THIS WEEK’S (8/15/17) TOP5 VR&AR NEWS

THIS WEEK’S (8/15/17) TOP5 VR&AR NEWS

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.
 

Related Stocks:  Alphabet, Inc. ($GOOG), Intel Corporation ($INTC)

 

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)

THIS WEEK’S (8/8/17) TOP5 VR&AR NEWS

THIS WEEK’S (8/8/17) TOP5 VR&AR NEWS

1. SOCIAL VR PIONEER ALTSPACE CAN’T “KEEP THE VIRTUAL LIGHTS ON ANYMORE”

Founded all the way back in 2013 by Eric Romo, Altspace VR was a social world that broke new ground--  allowing new and old friends to virtually congregate. Announcing via blog post that they ran into  “unforeseen financial difficulty,” Altspace had raised almost $16M and was not able to finalize another round of funding. The platform was notable for its cross-platform functionality, enabling both mobile VR and high-end PC users to join in on the fun; it was also criticized for its lack of avatar customization (yes, everyone looked like robots) and lack of creator tools and monetization opportunities. It seems that, alas --  the death of Altspace is here. Their timing was just too early (this is also a good moment to point out to any Chicken Littles out there that the rate of startup failures 90% and there will be many more in the VR/AR industry… just like any other industry). But worry not, virtual friends: we still have VRChat, High Fidelity, BigScreen, Rec Room, vTime, Facebook Space, JanusVR, Decentraland (link to article), Sansar (join the now-open beta), and WebVR’s official debut is… now.

 

2. SOCIAL VR WORLD SANSAR FINALLY LAUNCHES OPEN BETA

Announced 3 years ago, virtual enthusiasts have been eagerly awaiting Project Sansar -- and now it’s here. Now just Sansar, the platform has launched its open beta so anyone can explore and build immersive spaces. This new metaverse is from Linden Lab, the same company that built Second Life-- and they clearly have taken learnings from that open world to Sansar: namely, monetization opportunities for creators. You can make 3D models and sell them on the Sansar store, and eventually you’ll be able to charge membership or ticket prices to attendees of virtual events (if, of course, your virtual venue is hot enough). Currently available on the HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, and accessible via PC, you can build up to 3 of your own worlds -- and after that, Sansar charges a $9.99+/month fee depending on how many worlds you want to build. It looks gorgeous so far, and another great thing is that you can share your created world via its own individual link.

Related Stocks:  Facebook, Inc. ($FB), HTC Corporation ($2498.TW)

 

3. THE INTERNET IS NOW VR-READY… AT LEAST ON FIREFOX

Rolling out to the Firefox browser, with Chrome support expected later this year, WebVR is JavaScript API that lets you create virtual reality experiences… in your browser. It is essentially an internet protocol that lets your browser act like a regular web browser -- except it can now take you to VR content for the Rift and the HTC Vive. What does this mean? It makes it a lot easier for developers AND content consumers -- you can just send a friend a link, no lengthy descriptions of what store to go to, what app to download and which experience to locate. In a nutshell… the metaverse just got a whole lot closer.
 

Related Stocks:  Facebook, Inc. ($FB), HTC Corporation ($2498.TW), Alphabet, Inc. ($GOOG)

 

4. JUST LIKE IN THE 90s, THE GENERAL PUBLIC WILL FIRST TRY VR WITH DISNEY

Regardless of which Disney movie is your personal favorite (and we all have one -- mine is Lion King), we can all admit that Disney is sitting on a mountain of cartoons made of money. The company’s IP is legendary, and just like in the 90s (did you go EPCOT as a kid?) Disney is making sure that the general public’s first taste of virtual reality will be with a world you already love… in this case, Star Wars. Teaming up with The VOID from Utah, the team behind the Ghostbusters immersive activation in Time Square, Disney is bringing us immersive Star Wars experiences to similar high-foot traffic areas. So, if you’re right outside of the official park gates of Anaheim or Orlando-- you can jump into the world of jedis without buying a ticket to the park. Sounds like Disney really wants you to experience the magic.
 

Related Stocks:  The Walt Disney Company ($DIS)

 

5. FUNDING & INVESTMENT WRAPUP

Based in Tel Aviv, Inception VR announced a Series A round of $15M hot on the heels of their recent partnership with Pitchfork. A production house and content platform, the company aims to be the Netflix of VR. Europe’s biggest broadcaster, RTL Group, led the round -- with participation from Gigi Levy-Weiss, James Packer, and iAngels.

