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

This week’s (6/8/17) Top5 VR&AR news

This week’s (6/8/17) Top5 VR&AR news

1) APPLE ACTUALLY TALKS ABOUT VR

To many eager iOS users out there (myself included), Apple’s refusal to release or even discuss anything VR-related has been frustrating. Now Apple has thrown us a bone, and during their World Wide Developer Conference this week gave us Apple silo folk some good news. The new 27-inch iMac and iMac Pro are VR Ready right out of the box (which stops our PC friends from making fun of us… sort of), and the company also announced a developer kit for external graphics support for the adventurous. Also noteworthy: Final Cut Pro X will be able to support 360 video editing, Unity and Unreal now have VR support for Macs, and SteamVR is coming to Mac… and although there was a sweet on-stage mixed reality demo using Star Wars assets and an HTC Vive, there was no mention of support for Oculus.
Related Stocks: Apple Inc. ($AAPL), HTC Corporation ($2498.TW)

 

2) APPLE TAKES A (VERY SOLID) SWING AT AUGMENTED REALITY

Apple, humble as always, announced that their ARKit made iOS the largest AR platform in the world… overnight. Although it did feel like their WWDC this week was playing catch up to announcements Google made two years ago, Apple’s AR offerings felt more polished. They even brought in the cinematic genius of Peter Jackson, Lord of the Rings director, to show off a demo from his new company Wingnut AR: a tabletop 3D AR scene of a “remote outpost on a desolate world” attacked by space airships. ARKit supports iOS 11 (coming this fall) and Unity, Unreal, Scenekit, and if you have an iPhone 5s or higher-- you can get in on the action (plus a public beta is coming in June). However… we’re still waiting for those apple_AR_glasses. 
Related Stocks: Apple Inc. ($AAPL), Alphabet, Inc. ($GOOG)

 

3) WALMART PARTNERS WITH STRIVR LABS FOR VR TRAINING

America’s largest employer recently spent $2.7B on an internal training program called Walmart Academy-- and it turns out that virtual reality will play a part. Walmart has partnered with STRIVR Labs, known for sports training simulations and formed out of Stanford’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab. The conglomerate will use immersive training with an emphasis on customer service roles, as well as for situations that would be inconvenient to recreate-- from cleaning up spills to training for the madness of Black Friday.
Related Stocks: Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. ($WMT)

 

4) BETTER WEED WITH AUGMENTED REALITY

In a use case that I haven’t yet seen, augmented reality is being combined with AI to help farmers... and cannabis growers. A company called Huxley is developing what they call “plant vision” -- which they claim can save 5-10% of crops and reduce labor time by 30-40%. Not only do horticulturists have ability to see data like temperature and humidity overlaid the real world with AR glasses, but image recognition and AI help spot (and predict/avoid) diseased plants. By focusing on agriculture, this combination of AR and AI could help more people become effective and efficient farmers-- as well as create the smart, self-contained growhouses of the future.

 

5) LET’S SPECULATE ON Q1 HEADSET SALES

According to a recent report from International Data Corporation, there were a total of 2.3M VR headset units shipped in the first quarter of 2017. IDC says that Samsung is the current leader with over 20% market share, and shipping almost a quarter of a million of their Gear VR devices in Q1 of this year (and the new Gear VR has a handy-dandy controller, too). The lone console representative thus far in the industry, Sony is the runner-up in this hardware sales race with almost 430K units (the PSVR requires a PS4 or PS4+ to power). Out of the Big 2 of PC-powered, top-tier VR hardware… the HTC Vive won over the Oculus Rift, with the Vive doubling the Rifts’ sales at 200K units. The report did not include Google Cardboard or Daydream, BUT… wait for it… told us that #5 in HMD sales was the Alcatel VR headset. I must confess that I had to look up the Alcatel headset (turns out it is similar to the Gear VR but has handcuffed content distribution and is compatible with a phone I’ve never seen).
Related Stocks: Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd ($005930.KS), Sony Corporation ($SNE), HTC Corporation ($2498.TW), Facebook, Inc. ($FB), Alphabet, Inc. ($GOOG)

