Home Blog

RiftCat Review

0
03 Riftcat Review Cover Image

A RiftCat review is really in order, with the release of a new version of RiftCat VRidge this year. Let’s take a look at the capabilities of this new avatar of the classic app for streaming games to mobile headsets.

For those of you who need an introduction to RiftCat VRidge, it’s a pair of applications that allow you to play advanced Oculus Rift games on a mobile headset.

The average mobile headset cannot possibly run such games, since such headsets are usually powered by the mobile itself, and mobiles simply don’t have the power to play advanced Oculus Rift games, which require a gaming PC.

RiftCat allows cutting-edge games on a low-end headset

If you have a gaming PC, but don’t happen to own an Oculus Rift headset, you can still play cutting-edge Rift games on much cheaper mobile headsets like the Gear VR, or even a Cardboard clone.

The way this works is simple

You install the game you want to play on your PC, as well as the RiftCat application, which streams the game to your mobile phone. So it’s really your PC handling the actual running of the game, which lets you harness all the power of your gaming computer.

Meanwhile, your phone acts as the visual device, with the help of the RiftCat VRidge app, allowing you to see the game you are running from your PC in VR with the help of a cheap mobile VR headset.

It goes without saying that both RiftCat applications need to be running simultaneously on your personal computer and your smart phone and that the link between them needs to be confirmed before you actually run any Oculus Rift game.

The link between the mobile headset and the PC can be Wi-Fi, via a network, or through an actual USB link.

Use VR controllers

Another advantage of RiftCat VRidge is that it allows you to integrate with controllers as well. It also allows you integration with the NOLO VR system, that allows for both positional tracking and advanced and multiple controllers.

An excellent starting point in virtual reality

RiftCat VRidge is considered a good starting point for anyone who wants to begin to experiment with VR, because the headset is cheap, and – depending upon the game you want to play – you can also make do with a PC with very reasonable specifications, unlike the extremely high end and expensive PC that is required by the more advanced VR headsets available today.

Riftcat VRidge Version 2

That’s right, there’s now a new version of RiftCat. The original version of RiftCat VRidge was downloaded over two hundred thousand times, so the release of the second version is actually very exciting.

03 Riftcat Review Girl Image

A RiftCat Review – Features of RiftCat VRidge 2

First of all, there’s a new and polished GUI. The new version of RiftCat VRidge also has the ability to alter the stream quality while a game is actually running. Sound can also be muted at will during your session.

The first version of RiftCat made registration on their website mandatory. With this new version, it is no longer necessary.

The new version has been re-coded and shows considerable stability. It supports a wide range of headsets and hardware and is open-ended, which means that additions to it can be made in future.

A complete rewrite

Perhaps the most important aspect of the new version of RiftCat VRidge is that the entire application has essentially been rewritten by the developers. Yes, that represents months of work, but the results are self-evident.

The optimization of the streaming has to be seen to be believed, and the compatibility of the new RiftCat VRidge with more hand controllers is something that really adds immersion to one’s VR experience.

I might add that the developers are still working on the application and that you can expect some really interesting new features in the near future. The developers want to integrate the Riftcat VRidge system with a large number of extra devices that will all add to the VR experience.

First hand impressions

No RiftCat VRidge review would be complete without some first-hand impressions of what the actual game experience is like. Let’s start with the user interface, which is little short of incredible.

The older version of the program was essentially a coder’s version, with an extremely simplistic graphical interface that was essentially just a rectangle with words on it.

The new RiftCat VRidge interface uses a 3D environment in which fireworks go off as the application fires up. The interface itself is intuitive and rather elegant once the program starts. We’ve noticed that the interface has been cleaned up to a considerable extent and that some redundant aspects of it have been cleared out.

You connect in much the same way with version 2 as you did in version 1

However, a significant change in version 2 is that it only supports SteamVR. The first version of RiftCat VRidge used to also support the Oculus Store. However, that wasn’t too reliable, which is why I assume the developers removed it.

As a matter of fact, this actually adds to how reliable the new version is, as the link with Steam rarely gives any issues. This dedicated link also makes the application that much easier to use. You just have to click on a button in the app to launch SteamVR automatically and your headset is immediately detected.

That’s all it takes to play a VR game with a low-end headset using RiftCat VRidge.

While RiftCat VRidge is nominally free, in reality, you get ten minutes of gaming time in a free session. To continue to play your game, you’ll need to shut down both RiftCat applications, and to restart them. Only the paid version of RiftCat VR doesn’t have this limitation.

On the other hand, it only costs fifteen dollars or euros, which isn’t much for a lifetime use of the application.