 

Based in Los Angeles, content company and platform Within has raised $40M in Series B funding; this round brings their total investment to $56.6M. The company was originally known as Vrse, and you probably know co-founder and CEO Chris Milk as the empathy machine guy. They have a big partnership with IMAX for location-based rollouts, and the Series B round was led by Emerson Collective and Temasek with participation from 21st Century Fox, Raine Ventures, WPP, Macro Ventures, and Andreesen Horowitz.

 

The Venture Reality fund, makers of fantastic industry infographics and who just released their Q2 Augmented Reality landscape, share their findings on the VR sector’s investment activity in Europe. The fund identified almost 500 companies, up from 300 from the first Europe-focused report from February 2017. It looks like regional points of concentration are the UK, France, Sweden, and Germany-- and rising areas of focus are user input and enterprise solutions (like Improbable, which recently raised $500M), while gaming is the most competitive and saturated vertical.
 

Related Stocks:  IMAX Corporation ($IMAX), Twenty-First Century Fox, Inc. ($FOX)

...and just a few more

 

STRONG SALES BOOSTS APPLE STOCK, PRIMES RELEASE OF ARKIT

 

CREATORS OF AMERICAN IDOL LAUNCH MIXED REALITY TV SHOW IN NORWAY

 

WILL GOOGLE LET YOU ANIMATE YOUR SCENES MADE WITH BLOCKS SOON?

 

THE METAVERSE TRYING TO BUILD ON BLOCKCHAIN

 

THE POPULAR CREATOR TOOL ‘QUILL’  LIVES ON UNDER FACEBOOK’S SOCIAL VR TEAM

 

HP WANTS YOU TO PUT YOUR COMPUTER ON YOUR BACK

 

THE 2ND GOOGLE TANGO COMPATIBLE PHONE IS FINALLY HERE… AND IT’S NOT MADE FOR GIANTS

THIS WEEK’S (7/25/17) TOP5 VR&AR NEWS

THIS WEEK’S (7/25/17) TOP5 VR&AR NEWS

Lenovo’s new AR concept headset & Disney partnership, all the VR/AR goodies at Comic-Con, Steven Spielberg’s trailer for Ready Player One is finally here, new industry landscape shows 60% increase in enterprise augmented reality, the investment & funding wrapup, and more...

1. LENOVO KEEPS GETTING MORE IMMERSIVE

After announcing a Disney and Lucasfilm partnership for an AR headset (and teasing us with Star Wars-themed content), Lenovo showed off another AR headset-- or at least a concept model of one. Unlike the Lucasfilm AR headset, which uses a smartphone to power it (like the Google Daydream or the Samsung Gear VR does), the company says this concept is an standalone, self-powered headset. It’s called daystAR, and has no release date or price attached (although it was shown in 4 metallic color options). But it seems like Lenovo’s interests aren’t just tied to hardware; they also hinted at an “AR platform” on their blog post. And Lenovo’s partnerships don’t end at the huge gorilla of IP called Disney. The Chinese company is also making a standalone VR headset for Google’s upcoming WorldSense platform and a standalone device for Microsoft’s Windows 10 Mixed Reality platform. Yes… this is the same company that has made sure that its software could not be deleted and installed malicious adware on their computers in the past.
 

Related Stocks:  Lenovo Group Limited ($LNVGY), The Walt Disney Company ($DIS), Alphabet, Inc. ($GOOG), Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd ($005930.KS)

 

2. ALL THE VR & AR AT COMIC-CON, OH MY!

If you’re also impatiently waiting for the October release of Blade Runner 2049, you’d squeal over their VR activation at Comic-Con which placed you in the notorious White Dragon Noodle Bar (and if you didn’t make it to the conference, fear not: a Blade Runner 2049: Replicant Pursuit VR experience is now available on the Gear VR). FX’s show about the nature of reality and the lines between supernatural abilities and schizophrenia activation, Legion, produced an activation was primarily a real experience interacting with live actors, with a Hololens adding audio for voices in your head and the augmented ability to move things with your mind. As a promo for the upcoming remake of the nightmarish clown classic, IT, a creepy real-life school bus was parked outside the convention center. Inside, the show combined haptics (swivel chairs and synced Subpac vests) with a Gear VR to virtually transport you on a journey down storm drains to come face-to-face with the infamous evil clown Pennywise. Conan O’Brien loves bringing his show set to Comic-Con, and this year did CONAN360° LIVE pre-shows: hour-long, live 360 streams showing behind-the-scenes content leading up to his regular show -- hosted by comedy duo Chris Redd and Moses Storm (AKA Redd Storm).