VRScout Report:   VRScout Report: The Investing in VR Mixer

VRScout Report: VRScout Report: The Investing in VR Mixer

This week’s episode is a live recording from the panel discussion at VRScout’s most recent monthly mixer, which addressed the topic of Investing in VR. We chat all about how investors are thinking about the VR/AR industry, as well as insight from funded VR/AR companies about their journey to secure financing. From the VR/AR side of things we have Nancy Bennett (CCO & GM of Two Bit Circus), Gil Baron (CEO of Mindshow), and Ikrima Elhassan (co-founder of Kite & Lightning). From the investor perspective we have Peter Rojas (who founded Engadget and Gizmodo and is investor at Betaworks), and Amanda Robson (investor at Norwest Partners which was founded in 1961 and is an investment firm with approximately $5 billion in capital). We also chat a bit about Women in XR, which is a fund and initiative connecting female founders and leaders to capital, resources, and each other. Sign up at: www.womenxr.com

 

This week’s (5/30/17) Top5 VR&AR news

This week’s (5/30/17) Top5 VR&AR news

1)REJOICE, iOS USERS: YOU CAN USE THE NEW SAMSUNG 360 CAMERA, TOO

I’ve been a big fan of the cute little Samsung Gear 360 camera since its first unveiling in the spring of 2016, and always recommend it to people inquiring about the best consumer-friendly 360 cameras out there. However, the BIG caveat has always been the same: you can’t use the Gear 360 app with an iOS device-- that means no live view, no real-time rendering, no simple social sharing. Now, with the release of the second-generation Samsung 360 camera, the story has shifted: if you have an iPhone 7, 7+, 6S, 6S+, SE running iOS 10.0 or later you can use the Gear 360 app (unfortunately, this is not a retrograde compatibility-- it only affects the new 2017 version). The cost is lower than the 2016 version with a pricetag of $229 and you can record in up to 4K resolution. Also notable, if you’re planning on getting the upcoming Galaxy S or S+, here is a bundle that pairs this little guy with the Galaxy S8 series for just $49.
Related Stocks: Apple Inc. ($AAPL), Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd ($005930.KS

 

2)THE STANDALONE MOBILE HEADSET THAT HTC IS KEEPING IN JAPAN

Remember, HTC is the Taiwanese-based hardware manufacturer and the HTC Vive Tech Corporation is a subsidiary that partners with American-based software company Valve for content via their huge Steam library. Keeping the separation between HTC and HTC Vive in mind, this story perhaps makes slightly more sense. HTC has announced a mobile headset called Link-- which will only be available in Japan, works with HTC’s new U11 smartphone, and is not affiliated with HTC Vive. To make matters murkier, there’s also the recently-announced partnership between Google and HTC Vive to create new standalone mobile headsets for all Google Daydream-ready Android phones. If you’re confused as to what this means regarding the boundaries HTC and HTC Vive, well-- I am too.
Related Stocks: HTC Corporation ($2498.TW), Alphabet, Inc. ($GOOG)

 

3)AIRLINES TESTING AUGMENTED REALITY TO READ YOUR EMOTIONS

Air New Zealand is one airlines provider that is testing how the Microsoft Hololens can help improve in-flight customer service. Flight attendants can wear the AR device and, through facial recognition technology, can access flight user data like destination, loyalty status, allergies, when they received their last in-flight snack or beverage… and even assess your mood. Although this project is only in the testing phase right now, it’s interesting to note that the software company that Air New Zealand is partnering with is Dimension Data. Since the word “data” is baked into the very name of the corporation, it is not a far stretch to imagine that they would also want to collect data on you… and maybe sell that data?
Related Stocks: Microsoft Corporation ($MSFT)

 

4)RIDE A VIRTUAL WATERSLIDE WITHOUT GETTING WET AT TOPSHOP

Releasing a simple 360 video as a marketing ploy is old news these days, so it’s refreshing when companies embrace VR to enhance their experiential brand activations in unique ways. Topshop is no stranger to using VR as a marketing tool (they live-streamed a virtual catwalk all the way back in 2014), but they’ve really taken the plunge on this one. At their flagship London store, Topshop made a waterslide simulator to celebrate the start of summer: complete with a virtual tube ride through a 3D recreation of the actual Oxford Street that lies just outside of the real-world store. Now this is what I call retail theater.

 

5)INVESTMENT & FUNDING WRAPUP

After quietly settling a gender discrimination lawsuit recently, it turns out that Magic Leap is back on the fundraising trail. Apparently the $1.4B that the secretive company has already secured is not enough to bring their proprietary augmented reality wearable tech to market, so reportedly Magic Leap is currently raising a Series D round of financing. Oh, and in case you were wondering if you had missed something--  no, they have still not yet released any kind of actual product.

Russia-based company Antilatency has raised a $2.1M seed round from Moscow-based fund IIDF. The company has created a solution for positional tracking on mobile VR, using infrared lights that are placed around the room and track you in real time by communicating with a small camera that you mount on a mobile VR headset.

