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Facebook kills software updates for Samsung Gear VR

Facebook is ending software updates for the Samsung Gear VR. Further, users will no longer be able to access films or download the Oculus Video app.

The Samsung Gear VR is a smartphone-based VR headset. Like Google Cardboard and its plastic derivatives, users slot in their smartphone which acts as the display and computer. Unlike cardboard, however, it features a dedicated gyroscope and accelerometer, and runs the same Oculus mobile platform and store as the Oculus Go.

The first Gear VR was released in late 2014 for Samsung’s Galaxy Note 4. While labeled an “Innovator Edition,” the product was essentially the first modern consumer VR headset.

Over the years, new versions were released to support the latest Samsung phones. The headset did not change significantly, other than the inclusion of a 3DoF controller from 2017 onward.

No Updates, no films, no new 360 video users

Samsung phones will no longer receive new Gear VR features via Oculus OS updates.

From today, the Oculus Video and Oculus 360 Photos apps will no longer be able to be downloaded on Gear VR. If you already have those apps installed on your phone you can continue to use them, but rented and purchased films will no longer be available. Existing users with purchased films should receive Oculus Store credit “equivalent to the cost you paid for any titles you bought,” according to Facebook. Users should be able to continue to use other film services like Netflix, Prime Video, and Fandango Now, but we should note that some developers who supported Gear VR stopped once it became clear Facebook wasn’t going to update the platform anymore.

The included Oculus Browser will no longer be updated. In Facebook’s own words, this may introduce “an increased security risk, as with using any out-of-date web browser.” At Oculus Connect conferences, the browser has been said to be one of the top used apps on mobile VR.

Samsung’s own Samsung Internet is available on Gear VR, but hasn’t been updated since April 2019. Other third party browsers exist on the store, but with low user ratings.

From September 15, developers will no longer be able to support Gear VR on new apps released to the Oculus Store.

Gear VR was already dead

The announcement won’t be a surprise to those following the Gear VR in months.

At Oculus Connect 6 back in September, Oculus’ then-CTO John Carmack essentially declared the Gear VR dead.

This was prompted by the news that Samsung’s Galaxy Note 10 would not support VR. The Galaxy S20 followed suit this year, ending Samsung’s support of the platform.

Google’s competing Daydream smartphone VR platform is also essentially dead, with neither the Pixel 3a nor Pixel 4 supporting it and sales of the headset itself ending.

In December the Oculus SDK dropped support for Gear VR, and in January the Unity engine, used to make most VR apps, deprecated support.

Smartphone-based VR created a lot of problems. The time it takes to slot in and out the phone, and the fact the user’s phone is unusable while docked into the headset, makes people less likely to want to use VR on a regular basis. A Gear VR session could also end after a matter of minutes, depending on the device and conditions in which it is used, due to the phone’s processor reaching its thermal limits. Smartphones pack all of their components into an incredibly small space. While Samsung improves its passive cooling design almost every year, there are physical limitations which can’t be overcome packing VR into a device designed first as a phone.

Standalone VR headsets, though, incorporate the screens and computing hardware and are designed for better cooling. Despite standalones having roughly the same graphical limitations as smartphone VR, Carmack claimed that the Oculus Go saw Rift-like retention levels, whereas Gear VR’s was much lower.

Facebook previously stopped production of cables for the original Oculus Rift, leaving many owners with no repair option when it breaks. Oculus Go’s social features were dropped late last year. Facebook said Quest will be supported “for years to come”, but Go looks like it may be on the way out.

This story originally appeared on Uploadvr.com. Copyright 2020

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Boneworks Update to Bring New Weapon, Maps, & Physics Tweaks

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A new Boneworks patch, Update 1.4, is confirmed to be coming next week with a handful of additions and tweaks.

Launching next week on April 9th, Boneworks update 1.4 will bring three new maps to the game’s Sandbox mode, a new weapon (the P350 handgun), and changes to the game’s hand physics. This is according to Boneworks creator Brandon Laatsch who teased the update this week.

