The 9 Biggest VR Stories Of GDC 2017


Whew, what a week. Can we sleep now? With each passing year the Game Developers Conference (GDC) becomes more and more important to the VR industry, and 2017’s iteration was no different. There have been a frankly ridiculous amount of announcements over the past six days and we wouldn’t blame you if you’d missed a few of them.

So we’ve gathered what we’d consider to be the nine biggest stories of the show, representing the need-to-know information. If you’ve been living under a rock (or in a VR headset) for the past week then look no further! You can start by listening in on our hour-long post-GDC live videocast analysis from yesterday right here:

After that, keep scrolling for the nine most essential headlines of the week.


1080 Ti Supercharges VR

VR requires meaty graphics processing power to run well, and Nvidia continues to push the boundaries with its latest GeForce GTX GPU release, the 1080 Ti. This is said to be around 35% faster than last year’s 1080, in many ways coming close to or surpassing the company’s top of the range Titan X Pascal GPU too. It’s shipping this month for $699 for all VR enthusiasts that want to push their VR experiences that bit further.

from other suns crew shooting

Rift’s 2017 Line-Up

Last year at GDC Oculus revealed much of its line-up for the imminent launch of the Rift. One year on and it’s ready to debut its bigger, better 2017 line-up, fueled by the recently-released Touch controllers. We’d seen games like Arktika.1 before, but new titles like From Other Suns and The Mage’s Tale are truly looking like the next generation of VR content.

vive tracker

Vive’s Peripheral Prices Are $99.99

HTC introduced its new add-on Trackers and an integrated audio strap for the Vive at CES in January, and it kicked off GDC with the announcement that both will be available for $99.99 each in the coming months. The Tracker will roll out to developers first and we saw plenty of great examples of what they’ll do with it at the show. This is something to be excited about.


Khronos’ OpenXR Sets VR/AR Standards

If we’re not careful, fragmentation could become a major issue for the VR industry, with so many devices already out there drastically different in features, power, and more. Khronos wants to combat that with OpenXR, a standard framework for VR software that will help you develop across multiple headsets and input devices. This could be crucial for social VR and bringing apps to as many platforms as possible.

New Gear VR controller

New Gear VR, New Controller

With Google Daydream launching with motion controls last year, Samsung and Oculus’ Gear VR needs to play a bit of catch up. Fortunately the pair are doing just that; a new Gear VR was announced at Samsung’s MWC press conference last weekend, and will likely be fully unveiled when the company reveals its new S8 smartphone later this year. It’s got a controller very similar to a Daydream remote, which we can’t wait to get hands-on with.

This is Acer's kit, the first Holographic VR headset to roll out to developers.

Hands-On With the Microsoft Windows Holographic VR Headset

One of the biggest question marks heading into GDC was Microsoft. We knew it was going to announce when its dev kits for its VR headsets for Windows Holographic would start shipping at the show, we just didn’t know what that kit would look like. Well we got hands-on with it and it has potential. With consumer devices set to launch this year and Project Scorpio on the horizon, there’s a lot more to learn yet.


LG Looks Good With SteamVR Headset

We always knew there would be other SteamVR headsets beyond the HTC Vive, we just didn’t know what they’d be and when we’d see them. Turns out LG is the next company to partner up with Valve and it was at GDC with an early prototype of its headset, which doesn’t have a release date yet. We went hands-on with the device and were quite fond of it. We look forward to more details as the year progresses.


Robo Recall Ready

Epic Games’ Rift-exclusive Oculus Touch showcase, Robo Recall, was always pegged for an early 2017 release, but people were starting to get a little anxious it might not make that window. Well Epic had a perfect surprise for everyone on Wednesday when it actually released the shooter for free. If you’ve got Touch then be sure to go and grab it, it’s not one you should miss.


VR’s First Major Price Cut

Price cuts are a major part of driving adoption of any product, and a tactic we see used often in the console business. It looks like VR will be no different; Oculus this week announced that its Rift was dropping from $599 to $499, and Touch was dropping from $199 to $99. That’s both Rift and Touch for slightly less than the original price of just the headset itself. Game on.

