SeeSaw Labs

HTC Vive Pro for VR | What You Need to Know

HTC’s new Vive Pro is officially available for preorder (ships April) and promises some exciting new features. This upgrade will really up the game in Virtual Reality headsets. At SeeSaw Labs, we’ve been using HTC’s Vive for more than two years now, and have been eagerly waiting to see what an upgrade would bring.

We’re looking forward to HTC’s continued innovation efforts because they communicate a true understanding of how to overcome the friction that can exist for new-users and commercial applications. Delivering a comfortable, intuitive experience is the key to continued VR adoption.

This new upgrade brings significant improvements in screen resolution and overall audio experience, as well as some very cool integration support features. Here is the skinny on each:

Better Resolution
The first big change is an upgrade to the screen resolution. It’s now in 3k with a 37% increase in pixels per inch. This should remove any feeling of the “screen door effect” and really contribute to overall immersion. This improvement will also increase in-experience text readability, potentially opening to door for greater commercial applications where larger amounts of text may be necessary.

Integrated, Spatial Sound
HTC has also simplified audio for Virtual Reality. Their integrated headphones also offer a bit more structure to the unit, allowing the user to simply put on a single device, with everything ready to go; if you’ve ever tried to find and put in earbuds with a VR viewer on your face (or even better a client’s face), you’ll instantly see the value here.

Best Feature, Isn’t Pro Specific
The most exciting announcement is the addition to the Vive Pro is wireless capability, set to release later this year. While 3rd party devices have cropped up to support this feature, they are very expensive and often quite bulky. The Vive Wireless Adapter is an exciting step forward towards improving the overall immersion of the experience. We believe this feature will be especially helpful in making first-time users’ experiences feel more natural (especially in commercial applications). Note that the Wireless Adapter will work with both the new Vive Pro and original Vive models!

Other Updates on the Way
Support for extended play areas, obstacle identification, and multiple players in the same space bring further cool opportunities to commercial applications, allowing for innovative, guided experiences. More accurate tracking can be achieved through linking a multitude of lighthouse sensors. This will provide for a better environment to support virtual objects that have real world counterparts.

Bottom Line
The Vive Pro is a big step forward. It’s finally delivering the type of experience everyone hoped for when first imagining virtual reality. We believe that this push forward towards a more “put it on and go” type experience (no headphones or cords to worry about) will allow for more innovative experiences and our clients to more easily put the technology to use.

Find out more about the Vive Pro from their official site.

Everyday Wearables and the Future of Augmented Reality

As a greater number of device manufacturers enter the Augmented and Virtual Reality space, some interesting questions and philosophies of adoption are raised.
What can AR wearables do that my phone or watch can’t already do? Will the manufacturers develop the software or create a platform or others to build on? Who will actually wear these things?

We recently stumbled across and a great video from The Verge checking out Vaunt, Intel’s new Smart Glasses. We’re loving their very pragmatic approach to the wearable and see it as a big contender in the space for early adoption. Here’s the video and some our additional thoughts below:


Who will actually wear these things?
This is actually one of the most interesting aspects of the Vaunt. Intel’s approach is design first, focusing on breaking the “I look like a dork” barrier that plagued Google Glass. We agree that one of the keys to adoption will be wearables that don’t interfere socially.

What can AR wearables do that my phone can’t already do?
Much like smart watches, the potential here seems to be providing contextually relevant information without the need to visually disengage. Smart watches are great at keeping your phone in your pocket when you receive notifications, but they do still keep you looking at your watch like you need to be getting somewhere. Grocery lists, driving directions, restaurant reviews (of the restaurant you’re currently walking past)…these are pieces of information we’d love to have access to without having to avert our glance.

Will the manufacturers develop the software or create a platform or others to build on?
Intel brings up a great point here too. Much like with early smartphones, it can be difficult to anticipate the advancements that will come from a new platform (who could imagine Uber or Venmo in 2007?). While solid core software will be the key to the primary use cases of initial adoption, an open, easy-to-develop-for (we’re looking at you Apple) platform will be what really advances the field as it grows.

Virtual Reality and Architecture

As with any emerging technology, successful early adopters are able to answer the question, “What can this technology do that was previously not possible?”. Virtual Reality is no exception, and successful initiatives deliver on this question.

What is VR Best At?
One of VR’s greatest strengths is its ability to communicate depth and scale. Have you ever visited the Grand Canyon or Niagara Falls? Videos and photos never do these spaces justice as they fail to communicate the sheer size and depth of these wonders. By the same principle, the best photos, architectural renderings, and videos cannot fully capture the experience of physically being present in a space.

Our Experience
As we built our environment for the Virtual Park we witnessed this effect first-hand. No matter how we manipulated the 3D models on our 2D screen, it was always more effective to view objects through the Vive headset. We often found ourselves, headset on forehead, toggling back and forth to make sure the width of a bush or height of a tree made sense spatially.

Opportunity Building on Existing Technology
In real estate development, architectural renderings have become a norm. Software like AutoDesk’s Revit and 3DS Max have made transforming AutoCAD drawings into simulated (sometimes even photorealistic) images easier than ever before. The opportunity then lies in finding a way to transform those existing Revit or 3DS Max files into AR or VR experiences.

How We Can Help
At SeeSaw Labs, we have experience developing AR and VR experiences for Mobile and High End devices using both Unity and the Unreal Engine. We also have experience working with the AutoDesk suite of tools (one of our partners was previously a Civil Engineer!).

There is no one-size-fits-all solution to creating impactful, value driven experiences, so our approach is one of collaboration and long term partnership. Our aim is to set up a workflow that can easily take your existing materials and transform them

Asking the Right Questions
When deciding what type of AR or VR project might be right for you, it’s helpful to know the right questions to ask to ensure that you’re getting the biggest impact for time spent. Here are a few to get you started:

Which devices will you be targeting?
Will this experience target Mobile devices (client download, for example) or will you be demonstrating with a high end device (HTC Vive, or Oculus Rift)? Your project goals will help answer this question. Keep in mind that interactivity and quality may be limited by the target device.

What level of quality is right for the project goal?
Are you looking for photorealism or are simple textures and lighting enough to communicate what is needed (see screenshot for example of the latter)? We can help you find the right quality level for your budget and needs.

How much interactivity is expected?
Simple teleport style navigation is often all that is desired (and can be achieved on mobile with the Google Daydream!); however, we are able to create more complex interactions like picking objects and map style teleportation (for large spaces). Let’s get creative!

Will this solution be aiding your design process internally?
For clients that find the VR experience particularly useful as part of the design process, we can help you set up an in-office device to include as part of your workflow.

Left: Design file from Google Sketchup Right: Virtual Reality representation with basic texturing and lighting (no internal lighting)