Categories
GeekWire

Virgin Galactic offers a VR peek inside SpaceShipTwo

More than a decade after Virgin Galactic unveiled a swoopy, spacey look for the passenger cabin of its SpaceShipTwo rocket plane, the company took the wraps off a more down-to-Earth design that reflects what spacefliers will actually see when they climb into their seats.

And in a move befitting this era of social distancing, the big reveal was done with the aid of virtual reality.

Virgin Galactic went so far as to lend out Oculus Quest headsets to journalists, including yours truly, so we could get an advance peek at a computer-generated interior with an eye-filling view of Earth and space out the window.

The VR experience let me do something I could never do during a real-life rocket ride: walk through the walls of the spaceship, stand on the wing … and step off into space. The thought experiment was a cosmic version of the classic VR game where you walk on a plank sticking out from the ledge of a virtual skyscraper and dare yourself to jump off. I couldn’t do it from SpaceShipTwo Unity’s wing unless I kept my eyes closed.

Get the full story (and video) from GeekWire.

Categories
GeekWire

Boeing teams up with Varjo on Starliner VR

Boeing's Connie Miller with VR headset
Boeing software engineer Connie Miller tries out the Varjo virtual-reality system to control a computer-generated Starliner space taxi. (Varjo / Boeing Photo)

Boeing isn’t due to start flying NASA crews to the International Space Station until next year, but in the meantime, astronauts can steer a computer-generated Starliner space taxi with the aid of Varjo’s virtual-reality headsets.

Get the news brief on GeekWire.

Categories
GeekWire

XR experts see health care as the killer app

Augmented-reality surgery
Philips’ Azurion augmented-reality platform makes use of Microsoft’s HoloLens headsets to guide surgeons through an operation. (Philips Illustration)

Virtual reality? Augmented reality? Mixed reality? Today at a Seattle symposium, experts settled on extended reality, or XR, as the catch-all term for devices that put computer-generated visuals in front of your face. And they settled on health care as one of the most promising frontiers for XR.

“I believe health care is going to drive the mass adoption of XR,” Vinay Narayan, vice president of platform strategy and developer community at HTC Vive, said at XR Day, an event presented by the University of Washington’s Department of Human Centered Design and Engineering.

Get the full story on GeekWire.

Categories
GeekWire

Mixed reality takes you on an expedition to Titan

Expedition Titan
GeekWire’s Alan Boyle (foreground) and University of Washington planetary scientist Baptiste Journaux take a thrill ride through an ice volcano, courtesy of Expedition Titan, a mixed-reality experience at Seattle’s Pacific Science Center. (GeekWire Photo / Kevin Lisota)

It’s doubtful anyone alive today will get to ride through the ice volcanoes of Saturn’s largest moon — but you can do the next best thing at Seattle’s Pacific Science Center, thanks to a mixed-reality experience called Expedition Titan.

The walk-through production is the latest showcase for Hyperspace XR, a startup-in-residence that’s pioneering the frontiers of mixed reality at the science center.

Get the full story on GeekWire.

Categories
GeekWire

How ‘avatars’ will let you travel virtually

Kevin Kajitani
Kevin Kajitani, co-director of ANA’s Avatar division, talks about virtual teleportation as a travel experience during the GeekWire Summit. (Photo by Dan DeLong for GeekWire)

When it was time for Kevin Kajitani to put his ideas for traveling through telepresence to the test, he chose a familiar experimental subject: his son.

Kajitani — the co-director of the Avatar division at ANA Holdings, the parent company of Japan’s biggest airline — set up a mobile Beam robot at his home north of Tokyo, crept into a closet, and rolled the robot out to greet his 2-year-old son Aoi with his face looking out from the video screen.

“The first time I approached my son with the avatar, he said, ‘Papa!’ And we started playing,” Kajitani said Oct. 9 at a lunch talk sponsored by ANA at the GeekWire Summit in Seattle.

Get the full story on GeekWire.

Categories
GeekWire

A virtual-reality virgin finally takes the leap

Portal VR experience
Portal VR’s Tim Harader puts a virtual-reality headset on Tonia Boyle’s head. (GeekWire Photo / Alan Boyle)

BELLEVUE, Wash. — My wife was a VR virgin.

Tonia Boyle isn’t exactly a thrill-seeker. Skydiving, bungee jumping and zipline rides have never been her cup of tea. But when it came to taking a virtual-reality risk at Portal VR’s newly opened arcade here in Bellevue, our hometown, she warily agreed to take the leap.

Fortunately, in this case, the leap was just a couple of inches down, although it looked like 50 floors through her virtual-reality headset.

Tonia’s guide was Portal VR co-founder Tim Harader, who opened up the first Portal VR arcade in Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood last year in league with his wife, Page Harader. During this month’s opening reception in Bellevue, Tim helped Tonia strap on the HTC Vive headset and got her set up inside a blocked-off booth where sensors could track her movements.