Related Stocks:  Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd ($005930.KS), Microsoft Corporation ($MSFT)

 

3. READY PLAYER ONE: THE TEASER IS HERE

The Steven Spielberg-directed movie version of a cult classic VR novel is coming out as a movie in March of 2018 -- and Ready Player One’s first trailer debuted at Comic-Con. Set in a Dystopian future with Columbus, OH as the fastest-growing city in the world, people live in crowded slums called “stacks” -- run-down shantytowns of inhabitated junk formed in towering heaps. The story’s protagonist is Wade Watts, who is a daily user of the OASIS-- an omnipresent VR metaverse that provides escape from the overcrowded future set in the year 2045. We now have our first look at Spielberg’s take on one of the most pop culture-saturated novels ever -- and it looks… rad.

 

4. NEW VR/AR INDUSTRY LANDSCAPE SHOWS 60% INCREASE IN ENTERPRISE AR

The Venture Reality Fund’s industry infographics have become legendary, and the VR/AR-focused $50M fund just released its AR landscape for Q2 -- which shows that enterprise-minded companies have increased by 60% since Q1 of this year. Hardware infrastructure and software developer tools from big players like Apple (ARKit) and Facebook (Camera Effects platform) directly contributed to a huge surge in interest in augmented reality.

Related Stocks:  Apple Inc. ($AAPL), Facebook, Inc. ($FB)

 

5. INVESTMENT & FUNDING WRAPUP

 

San Francisco-based Leap Motion has raised a $50M Series C for their hand- and finger-tracking technology. The round was led by JP Morgan Asset management, and this fresh influx of cash brings Leap Motion’s total funding to almost $95M. The company’s focus is on mobile VR, expanding into Asia, and commercial and enterprise use cases like healthcare, education, and industrial training simulations.

 

Based in the UK, augmented reality optics company WaveOptics announced a $16M Series B. Investors include Touchstone Innovations, Octopus Investments, Gobi Ventures, and Robert Bosch Venture Capital GMBH. The company relies on waveguide tech (which carries light as opposed to reflecting it) for the displays on small form AR headsets. WaveOptics is developing AR glasses, and released a demo video showing a cycling use case -- which might be a competitive AR field, as other companies are focusing there as well.

 

Based in Los Angeles, CA, Mira Labs just came out of stealth mode to announce their iOS-powered augmented reality headset developed while the founders were completing their senior year of college at USC’s Jimmy Iovine and Andre Young Academy. Mira Labs has announced $1.5M seed round, led by Sequoia Capital with participation from Troy Capital Partners, S-Cubed Capital and notable angel investors like Will.i.am and Marc Benioff (the CEO of Salesforce). The company will soon be releasing an SDK and the planned consumer launch is at the end of this year.

Related Stocks:  Apple Inc. ($AAPL)

 

… and just a few more…

 

AND THE EMMY GOES TO… VR? 6 EXPERIENCES UP FOR AWARDS

 

UNITY ADDS MAP FUNCTION, SO LOCATION IS OFFICIALLY FOUNDATION FOR VR/AR GAMES

 

LIONSGATE EXPERIMENTS W/ ADS IN VR IN INTERACTIVE JIGSAW EXPERIENCE

 

PITCHFORK LAUNCHES A VR MUSIC CHANNEL

 

GOOGLE GLASS IS BACK AND READY FOR BUSINESS

 

RACE A CHUCKWAGON IN VR BECAUSE, CANADA

THIS WEEK’S (7/18/17) TOP5 VR&AR NEWS

THIS WEEK’S (7/18/17) TOP5 VR&AR NEWS

1. NOW YOU CAN LIVE STREAM YOUR CARTOON AVATAR ON FACEBOOK

If you jump into Facebook Spaces with your Oculus Rift, now you’ll be able to live stream your virtual world to your regular Facebook feed. Spaces lets people don headsets and be together in a virtual room-- and you can also make a call to the outside world so that your friends who doesn’t have a VR headset can see and talk to your cartoon avatar via their phone or laptop. Now, you can actually broadcast your Facebook Spaces sessions to Facebook Live. It works just like a regular Facebook Live, except the streamer is an avatar. As a streamer, you can see all your friends’ comments-- and you can even grab your favorite comments right out of the air to highlight them. Obviously this announcement has excited a lot of creators, entertainment, and media companies… and Slate is already jumping into this content creation opportunity.

Related Stocks:  Facebook, Inc. ($FB)
 

2. SLATE’S NEW SHOW: LIVE STREAMED ON FACEBOOK FROM VR

Right out of the gate, Slate jumped on the opportunity to premiere a new live stream show using Facebook Spaces. Called “Conundrum” the gist of the show is that celebrities join Slate Culture Editor Dan Kois in the virtual world. Dan and the guest will be in VR together, and you can watch their avatars interact (as well as drink virtual beer, in a nod to the show’s sponsor) the way you’d watch any Facebook Live show -- on your phone or laptop. The first guest was Carrie Preston (True Blood, The Good Wife), who was quizzed with ridiculous questions like “Would you rather fight one horse-sized duck, or 100 duck-sized horses?” Slate had been considering a VR show for a while, and were planning to build their own VR video environment. Of course, as with all first experiments, there were technical difficulties. Stay tuned to this space, as there are likely going to be plenty of other experimentations.