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Skills to Work in VR  

These University Courses Are Teaching Students the Skills to Work in VR


“I’ve been in VR for a long time,” says Rob Catto. He tells me that back in 1993 he set up a fully immersive VR lab in the high school where he taught, so it’s not surprising that he believes Virtual Reality and teaching are natural bedfellows, nor that he ended up as the Director of Game Studies & Simulation at Full Sail University. “I actually came here to teach a course in VR, but then it sort of went to sleep, until about four years ago when it came back with a bang.”

Full Sail already had a strong Game Development program, he explains, but with the heightened interest and demand for talent from the industry it made sense to create a course geared specifically toward VR and AR. Their newly launched Simulation and Visualization Bachelor’s – which currently has around 30 registered students – is not for the faint-hearted though. It crams a 4-year multidisciplinary curriculum in 20 insanely intensive months.

During that time, the students hone their coding skills (focusing mainly in C Sharp and C++) and get comfortable using engines such as Unity and Unreal. But that’s only the beginning. The course includes a huge variety of modules such as Data Visualization and Modeling, Artificial Intelligence and Applied Human-Computer Interaction, Linear Algebra, Physics, Computer Networks, and even things like “Historical Archetypes and Mythology,” and “English Composition,” which hint that in order to create immersive experiences you should not only understand the technical side of Virtual Reality, but also get to grips with it as a storytelling medium.

Full Sail University-1

Photos of Full Sail University in Orlando by Tom Atkinson at R3Digital.

With the increase in popularity of VR and demand for skills in the industry we are certain to see a lot more dedicated courses, as well as impressive content produced by students and alumni such as this cool Harry Potter-based AR project by 21-year-old Asad Malik from Bennington College in Nevada.

“As virtual reality moves more towards the mainstream through the development of new, more affordable consumer technologies, a way needs to be found for students to translate what they learn in academic situations into careers within the industry,” says Frankie Cavanagh, a lecturer at Northumbria University. He founded a company called Somniator last year with the aim not only of developing VR games, but to provide a bridge between higher education and the technology sector. Over 70 students from Newcastle University, Northumbria University and Gateshead College in the UK have been placed so far through the program, working on real games as part of their degrees and getting paid for additional work commissioned. This has already produced some impressive results, as can be seen from the early preview of their first VR release, Dimension Hunter.

But what should those shopping around for a VR degree course be looking for? State-of-the art facilities such as those offered at Full Sail’s “FabLab” or the University of Missouri’s iLab – which currently offers Virtual Reality-related modules as part of its IT program – are certainly desirable, but perhaps more important is an institution’s ability to support the student in building an extremely diverse and ever-evolving skillset, as well as encouraging a collaborative mentality.

Working with VR already translates into an extraordinarily diverse range of possible career paths, and those options are only going to become even broader as the industry matures in the next few years.

“Simulation is becoming a bigger part of almost any industry,” agrees Catto. “There’s urban simulation, military, medical, flight, disaster relief, and then gaming and other entertainment. At its heart, simulation is all about problem solving. Its applications extend to nearly every industry—from safer military training to more efficient medical procedures to better designed parking garages.”

One of the reasons Full Sail is located near downtown Orlando is because of its pedigree as “simulation capital of the world” referring to its tradition in providing R&D and talent for the theme park industry as well as the military and space programs. But for students to be able to solve the problems they will encounter in creating such complex simulations, they need to be taught to conceptualize, design, program and make their own stuff. Which makes for a very different sort of learning environment.

“We teach them things such as how to program electronic microcontrollers, then they will work with a solid modeling package in the digital fabrication course. They will use equipment such as the injection molder, a laser cutter, and the milling machine where they will make their own circuit board – which of course they will then program themselves,” explains Catto.

He shows me a 3D-printed box: “This will ultimately be a scent deliverer that will be controlled by a virtual environment. It is easy to focus on the visual aspect of VR, but it’s about much more than just putting on the headset, it’s about all the senses, and what we’re enabling here is rapid prototyping to deliver that.”

Full Sail University-8

Next up he invites me to test-drive one of his own prototype projects – a machine that simulates the experience of Catto’s real-life hobby of powered paragliding. For those not familiar with this activity, it essentially involves a heady mix of flying and parachuting, with a propeller strapped to one’s back as you fly in a suspended harness connected to a wing resembling a parachute. It’s just as much crazy fun as it sounds – especially when you’re doing it in Virtual Reality and add some random missile shooting for extra kicks.

