Cloudlands: VR Minigolf is a zany way to experience virtual reality with the HTC Vive

Cloudlands: VR Minigolf lets you play golf by swinging a putter in VR.

Above: Cloudlands: VR Minigolf lets you play golf by swinging a putter in VR.

Image Credit: Futuretown

Golf games are usually standard on a new video game platform. But, they only work so well when you’re pretending to swing at a ball with a 16-button controller.

In virtual reality, however, you can get much more into the actual experience of playing golf, and that gives this style of game the potential to reach a much wider audience than many other VR titles. That’s what Futuretown is trying to deliver with Cloudlands: VR Minigolf, a new game coming soon for the HTC Vive. The title is one of a dozen releases that I saw for the HTC Vive that debuts in April on the PC. The system is Valve and HTC’s bid to be a player in what could be a $30 billion industry by 2020, according to tech advisor Digi-Capital. I saw the game at a Valve event in Seattle.

With the HTC Vive, you wear a VR headset, so you can see into an immersive virtual world. But, your hands are also free to be used in virtual reality. You hold independent hand controllers in each hand, and sensors in the room can track the full motion of your body with precision. The system also designates a safe area where you can walk without bumping into your furniture.

Cloudlands: VR Minigolf

Above: One of the courses in Cloudlands: VR Minigolf.

Image Credit: Futuretown

That makes the Vive a very interesting system for experiences like miniature golf, which require a lot of detection of subtle movement. Previous motion-based games on the Wii and Xbox’s Kinect systems are pretty inaccurate. With the Vive, though, your ability to move and be detected precisely is pretty good.

Futuretown used the sensor system to develop a physics-based mechanic around putting. You hold the controllers as if you were holding a real putter. You swing the putter back and then hit the ball. The sound of the putter hitting the ball is pretty good, but when I played, I got the sense that the force required to make the ball move the right distance was off. I hit the ball and my stroke was way too soft. Hopefully, the developers can adjust the force, so you don’t have to do a mighty swing every time you hit the ball.

The environment in the game and the creativity of the course layout are where the game shines. You’ll find cool natural landscapes and very weird contraptions like you would see in the best miniature-golf courses. You can hit a ball through the rotating parts of a windmill. But, you also have to send a ball down multiple levels and through impossibly small gaps in barriers. Don’t be surprised if it takes you 10 strokes to get a ball into the hole.

An impossibly tough hole in Cloudlands: VR Minigolf

Above: An impossibly tough hole in Cloudlands: VR Minigolf.

Image Credit: Futuretown

This title should appeal to players of all ages and all skill levels. It’s the kind of release that could widen the audience for VR.

Futuretown has raised money, but it isn’t saying how much yet. It has 17 employees in Taoyuan, Taiwan, and Vancouver, Canada. The founders are Johan Yang and Justin Liebregts, who started on the Cloudlands: VR Minigolf title after they visited HTC’s headquarters in Taiwan in March 2015. The game is expected to launch in April with the launch of the HTC Vive.

“We decided VR was the ‘thing’ we want to do for the rest of our lives,” they said.

The team is also working on other VR titles, such as a shooter dubbed Jeeboman. Cloudlands: VR Minigolf will also be available on the Oculus Rift.


Myntra Clocks $800 Million GMV Run Rate in January 2016

Myntra Clocks $800 Million GMV Run Rate in January 2016

Leading m-commerce fashion platform Myntra announced Thursday that it has clocked $800 million (roughly Rs. 5,455 crores) in annualised GMV (gross merchandise volume) in January 2016, a year-on-year growth of 70 percent. Sales volumes were driven by Myntra’s own fashion brands, particularly Roadster.

A GMV run rate projects performance based on a monthly or quarterly rate. For example, Myntra would have to perform at the same level for an entire year to have annual revenues of $800 million. In the fashion retail industry, seasonal spikes in performance are common.

Discounts have dropped by six percent, and supply chain costs reduced by five percent in the last quarter, said Myntra CEO Ananth Narayanan, adding that it is on the path to profitability, and hitting a $1 billion (roughly Rs. 6,800 crores) GMV run rate by FY 2016-2017.

“Our monthly average users is continuing to see healthy growth. as is the number of visits, which has almost grown to 12 a month. Customers come back for more, not just to shop but to take a look at the content we have created,” Narayanan said.

