This week’s (4/11/17) Top5 VR&AR news

This week’s (4/11/17) Top5 VR&AR news

1)HTC VIVE’S VIVEPORT LAUNCHES SUBSCRIPTION SERVICE

First launched back in September of 2016, Viveport is the app marketplace exclusive to the HTC Vive-- almost HTC’s answer to Oculus Home, if you will. Featuring a wide array of content, not just games, Viveport has released a subscription service. It seems that most early adopters (often hardcore gamers) have preferred Valve-owned Steam VR (which features mostly gaming content), but that could start changing. If you can now spend $6.99 a month and get unlimited access to 5 titles that are normally priced anywhere from $10 to $50, that could be an incentivize for users to give Viveport a try. Pay attention--  monetization models are a big experiment at this point, so a lot of people are taking notes on this one.

Related Stocks: HTC Corporation ($2498.TW)
 

2)PLAYSTATION CONSIDERS ARCADE ROLLOUT

According to a recent report from the Wall Street Journal, PlayStation is developing strategic partnerships to roll out a location-based entertainment play for PSVR like VR video game arcades. Despite the WSJ’s opinion that this tactic is a response to slower-than-expected sales, in February Sony disclosed that their sales numbers were on track to exceed their internal goal of 1M units in 6 months (and location-based activations were likely integrated into their strategy from the beginning). Although it does not seem that PlayStation is planning on owning and operating the facilities at this point, they have confirmed that a lot of new PSVR games are in active development from Chinese companies--  so expect to add more titles to your PSVR favorites like Resident Evil.

Related Stocks: Sony Corporation ($SNE)
 

3)SHAZAM IS STILL LISTENING, BUT IS LOOKING TO GETTING AUGMENTED

You know you’ve made it when your company name becomes a verb. Shazam’s initial audio focus as a music-identifying (and then selling) service has grown into an advertising-based revenue model. Shazam Codes (sort of a fresh twist on QR codes) rolled out a year ago and enable users to unlock games, deals, or other experiences. Now, they’re taking the embrace of the visual even further, and steering Shazam into augmented reality. The new CTO, Richard Sharp, has been brought on board to help develop and integrate AR technologies into the app, saying that they are “sitting on a goldmine of data…[and] can predict what’s going to be in the Top 40.” Their recent partnership with Snapchat lets you Shazam song from your friends’ snaps, and Snap, Inc. is also a company focused on AR development. You might imagine some fun ways that we can Shazam the world around us in the future… like through Spectacles, perhaps?

Related Stocks: Snap Inc. ($SNAP)
 

4)AMD WANTS TO GO WIRELESS

AMD has acquired Austin, TX-based wireless chip maker Nitero--  their IP as well as their team. Although the terms of the deal were not disclosed, this acquisition helps AMD catch up to competitors like Intel and Qualcomm (who already have their own wireless chip divisions). Nitero is quite involved in the VR/AR industry, specifically with headset manufacturers and Valve, and no doubt AMD will leverage those connections to their benefit. Along with the growing demand for wireless HMDs is the need for wireless chips, and with the combined strength of AMD and Nitero’s technology we might see enhanced VR performance. AMD has touted the need for higher resolution for photorealistic VR--  and while we won’t see 16K-level anytime soon, this is one step closer to the Matrix.

Related Stocks: Advanced Micro Devices, Inc. ($AMD), Intel Corporation ($INTC), QUALCOMM Incorporated ($QCOM)

 

5)INVESTMENT & FUNDING WRAPUP

San Francisco-based company Lightform came out of stealth mode with a $2.6M seed investment to continue development on a computer and 3D scanning device that enables you to quickly scan detailed scenes and turn any real-world object (like a building) into a screen without any distortion. Although this process is well-known as projection mapping, Lightform claims that this is the “world’s first computer for projected AR.” The seed round was led by Lux Capital and Seven Seas Partners, with participation from the National Science Foundation and angel investors.

Pasadena, CA-based data visualization and analytics company Virtualitics, Inc. has announced a $4.4M Series A funding round. The company combines VR/AR data visualization, artificial intelligence, natural language, and machine learning that empowers users to examine huge amounts of data in a shared virtual office and collaborative environment. The company boasts an impressive team, with stellar resumes ranging from NASA JPL to Deutsche Bank. The round was led by the Venture Reality Fund, and co-founder and general partner Marco DeMiroz says that the “company’s platform is truly transformative and can be applied to any industry that relies heavily on data analytics, representing tremendous market opportunity on a global scale.”