As my ride in the Virtual Foot Flyer proves, the point of all those hours spent learning and building is that they ultimately produce awesome experiences. Which is why they get students building stuff pretty much from the get-go, and the result of one of those assignments is moving hypnotically on the palm of Catto’s hand as we speak. It’s a miniature version of a Stewart platform, built from scratch. This is a robotic motion device that provides six degrees of freedom for any object resting on its surface – basically what flight simulators theme park rides sit on top of. Once they master that, students then have the chance to upscale their designs, so that one could recreate, for example, the Speeder Bike chase in Star Wars using a combination of VR, simulation mechanics, and custom-made printing and prototyping. You could even build a custom headset that looked like a biker scout helmet, why not? Well, Catto tells me with a grin, that’s actually something they’re working on at the moment. Perhaps next time I visit I could try that demo.

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Virtual Reality entered the marketplace for consumers in 2013 with the launch of the Oculus Rift Development Kit. 2016 brought consumers a variety of new VR devices, including the HTC Vive and Sony’s PlayStation VR. Based on the demand the VR market has been seeing over the years, it is expected to grow by the billions by 2020, reaching an estimated $30 billion in worth. When combined with the Augmented Reality market, revenue between the two could reach $150 billion. Today, many industries are beginning to implement Virtual Reality into businesses. In the healthcare field, a VR experience called “Snow World” to help burn victims during their wound care and rehabilitation process. In journalism, news and media companies are adding 360 videos to their online publications to add to their stories. And in entertainment, movies including Star Wars, Jurassic World, and more have released VR experiences to go along with the movie. Adding this component generates more interest, excitement, and a strong brand association.

With the VR industry continuing to expand, new career opportunities are expected to open up to fulfill the demand. Potential positions for job-seekers may include UX/UI Designers, Unity Developers, 3-D Modelers, Animators, Project Managers, and Videographers. For those who are interested in pursuing a career in the industry, it is important to stay up-to-date on the latest VR trends—follow social media conversations, attend webinars and conferences, and participate in online communities. In an industry that expects to sell 500 million VR headsets in less than 10 years,  the Virtual Reality industry appears to have a very promising future ahead of it.

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Positive reinforcement

2016 became huge for improvements in synthetic intelligence and machine gaining knowledge.

But 2017 may additionally properly supply even more. Here are 5 key matters to stay up for.

Positive reinforcement

AlphaGo’s historical victory towards one of the excellent Go players of all time, Lee Sedol, became a landmark for the sphere of AI, and particularly for the approach called deep reinforcement mastering.

Reinforcement learning takes an idea from the methods that animals learn how positive behaviors have a tendency to bring about advantageous or poor final results. Using this approach, a laptop can say, determine out the way to navigate a maze with the aid of trial and errors and then accomplice the tremendous final results—exiting the maze—with the moves that led as much as it. This we could a machine study without practice or maybe express examples. The concept has been around for many years, but combining it with big (or deep) neural networks offers the strength had to make it paintings on truly complicated troubles (like the game of Go). Through relentless experimentation, as well as evaluation of previous games, AlphaGo found out for itself how to play the sport at a professional degree.

The hope is that reinforcement learning will now show beneficial in many actual-international conditions. And the latest launch of numerous simulated environments must spur progress at the necessary algorithms by means of growing the variety of abilities computer systems can accumulate this manner.

Dueling neural networks

At the banner AI academic accumulating held in Barcelona, the Neural Information Processing Systems conference, plenty of the excitement a new system getting to know technique called generative hostile networks.

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Bitcoin could realistically be worth $500,000 by 2030

The first investor in Snapchat thinks bitcoin could realistically be worth $500,000 by 2030

BitcoinAttendants pose with a bitcoin sign during the opening of Hong Kong’s first bitcoin retail store.Reuters/Bobby Yip

Bitcoin has been the top-performing currency in the world in six of the past seven years, climbing from zero to a value of about $1,190.

But the cryptocurrency isn’t anywhere close to its potential, according to Jeremy Liew, the first investor in Snapchat, and Blockchain CEO and cofounder Peter Smith. In a presentation sent to Business Insider, the duo laid out their case for why it’s reasonable for bitcoin to explode to $500,000 by 2030.

Their argument is based on increased interest in bitcoin, thanks to:

Bitcoin-based remittances

Remittance transfers, or electronic money transfers to foreign countries, have almost doubled over the past 15 years to 0.76% of GDP, data from The World Bank shows.

