Friday, August 25, 2017
The retail version of the OCULUS RIFT BUNDLE virtual reality (VR) headset finally arrived in 2016, after multiple development kits and several years of work. Since then, the excellent Oculus Touch motion controllers have been added to the Rift as a single $598 bundle, slashing $100 each from the original price of both the headset and the controllers. The Oculus Rift remains functional and immersive, if you have a computer that can handle it. With the addition of the Oculus Touch controllers, the Rift is more appealing than the now almost identically priced HTC Vive, though the Sony PlayStation VR is our Editors' Choice for its ease of use and even lower price.
Before we get started, just a note that you can find the headset on its own for around $499, though we strongly recommend getting it with the Oculus Touch controllers. The controllers are available on their own for $99.
What You Need
Official requirements for the Rift$394.32 at Jet.com are nearly identical to the requirements for the HTC Vive. Oculus recommends an Intel i5-4590 or better CPU, an Nvidia GTX 970 or AMD Radeon R9 290 or better video card, at least 8GB of RAM, an HDMI 1.3 output, three USB 3.0 ports, and one USB 2.0 port. One of those ports is for the additional sensor of the Oculus Touch controller, and you can set up the Rift itself with just two USB 3.0 ports: one for the headset and one for the external sensor. I tested it using the Origin EON17-X, which has a Core i7 6700K CPU overclocked to 4.5GHz, an 8GB GeForce GTX 980M graphics card, and 16GB of RAM.
For more options, check out the best Oculus bundles and Oculus-ready PCs we've tested.
The Oculus Rift headset is simple and understated. It's a plain black rectangular visor with rounded edges and little visual flair. The front panel is completely flat, marked only with an Oculus logo. The sides of the visor are similarly flat, and connect to arms that pivot slightly up and down and attach to the three-strap harness for securing the device on your head.
A strap extends from each arm around the sides of your head, with a third strap extending from the top of the visor over the top of your head, meeting at a padded triangle in the back. The straps are held in place with hook-and-loop fasteners, and can be easily adjusted. A set of on-ear headphones sit on the arms, able to separately pivot and flip up and down to properly fit on your ears.
On its own, the headset is fairly light and comfortable. You can wear glasses with the Rift, but it will make the fit a bit tighter. I used my glasses when testing the headset, which helped ensure that I saw crisp and accurate visuals. But it also made putting the Rift on and taking it off a bit awkward, and depending on the size of your frames, they could hurt your ability to wear the headset for long periods of time.
The headset connects to your PC directly through a lengthy cable that splits off near the end into HDMI and USB 3.0 connectors. The cable winds down the left strap before running clear of the headset. It's a little more awkward than the over-the-top-of-the-head cable of the HTC Vive, and I found myself struggling to find a comfortable position where the cable didn't sit distractingly on my shoulder. But it's not nearly as big a concern in use as the HTC Vive's cable, since the Vive is designed to work when you're walking around a set area.
The Rift on its own uses a single external sensor, a black cylinder that sits on a nine-inch-tall metal desktop stand. The sensor can tilt up and down, and must be placed where it can maintain a clear view of the headset when in use. A second, identical sensor tracks the Oculus Touch controllers, and the two sensors work in tandem to improve tracking for all of the devices and cover a larger area than the stationary position just one sensor allows.
Once you're up and running, a 2,160-by-1,200 OLED panel is used to produce a 1,080-by-1,200 picture for each eye, separated by the lenses in the headset (just like the Vive). The lenses can be adjusted using a small lever on the right underside of the visor. More on the visual themselves in a bit.
The Oculus Touch motion controllers originally launched as an optional addition, but have since been added to the $598 Rift package. They aren't the only control options included in the box, though. The Oculus Remote is a small, rounded bar with a large, circular navigation pad and Back, Menu, and Up/Down buttons. The remote helpfully features a lanyard to keep it attached to your wrist when you're using the Rift. The Rift also includes an Xbox One wireless controller and a Microsoft Xbox Wireless Adapter for Windows with which you can use it, which is handy for VR games that use conventional, non-motion-based control schemes.
With the Oculus Touch controllers, the Rift's controls reach parity with the HTC Vive's, which has included motion controls out of the box since its launch. We go into more detail in our review of the Oculus Touch, but it's a very comfortable, natural-feeling control scheme with responsive physical components like analog sticks and face buttons in addition to motion tracking.
