Boston FIG

I had a fun time checking out the Boston Festival of Indie Games (BostonFIG) on Saturday.

In addition to a tour of the games, I enjoyed checking out some talks.

Leonie Manshanden did a extremely nice job of giving an overview of realities and strategies of marketing in If You Build It, They Will Come, and then Monty Sharma and his MassDigi Students participated in a panel where they shared insights and perspectives about their experience in the MassDigi summer program Game Devs: The Next Generation. The students were gave positively glowing reactions to their experiences, and they made it clear that Monty was responsible for giving them the ultimate in constructivist learning experiences (without them even having to know the theory and terminology behind what he was doing 🙂 Well done!

Finally, the most valuable parts of the day was attending a session where Chance Ivey and Jess Hider of Epic games presented Why Unreal Engine? — they provided an overview of their game engine’s features and strengths. Unreal is the alternative authoring option to Unity that we are using for our 3D/VR development, and we are deliberating about where or not to bite the bullet and either shift to Unreal or work with both platforms in parallel. They definitely provided food for thought, but the jury remains out for now…

Coming soon…

Note: This post was updated the day after the Oculus Rift was released.

As mentioned in the last post, 2016 is billed as the year that Virtual Reality (VR) will finally take off, and it just might do it. As predicted, the fun kicked-off with the buzz out of the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas this week.

Facebook backed Oculus created a frenzy by accepting pre-orders of the Consumer Edition of the Oculus Rift on Wednesday, January 6th. It turns out that it costs $599, and the first shipments will be March 28. Oculus says that it will also be available in “limited locations at select retailers” starting in April. This means that will still see it under the Coming Soon category on our Cosma 3D site. Note that this edition will not include the much touted “Oculus Touch Controllers.” That will not be available until later this year, but to soften the blow, they are bundling the games EVE: Valkyrie and Lucky’s Tale.

The $599 price tag was much higher than most fans expected, so it caused a backlash. Here are two articles that appeared the morning after pre-orders began.
“No More Ballparks” — Oculus’ Palmer Luckey Admits Screwing Up Rift Price-Point Messaging (Natasha Lomas, Tech Crunch)
The Oculus Rift’s Problem Isn’t Price—It’s Perfection (Dina Litovsky, Wired)

HTC Vive has also just released their next developer version called the Vive Pre. It is creating quite the buzz in tech-land. Here’s a nice, “relatively” accurate update on the state of VR products today. My tiny quibble with it is that I think they played the HTC Vive down a bit too much at the end.

Oculus Rift Versus HTC Vive: The VR Headset Battle (Bloomberg Business)

It is exciting to hear about all that is happening, but on the other hand it is frustrating that there’s so much hype, closed door demos for developers and the press as well as other types of activities that do not involve products and content that are readily available to typical consumers right now. We are focused on overcoming that frustration by focusing on what is already available and possible in the here and now.

That being said, it is also valuable to know what’s going to be coming just over the horizon, so Cosma 3Ds Coming Soon and Platforms pages have just been completely updated. This is where you can find information about what you can look forward to seeing in the “relatively” near future (roughly in the order you can expect to see them). Enjoy!

Oculus Rift (Oculus VR, Facebook)
Vive (HTC, Steam VR)
PlayStation VR, fka Project Morpheus (Sony)
Hololens (Microsoft)
Magic Leap (Magic Leap, Google)

Of course, we’ll be trying to get our hands on as many of these as we can as fast as possible, and then bring them to you through our events. Please stay tuned…

More info.
Virtual Reality In CES 2016 Spotlight As Sony, HTC And Facebook’s Oculus Show Off VR Gear, Content (Salvador Rodriguez, International Business Times)
Hands-On with New HTC Vive vs. Oculus Rift at CES 2016 (Steve Burke, Gamers Nexus)
HTC Vive VS Oculus Rift VS PlayStation VR: release date, price, specs and games (Adam Shepherd, IT Pro)
How 2016 will be the start of your virtual-reality future (Scott Stein, CNET)
This is the best analogy we’ve ever read about the future of virtual reality (Jillian D’Onfro, Telegram.com)

Happy New Year!

2015 was a busy year for Digital Den, and 2016 is shaping up to be even more exciting!

Before explaining what’s coming, here’s a bit of news.

Cosma 3D Gallery
We’ve just finished a new demo — it is a 3D virtual gallery that is an interface to interesting, interactive and 3D web content. here is a video walk-through of the application. Notice that all of the posters and objects are links.

The application runs on Windows 7/8, and you can download it from Google Drive. It was developed in Unity3D, so it requires a computer with a fairly good CPU and graphics card. If you want to try it for yourself, click the link below, then click “Download.”

Cosma 3D v.1.5 (Cosma-3D-15.exe, 81 mb, Google Drive)

It is a self-extracting Zip file (.exe). You may receive warnings that you are downloading a “suspicious” file. Do not worry, it is still “home baked,” but there are no viruses. Once you download the file and unzip it, you will see a folder called “Cosma 3D” that has a “Cosma-3D-15.exe” file and a corresponding data folder. Click on the “Cosma-3D-15.exe” file to run it. Again, you may need to allow your virus software to run it or click “more info.” and “okay” in Windows Defender. After you are running the application, you will see instructions. There is also more information about this application and the history of the project on the Cosma 3D Gallery page.

