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Oculus virtual reality headsets set to ship in 2016
San Francisco June 11, 2015

GruntSim: the load-bearing video game simulation for Marines
Arlington, Va. (UPI) Jun 11, 2015 - A computer simulation program that measures equipment weight, distribution and effects on body mechanics and performance is being given to the Marine Corps.

The 3-D program from the Office of Naval Research is called the Enhanced Technologies for Optimization of Warfighter Load, or ETOWL, which will be renamed GruntSim once delivered to the Gruntworks Marine Expeditionary Rifle Squad, which focuses on individual mobility.

Gruntworks operates as a workshop for the testing of equipment that would help infantry Marines.

"ETOWL fits perfectly within ONR's mission to develop ground-breaking technologies that enhance the resilience, physical superiority and overall warfighting performance of U.S. Marines," said Vice Chief of Naval Research Brig. Gen. Kevin Killea.

Like combat-themed video games, users can create a Marine avatar, load it with as much or as little equipment as desired and then run the avatar through a variety of virtual obstacle courses. ETOWL measures the stress placed on each avatar's joints as well as its balance, flexibility and center of gravity.

"It's very exciting to see ETOWL transition from ONR prototype to a technology that will enhance human load and performance for the Marine Corps," said ONR Program Manager Dr. Peter Squire. "This is the kind of research that's very rewarding because it provides a direct benefit to our nation's warfighters."

ONR says ETOWL was developed by the Center for Computer Aided Design at the University of Iowa. Its design software -- the SANTOS human simulation environment – will be made available to the academic community to access free of charge from the center's website soon to allow for further research and potential improvement of ETOWL and future programs like it.

Uber game puts iPhone users behind the wheel
San Francisco (AFP) June 12, 2015 - Uber released a free game Thursday that lets iPhone and iPad users test their skills as drivers for the controversial on-demand car ride service.

UberDRIVE launched in the US in Apple's online iTunes shop.

"UberDRIVE showcases a day in the life of an Uber driver-partner," the company said in an online post.

"Players help riders get from A to B and earn high scores for identifying the safest and most efficient routes to their destinations."

Game play involves tapping online maps to pick routes, interact with intersections, and pinpoint landmarks. The only setting for the game at launch was San Francisco, where Uber has its headquarters.

High scores will unlock new virtual cars and more neighborhoods to explore, according to Uber.

"UberDRIVE was designed as a fun and engaging resource for our driver-partners to hone their navigation skills if they choose to," Uber said.

"It's also a great way for prospective drivers to experience firsthand what it's like to drive with Uber."

Links for applying to drive for Uber in the real world are built into the game.

Uber, which connects passengers to drivers through a smartphone app, has expanded rapidly in recent years but has also faced hurdles from regulators in many locations and protests from traditional taxi services.

Facebook-owned virtual reality firm Oculus aimed squarely at video game lovers on Thursday as it unveiled Rift headsets that it will begin selling early next year. Oculus showed off Rift along with a dazzling array of games promised to be ready at launch, the exact date of which was not disclosed. "In virtual reality, you are going to find yourself reminding your brain that this is not real," Oculus chief executive Brendan Iribe said during a media event at a studio space in San Francisco. "It is a paradigm change." Oculus did not disclose pricing for Rift, which will come with an Xbox controller due to an alliance with console maker Microsoft. "The opportunity for us to bring our wireless controller to every Oculus user at launch is incredibly exciting for us," Xbox division leader Phil Spencer said at the event. "We believe we will be able to create state-of-the-art virtual reality experiences on the Oculus on top of Windows (computer operating system)." Combining Xbox controllers with Oculus is a win for Microsoft and Oculus, according to Gartner analyst Brian Blau. The alliance raises the potential for Oculus virtual reality gear to synch with Xbox consoles as well as across the range of devices that will be powered by Windows 10 computer operating software set for release later this year, the analyst said. Spencer said that virtual reality "experiences" would be built on top of Windows, but didn't go into details. No mention was made of whether Oculus would work with Xbox console games. "I think this does more for Microsoft and PC (personal computer) games than anything they have done in years, in terms of exciting new things," Blau said. Microsoft has promised that applications written to work on Windows 10 machines will be at home on Xbox consoles. - Oculus eyes gamers - Oculus founder Palmer Luckey also showed off a "Touch" accessory that will let people essentially reach into virtual worlds to manipulate objects or issue commands with gestures. "You need to be able to pick up a gun from a table, fire it, and throw it away without even thinking about it," Luckey said. "You can light explosives, pull robots limb from limb, punch garden gnomes... lots of cool experiences." Oculus promised hands-on demonstrations of titles promised at a major Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) event next week in Los Angeles. "There was always this distance between players and the game," said Oculus studios head Jason Rubin. "Virtual reality lets you step through that window; finally we can create worlds that feel real. 2016 is going to be an absolutely incredible year for gaming." Oculus said the headset will hit the market in the first quarter of next year. Early versions of the headset, designed for immersive gaming and other applications, have built a strong following among developers and has won praise from analysts for limiting the motion sickness which affects users of virtual reality (VR) gear. "Immersive technologies have a lot more to offer than video games, but it is a great place to start," said Gartner analyst Blau. "Game developers know how to get people immersed in graphical simulations better than anybody; it is natural to think they will be first in line to create content." Facebook last year bought Oculus for some $2 billion. Facebook co-founder and chief Mark Zuckerberg said earlier this year that the acquisition of Oculus was a long-term bet that making the social network's offerings more immersive would pay off in the future. He suggested that the virtual reality technology could be applied to various offerings of the world's biggest social network. Blau expected the virtual reality market to be fiercely competitive, with players including PlayStation 4 console maker Sony and its Morpheus gear Microsoft's augmented reality gear HoloLens, but believed Oculus would be among the survivors. "It's a great day for Oculus; it's a great day for Facebook, and, honestly, it is a great day for the virtual reality market," Blau said at the event. gc/rl Facebook

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