Setting up the Rift is simple. You need to download the Oculus setup software on your PC, which will then walk you through the relatively few steps necessary to get going. First, plug the headset and sensors into your computer, using an HDMI and three USB 3.0 ports. Second, sync the remote by pulling out the battery tab and pressing a button. Finally (and optionally), plug the Xbox One receiver into a USB 2.0 port and pair the gamepad with it. Once these steps are complete, you can slip the headset on and jump into the Oculus software.
At this point in the setup process, you can play any software available on the Oculus Store, but you can go further with relatively little hassle. By setting the Oculus software to load apps from unidentified sources, you can get the headset to work with SteamVR, just like the HTC Vive uses. The launch of Oculus Touch means you can now use all SteamVR games that support motion controls with the Rift. They register as HTC Vive motion controllers when you set them up for Steam, and work flawlessly with Vive-compatible games.
While the Rift now has motion controls, it doesn't quite support the same whole-room VR as the Vive. You can use it while sitting, standing, or within an area defined by the two sensors included with the Rift and Touch. It supports a smaller space than the Vive's wall-mountable sensors do, but this is a small sacrifice; since the HTC Vive is tethered to your connected computer with a cable just like the Rift, actually walking around with the headset on requires you to be very careful not to trip over the dragging wire. It's an immersion-breaker that hurts the experience of otherwise free movement in VR. The Rift's head tracking, along with Touch controller tracking, work very well within the space the sensors allow.
The Oculus Experience
The Rift shares the same resolution and refresh rate as the Vive, and as such the experience is very similar between the two. Like the Vive, the Rift produces a crisp picture with smooth motion and head tracking. In testing, the 3D effect of the stereoscopic images really gave me the sense that the virtual objects I was staring at were actually in front of me. Ultimately, the Rift headset is a display, so smoothness and graphical fidelity will depend on the power of your computer and sophistication of the software. In terms of hardware, though, the Rift produces a compelling virtual experience for the eyes.
I played a few VR titles available on the Oculus store, including EVE: Valkyrie, Farlands, and Lucky's Tale. I also tried Adventure Time: Magic Man's Head Games and Virtual Desktop, launched through SteamVR.
EVE: Valkyrie is the star of the launch titles for the Oculus Rift. It's an online, multiplayer space dogfighting game sent in the EVE universe. You play a cloned pilot who runs sorties with your squad against other, similar squads. It boils down to the space version of team deathmatch in any first-person shooter, but it's an engaging and fairly deep flight game.
The format is perfect for using the Rift while sitting. The view puts you in the cockpit of your chosen space fighter, and you can freely look around it while staying in place. The game itself is controlled with the Xbox One gamepad, piloting the ship with the dual analog sticks and firing with the triggers. Fundamentally, the VR aspect of the game is unnecessary; the experience is actually similar to playing a dogfighting game on a normal monitor, just with the ability to look freely around your cockpit (which doesn't offer any significant tactical advantage). However, the immersiveness the Rift offers in completely engulfing you in this cockpit perspective really makes the game feel more engaging and tense.
It isn't a complex economic MMO like EVE itself, and the style of combat is a bit arcade-like in how ships fly and fire, but it's enjoyable to fly around in space, shooting at people while they shoot at you. It feels like one of the most complete games made specifically with VR in mind.
Farlands is a xenobiological playground. You play a researcher on an alien planet, looking for new life forms. You can scan different creatures by staring at them, and improve your understanding of them by feeding them foods they want. It has a very mellow quality, looking for alien animals and watching them eat to slowly and steadily unlock new environments to explore. While the concept seems ideal for motion controls, it was simple to play with a conventional gamepad, using a reticle in the center of your view to highlight objects and move around.
Lucky's Tale is a standard cartoony third-person platformer where you control a cartoon fox as he runs through different levels trying to rescue his pet pig. It's an eye-catching experience that doesn't really need VR at all. Using the Rift in a game like this lets you look around easily from your above-the-action point of view. However, you can't readily move the camera to get a better view of a given position relative to the character you're controlling, which proved to be very frustrating when trying to get Lucky to collect lines of coins set in specific arcs in 3D space; without the ability to pan around Lucky, I couldn't easily align my jumps.
Our review of the Oculus Touch goes into detail of what Oculus Rift games that support Touch are like, but to summarize the experience, the optional Touch controllers make things like spray-painting walls, aiming guns, and using telekinetic powers feel very natural.