Controlling the quality of the stream

We mentioned that the new version of RiftCat VRidge allows you to carefully set and choose what quality you would like the stream to be.

This is very important because if your stream is of very high quality, you, of course, have a more immersive experience. On the other hand, if this quality is set too high there may be a considerable lag.

Just how high you set the quality of your stream will depend upon the specifications of your computer and – even more – on the quality of your connection.

If you have a very stable connection and a high-end PC, you can stream in high quality, but if you have a connection that isn’t too reliable, you will have to tweak the parameters a little bit until your VR experience is completely free of lag.

The strength of the new RiftCat VRidge version is that it actually allows you to tweak this parameter and obtain a lag-free VR experience.

Do note that you will definitely have to purchase a NOLO VR package to truly enjoy your RiftCat VR experience, as without the tracking and the controllers the experience is more or less like looking at a VR movie. However, with NOLO VR, and the tracking and controllers, you can achieve a truly immersive experience.

NVIDIA’s Moonlight – and RiftCat

Perhaps everyone isn’t aware of it, but NVIDIA cards actually have an integrated streaming solution that allows their cards to stream from a personal computer to a mobile phone.

This solution is called Moonlight, and it is absolutely the most optimal PC-to-mobile streaming solution around since it is actually integrated into the hardware.

RiftCat benefits from this…

RiftCat VRidge actually integrates Moonlight into the application to assure you of superbly optimal performance.

Our impression of the second version of RiftCat VRidge is that it is a very convenient and cost-effective path to virtual reality. In its standalone version, it gives you a perfectly satisfactory basic VR experience.

However, if you add in the NOLO VR package you achieve exceptional tracking and the ability to use more than one controller, which makes this experience both cheap and extremely immersive.

Is VR Worth It?

0
07 Is VR Worth It Cover

While VR is obviously here to stay, sales of VR headsets have been nowhere near erstwhile projections. While the PlayStationVR sold one million copies in the first year from its launch, the HTC Vive and the Oculus Rift didn’t do near as well.

And that said, everyone is asking the obvious question…

Is virtual reality going to expand – or fail? (opens in a new window)

The VR market is still rather young, and consumers seem to be taking a cautious approach towards whether they buy a virtual reality headset or not.

At the moment, those purchasing the headsets are fans of new technologies, and – of course – gamers.

Last year, Mark Zuckerberg admitted that Facebook was looking at a market horizon that would continue to expand for at least 10 years, and that profitability would probably not be seen in the first phase of that decade.

However, in reality his company has made a giant step forward in bringing VR within reach of everyone with the release of the Oculus Go, one of the most cost-effective headsets on the market, and one which makes a breakthrough in VR rendering with the new foveated rendering.

The development of foveated rendering is especially crucial, since even the most state-of-the-art computers have been unable to deliver in VR the high-end graphics that gamers are used to.

However, with the new foveated rendering techniques, high-resolution graphics are rendered wherever the user’s eye is looking at, allowing for high-end graphical rendering within the same computer specifications.

Foveated rendering imitates the action of the human eye. In many ways, this is actually the breakthrough that VR has been waiting for.

When you add that to the fact that not only is the Oculus Go one of the cheapest headsets on the market, but that the prices of the Oculus Rift, the PlayStation VR and the HTC Vive are steadily dropping, you see that the main objection to VR, the high price, is being removed.

So what are we to look forward to in virtual reality this year?

Increasing resolutions, lower prices, and an ever-increasing array of games and applications for virtual reality. While we may not see a billion sales of virtual reality headsets, the PlayStation VR is bound to add at least a million sales this year to the number of headsets SONY has already sold, and with dropping prices the Rift and Vive should also sell extremely well.

So, is VR worth it?

It certainly is. At its lowest price yet, VR is certainly worth buying into in 2018.

A world in virtual reality

The fact that VR gaming is expanding so exponentially is just the tip of the iceberg. The military are intensifying their use of VR in training, the medical fraternity is using VR not only to train people but even conduct sensitive operations.

Companies around the world are latching on to the relatively low-cost training opportunities that VR provides. Real estate dealers show clients around in VR, while furniture firms use VR to let you see just how a piece of furniture will look in your home before you buy it.

Windows Mixed Reality

No exploration of the future of VR would be complete without taking a look at mixed reality headsets. There are good many of them available from companies that include Acer, HP, Lenovo, Dell and Asus.

All these headsets meet the criteria set down by Microsoft, meaning that they all offer resolutions of 2880 x 1440 pixels and a field of view of 105 degrees. The refresh rate goes up to 90 Hz, which means that these headsets can be used without any threat of motion sickness.