 

...and just a few more…

 

DID OCULUS GET SUED (AGAIN)???

APPLE SAYS VR IS WHY NEXT MAC PRO NEEDS MORE POWER

VR PORN COMPANY BADOINK SAYS 40% OF DOWNLOADS CAME FROM GEAR VR

OMNIDIRECTIONAL TREADMILL VIRTUIX IS NOW AN OFFICIAL HARDWARE PARTNER OF HTC VIVE

WANDER AROUND DRAKE’S FUTURE MANSION IN VR

YOU ARE A BAD DISTRACTED DRIVER, AND VR WILL SHOW YOU WHY

USING VR TO FIGHT DEPRESSION

SMURFS IN MIXED REALITY!!!

NISSAN + STAR WARS TEAM UP ON VR EXPERIENCE

IS GOOGLE WORKING ON A VR MUSIC APP? RECENT HIRE SAYS MAYBE

GORILLAZ 360 MUSIC VIDEO HIT 3M VIEWS IN FIRST 48 HOURS

This week’s (4/4/17) Top5 VR&AR news

This week’s (4/4/17) Top5 VR&AR news

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

1)NEW SAMSUNG GEAR COMES WITH A MAGIC WAND

The upcoming Samsung Gear VR will boast a controller, operating sort of like a laser pointer (functionally similar to Google Daydream’s mobile controller but features a trigger). The launch date for the 2017 Gear VR and Controller combo is April 21st, and is priced at $129-- and the controller’s compatibility will be retroactive, meaning you can upgrade your older Gear VR headset with a solo controller for $39. The fancy new mobile VR hardware was not just a companion announcement to the anticipated Galaxy S8 and S8+ at the recent Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, but will also be bundled with pre-orders of the S8 series. Samsung padded the deal with some sweet VR content partnerships (Ghost in the Shell, Live Nation, UFC, and Summer X Games) and launched the new Stories in 360 program as well. 

Related Stocks: Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd ($005930.KS), Alphabet, Inc. ($GOOG)


2)THE GEAR 360 CAMERA JUST GOT CUTER… AND MORE COMPATIBLE

One of our favorite little consumer 360 cameras, the Gear 360 from Samsung just got smaller and more streamlined. The redesign brings the lenses closer together for a smoother stitch, and has become even more handheld with the base doubling as an integrated grip. If you’re an iOS user who has been left out in the cold, rejoice! The new Gear 360 camera will run on iPhone 6S and later iPhones running at least iOS 10.0, and you can live stream all your content to Facebook and YouTube. No word on pricing yet (they say it’ll be less than the original Gear 360, which was an approachable $350), but the cost of consumer 360 cameras is rapidly dropping and the market is getting quite competitive. 

Related Stocks: Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd ($005930.KS), Apple Inc. ($AAPL)
 

3)FACEBOOK ROLLS OUT 360 DEGREES OF LIVE STREAMING GLORY FOR ALL

Outside of a few partnerships with select media publishers (shameless plug, at VRScout we teamed up with Facebook to do a 360 live stream of President Obama’s Farewell Address back in January), Facebook has kept its spherical live streaming capabilities out of the public’s hands… until now. Of course, although the social platform assures us that they will “continue to work with other manufacturers to integrate additional cameras,” right now the functionality is limited to a handful of partners: the newly announced Samsung Gear 360 (the upcoming 2017 version), Giroptic IO, Insta360, ALLie Camera, and more professional options like the Z CAM S1 and Nokia Ozo. For anyone live streaming in 360, Facebook caution that you’ll need beefy wifi to ensure quality of the 360 live streams, as well as titillated all the audiophiles out there: support for spatialized audio will be coming soon.

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

4)PALMER LUCKEY IS GONE FROM FACEBOOK

Ironically announced around the same time as the one-year anniversary of the consumer launch of the Oculus Rift, founder Palmer Luckey has left Facebook. The official statement is that Luckey’s departure was voluntary, and perhaps could just be part of a larger strategy overhaul to take VR mainstream that is being led by Hugo Barra (who led product for Google’s Android operating system). However, after the pro-Trump meme scandal broke in September (Luckey was secretly funding an online anti-Hillary Clinton troll group), Luckey was no longer seen in public, on Twitter, or even at the Oculus Developer Conference in the fall. That is, until he was the main defendant in the ZeniMax vs. Oculus trial (which led to $500M awarded to ZeniMax over alleged IP misappropriation). We don’t know exactly how Luckey’s exit really went down, but hey-- he’s 24 years old and is worth over $700M. He’ll be fine.