I ran Adventure Time: Magic Man's Head Games (ATMMHG) on SteamVR to see if the Rift could handle it as smoothly as the Vive does. While SteamVR isn't the Rift's native platform, it displayed the interface and loaded the game perfectly, and I found it was just as smooth and immersive as it is on the Vive (though, like with Lucky's Tale, the actual value of playing said third-person platformer in VR is still questionable).
I also tried Virtual Desktop, a program that projects your computer's screen in front of you in virtual space. It was just as functional and intriguing as it was with the HTC Vive, showing my monitor as a giant, curved display around me. The software can also generate a flat screen, and even show your desktop view as a television mounted on the wall of a home theater. It's a handy way to make VR useful, even without VR-specific software. If you want to watch a video and it's not available on a client for the Oculus Rift or on SteamVR, you can just load it with Virtual Desktop.
The only downside is the resolution of the display. Since the Rift shows a 1,080-by-1,200 picture to each eye, and the virtual screen appears as a floating object, it's actually smaller than the headset's per-eye resolution. That means text can appear blurry and grainy unless you find a sweet spot from which to look at the screen, and reading can cause eye strain. That said, watching video on Hulu and Netflix is very cool.
The Oculus Rift comfortably produces an immersive, crisp virtual reality experience that will continue to improve with the development of new software, which has been steadily coming out on both the Oculus store and SteamVR. The release of the Oculus Touch controllers and the addition of them to the $600 headset package further adds to the value, though the HTC Vive's recent cut to $599 puts them on equal footing in price and features. Both are technically impressive, powerful VR headsets, but our Editors' Choice remains the PlayStation VR for its lower price and ease of use (though it only works with the PlayStation 4, rather than a PC).
If you want to try virtual reality, but you don't want to spend at least $400, the Samsung Gear VR and Google Daydream View are solid choices. They're smartphone-based VR headsets that offer some of the best mobile VR experiences you can currently get for around $100. However, you need a compatible phone to use them.
Sunday, June 4, 2017
If you’re like most first-time trail camera users, you’re at risk for being overwhelmed by the technology involved. You spend countless hours researching and testing and just when you think you’ve got it figured out, you stumble across the subject of “batteries”. It seems simple enough. Pop a couple of Duracell's in, and you’re done… Right? Well, maybe. I guess we would first have to ask, “Which type of Duracell batteries did you install?” Standard alkalines, NiMh rechargeables or lithiums? And, what kind of climate are you placing your cameras? And, and, and…and it gets a little more complicated.
So, let's talk about the three main types of batteries, their characteristics, and why you might want to use one type over another. Trail camera also need battery charger, the best battery charger is MOULTRIE 6V BATTERY CHARGER.
Lithium batteries offer some very interesting benefits. To start, lithium batteries produce 1.6 volts/cell, or as we like to say “They run hot”. Just as decreasing voltage produces weaker flash characteristics, increased voltage produces a stronger flash with brighter pictures.
We are noticing about a 10% increase in flash range when using lithium bats. In addition, starting out with the higher 1.6 voltage is like installing an auxiliary gas tank in your vehicle. Lithium batteries will increase the amount of time your camera can stay in the field, many times by multiple months.
Due to their chemical makeup, lithiums are also not affected by cold weather. One aspect of lithium batteries that can be interpreted differently is they are currently only available in AAs. For anyone who operates a “D cell” based camera, you’re out of luck. However, if your trail camera requires “C” cells you can benefit from the extra voltage lithiums offer. Fortunately, AA’s and C’s measure exactly the same from tip to tip. Inserting “AA” lithiums into aftermarket sleeves brings the overall diameter up to that of a “C” cell and makes for a perfect substitution.
Another benefit of using the AAs is they are substantially lighter and take up far less space than the larger “C” cells. If you’re backpacking in to change out several cameras this is very advantageous. The downside is lithiums are quite a bit more expensive, and just like alkalines, they are also headed for the landfill after only 1 use.
In general and for most uses, we love lithium batteries for trail cameras. You can learn more about lithium batteries here.
Nickel Metal Hydride (NiMH) Rechargeable Batteries
NiMh rechargeable batteries were introduced as the successor to Nickel Cadmium (Ni-cad) rechargeable batteries. As you may recall, Ni-cad batteries were widely criticized for developing “Memory”.