From the outside, it looked as if Tonia was standing at the brink of a roughly 6-foot-long wooden plank set on the floor. But her headset view, projected onto a monitor just outside the booth for our viewing pleasure, showed a similarly sized plank stretching out into the air from the upper floors of a skyscraper.

Tonia gasped at the sight.

Get the full story on GeekWire.

Categories
GeekWire

How VR can make things go better in the real world

VR anatomy
Freelance science writer Berly McCoy uses a VR headset and controller to manipulate a virtual human brain at the Maryland Blended Reality Center. (GeekWire Photo / Alan Boyle)

COLLEGE PARK, Md. — Can being in the middle of an opera take your mind off pain?

Here at the University of Maryland, scientists are studying the therapeutic value of experiencing a virtual-reality recording of Francis Poulenc’s “Dialogues of the Carmelites.” The hope is that, at least in some situations, the distraction of an immersive virtual experience can provide pain relief without having to turn to opioids.

“The pathways through which we receive pain are the same pathways through which distraction travels,” computer scientist Amitabh Varshney told journalists last week during a tour of the university’s Maryland Blended Reality Center.

To see whether the idea could work, a research team recorded a performance of “Dialogues” in VR from three vantage points, including a 360-degree camera mounted right on the stage. Headset-wearing users can switch between the vantage points to experience the opera as if they were watching from the orchestra pit or standing in the midst of the action. The experience can be far more powerful than merely listening to audio or watching a video.

“We are working to see how far we can take this,” Varshney said.

Get the full story on GeekWire.

Categories
GeekWire

Alaska Airlines adds VR to in-flight entertainment

Alaska Airlines VR
Alaska Airlines offers SkyLights’ Allosky virtual reality headset for in-flight entertainment. (Alaska Airlines Photo)

Alaska Airlines is adding virtual reality to its in-flight entertainment menu in an experiment aimed at recreating a movie theater experience at 35,000 feet.

The Seattle-based airline has partnered with SkyLights, a French-American immersive-media company, to offer VR headsets and noise-canceling headphones to first-class customers on 10 flights that go between Seattle and Boston, and Boston and San Diego.

The users can watch 2-D and 3-D films such as “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” or “Ready Player One.” They can also click into 360-degree, head-tracking virtual-reality videos.

SkyLights’ lightweight Allosky VR headsets have been adopted for tryouts on other airlines, ranging from Joon and XL Airways to Lufthansa, but Alaska Airlines’ experiment ranks among the most ambitious yet.

Get the full story on GeekWire.

Categories
GeekWire

5 tech twists from ‘Ready Player One’

Ready Player One scene
Wade Watts (played by Tye Sheridan) wears a haptic suit in “Ready Player One.” (Warner Bros. Photo)

“Ready Player One,” the Steven Spielberg movie that blends memes from the 1980s with a virtual-reality vision of 2045, is getting mostly positive reviews from film critics and filmgoers, and from box-office trackers as well.

Some see the film as a metaphor for the yin-yang, love-hate, fanboy-hacker relationship we’ve developed with our hyperconnected world. But for techies, one of the biggest allures of “Ready Player One” may well be the way it amps up today’s frontier technologies to reveal tomorrow’s everyday realities.

During a Cinerama preview organized by Madrona Ventures Group, managing director Matt McIlwain told the audience that the movie reflected the VC firm’s interest in intuitive “multisense” interfaces that are on track to transform the way we use high-tech applications.

If you want to go into the theater knowing absolutely nothing about the movie other than what you’ve seen in the teasers, put this story on pause and come back later. But if you’re ready for a quick rundown on five real-world gadgets and tech trends that are amped up for “Ready Player One,” read on.

Get the full story from GeekWire.

Categories
GeekWire

Microsoft Edge gives VR boost to Virgin Galactic

Virtual SpaceShipTwo
Virgin Galactic’s website offers a multimedia-enhanced VR view of VSS Unity, the company’s SpaceShipTwo rocket plane, and its WhiteKnightTwo mothership. (Microsoft Edge / Virgin Galactic)

Virgin Galactic hasn’t yet started taking tourists into space on its SpaceShipTwo rocket plane, but the company now offers a virtual SpaceShipTwo tour on its website, with a big assist from Microsoft Edge Web Showcase.

The upgraded website is a lot clickier — and continues to provide basic information about Virgin Galactic as well as videos, stills and online updates. But the centerpiece is a 3-D, VR-enhanced digital model of VSS Unity, the SpaceShipTwo plane that’s undergoing tests at California’s Mojave Air and Space Port.

Start your tour by tapping on the website’s “Explore” button.

Get the full story on GeekWire.