Based in San Francisco, Unity Technologies has raised a new $400M round of private equity from Silver Lake Partners-- bringing their total funding to almost $690M. The company makes Unity, the extremely popular video game engine development platform that underlies reportedly 90% of the VR applications for the Samsung Gear VR headset. According to CEO John Riccitiello, the company is using this financing for employee retention as well as a safety net for more growth.
Related Stocks: Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd ($005930.KS

This week’s (5/24/17) Top5 VR&AR news

This week’s (5/24/17) Top5 VR&AR news

Subscribe to the VRScout Report podcast on iTunes for all the latest VR/AR news!

1)WATCH YOUTUBE IN VR… WITH YOUR FRIENDS!

With over 1B of hours of video content watched per day, YouTube certainly has quite the content as well as community-- and the next update to Google’s Daydream platform will make a solid social one-two punch of the two. Later this year, you’ll be able to watch YouTube content in VR and be able to chat with your friends--  and you’ll all be customized avatars. This announcement is hot on the heels of the release of Facebook’s social VR push with Facebook Rooms, and there are already plenty of social VR applications out there (like Rec Room, VRChat, Altspace, and High Fidelity, just to name a few)... but YouTube certainly owns the giant gorilla in the room: a robust library of content.
Related Stocks: Alphabet, Inc. ($GOOG), Facebook, Inc. ($FB)

 

2)...AND GOOGLE LEANS INTO SOCIAL SHARED VR EXPERIENCES

You’ll soon be able to broadcast your Daydream VR experiences to a Chromecast device or a smart TV, so that your friends can watch on the VR on the big screen while being in the same room. You’ll use your remote to pan around the 360 video on your flatscreen (which is, admittedly, nowhere near to the experience in a headset), but this will also support live 360 video--  which will probably be pretty cool to watch content like live concerts or sporting events.
Related Stocks: Alphabet, Inc. ($GOOG)

 

3)NO MORE FALLING OVER CORDS WITH UPCOMING WIRELESS HEADSETS

The race for standalone headsets is officially heating up. Google recently announced that they are partnering with HTC Vive and Lenovo to build new wireless headsets which we can look forward to later this year. The devices will use positional tracking (which will not require any external sensors) developed from expertise learned through creating Google’s Tango mapping technology and optimized for virtual reality. They are calling this VR-specific positional tracking WorldSense, and the headsets will also utilize the current Daydream Bluetooth remote so you can control your virtual world… with no cords to trip over!
Related Stocks: Alphabet, Inc. ($GOOG), HTC Corporation ($2498.TW)

 

4)THE BATTLE BETWEEN THE DISAPPEARING STORY APPS CONTINUES

It’s almost predictable at this point-- as soon as Snapchat announces something, Facebook has to roll out something similar either through its native Story function or through its Instagram property. Snapchat recently announced more options for advertisers through its new Sponsored World Lenses features, which allows brands to augment your surroundings with your phone’s outward facing camera (first used by Warner Bros. to promote their movie “Everything, Everything”). Then, like a soap opera, the very next day Instagram announced face filters that will augment your face with crowns, sparkles, and koala and bunny ears… taking yet another play directly from Snapchat’s book.
Related Stocks: Snap Inc. ($SNAP), Facebook, Inc. ($FB)

 

5)INVESTMENT & FUNDING WRAPUP

The beloved Austin, TX-based virtual reality content studio Owlchemy Labs has been acquired by Google. Makers of Rick and Morty: Virtual Rick-ality and Job Simulator (which earned $3M in sales), it seems like Owlchemy will continue releasing the slate of original games already in their pipeline and will be able to distribute that content on platforms other than Google’s Daydream. The financial details of the purchase has not been disclosed.
Related Stocks: Alphabet, Inc. ($GOOG)

 

UK-based startup Improbable has raised $502M in a Series B funding round led by SoftBank of Japan-- which puts the company in the $1B+ tier of tech company valuations. Founded in 2012, the company’s mission empowers developers to build enormous and detailed environments utilizing machine learning and distributed via cloud computing infrastructure.

 

San Francisco-based Vivid Vision has raised a $2.2M seed round to expand its vision-correcting virtual reality software program, which currently is available at more than 90 clinics and has treated more than 6,000 patients for ocular issues like amblyopia (sometimes referred to as “lazy eye”). The company was founded in 2014 by a programmer named James Blaha who suffered from amblyopia his entire life and suddenly found himself seeing in 3D for the first time when experimenting with an Oculus Rift developer kit. The Venture Reality Fund, CRCM Ventures, SOS Ventures, Anorak Ventures, and Liquid 2 Ventures (fun fact: Liquid 2 Ventures was co-founded by NFL great Joe Montana) participated in this seed round.