In a Q&A session, Narayanan told journalists that while the spike in the annualised GMV growth rate is seasonal, the baseline has shifted upwards, in terms of monthly average users and daily average sales. Myntra sees eight million monthly active users, and ships over 50,000 products daily, the company said, with Tier II and Tier III cities accounting for 55 percent of the company’s business.

Myntra’s Style Forum, where consumers can go ask questions on fashion, has been a huge success, he said, with a million users visiting the forum last month. “The conversion rate is two and a half times, it leads to commerce much more naturally,” he said.

Myntra said that its top brands for 2015 were Roadster, Puma, Nike, Vero Moda, and UCB. By the end of December 2015, there were over 2,000 brands on its platform, 800 of them had been onboarded in 2015. 25 international brands were added in 2015, tallying to 30 international brands on the platform. The leading international brands were Forever 21, Mango, Antony Morato, Scotch & Soda, and M&S.

In-house brands saw an increase in contribution in overall revenue to 20 percent in 2015, and the company wants to increase the contribution of these in-house brands to around 25 percent in see FY 2016. Myntra’s fashion brand Roadster aims to clock Rs. 400 crores in 2015-16 and become a $100-million (roughly Rs. 680 crores) brand by end of 2016.

Myntra dropped its discount rate to 6 percent during the Diwali quarter, Prasad Kompalli, Head, eCommerce platform at Myntra said, but added that discounting won’t go away entirely. “Fashion works in that manner, there are always going to be some discounts in the system,” he said.


Facebook Brings Live Video Streaming to All iPhone Users in the US

Facebook Brings Live Video Streaming to All iPhone Users in the US

Facebook is ready to start broadcasting live video on its iPhone app.

The option to show live video is being turned on Thursday for everyone in the US with Facebook’s app installed on an iPhone. The California company plans to extend the iPhone feature to all 1.6 billion of its worldwide users in the next few weeks.

(Also see:  Facebook Testing Live Video Streaming on iOS)

The feature will enable Facebook users to share live video with friends and family. It’s similar to the live video app called Periscope that Twitter introduced on its messaging service last year.

Facebook is still working on adding live video to its app for Android devices.

Earlier in the week, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said the company’s new Reactions feature will be rolled out globally “pretty soon”. Zuckerberg didn’t give a more concrete timetable while discussing the new feature with analysts in a conference call Wednesday following Facebook’s latest quarterly earnings report.

The additional options will expand Facebook beyond the renowned thumbs-up ‘Like’ symbol that people click on to show they like a comment, photo or video posted on the social network.

“We want people to be able to share all of the things that are meaningful to them, not just the things that are happy and that people are going to like when they see it,” Zuckerberg said Wednesday.

Facebook is hoping the additional choices will encourage people to share their thoughts more frequently and hang out on the social network for even longer periods than they already do.


How Flipkart Removed Interviews From Its Hiring Process

How Flipkart Removed Interviews From Its Hiring Process

Flipkart has tied up with California-based Udacity to streamline tech hires in the company. Three Udacity students, who were graduates of its Android Developer Nanodegree programme, are now a part of Flipkart’s mobile development team.

The Bengaluru headquartered e-commerce major is doing away with interviews and group exercises, to gain a competitive edge and hire talent swiftly. Both companies expect many more new hires to follow, with candidates evaluated on their Nanodegree projects and profiles on the online education platform.

Peeyush Ranjan, Chief Technology Officer, Flipkart, said that the conventional hiring process often comes down to the performance of the candidate on a specific day, which may not be a true reflection of their skills and temperament. “This is where a partner like Udacity comes into the picture. The shortlisted profiles provided by them and the in-depth data we received were very helpful and allowed us to assess the candidate’s competencies in a much better way,” he said.

Founded in 2011, Udacity is a provider of massive open online courses that focus on software development, with ‘Nanodegree’ programmes developed in collaboration with tech giants like Google, Microsoft, and Nvidia.

“Our goal is to have our Nanodegree graduates be in demand for the jobs of today like mobile, data analyst, web development and machine learning among others,” said Sebastian Thrun, Founder and CEO of Udacity.

Competitive coding platforms like HackerRank and HackerEarth have also tried to streamline the recruiting process through online coding challenges. Udacity was valued at $1 billion in its recent funding round in November 2015.