23 Feb – ClearVR 8 Makes VR More Social and More Seamless
This week, we are releasing our first major ClearVR release in almost a year. ClearVR 8 does what a new major release is supposed to do: bring significant new functionality and improvements. ClearVR 8 is rolling out across ClearVR Cloud and the ClearVR SDK. The updates apply to live streaming as well as on-demand content.
The keywords for this release are “Social” and “Seamless“. Read on to understand why.
A seamless, social experience
The most striking additions concern multi-user sync. When you put on a VR headset, you isolate from the local environment. But with ClearVR Sync, VR becomes a social experience again.
Here is what that means:
- No more spoilers in VR co-viewing applications! ClearVR now powers seamless live, multi-device synchronisation. No matter how many users tune in to a live event, they will all be at the same live edge. A viewer may experience a buffering event, e.g., because their WiFi speed was briefly lacking. In that case, ClearVR 8 gently brings them back to the live point by a subtle, seamless increase in play-back speed.With its first deployment in Sky Worlds, this feature powers the co-viewing Watch Zones in Sky’s groundbreaking VR service. ClearVR Sync enables friends to enjoy live Premier League matches together, while getting excited or disappointed at exactly the same moment.ClearVR Sync works seamlessly across all video types that ClearVR enables: tiled VR, “legacy” (non-tiled) VR, and what we call “rectilinear feeds”. Friends can watch the same linear TV channel in their headset while having a voice conversation – with the OTT-delivered TV channel synced across them. it also means that viewers can jump between synchronised VR360, VR180 and rectilinear videos without missing a beat. Again, seamlessly.
- Scheduled VoD play-out enables the same social sync features for on-demand content. Simply tell the SDK when an event should start, and the ClearVR SDK keeps all event participants in sync. It also lands them at the right spot when they join late. This lets our customers schedule a single content item for many slots (and these slots can even overlap!) where they only need a single encoded asset. You might use it to build a virtual movie theatre! Obviously these on-demand items might just as well be multi-camera events, where all cameras are again in seamless sync.And this is is where the next item on this list will come in handy as well:
- Seamless camera switching: jumps from one camera to the next were extremely fast already, but ClearVR 8 renders them even more seamless. The new release enables frame-accurate camera switches where both video and audio continue uninterrupted while the viewer moves from one camera to the next. No drops, no buffering – no more FOMO – fear of missing out – for your viewers.
More adaptivity, less buffering
ClearVR 8 includes a few improvements that make play-out more flexible; again the word ” seamless” applies:
- We started to support Adaptive Bitrate Tiled VR Streaming. It is now possible to encode content at multiple resolutions/qualities and to let the SDK switch between these. This is in addition to fact that tiled streaming is already inherently adaptive and resilient to brief interruptions, making the experience even more seamless for the user.
- Device capability testing: many (mostly Android) devices are sloppy in reporting their capabilities. ClearVR can now test if certain resolutions are supported, and store the test result on the device for a quick check next time the app runs.
- There is significantly improved support for playback of HLS content.
- You can instruct the SDK to default to monoscopic playout for stereoscopic content on devices that don’t have enough decoding power to decode the full stereoscopic video.
- We added support for dynamically changing the playback rate, on the fly.
- There is better support for seamlessly changing screen orientation while playing VR content.
Many larger and smaller improvements will make Developer Life easier and development more seamless:
- Developers will love ClearVR 8 bringing support for full Unity development on PCs. Tedious and time-consuming headset build/test cycles are a thing of the past. Supported on Windows and Linux.
- The iOS Unity SDK now supports bitcode.
- We added support for setting the initial audio gain level. The SDK will now also remember audio gain and mute state when suspending and resuming your application.
- We included a completely new Unity Sample Player project, basically a complete VR player that only requires a UI to become a full-fledged app.
- Added .NET 4.x compatibility
And there is more …
Many smaller issues were fixed and bugs got resolved. For instance, there is improved support for often quirky bluetooth audio stacks, including better A/V sync with such stacks.
Meantime, we continue to work on another major new feature with the somewhat idiosyncratic name “MeshBox”. This MeshBox will mean a upgrade in encoding flexibility and also efficiency. Moreover, it will make life much easier for those scheduling VoD-encodes by automating the selection of encoding parameters.
Any questions on the new release, or any of the other features we support? Or maybe you have a feature request? Drop me a note!
Arjen Veenhuizen, COO ([email protected])
February 23, 2021