1. NFL REFS GET THE VIRTUAL TRAINING TREATMENT
The STRIVR company was born out of the Virtual Human Interaction Lab at Stanford back in 2015 (founded in 2003 by Jeremy Bailenson, who founded STRIVR w/ ex-Stanford kicker Derek Belch). The company has been working with NFL, college football teams, and the NBA to better train athletes’ response times and give them the ability to re-live moments--- and now, the company is also using VR to prepare NFL referees for the upcoming football season. A Series A funding round of $5M at the end of 2016 helped the company also expand into corporate training, announcing a customer service training program with Walmart employees at the beginning of June. In other VR sporting news, the MLB keeps expanding their 360 video content (they teamed up with Google to make a MLB At Bat VR experience for Daydream, they have a MLB Homerun Derby VR game, and also have been live streaming games with Intel)... and now you can step into the locker room with your favorite pro baseball players in a new original content series that takes you behind-the-scenes of pro baseball.
2. AUGMENTED MAGAZINE COVERS… IS THIS GOING TO BE A THING?
Augmented reality that makes graphics on t-shirts, posters, album covers, etc., come to life is nothing new -- but we’ve been seeing a spate of AR magazine covers lately. Another sports-themed news bit, Sports Illustrated released an AR companion to its college football preview edition. Although not the first time SI has dabbled in AR (their May edition “Capturing Everest” brought a little bit of the mountain to your living room), and to be honest this is very light AR (basically it just triggers a 2D video to play), it still builds Sports Illustrated’s momentum in the space -- remember their Swimsuit Edition VR app from the beginning of 2016? The fashion world never wants to be outdone, and W Magazine is in on the trend as well -- making Katy Perry come alive in a surreal 3D artistic exploration of her face.
Related Stocks: Time Inc. ($TIME)
3. SURE, EYE IMPLANTS… BECAUSE WHAT COULD GO WRONG?
Millions of people have lens implants as solutions to help cataracts -- but this company wants to make contact lens implants work as augmented reality devices. Of course, other tech companies are also chasing the eyeball train (like Google and Samsung), but what is fundamentally different about Omega Ophthalmics’s approach is they want to be a platform to host a number of different solutions (perhaps in the healthcare field, or augmented reality, etc.). This is far-off technology, and so far Omega has a very small clinical trial, involving… seven people. But hey -- it’s been over six months without “incident” in the human subjects, so maybe they’re onto something!
Related Stocks: Alphabet, Inc. ($GOOG), Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd ($005930.KS)
4. WANT YOUR DJ SOFTWARE IN VR? NO PROBLEM
There’s a lot of music content, apps, tools, and social experiences in VR, but not really any that build on existing software. Ableton Live is one of the most popular programs for DJs, and now a new VR app called AliveinVR lets you build your sick beats in a 3D space. You can sample and mix in the psychedelic virtual music room, and then fine-tune your audio creations later-- in the real world! As a related sidenote, if you’re a developer looking for sweet spatial audio tools, check out G’Audio’s digital audio workstation plugin.
5. INVESTMENT & FUNDING WRAPUP
Los Angeles, CA-based VR content production studio Here Be Dragons has raised $10M in funding, led by Discovery Communications (and participation from former Havas CEO David Jones and David Droga -- founder of huge ad agency Droga5). The company was co-founded by CEO Patrick Milling-Smith and director Chris Milk (whose company Within just announced $40M in funding recently), and was formerly known as VRSE.works. The award-winning studio has a high production pedigree, making content for entities like the United Nations and the New York Times -- and will use the funds to increase its staff and expand into AR and MR creations.
Related Stocks: Discovery Communications, Inc. ($DISCA)