Related Stocks:  Facebook, Inc. ($FB)

 

3. PLAY WITH ART WITH YOUR FRIENDS

You can now sculpt with your friends in Oculus’s Medium… or at least be in the same space with one friend while you each work on your own art. The first multiplayer functionality to be released by any of the current VR creation tools (the big ones are really just Tilt Brush, Quill, and the recently-released Blocks app from Google). Medium is free for owners of Oculus’s excellent Touch controllers, and they also released a few new tools like reference meshes. It would be even more exciting if you and your friend could alter each other’s art, but I guess we’ll just have to wait for that feature.

Related Stocks:  Facebook, Inc. ($FB), Alphabet, Inc. ($GOOG)

 

4. FACEBOOK’S STANDALONE HEADSET: IT’S COMING

We’ll have to wait until next year to get a look at the goods, but Facebook is releasing a standalone VR headset. Serving as a bridge between the Samsung Gear VR (that requires a phone) and the Oculus Rift (which requires a PC), it reportedly will be a step up in quality from mobile-powered headsets but not as robust as PC-powered headsets. Code-named “Pacific,” it will be wireless but will not have positional tracking--- so room-scale experiences are out of the question, but for $200? That’s a pretty sweet deal.

Related Stocks:  Facebook, Inc. ($FB), Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd ($005930.KS)

 

5. INVESTMENT & FUNDING WRAPUP

UK-based VR game studio nDreams has raised $3.5M to continue development of VR experiences (makers of The Assembly, Danger Goat, etc.). The company currently has 5 games in production, and will also be expanding into VR arcades and other out-of-home locations. $2.3M of the round comes as a follow-on from Mercia Technologies.

 

Newport Beach, CA-based VR game studio inXile Entertainment has raised $4.5M from Japanese firm gumi VR Inc. The company created VR dungeon crawler The Mage’s Tale, and the fresh capital will be used to continue a stealth open world RPG game for VR.

 

Los Angeles, CA-based Hutch Interiors has raised a $10M Series A round, lead by Zillow (this is the Zillow Group’s first time investing in a startup). Although it is currently being framed as “strictly a financing deal” at this time, there could potentially be an opportunity for Zillow to integrate Hutch into their app in some way. As Hutch specializes in using augmented reality for interior design, integration with Zillow could be a natural eventual fit.

 

...and just a few more…

 

A SCOTTISH LAB IS USING VR TO TRAIN WORKERS FOR WIND TURBINE TECHNICIANS

 

BILL GATES WROTE A THING ON HOW VR CAN HELP FIGHT DISEASE

 

PLAY STAR WARS GAMES ON LENOVO’S AR HEADSET

 

MIXED REALITY ON THE IPAD THANKS TO ARKIT AND HTC VIVE

 

HACKERS USE ULTRASONIC WAVES TO MESS WITH YOUR VR HEADSET

 

MARVEL ANNOUNCES VR CO-OP TITLE “POWERS UNITED VR”

 

ROLLERCOASTER USING VR HEADSETS IN MADRID INVOLVED IN COLLISION

THIS WEEK’S (7/12/17) TOP5 VR&AR NEWS

THIS WEEK’S (7/12/17) TOP5 VR&AR NEWS

1.GOOGLE WANTS YOU TO PLAY WITH BLOCKS

Google understands that the future of computing is 3D -- and the computers of tomorrow will need lots of 3D objects to populate just about everything. With that end in mind, Google is making it super simple for anyone to create 3D objects with their hands (instead of complex programs that use 2D screens, a mouse that is limited to a flat x/y axis of movement, and require specialized training). Currently available for free on the HTC Vive and the Oculus Rift (sorry, mobile VR users), Blocks is a new app from Google that lets anyone create 3D objects without training. These 3D objects can be exported as an OBJ file and easily be plugged into VR or AR projects. When considered in context of Google’s VR painting program Tilt Brush, this new structured 3D creation tool seems to indicate that Google could be putting together a suite of accessible VR/AR creation tools… which is good news for their Google Daydream platform.

