January 6, 2017

CES 2017: An Up Close Look At Microsoft’s Windows 10 VR Initiative

Posted on January 6, 2017 by Rae Michelle Richards

It has been a few months since we last heard from Microsoft’s Virtual Reality initiative set to launch later this year with the Windows 10 Creator’s Update. In the Fall the operating system developer promised to deliver several Virtual Reality focused improvements to Windows 10 – including a 3D version of paint, support for the company’s “mixed reality” and the implementation of Windows Holographic (which powers HoloLens) into the main branch of Windows 10.

Now that the Consumer Electronics Show is in full swing technology focused site NeoWin got an up-close look at some of the consumer focused VR headsets that will launch alongside the Creator’s Update later this spring.  These include headsets from Dell, HP, Lenovo and ACER – as was previously announced.

Here are the up-close shots of said headsets from CES:

Acer Headset

Dell Headset

Lenovo Headset

3Glasses Headset

Microsoft previously also unveiled the minimum specifications required to run these headsets – for basic operations they should work on even the most modest modern laptop with 4GB of an integrated graphics card from the past couple of years. One major difference between these headsets and the higher end competition like the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift (aside from price, these Windows Holographic headsets will start at $200 USD) is the refresh rate. The HTC Vive and Oculus rift can support up to 120hz, meaning that interactive experiences with frame rates ranging up to 120 FPS can be enjoyed for full immersion. These cheaper headsets will be capped at 60hz or 60 frames per second, and depending on your tolerance for motion sickness and lag, these cheaper headsets may not be ideal for gaming.

Here’s hoping we’ll see some real-world tests with these headsets in the future.



LiquidSky’s New Free Tier Offers Cutting Edge Gaming Performance To All

Posted on January 6, 2017 by Rae Michelle Richards

Playing the latest AAA games like DOOM, Battlefield 1 and Tom Clancy’s The Division at high or ultra setting can be a daunting task even for some top-end rigs. Trying to play the latest games on PC at the best graphical fidelity while on a budget can be a literal give & take scenario – sacrificing some graphic options for others in order to maintain stability. Cloud gaming provider LiquidSky aims to make these sacrifices a thing of the past as they open up their platform to everyone as their product approached the end of beta at CES 2017.

LiquidSky allows players to offload the graphical processing and complex computation of today’s’ games to their cloud-based infrastructure – delivering the rendered image and accepting controller input from a number of different devices. In theory, this opens up the world of high-end gaming to a number of folks who do not possess the dedicated hardware necessary for complex games – Imagine being able to play The Witcher III anywhere from your Macbook Air to an iPad to right on an Android powered smartphone. This is exactly the kind of universal accessibility that LiquidSky promises to offer to not only potential subscribers but everyone when the service’s new range of tiers launches in February.

Other streaming services have offered similar tantalizing visions of a cloud-based gaming future, most notably Gaikai and Online, Both of those services either ended up folding or being acquired – OnLive underwent a number of iterations and product line-up changes before being dissolved in 2015 and Gaikai was acquired by Sony Computer Entertainment in 2012 to develop the backbone of both the PlayStation Now and Remote Play services. LiquidSky says that their services will not repeat the latency issues of prior cloud providers. During their CES presentation LiquidSky quoted speeds of up to 1GB/s down and 100MB/s upload when using one of their Sky Computers.

Gaming PCs For Everyone

Potentially the most exciting announcement during their CES Keynote was the unveiling of an add supported free tier which will provide players with up to 3 hours of gameplay per day with 100GB of storage in exchange for 6 minutes of ads per hour. This works out to 10% of total playtime being used for advertisements in order to subsidize the cost of running the latest titles.

In terms of system specifications, LiquidSky comes in a number of configurations depending on a user’s preferences. The company is poised to offer three levels for the average consumer:

Free Plan
3 Hours of Gameplay Per Day
100GB of Online Storage
Add Supported

Pay As You Go Plan
100GB of Storage
No Advertisements
Priority Support

$9.99 Gamer Plan
1TB Storage
Roll-over of unused Pas As You Go credits
No Advertisements
Priority support

One might wonder what kind of system specifications are available under these plans. During their CES presentation, LiquidSky mentioned a number of different system configurations available to players. Depending on the type of performance, the price of the packages increases in the company’s Pas As You Go “Sky Credits”.

Here is a look at the different virtual computer configurations and their in-game targets:

Gamer Package
2GB Virtual Videocard
3 Virtual CPU Cores
8GB Virtual RAM
Will run most games @ 30 FPS at 1080p

Pro Package
4GB Virtual Videocard
6 VirtuaL CPU Cores
16GB Virtual RAM
Most games @ 60fps at 1080p
Elite Package
8GB Virtual Videocard
12 Virtual CPU Cores
32GB Virtual RAM

A World of Support

Unlike previous cloud gaming providers LiquidSky allows users to bring their existing gaming libraries with them to the services. This means that players won’t be paying full price for a game and then having that game tied specifically to one service. Initially supporting Battle.net, Steam, Windows Store and Origin users of Liquid Sky will be able to sign into their virtual machines using the launchers and chat platforms that they are already used too. A LiquidSky Sky Computer also comes with complete USB 2.0 pass-through meaning that existing gaming mice, specialized controllers, headsets and other peripherals will be supported right away.

Support isn’t just limited to the end-user, LiquidSky’s platform also offers a number of features that should entice developers to support players on LiquidSky’s network. While users can install applications & games through any of the approved launchers the platform also has built-in DRM protection baked in, preventing players from launching illicit versions of games. The company also makes mention that they have a program in place to allow developers to be paid from a user’s SkyCredits to ensure that developers are paid for their titles being paid, further information on how exactly this would work was not available as of press time.
Speaking about the accessibility of the service CEO of LiquidSky said:

“By delivering the power of an ultra gaming PC to nearly any device for free, with the convenience and simplicity of consoles, we’ve made gaming more accessible than ever. Gamers across the world can finally enjoy experiences previously unavailable to them at home or on-the-go through the power of LiquidSky.”

Final Thoughts

The promise of LiquidSky has me genuinely intrigued and I write those words not just as a games journalist or independent developer but someone who travels with an older Macbook Pro and who is cut off from her expansive library of games while away from home. I look forward to being able to try the free tier of LiquidSky’s service on my Macbook Pro, even on less demanding titles like Eve Online. Being able to check up on my daily market transactions or get in a quick round of Overwatch or DOOM while away from home is something I don’t currently have the luxury of and for work I’ve never seen the point in spending $2.000 CDN+ on a gaming laptop. I can also definitely see the appeal to gamers who aren’t as fortunate as I, with access to a high-end gaming rig at home. Being able to stream the latest titles from the cloud could introduce the world of PC gaming to an entire market of people for whom it has been out of reach.

We will have more on LiquidSky’s free tier of service when it becomes available.


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