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Pet Tracking – Bring your Pet to Virtual Reality

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Pet Tracking - Bring your Pet to Virtual Reality

One thing about the immersive VR experience today is that it can clash with reality in surprising ways. Let’s explore how. You set up your HTC Vive, ‘train it’ for your room, and immerse yourself in a game.

Things work very well, until your cat becomes curious about what you’re doing, and steps right in front of your legs. You, of course, can’t see it in VR, and trip over it.

This is embarrassing, and can affect your relationship with your pet

After all, you’ve already started treating it as if it were invisible.

Actually, the same thing applies to other people –  you can’t see them in VR, which is a bit of a problem, but at least other human beings know that you have a VR headset on, and that you can’t see them. The same doesn’t apply to your pet.

This can – and does – lead to accidents

Not any longer. Triangular Pixels, a game development studio, has developed ways to track your cat in VR, by strapping a jacket on your cat that contains a HTC Vive Tracker.

We are assured that the jacket is comfortable, and will not offend your cat’s sense of aesthetics.

VR Pet Tracker

Software from a studio of cat-owners

Triangular Pixels is a four-person team that make VR games, and each of whom has a cat, so it seems rather inevitable that they would develop this particular software.

It’s Karma.

But the fact that the development team themselves have cats actually assures one that the hardware and software will really work together. For example, the harness that the cat wears has been designed to easily be removed from an impatient dog or cat, or to come off if it happens to get stuck or caught somewhere.

At the same time, it’s also designed to stay on the pet through any playing or rolling around that the pet may do.

But the tracking system works

You can now see your cat while you are in VR. The system not only tracks the animal, but can also tell you what it is doing – walking or sitting down. It creates the little ‘cat avatar’ that you can see in the video.

In the next video, the cat’s avatar wanders through the corridors of ‘Unseen Diplomacy’, the studio’s recent offering. Of course, the cat is immune to lethal traps and laser trip-wires in VR.

You aren’t.

Cats are a privileged species.

Here you can see some initial footage of the device in development

Where does the tech go from here?

Well, at the moment, it’s keyed to cats. But Triangular Pixels say they have plans to modify the device to handle dogs and other pets as well.

Ultimately, Triangular Pixels hopes the device will allow children and human companions to be seen in-game – which has been rather a flaw in virtual reality since it first was developed.

Virtual Reality is still pretty much a ‘single person’ experience. Technology of the sort being developed here might one day allow us to share Virtual Reality with our friends – or even to allow us to take our pets to virtual worlds.

Pet in Virtual Reality

Virtual Reality and Kids – The Pros and Cons

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Virtual Reality and Kids – The Pros and Cons

Technology is rather a double edged sword, and can be used or abused. The good news is that what path we take with Virtual Reality is largely in our own hands.

Used right, VR can be a wonderful tool to explore the world and educate our children.

Used wrong?

It’ll become a cheap toy – a world of ‘realistic killing’ (What is behind humanity’s fascination with this in games and movies anyway? Stress? Uninteresting jobs? Roller-coaster relationships?).


But seriously – how does VR affect our children?

Positively, to a great extent!

VR is a wonderful educational tool.

Already, tens of thousands of children around the world have gone on VR ‘journeys of discovery’ where they explore different places on the planet, or explore places of interest, or cities – all from the safety of their homes or classrooms.Google CardBoard

Google Cardboard is at the forefront of the shining new wave in education. Not only has Google more or less pioneered the low-cost headset, but it also continues the create a universe of wonderful content that has already benefited countless children in classrooms and homes everywhere.

But we’re still only tapping into a fraction of the potential of virtual reality.

Virtual reality can be used to teach the structure of the human body – or a single cell… from the inside!

It can be used to improve reactions, or teach skills.

It could also maintain children’s eyesight!

Yes, while books and computer screens tend to degrade human eyesight, VR visors actually allow a distant, natural focus, actually maintaining the eyesight. An ‘archery game’ in VR, for example, would be an excellent way to maintain children’s eyesight.


Let’s see how VR affects children in different ways, and the pros and cons of each…

Incredible Visualization…

The Pros: It’s a great advantage that a child can, for example, instead of learning or hearing about a place, actually go there and see things for himself or herself.

