Video Games Virtual Reality

The VicoVR lets you step directly into virtual reality

The long-awaited era of virtual reality is finally here, with the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive leading the charge alongside less powerful alternatives like Samsung’s Gear VR and Google’s recently announced Daydream. Despite the already crowded marketplace, companies are still developing alternative virtual experiences for a cut of that not-so-virtual pie.

One of the next big questions when it comes to VR technology is how to get the user’s body into the space. While most of the leading solutions offer controls, VicoVR combines standard VR googles with a Kinect-like interface for wireless body tracking of 19 body joints. This allows the one or two players to step right into a game rather than go through a more disconnected experience with a remote control.

Health and Wellness Wearables

Narbis trains your brains

Neurofeedback technology is being used in a growing number of consumer devices to help train the brain.

patent-claimedNarbis — itself an anagram of the word “brains” –- is a headset using patent-pending technology to help train users to better focus their brains. Attached to a set of glasses is a sensing device that touches the wearer’s head. When the user gets distracted the glasses darken and when the user focuses clearly the glasses clear up. The headset’s sensors measure brain matters and send the signals to the device’s electrochromic lenses. Narbis works with an accompanying app for mobile devices and costs $395 and will ship in December with a Bluetooth armband, a protective carrying case and software that includes five program goals: focus, performance, sleep, calm, and mood. Its maker is hoping to raise $150,000 by April 27.

The Kickstarter success of the similarly advertised Melon headband indicates that there is indeed a market for these types of products. The electrochromic lenses in particular are a nice touch offered by Narbis offers. Still, it’s hard to believe that such a device will get much long-term use after a few days or months. More likely than not, the product seems more like a novelty than a device most people really need.

Input Virtual Reality

Among VR headsets, CMoar does more with controls and expansion

Virtual reality headsets are a arriving in all sorts of materials from cardboard to more robust constructions using neoprene or metal. Every variation has its own pros and cons, which is why there are more and more being made every day.

The Cmoar is yet another alternative, aiming to impress with a smartphone-based virtual reality headset that offers 2D and 3D capability with an expansive 105° field-of-view. The team claims that the high-quality sensors inside eliminate uncomfortable drifting by improving the product’s head tracking ability. Although it’s a bit bulky, the wealth of control options on the outside of the device help with the small stuff like navigate menus, control volume, or control a smartphone’s camera. For everything else, USB ports allow for devices like Leap Motion to be installed. A Cmoar headset is $99, and is expected to ship in June 2015 if the $100,000 campaign sees success.

The headset impresses on many fronts, from media content to gaming, but isn’t the first to do so. Products like the Viewbox and Pinć VR offer experiences that aren’t as fully featured but are unique in the type of virtual reality they offer. Something that helps Cmoar is the ability to stream console and PC games right to the headset, along with its proprietary gamepad, a Wiimote rip-off — both of which help differentiate the product from the pack.


The Backerjack Podcast, Episode 5, with Ross Rubin and Steve Sande

As Steve has been busy launching something for today that launched yesterday, we’ve been remiss in posting about what he and Ross, your two favorite crowdfunding connoisseurs, did a while back — focus on three fresh products in Episode 5 of The Backerjack Podcast. We discussed a lot in 26 minutes before entering the time warp:

  • For those who want to ensure that they never miss a word in a phone call, there’s the useful and multifaceted Bluewire call-recording headset.
  • Those who wish to explore the Internet of sleepy things while keeping their cool in bed will want to check out the sleek Luna smart bed cover.
  • And those who want to plug, play and print photos on the spot will want to see how things develop with the Zink-based Prynt .

Steve and Ross also shared experiences trying out the original Narrative Clip (good times) and chatted up the changes coming with its imminent but not crowdfunded sequel, the unsurprisingly named Clip 2.

All the campaigns and preorder pages are still active so check out our thoughts before signing up to back them. Subscribe via iTunes or RSS, download the podcast by saving this link, or listen to it with the player below:

Sports Virtual Reality

Eon Sports uses virtual reality to teach real football

Breeding the next crop of NFL superstars takes a ton of hard work and dedication both on the field and off. The development of an athlete’s skills is a delicate balance between repetition and on-field immersion, both of which are in short supply for those who are absolutely serious about the game of football. The EON Sports virtual reality simulator offers players the opportunity to practice anywhere at all and still get the immersion necessary to effectively train their on-field intelligence.

