Google has hired Richard Marks, a former senior research engineer who helped create Sony’s PlayStation VR virtual reality headset and its PlayStation Move controllers, Games Beat has learned.
If there’s any sign that Google is up to something in the gaming business, the hiring of Marks is a big clue. In January 2018, Google hired Phil Harrison, the former head of Sony’s game research and development and worldwide studios, as a vice president and general manager.
Google has also hired scores of other game-related talent, including former PlayStation Home chief Jack Buser, Xbox Live Arcade creator Greg Canessa, and a number of other folks. The Information reported that Google was working on a service, codenamed Yeti, to stream games Chromecast style to a Google-made game console.
Above: Richard Marks, senior research engineer at Sony
Google hasn’t acknowledged anything except hiring Harrison. Marks, who spoke at our Games Beat Summit conference in 2017, worked at Sony since 1999, and for much of that time he ran Sony’s Magic Lab, a small group dedicated to far-out ideas for video game technology. He has a doctorate in philosophy, aeronautics, and astronautics from Stanford University. He got his bachelor’s in aeronautical and astronautical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
At Sony, he helped the create EyeToy and PlayStation Eye camera, which debuted in 2003 on the PlayStation 2 game console. He also helped developer the PlayStation Move controller, which debuted on the PS3 in 2010. And most recently he helped develop the PlayStation VR, which debuted in the fall of 2016 for the PlayStation 4.
Back in 2016 at a GamesBeat event, Marks said he saw VR as social.
“There are a lot of different social things going on,” said Marks. “That social experience of being in another place with somebody there’s nothing really else like that. It’s one of the most powerful things about VR.”
We’ve reached out to Sony for comment. Google said Marks has joined the Google’s Advanced Technology and Projects group (ATAP) at Google.
Update at 2:58 p.m. Pacific:
In a statement, Google said, “ATAP is at the intersection of science and application where our goal is to solve significant problems and close the gap between what if and what is. We’re super excited about Richard joining the senior team and look forward to his contributions.”
Though Magic Leap has shared more information on its augmented reality headset in recent months, its latest revelations have been somewhat disappointing. Add this one to the pile: Developers have apparently unearthed details on Magic Leap One’s field of view the “augmented” portion of your vision and it’s only a little better than Microsoft’s HoloLens, not the great leap forward people have been expecting.
Developer documentation suggests that Magic Leap One’s augmented field of view will be 40 degrees horizontal by 30 degrees vertical, a 4:3 aspect ratio akin to iPad screens. By comparison, HoloLens has a 16:9 aspect ratio with a 30-degree horizontal and 17-degree vertical field of view, while Sony’s PlayStation VR has a 16:9 aspect ratio with a roughly 100-degree horizontal field of view.
This means that looking through Magic Leap One will not provide a sense that you’re fully immersed in a combined real and digital world instead, you’ll see a digital window floating on top of a larger real space.
The company says that the digital window will be big enough to depict a “large house cat” at a distance of 40 inches away, or a large widescreen television at a distance of 110 inches away.
The image above illustrates generally what this means. By comparison with Sony’s popular virtual reality headset (green), which provides a wider and taller field of view that is nearly but not wholly immersive, Magic Leap One’s field of view (blue) will be considerably smaller, though not as small as HoloLens (red). To make the presence of the digital window less obvious, Magic Leap is suggesting that developers use a technique to gently fade content in and out as it hits the window’s edges.
Above: In this 2014 image from the Magic Leap website, a tiny, photorealistic elephant dances in someone’s hands.
Image Credit: Magic Leap
It should be noted that the AR viewing area was discovered in the source code of a “field of view” document for Magic Leap developers, buried under the phrase “Coming soon on launch day!” So it’s possible that the hidden details are inaccurate, though it’s more likely that they’re correct and that Magic Leap didn’t want to share the disappointing information until the product was out in the wild.
The text in the source code reads:
Field of View is widely used in XR to measure the viewable area a person can see through a device like Magic Leap One. While helpful in providing a baseline measure, Field of View can be misleading as it is a 2D concept and does not fully describe the three-dimensional attributes of space directly visible through our device. A 2D Field of View is a relative measure and is dependent upon the depth and scale of the content being viewed.
Instead, the term Viewing Frustum (or View Frustum) better describes the three-dimensional space within which lightfield objects are viewed. With a focus on design guidelines and best practices, our volumes can range from hand sized characters to larger objects like 90″ TV screens or even spaceships. Spatial computing is about working in volumes and spaces, not just a 2D Field of View.
That all said, as a developer you need to know operational values of the device. Magic Leap One has a horizontal FOV of 40 degrees, a vertical FOV of 30 degrees, and a diagonal FOV of 50 degrees. Check out the following documents and samples for more information on ways to work with the device to have larger content, and experiences, that feel good to your users.
Above: One of Magic Leap’s video demos suggested that it would be able to augment reality with relatively large, photorealistic digital objects.
As photos and demo videos for the Magic Leap One have depicted seemingly immersive experiences, it’s an open question at this point whether the headset will actually deliver on that promise. But it’s difficult to imagine a device with a relatively narrow field of view serving as a viable platform for games, or other experiences that benefit from surrounding your eyes. Much to the consternation of AR fans, truly immersive augmented reality may still be years away.
Magic Leap One is supposed to begin shipping to most developers this summer and will apparently be generally available to consumers in 2019. Microsoft is reportedly developing a second-generation, 2019 version of its HoloLens with around double the current 30-degree field of view, and Leap Motion has developed a North Star augmented reality headset with a 100-degree field of view.
If you’re excited by the prospect of browsing the web from the comfort of your VR headset, good news: Google is bringing its Chrome browser to Daydream View and Lenovo Mirage Solo headsets today.
As Google explains it, you’ll be able to launch Chrome from your Daydream View or Mirage Solo homepage and access any page while in VR. To provide a better VR experience, the new version of Chrome has a cinema mode that optimizes web videos for VR viewing, as well as other unspecified Daydream-specific features.
The Daydream version of Chrome is fully functional, including voice search and incognito mode, as well as providing access to your saved bookmarks. Nodding to the reality that users may well prefer to pop on the VR headset only for specific content, Google also notes that users can begin a browsing experience on the phone, then switch to the headset for viewing there.
Technically, this isn’t Chrome’s first appearance on the Daydream platform, as Google has been working for nearly a year and publicly since Chrome 61 to give Daydream some sort of VR functionality.
The company introduced more VR support in the Chrome Canary test bed months ago, but it was unstable and buggy. Today’s release has benefitted from months of testing, so it should hopefully offer a stable experience, regardless of the site you’re visiting.
Chrome for Daydream View and Mirage Solo is available now through Google Play as an integrated feature of the Android version of Chrome. Once you’ve updated the regular Chrome app, it will be launchable through the Daydream home screen.