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Ex-HTC boss Peter Chou is building the most ambitious virtual world yet

Peter Chou, the man best known for leading HTC through its “Quietly Brilliant” years and beyond, has a new venture. It’s called XRSpace, and it’s much more closely related to the HTC Vive than the HTC One M8. Three years in the making, XRSpace brings to life his vision of a social future inside virtual reality (VR) where you can high five your friends, hang out in your own virtual living room, and take tai chi lessons on a VR hilltop.

I spoke with Chou and his team ahead of launch to understand what makes XRSpace different.

See, touch, and interact

“Our vision is to bring people together, no matter where they are in the world,” says Chou. “We are creating the social reality of the future, a world where people interact both physically and virtually, in a way that is more familiar and resembles our own human interaction. Our goal is to take this to the masses, not just gamers or early adopters.”

Virtual reality has struggled to gain interest outside gaming and business use, so what’s Chou and XRSpace’s plan?

The company wants to create a cohesive world that people will want to spend time in, where your avatar looks similar to your real-world self. Instead of using controllers, you’ll use your hands to interact with the world and other people.

“Our vision is to bring people together, no matter where they are in the world.”

“Since VR launched, there have been many barriers to wide adoption,” Chou said. “The hardware is bulky, gimmicky, hard to use, and complicated, and there is not much interesting content. The regular consumer may still be skeptical about it. For the last three years, we wanted to solve this. We put regular consumers at the center of everything we do.”

But bringing down barriers between everyday people and sophisticated technology is easier said then done. That’s why XRSpace is building its own VR headset designed with ease of use in mind.

Meet the Mova

XRSpace’s headset is called Mova, and although I haven’t held or tried one on yet, it looked compact and neatly designed when I saw it during my video interview. It was more Google Daydream than PlayStation VR. A Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 chipset, paired with 6GB of RAM, provides 25% better performance than the Snapdragon 835 used in many other current VR headsets.

“We wanted to make the hardware small, light, and beautiful,” Chou said.

While the headset is sleek, the real advances come in the way you interact with the VR world. The Mova doesn’t come with controllers because it doesn’t need them. The control method is all part of the plan to make the Mova appeal to the masses.

“We decided to just use bare hands,” Chou said. “Something simple, really easy. No controllers. No need to carry anything else. We want people to use their hands in the virtual world, like they do in the real world. It’s natural. You put your hands out to shake hands, high five, kick a ball, and clap.”

The optic sensors on the front of the Mova will recognize hand movements, and the absence of a controller will make you feel personally connected to the people and objects in the virtual world. In the concept demo I saw, avatars could carry out real-life basics like shaking hands (something that’s now difficult to do in real life). But the world you enter is not limited to moving your torso. You can also move about the space, at least to a degree.

“We have really innovative optical sensors, as it’s not easy to clearly recognize hand movements. It took us three years to overcome this,” Chou explained. “The module has a special chip, deep learning, and our own algorithms to recognize the subtle, difficult movement patterns. A smart tracker attaches to your knees or legs to track body movements.”

Moving to Manova

The world you access through the Mova is called Manova, and you’re represented by a digital avatar. Chou, and his company, put a lot of thought into how the avatars should look, and ultimately settled on a style that’s lifelike, though not entirely realistic.

Theses are two of the stylistic digital avatars ready to populate Manova.

“One of the reasons VR isn’t very immersive today is because it lacks a good digital avatar,” Chou said. He has some expertise in this area. After parting ways with HTC, he became chairman of visual effects company Digital Domain, which has created several virtual humans.

“Other VR platforms use cartoony avatars, so we wanted to create a very high-quality, lifelike avatar. So when people meet you, they know it’s you. [Our avatar] has a high-quality skin texture, and is full body, so we can track everything. It uses artificial intelligence for contextual awareness and to track hand and body movements, and has a natural facial expression, too.”

Your private cinema in Manova

It won’t fall into the Uncanny Valley trap, however. The highly stylized avatars have a distinct smooth, sleek look similar to a CGI film from Pixar, or life-management games like The Sims. 

They will be created using an accompanying app, and can be customized with varied attire for different environments. You can relax in your private space in a different outfit than the one you wore to the business meeting, or to your tai-chi lessons.

Yes, that’s right. Tai-chi lessons. And that’s just the start.

Inside the virtual world of Manova

XRSpace’s world moves away from what the team called a typical “app store experience,” where you enter a VR space for an activity and then leave. Manova is a virtual world with persistent public and private areas. There is a city center with a cinema, a live music stage, sporting events, a nightclub, and an arcade with mini games.

