Dec 15, 2023
In the rapidly changing realm of virtual and augmented reality development, the past six months have witnessed transformative shifts, particularly with the introduction of groundbreaking hardware from Meta and Apple. These advancements have ushered in a new era of possibilities, allowing game developers like us at Beyond to explore concepts that were once confined to the realms of imagination. We were always imagining them.
A big milestone in this journey is the launch of Meta Quest 3 and the soon to be released Apple Vision Pro headset. The Apple Vision Pro, powered by visionOS and dual Apple Silicon chips (M2 Ultra and R1), boasts a two-hour usage capability with a tethered battery pack and introduces innovative features such as "natural control" through hand and eye tracking, along with voice commands. Priced at $3,499, this headset is set to debut in the U.S. early next year. We can’t wait even if the price tag is on the rather high side.
Meanwhile, Meta Quest 3 is in the hands of users and our studio. It enhances the mixed reality experience with six upgraded outward-facing cameras, providing a vivid representation of the real-world surroundings in full color. The massive improvements in hand tracking make it a standout choice for developers, offering precision beyond its predecessor, Meta Quest 2.
One particularly cool exploration we have found at Beyond involves seamlessly transitioning from augmented reality to virtual reality through a portal within one's own living space. Previous iterations of the Meta Quest struggled to offer a comfortable and immersive passthrough experience, but with Meta 3, the paradigm has shifted. The introduction of a portal, enabling users to move effortlessly between the real and virtual worlds, has proven to be a very enjoyable and often very funny experience.
Our team decided to get stuck in and start experimenting with both hand tracking and delving into the possibilities of augmented-to-virtual reality transitions. This is a screen shot showing an example of a stencil mask test we worked on. This was our first approach working towards using a physical space behind the portal, but masking out everywhere except through the portal view. This setup allows for that using a depth pass to view the objects behind the mask, but does have limitations with the materials required on the objects rendered in this pass.
We got portals working and yes they are fun! Did we say that already?
For those keen to start playing around and if you’ve not a developer but just want to enjoy mixed reality then we suggest trying mixed reality design and prototyping, tools like FigminXR are great. Offering the ability to import 3D files, draw, animate, and build within a spatial context, FigminXR facilitates the exploration of spatial design and asset performance in mixed reality environments.
Remember the fun of Tilt Brush. FigminXR is this on steroids.
Now we have access to the Apple Vision Pro editor suite. We've been experimenting with hand gestures and control mechanisms. It became evident that meticulous attention to user comfort is crucial. We tried a lot of different options and today landed on a mixture of hand movements and button mechanics which in a mixed reality environment have been surprisingly effective, offering a rhythmic and engaging interaction for our new game.
Our key takeaways from our experiences emphasise the importance of innovation, continuous testing, and refining control methods. Early involvement of testers, particularly for features involving arms, eye, or hand tracking, is crucial. We do Friday testing in the Wellington studio get in touch.
Additionally, considerations for accessibility from the project's inception contribute to a more inclusive and user-friendly spatial computing experience. We encourage others to embrace experimentation, push boundaries, and prioritise FUN to unlock the full potential of spatial computing.