Related Stocks:   Alphabet, Inc. ($GOOG), HTC Corporation ($2498.TW), Facebook, Inc. ($FB)

 

2.THIS SMARTPHONE WANTS TO MAKE HEADSETS OBSOLETE

The billionaire founder of Oakley and RED Digital Camera, Jim Jannard, has announced that for the last 3 years he has secretly been working on a VR/AR smartphone that will natively play holographic content without the need for a head-mounted device… but we’ll have to wait until next year to get our hands on it. Although few details have been released, we know that it will be a 5.7-inch phone that will run on Android OS and  there will be devices at two price points: aluminum at $1,195 and titanium at $1,595. Called Hydrogen One, this super device will also reportedly plug into the existing RED camera ecosystem… and hints at some sort of holographic image launch from RED on the horizon as well.

 

3.CALLING ALL CREATORS: HERE’S A MARKETPLACE FOR YOUR VR CONTENT

First launched in the spring of 2015, Kaleidoscope emerged as a global virtual reality festival -- bringing audiences all over the world premiere VR content. Now, the company is doubling down on the deep network built over the past two years and connecting content creators with capital. Kaleidoscope establishes a marketplace where artists can get their premiere work in front of a select group of people/companies/groups who want to license, buy, or distribute their content. Referring to themselves as the “AngelList for the VR entertainment industry,” the company hopes that this proves starter fuel for eventual crowdsourcing of VR art.

 

4.GET YOURSELF A RIFT WITH THIS SWEET SUMMER DEAL

If you’ve been debating with yourself about getting a sweet VR rig, this might be the time to hop off the fence and into the Rift. Oculus just announced a short term, six week sale that bundles the Rift and the Oculus Touch controllers for $399. Of course, you still need a robust PC to power your new virtual world (and the current cost of graphics cards is not cheap — thanks crypto coin miners!), but this means that the cost of the Rift + Touch bundle has been slashed in half over the last quarter. This puts the Rift + Touch in (almost) the same pricing ballpark as the PlayStation VR (although still higher — PSVR’s required console is less expensive than a PC). Now, what does this mean — does Oculus want to stick it to HTC Vive (which has stuck to its original $800 launch price point), are they anticipating that the ZeniMax lawsuit could possibly halt sales, or do they see more competitors on the horizon and want to capture market share? It’s all speculation at this point, but one thing is for sure: this price reduction could be just the thing to knock a few people off that fence.

Related Stocks:  Facebook, Inc. ($FB), HTC Corporation ($2498.TW)

 

5.INVESTMENT & FUNDING WRAPUP

For the fourth year in a row the Walt Disney Co. is launching its incubator program, which supports tech and media companies with resources and capital. Although Disney has not disclosed the amount of funding, the companies will retain the rights to the IP developed while part of the incubator. Out of 11 companies, there are 3 VR/AR-related ones: Ambidio (immersive sound), Epic Games (creator of Unreal Engine, and several VR titles), and The VOID (fully immersive location-based VR entertainment -- they did the Ghostbusters activation in Times Square in NY).

Related Stocks:  The Walt Disney Company ($DIS)

 

...and just a few more

 

FUNDING IN Q2 RESULTS ARE IN

 

GO SKYDIVING SAFELY… AND INDOORS!

 

APPLE IS HIRING FOR VR/AR POSITIONS

 

NOKIA AND XIAOMI, SITTING IN A TREE…

 

3 TRENDS IN AUDIO TO LISTEN FOR

 

JUMP INTO THIS HAPTIC SUIT AND FEEL ALL THE FEELS

 

INSIDE PETER JACKSON’S NEW AR STUDIO

 

AUGMENTED REALITY ON YOUR FEET



THIS WEEK’S (7/5/17) TOP5 VR&AR NEWS

THIS WEEK’S (7/5/17) TOP5 VR&AR NEWS

1) APPLE DOESN’T WANT YOU TO KNOW ABOUT THIS ACQUISITION

An anonymous tip lead MacRumors to the fact that Apple just dropped some cash on a German-based computer vision company called SensoMotoric Instruments. Not only was this acquisition not announced, but Apple actually did the deal through a shell company called Vineyard Capital Corporation. Apple has confirmed the acquisition but, per usual, refuses to “discuss [their] purpose or plans” so we do not know financial terms at this point. SMI focuses on both the hardware and software side of eye-tracking technology, and has a product for the automobile industry which tracks where a driver is looking. Prior to the acquisition, the company has also shown eye-tracking solutions for VR headsets like the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, and the Gear VR. Who knows when Apple will actually release any kind of smart glasses product -- but it looks like they might want to know what you’re looking at.