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

5)HOLOBUILDER GETS $2.25M INVESTMENT

German-American startup HoloBuilder has received a venture round of $2.25M from Tandem Capital and construction technology VC Brick & Mortar Ventures. Winning the Constructech 2017 Top Products award, HoloBuilder’s competition is companies like Autodesk and Bentley Systems and has been described as “having X-Ray vision for your building.” The program increases communication efficiency and reduces costs for general contractors by enabling speedy 360 degree on-site capture the building site, all supported by leading cloud software.

 

...and just a few more

 

FACEBOOK CONTROLS OCULUS VR’S PRIVACY SETTINGS… AND DATA

 

DID YOU LOOK AT A VR AD? HTC’S NEW VR AD SERVICE CAN TELL

 

FACEBOOK STEALS MORE PLAYS FROM SNAPCHAT’S BOOK

 

SCAR-JO PLAYS VR PICTIONARY & STARS IN GHOST IN THE SHELL VR EXPERIENCE

 

BEST VR AD YET? OSTRICH LEARNS HOW TO FLY

 

LEARN HOW TO ESCAPE A BURNING HOUSE WITHOUT BEING IN A BURNING HOUSE

 

GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS BLOW MINDS W/ INTERACTIVE AR TOUR OF STADIUM

 

FORD BRINGING VR INTO THE SALES PROCESS

This week’s (3/28/17) Top5 VR&AR news

This week’s (3/28/17) Top5 VR&AR news

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

1) BMW USES VR TO BUILD CARS FASTER & CHEAPER

Originally announced in the spring of 2016, BMW has been using VR to cut costs and expedite development. The German auto manufacturer evaluates design features in virtual reality before building prototypes in actual reality, using the famous high-quality physics-based rendering power of Unreal for the game engine and using the HTC Vive for the VR hardware. BMW has also baked in the ability for team members to interact together in the same virtual environment, no matter where they are in the world.

Related Stocks: BMW ($BMW.TI), HTC Corporation ($2498.TW

 

2) DISNEY USES VR FOR RESEARCH WHILE CEO SAYS WE’LL SEE AR AT THEME PARKS

Confirming theme park purists’ predictions that VR headsets are unlikely to be seen at Disney’s parks (at least anytime soon), CEO Bob Iger instead said that we can look forward to mixed reality attractions. Iger also said he spends his Tuesday afternoons wearing a some kind of head-mounted device at the Disney engineering lab (prompting speculation that he’s referencing their partnership with Magic Leap, which was announced back in June). To further mess with our minds, Disney Research just released a paper about their findings on human perception and motor skills… which reveals that Disney researchers have been using a VR system to observe how users catch a ball in real life.

Related Stocks: The Walt Disney Company ($DIS)

 

3) VR WILL LET YOU GET INSIDE READY PLAYER ONE

If you haven’t yet read Ernest Cline’s futuristic thriller novel Ready Player One, get on board. Not only does the book’s action mostly take place in a virtual reality world, but Steven Spielberg has been working on a film adaptation that we should expect in spring of next year. Now we don’t have just a movie to look forward to--  we’ll be able to get inside Ready Player One with VR. A new, strategic partnership between Warner Bros. Pictures and HTC Vive means that we’ll get multiple VR experiences related to the RP1 world, and this content will be available through Viveport, Vive’s Viveport Arcade (their platform for location-based entertainment, and will go on the road to meet us at big consumer events.

Related Stocks: Time Warner Inc. ($TWX), HTC Corporation ($2498.TW

 

4) THE SURVEY SAYS: PEOPLE LOVE THEIR VR DEVICE

A recent consumer sentiment survey shows that a majority of recent buyers of VR devices state that they are “very satisfied” of their device, and that the performance exceeds expectations. Interestingly enough, non-gaming content measured higher than gaming content and music and travel experiences were at the top of the stack. Digging into the numbers, 61% report that the device works better than expected, 89% said they were Satisfied or Very Satisfied, 85% believe their device was Good Value, and perhaps most unexpected: 90% of purchasers rated their device Easy or Very Easy to use.