Launched in late 2019, Boneworks is a VR shooter with campaign, sandbox, and challenge modes. Even after the launch of the stunning Half-Life: Alyx last week, Boneworks is still praised for its ambitious effort to make nearly everything in the game physically simulated. That concept proved alluring to many VR players and the game impressively outpaced Beat Saber to 100K units sold.

While the studio behind the game, Stress Level Zero, has already confirmed it’s working on its next project, it plans to simultaneously continue to improve Boneworks over time. Creator Brandon Laatsch has teased a modding system for the game, something which felt missing at launch.

Though mods aren’t here just yet, in February Update 1.3 to Boneworks added a much requested mid-level checkpoint system, a new Arena mode, more Sandbox mode content, and made improvements to the game’s core physics systems including making climbing less springy.

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Roto VR Picks up $1.86M Investment to Support Roll-out of Rotating VR Chair – Road to VR

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Roto VR, the UK-based makers of the eponymous 360-degree VR chair, today announced its completed a £1.5 million (~$1.86 million) funding round. Investors include Consumer Venture Capital Trust, Pembroke VCT, and The TVB Growth Fund.

You may remember Roto VR from the company’s 2015 Kickstarter which was unfortunately cancelled after it fell short of its £85,000 (~$105,000) goal. Although the time was seemingly too early in VR’s consumer life cycle for such a device, its founders, Elliott Myers and Gavin Waxkirsh, pressed on with their mission of bringing the rotating VR chair to market.

Roto VR is touted for its ability to lessen motion sickness with its motorized auto-rotate function, avoid tangled cables with its integrated rotator cuff, and give the user a measure of haptic feedback as well.

“In [CEO Elliott Myers] we have found an entrepreneur who has solved a problem for the VR market with a solution that addresses the physical issues encountered whilst consuming VR content, as well as significantly enhancing the experience,” said Andrew Wolfson, CEO Pembroke Investment Managers LLP. “We see future customers coming from both the B2B and B2C markets, in fields such as experiential attractions, home, cinemas and shopping centres. The company has employed a high calibre of people, and we believe that the business is well placed to take advantage of this fast-growing market.”

The company is slated to launch the consumer and office version of the Roto VR chair soon. Roto VR, which starts at $1,500 for the chair itself, is compatible with many consumer VR headsets.

Roto VR tells us they’ve since identified a number of market opportunities across a select range of industries in the out-of-home sectors, such as cinemas and arcades, and has begun developing “a range of products” in response.

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Strivr Secures $30M Series B Financing to Accelerate Adoption of VR Training – Road to VR

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Strivr, the immersive VR training company, announced the successful completion of a $30 million financing round, something the startup says will help it further expand adoption of enterprise-focused immersive learning.

The Series B financing round was led by Georgian Partners, with participation by venture capital firms including Franklin Templeton, Prologis Ventures, GreatPoint Ventures and Alumni Ventures Group. The latest round brings the company’s overall investment to $51 million.

Strivr is focused on building immersive learning software using VR headsets. It’s created VR training programs for the likes of Verizon, jetBlue, Fidelity, GE’s FieldCore, and Walmart, the latter of which was apparently so successful that the big box store expanded the VR learning program to all of its 4,700 nationwide, bringing with it over 17,000 Oculus Go headsets to US-based Walmart stores back in 2018.

Although it now puts a major focus on retail and industrial training, Strivr actually first catered to professional and collegiate sports teams when it was founded in 2015 by former Stanford Cardinal kicker Derek Belch and Jeremy Bailenson, the founding director of Stanford’s Virtual Human interaction Lab.

“With more than 1.5 million training sessions conducted in VR and over 22,000 headsets deployed across our customer base, Strivr has developed the world’s only end-to-end software platform for the delivery of immersive solutions to elevate workforce learning and performance,” said Belch.

As a part of the latest financing round, Strivr takes on its board of directors Tyson Baber, partner at Georgian Partners.

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Half-Life: Alyx Now Among Steam's 10 Best Rated Games Ever

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As more people have had the opportunity to play Half-Life: Alyx over the first weekend since its release at the beginning of last week, the game’s user ratings have surged yet higher. Surpassing all other Half-Life games along its way, Half-Life: Alyx is now among the top 10 best rated games on Steam, ever.