Manova city center

Your private space has a living room and private cinema. You can invite people over to watch something, alter the lighting, and change the decor. Elsewhere in Manova there are meeting spaces, classrooms, and the Magic Lohas, an outdoor space with special areas for yoga, tai chi sessions, walking, biking, and meditation.

Tai chi in the Magic Lohas region of Manova

XRSpace hopes the breadth of activities in the expansive world will help people make and invite friends along, and there are plans to hold activities people can join each day.

Every community needs moderation, so XRSpace plans to work with service partners to introduce a report and block system. Community moderators will help manage social activities.

When can you visit, and how much will it cost?

The XRSpace Mova headset will cost $599 and be sold online and through partners, whether it’s a network or an educational body, as well as through retail channels. The company expects network partners to sell the Mova headset with a subsidy when it’s purchased with a contract for 4G/5G access.

The Mova headset will come in white or orange

The 4G LTE and Wi-Fi models will be out sometime between July and September this year, starting in Taiwan, and the 5G version will come later, most likely in conjunction with a network partner. Chou is hopeful the U.S. will follow, along with Europe.

“It would be good if we launch with a service partner,” Chou said. “We want to make sure when consumers have this, we want them to have lots of interesting services as well.”

XRSpace has partnered with Deutsche Telecom and Taiwan’s Chunghwa Telecom, plus it’s working with content partners like GoPro, Insta360, Getty Images, GQ, Vogue, Digital Domain, Klook Travel, Futuretown, Resolution Games, and others.

What about visiting Manova without the Mova headset? “Not yet,” said Chou. “Right no,w we are only working on this headset because it seamlessly works with the digital avatar and the hand tracking.”

Powerful emotions in the VR world

A custom headset, numerous activities, and mobile data support all make XRSpace’s ambition unique, but Chou thinks Manova will ultimately be the real hook.

“You can dance, you can do tai-chi, and you can do this with your friends or a teacher,” he said. “It’s not just a single person. The instructor can look at you in the virtual world to see you’re doing it right, and you can look at the instructor too, and get encouragement. That’s very, very powerful.”

We’ll find out if he’s right later this year. If nothing else, XRSpace’s timing could hardly be better.


