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2022 Was a Plateau Year for VR, Here’s What to Expect in 2023

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The end of 2022 marks more than a decade since the Oculus Kickstarter sparked the modern era of VR. While the space has undoubtedly grown tremendously since then, 2022 felt largely like a plateau year, with Meta standing unchallenged as the dominant player in the space—while progressing disjointedly in too many directions at once. But with new headsets, promising new content, and a looming heavyweight positioned to challenge Meta all on the horizon, 2023 could big a much bigger year for the VR space.

The 2022 Plateau

2022 wasn’t a bad year for VR by any means, but for the most part the status quo remained unchanged.

There’s no doubt that Meta has been the central pillar of the VR space in 2022, having pivoted its attention in a very public way by renaming the entire company to Meta just before the year began. The company’s Quest 2 headset has retained its position as the most popular headset on the market, even becoming the most-used headset among PC VR players, despite Meta having all but abandoned PC VR as a platform.

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Despite its dominance (or perhaps because of it), Meta has continued to make very good hardware while struggling deeply with its software. Though Quest 2 is certainly more capable than similar products, the user experience is disjointed and unrefined. The Quest Pro only continued this trend; the high-end headset brings a range of impressive improvements to the hardware along with new sensing capabilities, but its new features are significantly hampered by an undercooked software offering.

Regardless of various missteps, Meta is undoubtedly doing the most to keep VR afloat right now. Quest 2 is an affordable headset that’s created a large enough market of users that developers are finding growing success on the platform. In 2022 that’s meant that many developers have begun or continued to treat Quest 2 as their highest priority platform. To that end, we saw many ports of existing VR games coming to Quest 2, and most new releases being either Quest 2 exclusive, or on Quest 2 and some other platforms.

Unfortunately Meta’s dominance has meant that much of the air in the room as been sucked away from other parts of the VR space that were once key pillars.

Despite the release of new and updated enthusiast PC VR headsets, the platform has stagnated due to the content focus shifting away from PC VR. Many of the games released this year on PC VR were designed first and foremost for Quest 2, which means many lacked the scale and polish that resonates with enthusiast PC VR users.

Valve’s seeming disinterest in VR ever since the release of Half-Life: Alyx back in 2020 hasn’t helped either. The company continues to sell its 2019 headset for the same price that it was charging on day one, with no official confirmation that it has plans to do anything major in the VR space (hardware or software) in the near future. Sony’s PSVR1, meanwhile, has largely lost any remaining relevance since the announcement of the upcoming PSVR 2.

On the Horizon for 2023

But there’s lots of interesting things on the horizon for VR in 2023. Crucially we may see some real competition for Meta from several different angles, which is sorely needed to keep the company (and the industry at large) on a steady course toward making VR a more valuable platform in order to increase mainstream viability.

First Up

The biggest near-term event for the VR industry in 2023 will be the launch of PSVR 2 in February. Although Sony has technically continued selling its original PSVR headset over the years, it’s been on the market for more than six years now—and gained ‘last-gen’ status well before that.

Given all that time between—and that the company isn’t bringing its exclusive VR content forward to the new headset—the upcoming launch of PSVR 2 feels like a re-entrance into the VR market for Sony rather than a continuation. But now that the company has made the commitment, they’ll likely put strong support behind the headset for at least a few years.

Importantly, as a console maker, Sony knows well that ‘content is king’, and we can expect to see a new slate of quality VR content funded by the company, some of which could make it onto other headsets. Sony’s original PSVR is still home to some of the best exclusive VR games in the industry, made by its own first-party studios; at a minimum it would be nice to see those top titles updated and improved for PSVR 2, and better yet it would be great to see Sony setting its first-party studios to the task of creating high quality VR content once again.

But PSVR 2 only represents pseudo-competition for Meta, since the headset only appeals to those that already own a PS5 (or who are willing to buy a PS5 just to get the headset).

Real Competition for Meta?

On the other hand, some real competition from the likes of Pico and HTC may be on the way.

On the high-end, HTC’s newly announced Vive XR Elite is clearly positioned to compete with Meta’s Quest Pro. With most of the same essential features, but a lower price point ($1,100 vs. $1,500), the Vive XR Elite at least looks at face value like an alternative choice for those looking for a more compact VR headset with improved passthrough AR capabilities.

