Virtual Reality System to Fly in Space Brings Non-Astronauts Aboard ISS

The ISS Floating Tour, in addition to being an amazing experience for high-end devices such as the upcoming retail Oculus Rift and PlayStation headsets, also will be viewable on high-resolution smartphones and tablets.

The ISS Floating Tour, in addition to being an amazing experience for high-end devices such as the upcoming retail Oculus Rift and PlayStation headsets, also will be viewable on high-resolution smartphones and tablets.

For the first time ever, a virtual reality recording system will be flown in space. The project, announced by Deep Space Industries (DSI), will use a spherical video capture system to create a virtual reality float-through tour of the International Space Station‘s science lab.

Feeding into the exciting growth of VR systems created by Oculus Rift, Sony, and Samsung, this project, initiated by DSI, is a cooperative effort with Thrillbox, and the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS), managers of the ISS U.S.

National Laboratory. This innovative partnership will allow, for the first time, anyone with a VR headset to have a fully immersive astronaut experience aboard the International Space Station. Additionally, CASIS will use the spherical video to familiarize potential researchers with the scientific facilities on the ISS National Lab.

“The space station is packed with equipment, literally in every direction. Gear is built into the walls, embedded in the floor, and tucked into the ceiling,” said

David Gump, DSI Vice-Chair. “The spherical video captured during a float through will enable people to look everywhere, as they would if they were up in the station themselves.”

Deep Space Industries began the project as an early step in developing VR systems to be used for exploring and mining asteroids, and brought in Thrillbox to focus on distributing the captured images to the greatest number of people.

The partnership between Thrillbox and DSI provides the right combination of expertise in space operations and virtual reality, creating a successful project that provides value for CASIS and offers a unique experience to consumers.

The ISS Floating Tour, in addition to being an amazing experience for high-end devices such as the upcoming retail Oculus Rift and PlayStation headsets, also will be viewable on high-resolution smartphones and tablets.

“As excitement about spherical video spreads to more people, Thrillbox is providing a universal player for web sites and personal computers that delivers a sophisticated way to handle this new format,” said Benjamin Durham, CEO of Thrillbox. “The partnership with DSI will allow us to distribute this unique space experience to consumers around the world.”

A video capture rig with multiple cameras covering a spherical field of view will provide a “you-are-there” experience never before available. In addition to entertaining consumers, this detailed video will be used by CASIS for educating potential researchers and potentially by NASA for familiarizing future ISS crews with the ever-changing internal arrangement of the station’s gear and supplies. Read the rest of this entry »


OH YES SHE DID: Woman Lures 11-Year-Old Boy on Xbox; Sends Explicit Photos, Gives Boy Clothes, Debit Cards, Jewelry as Gifts

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‘During the course of playing video games together online, Jessica Carlton and the boy developed a relationship that grew to involve sexually explicit text messages and phone conversations, then the exchange of sexually explicit photographs’

A Michigan woman is accused of having an inappropriate relationship with an 11-year-old boy for more than a year after meeting him on Xbox Live.

“During the course of playing video games together online, Carlton and the boy developed a relationship that grew to involve sexually explicit text messages and phone conversations, then the exchange of sexually explicit photographs.”

In March 2015, the Union County Prosecutor’s Office in New Jersey received a referral from a municipal police department that Jessica Carlton, 44, had been communicating with the young victim, who at that point was 13-year-old, according to a news release.

“It’s extremely important for parents to understand that during the course of doing something that certainly might seem harmless — playing a video game online — their children could easily wind up meeting adults with dark intentions.”

An investigation revealed that Carlton first contacted the victim via Xbox Live, an online multiplayer gaming system, sometime in May 2013, Union County Assistant Prosecutor Colleen Ruppert said.

“During the course of playing video games together online, Carlton and the boy developed a relationship that grew to involve sexually explicit text messages and phone conversations, then the exchange of sexually explicit photographs,” the document states.

Carlton allegedly traveled from Michigan to New Jersey in December 2014 to bring the boy gifts and to meet him in person, Ruppert said.  Read the rest of this entry »


New Research Explores How to Stop Virtual Reality from Making You Want to Puke

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Rachel Metz writes: I’m sitting in Gordon Wetzstein’s lab at Stanford University with a hacked-together prototype of a head-mounted display strapped to my face, using a wireless Xbox controller to manipulate a series of 3-D models: a lion, a chessboard filled with chess pieces, an espresso machine, and so on.

“…the technology has improved immensely in the last couple years, there are still plenty of crucial issues to be sorted out—among them that feeling of motion sickness that some people like myself have when experiencing virtual reality, which arises from what’s known as vergence-accommodation conflict.”

The images are fairly simple, run-of-the-mill models—the kind that anyone could download from the Internet. What is interesting, though, is what happens as I stare at the models, turning them with the controller so I can inspect them from different angles: I can focus on the different parts of the images at different depths as I would when gazing at something in real life, so when I look at, say, the chess pieces up close, those in the background look fuzzy, and vice versa when I focus on the pieces in the distance. And I don’t feel nauseous or dizzy like I sometimes do when I’m playing around with virtual reality, especially when looking at objects that are close to my face.

“In real life, when you’re looking at something—a flower, for instance—your eyes move and the lens in each eye adjusts to bring whatever’s in front of you into focus. With stereoscopic 3-D, a technology commonly used by companies making virtual reality headsets, things gets trickier.”

Virtual reality is on the verge of commercial availability, with consumer-geared headsets like the Oculus Rift poised for release next year (see “Oculus Shows Its First Consumer Headset, Circular Hand Controls”). Yet while the technology has improved immensely in the last couple years, there are still plenty of crucial issues to be sorted out—among them that feeling of motion sickness that some people like myself have when experiencing virtual reality, which arises from what’s known as vergence-accommodation conflict.

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This conflict is what Wetzstein, an assistant professor of electrical engineering, and other researchers at Stanford are trying to solve with the headset I tried on, which they call a light field stereoscope—essentially, a device that uses a stack of two LEDs to show each eye a “light field” that makes virtual images look more natural than they typically do.

[Read the full text here, at MIT Technology Review]

Sample images show what it looks like to use the light field stereoscope to focus on parts of a 3-D scene that appear to be at different depths.

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Xbox One vs. PlayStation 4: the End of Gaming as We Know it?

Sony and Microsoft release their first video-game consoles in seven years, but they’re battling for a world of play that is rapidly changing

game.consolesx299Simon Parkin reports: This month marks a milestone in the turf war for the space beneath our television sets: it’s the first time that Sony and Microsoft have released new video-game consoles within a week of one another. The PlayStation 4 launched in the U.S. a week ago (and launches in Europe next week), while Microsoft’s Xbox One is available around the world as of today. Both systems are Blu-ray-playing supercomputers squeezed into similar-looking black plastic casing; both are designed to usher in a new era of high-definition, online-enabled video games.

The consoles are a technological leap over their forebears, with broadly similar internal specifications (eight-core CPUs, eight gigabytes of RAM, 500-gigabyte hard drives). Each has a powerful external camera that facilitates facial recognition and allows some games to be played with the human body rather than a controller. Sony’s focus is on the core “gamer”: the PlayStation 4’s multimedia capabilities are still present but are pushed to one side in favor of games (both the hulking Hollywood-style blockbuster games and the smaller independent variety). By comparison, Microsoft’s more expensive Xbox One ($500 compared to $381) has a broader aim, acting as an HDMI-enabled set-top box as well as offering a vast array of non-game apps, from streaming TV and movie services to a camera-enabled fitness program.

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