 

...and just a few more

 

UPLOAD VR SUED OVER “RAMPANT” SEXUAL BEHAVIOR IN THE WORKPLACE & WRONGFUL TERMINATION

LET’S PROVE THE FUTURE IS FEMALE AND ALTER REALITY

MICROSOFT’S UPCOMING MOTION CONTROLLERS

MICROSOFT SHOWS OFF A NEW AR GLASSES DESIGN

WEIRD OR AWESOME? OR JUST GROSS: HAPTIC SKIN

WHAT THE CLUCK? CHICKENS IN VR

MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL TO LIVE STREAM IN VR

INTEL TO LIVE STREAM THE PGA TOUR IN 360

BJORK DIGITAL COMES TO LA

MICROSOFT GETS PATENT FOR AR GLASSES THAT WILL TELL YOU TO STOP EATING

THE HEAD OF GOOGLE VR OPENS UP ABOUT THE PATH OF THE INDUSTRY

This week’s (5/10/17) Top5 VR&AR news

This week’s (5/10/17) Top5 VR&AR news

Subscribe to the VRScout Report podcast on iTunes for all the latest VR/AR news!

1.) SNAPCHAT PATENT POINTS TO AUGMENTED SPECTACLES CONTENT

Filed all the way back in 2015, Snapchat’s patent for an augmented reality database has finally been published. Although companies often file patents that go unused, it points to how Snap, Inc. is thinking about the next steps for how people will publish content captured with Spectacles. Although the trendy product’s surprise rollout via a Snapbot treasure hunt was marketing gold, their functionality is limited: they just record 10 seconds of video. By using a GPS-based system that gauges your location, the system would pull from an existing database to add 2D virtual objects to your videos and photos taken with Spectacles. We can’t wait to see if (when?) Snap, Inc. is able to shrink the form factor to add a display to Spectacles, so you can make your surroundings spicier just by looking through your Specs.

Related Stocks: Snap Inc. ($SNAP)
 

2.) OCULUS STORY STUDIO SHUTS DOWN, BUT MONEY GOES TO THE CREATORS

Facebook has shut down its internal VR production arm Oculus Story Studio. Creators of phenomenal early VR cinematic pieces like Lost, Henry (which won an Emmy!), and Wesley Allsbrook’s Dear Angelica, it seems that the studio’s purpose was to be an example of how to make great non-gaming content. Now that the industry has caught up a bit, and there are plenty of hungry and talented VR creators out there, Facebook is earmarking $50M to fund other people’s projects. “We’re now entering the next chapter of VR development, where new creators enter the market in anticipation of adoption and growth, and we’ve been looking at the best way to allocate our resources to create an impact on the ecosystem,” said Oculus’ VP of Content Jason Rubin-- who will be the one allocating those funds. Speaking of funds…

Related Stocks: Facebook, Inc. ($FB)
 

3.) OCULUS SAYS YES TO YEAR 2 OF VR FOR GOOD

Oculus is funding their VR for Good and Creators Lab programs for the second year in a row (and will be supported by that $50M which Facebook earmarked for externally developed content). VR for Good brings new creators to different global causes to highlight the need for social change and tell the stories of specific missions. Some highlights from 2016’s program are See Beyond Labels (Sarah Hill and Story UP Studios with Kamal Sinclair from Sundance New Frontiers) and One Eighty (Erin Aksu + Commonwealth Rights Initiative with Jess Kantor, indie filmmaker). Applications are open until May 15th, so sign up now!

Related Stocks: Facebook, Inc. ($FB)
 

4.) CONGRESS GETS INTO VR… AND MILWAUKEE GETS SUED

If you’re concerned with the surrounding implications of VR and AR on our society, now you know who to call: The Reality Caucus. Formed by 5 members of Congress, the initiative is focusing on sharing information between Congress and the U.S. tech industry. The Caucus specifically calls out privacy and intellectual property as areas of concern, as well as heat mapping analytics and biometric data as particular examples. No word on how they’re thinking about free speech-- which is one thing that an AR company feels Milwaukee is infringing upon with a recent ordinance that requires an interesting permit process for VR or AR apps (watch this story for legal precedents).

