VR Games in the Esports League

VR Games in the Esports League

A mere four years ago, at the Games Developers Conference (GDC 2014), VR gaming was going through yet another revival after several decades and had another chance to revolutionize the gaming industry.  During that time, Oculus was just a small little company funded from a Kickstarter campaign that seemed to have appeared out of nowhere before being acquired by Facebook.

Immediately after that, Sony PlayStation decided to jump on the VR bandwagon, joining Oculus Rift and HTC Vive.  Many thought it had the potential to completely disrupt and revolutionize the game industry and that everyone would be abandoning their game controllers in favor of VR headsets. In addition, many assumed Sony would take the PS4 platform into more of an online VR community of VR gamers, much like they have done with the success of their traditional online games.  Sony and Xbox had dominated with over the years allowing you to be put in the same community as your friends no matter where you are in the world.

Instead, VR gaming has mainly been a one-person/player experience, being shut into an environment virtual reality world where you are in isolation.  However, through social media and online communities, things are beginning to change all that.  Especially the devoted community for Survio’s “Sprint Vector” which recently made it’s debut on Esports in the VR League at Oculus Connect 5 this year.

Andrew Abedian, the Senior game designer at VR game company, Survios, was recently at the 2018 XRDC conference in San Francisco and talked about the grassroots evolution of how their game, “Sprint Vector” was turned from an early speed-running prototype that evolved into a pioneer multiplayer VR title in Esports, thanks mainly through the help of their online community. “Humanity loves sports…there’s a great drive towards watching it because it’s so physical and athletic and stamina based…there’s a mental game with teamwork and strategy.  When you see a player going down the field you get a sense of what they are going through and the heart they are putting into it”.  Abedian continued, “On the other side of the coin you have Esports…which is really a mental game…highly dexterity based and drives with the mind”. “VR Esports are the middle ground”…”Sprint Vector is built around those concepts”. He explained that “Sprint Vector” is the “middle gap” of real sports and Esports, where real sports is very physical and gaming is very mental.

In “Sprint Vector”, players achieve speed and mobility by pumping their arms like a runner and turning their heads to steer.  Other controls allow them to jump and climb, drift and fly at tremendous speeds.  It is a very physical game and to be a contender at a high level, contestants really do need to be athletic and fit.

Replacing the more conventional traditional teleport locomotion or joystick for moving around, Survio’s developed and utilized their proprietary “Fluid Locomotion” system in “Sprint Vector” which nearly eliminates nausea.   90-95% of the people have reduced nausea or no nausea”, explains Abedian.  That essentially makes it much easier for the players to stay in the games longer.

For spectators of traditional sports, this makes Esports much more credible compared to watching couch potatoes with close up shots of showing their incredible finger dexterity.  These players are sweating it out with their arms, twisting and turning.  Action in movement creates excitement within a real competition and it’s much more exciting to watch the players getting a real workout.

Prior to its official release this year, “Sprint Vector” was able to gain much exposure through GDC2017 where their booths were gathering crowds and their events were becoming spectacles by themselves with many onlookers cheering and watching above from the guard rails. They also had tournaments, such as the Alienware VR Cup at CES2018, along with leader boards and prizes, sponsored by partners Alienware, Nvidia and Intel. After its release in February, despite the game’s exposure throughout GDC and CES, the game was wearing thin after a few months and it was near impossible to find players online to compete with.  Many were already losing interest in playing the game and the numbers were dropping rapidly.

That all changed when Survios reviving the small but passionate community by organizing Happy Hours on Saturday nights, along with Speed Running Tournaments, facilitating game rooms and ensuring game play for those that were interested.   In addition, they also offered prizes for online competition. Suddenly, the community started getting bigger and bigger.

Even ESL started to take note of the devoted community and they eventually chose “Sprint Vector” to participate in this year’s Oculus Connect 5 show and into the VR League making their major debut on Esports.  $12,000 was awarded in prizes for the “Sprint Vector” competition.  “Not bad for a game that originally had no intention of being an Esport.” Abedian noted.  It was just last year’s Oculus Connect 4 Conference where Mark Zuckerberg announced his lofty ambition goals for VR – “We’re setting a goal: we want to get a billion people in virtual reality.”

According to CCS Insight, there are approximately 22 million VR headsets that were sold this year and the number is expected to grow four fold to 121 million next year.  If that’s the case, then Zuckerberg will certainly hit his goal soon. Maybe in the future we can have a VR League marathon involving thousands of participants.