This increases the child’s interest.

A child could wander around a lovely building like Westminster Abbey in London, or visit the Palais du Luxembourg in Paris – and actually wander around.

Asking questions. Interacting with parents or a teacher. Or with other children.

Westminster Abbey VR Feed
This is the sort of amazing quality you can expect from VR today.

Then the child could take a boat trip along the bottom of the immense Grand Canyon, or visit the Yosemite national park, and see the magnificent gigantic trees. Or visit Switzerland and take in the amazing views. Or the Pyramids of Egypt.

Grand Canyon VR Feed
A child could – safely – take a boat trip along the bottom of the Grand Canyon!

And that’s just geography – familiarity with our planet. There’s much more!

How about teaching programs that allow you to study biology – or astronomy? Or physics. This is learning in a wonderful, interactive, brilliantly three-dimensional virtual world.

Best of all, VR doesn’t feel like ‘studying’ or ‘work’. It feels like ‘fun’. And that is, perhaps, the most important positive point about VR of all – at least from the point of view of a child.

VR is the PERFECT educational tool.


Excited?

You should be – these are all the positive elements of Virtual Reality, ways in which it can broaden a child’s horizons.

But is any of this available right now?

Of course it is. I already mentioned Google Cardboard, and I would certainly recommend that you try it out. But there are LOTS of other apps and VR hardware available, a great deal of which has been designed with children and education in mind.

For example, look at this low-cost VR headset – the View-Master VR Starter Pack.

A simple, low-cost tool like that could unlock a world of interesting, educational VR content. Here are some examples…View Master National Geographic Dinosaur Experience

There’s the View-Master National Geographic Dinosaur Experience Pack, which allows one to study the dinosaurs, and even includes an interactive Jurassic-era VR game.

There’s also a Wildlife Experience on offer that follows similar lines, as well as a ‘Destinations’ pack that allows a child to visit famous places in the world.

What sorts of places are available in the Destinations pack?

It includes the Statue of Liberty, as well as Chichen Itza, an ancient city of the Maya. There’s also the historic Tower of London, with the Tower Bridge just outside, that actually opens to let vessels through, and a number of other places.

Actually, the list of educational apps and experiences out there that can broaden a child’s horizons is endless.

From exploring the seas, to exploring space, you can find it all.


Other Benefits of VR

Safe environments without barriers.

VR provides a safe environment for children.

You couldn’t allow your child to wander freely around the streets of London or New York without a great deal of supervision.

But in VR, they could do so, with minimal supervision, familiarizing themselves with the landscapes of the world, in the safety of their home or classroom.

There are also no barriers to language in VR – an important point in many places and situation.


A child can do things in VR that they can’t in real life…

Child explores space in VR

Deep sea or arctic exploration. Swimming with sharks. Landing on and exploring mars. Traveling to the moon. Or into the heart of a planet.

The list of possibilities are endless.

And they’re all perfectly safe!

Of course, the more intelligent of us can already do all this… in our imaginations.

But VR allows us bring the vast collection of human knowledge today to the eyes of a child – in a format that a child can easily understand.


Can there really be cons to this?

Of course there are.

A possible negative effect of VR – Books could be sidelined.

Is that a bad thing? It could be.

For one thing, while books may seem to be comparatively uninteresting, they actually engage the human mind more interactively.

They demand that a person use their imagination – and that actually exercises the mind.

Child reading

In other words, books can actually improve and refine the intellect through exercise. Sort of like going to an intellectual gym.

This doesn’t happen to the same extent in VR.

Yes, the mind is encountering new ideas – and that certainly engages the intellect.

But because the interface is so visual, the mind has very much less work to do – and that could actually be detrimental to the mental development of an individual.

This may not seem like much, but it can be crucial to the developing mind of a child.

Books also provide far more highly detailed information.

After all, no matter how detailed one makes a VR program, it still can’t quite provide the wealth of detail in as accessible a manner as a book.

So what’s the answer?

It’s quite simple, really – VR is an immense advance, and wonderful for ‘hands on’ introduction to subjects.