Related Stocks:  Apple Inc. ($AAPL), Facebook, Inc. ($FB), HTC Corporation ($2498.TW), Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd ($005930.KS)

 

2) APPLE’S SECRET FEATURE HIDDEN IN IOS

In more Apple-loves-secrecy news, if you have downloaded the public beta of iOS 11 (the full version will be released in September), there’s a fun little 3D treasure hidden in the Maps app. The usual Flyover feature on Apple Maps lets you view digital images of areas from a bird’s eye view, and you can swipe around the screen to navigate. But in the iOS 11 public beta, you can walk around and the bird’s eye view will reflect how you’re walking around in the real world. So, instead of swiping to navigate, you can walk around and your Maps app will update your view as though you were actually flying around. This seems to be a bit of an Easter egg, is not stable due to the fact that it’s in a beta version, and it is not clear if this will be a feature available when iOS 11 is released… but it is still kind cool.

Related Stocks:  Apple Inc. ($AAPL)

 

3) GOOGLE PLAYS WITH ADS IN VR

Coming out of their internal incubator program called Area 120, Google is showing off an early prototype of what an advertisement looks like in VR. They released a GIF displaying the look and feel of the ad unit -- which basically looks like a floating, branded 3D cube that pops out a 2D video. It makes sense to utilize an existing format like traditional video as those are assets that already exist, and don’t require more cost to create-- like an immersive ad would. Again, this is an early version of what ads will eventually look like in VR, and that ads are a way for developers to monetize their content in addition to straight sales… but this still feels a little bit like the VR version of banner ads.

Related Stocks:  Alphabet, Inc. ($GOOG)

 

4) NEW VENTURE CAPITAL FUND: ELEVEN VENTURES

Based in Palo Alto, game industry executives Michael Howse and Greg Ballard have started a new early-stage VC firm that focuses on esports, VR, AR, and AI… and no doubt the eventual merging of them all. The fund is claiming to adopt a “co-creation” model -- one in which the portfolio size is limited, but the time and energy spent on nurturing portfolio companies is greater. An interesting company in their portfolio is Nimble Collective -- a collaborative animation platform, and the fund has already had an exit: they invested in Nitero, which was acquired by AMD a couple of months ago. Clearly, the two founders’ networks are an asset: Howse was formerly an executive at AMD.

Related Stocks:  Advanced Micro Devices, Inc. ($AMD)

 

5) INVESTMENT & FUNDING WRAPUP

Tokyo-based Vaqso has secured $600,000 to bring scents to VR. Their product is a candy bar-sized device that attaches to the top of your VR headset, and can release up to three different odors and control the intensity with a fan. Vaqso’s seed round came from Japanese VC firm Weru Investment.

 

Another Tokyo-based startup, Holoeyes, has raised $1.3M in Series A funding for their surgical simulation platform. Holoeyes can convert CT data into 3D figures, with which medical staff can interact and learn. Following a $89K seed round, the company’s Series A was funded by Nissay Capital.

 

In an unsurprising move, Adobe has acquired Mettle VR -- the company behind the very popular SkyBox suite of plug-ins that make adding VFX like transitions and titles easier to immersive content. The amount of funding is undisclosed.

 

Los Angeles, CA-based company Wonder has announced that it raised a Series A round led by Grishin Robotics and TCL Communication Holdings Ltd. Last summer, the secretive company announced that they raised a seed round, but opted to not disclose the amount; now, we know that the seed plus the Series A equates to $14M. The company claims that they are working on some type of hardware that is VR-ready, and the company is thinking of it as “one device to rule them all.” Although no one really knows what Wonder is working on, they have managed to rally an celebrity-heavy group of investors: from Nolan Bushnell the founder of Atari to former NBA commissioner David Stern to Kevin Spacey to NFL player Arian Foster.

Related Stocks:  Adobe Systems Incorporated ($ADBE)

 

FIND YOUR VIRTUAL GIRLFRIENDS AT THE TOKYO VR SHOW

 

AIR CONDITIONING FOR YOUR SWEATY HELMET FACE

 

ARRESTED FOR WEARING A VR HEADSET IN PUBLIC?

 

VIRTUAL REALITY ESPORTS PRO LEAGUE

 

OMG A MEASURING TAPE IN YOUR PHONE!

