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    CES 2015: Hands-On with the Avegant Glyph Prototype

    Head-mounted displays have received a lot of attention for their potential use as virtual reality devices, but most are still LCD or OLED panels strapped to your head. We saw Avegant's "virtual retinal display" prototype last year--a HMD that uses DLP mirrors to project images directly into your eyes. Checking in with Avegant at CES, we look at their latest prototype chat with them about their final product plans. (This video was shot with a Sony PXW-X70 camera, which we're testing. Thanks to B&H for providing us with gear for CES!)

    CES 2015: Hands-On with Razer's OSVR Hacker Dev Kit

    We put on Razer's OSVR prototype, a headset that's part of an open-source initiative to promote virtual reality for PC gaming. Think of it as Android for VR, where not one company controls all the hardware and software. Will and Norm discuss what they learned about OSVR from chatting with Razer's representatives, and share their impressions on the hacker dev kit demo. (This video was shot with a Sony PXW-X70 camera, which we're testing. Thanks to B&H for providing us with gear for CES!)

    8 Takeaways on Oculus VR at CES 2015

    As with my visit to Oculus Connect last September, hands-on time with the Crescent Bay prototype of the Oculus rift and a chat with Oculus VR's VP of Product offered some new insights into the state of virtual reality tech and the challenges for the upcoming consumer version release. No, we didn't find out when CV1 would be available, nor could Nate Mitchell spill the beans on the exact technical specifications of even this prototype. But our conversation--and the way he answered some of my questions--allows us to infer some details about curious topics like screen resolution, optics, and virtual reality input. Here are eight things that I took away from this chat, with the full video interview below.

    Downplaying Screen Resolution

    Everyone is curious about what the screen resolution of the consumer release will be, with VR enthusiasts hoping for a display as high-res and dense as possible. Development Kit 2 uses a 1080p AMOLED display, but the pentile subpixel configuration and screen door effect (SDE) is still noticeable. These effects are reduced in Crescent Bay, and the prevailing thought is that the prototype must use a 1440p or better screen, given Gear VR's use of the Samsung Note 4. I'm not 100% sure that's the case, now. We knew that due to the constraints of mobile graphics bandwidth, Gear VR renders its games and software at lower than native resolution (eg. 720p) and then scales up to 1440p. Nate said that on the PC side, the Oculus Rift--and Crescent Bay--does the opposite: it will use supersampling and render software at a higher than native res and then downscale it to fit the screen. It's like what Apple does with the iOS for its iPhone 6 Plus.

    So here's a thought: maybe Crescent Bay actually uses a 1080p display, and the single GTX 980 card renders some demos at a higher than 1080p resolution and downsamples to fit into that screen. Supersampling would reduce aliasing, and more demanding software could still just be rendered at 1080p to guarantee 90Hz output. This theory would explain why Oculus reps (including Nate) have mentioned the 1080p resolution when discussing PC system performance in other interviews, and why some press have reported that Crescent Bay runs at a lower res than Gear VR. I also noticed that the mirrored game window on the 27-inch panel connected to the PC was not filling the full monitor--it looked about 1080p to me. Of course, this doesn't mean than CV1 won't use a 1440p display, but Oculus is seems to want to downplay talk of screen resolution as they recognize its tradeoffs with performance. Don't expect CV1 to run a 4K screen.

    CES 2015: Oculus VR's Crescent Bay Demo + Interview

    We go hands-on with Oculus VR's Crescent Bay prototype at CES 2015! Both Will and Norm scrutinize the demo and relay thoughts on the experience of presence, and we chat in-depth about technical details with Oculus' VP of Product, Nate Mitchell. Lots of new hints about what's to come for the consumer release of the Oculus Rift! (This video was shot with a Sony PXW-X70 camera, which we're testing. Thanks to B&H for providing us with gear for CES!)

    CES 2015: Hands-On with Tobii Eye Tracking

    At CES 2015, we test out Tobii's new eye tracking system, which is being released as a PC gaming peripheral by SteelSeries. This IR sensor sits below your monitor to track what you're looking at with centimeter accuracy, and can be implemented in games built with Unity or Unreal. (This video was shot with a Sony PXW-X70 camera, which we're testing. Thanks to B&H for providing us with gear for CES!)