It’s a big advantage in education – and I’m not necessarily talking about ‘classroom education’. Though, as you can see, that is certainly applicable…

VR in the classrooms - kids in VR

Improving a child’s mind and expanding their sphere of knowledge and understanding is always education – whether it’s carried out in the classroom or in the home.

But VR needs to be balanced with beautiful, well-written,  interesting and well-illustrated books on a subject that a child can take a genuine interest in, so that a child gets the best of both worlds.


One other problem with VR is the limited human interaction…

While some games do have three dimensional ‘avatars’, these cannot express emotion the way humans do.

This means that if a child is exploring a virtual world with friends or family, they won’t really be able to see them, or to interact with them through the full gamut of human emotion.

A little girl wears VR device to play games in a shopping

This is an issue that won’t be settled in the near future, and if a lot of time is spend it VR, it could possibly affect the social development of a child.

Though this is actually rather unlikely.

What is more likely to happen is that a child will become less adept at picking up visual cues in social situations – but, as audio is the main method of interaction in VR, a child will probably become more adept at picking up audio cues in social situations.

Then there’s the simple factor of cost and space…

Cost is certainly an issue.

VR in good quality is certainly out of reach of most people. But that’s a system that is likely to correct itself if VR becomes popular.

After all, we do purchase PCs today at a fraction of price they used to cost when they were first developed. Mass production will at some point bring VR in reach of everyone.

But there are already low cost VR headsets within the reach of everyone. And I already mentioned Google Cardboard – I recommend that you check out the Gana VR Headset.

Next VR

There’s also the element of space.

This isn’t that much of an issue, as most VR for children is passive, and a passive VR program doesn’t have issues with space at all.

But if a VR world is at all interactive, each person in it needs a certain amount of space around them – and if many people are sharing that space, they could well bump into each other, or have accidents.

And finally, but not least, there are gaming addictions…

I don’t take this as seriously as some people would.

When console and PC games were in their youth, everyone thought that they would ‘affect children’s education’.

I don’t think this is the case when a child grows up in a healthy environment, and has a good relationship with their parents and educators.

And if a child’s environment isn’t healthy – well, you can’t blame that on games or VR!

But the fact remains that most games today aren’t exactly what you’d call ‘nice’.

Do we really need games that are mostly all about killing or hurting people?

Does my saying that sound odd? It shouldn’t!

I don’t think inuring children to violence – whether in games, or virtual reality – is a good idea. If nothing else, this might blunt human sensibilities – not what you’d want in a growing child.


The last word?

VR is great for kids. But it needs the guidance and interaction of adults in choosing the right ‘VR worlds’ for a child.

Virtual Reality and Kids – Child likes VR

And games with even an average level of ‘ambient violence’ need to be avoided.

In the interests of tomorrow. Our children are the future.

Are PlayStation VR Move Controllers Worth It?

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PlayStation VR Move Controllers worth it

I think there’s little doubt that the experience of Virtual Reality is massively enhanced by motion controllers that track the movements of the hands. Without motion controllers, VR is a passive experience.

You see things, you look around, but you don’t – really – interact. Sure you can use a traditional controller to move around. But it just isn’t the same as reaching out your hand to catch a ball, for example.

That said, PlayStation VR is really ahead of the game because it has a ready-made motion tracking system in PlayStation Move. There are no issues with development and production. Of course, using the headset requires the PlayStation Camera, which first saw the light of day with the release of the Playstation 4.

Compatibility

Best of all, PlayStation Move is completely compatible with the camera – as it should be, as Move was developed first, and came out with the PlayStation 3. Sony was taking pre-orders at one point for a bundle of VR stuff for around five hundred dollars. This bundle included the Playstation VR Worlds pack, as well as dual PlayStation Moves, and of course, the camera.

This was a great deal, considering that the basic Playstation VR, without the camera, was four hundred dollars – just a hundred dollars cheaper.

The problem is that many of those ‘vintage’ controllers might not be in the best condition today. With the Launch of PlayStation VR, there’s a similar deal with dual Move controllers – wands – available for less than a hundred dollars. You can also buy a single wand for around thirty dollars – that’s on Amazon.

