7 of the Best VR Games That Will Actually Give You a Great | Sidnaz Blog

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Boxing experience Thrill of the Fight is the toughest game I played, it got my heart rate the highest, and even though the graphics were a bit cheesy I ended up totally immersed. Between rounds of one fight, I nearly sat down on the virtual stool in my corner of the ring.

The hands-on experience begins when you start the app and see the menus explaining how the game works. Instead of pointing your controllers at buttons on the menus (most games have you aim them like laser guns), you walk directly up to the menu screens and touch them with your virtual hands, which are already wearing boxing gloves.

You’re in a small gym with a garage-like feel. A coach stands off to the side, watching you but not speaking. There’s a locker room area, a dummy you can practice punches on, and an elevated boxing ring. Choose an opponent to fight, and suddenly you’re in one corner of the ring with a small crowd gathered around. You throw punches, and try not to get punched. If you do take a hit, the world fades a bit, goes black and white, and you (if you are like me) back away from your opponent for a minute while you try to get your bearings.

I won three rounds against my opponent, but it was exhausting. I hit him when I could, and kept moving toward him, trying to keep the pressure on. I found myself constantly pushing into the far corner of my Guardian, which the game helpfully draws as a red rectangle on the virtual ring’s floor. I needed to punch and punch again and not get punched myself. The audience was watching, my coach judging silently. I didn’t want to fuck this up. I didn’t want to get punched. If you want to get your heart rate up, or just be a little bit terrified for a short interval workout, play Thrill of the Fight.

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Can You Get a Good Workout With Virtual Reality? | Sidnaz Blog

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Virtual reality headsets have come a long way since the first time I saw a VR “arcade” pop up in a mall in the 1990s. (I never played, although I was curious; five bucks a game was like a whole week’s allowance.) Now you can strap on a headset and walk around your living room, with options ranging from dancing games to fitness-centered apps, so I’m setting out to learn: how good a workout can you get in virtual reality?

What can a VR headset do, anyway?

I’m trying out the Oculus Quest 2, a device that plays games on its own without needing to be connected to a computer. You wear the goggle-like headset and grasp two controllers, and the games ask you to move your hands to do things.

In most VR fitness apps, you don’t need to press buttons on the controllers, you just wave your hands around. Since the game is also aware of where your headset is in space, it can ask you to squat or to lean to the side. The games don’t differ too much in the types of actions they ask you to do, but they vary greatly in the kind of environment you are immersed in while you do it.

How to set up your VR workout space

While a virtual world can be as big as the game’s developer wants it to be, your living room is still only the size of you living room. The games have to let you move around while stopping you from actually running into a wall or smacking your hands into your bookshelves, so there’s a system that sets virtual boundaries.

With Oculus, the boundary is called your Guardian. (Vive, another popular VR headset, calls it a Chaperone.) When it was time to set up the Guardian, the virtual world faded away and I found myself looking at my actual surroundings in grainy black-and-white. My couch, the walls, and everything else was visible for this step, and the device told me to use my hand controllers to draw a line on the floor to define my safe space. (The motion is similar to spraying a jet of water with a garden hose.)

The minimum recommended size for “roomscale” games, the ones where you can move around, is two meters by two meters, or 6.5 by 6.5 feet.

I had hoped to perhaps use my driveway as a play space, but the Oculus comes with warnings not to use it outdoors. This is for a few different reasons. First, you are totally blind to your surroundings while you’re immersed in a game, so you may not notice people, cars, squirrels, and so on entering your space. Second, the headset uses little cameras to figure out where it is (and where your hands are), and it can’t work in the dark or in extremely bright light. And thirdly, if sunlight gets on the lenses, you are screwed. Even a few minutes of sunlight—say you take your headset off and leave it screen-side-up on a sunny day—can destroy the device.

So, I set up my Guardian and began exploring the virtual world. When you start up the headset, you’re in a virtual home-like environment with menus appearing as a giant virtual screen in front of you. The border I drew was invisible, but if I ever got too close to it, I saw it appear momentarily, a transparent wall marked with grid lines.

If you walk through the Guardian’s wall, the game world disappears entirely and you see your actual surroundings in that black-and-white view again. I found this handy for placing a water bottle and sweat towel just outside my workout area; I just had to poke my head through the boundary and I could take a drink without having to take my headset off. Another fun feature: you can add your real-world couch to your virtual environment.

What do VR fitness games look like?

The simplest and, I think, best ones throw a stream of objects at you, and your job is to whack them in time with music. Other styles of gameplay include dances where you copy your partner or instructor, and boxing games where you’re immersed in an actual fights. (I found one boxing game so engaging, despite the cheesy graphics, that I walked over to the bench in the in-game locker room expecting to find my water bottle there.)

There are also games that let you play real sports in a virtual world, including simulators for golf and table tennis. Another intriguing format simply creates a continually-moving virtual world around you as you pedal a real-life exercise bike.

Dealing with sweat and practical issues

Active VR games bridge an odd gap between video games (which one plays on a couch while munching Cheetos) and workouts (which one does in sweat-wicking clothing.) The difference takes some getting used to. For example, I had to work out the best way to arrange my hair. Normally I go for a bun or ponytail when I exercise, but the device’s straps get in the way. A low braid was the best option that I found.

