A pink headset will not fix VR’s woman problem.

Google announced a new Daydream View VR headset available in gray, black, or coral pink to complement the Google Home colors. Although it isn’t available until November, the company happily splashed images of attractive young women enjoying VR now that the soft foam case and remote control are the color of vaginal hygiene products and lady razors.

What can I say about superficially gendered “pink marketing” that hasn’t already been said here, and here, and here…? When a VR headset is designed to accommodate a ponytail (or a manbun) only then I will acknowledge there was a woman somewhere in the design process.

A pink headset is good for one thing: preventing a man from stealing your electronics due to the talismanic “cootie powers” of the color pink. Wait three months and all the unsold pink headsets will be priceslashed in the bargain bin. I’ve bought pink electronics and pink accessories – even a pink iPad cover – at a fraction of the price of the blue item sitting next to it on the shelf. The un-appeal of the color makes it unmarketable to most buyers regardless of gender. I call it the “Your Dick Will Fall Off Discount”. It would actually be funny if it weren’t such an insult to a major reason women are shunning VR.

“Women are more susceptible than men to motion sickness in general,” says Thomas Stoffregen at the University of Minnesota, in an article from New Scientist. Stoffregen and his team ran experiments in which 36 people – half of them men, half of them women – played two VR games using an Oculus Rift headset. “A game in which players had to push a marble around a maze only made a few people feel nauseous. But a game that involved taking a virtual stroll around a haunted house triggered feelings of sickness in 14 out of 18 women and only six out of 18 men.”

https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs00221-016-4846-7

Why women experience motion sickness more than men isn’t understood. Stoffregen suggests it’s the fact that women have smaller feet (!) and this leads to postural sway – nevermind his test subjects were seated and that women typically have bigger butts and shorter torsos which would seem to make them more stable not less.

Computer scientist Mary Czerwinski has a different take on the problem. “Men are quicker to create a mental map of an environment and orient themselves within it…. Unfortunately, it tends to be the case that women have lower spatial ability – and that’s true in virtual worlds too,” she says.

A study of simulation training at Microsoft found that women were just as good as men at virtual navigation when they had a large computer display. “The gender difference simply disappeared,” says Czerwinski. A standard monitor gives a viewing angle of about 35°. With a larger screen, giving a viewing angle of 70°, women navigated better. And with two screens delivering a 100° angle, women matched men’s spatial abilities.

But there was a proviso. Women only matched men when the 3D virtual environment moved smoothly as they progressed through it. “You have to generate each image frame so the optical flow simulates accurately the experience of walking down, say, a hallway,” says her colleague George Robertson. Women find it easier to get their bearings when this animation is smooth and realistic, rather than jerky.

A superficial color change does nothing to address VR’s hardware limitations. VR sickness will continue to hit women harder until the image quality and framerates improve. Selling VR products the color of Pepto-Bismol isn’t going to help.

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GONE – a serialized VR thriller

Virtual Reality Production by WEVR, Produced by Skybound Entertainment for Samsung Milk VR.

A serialized virtual reality thriller, GONE centers on Meredith Clover, a mother consumed with the search for her missing daughter. Nine-year-old Emilia Clover vanished impossibly, in broad daylight, before a dozen baffled useless witnesses. Navigating a complicated trail of increasingly surreal clues and her own daughter’s closely guarded secrets, Meredith discovers that her Emilia is much more than simply gone.

Breaking new ground in virtual reality, GONE will immerse visitors in the mystery, allowing users to navigate multiple points of view within environments. Visitors won’t solve the mystery of GONE without exploring all of its darker corners.

GONE is created by author, writer, and director JT Petty known for his work across mediums including SPLINTER CELL, THE BURROWERS, and OUTLAST. The series is produced for Samsung Milk VR, a premium virtual reality content service, by Skybound Entertainment’s David Alpert, Executive Producer of AMC’s THE WALKING DEAD franchise and Cinemax’s upcoming exorcism series, OUTCAST.
Continue reading “GONE – a serialized VR thriller”

Project Sansar – VR from the makers of Second Life

projectsansar

“Slated for general availability in 2016, Project Sansar will democratize virtual reality as a creative medium. It will empower people to easily create, share, and monetize their own multi-user, interactive virtual experiences, without requiring engineering resources. The platform will enable professional-level quality and performance with exceptional visual fidelity, 3D audio, and physics simulation. Experiences created with Project Sansar will be optimized for VR headsets like the Oculus Rift, but also accessible via PCs and (at consumer launch) mobile devices. Users can explore and socialize within Project Sansar experiences through advanced expressive avatars, using text and voice chat. Continue reading “Project Sansar – VR from the makers of Second Life”

SEQUENCED VR Series

Sequenced is the first animated series on 360° for mobile devices and virtual reality helmets. According to the user’s focus on certain angles or characters, the story may seamlessly take a different path, in reference to the “choose your own adventure” books. The series pilot will come out in 2015 and will be available on Oculus Rift and mobile devices. Currently in development, a prototype of the project has won the Best in Play award at the Game Developers conference in 2014, the Imaginove Grand Prize in Lyon, France, and is nominated in two categories for the Games Connection awards this year. It was featured in the New York Times and Wired US as an innovative storytelling medium.

The technology developed to create the dynamic  narrative called Gaze is being developed in house and will be available for unity developers at the end of the year. Here you can check out the latest teaser for the pilot:

http://apelab.ch/project/sequenced-1/#
Continue reading “SEQUENCED VR Series”

Will VR’s “Sense of Presence” Be Enough?

Unreal‘s 4-part infomercial on VR…, if you can call ~5min videos of nerds gushing about how golly-gosh amazing VR goggles are at tricking you into a viscerel experience a documentary. “OMG. A robot jumped out at me!!!” lolol. Don’t be fooled by the first video’s thumbnail, there is ONE woman interviewed in the full series and she’s just the one chick at the gaming conference, I guess.

Mostly filmed at GDC 2015 and SIGGRAPH, Sense of Presence features commentary from the leadership of YouTube, Oculus, NVIDIA, Weta Digital, Oculus Story Studio, Three One Zero, Magnopus and MatterVR, to namedrop a few…. But I’m not sure it ever amounts to much more than a sausage fest about vicariously murdering soldiers and lots (and lots) of explosions. There’s a drinking game based around the word “immersive”, and essentially that’s the whole point of VR: an enhanced “sense of presence”…. the only point apparently.

By the fourth video someone is literally saying that we could put students in a VR helmet and that would be all the history lesson they’d ever need. Oh, also they are curing cancer…. Color me skeptical. After this Christmas shopping season we’ll know if VR is the next remote-camera drone or if it’s just a fugly 3D TV that sits on your face. One opportunity mentioned but left unexplored is music videos where a 360-video experience might warrant repeated viewings (but probably not if it’s just inane EDM lyrics audibly whooshing around in space, imho).

Sense of Presence: What Is Virtual Reality?

Sense of Presence: Building Virtual Reality

Sense of Presence: Storytelling in Virtual Reality

Sense of Presence: The Future of Virtual Reality