The EON Sports virtual reality simulator is the type of advance both players and coaches were waiting for, erasing the limits regarding where and how training can be accomplished. The simulator utilizes a modified version of Shoogee’s DIVE handsfree VR headset with an iOS, Android, or Windows smartphone loaded in. When combined, the headset provides players an authentic viewpoint from which to sharpen their ability to pick apart defenses or make snap decisions. EON Sports has not only created the system itself, but partnered with legendary coaches like Mike Ditka and Terry Shea to offer training sessions exclusive to the platform so players will learn from the best when they strap themselves in. The headset will cost $99 during the $50,000 campaign, after which it will go up to $129. Backers can expect their own simulator in May of 2015.

The EON Sports virtual reality simulator is a fantastic idea, but instead of assisting in the mastery of physical movement like Virtual Knockout or the Shoot Natural Glove, it only focuses on IQ through the use of a gaming controller. Although football intelligence is a vital part of the game, the option to train physical movements just isn’t present, a huge missed opportunity for true innovation rather than settling for what Google could have done with cardboard. What EON Sports has really done is provide valuable strategy from coaching legends and make it widely available, but wouldn’t making such useful advice widely know degrade its quality?

Virtual Reality

Open DoVision creates VR using open components

When Oculus Rift was bought by Facebook, many interested parties suddenly found themselves without that passionate interest in the device. Thankfully, companies like DotLab are working on alternatives, like the Open DoVision; a fully open-source VR headset that is easy to connect and use. By simply connecting the USB cable and the display output cable of choice (HDMI, VGA, A/V), Open DoVision can display any content right in front of the user’s eyes, with head-tracking features by moving the mouse cursor with accelerometers.

Because Open DoVision is open-source, DotLab encourages users to get their hands into the code and create new features and functions for the device. Additionally, a few parts can be interchanged in the headset to create a simple head-mounted display for use in games that don’t natively support VR headsets or for movies or other media content.

DotLab needs $20,000 AUD (~$17,000 USD) to release Open DoVision, and backers can get their head in the game for $99 AUD (~$85 USD) in January 2015. The presentation is a little lacking, and gamers shouldn’t expect direct support for the Open DoVision for a while, but at this price tag, this is a VR headset worth looking into.

Cell Phone Accessories Virtual Reality

ShareVR is another way to get virtual reality using your smartphone

At the top of many holiday wish lists this year will be VR headsets. However, many of the devices that are already household names are not ready to go to market just yet and almost all of them will be rather expensive. shareVR is an interesting new way to make VR possible with head-tracking functions by connecting a smartphone to a PC. With just a micro USB cable, a head mount, and the software that communicates with the PC, shareVR can give a consumer a functioning VR headset for less than $50.

The device works with any game using DirectX 9, 10, or 11, and head-tracking through an Inertial Measurement Unit. With only 30ms of latency, the time between the action on the main screen and what’s happening in the goggles is minimal for most kinds of applications. shareVR inventor Marcin Grygiel is raising £50,000 (~$78,250) to complete the software. For backers, the program will cost only £9 (~$14) and they can use their head mount of choice. shareVR offers an interesting DIY way of bringing VR home, and will be a great entry point for many customers. However, the specific compatibility requirements and technical limitations may be off-putting to purists.

Tablet Accessories Virtual Reality

AirVR makes the iPhone a window into the world of virtual reality

VR headsets are a hot item that everyone wants to get their hands on, but why not beat the rush and convert some existing technology into a fully functional VR headset instead?

That’s the philosophy behind AirVR, an iPad Mini or iPhone 6+ mount that straps onto the head to create a VR headset with visuals on a high-quality retina display. By taking a tablet or phone consumers may already have, the cost of adopting a VR device is cut significantly, requiring consumers only to purchase the mount. With foam padding and adjustable nylon straps, the AirVR is easy to adjust to any head size or shape. The front-facing camera also allows the iOS device to pick up on augmented reality markers and create a 3-D environment that users can move and look around it with complete motion tracking.