Half-Life: Alyx continues to show a strong impact in its first week since launch. Despite the much smaller audience of VR players compared to general gamers, reviews continue to pour in for the game, recently passing 15,000 user reviews on Steam. 98% of those reviews are positive, pushing Half-Life: Alyx to rank #10 among the best rated games of all time on Steam.

Alyx is arguably #9 considering the original Witcher 3 and its Game of the Year Edition take the #2 and #3 spots. On the way to the top of the charts, Alyx has surpassed all other Half-Life games, though Valve’s Portal and Portal 2 still outrank it at #8 and #5 respectively.

Steam appears to use a relatively naive ranking when sorting by the top rated games; with some minimum threshold of reviews, it orders the top rated games by the whole number percentage of positive reviews, and then settles any ties by ranking games with a larger number of reviews higher than a game with the same percentage of positive reviews but with fewer ratings.

Other ranking sites use different weightings between the percent of positive reviews and the total number of reviews, resulting in a different ranking of the best rated games on Steam.

Steam250, for instance, puts Alyx at #17, just barely under Half-Life 2 because even though Alyx has a higher percent of positive ratings, Half-Life 2 has more than four times the total number of reviews. You can read about Steam250’s approach to ranking here.

SteamDB has a slightly different take on deciding which Steam games are the top rated, and by its count, Half-Life: Alyx is at #16 with Half-Life 2 at #20. You can read about SteamDB’s approach to ranking here.

Elsewhere, Half-Life: Alyx is topping charts too. Among critics the game has become the best rated PC title of 2020 so far and the 31st best rated PC title of all time. On Steam, Alyx has become the best rated VR game ever and has broken records among VR games for concurrent players and concurrent Twitch viewers.

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Google’s Tilt Brush finally hits PlayStation VR

Surprise! Google’s popular Tilt Brush VR creation platform is finally available on PSVR in the U.S., the U.K., and Japan. The app costs $19.99 (£15.99, 2,189 yen).

Tilt Brush is the original VR painting app, enabling players to paint with a virtual brush in a 3D space. The experience was originally launched on the HTC Vive when it released four years ago. It’s since developed a huge following, arriving on other headsets and adding crucial new features. It’s become a staple app for artists to innovate; we’ve seen countless incredible works over the years from a selection of talented artists.

Interestingly the app is published by Sony itself, not Google. In fact, the PlayStation Blog post announcing the release only mentions Google via trademark. It definitely seems like Sony had a heavy hand on getting this onto its headset, then. Still, at the very least we hope this means we might see more Google apps on PSVR. Google Earth is just as essential an experience that’s never made it over to Sony’s headset.

In its absence, Tilt Brush has been imitated in various forms on PSVR. Honestly we’d given up hope that it would ever arrive on the platform. Ironically it now arrives on the cusp of PSVR support for Dreams, a much more robust creation app that not only lets players make their own 3D art but also animate it and then use it in games all made within the same app.

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Acclaimed VR Puzzler 'FORM' Arriving on PSVR in April – Road to VR

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Charm Games announced that FORM, the VR puzzle game that made a splash on PC VR headsets back in 2017, is coming to PSVR next month.

Originally slated to arrive on the platform back in 2018, FORM is now officially coming to PSVR on April 7th, 2020.

We really enjoyed FORM when we played it for our review of the game, giving it a solid [8.5/10] for its interesting, alien-like 3D puzzles that do an awesome job of demanding curiosity and experimentation.

We called it “like stepping into a machine of pure novelty, and it manages to deliver its intuitive puzzles without the need of a tutorial, i.e. no condescending robot voice guiding you through the world.”

Granted, it’s a particularly short game at a little over an hour of gameplay, and while we wish it were longer, it still makes for a must-play if you can nab it at the right price.

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'Arizona Sunshine' Gets 'Dead Man' DLC on Quest, Final DLC Drop Coming in April – Road to VR

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Vertigo Games today announced that its zombie shooter Arizona Sunshine (2017) got its first paid DLC for Quest today.

Originally launched on PC VR back in 2018, the ‘Dead Man’ paid DLC is a prequel campaign that tasks you with infiltrating the missile base as Cpl. John Dockson. Oh, and if you already bought it through the Oculus Store for Rift, it’s free on Quest. Otherwise it costs $2.50.