Lenovo-Explorer-mixed reality headset

All mixed reality headsets come with two mixed reality motion controllers, which are wireless.

Most of these headsets are relatively cheap and are the first in the wave of the future, where people regularly do things in virtual reality that are now done with a mouse and keyboard.

This can include using apps and mixed reality experiences that allow for sculpting in virtual reality, educational programs, employee training and much more.

Windows Mixed Reality has the greatest potential to bring all the benefits of virtual reality to everyday life.

Check out the best Windows MR deals here

The Oculus Rift

In 2018 the Oculus Rift remains one of the best headsets on the market, with its dual screens delivering a resolution of 1080 x 1200 pixels to each eye, which comes to a total of 2160 x 1200 pixels in all. It has a refresh rate of 90 Hz.

While the Oculus Rift was launched in early 2016 for 699 euros, those prices have dropped drastically in the last two years.

The package actually includes not only the controllers but a selection of six games as well.

Is the Oculus Rift worth buying?

Costs have fallen, and the Rift still provides some of the best experiences of virtual reality on the market today. The catalogue of brilliant games and experiences just keeps growing, and the immersion is legendary.

Check out the best Oculus Rift deals here

If you have any doubts as to the quality of the experiences provided, check out these examples below…

Lone Echo – to challenge the laws of gravity

Created by Ready At Dawn Studio, Lone Echo is an adventure game that takes place in the 22nd century. You play as an android serving in space, in a space station in orbit around Saturn. An anomaly then occurs not far from the station, and the captain of the station and yourself have to together repair the damage suffered by the station.

A patchwork of rather disparate tools will allow you to identify damage and fix the station.

Beyond a scenario worthy of the best sci-fi movies, Lone Echo stands out for gameplay that takes advantage of the virtual reality environment like no other game. Indeed, since the game takes place in zero gravity, you can move around with thrusters placed in your back or on your wrist, or by propelling yourself forward with your arms.

The game fully exploits the Oculus Touch controllers and has a very dynamic and enjoyable multiplayer mode. This is certainly one of the top VR games this year.

Robo Recall

This first-person shooter is by Epic Games of Unreal Tournament and Gears of War fame. It offers innovative and very enjoyable gameplay in an environment filled with killer robots.

With amazing graphics and some very original game mechanics, Robo Recall has been able to fully exploit the Oculus Touch controllers for an experience that is certainly on par with anything else in VR at the moment.

The Climb

The Climb is a very innovative and ultra immersive climbing VR game developed by Crytek, famous for their CryEngine graphics engine.

The game offers three different environments that are reminiscent of the Alps, Halong Bay in Vietnam, or the Grand Canyon.

Not only does the game provide a realistic climbing experience, but it is a welcome departure from the run-of-the-mill slew of shooters that seem to be the staple of virtual reality.

Marvel Powers United

While this game hasn’t been released, it is due to be released later this year and is a title that VR enthusiasts are really looking forward to.

Previews of the game show a cast of heroes that includes the Hulk, Captain Marvel and Rocket Racoon. Other playable characters on the website show Deadpool, Ronan the Accuser, Crystal, Black Bolt, Thor and Loki. A must-buy for any Marvel fan.

The HTC Vive

Born of a collaboration between HTC and Valve, the Vive is considered by many to be the most intuitive and immersive headset on the market today.

The resolutions match those of the Oculus Rift, and the headset comes with two wireless controllers.

While HTC Vive was originally offered at a price of 899 euros, you can now purchase it for 699 euros at most resellers.

To buy, or not to buy?

The Vive is a premium VR experience. With prices falling as the company competes with other headsets on the market, this headset now offers exceptional value for money and exceptional immersion in virtual reality.

Buy the Vive, and enter the domain of virtual reality in the best way possible.

Note that this price includes a free trial at Viveport, the in-house app store. The free trial will allow a user to select five titles each month from a vast game catalogue. But just how good are those games? Judge for yourself. Here are some of the most interesting titles for the HTC Vive…

Check out the best HTC Vive deals here

Blade Runner 9732

A Belgian programmer called Quentin Lengele has just brought to reality something that has been the dream of many Blade Runner fans. He’s managed to recreate the entire Deckard apartment in virtual reality.

This app will plunge you into the cyberpunk atmosphere of Ridley Scott’s masterpiece, reproducing the smallest details of Deckard’s apartment, from the Venetian blinds to the dust that hangs in the air.

Look out of the window at a futuristic dystopian landscape, or enjoy Vangelis’ music inside the apartment.

Unbound

Unbound is a 3D construction program that allows you to create interesting objects in 3D with your friends.