Coming soon…
Now that we’ve gotten a few Unity 3D applications under our belt, the next step is to polish, elaborate and expand how the applications are created and shared. For example, we are experimenting with publishing the above Cosma 3D Gallery to a WebGL version that will playable directly in standard browsers. We are also working on a “VR” version that can be seen using Google Cardboard, Samsung GearVR and Oculus Rift. Watch for more announcements soon, but now, speaking of the Oculus Rift…

It is finally here!
2016 is being billed as the year that Virtual Reality (VR) will finally take off, and this just might be the case. There are definitely a lot of caveats and plenty of skepticism is warranted, but no matter what, there really are a lot of significant developments in the area that are about to come to the general public’s notice in the first half of 2016, and the fun will kick-off any minute as the buzz out of the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) hits the press this weekend. Here’s an article that covers some of what you will hear.
CES 2016 will be virtual reality showcase (Edward C. Baig, USA TODAY)

Shortly after that, the Facebook owned Oculus will finally start taking orders for their consumer version of the Oculus Rift. Then a raft full of other significant VR products will roll out into the consumer market every few weeks the rest of the year. Each of the platforms will be introduced and explained on the Cosma 3D blog as they are released. Digital Den will be trying to get our hands on as many of the products as possible to review, use for development and share with the public through events. Stay tuned as we report about our progress here…

For now, thank you for your interest and again, Happy New Year! -Mary

Fond farewell

I had a major dilemma back in the winter of 2012/2013 when I started to think about making my computer hardware and software collection publicly accessible — where to do it? I definitely didn’t want to invite the general public into my home, so I started to look into renting. I quickly found out that things had changed a lot since the days when I had my computer business in Harvard Square (Studio-E, 1994-1997). The commercial rents in Cambridge have become absolutely mind-blowing — they are literally some of the highest in the world. There was no way I could rationalize paying so much for such a tiny, non-profit mission of making some old computers available to the public for free.

Then one day I was walking by Metropolitan Storage. It was a place that had become near and dear to my heart over the years as I had turned to them again and again for stashing my stuff — I had come to think of them as one gigantic, practically boundless “room of requirement.” My ever expanding collection of computing history had made its way there more than once over the 20 years since I had my business. I had an “aha moment,” walked in and struck a deal. The folks at Metropolitan Storage were absolutely fabulous about helping me get set up. They even painted and wired a space right inside the main door, and they were happy to guide anyone who came looking for me to my new space that I decided to dub “Digital Den.”

metropolitan-outside all-best

One of my visitors included Hiawatha Bray from the Boston Globe who wrote this article about my new adventure that debuted on the front page of the business section of a Sunday edition. Hiawatha even included a picture of Bill Gates visiting the old computer museum in Boston!
A passion to preserve the digital past (Hiawatha Bray, Boston Globe, August 31, 2013)

The Globe also sent a reporter to shoot a video to go with the story, and the video does a great job of showing the space that the team at Metropolitan Storage custom built for me.
Cambridge museum aims to preserve digital history (Boston Globe Video)

I eventually learned that I was not alone in my quirky choice — I had other neighbors that had also found some interesting, non-traditional uses for their self-storage units. My favorite co-inhabitant was a woman who had worked with the team at Metropolitan Storage to construct a fantasy closet to house her massive collection of clothes. There was also another unit right next door to mine that had a really fantastic, huge custom built study.

Over time I decided that I wasn’t getting enough traffic from the public to rationalize the expense, so I decided to evolve to a “pop-up” model. It made me sad, but I moved my collection back home and let go of my space. I figured I might get another space someday, maybe shift clothes instead of computers, go for a closet space, too …

Alas, that isn’t going to happen after all. Early on in my adventure I learned that MIT had actually bought Metropolitan Storage’s property years ago, and so they could choose to use it for something else someday. Sadly, I learned over the summer that MIT has decided to do just that. Many of us in Cambridge have been talking about it for months — where in the world is all that stuff going to go? What are they going to find in those rooms? A dorm, really? How are they going to do that!?! But most of all, what are all of us Cantabrigians going to do without our wonderful, perennial “rooms of requirement?”

Then last weekend the Boston Globe ran a story about the closing, and they included a video capturing the beautiful custom spaces my former neighbors are giving up. It is a bitter-sweet tribute to what is being lost, and it is also sad that only now is everyone seeing the wonderful things that the team at Metropolitan Storage had been doing for its tenants.
A housing boom claims warehouse full of home trappings (Tim Logan, Boston Globe)

Be sure to check out the story and the video. It really is a tribute to an irreplaceable institution that is going to be sorely missed! So long Metropolitan!

VR Fun

Yesterday was a fun day for VR in the Boston/Cambridge area.

