Field of view: Sony acquires VR veterans Insomniac Games

Your roundup of the week's news in augmented and virtual reality
The week in AR and VR
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Welcome to Field of view, your weekly rundown of all the goings-on in the virtual and augmented reality realms.

This week, we've got an intriguing hardware announcement from Cologne games show Gamescom, big VR news from Sony, Google's quest to improve hand tracking, while employers are now learning how to sensitively fire people from the comfort of their headsets.

Essential reading: Best AR smartglasses to buy

Lastly, we've got a big new VR experience you need to check out. So, let's get into it.

Sony acquires Insomniac Games

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Sony announced that it's acquiring Insomniac Games - the studio behind the hugely successful Spider-Man game, a recent Playstation 4 exclusive.

Interestingly, Insomniac are hard at work on Stormland, an Oculus-exclusive VR game due to launch later this year. Stormland is the studio's third Oculus game, after Edge of Nowhere, The Unspoken, and Feral Rights. That roster of games positions Insomniac as one of the most experienced VR developers at work today.

Read next:Best Playstation VR games

Given Sony's hopes for Playstation VR, it will be interesting to watch whether Insomniac now turns to making some similarly well-produced experiences for Playstation VR. This may well be a big blow to Oculus, who will presumably no longer be able to rely on Insomniac's services. It's also unclear at this stage who owns the IP for Stormland, and whether Insomniac will take the franchise away with it.


Walking in VR just got more laid-back

We're just about getting used to seeing and using those bowl-like walking rigs that you can use to mimic the feeling of moving around in VR experiences that allow traversal.

Now a new option has appeared - with a kitsch name to boot. Cybershoes (yes, really) are basically like VR flip flops. You strap them to the bottom of your shoes, and their friction-free bottoms can slide around on carpet to tell your headset how you're moving. If you're short of a microfibre carpet, have no fear. You can just buy a matching Cybercarpet for the purpose.

Moving in VR is a bit of a holy grail, so we'll be interested to see if VR flip flops will end up being the best solution. At $400 a pair though, they don't come cheap. The company behind them says they'll work with Vive, Oculus Rift, Windows Mixed Reality and Pimax headsets.

You can check the video out above to get a flavour of how they work.

Firing employees in VR might help you do it better in real life

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Anyone that runs their own business, or manages actual people, will know the painful process of letting someone go - you know, firing them. It's never easy for the person getting fired, obviously, but a manager who's had some proper practise is going to be a hell of a lot better than one firing from the hip.

With that in mind, VR developer Talespin has created Barry Thompson, a virtual employee for you to practise on in VR. Using speech recognition, AI and a whole bundle of branching systems, Barry can be fired over and over again by users, with his reaction to the news differing according to its delivery.

It might not sound like much fun, but helping people to deliver news with sensitivity is a net win for all.

Google is working on hand-tracking tech for VR

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In a detailed blog post earlier this week Google showcased some pretty impressive new VR tech in the realm of hand-tracking. Using an open-source software called MediaPipe, the big G has managed to get an on-device mobile phone camera accurately tracking individual fingers and hand shapes in real-time.

This could spell big news in VR - as immersive as some controllers like Oculus' are, if your headset could watch and interpret every twitch of your fingers while you play you might not need controllers in the first place. At the moment the software can detect a limited range of gestures, but this could be the future of gesture-based controls.

Try this: Westworld Awakening

Westworld is one of those shows that everyone's told you you should be watching, and now it's got VR experience to enjoy alongside it.

HBO has created a full-blown Westworld VR game set in the show's universe. You'll play the role of a newly-awakened android, and spend a lot of time scared, hiding from malevolent presences. It looks frankly a bit too scary, in a good way.

We talked to the creative forces behind the game to find out how they made it this week, which you can read here if you're interested. The experience will set you back $30 and is available on on Steam, the Oculus Store, and Viveport now.


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