    Testing: Dell P2715Q 4K Monitor

    The first generation of 4K monitors available for desktop use weren't great because they were TN displays that ran at 30Hz. Recently, Dell released a 4K monitor using an IPS panel, running at 60Hz. We review that display to see how it runs in Windows 8.1, test its image quality, and see if gaming is practical at 3840x2160.

    12 Days of Tested Christmas: Portal 2 Atlas + P-Body

    For the eleventh day of Tested Christmas, Norm shares a recent find: highly detailed articulated figures of Portal 2's Atlas and P-Body characters. These sixth scale figures were made by a collaboration between Valve and 3A, a maker of incredible collectibles. Time to set these figures and their Portal guns up for display in the office!

    Building a Custom Arcade Cabinet, Part 7

    It's about time! Sorry for the lack of updates on the arcade cabinet project, but after a big delay with technical hurdles and busy schedules, Norm and Wes are back with some progress to report. Wiring and testing of the numerous control buttons continues, plus we turn our attention to the CRT monitor and setting it up to run properly on Windows.

    Tested Mailbag: What's in the Second Box?

    First off--we figured out where the power switch is located! After opening the box for Triforce's Gears of War 3 Hammerburst prop replica, we turn our attention to the second package--another massive box. Teamwork is required to liberate its contents: another 1:1 scale replica!

    Tested Plays #IDARB!

    Can game design be crowdsourced? That's the idea behind #IDARB, an upcoming platformer created by friends of ours, Mike Mika and Kevin Wilson. They stop by our office to show off their game, and we're delighted to learn that we're actually playable characters inside it! Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

    Tested Mailbag: Gears of War 3 Hammerburst Replica!

    Cap off your week with another edition of the Tested mailbag! This week's package is probably the biggest to ever arrive at our office, to the dismay of our FedEx delivery guy. It's an incredible 1:1 scale replica made by Triforce, a company we met at this year's NYCC. Thanks to Triforce for sending this massive package!

    Tested: The Show — A Story in 256 Pixels

    As the resolution and pixel density of digital screens are skyrocketing, we take a step back to appreciate the artistry of telling a story with the limitations of 8-bit graphics. Jeremy Williams celebrates the history and potential of pixel art in this presentation from our live show! (We apologize for some of the rough audio in this taping of our live show. The audio mixer at the venue unfortunately distorted audio from some of the microphones.)

    NYCC: Triforce's Video Game Replica Props

    We've met and worked with independent replica prop makers who specialize in video game props, but here's a company working directly with game developers to bring digital characters, armor, and weapons to reality. At New York Comic Con, we stopped by Triforce's booth to check out their newest scale statues and full-size replicas, as well as learn about their production process.

    In Brief: Hacking Star Wars: Yoda Stories

    You don't have to be a video game programmer to appreciate this post by Zach Barth. Like many of us, Barth tinkered with computer game data files and modifications back in the late 90s. Remember how easy it was to dive into .pak files and swap out textures in games like Quake? Open up config files and change variables with Notepad? Well it's not so easy when a game's data file can only be read with a hex editor. That's the case with the LucasArts adventure game Star Wars: Yoda Stories, which stored all its assets in a 4MB file. Barth explains how he parsed through the data--a vast matrix of ASCII--to extract and color correct 2000 game character sprites and maps. I could only follow along a bit of his problem-solving, but what a fun experiment in data archeology!

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    Show and Tell: Astro A38 Bluetooth Headset

    For this week's Show and Tell, Will shares a new bluetooth headset that he's been testing: Astro Gaming's A38. While the company is known for its gaming headphones, these wireless headsets are made to be worn outside the home, with good active noise-cancellation. Here's what Will thinks about them after some use.

    Testing Nvidia's GeForce GTX 980 Video Card

    The final piece of Norm's new Haswell-E system build is the graphics card, and as it turns out, Nvidia has just released its new GeForce 900 series of GPUs. We run through what's new in the high-end Maxwell architecture, how the GTX 980 performs, and give recommendations for practical upgrades. What graphics card are you currently using, what screen resolution do you run at, and do you play games with AA turned on?

