You get home after a day of work or study. You let go of things, get comfortable and put on your virtual reality headsets. Immediately, you access an alternative world full of avatars where your friends are. You invite two or three to your living room, a faithful representation of your room in three dimensions, and you throw darts at each other, toast with some reeds and then watch a movie in the virtual cinema. Any fan of science fiction or video games will surely link this to ‘Ready Player One’ or ‘Second Life’, but no. This is what he proposes XRSPACE.
And what is XRSPACE? About four years ago, Peter Chou, founder and CEO of HTC and in charge of creating the popular HTC Vive, left the company. In 2017 Chou founded XRSPACE, a company whose goal is to bring mixed reality to the masses. Three years of work later, the firm has announced its plans for the future: a virtual world called Manova, avatars faithful to our appearance and cheap and wireless virtual reality glasses with which to access it. A great social network based on virtual reality, a new and virtually unlimited world.
Your house, your avatar and no cables
To enter this world, you need a key, and that key has a name: XRSPACE Mova, wireless virtual reality glasses equipped with 5G connectivity and an optical recognition system. Its price is $ 599 and will be available from the third quarter of 2020. Within these glasses we find a Snapdragon 845 processor, 6 GB of RAM and a camera system that will take care of absolutely everything.
Like Oculus Quests, Movas have no controllers. All interaction will be done with your own hands, head and body. The idea is that it is not necessary to learn to use a controller when we already know how to use the ones that the human body has incorporated: the hands. The cameras will analyze our movements to know what we are doing, from picking up a page to toasting with a virtual beer mug.
The XRSPACE MOVA.
However, the hardware is not the most striking. What is striking is the world that XRSPACE offers us to access through them. In this virtual world we will embody our avatar. We will create it with a selfie and the software will be in charge of recreating it within the platform. In this way, the company seeks that be faithful to our person and not a random doll with certain features. It does not reach the photorealism that the movie ‘Ready Player One’ proposes, but it is a kind of vitamin SIMS.
From the company they affirm that avatars can express emotions through facial features. They have explained that the expressions will be synchronized with us, but they have not detailed exactly how. What they have said is that they have artificial intelligence that keeps them alert, in the sense that they are aware of what is happening around them and react to the environment.
Avatars interacting with each other during the presentation.
These avatars will move around the world, Manova, which we will talk about next, but the “safe house” will be our own room. Let’s understand it as a main room, a place to invite friends, browse the options that Manova offers us, or simply be. This room will not be random, but will be a representation of our room, and XRSPACE will use space scanning technology for this.
How does it work? As Chris Lin, the company’s chief designer, explained, the glasses will use cameras to analyze our environment. There will only be put them on, walk around the room and look at every corner. The software will “map” the area and send it to the cloud. There a virtual room similar to our room will be created that we can use to walk around it, invite friends, etc. The idea is that when inviting a friend, your avatar appears in our room, as it would in real life.
Manova, the XRSPACE Oasis
When Wade Owen enters Oasis he can go looking for Halliday’s three keys or whatever he really wants. You could go shopping and spend credits on a spectacular bomb, new weapons, or a more immersive suit. There are plenty of things to do at Oasis, even classes are taught in there. Saving the distances and starting from the basis that we are talking about science fiction, something like this is what XRSPACE proposes in Manova.
The film’s own freedom of movement will be lacking, but XRSPACE seeks to fill it with “experiences that matter day by day”, as stated by Kurt Liu, head of content at the company. What are these experiences? Sports, entertainment, music, games… all mounted within the virtual world itself. Like ‘Habbo Hotel’, but raised to the umpteenth power.
Watching a movie in Manova.
Inside Manova there will be public spaces, such as cinemas, work rooms or leisure areas. There, users can meet to socialize (and that is the key, virtual socialization). From XRSPACE they believe that virtual reality is an App Store right now, that is, you download an app, access its content, then go to another app, repeat, and so on all the time. An example that we have seen in the presentation is a lot of users dancing on a beach or watching a movie in the cinema.
However, the most curious case is that of MagicLOHAS, a wellness and exercise space. XRSPACE claims to be able to detect not just the hands and head movements, but the entire body. They have not detailed whether only with the glasses or with the line of accessories that they will launch soon, but they promise that we can move the avatar in its entirety. And for what? To be able to exercise.
A virtual relaxation session.
The case they have shown us is a class of tai chi in which several users equipped with the glasses followed the instructions of a monitor. The user plays sports and the avatar reflects their movements. And not only tai chi, but they also affirm that you can walk, bike, dance and do yoga, all without leaving the room.
Manova is an open world, in the sense that any XRSPACE partner can develop content for your own game? social network? The case is that companies like Angry Birds, AirPano, Resolution Games, Magic Horizons, Digital Domain, Iconic Engine, iStaging and Futuretown have developed activities for the game, such as playing ‘Angry Birds’, navigating the panoramic landscapes of AirPano and others activities. The SDK required to program is now available.
Ready for now
On the realism that this experience will offer, there is still much to talk about. It is a huge project and we will have to see how it is received by users. From the company they have confirmed that Manova will start operating soon in Taiwan, which will later reach Europe, then the United States and finally the rest of the world.
There are no exact dates, although they were very optimistic during the presentation. From the company’s website, a form has already been prepared to make a pre-purchase that includes the glasses, access to Manova and “premium content for three months. “What is that premium content? What does it include? Not known, but possibly has a lot to do with partner entertainment experiences.
It is, as we said, a ambitious goal by a company that is three years old, although it has the support of companies such as Qualcomm and Deutsche Telekom. All in all, it is not the only company seeking to recreate a virtual world. Facebook, for example, has plans to create something similar with Facebook Horizon, which is still in the closed beta phase and is expected to launch in late 2020. Sansar, from Linden Labs, also proposes a similar world.