with contextually abundant settings possesses a high degree of ecological validity and thus can significantly improve upon extant research.

In the aforementioned virtual environment, by pressing a button 150 times, each participant is able to move away the cabinet and rescue the avatar, one of the four computer-controlled avatars that is said to be controlled by another participant in another place and that each participant previously interacted with in a virtual room before the fire breaks out. In the debriefing session, none of the participants reported that they doubted the fact that the avatars are controlled by computer, manifesting that EC is effectively triggered even in a virtual world.

Not only have the experimenters been able to construct a dilemmatic frame with high ecological validity, but also they have been able to elicit more original and visceral responses by imbuing a sense of presence via VR; the results show that the participants were less likely to demonstrate costly altruism in a virtual setting (65%) than in a hypothetical text-based scenario (91%).

As in this research, VR can provide a mediated yet immersive environment to offer profound insights into human study such as Psychology, Cognitive Neuroscience and Behavioral Science. Even more life-changing innovation that VR brings into research is its ability to alter behavior and cognition of an individual.

Cognitive and Behavioral Transformation

In University College London, an interesting psychological research on overcoming excessive self-criticism was conducted in VR. In this experiment, the research team recruited female participants with excessive self-criticism. To begin with, each female participant is instructed to wear a head-tracked head-mounted display and a body-tracking suit so that her virtual body is spatially coincides with her real body. The VR session of the experiment is composed of four stages.

Falconer, Caroline J., “Embodying Compassion: A Virtual Reality Paradigm for Overcoming Excessive Self-Criticism”, 2014

The first stage (Image A) allows each participant to get accustomed to the virtual environment and her virtual body by making gestures, looking around surroundings, and looking at her own avatar in the mirror — all of which are designed to intensify a sense of embodiment.

When each participant enters the second stage, she sees, from the first person perspective of her own avatar, a seated child avatar crying into its hands (Image B). Then, she is instructed to deliver compassionate comments to soothe the crying child. While she calms down the child, the child is programmed to respond accordingly in different stages, from crying into its hands to sitting upright and elevating its head. All the movements and voice coming from each participant are recorded during this stage.

For the third stage, each participant goes through a perspective change: one group experiences the first person perspective (1PP) of the child avatar (Image C) and another group experiences the third person perspective (3PP) facing both her own avatar and the child avatar at a 1-meter distance apart (Image D). Then, each participant is given some time to assimilate to a new perspective.

At the last stage, each participant experiences a real-time replay of her compassion, which she delivered to the child at the second stage, from the child’s perspective (1PP) or from the observer’s perspective (3PP) depending on her group.

It is a seemingly rather complicated experiment, but the result offers some key takeaways for excessive self-criticism. Mere observation and practice of delivering compassionate comments reduced self-criticism, and the additional experience of receiving the compassion and care from one’s own self from the child avatar’s perspective (1PP) boosted more self-compassion and feelings of being safe than when one experienced it from the observer’s perspective (3PP). These key takeaways imply an unlimited potential of VR for treating and studying not only psychological disorders such as phobias and PTSD but also clinically-relevant emotions other than fear and anxiety.

A Bright Future Ahead

Over the last few years, VR industry has put its best foot forward to ramp up VR applications. VR companies have rolled out some decent consumer products — Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, Samsung Gear VR, Google Daydream — and have generated enthusiasm among VR adherents. Due to their efforts and advocacy, the concept of VR, which has been considered a distant future, has come to the fore for the public.

Nevertheless, despite of VR hype, VR has been only perceived as a new digital entertainment platform for movies and games. It is not until very recently that VR has received huge attention from many researchers in a variety of fields — a plethora of research and studies leveraging virtual environment have been published and numerous academic conferences have spotlighted VR as the next big milestone. In fact, utilizing VR technology, researchers can design more engaging experiments to obtain new insights into the human body and mind and transform human cognition and behavior to enhance the lives of people. Yes, by all means, VR can render a greater breadth and depth to your research. So what are you waiting for? Embrace VR. Join the bright future ahead.

(End of Doc.)

Reference

Patil, Indrajeet, et al. “Neuroanatomical Basis of Concern-Based Altruism in Virtual Environment.” Neuropsychologia, 2017, doi:10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2017.02.015.

Falconer, Caroline J., et al. “Embodying Compassion: A Virtual Reality Paradigm for Overcoming Excessive Self-Criticism.” PLoS ONE, vol. 9, no. 11, Dec. 2014, doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0111933.

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Crack the Shell of Oculus VR Headset Line-up: How Oculus is Preparing to Democratize the Virtual…

By | BLOG

Crack the Shell of Oculus VR Headset Line-up: How Oculus is Preparing to Democratize the Virtual Reality Market

At Facebook’s Oculus Connect 4, Oculus VR’s annual conference, Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced Oculus Go, $199 all-in-one untethered VR headset. Now, VR is poised to enter the mainstream with the roll-out of this attractively priced VR headset.

