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Oculus’ Nate Mitchell: VR ‘expectations got ahead of themselves’


Nate Mitchell is one of the Oculus co-founders and continues to be a key leader at Facebook defining the product strategy for VR going forward. While he works closely with the Rift team, he’s also keenly aware of VR’s evolution over the last five years as he’s part of a small group of Oculus executives who helped create an enormous rush of interest in VR when they sold their startup to Facebook in 2014 for roughly $3 billion.

This acquisition set off a wave of investment in VR that saw numerous startups funded alongside giants like Google and Microsoft dramatically stepping up efforts to build out VR headset strategies. This year, though, public sentiment around VR entered a gap of disappointment and the market found itself in the trough of disillusionment. Oculus hasn’t helped in dispelling this sentiment because the company hasn’t released official figures about the sale of its flagship Rift.

“We did build up a lot of hype, and we really believe in all that hype — the potential for VR, VR as a computing platform. This is going to be a transformative thing,” said Mitchell. “We always said…this is a decade-plus journey that we’re on. But everyone’s expectations got ahead of themselves, maybe not Oculus, but definitely in the media.”

In Mitchell’s view, just because not everyone has a VR headset yet doesn’t mean the technology is a failure.

“Our goal is to continue growing the ecosystem of users and developers every single year,” he said.

Oculus announced a pair of standalone all-in-one VR headsets at Oculus Connect this week, the first of which (Oculus Go), is priced starting at $199 to introduce people to VR without phone or PC needed.

“We think that will be, over time, almost a step function change in the types of people and number of people who get into VR,” Mitchell said. “Now it’s not gonna necessarily be more than Gear VR because Gear VR is cheaper.”

I also found Oculus CTO John Carmack surrounded by developers pinging him with questions and asked him how big he expects sales to be for Oculus Go. He echoed Mitchell’s assessment, suggesting expectations for the headset to fall between Rift and Gear VR sales. Earlier this year, Samsung said it sold more than 5 million Gear VRs. It should be noted Gear VR sells for around $129 but it is often bundled free with the sale of Samsung phones.

The PC Gaming channel is presented by Intel®‘s Game Dev program.

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Existing EV batteries could be recharged five times faster

Lithium-ion batteries have massively improved in the last half-decade, but there are still issues. The biggest, especially for EVs, is that charging takes too long to make them as useful as regular cars for highway driving. Researchers from the University of Warwick (WMG) have discovered that we may not need to be so patient, though. They developed a new type of sensor that measures internal battery temperatures and discovered that we can probably recharge them up to five times quicker without overheating problems.

Overcharging a lithium-ion battery anode can lead to lithium buildup, which can break through a battery's separator, create a short-circuit and cause catastrophic failure. That can cause the electrolyte to emit gases and literally blow up the battery, so manufacturers impose strict charging power limits to prevent it.

Those limits are based on hard-to-measure internal temperatures, however, which is where the WMG probe comes in. It's a fiber optic sensor, protected by a chemical layer that can be directly inserted into a lithium-ion cell to give highly precise thermal measurements without affecting its performance.

The team tested the sensor on standard 18650 li-ion cells, used in Tesla's Model S and X, among other EVs. They discovered that they can be charged five times faster than previously thought without damage. Such speeds would reduce battery life, but if used judiciously, the impact would be minimized, said lead researcher Dr. Tazdin Amietszajew.

Faster charging as always comes at the expense of overall battery life but many consumers would welcome the ability to charge a vehicle battery quickly when short journey times are required and then to switch to standard charge periods at other times.

There's still some work to do. While the research showed the li-ion cells can support higher temperatures, EVs and charging systems would have to have "precisely tuned profiles/limits" to prevent problems. It's also not clear how battery makers would install the sensors in the cells.

Nevertheless, it shows a lot of promise for much faster charging speeds in the near future. Even if battery capacities stayed the same, charging in 5 minutes instead of 25 could flip a lot of drivers over to the green side.

Via: Clean Technica

Source: University of Warwick

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