    Building a Custom Arcade Cabinet, Part 6

    With the frame of the arcade cabinet constructed, Norm and Wes head back to the garage to begin the wiring of the buttons and other electronics. In this episode, we discuss the different types of custom arcade controls, the hardware to link them all together, and the tiny computer we're going to build to run the software. (This video series was brought to you by Premium memberships on Tested. Learn more about how you can support us by joining the Tested Premium community!)

    My 10 Virtual Reality Takeaways from Oculus Connect

    I've had a few days now to digest all the information that came out of this past weekend's Oculus Connect conference. It may have only been a two-day developer conference, but the keynotes alone had enough information to expand the imaginations (and lexicon) of virtual reality enthusiasts. There was of course the big Crescent Bay prototype announcement and demo, which Oculus unfortunately said that it has no plans to release or show anywhere else. It was also my first time being able to try the Samsung Gear VR and Oculus' current VR UI solution in Oculus Home and the Cinema application. My mind's been buzzing since I got back from LA, and I wanted to distill some of my personal takeaways from the experience.

    Presence is NOT the same as reality

    More so than at any past Oculus event or meeting I had attended before, the Oculus team emphasized the idea of presence--a significant milestone in virtual reality technology. It's this threshold past which your brain's subconscious computing starts to take over and makes you believe that you're in a separate space within a VR headset. Presence was emphasized because the team thinks that they've achieved it for most people in the Crescent Bay prototype. The 10 minute demo I had with Crescent Bay was leaps and bounds better than the DK2 experience, but I'm going to hold off on giving them the sustained presence checkbox until I can get more time with it. More importantly, we now know Oculus' definition of presence, and the specific technical requirements they're targeting for a consumer release (sub-millimeter tracking accuracy, sub-20ms latency, 90+Hz refresh, at least 1Kx1K per eye resolution, highly calibrated and wide FOV eyebox).

    The reason I'm a little hesitant to say that I achieved the full presence in Crescent Bay is that I really have no appropriate point of comparison for that sensation. The feeling of presence in a virtual space should not be confused with the feeling of reality. I think a lot of people will expect that once they put on something like Crescent Bay, what they see inside the headset feels exactly like what the real world feels like. That's not the case at all. It still looks very much like rendered game graphics, with aliased edges and surreal feeling of disembodiment. To me, presence is about the feeling of space inside of the headset--a sense that the virtual objects and environments you're looking at have volume and a distance from you eyes that's not just two inches away on a screen. Stereoscopy and proper mapping of your head movements are a huge part of that. Presence in these VR demos never takes away the awareness of the virtual nature of that space, but you do feel more apart to it.

    Standing in VR opens up possibilities

    The biggest question for me coming out Oculus Connect was whether the consumer version of the Rift would be a sit-down-only experience. I know that Palmer told everyone in interviews that the Rift is meant to be used sitting down, but I agree with commenters that it may just be them working out a legally and ergonomically acceptable solution for a stand-up design. At least that's fun to think about. Regardless, the Crescent Bay demo confirmed that standing up in VR is technically possible with what Oculus has made so far, and that walking around isn't necessary for a stand-up VR experience (ie. we don't need VR treadmills). The square mat we were allowed to walk around on in the demo was sufficient to show how effective positional tracking could be in a stand-up experience. Even the ability to shift your full body and weight around was extremely meaningful--being able to physically crouch and duck in the virtual space felt liberating in a way that I think will have a profound impact in VR game design. Spinning around in a full 360 degrees was less important, or at least emphasized less with these demos.

    Of course, this setup would require more hardware, including a way to mount the positional tracking camera above the standing user, and a cable management system to keep the headset cable out of the way.

    Hands-On with Samsung Gear VR at Oculus Connect

    At Oculus Connect, Norm gets to try out the upcoming Gear VR virtual reality headset, a collaboration between Samsung and Oculus. It uses a Galaxy Note 4 for its brains and screen, with VR software and optimizations designed by John Carmack. Norm shares his opinion of display performance on the Note 4's 60Hz 1440p screen, and whether the phone's technology is sufficient for a good mobile virtual reality experience.