Is Phone-based VR officially over?

Is Phone-based VR officially over?

Adi Robertson, for The Verge:Mobile virtual reality headsets helped millions of people try out VR, but as of yesterday, they’re all but officially a thing of the past. Oculus CTO John Carmack offered a “eulogy” last month for the phone-powered Gear VR mobile headset, saying that the headset’s days were numbered. And Google just revealed that it’s discontinuing the similar Daydream View mobile headset, in addition to omitting Daydream support from the new Pixel 4 phone. The app will still work on older phones, but Google has now given up on a platform it once portrayed as an integral part of Android.

Daydream was announced in 2016, following up on Google’s simpler phone-powered Cardboard headset. At that point, Google projected having “hundreds of millions of users” on Daydream-compatible phones within a couple of years. In 2019, though, not a single current-generation phone supports it. There simply “hasn’t been the broad consumer or developer adoption we had hoped, and we’ve seen decreasing usage over time of the Daydream View headset,” a spokesperson told The Verge.

The reasons aren’t surprising. Cardboard had made simple VR accessible. The New York Times shipped a million headsets to its subscribers for free. But it was a super cheap, disposable product meant for enjoying short experiences. Making the leap to a consumer headset proved difficult. “We saw a lot of potential in smartphone VR — being able to use the smartphone you carry with you everywhere to power an immersive on-the-go experience. But over time we noticed some clear limitations constraining smartphone VR from being a viable long-term solution,” said the spokesperson.

Google says that people didn’t like losing access to their phones since Daydream effectively required launching into a separate app ecosystem. That wasn’t the only problem with phone-based VR. Carmack noted that immersive 3D apps drained precious battery, and the Gear VR, in particular, was annoying to set up. “Far and away I think the biggest issue was just the friction of getting into it,” said Carmack.

[..]

Phone-based VR also couldn’t deliver the same intense physical experiences as the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, or PlayStation VR. As developers began learning what really worked in VR, the gap became increasingly obvious. Mobile headsets were great for playing virtual reality videos, but VR video was hard to make and monetize, and early cinematic VR companies like Jaunt and Within slowly switched their focus to augmented reality instead. Google acquired several well-known VR apps, including the beloved painting tool Tilt Brush, but most required high-end headsets.

Meanwhile, self-contained headsets got cheaper and more sophisticated, adding hand controllers and inside-out tracking. Oculus filled the Gear VR’s old spot with the Oculus Go mobile headset, and it’s now nudging users toward the Oculus Quest, a more expensive but also far more capable device. When you can pay $200 for the standalone Oculus Go or even $400 for the Quest, a $100 plastic shell doesn’t seem like such a good deal.

Google hasn’t really tried to catch the wave of standalone VR. It initially partnered with HTC and Lenovo on two self-contained Daydream headsets, but HTC backed out of the deal and Lenovo’s Mirage Solo was effectively a development kit. Before this year’s I/O conference, Google virtual and augmented reality head Clay Bavor said the team was in “deep R&D” for VR hardware, “building the Lego bricks that we’re going to need in order to snap together and make some really compelling experiences.” A Google spokesperson also emphasized the company’s work on AR features for mobile search and Maps.

I’ve been there with the original Oculus, the Gear VR, the Daydream, PSVR, the Oculus Go and now the Oculus Quest and the Quest is my favourite far above any other VR headset. I can see where the phone VR is dying.

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Apple Revokes Panic’s Developer License

John Moltz for Crazy Apple Rumours Site:

Apple has quietly revoked the developer license of long-time Mac and iOS software maker Panic, known for award-winning applications such as Transmit and widely praised games like Firewatch.
Panic co-founder Cabel Sasser said “We are attempting to contact Apple for more information. For the time being, customers can still install our apps on the Mac by allowing them to be installed as unsigned. We apologize for any inconvenience and we hope to have this situation, which we assume to be a misunderstanding, sorted out soon.”

Sources within Apple, however, indicate Panic may have a larger problem than it realizes. Crazy Apple Rumors Site has learned that the company’s license was pulled at the behest of none other than the Chinese government. China has recently flexed its muscle with U.S. firms — from the NBA to other software developers — and apparently objects to one recent Panic app in particular.

“Untitled Goose Game represents a clear and present threat to Chinese sovereignty,” said Yang Cheung, a spokesperson for the Chinese government.

Gesturing to a video of Untitled Goose Game gameplay, Cheung explained. “The goose is a lawless force of rampant anti-nationalism. It encourages violence against the state and disrespects authority.”

[…]

“He even steals the bell, which is used to ring out the victory of the people over the enemies of the state. Assuming you can figure out how to get into the model town area, which I found to be unnecessarily difficult.”

“Also, we don’t like the name ‘Panic’. It seems intended to cause unrest within the citizenry.”
Apple has so far declined to comment on the license revocation, but it did pull at its collar with one finger and grimace uncomfortably.

via GIPHY

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Blizzard Sets Off Backlash for Penalizing Hearthstone Gamer in Hong Kong

Blizzard Sets Off Backlash for Penalizing Hearthstone Gamer in Hong Kong

Daniel Victor, writing for the New York Times:

Activision Blizzard became the latest American company to find itself caught between its business interests in China and the values of its core customers after it suspended an e-sports player who voiced support for the Hong Kong protests during a live broadcast.