“Expats sending money home have found in Bitcoin an inexpensive alternative, and we assume that the percentage of Bitcoin-based remittances will sharply increase with greater Bitcoin awareness,” the two say.


Liew and Smith said increased political uncertainty in the UK, US and in developing nations would help elevate the level of interest in bitcoin.

“We believe Bitcoin awareness, high liquidity, ease of transport and continued market outperformance as geopolitical risks mount, will make Bitcoin a strong contender for investment at a consumer and investor level,” the two said.

Mobile penetration

Liew and Smith believe the percentage of non-cash transactions will climb from 15% to 30% in the next 10 years as the world becomes more connected through smartphones. There’s only a 63% global smartphone penetration and the total number of smartphone users is expected to soar by 1 billion by 2020. GSMA,  a trade body that represents the interests of mobile operators worldwide, believes 90% of these users will come from developing countries.

This will make it possible for nearly everyone to have a bank in their pocket, and that should provide a boost for bitcoin as well. Liew and Smith say bitcoin could account for 50% of all of these transactions.

Here are the basic model drivers that Liew and Smith used:

  1. A bitcoin price of $1,000 in 2017.
  2. That network users will grow 61x from now until 2030. “Put another way, we need a population of bitcoin users around a quarter of the Chinese population (or 5% of the global population) in 2030 to see bitcoin at $500k,” Liew and Smith told Business Insider. Bitcoin’s user network grew from 120,000 users in 2013 to 6.5 million users in 2017, or about 54x, and this could be just the beginning. Growth of that magnitude would produce 400 million users in 2030.
  3. The average value of bitcoin held per user hits $25,000. “As institutional investor cash in Bitcoin, sophisticated investors trading Bitcoin, and Bitcoin-based ETFs proliferate, we think the average Bitcoin value held will increase to around $25k per Bitcoin holder,” Liew and Smith said. Currently, with a market cap of $16.4 billion, and 6.5 million user count, the average user holds $2,515 worth of bitcoin.
  4. Bitcoin’s 2030 market cap is decided by number of bitcoin holders multiplied by average bitcoin value held.
  5. Bitcoin’s 2030 supply will be about 20 million.
  6. Bitcoin’s 2030 price and user count total $500,000 and 400 million, respectively. The price is found by taking the $10 trillion market cap and dividing it by the fixed supply of 20 million bitcoin.

It’s important to note that a lot could go wrong, too. News surrounding bitcoin has been rather negative as of a late.

China, which is responsible for nearly 100% of trading in bitcoin, has been cracking down on trading. The three biggest exchanges recently announced a 0.2% fee on all transactions, in addition to blocking withdrawals from trading accounts.

Additionally, the US Securities and Exchange Commission rejected two bitcoin exchange-traded funds, and will make a ruling on another one in the future. It’s not expected to be approved. However, Smith thinks bitcoin is still in its early stages.

“The SEC’s ruling wasn’t a surprise to us,” he told Business Insider. “We know that getting this sort of approval is going to take (a potentially long) time,” Smith said. “In the meantime, bitcoin is already simple to buy and hold and, as the asset continues to mature, we’ll continue to see an increase in the development and deployment of surrounding products.”

BitcoinMarkets Insider

And while bitcoin hasn’t been granted regulatory approval here in the US, it is catching on elsewhere. On April 1, the cryptocurrency became a legal payment method in Japan.

Another threat to the future of the cryptocurrency is that developers are threatening to set up a “hard fork,” or alternative marketplace for bitcoin. This would result in the split of bitcoin into bitcoin and bitcoin unlimited. However, Smith says not to worry.

“Bitcoin has strong economic incentives to prevent this,” he said. “If the last two years of healthy contention and debate lead to a conclusion, it’s that Bitcoin is incredibly resilient and stable. In fact, the bitcoin Blockchain has operated for 7+ years with no downtime, a feat no other back-end system operating at this scale can claim.”

Anyone interested in bitcoin should also know that the cryptocurrency sees violent price swings that are uncommon among the more traditional currencies. Bitcoin rallied 20% in the first week of 2017 before crashing 35% on word China was cracking down on trading.

The cryptocurrency has regained those losses, and trades up about 25% so far this year.

Get the latest Bitcoin price here.