And on the low-end, Pico’s recently launched Neo 4 is the first such headset that is truly competing on price with Quest 2. Priced at €20 or €50 less than Quest 2 (depending upon storage capacity), looks like a real alternative. Granted, the company has yet to formally bring its headset to the United States—Meta’s home turf.

But… both Vive XR Elite and Pico Neo 4 share a common problem, and that’s content.

A Big Moment for Content Momentum

Regardless of specs and price, unless the content that users want is available on these headsets, they are difficult to consider real options (and thus real competition). As of now, both headsets lack many of the best-selling and most-played killer apps that are available on Meta’s Quest headsets.

But that could finally be changing. Compared to prior alternative standalone headsets, XR Elite and Neo 4 have a much more significant and recognizable body of content than we’ve seen in the past. If more developers recognize the benefit that both they and consumers alike would see from having a more competitive standalone market… perhaps this could be the start of an important sea change in the industry.

The Elephant in the Room

Of course the single biggest elephant in the room has been and will continue to be Apple. It seems that every month we get a new rumor about when the company will enter the market, with the only certainty being that the company is definitely hard at work on something—though no one knows precisely when they will announced it, let alone launch it.

Apple, more than any other company in the world, has the potential to disrupt Meta at its own game by releasing an XR headset with a highly polished user experience… something the social-media-turned-metaverse company (and frankly the VR industry at large) has struggled with.

Make no mistake, Apple’s entrance into the XR space will have wide reaching implications practically overnight—both within the XR space and outside of it.

Look for UX Innovation, Not a Hardware Breakthrough

But nobody should be expecting hardware breakthroughs from Apple. The company is stuck with the same (largely physical) constraints as the rest of the major players in the industry. Whatever device they launch is likely to have similar specs and form-factor to what the latest headsets we see on the market today. More importantly however, Apple is likely to contribute key software design, device interoperability, and overall UX learnings that other companies in XR have consistently struggled with.

While Apple is certainly a threat to the likes of Meta, the company’s entrance into the market is also likely to be a boon for Meta overall; not only will it be a validation of Meta’s early and ambitious bet on the space, but the best XR design concepts revealed from within Apple will be adopted for the betterment of the industry at large. For Meta, Apple’s entrance into the space can’t come soon enough.

Meta Faces the Same Old Struggles

While Quest 2 has been more widely adopted than any other standalone headset, user retention continues to be an issue. Not only due to substandard UX, but also the headset being stuck in an arcade phase where years-old games like Beat Saber, Superhot VR, and Job Simulator continue to be among the most popular games on the platform—seemingly signaling that only a small amount of compelling new content has reached the headset in the years since Quest 2 has launched. Meanwhile, the headset most enthusiastic userbase—core gamers—is underserved, waiting for the sort of large-scale and highly polished content that they expect from the traditional gaming space.

As for Meta’s 2023… outside of the Apple wildcard, the company has confirmed that it’s working on a next-gen consumer headset due out this year, which is very likely to be Quest 3. And while the company has some pretty wild R&D projects in the oven, more likely than not, Quest 3 will adopt core parts of the Quest Pro headset rather than offering some kind of major leap in features or form-factor.

Last But Not Least

As for PC VR, the only thing keeping the platform alive is an enthusiast player base that’s hungry for greater immersion and starved for next-gen VR content. Unfortunately with so much attention focused on standalone VR by platform holders and developers, PC VR in 2023 will be largely stuck with content built for other platforms that happens to spill over.

Between that content, the VR modding scene, smaller-scope projects from enthusiast indie developers, and the occasional release of VR-optional flight or racing sims—PC VR will feel like it’s on life support through 2023.

PC VR is and continues to be the place where users can push immersion to the next level with niche accessories like full-body trackers, racing & cockpit peripherals, haptic vests, and gun stocks. And while some unannounced PC VR headsets may make an appearance in 2023, the drought of next-gen PC VR content means dwindling reasons to upgrade.

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A Quick Guide to Better CMM Maintenance

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CMM

A coordinate-measuring machine, also known as a CMM, is a specialized piece of equipment common in high-precision manufacturing. It uses coordinate technology to measure and replicate the dimensions of particular objects.

CMMs are a lot more accurate than regular measurement gauges. This characteristic makes them the equipment of choice for quality assurance in certain industries, like aerospace, defense, and medical manufacturing.

Despite being a powerful piece of equipment and the most versatile measuring tool in the metrology industry, CMMs can also be quite delicate. They require the right environment and proper maintenance practices to maintain accuracy and reliability.