The decision to suspend Chung Ng Wai, a professional Hearthstone player in Hong Kong, for a year, while forcing him to forfeit a reported $10,000 in prize money, prompted a backlash in the United States similar to the public relations debacle the N.B.A. has faced this week. Gamers posted angrily on social media and in forums, while politicians saw it as another troubling sign of China’s chilling clampdown on speech worldwide.

“Recognize what’s happening here. People who don’t live in China must either self censor or face dismissal and suspensions,” Senator Marco Rubio, Republican of Florida, wrote on Twitter. “China using access to market as leverage to crush free speech globally.”

Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon, a Democrat, concurred, saying on Twitter that Activision Blizzard showed “it is willing to humiliate itself to please the Chinese Communist Party.”

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Taiwan flag emoji disappears from latest Apple iPhone keyboard

Kris Cheng, writing for the Hong Kong Free Press:

The Republic of China flag emoji has disappeared from Apple iPhone’s keyboard for Hong Kong and Macau users. The change happened for users who updated their phones to the latest operating system.

Updating iPhones to iOS 13.1.1 or above caused the flag emoji to disappear from the emoji keyboard. The flag, commonly used by users to denote Taiwan, can still be displayed by typing “Taiwan” in English, and choosing the flag in prediction candidates.

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How the heart became the centre of the Apple Watch

David Phelan, for The Independent:

Earlier this year, Apple’s CEO Tim Cook commented on the importance of health to the company. In a statement that has been widely quoted, he said, “I believe, if you zoom out into the future, and you look back, and you ask the question, ‘What was Apple’s greatest contribution to mankind?’, it will be about health.”
Although he only said it some months ago, it’s been a direction the company has been taking for years.

I’m meeting Jeff Williams, Apple’s Chief Operating Officer, along with Kevin Lynch, Vice President of Technology and Sumbul Desai, the company’s Vice President of Health.

The Apple Heart Study, conducted recently in conjunction with Stanford, was the largest study of its type. It examined atrial fibrillation in order to provide validation for the irregular rhythm notification, a feature available on most models of Apple Watch.

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Apple Arcade is a home for premium games that lost their place on mobile

Apple Arcade is a home for premium games that lost their place on mobile

Andrew Webster, writing for The Verge:

For more than six years, designer Zach Gage has been toying with an idea for a game where players explore dangerous dungeons, but did so through various cards stacked in a grid, rifling through piles to heal or fight a monster. It’s an idea he played with endlessly, until around two years ago when he turned it into a functioning prototype that he’d show only trusted friends.

But Gage wanted to do something bigger than he was used to. He made a name for himself with twists on existing games like Sage Solitaire and Really Bad Chess, but he also typically developed games solo. His new idea, he thought, would be perfect for a bigger production, with lots of great art to showcase monster designs and spell cards. The problem was that the state of premium-priced games on mobile was becoming increasingly dire, which made investing a lot in the game a risky proposition. Then Apple Arcade came along.
“Basically once Apple got in touch I was like, ‘Oh! Yes! This is the perfect time for me to make this game,’” he explains.

The final product, Card of Darkness, was one of more than 70 launch titles that debuted alongside Apple Arcade last month, and to develop it Gage collaborated with indie studio Choice Provisions and Adventure Time creator Pendleton Ward. All told, around 10 people worked on the game, which now sits alongside new releases from the famed indie studios behind games like Monument ValleyAlto’s Adventure, and Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP on Apple’s fledgling subscription service.

Apple Arcade — and in particular the funding from Apple — has given mobile developers the freedom to think big without having to worry about how they’re going to make that money back. With the premium market all but untenable for everyone but the biggest games, Arcade has now become a home for mobile games that otherwise might not have existed on the platform. “It’s creating a space where you can take risks,” says Andrew Schimmel, producer at Alto developer Snowman. “You don’t have to think about the monetization model as you’re designing.”

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The biggest announcements from Amazon’s fall 2019 hardware event

The biggest announcements from Amazon’s fall 2019 hardware event

The Verge:

Amazon’s huge 2019 hardware event has wrapped up. The company announced 15 new products, including the Echo Buds truly wireless headphones, the Dolby Atmos-equipped Echo Studio speaker, and the Echo Frames, which have built-in microphones so you can chat with Alexa.

A few of the announcements were minor revisions, like the Echo Dot smart speaker with an integrated clock, and the Alexa Smart Oven that can convection bake and air fry food items (in addition to being a regular microwave).

But there were more than a few unexpected surprises, including the Echo Loop smart ring, the new, affordable Eero mesh Wi-Fi router, the Amazon Fetch pet tracker, and more.

The Echo Frames, Echo Loop and the Echo Buds are the three items they announced today that look the most interesting.

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Apple scraps Richard Gere drama ‘Bastards’

Apple scraps Richard Gere drama ‘Bastards’

Hollywood Reporter:

Picked up straight to series late last year, Gere was set to star as one of two elderly Vietnam vets and best friends who find their monotonous lives upended when a woman they both loved 50 years ago is killed by a car.

Gordon and Leight collaborated on two scripts and, sources say, were met with notes from Apple about the show’s tone of vigilante justice. Sources say Gordon did not want to focus on the larger metaphor of friendship between the two Vietnam vets and wanted to focus on the darker elements of the series, with Fox 21 executives backing the veteran producer.

Leight departed shortly afterward and Apple, which multiple sources note is looking for aspirational programming, wanted to ensure the series was focused on the heart and emotion of the central friendship.

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