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My 10 VR Takeaways from Oculus Connect 2

Last week's Oculus Connect 2 conference was perhaps a pivotal event in the story of virtual reality. It was the last developer conference before the floodgates of consumer VR open next year when three platforms--Oculus, Steam VR, and PlayStation VR--make their way into our homes and offices. In some ways, it felt like Apple's WWDC before the App Store and iOS SDK launched in 2008. Developers and users are on the cusp of a new frontier; there's so much we don't know, but the eagerness and excitement for this new platform is palpable. The lessons of early VR experiences are just starting to compound and fuel a feedback loop that will eventually lay out the foundation for our understanding of what works in virtual reality. There's a whole lot of figuring out to do, which is really exciting.

The emphasis of this year's Oculus Connect wasn't on unveiling new hardware. This Holiday's Samsung Gear VR isn't all that much different from the past models. We didn't see new Rift headsets or controller prototypes--the first consumer release is pretty much set. More interesting were the software demos, both from first and third party devs. These demos show not only the current state of VR gaming and social experiences, but where developers' heads are at in fleshing out new ideas and focusing their efforts for experimentation. Oculus Story Studio, Medium, and the Twitch social experience are the best examples of that, and there are insights to be gleaned from each, even from short demo sessions. As with last year's Connect and our GDC hands-on with the HTC Vive, I'm going to share the takeaways that stood out to me most. If you followed along the announcements at Oculus Connect 2 or attended the conference, I'd love to hear your own takeaways in the comments.

Premium: Norm Test Rides the Tesla Model X

Hey guys! We owe you a bunch of premium videos, and Will and I just filmed our next Week of Build project, with a LEGO with Friends shoot planned for next week. You'll see those on the site starting on the 12th. In the meantime, I've been testing the iPhone 6S Plus, and wanted to share some of the testing with you. Here's a video I shot in 4K and edited completely on the phone, from the Tesla Model X Launch event this past week. Hope you like it!

Live from Dragon*Con! - Episode 19 - 10/2/15
CreatureGeek is back with Season 3! And this one is nothing short of wonderful. Frank and Len do their first live podcast together in the same room from Dragoncon 2015 in Atlanta, GA. This week’s guest is the incredibly talented Roy Wooley. You might know Roy from his double stint on FaceOff. But you should also know Roy for his beautiful designs and incredible makeups on films like The Hunger Games and Halloween 2. You can also see Roy’s work at the high end haunt Netherworld in Atlanta. Listen in as Frank and Len choose the winner from last seasons Smooth-On giveaway. All this and video as well. Thanks for listening and let us know what you think about the show in the comments! A big thanks goes out to Todd Whitehead from Alpha Geek Radio and Brian Dunaway, the podcast coordinator from DragonCon for making this episode happen. Thanks guys!
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Job Simulator: Making VR Games for Oculus Touch and HTC Vive

Since Oculus, SteamVR, and PlayStation VR will each have different tracking capabilities and handheld controllers, how will virtual reality game developers make software that will work across all platforms? We chat with the devs at Owlchemy Labs, whose upcoming Job Simulator game will work on HTC Vive and Oculus Touch. Here's how they see cross-platform VR working, and what they think about each system so far.

The Work of Master Model Builder Greg Jein

Back in the early eighties, a number of magazines dedicated to special effects brought the work of artists into the spotlight. Publications like Cinefex and Cinefantastique helped a number of effects mavens became stars in their own right, like Rick Baker, Dick Smith, and Tom Savini, to name a few. But it wasn't just make-up artists that became well known among film geeks. Greg Jein became a legend in the model building world, thanks to his work on Close Encounters, 1941, The Hunt For Red October, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, and more. Jein is still working steadily as a master model builder in the age of CGI--he was working on the show Black Sails when we reached out to him to talk about his career and current work.

When Rick Baker started creating monsters out of latex, there wasn't the huge effects industry there is today. Jein didn't think of going into the movie industry as a model builder at first, "I just sort of blundered into the business," he told us with a laugh. "I used to watch a lot of war movies as a kid growing up," Jein said. "I still like airplanes. I used to go to a lot of airshows, and I started making some models. What actually got me started was I never had a major in college, so I finally took an art major."

Through friends, Jein heard that Sea World needed some fiberglass props, and he eventually hooked up with an effects company called Cascade. "A lot of this stemmed from the Cascade guys, and the hi-tech commercials like the Pillsbury Dough Boy, the Green Giant…a lot of the Star Wars guys came from that."

Jein then broke into making models for low budget films like Flesh Gordon, and John Carpenter's Dark Star. On Gordon, Jein was getting paid $75 a week, and there were times he didn't get paid at all, but he still had fun working on it, and his work on Dark Star soon brought him to the attention of Douglas Trumbull (2001, Silent Running).

'Sense of Presence' VR Documentary Series

Epic Games, makers of the Unreal Engine 4, are spreading the excitement for virtual reality with a new short documentary series called 'Sense of Presence'. The second episode just debuted, featuring interviews with game developers, Epic Games' own engineers, and Oculus founder Palmer Luckey about what it takes to build virtual spaces.

In Brief: iPhone Camera Improvements Over 9 Generations

Photographer and iOS developer Lisa Bettany (co-founder of Camera+) has been running an ongoing test of the cameras on every generation of iPhone. Every year, she boots up every previous iPhone and runs them through a series of photo tests to compare their quality with the latest release. This year's test, featuring the iPhone 6S, shows how the new 12MP sensor and image processing improves color accuracy, auto-focus speed, and low light sharpness. Even though her comparisons are constrained to the iPhone cameras, it's educational to see what series of tests she runs and how Apple refines its image processing software from year to year.

Tested: How the BB-8 Sphero Toy Works

We recently visited the workshop of Mike Senna, a droid builder who has made his own R2-D2 and Wall-E robots. Mike's next project is recreating the BB-8 droid featured in Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens! We discuss what's known so far about how BB-8 was built for the film, how a remote-controlled model could be built, and take apart a BB-8 Sphero to see if we can learn anything from the small-scale toy!

Tested In-Depth: Google OnHub Router

We test and review the Google OnHub, a $200 home router with a unique barebones cylindrical design. We talk about how its antenna configuration is supposed to make it a good access point, and the merits of an app-based router interface. Here's how Google's router performs alongside other 802.11ac routers!