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The State of VR in 2020

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When Palmer Luckey presented his Oculus project to the world in 2012, everybody suddenly became a VR enthusiast. After all, the product was so close to what we all wanted it to be – a relatively comfortable device offering superior escapism at a relatively affordable price. As a response, everyone was quick to jump on the VR bandwagon, with a series of products and services growing around it.

Unfortunately, VR was slow to become the phenomenon many expected it to be. While today we have the best VR headsets imaginable, the virtual escapism they offer is not as attractive to the masses as it was expected to be.

Sansar, sold

One of the most promising VR products came from Linden Lab, the San Francisco-based company behind Second Life. Called Sansar, the project aimed to offer its users a complete social experience similar to the company’s flagship product, except in VR. They had it all planned out, focusing on complete freedom to create and share inside the virtual world.

Sansar, in turn, couldn’t repeat the success story of Second Life. While it was released on VR and desktop, the slow adoption of the former wasn’t enough for it to grow. As a result, Linden Lab decided to abandon its efforts, choosing instead to sell off assets related to Sansar to a little-known company called Wookey Search Technologies, which will take over the development of the title. Linden Lab will continue to develop Second Life.

 

Alyx, a hit

One of the problems with VR, according to some analysts, is that content creators are reluctant to dedicate a lot of resources to the platform because they don’t really trust its growth. Well, Valve’s recent release of “Half-Life: Alyx” may just be what the industry needed.

“Alyx” is the first triple-A game – and a long-awaited Half-Life game, too – released exclusively on VR.

“Alyx” was announced late last year and immediately caused Valve’s “Index” VR headset to sell out. On the day of its release, the game had 43,000 concurrent players on Steam – its player base was limited by its VR exclusive nature, of course. Its success has shown that there is, indeed, potential in VR, and this will hopefully convince other game and content developers to dedicate more resources to the platform.

Slow growth, repositioning

In 2019, PC VR headset shipments decreased by 8% compared to the previous year, in spite of more affordable headsets emerging on the market. At the same time, standalone headsets like the Oculus Quest have gained a lot of traction. Facebook’s product was selling like hot cakes – in 2019, almost half of all VR headsets sold around the world were Oculus Quest headsets. All in all, the global VR headset shipments grew by a modest 4%, thanks in a large part to the latter.

VR game sales have, in turn, grown in 2019, thanks in part to the success of the Oculus Quest – enough to convince Facebook to earmark a considerable budget for creating first-party development studios to create more original VR content.

The state of VR in 2020 is promising. The last few years have shown that the technology is here to stay, and the example of Valve’s flagship VR title has shown that there is a need for quality content – and that it can drive the sales of VR hardware up.

 

 

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Oilers’ Leon Draisaitl, Alphonso Davies share bond in pursuit of history – Sportsnet.ca

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EDMONTON — Different, but the same.

Cologne-born Leon Draisaitl becomes a superstar as a member of the Edmonton Oilers, while Alphonso Davies, born to Liberian parents in a refugee camp in Ghana, stars in the German Bundesliga.

The Davies’ arrived in Edmonton 15 years ago with next to nothing, Alphonso and his brother receiving their first bikes and soccer balls from an Edmonton charity called Sport Central. Draisaitl, meanwhile was the son of German hockey royalty, though he admits, “Germany just isn’t a big hockey country. That’s how it is.”

Today, Draisaitl is the Art Ross Trophy winner, the first German to become a scoring champion in an international league. Meanwhile Davies is in Deutchland, playing for Bayern Munich and fast becoming the best left back in the Bundesliga, if not the world.

“It’s funny,” Draisaitl said on a Friday Zoom call. “I actually talked to him today over the phone.”

The African kid with dazzling feet met the Cologne kid with 100-point hands when Davies dropped a puck at an Oilers game over the winter. He rolled in for the morning skate, and the two exchanged numbers.

“We stay in touch,” said Draisaitl, bedecked in a ball cap sporting the ‘K’ of his hometown soccer team (Koln). “I guess I kind of know what he’s going through right now, with soccer being so big back home, and hockey being so big in Canada. Coming over and trying to adjust. Find your rhythm, find your game… find your life a little bit, I guess.

“He’s becoming a very, very good player, he’s fun to watch and it’s fun to see.”

It will be fascinating to watch these two ascend in their sports, as both appear destined for a place not just near the top. But at the top, where only the very best players reside.

You’re rolling your eyes? Read on:

Draisaitl was the only 100-point player in the NHL this season, and as such, the only NHL player to have back-to-back 100-point seasons. Only Alex Ovechkin (99 goals) has more than Draisaitl’s 93 goals in the past two seasons.

Draisaitl is still 24, remember, with two 100-point seasons and one 50-goal season under his belt. He is in his fifth full NHL season.

Jarome Iginla played 21 seasons — more than 1,500 games — and is a walk-in, first ballot Hall of Famer in these eyes. He had two 50-goal seasons, but never scored 100 points.

Mats Sundin, a lanky, smooth centreman like Draisaitl: Never scored 50, had one 100-point season.