If Ni-cad batteries were used and not drained completely, they would often lose a portion of their capacity. In contrast, once NiMH batteries have been conditioned (Fully discharged through 2-3 charging cycles) they can be charged at any point in the usage curve and won't develop memory as quickly.
Fully charged, NiMH batteries produce about 1.4 volts. However, they quickly decrease to a working level of 1.2 volts, which they are consistently able to deliver for the rest of the usage cycle. However, the 1.2 working voltage does present a problem for use in some cameras. Most cameras are designed around a 1.5 volt/cell scenario. It is very common for a camera to use 4 batteries, or essentially a 6-volt system (4 X 1.5volts).
Many of these 6-volt systems constantly monitor the voltage and automatically shut the camera off when the voltage dips to around the 5-volt level. With NiMH batteries providing just 1.2 volts/cell, they produce an aggregate voltage of only 4.8 volts. This makes Nimh batteries incompatible with several models manufactured prior to 2011. Fortunately, almost all current production models have a shut-off voltage of about 1 volt per cell and are compatible with NiMH batteries.
What we've learned about Nimh Batteries over the last decade:
All Nimh Batteries are not created equal
Many people have had bad experiences with rechargeable batteries. Often times we talk to someone who has unknowingly purchased older/low capacity batteries and found the battery life to be extremely poor. Most widely available rechargeable batteries (think discount store) have small milliamp-hour (mah) capacities (1200 - 1600). These discount store batteries seldom perform as well as alkaline batteries and usually convince the user they aren't worth the trouble. Conversely, quality NiMH batteries produce 2500 mah of capacity (sometimes more) and outperform the best alkaline batteries by up to 50%. Please make sure to check the Mah capacity of a rechargeable battery before you purchase.
Charging is Critical
We have learned What you use to charge your batteries has now become just as important, if not more important, than how and when you charge your batteries. Most inexpensive chargers (think discount store again) charge batteries with a constant level of charge (200 ma) for a set amount of time (8 hours) regardless of how much capacity is remaining in the battery. This would be fine if all of your batteries were fully drained every time you placed them in the charger, but this isn't reality. Typically, when I run cameras I come back to the office with a box full of batteries and no idea how much capacity is left in each cell. Luckily, we use a smart charger with a microprocessor which individually monitors the charging of each cell based on the cell's remaining capacity. The smart charger brings each cell up to a full charge (independent of the other cells) and then switches it over to a trickle charge for storage until it's pulled from the charger. Conversely, cheap chargers apply the same amount of charge to all cells and often overcharge batteries. Batteries exposed to a greater level of charge overheat and lose a portion of their future capacity - some even fail immediately. If you want to fully enjoy the benefits and efficiencies of Nimh batteries, please use a smart charger.
Put your batteries in use the instant they are removed from the charger
NiMH batteries begin to self-discharge immediately after removal from the charger, even if they aren't being used. Each cell loses about 1/2% of its capacity each day until it is completely drained. In order to maximize battery life, plan trips to your scouting area and charge accordingly. When put into the field immediately, we get 2 - 2 1/2 months of battery life from our NiMH batteries.
Set realistic expectations for your batteries
Manufacturers of rechargeable batteries make claims of "Hundreds" if not "Thousands" of possible recharges. I'm sure this is possible when used in a high energy device which requires daily charging. However, based on our experience, we expect somewhere between 3-5 years of field use from our NiMH batteries.
Avoid using NiMH batteries during periods of high heat
We've noticed a sharp decline in battery life when temperatures rise above 90 degrees. In fact, during a stretch of 100 degree days, we noticed batteries which normally lasted 10 weeks only surviving for a week or two. When NiMH batteries suffer, alkaline batteries perform great. We make a point to switch out our NiMH batteries with lithium batteries during the hottest months of the summer.
Alkaline BatteriesAlkaline batteries are certainly the most widely available and least expensive but have many drawbacks. Alkaline batteries are shipped with a power level of about 1.5 volts but begin to decrease in power the instant they are inserted.
As time goes on, the voltage level continues to decrease proportionally to the time left in the field/number of photos taken. This proportional decrease is especially evident when you examine night photos taken by infrared cameras. Photos taken early in the life cycle of an alkaline battery are bright and well illuminated. These early photos also represent the maximum flash range potential of the camera. However, with every passing day, each subsequent night photo will be less illuminated.