 

KNUCKLE CONTROLLERS START SHIPPING TO SELECT DEVELOPERS

 

THE INTERNET HATES CEOS WHO USED VR TO SIMULATE HOMELESSNESS

 

QUALCOMM’S NEW PARTNERS FOR THEIR STANDALONE HEADSET

THIS WEEK’S (6/26/17) TOP5 VR&AR NEWS

THIS WEEK’S (6/26/17) TOP5 VR&AR NEWS

1) YOUTUBE KNOWS WHERE YOU’RE LOOKING

At VidCon, YouTUbe made several announcements-- a heatmaps app to track attention for 360 videos, a new 180 degree video format, and 180 degree cameras. Using color to signal hot spots of where people are looking, if your 360 video has 1,000 or more views you can have access to these metrics. Of course, YouTube has been using these metrics internally-- and have found that the majority of people just don’t want to turn around to watch 360 videos. It turns out that 75% of people watch only the front 90% of 360 videos. These results probably informed YouTube’s next announcement…
Related Stocks:  Alphabet, Inc. ($GOOG)

2) IN WHICH YOUTUBE SAYS 180 DEGREE VIDEO IS GOOD ENOUGH

Perhaps worried about tasking their content engine personalities with the high ask of creating good 360 video, YouTube has released a 180 degree video format half the size. Now you won’t have to hide the boom mic and camera crew or learning any new editing skills--  you can just point and shoot to get glorious stereoscopic 3D video. Perfect for live streaming as it lowers the needed bandwidth, it’s not only easier for you to get closer to your favorite content creator--  but is the perfect match for live performances like sports and music… and let’s face it, we’re lazy and don’t really want to look behind us anyways.
Related Stocks:  Alphabet, Inc. ($GOOG)

3) GOOGLE’S 180 DEGREE CAMERA

Partnering with LG, Lenovo, and YI Technology, Google is making a new category of point-and-shoot 180 degree cameras. Along with their VR180 YouTube video format, this is yet another foray into lowering the barrier to entry for YouTube creators to create more immersive content. The tech and search giant is also releasing a certification program, and Z CAM is the first manufacturer partner--  and YouTube has enough power to coerce plenty of other companies to join. As all this 180 content will display as traditional 16:9 videos on flat monitors, this could potentially be more efficient for content creators--  essentially making a typical video AND an immersive one at the same time.
Related Stocks:  Alphabet, Inc. ($GOOG), LG Display Co., Ltd. ($LPL), Lenovo Group Limited ($LNVGY)

4) THE VIRTUAL COOKIE PROJECT

If you’ve ever been defeated by a diet, perhaps this experimental prototype from Japan could help you: the “Meta Cookie” project. By using digital overlays to alter the perception of size of a real world cookie, you would be convinced that (an actually) smaller cookie was much bigger--- thereby reducing portion size. Not content to merely change the size of food, the developmental headset pumps out different scents-- and the smell of something like vanilla or strawberry creates the sensation that the bland cookie is actually that flavor. It could be interesting (or horribly Dystopian) to add this to institutions notorious for bad food, like hospitals.

5) INTEL WANTS TO CHANGE HOW YOU WATCH SPORTS

Intel has been leaning big into sports as a way to showcase their technology, and they keep getting more ambitious with virtual reality. The chip giant acquired two VR-related companies in the past 18 months: Replay Technology (they paid $175M for the Israeli company, which uses volumetric capture techniques for sweeping 360 replays of big sports moments) and Voke (manufacturer of a stereoscopic camera that live streams to different devices and channels). Intel is not only working with the NFL to install their system for 360 volumetric replays (they have already been working with the NBA) to pro football stadiums, but the company has also announced a partnership with the Olympics-- bringing you that much closer to your favorite international champions.
Related Stocks:  Intel Corporation ($INTC)
 

...and just a few more…
 

DIVE INTO THE WORLD OF DALI VIA VIRTUAL MUSEUM

 

DID APPLE’S ARKIT JUST KILL A GENERATION OF AR BUSINESSES?

 

THIS HEADSET HAS RESOLUTION AS GOOD AS YOUR EYES

 

THE KNUCKLE CONTROLLERS ARE COMING

 

AL JAZEERA’S VR STUDIO RELEASES FIRST VR DOCUMENTARY

 

STUDY SHOW VR CAN AFFECT RACIAL BIASES

 

ZENIMAX IS STILL TRYING TO STOP OCULUS

 

CAN AUGMENTED REALITY SAVE OUR JOBS FROM THE ROBOTS?