Introduction to VR Landscape: VR Companies’ Big Betting for Standalone Headsets

In the VR landscape, Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, both debuted in 2016, have been old enemies in successfully delivering completely absorbing VR experience. While the high-end VR industry faced obstacles on its journey to going mainstream, the phone-based VR like Samsung’s Gear VR and Google’s Daydream have been widely adopted thanks to their much lower prices. In particular, as Google rolled out to expand its Daydream VR platform to be available on Samsung Galaxy S8 and Note8 beyond niche Android phones, Google ecosystem has become emerging threats to Samsung’s Gear VR powered by Facebook-owned Oculus.

by David Jagneaux (Google Daydream Support Arrives For Samsung Galaxy S8 And S8+) / UploadVR

Since buying a mobile VR headset such as $79 Daydream View and $129 GearVR isn’t a huge investment, entry barriers to buy one of them are very low. However, these mobile VR headsets are less comfortable than PC-based high-end devices — Oculus Rift and HTC Vive — because of the pressure from the weight of an entire smartphone on the front part of the user’s face as well as less sophisticated technical completion they offer. In the midst of growing competition for being the market leader in VR, the idea of a standalone VR headset is a great big pie that will only grow larger for fans of VR. Intel was the first to kick off its Project Alloy for an all-in-one merged reality solution although the project was killed earlier this year. Also, Google announced that it would offer a new standalone VR headset in concurrence with HTC Vive and Lenovo at Google I/O conference. Last but not least, recently, at Facebook’s Oculus Connect 4, Oculus VR’s annual developer conference, Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced Oculus Go, $199 all-in-one untethered VR headset as well.

by Sean Buckley/CNET

Moving into a New Phase of Ascension: Loosen the Belt of Partnership?

As Samsung, Oculus’ major ally that has successfully promoted the Gear VR far better than Oculus, recently joined to support Google’s Daydream view, the strong relationship between Oculus and Samsung moved into a new phase. Firstly, Oculus doubled its VR hardware lineup by adding two new headsets — a full motion tracking wireless headset codenamed Santa Cruz and Oculus Go featuring built-in display and electronics. Thanks to its four different lineup — Gear VR, Go, Santa Cruz, and Rift, in case Samsung discontinues to produce GearVR and fully supports Daydream, Oculus would still have its own mobile VR headset category to support its developer ecosystem.

The new Oculus VR lineup (Sean Hollister/CNET)

As a sign of Samsung’s ambition to directly compete with the Rift for hardware sales, Samsung recently introduced its premium Odyssey VR headset which will run on the Windows 10 platform. Samsung’s Odyssey will be a flagship headset for Microsoft’s mixed reality platform and spur Microsoft on a strong brand power along with Oculus and Google in the VR landscape. However, Oculus officially mentions that its relationship with Samsung is stronger than ever. Oculus even provides its’ biggest VR platform update called Rift Core 2.0 to Gear VR headset right from the word go, which will bring new VR experience with Dash, enabling existing menus and UI in the dashboard for multi-tasking to be more magical just like in Minority Report. In addition, not only did Facebook’s VR chief Hugo Barra say that Oculus Go and Santa Cruz are not supposed to replace the Rift and GearVR, but also Oculus CTO John Carmack consistently praised Samsung about its ability to distribute Gear VR to a wide range of customers.

Microsoft Official Image

Oculus is Preparing to Democratize the Virtual Reality Market

VR is a platform that may change the life of billions of people, but the current VR user base is certainly too small to survive the hype cycle. Even if a VR game is released for several different VR headsets such as Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, and PlayStation VR, it’s difficult to be profitable. That’s why Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who believes VR is the next big thing, declared Facebook’s mission to get a billion people into virtual reality. As a first step, Mark Zuckerberg announced competitive pricing for its existing high-end hardware Oculus Rift and Touch controller bundle at $399, much cheaper compared to $599 HTC’s Vive. Furthermore, $199 Oculus Go will fill the “sweet spot” between expensive, high-end Oculus Rift and cheap, lightweight Gear VR. Oculus is also building the next generation of a standalone higher-end hardware Santa Cruz, a lot like wireless Rift. At Oculus Connect 4, Oculus CTO Carmack hinted that Oculus Go and the Santa Cruz will converge eventually.

Oculus Connect 4 | Day 2 Keynote: CTO John Carmack

HTC Vive is hot on the trail of Oculus by officially unveiling its standalone VR headset powered by Google Daydream at the Vive developer conference on November 14 as well. The announcement will come after the release of Oculus Go. We’re expecting the technical maturity of those standalone VR headsets and looking forward to seeing how these can change the VR market landscape. For now, it is still unclear how long it will take to get a billion people into VR and whom we shall bet on to win this horse racing. Yet, here is what we can definitely bet on: this sort of hard work by not only Oculus but also other competitors such as HTC Vive with Google Daydream will bring VR into the real world and democratize the VR market in the near future.

(End of Doc.)

HTC VIVE standalone VR headset concept image

Reference

Oculus Connect 4 | Day 1 & Day 2 Keynote (by Oculus)

Why is Oculus making four different VR headsets? (by Adi Robertson / The Verge)

With Facebook’s money, Oculus is fending off old enemies, former friends, and new foes (by Ben Lang / Road To VR)

Oculus’ standalone headsets point to a changing VR landscape (by Nicole Lee / Engadget)

Why this bulky standalone headset from Oculus is the future of VR (by Daniel Terdiman / Fast Company)

The VR price war is on : Facebook unveils $199 Oculus Go standalone headset (by Robert Hof / SiliconAngle)

HTC, Qualcomm to roll out standalone VR headset, but it’ll be available only in China (By Carl Velasco / Tech Times)

Samsung Odyssey is the Premium Windows VR Headset with Leading Specs, Integrated Audio (By Ben Lang / Road To VR)

Oculus’ prototype Santa Cruz headset feels like a wireless Oculus Rift (By Adi Robertson / The Verge)

Report: HTC to unveil standalone VR headset at Vive developer conference in November (By Scott Hayden / Road To VR)

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