There’s plenty of close-quarters combat in the dark missile silo, although you’ll have three new weapons to take on the task of clearing out the shambling walkers: a fully automatic submachine gun, a two-handed shotgun, and a tactical handgun.

Like the PC VR version, ‘Dead Man’ for Quest supports two-player co-op, and a range of difficulties such as ‘Apocalyptic’ mode.

Arizona Sunshine for Quest is getting one last DLC drop, ‘The Damned’, which arrived on PC VR late last year. It’s scheduled to arrive on Quest in April for $5.

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Half-Life: Alyx Gets Continuous Turning, WMR Tweaks, Crash Fixes

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A small patch to Half-Life: Alyx has added continuous turning, made adjustments to a key gesture for Windows VR users, and squashed a few bugs.

While continuous turning is never a default in VR games because it makes many people dizzy, there are those who find themselves unaffected by smooth turning and prefer to play that way for enhanced immersion. Though Half-Life: Alyx didn’t ship with a continuous turning option, Valve has added it in Update 1.1. With that addition they also renamed the ‘Quick Turn’ option to ‘Snap Turn’ to bring it in line with the common VRnacular, and added an option to disable controller turning entirely.

For Windows VR users, the update improves the ‘hand-over-mouth’ pose to work better with the WMR controllers. The pose turns out to be important later in the game.

Update 1.1 for Half-Life: Alyx also improved automated detection of quality settings for some hardware configurations, which means users should get better default recommendations for the game’s graphical settings.

Valve says it also fixed some sound bugs and “several crashes.”

As ever, if you’re having unexpected crashes in Half-Life: Alyx or performance issues, it’s always worth trying to update to your latest GPU driver. You can find NVIDIA drivers here and AMD drivers here, or check your respective GPU dashboard software for the latest driver.

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Half-Life: Alyx is the Best Rated PC Game of 2020 so Far

  • The Entire VR Industry in One Little Email

    The Daily Roundup is our comprehensive coverage of the VR industry wrapped up into one daily email, delivered directly to your inbox. 

    There was a lot riding on Half-Life: Alyx. Not only is it Valve’s first Half-Life game in more than a decade, it is also the studio’s first full fledged VR title. By the measurable reactions from critics and players alike, the game seems to have delivered against the odds.

    There was so much pre-release hype surrounding Half-Life: Alyx that I was personally worried that expectations had become entirely unrealistic. But the results are in and there seems to be widespread agreement that it’s a damn great game. Not just a great VR game, but a great game among all games. At least, that’s what review data is showing.

    SEE ALSO’Half-Life: Alyx’ Post-credits Scene Clearly Sets the Stage for More ‘Half-Life’ in VR

    Looking at aggregate scores of critical reviews of 2020 PC games on Metacritic, Half-Life: Alyx is the best rated so far. With an average score of 92 across 32 critic reviews, the game has beaten out major 2020 releases like Doom Eternal [90] and Ori and the Will of the Wisps [89].

    When looking at the top rated PC titles of all time on Metacritic, Alyx holds the 31st position in the list, surrounded by PC gaming classics like The Sims (2000)Warcraft III (2002), Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare (2007), and Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas (2005), while far exceeding Half-Life 2: Episode One Two.

    Looking specifically at the best critically rated VR games of all time on Metacritic, Half-Life: Alyx sits at #2. Here’s the breakdown of the top five:

    • 93 – Beat Saber (2019)
    • 92 – Half-Life: Alyx (2020)
    • 90 – Astro Bot: Rescue Mission (2018)
    • 89 – Lone Echo (2017)
    • 88 – Asgard’s Wrath (2019)
    • Half-Life: Alyx has also topped the list on Steam, where it now stands as the #1 rated VR game of all time according to Steam250, a review ranking site which weighs both user reviews and number of reviews to determine rankings.

      Valve’s debut VR title has also broke records among VR games for concurrent players and concurrent Twitch viewers, and it’s starting to look like the game will have a lasting impact on VR going forward as ‘the game to beat’ when it comes to single-player narrative action in VR.

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