A Quick Update on the Pebble Time – *Steel* Yourself

You asked for it… I think I’ll upgrade my pledge now. kbye.

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Stop. Pebble Time. They’re doing it again…

I have a Pebble watch. It’s freaking awesome.  Originally they broke all Kickstarter records when they raised $10 million. I’m seeing more and more Pebble’s around the place too: friend’s of friends, first, then a friend here, then several friends, then my brother…The watch has a few minor downsides, but it really nails what a smart watch should do. Big names, like Apple and Samsung, have been trying to get a piece of this pie, but they seem to have totally missed what it is that makes the Pebble so good. That is, not a replacement for your phone but simplifies your life. I love having my phone permanently on silent. I love being able to receive messages, and not having to pull out my phone if it doesn’t warrant a reply. I love not missing messages because of the loud ambience. So they’re doing it again. I’m not exactly sure WHY they need to Kickstarter again, but they’ve just dropped a new watch onto the crowd-funding site and raised $9 million in 24 hours breaking records (again.) The traffic took Kickstarter down…

Is the new watch worth it? Well, it certainly looks much nicer. Not quite as bright, but the thinner more ergonomic look is a big step up. The fancy new OS could be a hit or a miss, and the colour e-paper is nice but not necessary. It’s water resistant, but I can’t find out if it is rated as well as the original Pebble (a feature I’d be loath to lose.) It’s also a bit more expensive this time around. Look, if you ALREADY have a Pebble, I’m not sure you’d need to dive in again (having said that, if their last campaign is anything to go by and with the ridiculous popularity of the current one, your current watch may very well have expired by the time the new one is sent) but if you have not yet taken the plunge, I can STRONGLY recommend you get in on this new campaign.

Oculus DK2 Shipping on the Horizon

So the VR community has been a-buzz lately. There’s Google’s project Tango, as well as their project cardboard, some of my favourite games are coming with VR: iRacing and DCS World.

Perhaps the most exciting news is the hint that DK2 shipping information will drop next week… The Twitter quote in question:

“@Cyber will there still be a shipping update next week?” — “@MikeLen: Yes, there will be a shipping update at some point soon.”

Oh. Did I mention? I was on the first wave of orders. I have a DK2 coming, so this news is VERY relevant.

Latest on the Oculus Rift

Things have been quiet. Between re-writing history in Crusader Kings

(In a minor battle with a rebelling duke, Morgan took a blow to the head and went into a coma. He died a few years later, and the succession did not go smoothly: His son did not have enough land to raise many personal levies, the English throne did not pass to him at all, and the rest of his dukes rose up in rebellions. There was no doubt he was going to be relegated to being a minor duke while someone else sat on the imperial throne (and several someone elses sat on the thrones of the various Kingdoms I’d united.) Ah. C’est la vie.

So either I load up the war with the Duke (leading an army with the Emperor was not something I intended to do) or that’s where my campaign ends)

I have been trying out Company of Heroes 2. I only picked it up the other day on special. It’s got some nice features, but it is very similar to the original – so I expect this flirtation to be fairly short-lived.

I got the same feeling when I played Batman: Arkham Origins. It was a good game – practically identical to the previous game… and I loved that game so it should have been all good. I loved it, but it didn’t have the staying power, because I’d done it all before.

Anyway. I’m a ways into this post and haven’t mentioned anything about the headline yet.

oculus-rift-crystal-cove

The OR has a 1080p version floating around, and, separately, a version that has positional tracking – dubbed Crystal Cove. So let’s tally a score, shall we?

Traditional VR problems:

  • Low field of view, giving “long-distance screen” problem – solved
  • High latency on head-movement – solved

Traditional VR problems, that the OR also had:

  • Poor resolution – solved
  • Low latency, not zero latency – solved (for all intents and purposes)
  • Motion blur – solved
  • Turn and yaw, but no X/Y movement (i.e. leaning) – solved
  • “Screen-door” effect – unresolved
  • Very high resolution – unresolved

That’s doesn’t leave many things left for the OR to solve. You’d want the screen-door fixed just so you can compete with monitors, and 1080p resolution is acceptable, but because our eyes are so close we really do need extremely high resolution to be able to comfortably read text etc. I have a sneaking suspicion they may try and work around it, though (e.g. UI’s that make use of the stereoscopic features to “float” it at a comfortable reading resolution.)