Utilizing only a portion of the screen for the virtual experience, AirVR does not simply waste the additional space on the iPad Mini screen. Instead, a dynamic touch interface is put at the bottom allowing users to comfortably navigate through content without having to remove the device, change the content, and then put the headset back on. Toronto, Ontario designer Metatecture is raising $20,000 CAD (~$18,000 USD) to get AirVR out in time for the holidays. Existing iPad Mini and iPhone 6+ owners only need to pay $49 CAD (~$43 USD) to have their own VR headset in February 2015.

Devices like the AirVR and Samsung Galaxy Gear VR are looking to leapfrog the delayed VR headset manufacturers that built all the excitement up, but have yet to release a product. If it fits consumers’ needs and existing hardware, they’ll take the easier, cheaper route. The market is primed for a product like AirVR to be wildly successful.

Cell Phone Accessories

OXA Bluetooth headset sticks to your phone, performs other tricks

Some devices were meant to go together; keyboards and mice, headphones and MP3 players, smartphones and Bluetooth headsets. OXA is a Bluetooth headset that eliminates the headache of having the phone but not the headset. With silicone suction, the OXA sticks discretely to the back of the smartphone, removing easily when needed. This way, the two devices stick together.

OXA can also function as a Bluetooth bridge between the phone and the car, streaming audio and phone calls, and even helping to locate a parking spot if the OXA was left in the car. The OXA can even work as a stand to hold the phone upright if it is left on the phone’s back. OXA Innovations is trying to raise $10,000 to get the best sound quality from the device. Supporters can stick an OXA Bluetooth headset to their phone for $29 in October 2014. Backers shouldn’t expect the best quality or the most feature-rich device here, but if losing Bluetooth headsets has been a recurring problem, then the OXA will fix that in an instant. If this has been a long-standing problem, readers might recall the MoGo attempting to fix it, and may prefer to stick with that over the OXA.

Video Games Wearables

ANTVR seeks to make gamer attention undergo an Oculus drift

The Premise. Virtual reality headsets have been on the cusp of being widespread technology for decades, but now it seems like all of the pieces are finally here and this long-promised device will be in homes across the world in a matter of months. Everyone knows about the Oculus Rift, but one company wants to make people forget that name already.

The Product. ANTVR is an all-in-one virtual reality headset designed for movies and of course, video games. The product has a number of refinements to it that make it a step above the competition, from a fully wireless model to an aspherical lens designed to reduce distortion and eye strain. Packaged with ANTVR is a gun controller that is perfect for first-person shooters, providing unparalleled control, but for those that prefer other genres, ANTVR has them covered. The gun can disassemble down to a grip designed to function as a joystick or sword, and can itself unfold into a traditional-style controller that doubles as a racing wheel.

The Pitch. The ANTVR team is excited about VR and its passion for the medium shows in the countless features that it shows off in the launch video. With so many options and styles of use in mind, there’s a lot of ground to cover and the Kickstarter campaign page has a lot of information, all of it exciting. ANTVR needs $200,000 to bring their virtual dream into reality.

The Perks. The beta ANTVR setup, complete with the transformable bag/vest, controller, headset, and all the other necessary hookups and goodies will ship out in September of this year to those that pledge $300 or more. To take things a step farther and provide more freedom of movement, the wireless ANTVR is available for $500, while developers that want ANTVR early to have a game or app ready at launch can get their equipment in July for $1,500.

The Potential. VR headsets are primed to be the next big thing in media, not just in gaming. Anyone with a device ready to go around the same time that the Oculus Rift launches stands to achieve a great deal of attention. That being said, the ANTVR system looks like a fantastic alternative to the Oculus because of its built-in compatibility, application flexibility, wireless setup, and jaw-droppingly transformable controller. As an all-in-one system with no need to get anything else, the ANTVR looks like something that will be a must buy for anyone who wants the best immersive experience right out of the box.