Virtual Reality Continues to Make Progress

Despite not making the splash that many had expected in 2016, virtual reality (VR) isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. The technology is increasing in popularity, and as prices drop while software keeps improving, that’s a trend that will likely continue. If there were two criticisms that could be leveled at VR, it was that the cost of entry was incredibly expensive and that there were a lack of key titles to justify the expense. But it’s clear that these are problems that will be solved soon enough after getting a closer look at some of the games on the horizon at the Electronic Entertainment Expo, along with developments for some of the more affordable headsets.

combat troop in gear with VR headsets

A group of U.S. Army soldiers and Navy sailors assigned to 4th Joint Communication Support Element (Airborne)/ 4 Joint Communication Support, are operating the Dismounted Soldier Training System at Mission Command Training Branch Building, Fort Stewart, April, 2013. This training is helping sailors and soldiers operate using a virtual environment as if they were on a real life mission on a foreign battlefield. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Austin Berner/Released)

VR continued to be a high priority at this year’s E3 conference. All of the major video game companies (with the exception of Nintendo) are working on some major titles that should serve to showcase the power and capabilities of VR. Sony has already shown that it’s possible to make AAA VR games with Resident Evil 7, and the upcoming Ace Combat 7 looks like it will be the flight simulator that VR has been waiting for. As more must-play titles are released for VR devices, they will help to drive even more gamers, and casual players, to the headsets.

And these headsets are not only becoming more affordable, but also more powerful. One of the most accessible pathways to VR is through mobile-based headsets, often available for less than $200. The Google Daydream and Samsung VR have been particularly popular in this regard, and their manufacturers are looking to make them even more impressive. In addition to supporting its own Samsung Gear VR, the company’s latest smartphone, the Galaxy S8, will be updated to support Google’s Daydream VR in the summer of 2017. On top of this, Samsung is preparing to drastically increase the resolution of the Gear VR to provide an even more immersive VR experience on mobile devices.

As the applications and hardware for VR keep improving, the ability to support the technology is becoming more of a necessity for devices. Improved immersion in technology has also been a driving force in the world of games. The Samsung Gear VR has more than 700 supported apps, and we’re seeing the online gaming industry working to get in on the action, too.

Online casinos have been pushing for a more realistic experience for years through the introduction of live dealer games. These hyper-realistic takes on classic casino games allow players to directly interact with a real-time feed of an actual dealer. This makes the entire process much more immersive and dynamic, and it isn’t just for desktop users. The service has proved so popular that it was adapted for smartphones through mobile apps that use multiple viewpoints and high-definition video streams to enhance the experience. As live dealer options turn into the preferred playing method for many gamers, it won’t be long before these apps are optimized for use with mobile VR, too.

Instead of setting the world on fire, the adoption of VR has been more of a slow burn. Slowly but surely the hardware and software keeps getting better, and with this continued growth, it’s only going to keep getting more popular, especially when it comes to mobile. If you haven’t gotten the fever to try out VR for yourself yet, it’s about to be a whole lot easier.

Related: Night Vision Contact LensesGoogle Glass for Fitness

HomeWorx HDTV Digital Converter (Receiver) with Media Player

I have an ancient HDTV. It is a projection “65 inch TV which is perfectly fine with me (other than it needing to have the bulbs replaced). But it doesn’t have a receiver in the TV (it is only HDTV ready – no receiver inside the box.

Not having a receiver is actually a benefit in my opinion you are not stuck with the “smart TV” spying trackware, listening to you in the room via the smart TV speaker etc.. My unit is so old it was done separately because the receiver technology wasn’t settled yet.

After I returned from 4 years overseas the receiver was missing. So I picked up a new HomeWorx HDTV Digital Converter Box with Media Player and Recording PVR Function (HW180STB) for $30.

The recording PVR option confused me because I couldn’t find the capacity anywhere. After reading a bit I learned that you just use usb sticks to store data. This lets you recored programs over the air using your HDTV antenna and this receiver.

Many people get this when they drop cable TV. I am a bit confused since many of those people have smart TVs (meaning the TV has an HDTV receiver and you can hook up your HDTV antenna to it directly). Some people say this receiver is much better so that you can get stations that isn’t received by the expensive smart TV. You also get the HDTV recording without paying a monthly fee.

It was super simple to setup. I screwed my antenna into this box and this box into my TV (both coaxial cables – the HomeWorx HW180STB also lets you use standard video cables). By far the hardest part was finding AAA batteries. I eventually found them in a small flashlight and then it was just a matter of pushing the down arrow twice and enter: then it recorded all the signals it received).

It captured 47 stations (though maybe 20 of those are pretty fake – either nothing at all or shopping channels and other stuff I have no interest in). It gets all the major stations well (except PBS seems a bit flaky)l and all I have is the antenna sitting in my basement pointing out 1 window (I din’t try adjusting it at all).

Before I left I also had only over the air TV. Then I had the antenna setup in my attic and used the cable TV coaxial cable to hook to my TV. Now I am getting my internet via the cable company so I am not sure what would happen if I try to hook up my antenna to the coaxial cabling that is now carrying my internet feed. Maybe it would work? The antenna was unhooked when I returned (I am not sure it that was done in my absence or I did it for some reason before I left).

I haven’t tried doing anything fancy yet (not even recording) but it is nice to have access to over the air TV (mainly just for sports), I hadn’t bothered getting it hooked up for 2 months. All I used was Netflix and got a HDTV cable to view the playback on the 65″ screen.

My TV is a Toshiba built in 2005 and doesn’t have integrated lamp units you just slide out and replace, sadly. This is what you must deal with to replace the lamp. What were they thinking? I guess this can partially be excused by being a very early HDTV product. But still, not providing a decent replacement option for the lamps is pretty lame. I am trying to hire someone to do it for me, so far unsuccessfully, but I have someone that thinks they can do it.

closeup of lamps and circuit boards

Lamps inside 65″ projection Toshiba HDTV 65h84

Continue reading

Boxee Box – HD Streaming Media Player

The Boxee Box
is quite an excellent media hub. The Boxee allows you to manage your content and connect to the internet (by wireless or wired). You can even try out Boxee before you buy the box.

Download Boxee’s software and try it for free on your computer first, they will automatically import your account when you’re ready to buy a Boxee Box and bring the experience to your HDTV. Get tons of free stuff, and pay for the premium content you want. No monthly bill. No more paying for stuff you never watch.

You need to use you computer or external storage (the Boxee doesn’t have storage in the box) to watch your own content.

photo of the back of a Boxee

Boxee back

Related: Amazon’s Android Tablet, Kindle Fire, is Very Attractively PricedDroid Incredible