In any case. They could ship tomorrow with quite a successful product. If they can solve the screen-door effect, and combine all these features into one mass-produced device then I’d say they’re ready to go. And maybe they are

 

Thoughts on the Leap Motion

Well my Leap Motion finally arrived today, and my girlfriend and I had a bit of fun with it.

When I ordered the Leap Motion, I thought it looked unbelievable. Possibly a revolutionary new way to interact with our computers. As the waiting stretched out, however, I watched more videos – tech demos and the like – to keep myself occupied while I waited. That’s when I first started to see the cracks. Fingers couldn’t be registered unless close to parallel to the device, slight delay on movements, and “misses” when using the interface.

So by the time it arrived, I had a pretty good idea what to expect. It delivered on that. I know quite a few people are very disappointed: https://forums.leapmotion.com/showthread.php?2703-Unimpressed-is-an-understatement, but I’m not. My hopes just weren’t as high as they originally were.

Don’t get me wrong. The Leap is miles ahead of the Kinect or Move. The originals, certainly, but I’d also wager the new ones coming with the PS4 and XBone will be nearly as useless as the originals. The apps that are designed to use the Leap (basically the little games and things in the Airspace store) all work quite well. It takes a little getting used to.

So – although the hardware of Leap is a smidge less than I’d hoped for, I think with the right software it could do a lot of really interesting things. We might be looking at a over-hype backlash, which would hurt the chances of seeing that software, though. If the Leap Motion can struggle through the initial, rocky, days we might get some talented developers churning out some really useful apps. On the ideas forums, for example, I see an idea for “a boxing game” and gestures for a media controller (i.e. circle forward for fast-forward.)

My ideas basically revolve around cleaning up the interactions. At the moment they seem too wielded to an “invisible touch screen” floating between you and your monitor. It’s pretty annoying and inaccurate to try and break this plane with just the tip of your finger to get the “click” to work. I’d much prefer to see more intuitive ideas implemented. A whole new interface is one common suggestion (i.e. something more like Windows Metro interface) but I think you could, with clever programming, get the Leap working in Windows 7 too. For example a pinching or fist gesture to “grab” a window, so you can move it around. Some ray-casting so you can point at what you want to click, rather than having to “hover” your finger over it. A real “click” gesture, rather than the crude “jab”. Or at least, base the “click” off the acceleration of the finger, not whether it is breaking an invisible plane. And don’t give me any of this malarky about the Leap being unable to recognise a fist. Natively, perhaps. It seems to look for “sticks” and a “thicker stick” for fingers and a hand. But if the fingers curl up and disappear, and you’re left with just your original, shorter, stick — surely the user just made a fist? Besides. It’s just an infrared camera. Unless some of the latency trickery is built directly into the Leap hardware, can’t we have it recognise a fist along with fingers and arm?

My point is – these problems are fixable with clever software. Whether that is Leap Motion improving their Leap drivers, or 3rd party devs making customised recognizing algorithms, I think it’s doable. It will take a few months or maybe even a year or two, to really iron out.

Of course, the main reason to get a Leap, is so you have an interface for the Oculus Rift.

Steam Allows You to Remotely Install? Since When!?

Steam summer sales. Wallets everywhere cry out in pain. I was not surprised to find myself making yet another purchase (from work. Shh.)

What DID surprise me, however, was this screen:

remotely install

You see, I happened to leave my home computer turned on this morning. I had often bemoaned any new games I bought during the day wouldn’t be installed by the time I got home. If I planned well enough, I could remote into my home PC and kick off the install.

No longer required! I will probably leave my computer on more often now, so if I make a purchase I can install games from work – ready for me to jump into as soon as I get home. (Unless it is Anno 2070 which merely installs the Ubi installer which then installs the 4 gigs of actual game later. Pfft. Ubi.)