 

 

Shure sounds like paradise:  The KSE1200 Electrostatic Earphone System

Shure sounds like paradise: The KSE1200 Electrostatic Earphone System

Most consumers who listen to music through their personal devices don’t hear much of the nuance and detail that was meticulously crafted and constructed during the recording process in the studios.  Sure, they “listen” to their music through their headsets and enjoy it enough to sing and keep listening to it, but they really don’t “hear” the highly detailed and immersive sounds which recording engineers have meticulously captured.

There is quite a lot lost during the journey from that was faithfully recorded initially in the music studio to the path of the consumer’s ears.

At the most recent Pepcom Digital Experience show in San Francisco, some of the most cutting edge companies displayed their latest mobility wares, and featured a few audiophile manufacturers thrown into the mix, which was a refreshing change. Problem was that some of the companies couldn’t instantaneously demonstrate how good their audio products were since the surrounding booths would drown each other out and no one would be able to hear anything in the room.

Luckily, at the Shure booth, they didn’t have that issue.  Their audio demo was quite minimalist with a table that included an iPad attached to their KSE1200 analog Electrostatic Earphone System.

Lyle Lovett’s “Her First Mistake” was the first demo from the Shure booth. Photo by Marcus Siu

When I put those little earphones on, the sound was so pure and lifelike that I felt I was put right in the actual recording studio alongside with singer Lyle Lovett and his band.  I could hear every little acoustic detail from his band, along with every breath that Lyle took while singing.  This demonstrated to me that this is as honest as music is going to get.  Even coming from the mainstream iPad, it was still unbelievable that the sound could sound so true.

My initial impression was how could something so light and small put out such detailed and realistic lifelike sound coming from these tiny little 5.8 ounce earphones?  It was disbelief for me for the first few minutes, and then I just surrendered to the music and just could not stop listening.

Not only that, but these lightweight earphones were extremely comfortable.  There was never an issue with “headphone fatigue” like other headphones I have tried on before.  After the first minute or so, I almost forgot I had them in my ears all together once I started hearing the music.

I really got into the music while I was moving and a grooving.  I was gettin’ down like James Brown and I’m sure the other fellow journalists around me probably thought I was a nut or just overreacting around the Shure booth to get some attention, but I was most certainly not.

I was so immersed with the music making that was produced through this system and was listening carefully to hear if I could discover any imperfections at all, which never happened.  This is as close to hear what the sound engineers hear in the studio.  Nothing to obstruct between your ears and the music.  It was just me and the music.  Pure and simple.

 

Photo courtesy of Shure

Actually, the KSE1200 Electrostatic Earphone Systems aren’t new with Shure.  According to Sean Sullivan, who gave me the demo in the booth, he explained that the Shure KSE1200 is the second product in Shure’s lineup of the Electrostatic Earphone Systems, but is the same system as the Shure KSE1500 (list price $2999) that included the same electrostatic amplifier and earphones, except that the KSE1500’s amplifier included a digital front end (a DAC; a screen on it, and also a DSP built into it).

“So many people starting using the KSE1500 ($2999 list) with the analog input, but the price was still a hurdle for that.  The KSE1500, and now the KSE1200 both have an analogue input and the same circuity, literally the exact same electrostatic earphones for $1,000 less. Takes all of the digital front end and stream additional components out of the mix that people really already have in their players these days,”  Sullivan noted.

Nowadays, most people don’t need the additional components that were built into the KSE1500 system, since many media devices already have these components built in.  Bypassing these items, Shure was able to release the KSE1200 for $1000 less.  Especially that more than ever, common everyday media players have started sending digital audio out from their devices.  More and more of these players that have been coming out allows you to store massive lossless files already have great components, such as DACs,  already built right into them.

At $1,000 less, it becomes a pretty good deal.  Especially, if you happened to have heard the KSE1500’s when they first came out a few years ago.

Photo courtesy of Shure

But what makes these earphones extremely special compared to all the other ones out there is the electrostatic circuitry technology.  This is why these headphones sound like no other.