 

5.) INVESTMENT & FUNDING WRAPUP

In their Series B round, Ultrahaptics has raised $23M for their tech that utilizes ultrasound to essentially push vibrations to your hands--  resulting in a touchless interface that would let you feel like you were actually turning dials or flipping switches. One of the industries on which the company is aiming is automotive (control your dashboard with hand gestures!), and Dolby Family Ventures, Woodford Investment Management, Cornes and the IP Group participated in this round (which brings Ultrahaptics’ total funding to $40M).

Led by NVIDIA, a group of investors has funded fastdata.io with $1.5M for continued development on their real-time stream processing engine. Promising to increase processing speeds by three orders of magnitude while decreasing power requirements by almost 100%, these boosted efficiencies could potentially mean big things to VR/AR.

Absentia VR has raised $1.2M in pre-Series A from Exfinity Venture Partners and private investors to combine AI and virtual reality. The capital will be used to progress the development of Norah AI, which aims to create virtual reality content in the media and entertainment space with artificial intelligence (which gives an entirely new meaning to bot content).

Related Stocks: NVIDIA Corporation ($NVDA)

VRScout Report:: Highlights from Unity's Vision Summit

VRScout Report:: Highlights from Unity's Vision Summit

This week we cover Unity's Vision Summit and key highlights from the conference. We then feature a few hallway-style conversations with attendees, all of whom have different perspectives on the industry as well as varied takeaways from the expo. Featuring Brandon Bray (Microsoft), Matt Liszt (castAR), Niv Fisher (Racket:Nx), Berkley Frei (Morph 3D).au

This week’s (5/2/17) Top5 VR&AR news

This week’s (5/2/17) Top5 VR&AR news

1)IT’S NOW WAY EASIER TO COMBINE 360 VIDEO AND ANIMATION

Now you can easily integrate computer generated images and animations into your 360 videos, as well as create inexpensive interactivity. The process is simple, and creates two layers of spherical video played simultaneously. The 3D object layer is inserted, like the meat in a sandwich, between the two 360 video layers-- so now you can add dinosaurs to your real-life neighborhood park. Demonstrated live on-stage during the Unity Vision Summit, you can already try it out for yourself in the Unity 2017 beta.

 

2)THE STREAMING SERVICES BATTLE IT OUT IN VR: CRACKLE ANNOUNCES THEIR PLANS

Streaming services Netflix and Hulu have been in the VR space for a while (Netflix announced their app for Gear VR all the way back in the fall of 2015), and Sony-owned Crackle is attempting to catch up. You’ll soon be able to enjoy Crackle’s content on a flat screen in an immersive virtual theater environment, and the company has also announced VR content that will be companion pieces to their original content. The first one will star Rupert Grint (yes, Ron Weasley) and will take viewers deeper into the world of Snatch, Crackle’s original drama series. It will be exclusively distributed on PlayStation VR, and Crackle has also started production for VR experience for their original stop-motion animated series SuperMansion. Not to stop there, Crackle is also pushing to become the first VOD network to provide VR advertising opportunities-- which should be a solid argument for brands to release their immersive content on Crackle.

Related Stocks: Netflix, Inc. ($NFLX), Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd ($005930.KS), Sony Corporation ($SNE)

 

3)NETFLIX LOOKS TO GET AUGMENTED

Although Netflix CEO Reed Hastings has publicly been dismissive of the VR/AR medium as anything other than a vehicle for video games, actions should speak louder than words: Netflix is now working on an app for the Hololens. You’ve been able to pop on a VR headset and watch any Netflix content on a flatscreen TV in a virtual living room for a year and a half, and according to a recent job posting you’ll soon be able to do the same with the Microsoft Hololens.

Related Stocks: Netflix, Inc. ($NFLX), Microsoft Corporation ($MSFT)

 

4)ICYMI: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW FROM FACEBOOK’S F8 CONFERENCE

Facebook wants to convert their current 1.7B monthly traditional users into virtual reality users, but there’s a big challenge: how do you show someone without a VR headset what VR is? Well, a recent announcement addresses that very problem--  Facebook is releasing 360 video recording software to developers. This is how the software development kit will work: a developer adds the new plug-in to their game engine content, and then users can record their VR sessions… and post them to Facebook in the form of 360 videos. These 360 videos will show up not only in News Feeds, but you’ll also be able to relive the spherical virtual moments in a headset as well as viewable inside Facebook Spaces…

Now you can combine your virtual friends and your real world friends with Facebook Spaces. If you already have an Oculus Rift and Touch controllers, you can join the early open beta and dial in your parents via Facebook Messenger. Now, your parents can’t actually join you without a Rift, but you can have a Skype-style video call with them. A virtual call from Spaces will show up as a regular video Messenger call--  and then when your parents answer it, they’ll be able to chat with your avatar (whose cartoon mouth will be remarkably well-synced to your real yapper). Of course, your friends with Rifts can virtually join and you can share things like drawing in 3D, be immersed in a 360 photo or video together, show each other Moments or traditional photos, as well as take virtual selfies. Although Spaces is currently limited to only a few activities, and it’s only compatible with the Oculus Rift VR hardware, expect to see more virtual amusements as well as accessible hardware… eventually.