The process will continue up until the point where night photos are pitch black and/or the camera shuts off due to low voltage. In addition, cold temperatures adversely affect alkaline batteries. Battery life is diminished and alkalines lose up to half their capacity in sub-freezing weather.
Finally, alkaline batteries are good for only 1 use and then find their way to the landfill. Most environmentally conscious people avoid the use of alkaline batteries whenever possible.
To summarize, alkaline batteries are cheap and available everywhere, but provide inconsistent power and don’t work well in the cold, not to mention they are extremely unreliable. To be more blunt,, we hate alkaline batteries. They are the source of many "trail camera problems."
Wednesday, March 15, 2017
In the midst of a tumultuous time for the watch industry, most companies are battening down the hatches and trying to ride out the storm with as few casualties as possible. Redundancies have been made at Franck Muller and Zenith, and sales are down across the board. Yet in the midst of this, Rolex has announced a massive expansion of their manufacturing facilities at Bienne.
A major commitment such as this speaks volumes for their confidence in the industry, especially since the project will take three years to complete. Once finished the site will contain all of Rolex's production facilities, but this won't be until 2012, long after even the most pessimistic estimate a recovery to be underway.
Planning for a project on this scale (the total volume for the site is a truly impressive 270,000m3) will have been in progress for a long time, and so it is not the concept of expansion that is raising eyebrows, but the decision to continue with the plans even after the full impacts of the credit crunch was felt.
Of course, Rolex was sheltered from the crisis in a way that few other companies can boast - Rolex are a privately owned company with all their shares in a charitable foundation; ensuring a sizeable portion of their profits go to various charitable institutions every year and also that no shares are traded on any stock markets. The chaotic rise and fall of share prices around the world passed Rolex by; a huge stabiliser for the brand's financial plans.
Coupled with this, Rolex have a product that remains in demand - sales have dropped, but Rolex watches are still one of the most popular brands in the world, thanks to a reputation for luxury and quality, and their renown around the world. Not without reason did Jacques Séguéla claim that anyone without a Rolex by the time they reached 50 had 'failed' in life. While the sentiment behind the statement can be argued over, the choice of watch was arguably spot on.
Rolex watches are an art in themselves; an icon of the twentieth century that has no intention of stepping down now. Where other brands release new models almost every year, Rolex has simply to update its current range - models like the Submariner and Daytona have been popular for decades, and remain an aspiration for all Rolex fans.
Their long-term popularity means that with every modification made to the range, thousands of Rolex lovers upgrade to the latest version of their watch. Demand like this means that pre-owned Mens Rolex watches are in high demand too, for those who want a genuine Rolex but don't necessarily want to pay for a new one. Their exceptional quality ensures that even vintage Rolexes work just as accurately as their modern counterparts.
Rolex has cultivated a reputation for quality and reliability, and that reputation is paying them dividends now. Global spending might be down, but the value for money in owning a Rolex still makes them a good choice for any watch fan, not least as an investment.
Friday, March 3, 2017
You were probably taught not to do these things. Ignore that bad advice.
If you want to be successful in business (and in life), there are a few important rules you need to follow.
- Never pick a fight.
- Never purposefully offend anyone.
- Never make the same mistake twice.
You know why some people stand out from the crowd and achieve success while others flounder? It’s not because they’re doing everything the way everyone else is.
No, they’re doing things a bit differently. Often, they’re doing exactly what we’ve all been taught not to do!
That’s right, successful people know that sometimes you need to pick a fight, to see just how married others are to their beliefs.
Sophia Amoruso founded her clothing company, Nasty Gal, over ten years ago. Then she wrote #Girlboss, a business book for women. Now she’s expanding her brand. She has a new show on on Netflix called “#Girlboss” and a podcast of the same name, as well as a new book called “Nasty Galaxy.”
We talked to her for our podcast Corner Office and asked her to share her go-to business advice:
Monday, February 27, 2017
In 1969, nobody expected a thin Asian man with a high pitched voice to become one of the most influential characters of the 20th century.
Nobody knew, that is, except Bruce Lee.
That year, Bruce Lee wrote a letter to himself:
My Definite Chief Aim
I, Bruce Lee, will be the first highest paid Oriental super star in the United States. In return I will give the most exciting performances and render the best of quality in the capacity of an actor. Starting 1970 I will achieve world fame and from then onward till the end of 1980 I will have in my possession $10,000,000. I will live the way I please and achieve inner harmony and happiness.