The app allows the basics of a new creation to be worked out quickly and easily before details are added. Objects you create here can easily be exported to the 3D programs that you normally use, or even 3D printed.

BlackShield – Upora story

BlackShield – Upora story is a wonderfully detailed virtual reality shooter.

The depth perception in VR and the excellent soundscape make this an engrossing and immersive VR experience.

Shinrin-Yoku

If you’ve ever thought that meditating in a forest would be extremely relaxing then Shinrin-Yoku is the experience for you.

In this wonderful expression of virtual reality, you can wander around a forest in the North-West, and experience the relaxing effects of the verdant tree canopy while exploring and interacting with the animals and plants around you.

The experience is available at different times of the day in virtual reality, including at night. Best of all, Shinrin-Yoku is entirely for free.

The SONY PlayStation VR

SONY’s PSVR may not provide the best quality VR experience today, but the PSVR is undoubtedly the most successful virtual reality system on the market. The reasons for this are numerous.

Firstly, the PSVR sells to an audience that is already enthusiastic about the PlayStation. Secondly, SONY’s approach to virtual reality was, up to now, considerably cheaper than other options on the market, and moreover, allows people who do not possess a high-performance PC to get started in virtual reality at a much lower cost.

Do remember though that you’ll need a PlayStation camera for your PSVR to work

The PSVR offers slightly lower resolutions than the headsets we mentioned earlier, with a resolution of just about 960 x 1080 for each eye, giving a combined resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels. The PSVR does offer a refresh rate of 90 Hz, which can be pushed to 120 Hz in cinema mode. The field of vision of this headset is about 100 degrees.

Is the PSVR worth buying into?

The PSVR is the ultimate gamer’s VR headset. If you want a vast selection of diverse content that is regularly updated with new and interesting games, the PSVR is the way to go. If virtual reality to you means gaming in three dimensions, playing games with a realism and immersion that’s impossible outside VR, then the PSVR is the way to go.

Check out the best PSVR deals here

So what are the games actually like?

There is lots of lovely content for the PSVR, and among the best of all the available games is…

Resident Evil 7

I’m sure that anyone who is familiar with the Resident Evil series isn’t surprised that we list it here as one of the best games to play in virtual reality. If you play Resident Evil 7 on the PSVR, you’ll never want to play a horror first-person shooter on a monitor screen ever again.

Resident Evil 7 mixes the horror and action game genres perfectly, to create a unique virtual reality adventure experience.

The Solus Project

The Solus Project might disappoint people in the beginning, because the game mechanics take a little while to figure out. However, after you play it for a few hours, you realize just how much this game has to offer.

Firstly, it’s one of the few open world games in virtual reality today. You can explore every nook and cranny of a mysterious planet, including its gigantic labyrinthine caves. The game offers changing weather conditions, from exuberant sunshine to deadly storms. The weather effects are brilliantly realistic, and the tornadoes will terrify you.

The game has a fantastic sound which allows for even more immersion. With its latest patch, the graphics quality of the Solus project has become nothing short of exceptional.

Far Point

While it is rather commonplace in terms of gameplay and environments as compared to many other first-person shooters that share the genre, Far Point is one of the most completely immersive first-person shooters in virtual reality.

The fact that it is compatible with the aim controller adds to unique worth of the Far Point experience. Far Point is roughly like living the movie Starship Troopers.

Rush of Blood

Rush of Blood was one of the first games that took full advantage of the VR immersion and of the capabilities of the PSVR.

It has long levels strung with enemies, and, of course, as you progress through the game, those enemies become more numerous and more varied.

This is the game that will have you wishing there was more when you get to the end of it.

Those are some of the top VR headsets on the market, and, as you’ve just seen, the range of content for virtual reality keeps increasing with new releases every quarter. Graphics quality is also becoming very true-to-life, and exceptionally immersive.

Nevertheless, there are some exceptional new advances in virtual reality that we must take a look at. Among the most important of these is…

The Future – Pimax 5K/8K

This Chinese headset is what the future of VR is going to look like. The Pimax offers a groundbreaking resolution of 3840 x 2160 pixels.

The field of vision in this prototype headset is 200 degrees, which is an absolutely astonishing improvement. The Pimax does not have VR-based controllers, and a person’s movements are not tracked via external sensors, but rather via gyroscopes integrated within the headset. However, it might take a while until this technology becomes stable enough for mass market use, especially in light of the most recent news about refresh rate problems.

While Pimax 4K is hardly a recommended buy at the moment, the Kickstarter campaign for 5K/8K headsets shows you how fast VR technology is advancing. A virtual future on our doorstep.