Perhaps a direct dig at recently self-professed “camera company” Snap, Inc., Mark Zuckerberg prefaced his recent Facebook Camera Effects announcement with some pointed words: “when you look around at all of the different cameras that are out there today, no one has built a platform yet.” In a possible direct move against their upstart competitor, Facebook has announced their Camera Effects suite with two major tools. The first tool is their “open platform” AR Studio (now accepting developer applications), which is similar to Snapchat Lenses and is a toolset for 3D artists to make augmented reality integrations to photos and videos. The second tool is called Frame Studio, and empowers any Facebook user to design static overlays to visual media (as well as being akin to Snapchat’s Geofilters). Looks like everyone wants to be a camera company these days.

Facebook has released two new camera designs as impressive (and almost magical?) followups to their $30K reference camera blueprints that they released a bit over a year ago. The flying saucer shape of 2016 has been, somewhat regrettably, replaced with an all-seeing eye design for the x6 (6 cameras) and the x24 (you guessed it-- 24 cameras). The two designs will be licensed to a select group of commercial partners… and the x24 claims to shoot 8K with 6 degrees of freedom. 6DOF means that you can actually move around the image, and the camera was created with the help of a thermal imaging company FLIR. These babies should shake up the 360 video world… as well as the post-production industry.

Related Stocks: Facebook, Inc. ($FB), Snap Inc. ($SNAP)

 

5)THE INVESTMENT & FUNDING WRAPUP

Based in Helsinki, Finland, Vizor raised $2.3M in funding. Vizor is a virtual reality software company that has recently launched the private beta of its VR creation and hosting platform. It is aimed at simplifying the 360 video and WebVR experiences on websites or Facebook. The round was led the the Venture Reality Fund, with participation from Boost VC, Lifeline Ventures, and Sisu Game Ventures.

The music-focused startup The Wave has raised another $4M in capital, adding to a previous $2.5M raised last fall. Based out of Austin, TX, the company enables fans from all over the globe to attend virtual shows with friends and watch artists perform live. The company has released the beta version of its social VR platform on Steam Early Access, and the new round of funding has been led by Upfront Ventures, with participation from the Venture Reality Fund, RRE Ventures, KPCB Edge, and Greycroft VR Gaming Tracker Fund.

HP’s corporate venture arm has invested in the Venture Reality Fund, one of the most experienced funds in the VR/AR industry. Although the amount of the deal was not disclosed, the VRF’s co-founder and general partner Marco DeMiroz said they are “excited to have HP Tech as a key investor in our fund and look forward to working closely with their team to introduce new applications for corporate innovation and productivity, while enhancing the customer experience and product development.”

Related Stocks: Hewlett Packard Enterprise Company ($HPE)

...and just a few more...

 

RIDLEY SCOTT’S PRODUCTION COMPANY LAUNCHES DEDICATED VR DIVISION, RELEASES ALIEN VR

TRIBECA FILM FESTIVAL LOVES VR

NOKIA AND LUCASFILM PARTNER FOR THE LAST JEDI VR CONTENT

NOW YOU CAN SHARE, SAVE, AND REMIX YOUR TILT BRUSH MASTERPIECES

JOHN LEGEND & BAOBAB STUDIOS TEAM UP FOR VR FILM

ADOBE IS WORKING ON NEXT-LEVEL ALGORITHMS FOR YOUR 360 VIEWING PLEASURE

YES, YOU’LL BE SCARED: UPCOMING WALKING DEAD VR EXPERIENCE CONFIRMED

APPLE HIRES AUGMENTED REALITY EXPERT FROM NASA

INTEL TEAMS UP WITH STANFORD AND CARNEGIE MELLON

GOOGLE’S JUMP START PROGRAM CONNECTS CREATORS WITH CAMERAS & RESOURCES

HUGGING AND SMELLING TREES… BECAUSE ART