UPDATE: The speculation didn’t last long. Valve has just released their OpenVR SDK which includes documentation for the Compositor. The actual implementation differs in some interesting ways, but the Use and Features section, below, is still a good summary of what Valve and Oculus are trying to achieve here. More details are at the end of this article.
In March, Valve released a new concept into SteamVR called the VR Compositor. Like everything else at this point, the specification is not yet public. (So insert the standard speculative disclaimers here. If I flubbed something, please be forgiving, but let me know.) It shouldn’t be too hard for us to tease together what its function and purpose might be.
- This is a new component of SteamVR that simplifies the process of adding VR support to an application.
- Continues to draw an environment even if the application hangs.
- Simplifies handing off from one application to another without full screen context changes by owning the window on the headset.
-Programmer Joe (Valve)
Let’s break that down a bit. The compositor grabs the VR display, owns it, and continues running. When a compositor-aware application wants to use the HMD, it goes to the compositor to request access to the HMD. The compositor hands a buffer to the application and tells the application to render into that buffer. Read More…
The story of how Valve let two of its engineers walk away with the company’s augmented reality tech is well known to the VR crowd. The impression we came away with was that Valve has shifted all of their attention to virtual reality and hasn’t looked back since. Or have they?
In last month’s series of articles on Valve’s Lighthouse, we reviewed what was known about their new tracking technology and covered some potential uses of the tech.
A curious finding was that not only was Lighthouse compatible with augmented reality, but that it actually helps solve some of the critical problems which continue to plague the fledgling industry. It was hard to think that this fact could have escaped Valve’s notice.
On April 23rd, Valve finally included their Lighthouse driver in the SteamVR beta. While the API remains unpublished, an examination of the new component revealed a very curious set of strings…
STEREO_DEV_DANHAT_EMAGIN_SXGA, STEREO_DEV_BENCRUSHER_MICROVISION, STEREO_DEV_BENCRUSHER2_MICROVISION, STEREO_DEV_DEANPHOTONBLASTER, STEREO_DEV_ST1080_FLIP_FORWARD, STEREO_DEV_ST1080_FLIP_UPWARD, STEREO_DEV_ST1080_UPWARD_GLUE_GUN_SPECIAL, STEREO_DEV_OCULUS_RIFT_FLIP_UPWARD, STEREO_DEV_JERI_RETRO_MARK1
We see references to the nVisor ST50 combination AR/VR head mounted display, the Vuzix Star 1200 augmented reality glasses, the Lumus DK-32 augmented reality glasses, the Silicon Micro ST1080 HMD with 10% see-through display, and a number of development units named after microdisplay manufacturers.
There are also “flip” models of various displays including the Oculus Rift. Could these be AR/VR combo devices? Finally, we have what seems to be a reference to one of the AR prototype displays that were created by former Valve employee Jeri Ellsworth.
To recap: with Lighthouse, we have a new technology which has the potential to offer breakthroughs in augmented reality. Listed inside the windows device driver (which actually implements the technology) are specific models of AR and AR/VR combo devices.
We still don’t have proof, but we have enough pieces to start asking the question: is Valve flirting with augmented reality?
EDITED May 16, 2015: It is possible that the flip models are made to allow the user to easily see and interact with the real world simply by flipping the display out of the way.
This is the third and final article (in a series) on the issues that face the virtual reality community as it finally enters a period of rapid and sustained growth. If you need additional context, please begin with the first article in the series, “Before the Eternal September of Virtual Reality“.
You are a developer, right?
That’s the impression that many of you gave Oculus when you agreed that you were purchasing a product that was intended for developers. If that is actually not the case, we’d like for you to stick around.
Given the amount of time that the development kits have been available, and the introduction of other “innovator” products (like Cardboard and Gear VR), I think that it is a safe bet that software developers are already a small minority in the VR community.
This time around, nobody is holding your order hostage until you click the checkbox with the correct answer. Do you mind giving this unscientific poll a quick response?
Only a year ago, we were using the original Oculus Rift Developer’s Kit (DK1). The community could be an unfriendly place for non-developers. Do you know how we tended to respond to those who were having problems finding good games and getting them to work? Repeat the mantra from the caption below.
The image above is clearly a fake, as is the quote, but the sentiment was (and to some degree, still is) true. Even today, the Oculus Rift is intended for developers, and it works well for Oculus not to be sandbagged with end-user support at this time. Read More…
The company formerly known as Oculus Info reported that in 2013, the United States Patent and Trademark Office refused to register Oculus VR as a trademark, and as a result, Oculus VR initiated proceedings with the USPTO to try to cancel Oculus Info’s existing trademark.
This isn’t the only trademark-related court case with Oculus VR, the first being Oculu vs Oculus VR.
Our original research unveiled more about this new case which barely made it into the public eye. In the end, the two parties reached a confidential settlement with undisclosed terms, and the case was dismissed with no further litigation. The trademark for Oculus Info was cancelled. Oculus Info became Uncharted Software Inc in February 2015.
If you would like more information about case, it was filed as a civil case in the Virgina state court, case #1:14-cv-00436-AJT-TRJ. You might find additional interesting information inside some of the supporting documents.
Timeline of events (as seen in public records and as told by Oculus Info):
- 2008 July – Oculus Info applies for a trademark
- 2011 May – Oculus Info’s trademark is registered
- 2013 February – Oculus VR applies for a trademark
- 2013 May – Oculus VR warned of issues by USPTO, given chance to respond
- 2013 November – Oculus VR responds
- 2013 November – USPTO communicates with Oculus VR, sends suspension letter
- 2013 November – Cancellation proceeding initiated (reported to be on behalf of Oculus VR) at USPTO against Oculus Info
- 2014 April – Oculus Info takes Oculus VR to court on trademark issues
- 2014 June – Settlement agreement between Oculus Info and Oculus VR
- 2014 August – Oculus Info’s trademark is cancelled
- 2014 December – Oculus VR’s trademark is registered
- 2015 February – Oculus Info becomes Uncharted Software
Was Oculus VR trying to bully a smaller company? Was Oculus Info trying to leverage a weak or improper trademark? Did Oculus VR pay Oculus Info for the trademark? These are good questions, but we do not expect to find those answers. It ended in a confidential settlement agreement.