First, as announced by Verizon and posted on Cosma 3D, special Star Wars editions of the Google Cardboard did find their way into the Verizon stores to be picked up for free by Verizon customers. I got mine at the Harvard Square store, and they still had some left.

HarvardSq-Verizon-Cardboard

Friendly salesperson at Verizon store handing out Star Wars themed Google Cardboard

If you are a Verizon customer, be sure to stop by your local store before supplies run out (which they surely will).

Then later in the day I got to head over to the sold out Birdly opening reception and talk by Max Rheiner that was sponsored by Swissnex at Le Laboratoire Cambridge.

It was a wonderful event, and the Birdly experience is mind-blowing. Here is an article from the Boston Globe about the exhibit.

Want to soar like a bird? Flight simulator coming to Cambridge (Steve Annear, Boston Globe)

The opening is over, but the demo will still be available to try for the next few days. You need to stop by Le Laboratoire Cambridge in person to sign up for a time slot.

Here are the hours:
Dec 3: 12PM-9PM, Dec 4: 12PM-6PM, Dec 5: 11AM–5PM

Again, act fast, the available times will probably fill up quickly.

In general, the roll out and buzz for the new generation of VR is in full swing. Whether it will survive the hype cycle to become a full fledged “next platform” on the order of earlier generations like the web and mobile remains to be seen, but the answer should become clearer within the next few months as the Oculus Rift, Vive and other high-end VR/AR headsets hit the market. No matter what, it’s going to be interesting to watch what unfolds.

Be sure to follow Cosma 3D to get the latest news…

Gift Shop!

There is a new version of the New Computer Museum, Virtual Edition!

New Computer Museum v.1.5 (NEWCM-Nov.zip, 57 mb, Google Drive, 11/25/15)
https://drive.google.com/file/d/0BzONVBfavVv9RlN5TElLQTgtQnc/view?usp=sharing

You will find a number of new galleries and objects in this version.
There are more details and instructions in the online Guide.
http://newcomputermuseum.org/guide

This version even has a Gift Shop with some geeky computer gift ideas!
Even if you don’t download the app, you can see them on the web.
http://newcomputermuseum.org/guide/giftshop/

Disclaimer: These are just some fun ideas — the New Computer Museum
gets no proceeds and makes no guarantees about the products.

Enjoy & Cheers!
The Digital Den Team

DIY VR

It has been a strange week full of ups and downs. Just one of the downs, although by no means the worst, was attending an event where I thought I was going to come back with some fantastic, juicy new tidbits to share about what’s hot in “frontier technologies” like AR/VR. Sadly, what actually happened was it became abysmally apparent how drastic the gap is between what’s already possible, as in things as basic as what I share on Cosma 3D, and what even “experts” seem to be aware of right now. There was very little overlap. Needless to say, this does not bode well for the prospects of the VR/AR industry.

On the other hand, a key new good development this week was that Mark Zuckerberg finally started to show-off why he spent that $2bn on Oculus. It was not nearly as frivolous nor clueless as some people would have you believe. Specifically, Facebook made a splash by saying that they are now going to feature 360-degree video ads on Facebook. The fact they would be doing this has been known for awhile, but now they ARE actually doing it. Here are a few articles about the move.

Facebook Unleashes VR-Style 360 Videos For Ads And iOS (Josh Constine, Tech Crunch)
See the First 360-Degree Video Ads on Facebook (Tim Peterson, Advertising Age)
AT&T, Samsung, Nestle Among Brands Test New Format

Here is an excellent video that nicely recaps where things are so far.

Facebook Brings 360-degree Videos to iPhone and Gear VR

Okay, ironically, the video says there are no ads on the Gear VR — that is true. They are only on Facebook news feeds (for now, anyway). Here is a web page about this new 360-degree ad feature: 360 Video (Facebook).

So that’s great. You can now see 360-degree ads on your Facebook news feed. I’m pretty sure most of you are NOT celebrating this latest development. Then again, look more carefully and you will notice that YOU can also create and publish your own 360-degree videos. As far as the purposes of this site go, the later is by far the more important thing, because to go along with the new ability to publish your 360-degree videos (evil ads or otherwise), Facebook just published some helpful resources about how to get started making your own 360-degree videos. Bravo!
Learning Resources: Get started with 360 Video today (Facebook)
Best Practices for Immersive Storytelling (Chris Milk and Aaron Koblin, Facebook) (pdf)
360 Video Upload Guide (Facebook) (pdf)

There you have it. It is pretty much possible to use almost any mobile phone to record and publish 360-degree photos and videos directly to both YouTube and Facebook fully tagged with searchable metadata like geo-codes, names, dates and what-not. These videos will be able to be seen on Google Cardboard and/or Gear VR. Furthermore, the process is so simple that school kids can do it (and probably have been using their phones to share Photo Spheres and related media on Google Street View for over a year or so already).

The resources Facebook posted, as well as seeing a “need” based on my unfortunate experiences at the aforementioned event, led me to finally post a long overdue page on Cosma 3D about DIY 3D/360/VR photos and videos.

Please enjoy and, by all means, share this page!
https://cosma3d.wordpress.com/diy/