“The earphone themselves are driven differently than a standard speaker…so, in your dynamic speaker; you have your magnet, you have your coil, you have your diaphragm…all of that has a relative mass to it…and as fast as it could move, we’re so used to using these speakers…they produce really good sound, don’t get me wrong…”, Sullivan explains

“however, the electrostatic driver is compiled of a massless diaphragm that literally weighs nothing.  It has a DC charge on it, and there are two plates that hold the audio signals at plus or minus 200 volts.  Those plates are placed right next to each other, but not touching and they create the electrostatic energy field between them.  The diaphragm is suspended between those, and because it’s massless, it moves as fast as that energy field can move, so there is no magnet or coil that has to force back and forth.,, the result is the fastest diaphragm, best transient response, clarity in detail…out of this world.”

Photo courtesy of Shure

I couldn’t agree more.  It sounded out of this world…and I felt like I was transported to heaven, but went back to earth after taking the earphones off.

Once you go to paradise, it’s tough going back.

Photos by Marcus Siu

(originally published on mlsentertainment) 

 

Intersolar opens and honors Gov Brown with the Champion of Change Lifetime Achievement Award

Intersolar opens and honors Gov Brown with the Champion of Change Lifetime Achievement Award

Intersolar and ees North America, the premier solar and energy storage exhibition and conference in North America, today welcomed an expected 15,000 attendees to San Francisco’s Moscone Center. Located in the heart of the U.S. solar and storage markets, the event offers more than 40 conference sessions and workshops, exhibitor presentations on two stages, and numerous networking opportunities that connect leaders in the solar, storage and smart renewable energy industries.

A packed room was on hand for this morning’s Opening Ceremony, which featured keynote speakers Dr. Elaine Ulrich, senior advisor to the U.S. Department of Energy, and Tony Seba, author and Silicon Valley entrepreneur.

The keynote speakers reflected on the continued growth across the solar and storage industries, spurred by technology developments and groundbreaking policies. Dr. Ulrich also reminded attendees of how collaboration accelerates efforts to bring valuable technologies and services to the new energy economy.

“This industry is incredibly innovative and we’re excited about the future we’ll see together,” noted Dr. Ulrich. “We know that industry partnerships are the cornerstone of our success. Without broad industry-wide participation, we would not be where we are today.”

Mr. Seba focused on how smart energy technologies are enabling a major shift in the automotive industry, drawing parallels between the evolution of telecommunications and the electrification of the transportation sector.

Tony Seba, author and Silicon Valley entrepreneur at Intersolar Press Conference. Photo by Marcus Siu.

“By 2030, because of pure economics, every building, house, device, will have a battery,” he said. “That is going to enable another disruption: the electric vehicle disruption. By 2025, if this cost curve persists, essentially every new vehicle will be electric.”

During the Opening Ceremony, California Gov. Edmund G. Brown Jr. was honored with the Champion of Change Lifetime Achievement AWARD, presented in partnership with the California Solar and Storage Association  (CALSSA), for his unwavering commitment to solar industry advocacy over the past three decades. Bernadette Del Chiaro, executive director of CALSSA, presented the award, and commended Gov. Brown for his dedication to the advancement of solar throughout California.

“Many of you remember [Gov. Brown’s] first foray into solar back in the 1980s. He was supporting our technology way before anyone else saw the potential for it,” said Del Chiaro. “During his first term in 2011, we had 2 GW of solar in California. Today, we have 10 times that.”

Gov. Brown described Intersolar as a “gathering that can re-inspire so many innovators” before thanking organizers for the award. He went on to note: “It is California that is setting the pace. And yet we ourselves have so much more to do. Recognize, celebrate what we’ve done, but never for a moment think we are close to the goal – we have miles and miles to go.”

The Intersolar and ees North America exhibitions will showcase the latest trends in solar PV, energy storage, and smart renewable energy in six exhibition segments. With approximately 450 international companies present on the exhibition floor, attendees will gain early access to some of the most innovative solar and energy storage technologies being brought to market from across the industry value chain. The co-located conferences will feature over 170 influential speakers who will share their insights into market dynamics and opportunities for growth in 2018.

Solar and energy storage installations in the United States continue to set records and demonstrate their economic viability. According to GTM Research, 55 percent of all new electric generating capacity brought online in the U.S. in Q1 2018 came from solar. Solar installations are forecasted to reach 104 GW this year – moving forward, annual installations in the U.S. are expected to exceed the 100 GW threshold through at least 2022. The U.S. energy storage market is estimated to grow 17 times from 2017 to 2023, while the solar-plus-storage annual market is expected to reach 2.2 GW by 2023.

California Gov. Edmund G. Brown Jr. was honored with the Champion of Change Lifetime Achievement AWARD, presented in partnership with the California Solar and Storage Association. Photo by Marcus Siu.