The Importance of Proper CMM Maintenance

It’s essential to clean and inspect each part of your machine to ensure it stays efficient and accurate. Preventative maintenance ensures that your CMM remains accurate and performs at its best. It also improves your machine’s longevity.

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Without proper CMM maintenance, you could risk damaging your CMM. Repairs would involve operational delays and additional costs.

CMM Preventative Maintenance Tips

Preventative maintenance practices are ones your team could do by yourselves. It’s best to schedule regular maintenance checks for your CMM daily, weekly, monthly, or quarterly. These checks can alert you immediately to possible problems with your CMM.

Remove dust and dirt regularly

Clean and well-maintained air bearings ensure your CMM works as it should. These frictionless and stable bearings help ensure accuracy and efficiency. Dust and dirt can clog your machine’s air bearings, affecting its overall performance.

Aside from your machine’s air bearings, dust could also get into other surfaces and crevices. These tiny particles could affect your machine’s accuracy.

Handle Stylus Tips Properly

The stylus is the tip that makes contact with the object you want to measure with your CMM. Despite this significant role, the stylus can be fragile and require careful handling. Too much force could cause it to bend or break.

Clean your stylus with a cleaning agent and a lint-free cloth. Make sure to remove any residue from workplace materials.

Ensure Good Air Quality

Most CMMs use air bearings, and good air quality is essential to keep them running smoothly. Various air quality issues could affect machine performance and even burn out machine motors.

For air quality maintenance, ask and address the following questions:

  • Do the lines have condensation, oil, or other contaminants?
  • Is the airflow constant?
  • Are you using the proper pressure?

When To Call a Professional

Most preventative maintenance practices are simple enough to be performed internally. However, some issues require professional attention. You can also conduct regular professional maintenance checks to ensure you don’t miss anything.

Below are some procedures that require professional assistance. Many CMM suppliers also offer maintenance services alongside their machinery.

Conducting CMM Training

CMMs are highly specialized pieces of equipment. To handle them properly, your staff needs professional training.

Training courses allow you to get trained by CMM experts on the tools and knowledge necessary within your industry. Regular training sessions also help keep you updated on industry trends and standards.

Sensor Malfunctions

CMM sensors are critical to your machine’s speed and accuracy. They should be professionally inspected and calibrated annually.

Routine sensor maintenance can significantly improve the efficiency and accuracy of your machine. CMM sensors include the following:

  • Scanning probe
  • Single point laser
  • Line laser
  • Electronic touch trigger probe
  • Video camera

Faulty Bearings

Neglected air bearings could cause them to falter in their accuracy and stability. Properly maintained air bearings ensure a smooth, stable, and accurate measurement process.

A professional metrology company can thoroughly inspect your air bearings to prevent further machine damage.

A CMM is a significant investment for any business. Good maintenance practices help your machine last and perform at its best, thus making the most out of this investment.

 

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Nintendo’s discounted Switch game vouchers are back

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Nintendo’s Switch Online service has become a better deal over time, offering more perks than just the ability to play games online. On top of getting access to SNES and NES classics, and cloud save backups (for most games, save a couple dozen), Nintendo announced an even bigger perk yesterday: discounted game vouchers.

All subscribers can buy a two-pack of these vouchers for $99.98, and a huge range of first-party (in other words, typically discount-averse) Nintendo games are looped in. I encourage you to check out the full list, but some highlights include the brand-new Fire Emblem Engage, Kirby’s Return to Dream Land Deluxe, Bayonetta Origins: Cereza and the Lost Demon, Metroid Dread, Splatoon 3, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, and Pokémon Scarlet and Violet. Important note: you both have to be a subscriber to buy and use these vouchers.

It’s great that this list is more expansive than Nintendo’s first swing at this deal in 2019. But this perk could actually turn Switch Online into a must-have service because it allows you to pre-purchase up to four sets of vouchers (totaling eight games), and keep them for 12 months from the date of purchase. With $20 in savings with each pair of vouchers, buying four bundles will save you up to $80, assuming that each title normally costs $59.99. If you buy a lot of games, this is a smart way to save a little bit of money on every forthcoming purchase.

I know what you might be thinking: “Can I use one on The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom?” Nintendo has not currently listed the deliriously anticipated sequel to Breath of the Wild, which is set to release on May 12th, 2023. Polygon has reached out to Nintendo to see if it’ll eventually become eligible, but did not hear back in time for publication.