How to Watch Netflix in VR?

0
09 How to watch Netflix in VR Cover

Netflix is one of the optimal and most used movie platforms for VR today. Here is how you watch Netflix with various types of VR headsets.

One thing you should know about Netflix is that it doesn’t really have a dedicated application that can work with all VR headsets. Instead, you will have to use different methods to access Netflix, depending upon what VR headset you own. Let’s start with…

Google Daydream

Netflix has a dedicated application for Google Daydream users. The application is called Netflix VR, and it is perfectly compatible with the hardware and software of the Daydream headset. Smartphones that are dedicated to compatibility with Daydream have the app preloaded. These smartphones obviously include the Google Pixel, as well as other phones, such as the Lenovo Moto Z.

Since Netflix gave priority towards developing compatibility with Daydream, Daydream offers a premier Netflix experience.

Viewing Netflix with the Samsung Gear VR

The Samsung Gear VR comes with a Netflix compatible application already installed. A small tip that you could use is to deactivate WiFi before you use the application, as this saves bandwidth.

Once you’ve launched the application, there will be a basic setup process, and then a login area. The Netflix app for the Gear VR has two modes, one of these being a very comfortable looking Virtual Lounge.

There is also something called VOID mode. VOID mode is particularly interesting as it allows you to place a movie as you wish, while eliminating the background reduces the strain on the resources of your mobile.

Watching Netflix on an iPhone based VR headset

You can watch your favourite Netflix movies on an iPhone based VR headset with the help of two very interesting apps that have to be used in conjunction. One of those apps is VR-Streamer. VR-Streamer can transfer a movie from a desktop PC running Windows to your iPhone.

Setting up tracking

You’ll need tracking for the best Netflix VR iPhone experience. To provide tracking, you will need to install an additional plug-in called Opentracker. Opentracker syncs with VR-Streamer to provide sensor information from your iPhone that can be used for tracking and orientation. This makes using Netflix that much more intuitive and immersive.

Installing these applications is a very simple process

  • First of all, you need to download VR-Streamer to your iPhone and then install it. There is a linked app for your Windows PC called the VR-Streamer Server, and you will need to install this on your PC as well. You will  also need to install Opentracker on your iPhone.
  • Once you’ve done all that, you’ll need to fire up the VR-Streamer Server on your PC. You’ll see an option that says ‘start server’, which you have to click on. This will bring up a list from which you have to select ‘notepad process’.

It might be worthwhile to save these settings as a profile to prevent you having to set them every time you want to watch Netflix.

  • Now you need to activate VR-Streamer on your iPhone and click on the ‘connect to server’ option that will come up. This will initiate the link between PC and the iPhone.

That’s all it takes

Simply slip your iPhone into your VR headset and have fun going through all your favourite Netflix movies.

If you’re having problems with clarity, simply access the IPD settings, changing them to 600. This results in a much better image clarity.

Viewing Netflix on the Oculus Rift

You can view Netflix on the Oculus Rift using either Virtual Desktop or, alternatively, Bigscreen. While Bigscreen is free, and many users think that it offers much better image clarity, others feel that Virtual Desktop is the more professional Netflix Oculus Rift app.

Bigscreen allows you various environments, allowing you to turn your living room into a theatre, or allowing you to watch movies in space.

09 How to watch Netflix in VR 1

However, Virtual Desktop allows you true 3D depth perception, as well as handing multiple display devices. I’d advise you to try both apps, and see which one suits you better.

Virtually any show or movie in the Netflix library will be accessible on your Rift. One tip while watching Netflix on the Oculus Rift is to set the screen about 15 feet or so away in virtual reality, so that it takes up a field of view of about 90 degrees.

With that distance and that field of view your virtual screen should measure something like 500 inches across, which is pretty amazing.

Watching Netflix on the HTC Vive

Both Bigscreen and Virtual Desktop are compatible with the HTC Vive, which means that the same solution that works for the Rift works for the Vive as well. On the Vive, Virtual Desktop has a distinct advantage, and provides a superior experience.

The Vive has a Desktop app as well, which is free, and which can allow you to access Netflix, but Virtual Desktop provides superior image quality.

All you have to do is activate Virtual Desktop from the menu that pops up, and a browser window opens, and Netflix is immediately accessible.

The size of the window can be effortlessly adjusted by stepping forward to press the respective button and then returning to your point of view to adjust the size to just what you prefer.

You should know that some people have reported hardware issues with using Bigscreen with the Vive, so Virtual Desktop is probably the better choice there. A paid app is not always superior, but in this case, it does seem to be so.