Focus on Smart Renewable Energy Previews Next Major Industry Development  

Increasingly, utilities worldwide are looking for smarter ways to manage renewable assets, including solar, energy storage technologies, and rising energy demand from electric vehicles (EVs). A recent report from the Rocky Mountain Institute projected that 2.9 million EVs will hit the roads by 2022, adding over 11,000 gigawatt-hours of electricity demand to electric grids across the globe.

Reflecting its commitment to anticipating industry trends, ees North America debuted the Power2Drive conference track, which features four sessions on managing the storage and infrastructure demands of the electrification of transportation. An exclusive white paper from GTM Research, “Grid Edge Innovation – Technologies, Business Models and the Future of Demand Flexibility,” offered further discussion on these trends, as well as the market potential for solar-plus-storage. The paper is available for download at http://www.intersolar.us> News & Press > White Paper.

Photos by Marcus Siu

(originally published on mlsentertainment) 

 

The IRIScan Mouse Wifi All-in-One Wireless Mouse Scanner

Just like Superman who disguises himself as a mild-mannered spectacled newspaper reporter from “The Daily Planet” newspaper, easily blending in with the citizens of Metropolis as Clark Kent, the IRIScan Mouse Wifi  in comparison seems to be a typical mouse blended in among an all too overcrowded world of accessories.

Clark Kent may “look” somewhat awkward and unintimidating at times to the people around him, but that is just him masquerading as Superman, just like this seven-ounce IRIScan Mouse does well, acting as an all-in-one scanner and wireless mouse with super powers.

When observing the IRIScan mouse side by side next to a laptop, there is nothing extraordinary about it when comparing other wireless mice.  It scrolls, like a mouse, it, clicks like a mouse, and moves every which way just like a typical midsize mouse should.  With its standard three mouse buttons and dialing wheel, it’s quite mild-mannered, just like Clark Kent, and it functions quite well for an everyday mouse.

Like Superman’s “x-ray vision”, the IRIScan mouse, has similar super powers and can suddenly transform itself to become a scanner within seconds from the touch of a button.  Located on the bottom interior, its glass plate is free to roam and glide anywhere due to its wireless capability. It features a 1,500-dpi optical sensor which can create a scan with a resolution of up to 400 dpi for crisp, sharp documents using Slam Scan Technology, which is designed to allow users to scan documents up to A3 (11.7 x 16.5″) in size in a single bound.  This IRIScan mouse has super powers that are “out of this world.

 

INSTALLING THE SOFTWARE

Without the software, this mouse would have no super powers.  It’s the IRIScan and CardIris software and the hardware that makes this lithium chargeable mouse mighty unlike no other.

The first thing you need to do is to insert the dongle into the USB port of your computer and then install the IRIScan Mouse Wi-Fi software.  Once the software is installed, you will have some very powerful tools that will make it easy to make to convert and edit into different files.  By the touch of the button on the top of the mouse, the software loads the program onto your screen and immediately you are ready to scan.

THE SCANNING PROCESS: FREEHAND VS SCANPAD

To test the initial scanning of the IRIScan mouse, I grabbed a few items around the office; a credit card and credit card receipt, a business card, a film festival program, a political campaign mailer measuring 8.5”x11, as well as a CD jacket cover.  I even took a bound music book to see if I could copy a page of music without having to crease the spine.

As I was scanning each of these items by hand, I began to realize that I didn’t have a smooth flat surface to work with, making it difficult to get a good initial scan from my documents.  In addition, it was a tricky process, as I had to secure the documents using one hand and scan with the other.  If the document was larger than my hand, than it would be difficult to get a good scan because of the documents not being securely held down.

As it turned out, I was still able to create perfect scans of the credit card receipt, business card, and CD jacket cover.  I also was able to take capture a portion of the the film festival program containing a picture from the movie and the corresponding text description of it.  However, I found myself having to rescan or “repaint” the spots that I initially missed.  Luckily, they were small enough, so it wasn’t too troublesome.

Larger documents, especially if it contained both text and a photo on them, were more involving and definitely tested my patience, though I finally got the results I needed after several attempts keeping the document flat and still.  I managed to scan a whole page of piano music from a bounded book perfectly, but that also took some practice to get to get it right.