PlayStation-4-VR
Ever been ‘virtually’ happy?

So should you invest in a Move controller?

Well, there’s one thing to remember. These Move controllers are old technology. Six-year-old technology, to be exact. When you buy a Move controller, whether you buy it ‘new’ or used, you don’t usually get to know just how old that controller is.

It could have been sitting in some warehouse somewhere for a long time.

Is that a problem?

Possibly. The controllers are powered by a lithium-ion battery, and that battery has a limited life-span. Even if it’s doing nothing sitting on a shelf somewhere. Even if you buy a supposedly ‘new’ Move controller, it’s quite possible that it’s been sitting around for three years or more, in which case, the lithium-ion battery won’t hold much of a charge.

When a Move controller came right off the production line, its battery could keep it working for ten hours or so.  Now? Who knows, really. It depends on how old the controller is. And its battery.

PlayStation VR Move Controllers worth it2
Old Lithium Ion batteries never die – they simply fade away…

Buying used

I’m not saying buying used is a bad idea. It can be very economical. But try to get an idea of how old the controller is from the seller. Or at least when its ‘first-bought-date’ was.

If it’s just a couple of years, the controller should be fine. A used controller should function even if it is older – it will just need to be charged more often.

Are the Move controllers absolutely necessary?

Not really. It depends on what you want to play. Some games, like Batman, definitely benefit from them. So does Rush of Blood. Yes, you can play these games with a conventional controller, but you really lose out on the VR experience.

In Rush of Blood, using the guns with the Move controllers is so much more satisfying and realistic than with a conventional controller. Or there’s The Heist – you lean right out of the vehicle in a chase sequence.

The Two-gun experience

It’s wonderfully realistic to actually use VR guns in each hand – the realism of the experience is far, far beyond anything you’d experience with a mere DualShock. The conventional controller really takes away from the experience in games like these.

So if these are the games you want to play… games like Job Simulator or Batman – or Holoball, or – of course – Sparc – then the Move controllers are definitely worth the buy.

Farpoint-PSVR
This man threw aside his DualShock for a real weapon…

What if you’re not playing these games?

Quite frankly, if you’re not interested in playing a game optimized for the Move controllers, then don’t bother buying them. There are a lot of great games out there that don’t use the Move controllers. There’s Rigs, and Eagle Flight, and Star Wars – and plenty more, with a lot of great titles coming out every month.

Many of them will be just as enjoyable with a conventional controller, and many of them may not be truly optimized for the Move ‘experience’ at all.

Why?

It’s all about the market. The technology is still developing and the Move controllers aren’t in every home. Why should a company spend all that extra cash on truly interfacing a game with the Move if everyone doesn’t have them?

The tech is developing, but lithium-ion isn’t forever

If lithium-ion batteries lasted forever, I’d say, buy the Move controllers, and wait till great games that support them come out.

But the batteries don’t last forever, so the chances are that once you go through the games that the Moves do support, your controllers will end up gathering dust in your drawer. And all the while, their batteries will be failing. Not a good scenario.

psvr-move-review

Wait and watch

That’s the best policy.

See if more and more software and games are supporting the Move controllers. At some point, if you’re satisfied with the amount of games and software available, make your purchase.

Sure, the Move controllers at that point may be a little more expensive. So put some cash aside every month and put together a little bank that will buy any reasonable controller on the market.

VR is a growing industry

At some point, there are bound to be tons of games and apps that will support the Move. The problem is that day isn’t today, and no one can really predict when it will happen. There are hordes of games for the PS that don’t support the Move – so wait until there are at least ten percent of that number that do.

Today? The last word? Get the best of both worlds

Don’t buy the Moves unless you’re deeply interested in (or addicted to) some of the few games that really support them today. But there’s an alternative…

When in doubt, go Chinese

chinese vr move controllers

There are nice, functional, inexpensive Chinese Move Controller clones from Hong Kong that you CAN buy – and use – until better games and stuff come along and you want to ‘go original’.

Sometimes being cheap can be Wisdom. Did Confucius say that? Unfortunately, no. But I just did!