How to reach maximum security on your Android device in 2020

Let’s face it, the world is a pretty scary place right now. That’s why it’s more essential than ever to stay connected with family, friends, and work mates.While we feel secure sheltering inside our homes, not all external threats are protected by walls and social distancing. We want to be able to rely on secure, stable connections wherever we’re located.Each year, there are more security risks targeting us than the previous year. Not only do we have to deal with new threats almost daily, hackers are coming up with innovative twists on old exploits.How bad is the problem?Here’s some Android security information that may surprise you.Android Devices and SecurityAccording to a study conducted at the University of Maryland, there is a new cyber attack launched every 39 seconds. What’s more, hackers are tailoring common PC exploits to reach smartphone users. For example, SMiShing is a new approach to phishing that uses your messaging platforms to insert malicious code into your phone.[Image: https://www.dailyhostnews.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/Capture3.png]The top risks to your mobile computing sessions are:Public WiFiData leaksPhishing exploitsNetwork spoofingBroken cryptographySpywareImproper sessions handlingWith the right tools and information, you’ll have added layers of protection against hackers and other cyber threats.Common Security Issues and How to Fix ThemWhether you’re streaming movies or using your smartphone to conduct business remotely, security is the number one concern. While no device is perfect, Android-powered phones are more secure than models using iOS. The most common security issues with Android devices center around access control and malicious apps.There are 5 ways that you can harden your phone or tablet against the existing threats and beat the odds of suffering from whatever attacks develop in the future.Practice Strong Access ControlThis should be a no-brainer, but you would be surprised by how many people fail at the simple act of locking their phones. I know it’s a pain to remember a code or a pattern. However, it’s even more of a pain to lose your device and all of the information in it rather than to take a few seconds longer to call your mom.Believe it or not, the simplest ways to control access are still the most effective. Choose a pin that’s easy to remember without resorting to insecure, easy-to-guess pins like birthdays, phone numbers, or the last four digits of your SS number. Make sure to choose a different pin for each device and change them once a month or so. The same goes for passwords.You can use a password manager to create and store strong passwords. Using two-factor authentication (2FA) is a viable option, and most devices have this capability built into the system. You could also use Google’s own 2FA. Many models include built-in device encryption that you can access through your settings. Simply go to Settings>Security>Encrypt Device and follow the directions.Another important consideration for stronger access control are authorized apps that could potentially allow third parties to gain access to your financial accounts. Authorized apps are given varying levels of control over email accounts and logins. We recommend using secure invoicing and financial apps if authenticating with a bank account or email address. Vulnerabilities in the authorized app can create larger security issues.Remember That Who Makes Your Phones and Apps MattersGoogle releases regular smartphone security patches. Unfortunately, not all manufacturers release them right away. Some don’t bother to release them at all.It may be tempting to purchase a phone because it’s cheap or aesthetically appealing, but it’s more important to choose a model from a manufacturer you can trust. That means buying a phone from a company that puts customer security first.Keep in mind that it’s not just phone manufacturers that you should concern you. Thousands of unsecured apps are released on the market each day. Consider whether any app you use is necessary before installing it on your phone, and only use apps from reliable developers that offer regular support and security patches. As for apps that are just fun but not critical to your daily life, think twice about platforms like Facebook and popular games that are not always secure, but are often invasive. Do they really need access to your phone, contacts, and cameras in order to function?Delete any apps you’re not using rather than simply disabling them. This will not only remove access from hackers, it will free up some of your phone’s resources and improve performance.As an alternative to downloading apps from Play Store, consider a platform like F-Droid that has a large catalog of open source apps and doesn’t sell your info third parties. If you are downloading apps from Play Store, make sure to enable Google Play Protect in your settings. Just go to Setting>Security>Play Protect and enable full scanning via the Scan device for security threats option.Use the Right Security ToolsMost Android devices include hidden security features that not a lot of people are aware of or use. Don’t be afraid to explore your system and put them to good use to secure your tablet or phone. Make sure to also deploy tried-and-true tools like properly configured firewalls, antivirus and anti-spyware apps, and anti-malware scanners. Keep all device firmware and software up to date.Will Ellis from Privacy Australia explains further:“The number one way that you can protect your information is by installing a VPN from a reputable company. This allows you to browse securely while masking your identity, location, and activity from prying eyes and cyber criminals. Using suspiciously cheap or free VPN services is dangerous because that means your data is being sold on the Dark web or to the advertisers. Make sure you choose a VPN with a strong encryption protocol – IKEv2, OpenVPN, and SoftEther are considered to be the most secure nowadays.”Other ways to protect yourself is by using a secure browser, like TOR’s Obit or the private search engine, DuckDuckGo.Secure Your Messaging PlatformsOne of the most common uses of smartphones is messaging. This is an area where you have to worry about more than hacking. Government agencies and some employers also try to access messaging platforms to spy on citizens and employees. The most popular of these is WhatsApp, which is supposed to be an encrypted platform owned by Facebook. However, they have been legally allowed to track and release user data for more than a decade.Instead of following the crowd, consider private messaging systems like Signal, which is free, or a low-cost messaging app like Threema.Backup, Backup, BackupWe can’t stress enough how important it is to backup your databases. This is a solution for a worst-case scenario, but it will make recovering contacts and other important files, like those vacation videos and pics of your kids, easier when you replace your device. Your phone has a built-in backup and restore function that’s worth a few minutes of your time.Just make sure to inform banks and credit card companies if your device is stolen, and change any passwords and login information.Final ThoughtsIn a time when most of us rely on our smartphones and tablets for staying connected, entertainment, work, and education, remember to put safety first. Our tips and recommendations are designed to work on virtually any Android-powered device.We hope you’ll continue to enjoy your device with confidence wherever you are. Stay safe!EDITOR NOTE: This is a promoted post and should not be viewed as an editorial endorsement.

OnePlus 8T announced for October 23

OnePlus on Wednesday announced its newest phone, the 8T. Priced as low as $749, it builds on the flagship 8 announced earlier in the year.The OnePlus 8T has a faster refresh rate than its predecessor at 120Hz and features a 65-watt fast charging battery. In a related note, the battery is a smidge larger at 4,500mAh.According to OnePlus, the 8T can get a “full day’s charge” in just 15 minutes. A full charge takes just 39 minutes on the charger. To make this possible, the 8T relies on two batteries and a dozen temperature sensors.Other noteworthy differences include a video portrait mode and always-on display options. Perhaps most interesting, and welcome, change is that it uses a flat glass for the screen and not a curved edge.Similar to the OnePlus 8, the 8T has a 6.6-inch HD AMOLED display with an in-display fingerprint reader, 8/12GB RAM with 128GB/256GB storage. The rear houses a quad-camera experience centered around a 48-megapixel main camera sensor.The OnePlus runs Android 11 and will be offered in Lunar Silver and Aquamarine Green, The phone goes on sale October 23 at OnePlus and Amazon; pre-orders are available immediately.T-Mobile will be the exclusive carrier for the OnePlus 8T 5G in the United State. Its version will also be available October 23 with pre-orders starting October 16. Pricing will be $31.25/month for 24 months.

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