Another thing I found, as I browsed virtual-reality forums, is that people who are really into using VR for exercise have tricked out their headsets with aftermarket straps and accessories. One of these I actually bought was a silicone cover for the part of the device that touches your face. (Mine was an off-brand cheap one, but I’m told the VR Cover is the Cadillac of such attachments.) This stops sweat from soaking into the foam, which makes for a much less gross handoff when your son borrows the headset to play Beat Saber and returns it all wet and stinky.

Suitably equipped, I’ve been playing through a bunch of games, and next week I’ll take you on a full tour of my favorites. If you’ve done VR fitness workouts, let us know in the comments how you liked them, and if there are any games I should make sure not to miss.

 

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Facebook Turns 17, Celebrates It With a Custom Animation | Sidnaz Blog

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Facebook turns 17 today, February 4, and is celebrating its annual milestone “Friends Day” with a custom animation wordmark that speaks of friendship and inclusion. The animation shows a woman wearing a headscarf and a young boy connecting via Facebook and exchanging messages, loaded with friendly emoji, to show the length and breadth of the social media company’s success in the last 17 years. The giant that Facebook is today started as a college network for Harvard University students in 2004 by a 19-year-old Mark Zuckerberg, along with his college mates Eduardo Saverin, Andrew McCollum, Dustin Moskovitz, and Chris Hughes. Most of this story was explored in the movie The Social Network, but in the years since, the company had grown to be almost omnipresent; with multiple popular services including WhatsApp and Instagram, and has drawn huge criticism for spreading misinformation and hate, apart from its stated mission of connecting people.

Facebook today has an estimated 2.5 billion monthly active users worldwide with over 241 million users in India. Over the years, it has created and acquired a host of products and services, including Messenger, WhatsApp, Instagram, and Oculus that have turned it into a social media conglomerate catering to a growing online population. WhatsApp, for instance, has an estimated 1.5 billion users in the world with over 400 million in India alone. Instagram has over 800 million users worldwide.

Along the way, the company has also gotten into a lot of controversy. Most recently, a WhatsApp privacy policy update mentioned sharing user data with Facebook’s other products and services spiralled into a controversy. Facebook is also currently locked in a battle with the Australian government over paying media outlets for the news that drives traffic to its platforms.

But the biggest controversy surrounding Facebook so far has been the Cambridge Analytica scandal that had Zuckerberg depose before the US Parliament to explain how user data of 87 million Facebook users could be mined for political advertising. The US regulators recently settled the data privacy scandal with Facebook after enforcing a fine of $5 billion (roughly Rs. 38,159 crores).

At 17 years of age, Facebook can be said to be at the cusp of adulthood. With Amazon boss Jeff Bezos stepping out of the CEO’s chair, and Google’s founders also not actively involved in the day-to-day decisions of the company anymore, Zuckerberg is one of the few big tech founders of the early 2000s still in the hot seat.

Earlier on Thursday it held a meeting to discuss its policies on misinformation, and it continues to grow at a rapid clip, and is today one of the biggest players in what could be the future of technology — virtual reality.


Does WhatsApp’s new privacy policy spell the end for your privacy? We discussed this on Orbital, our weekly technology podcast, which you can subscribe to via Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, or RSS, download the episode, or just hit the play button below.

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Facebook Brings Messenger to Oculus Quest VR Headsets, | Sidnaz Blog

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Facebook Messenger is coming to Oculus Quest headsets this week, the company has announced. Users who have logged into Oculus Quest and Quest 2 using their Facebook accounts can use Messenger to chat with their friends even if the person on the other side does not have a Virtual Reality (VR) headset. You can type out a message in VR, send pre-written messages, or use the voice-to-text feature. There is also an option to create an Oculus Party on Messenger to play a game with friends together.

The social media giant announced the integration through an Oculus blog post. Facebook said that it believed in VR’s ability to bring people together, especially in these times, and was hence building the tools to make that a smoother, more accessible experience.

Facebook ensured users that their existing Oculus privacy settings will not be affected shall they choose to communicate with Facebook friends via Messenger. Besides, users will still be able to message their Oculus friends using Oculus chats with their existing Oculus usernames. Users can also play with friends on Messenger by creating an Oculus Party.

Users can choose to sign out of Messenger at any time via the settings, in case they want to lend the headset to others. The signing back in process is easy and can be done by selecting the Messenger profile and re-entering the password.

The Oculus update also introduces App Lab, which will let developers distribute their creations safely and securely with Quest headset owners without the approval of the Oculus Store as was needed earlier. App Lab doesn’t require any sideloading or special setup; users can download by clicking on a link and going directly to the app.

Facebook has started gradually rolling out the v25 software update to the Oculus Quest headsets that brings the new features. Facebook has been integrating its platforms, including Instagram, Messenger, and WhatsApp. Oculus is the latest to join the list.


What will be the most exciting tech launch of 2021? We discussed this on Orbital, our weekly technology podcast, which you can subscribe to via Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, or RSS, download the episode, or just hit the play button below.

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