Get Started Making Robots with Google Blocks

Anna Zhilyaeva, a mixed reality artist who goes by @AnnaDreamBrush on Twitter, has a great walkthrough of using Google Blocks to build robots:

This is part of the #BotsWithBlocks challenge, highlighting how you can use prefab kits to make objects and scenes in Blocks that can be used in other VR/AR development.

Anna’s social media channels have a ton of cool VR and mixed reality art, by the way. Check out her Instagram and YouTube pages.

Google Daydream and Major League Baseball Team Up for VR Series

Matt Apfel, 

Today, we’re debuting our latest collaboration: “On the Verge,” an original VR video series that provides an up-close, behind-the-scenes look at the lives of young MLB stars around the game.

The first episodes of “On the Verge” will take you on the field, inside the batting cage, in the clubhouse and to more places with young MLB stars Josh Bell (Pittsburgh Pirates), Mookie Betts (Boston Red Sox), Manuel Margot (San Diego Padres), and Jose Berrios (Minnesota Twins). These four episodes are available today in the recently released MLB.com At Bat VR Daydream app, which combines live video streaming and real-time stats for a complete live game sports experience in VR. They’ll also be available on MLB’s official YouTube account soon.

I love this direction for VR and other cutting edge storytelling tech: Don’t (just) recreate content we already get via traditional channels. Leverage VR’s unique capabilities to give us something unique. Behind the scenes is perfect; if I’m going to be allowed somewhere usually off-limits to me, like an MLB clubhouse, I’m going to want to look everywhere once I’m inside. VR is perfect for that.

On the Verge leverages Google’s Jump VR creation platform:

We worked closely with MLB to tell these stories from a new perspective amidst unique access points around ballparks with Jump, Google’s platform for VR video capture that combines high-quality VR cameras and automated stitching. Because the Jump cameras don’t take up a ton of space, it allowed MLB to capture memorable moments on and off the field, ultimately producing fun stories of what it’s like to be big leaguers.

The first four episodes are available now via the MLB.com At Bat VR Daydream app. Episodes will also be available on YouTube to be viewed via Cardboard and Daydream View players.

Will Android Fragmentation Plague Google Daydream VR?

During Monday’s earnings call, Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai promised 11 Android phones supporting Google’s Daydream VR platform will be in the marketplace by year’s end. No specifics were mentioned regarding how many of the 11 might be brand new devices, and how many existing phones in line for updates to work with the next generation of Daydream.

The announcement isn’t at all surprising, but it does get me to wondering about a long-running theme of the Android world: Fragmentation. With standalone Daydream headsets also promised by year’s end, my big question about Google’s VR plans is this:

Will Daydream force hardware OEMs into standardization, or will it follow the path of Android down the path of “One Platform Fits All. Sort of. After you fork and/or patch it.” ?

Ideally, all compatible hardware – phones and standalone headsets both – will run the same Daydream platform and the same apps. Android developers and users alike have long suffered with everything from drivers to apps that work on some but not all Android handsets. While things have gotten somewhat better over the years, Daydream represents a chance for Google to get the mobile platform thing right and sow the seeds for a more robust developer ecosystem and better user experience. Apple has long since reaped these benefits, as they control the full iOS stack, from hardware to software to ecosystem.

Currently, seven Android phones support Daydream:

– Google’s own Pixel & Pixel Plus

– Asus Zenfone AR

– Huawei Mate 9 Pro & Porsche Design Mate 9

– Motorola Moto Z

– ZTE’s Axon 7

Samsung has also announced Daydream support for Galaxy S8 & S8+ is coming soon.

One caveat to Pichai’s announcement, as PhoneArena points out:

Exciting news indeed, but before you get super-duper excited, make sure you check if Daydream is supported in your country of residence, as Google has not yet expanded it to countries, such as Mexico or some smaller countries in Europe.

Meet Samsung’s Next-Gen Virtual Reality Headset

We already knew HTC and Lenovo were prepping Android-based standalone VR headsets for launch later this year. By standalone, I mean “you don’t need to snap your smartphone into the goggles.” Surprise, surprise, Samsung’s working on a standalone VR rig, too.

A company called Visual Camp spilled the beans on Samsung’s Exynos VR, a forthcoming headset that will apparently use Visual Camp’s eye-tracking technology. Like Google’s standalone Daydream View rigs, Exynos will not only let you keep your phone free for other uses, it’ll also enable advanced VR features that a phone-based setup just can’t handle.

Lilliputing reports:

The Exynos VR is a headset with a built-in display, a smartphone-like processor, and all the other tech you need for virtual reality applications.

It looks like the latest version is the Exynos VR III, which features a 10nm hexa-core processor with two Samsung M2 CPU cores clocked at 2.5 GHz, four ARM Cortex-A53 CPU cores clocked at 1.7 GHz, ARM Mali G71 MP20 graphics, and dual WQHD+ displas with a screen refresh rate of 90 fps (or a single 4K/75Hz display).

In addition to eye-tracking, the Exynos VR head-mounted display is said to support “hand tracking, voice recognition, and facial expression recognition.”

Assuming Exynos VR supports the Oculus store like Gear VR does, this is pretty exciting. Oculus has a big headstart over Google’s Daydream store when it comes to available content to make those virtual reality glasses come alive.