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You can get a free seven-day trial for Switch Online here, and you can easily subscribe to the service directly from the Switch’s eShop (it costs $3.99 per month, $7.99 for three months, or $19.99 per year). However, you can purchase (or gift) a one-year subscription with a digital code via Best Buy for $19.99. With a family subscription that costs $34.99 per year, up to eight Switch accounts can reap the perks of Switch Online.

For players who want all the perks, access to Goldeneye 007 and other N64 and Sega Genesis games, and complimentary DLC for some Switch games like Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, you’ll need Nintendo’s Switch Online plus the Expansion Pack tier, which costs $49.99 per year for one account, or $79.99 per year for a family subscription.

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Canadian discovery could help batteries last longer

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A chance discovery in a Canadian laboratory could help extend the life of laptop, phone and electric car batteries.

According to scientists from Dalhousie University in Halifax, common adhesive tape in batteries may be the reason many devices lose some of their power while off or not being used, which is a phenomenon known as self-discharge.

“In our laboratory we do many highly complex experiments to improve batteries, but this time we discovered a very simple thing,” Michael Metzger, an assistant professor in Dalhousie University’s physics and atmospheric science department, said in a news release. “In commercial battery cells there is tape—like Scotch tape—that holds the electrodes together and there is a chemical decomposition of this tape, which creates a molecule that leads to the self-discharge.”

The solution is simple, too, Metzger says: replace the polyethylene terephthalate, or PET, plastic tape commonly used inside batteries with something more durable and stable.

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“It’s a commercially relevant discovery,” Metzger said. “It’s a small thing but it can definitely help improve battery cells.”

Metzger and his team have been trying to understand why lithium-ion battery cells in inactive devices tend to lose some of their power and self-discharge, something that has long frustrated consumers and manufacturers alike.

“Every manufacturer of lithium-ion cells in the world wants to make self-discharge as small as possible,” Metzger told CTVNews.ca in a joint statement with graduate student Anu Adamson. “In every battery there is a small rate of self-discharge that slowly drains the battery. This is very inconvenient for users and a big headache for industry.”

The electrodes that power batteries are separated by an electrolyte solution that is usually a form of lithium. After exposing several battery cells to different temperatures, researchers were surprised to see that electrolyte solution had turned bright red when it normally should be clear, which was something they had never encountered. The discovery was made by Adamson and two other students.

Chemical analysis of the red electrolyte solution revealed that at higher temperatures, a new molecule had been created inside the battery through the decomposition of common PET adhesive tape, which is often used to hold components together inside batteries. Strong and lightweight, PET is also frequently used for plastic packaging, drink bottles, clothing fibres and more.

Researchers realized that the red molecule, dimethyl terephthalate, was acting as a redox shuttle, meaning that it can transport electrons between a battery’s positive and negative electrodes, creating self-discharge and depleting power even when a battery is not in use. Ideally, the shuttling of electrons within a battery should only happen when a device is on.

“It’s a very simple thing—it is in every plastic bottle and no one would have thought that this has such a huge impact on how the lithium-ion cells degrade,” Metzger said in the news release. “It’s something we never expected because no one looks at these inactive components, these tapes and plastic foils in the battery cell, but it really needs to be considered if you want to limit side-reactions in the battery cell.”

The findings are outlined in a pair of studies published on Jan. 20 and Jan. 23 in the peer-reviewed Journal of The Electrochemical Society. The researchers are now testing PET tape substitutes.

“Since the PET in the tape is the culprit that creates the redox shuttle, we need to replace it with a polymer that is more stable and does not decompose in the harsh chemistry of a lithium-ion battery,” Metzger and Adamson told CTVNews.ca. “So far, the results look very promising, and we plan to publish a new research paper on improved polymers for lithium-ion battery tapes soon.”

According to the researchers, their work has been attracting interest from “some of the world’s largest computer hardware companies and electric vehicle manufacturers,” which are eager to reduce self-discharge and improve battery performance.

“We visited some of these companies and they are planning to implement more stable polymers in their battery cells,” Metzger said.

In the release, Metzger noted: “One of the engineers said, ‘I heard you guys found out something is wrong with PET tape.’ So, I explained to him that it’s causing this self-discharge and asked him, ‘What are you using in your cells?’ He said, ‘PET tape.'”

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