The Sedins brothers: One 100-point season each — neither scored 50.

Same for Daniel Alfredsson.

The great Saku Koivu? A career-high 75 points in 2006-07.

Young Mark Scheifele, a Team Canada shoe-in at the next international tournament, hasn’t had a 90-point season yet.

Draisaitl will turn 25 on Oct. 27, maybe later this season, perhaps early next. He’s is just now entering his prime, with an early scoring resume that many Hall of Famers already can’t touch.

“You know, when you come to numbers like this, there are always people who help you get there,” he said. “You dream of these things, no question. But until you do it, it seems so far away. I’m proud, in a way, but I still have lots of things to work on. It’s the cliché: There are many things in my game I can improve.”

We’ve said many times that Draisaitl has become what Evgeni Malkin is to Sidney Crosby for Connor McDavid. And as the Oilers furnish their two superstar centremen with enough wingers to consistently deploy them on separate lines, Draisaitl has found a way to be the power play shooter that McDavid needs him to be, and the puck-trading centreman Ryan Nugent-Hopkins requires. He was en route to a career year before the pause.

Along the way, Draisaitl has helped to solve a riddle that has puzzled this organization since they drafted Taylor Hall a decade ago. He has grown into a leader, a quality the Oilers no longer need to import from outside.

“When you’re young there’s not much for you to say,” Draisaitl said. “First of all, your play on the ice doesn’t have as big of an impact as it does now, at 24 years old and being in the league for a while. You change as a player, you change as a person a little bit… It’s been great to stick around the same group of guys for so many years now. Watching them grow, watching the team, the organization grow.”

McDavid is growing into his captaincy, the way his role on the Return to Play Committee helps him mature in his role as one of the faces of the game. Darnell Nurse is a leader here, a kid who grew up around athletes and has the DNA that it may take to finally resurrect this franchise as a winner.

If the NHL is the best league in the world, then the Oilers have two of the Top 10 players in the world in Draisaitl and McDavid. There is no reason, no excuse, why the Stanley Cup should not return to Edmonton in the near future.

“It’s definitely a lot of fun to be a part of,” Draisaitl said. “We still have a lot of upside as a team, and it’s fun to go through that, essentially with the same guys you started with.”

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Report: NBA owners expected to approve Orlando restart with 20-22 teams – theScore

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Find out the latest on COVID-19’s impact on the sports world and when sports are returning by subscribing to Breaking News push notifications in the Sports and COVID-19 section.

The NBA’s board of governors is expected to approve commissioner Adam Silver’s recommendation to resume the 2019-20 season in Orlando in a vote scheduled for June 4, sources told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Ramona Shelburne.

A 22-team format is gaining support among the board’s members, who are also considering a 20-team proposal, Wojnarowski and Shelburne report.

The recommendation lines up one of the proposals Silver and the board reportedly discussed during a Friday conference call; under that proposed format, teams within six games of a playoff berth would continue to play regular-season games, with a play-in tournament determining the final postseason field.

Six teams outside the playoff picture were within six games of a berth when the league announced a hiatus on March 11 due to COVID-19: the Portland Trail Blazers (3.5 games behind), New Orleans Pelicans (3.5), Sacramento Kings (3.5), San Antonio Spurs (four), and Phoenix Suns (six) in the Western Conference, and the Washington Wizards (5.5) in the East.

Targeting July 31 as the date for the NBA’s return to action was also reportedly discussed during Friday’s call.

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Dr. Bonnie Henry open to special arrangement for NHL teams visiting BC | Offside – Daily Hive

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After firmly stating that British Columbia wouldn’t “bend the rules” for NHL teams earlier in the week, in the event that Vancouver was chosen as a hub city, Dr. Bonnie Henry has clarified things.

The BC Provincial Health Officer noted that a different arrangement could be made for visiting NHL teams, allowing them to quarantine as a group, rather than in self-isolation. Her comments echo what Alberta’s top doctor said one day prior.

“We certainly have been talking about how it could be done safely in British Columbia as well,” said Dr. Henry. “The bottom line is I have not seen any proposal, certainly not any written proposal from the NHL about how this could propose to be worked. So it’s hard to respond to what we think they might be thinking.

“But I do see how we could potentially have small numbers of people cohort together and in self isolation, for example in a hotel and management monitoring regularly. And I know if anybody could do that, then the NHL is probably set up to do it. So I can see how we could have something like that work in British Columbia as well.”

Canada’s mandatory 14-day self-isolation quarantine rule is a problem for the NHL, as the league doesn’t want to stunt the fitness of some its players prior to restarting their season. If a different arrangement isn’t made for the NHL, Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly indicated that the league would not select a hub city in Canada. Vancouver, Edmonton, and Toronto are currently on the NHL’s shortlist, along with seven cities in the United States.

NHL teams are expected to operate in a figurative bubble, with an arena, practice facility, and hotel blocked off from the public. Commissioner Gary Bettman has said the league would need an “unbelievable amount of testing” for its players, but noted that it would not want to disrupt local medical needs.

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