As with the 8 ½“x 11” campaign flyer that included a slogan in the picture, I had absolutely no luck in scanning it in successfully.  IRIScan even attempted to correct it through its OCR recognition, but as I rescanned the spots I had missed, it ran out of memory before completion of the image.  It’s as though I was re-painting over the painted picture over and over without ever getting it just right.

Even with IRIScan’s capability to scan up to A3, it was very difficult to get the output to perfection, even with its OCR capability.   My initial impression after freehand scanning was that this was way too much trouble for what it is worth, even for small documents, but that was before I realized that IRIScan included a ScanPad in the packaging.

The 4”x7” ScanPad includes a clear plastic cover that you can use to place over your document before scanning, allowing the mouse to scan over the documents with ease while holding the documents securely.  This was the perfect solution making scanning very simple and quick for smaller documents.  The ScanPad was a pure “life saver” and was a joy to re-scan all of those documents that I previously did freehand, which was finished in seconds.

I suggest this ScanPad should always be used with the IRIScan mouse scanner.

It even scanned a credit card that wasn’t completely flat because of the numbers protruding, which made the scan a little bumpy.  The results were still perfect as it just took two swipes. Impressive indeed.

For larger documents that do not fit in the ScanPad, I was curious to know if a larger size ScanPad would have taken care of this issue had IRIScan included it in their package.  If so, I gladly would have paid for the extra cost.

THE CONVERSION, EDIT, AND SHARING PROCESS

Once you have captured what you needed to have scanned with the touch of the button, it will automatically capture it and convert it by straightening it and applying a suggested crop that you can resize.  It does a wonderful job allowing you to crop off the excess that you don’t need.  Usually there is no need to rotate the document, as well. The software is very intuitive and user friendly during the editing process.

As soon as you are ready to save the editable document, it uses an embedded OCR (Optical Character Recognition) solution that supports well over 130 different languages that will identify text and allow users to easily copy and paste it into their most used applications, such as Microsoft Office, Adobe Acrobat, or even Apple.  You can convert your scanned document into a TXT, XLS, or even an PDF, and since OCR is being utilized by the software, you can fully edit your text, whether it’s a Word, Notepad, Excel, or an Acrobat reader document.

Also, if you are scanning business cards, through CardIris, it will convert into digital contacts filling out the regular fields through OCR.  Though not 100% perfect, you will still save a massive amount of time, since they are all editable fields.  From there, you can save them into your Outlook, Gmail, etc.

If you are scanning a picture, you have your choice of choosing a JPG, TIFF, or even BMP format you can export it as a fully editable PDF or text file compatible with popular text and spreadsheet editors. Once saved, you can also have it backed easily on to your personal cloud hosting service (Dropbox, Evernote, Google Translate.) with just a click. This mouse scanner also lets you share pictures or drawings from your children with friends and families on Facebook and/or Twitter.

This must be one of the most ingenious innovative ideas in quite a while and this mouse has some super powers that no other mouse has ever seen.

CONCLUSION:

While the IRIScan Mouse WiFi may not replace your scanning equipment, it will supplement them by being able to scan documents that would not normally be used by a typical flatbed or feedable scanner, such as pages from bound magazines, books or music scores, due to its bulkiness.  It will also make scanning smaller documents much easier and convenient, especially when on the road with your MousePad.  However, if you have two-sided scanning to do, I would recommend a portable scanner.

A wonderful selling point of this mouse is its’ mobility features.  This will appeal to those who travel for work and who collects many business cards and needs to update his contacts frequently onto his computer, as well as scanning receipts for his expense reports for a timely reimbursement from his employer.  If you bring your MousePad with you to scan documents, everything will scan perfectly and it will be much quicker to edit, if needed.  No longer will you need to type in text from a document.

If you have items larger than 4”x7”, you may have probably issues with it by not being able to scan perfectly the first time, though it might help to find a a completely smooth non-glare surface such as a clear deskpad that you can put documents under to scan so there wouldn’t be any movement.  One of the challenges that I face is that paper moves, and it is difficult for the scanner to “paint” the document.  It is best if the documents don’t move and stay as flat on the surface as possible.  It also helps if the surface holds the paper down and is on a blank white neutral background.

This is simply not just a regular mouse, but supplemented by its useful software is a powerful all-in-one wireless mighty mouse scanner.

Faster than a speeding bullet, stronger than a locomotive, able to jump tall buildings in A single bound

… It’s a mouse…Its a scanner, It’s “IRIScan Mouse!

Though, I’m not sure why they didn’t provide the IRIScan Mouse with a cape.