 

PLAY WITH FAKE DRAGONS, IN REAL LIFE HELP TRACK AIRPLANES

 

THERMOELECTRIC SKIN LETS YOU FEEL HOT AND COLD IN VR

This week’s (6/20/17) Top5 VR&AR news

This week’s (6/20/17) Top5 VR&AR news

1) PLAN YOUR TRIP TO TOKYO TO PLAY MARIO KART IN VR

Book your flights now, because the lines are undoubtedly going to be long at the upcoming VR Zone Shinjuku in Tokyo. Not only will Bandai Namco’s flagship VR arcade boast VR experiences like Ghost in the Shell and Dragon Ball Z, but will also feature a VR experience where you can become everyone’s favorite cartoon Italian plumber Mario… or Yoshi, or the Princess, or Bowser! You’ll be able to sit in a real-world go-kart rig and race around in the virtual world. It’s interesting to note that although Nintendo did not directly develop this virtual version of the 2005 arcade classic Mario Kart GP, it is an official remake and has Nintendo’s blessing… but the experience will be using the HTC Vive and not Nintendo hardware (will the Nintendo Switch soon be the first VR-compatible hardware from Nintendo???). OK, OK, it’s not open until 2019 but we’re still too tickled.
Related Stocks: BANDAI NAMCO Holdings Inc. ($NCBDF), HTC Corporation ($2498.TW)

 

2) FIRST VR ESPORTS LEAGUE FORMS AND INTEL GOES WIRELESS AT E3

Intel had a bright presence at E3, showing off their wireless solution for the HTC Vive for the first time in public as well as announcing a virtual reality eSports league. Their headset add-on that enables you to cut the cord on your headset was first announced back at CES earlier this year, and we’re waiting on an official release date. Teaming up with Oculus and ESL, Intel declared the world’s first virtual reality eSports league-- with a prize pool of $200K. If you want to get a piece of that sweet cash, start practicing: the two featured multiplayer games are The Unspoken from Insomniac Games and Echo Arena from Ready at Dawn.

Related Stocks: Intel Corporation ($INTC), HTC Corporation ($2498.TW), Facebook, Inc. ($FB)

 

3) BRAND NAME GAMES COME TO VR: E3 HIGHLIGHTS

At E3, the annual bonanza of gaming, there was plenty of big names that announced their first forays into VR: name brands like Fallout 4, Doom, Skyrim, Final Fantasy… even the Walking Dead is creating a VR series. Sony’s PSVR has some interesting originals coming out as well, like Bravo Team from Supermassive (who did Until Dawn, and are also launching Inpatient which is actually a VR prequel to Until Dawn), a mysterious sci-fi focused Star Child, and an adventure game called Moss with a cute little mouse hero. One big name that was notably missing from the VR news at E3 was Microsoft-- who, contrary to many predictions, did not announce anything VR-related for Xbox. When pressed as to why, the head of Xbox said that the Microsoft is concentrating on Windows Mixed Reality for now, and that there are too many hurdles for in-house gaming adoption by consumers-- and referred specifically to cords as an issue (maybe they can ask Intel for help with that?).
Related Stocks: Sony Corporation ($SNE), Microsoft Corporation ($MSFT), Intel Corporation ($INTC)

 

4) SAMSUNG BUYS A SOCIAL VR CARD

Based in New York, a startup called VRB (pronounced “verb”) has been acquired by Samsung. Creating social VR methods of expression and communication as well as several applications for 360 video content, the acquisition was quiet and the terms undisclosed-- although sources have said the sum is $5.5M and now all VRB-made apps’ terms of service say that the company is now officially a division of Samsung Research America.
Related Stocks: Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd ($005930.KS)

 

5) INVESTMENT & FUNDING WRAPUP

San Rafael, CA-based Nomadic VR has raised $6M in funding to expand their team and growth of their location-based VR entertainment tech: a modular, turnkey solution that can be installed at theme parks, resorts, arcades, cinemas, and more. The founders have an impressive resume from the gaming and entertainment industries, most notably working on such productions as Star Wars, The Mummy, Pirates of the Caribbean, The Matrix: Revolutions. This round of seed funding was led by Horizons Ventures, with participation from Vulcan Capital, Verus International, Presence Capital, and Maveron.

 

Based in Palo Alto, CA, Osso VR has raised $2M to progress production of their VR surgical training simulations. The co-founders are veterans of the medical device industry as well as professional game development, and the seed round was led by SignalFire and Anorak Ventures participated.

 

...and just a few more

 

SALVADOR DALI IN VR

 

ARE YOU IN LOS ANGELES JULY 14-1TH? YOU’RE INVITED: THE AT&T SHAPE EXPO

 

CALL FOR YOUTUBERS WHO LOVE 360 VIDEO: THE CREATORS LAB

 

L’OREAL USES VR TO MAKE INTERNAL COMPANY DECISIONS

 

ARAB EMIRATES AIRLINES TESTING OUT AR

 

5 TECH TITANS BULLISH ON AR

 

SNAP DEVELOPING 2ND GEN VERSION OF SPECTACLES

 

PUBLIC AWARENESS OF VR IS GROWING AND PSVR LEADS THE PACK

 

GOOGLE LAUNCHES 3000 YEARS OF FASHION & CULTURE PLUS VR