 

5) INVESTMENT & FUNDING WRAPUP

Announced back in July of last year with $100M in cash, Vive X is a global virtual reality accelerator program that exists to fund and train startups in San Francisco, Beijing, Shenzhen, and Taipei. Starting off with a group of 33 startups, the program focuses on enterprise, commerce, education, health, social, and esports-- and the program just announced 30 additions to the program and a new location: Israel. This new batch of accepted companies brings the total of companies funded by the Vive X program to over 60--  establishing the program as one of the leading VR investors in the world.

Related Stocks: HTC Corporation ($2498.TW

...and just a few more

6 AREAS OF OPPORTUNITY FOR AR INVESTORS

ENTERPRISE-FOCUSED VR MARKET TO GROW TO OVER $9B BY 2021
 

DOCTORS IN OHIO USE VR TO TRAIN FOR TRAUMA CARE
 

PUBLIC SAFETY OFFICERS IN UTAH USE VR FOR TRAINING

AUSTRALIAN MINING OPERATIONS IMPROVED WITH VR/AR


THEME PARKS LOVE VR AND AR, BUT HOW?


THE VOID GOES TO DUBAI


BE A FIGHTING ROBOT ON NEW VR ATTRACTION IN SOUTH KOREA


AMAZON MIGHT OPEN AR SHOPPING STORES


ADOBE PUTS THE HOLOLENS TO WORK IN RETAIL ANALYTICS


UK MOBILE NETWORK O2 TELEFONICA LAUNCHES MUSIC & RUGBY VR VIDEOS


WATCH NCAA MARCH MADNESS IN VR


GET GHOSTBUSTERS VR ON PLAYSTATION VR


SEPHORA UPDATES THEIR AUGMENTED REALITY BEAUTY APP


BEGINNER’S GUIDE TO STORYTELLING IN VR


STORE NO. 8 IS WAL-MART’S NEW VR/AR INCUBATOR


WILL WE HEAR FROM FACEBOOK’S SECRET HARDWARE TEAM SOON?


GORILLAZ RELEASE NEW MUSIC VIDEO, AND IT’S IN VR

This week’s (3/21/17) Top5 VR&AR news

This week’s (3/21/17) Top5 VR&AR news

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

1)SAMSUNG KEEPS US ON OUR VIRTUAL TOES

The little engine that could, the Samsung Gear 360 has auto-stitched our spherical lives for almost a year. Samsung has revealed their next gen Gear 360 camera plans via an FCC filing-- and it looks to be shrinking a bit and getting a design refresh. Also remember: we’re soon going to have a Gear VR controller (it’ll be similar to Google Daydream’s controller, which operates like a laser pointer).

Related Stocks: Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd ($005930.KS), Alphabet, Inc. ($GOOG)
 

2)WHEN YOUR PHONE’S PACKAGING IS ACTUALLY A VR HEADSET

Brands have customized Google Cardboards for… well, as long as “marketing” and “virtual reality” have been in the same sentence (a year and a half, really). Now, the virtual ante is upped: Google is incorporating their VR viewer design into their phone packaging. The tech giant recently published a patent for a phone-shipping unit that is hinged, made of fabric components, and can accommodate your smartphone for VR video experiences. We don’t know if this will actually get made, but we’re sending smoke signals to the mobile VR gods.

Related Stocks: Alphabet, Inc. ($GOOG)

 

3)DAYDREAM HELPS YOUTUBE OPTIMIZE THEIR 360 VIDEOS

Two Google sister companies are getting cozier. Daydream, Android’s virtual reality platform, is helping YouTube explore more efficient ways to distribute 360 content on a 2D screen. YouTube released a VR app in 2016, and is now pouring resources into creating cleaner and more uniform resolution across ALL of its platforms. Clearly virtual reality and 360 videos are an important part of YouTube’s strategy: world domination through video.

Related Stocks: Alphabet, Inc. ($GOOG)

 

4)MAKE STUFF BETTER & FASTER WITH AUGMENTED REALITY

A Harvard Business Review Study says that augmented reality can help manufacturing efficiency in younger as well as aging populations. A recent comparison study from GE of a wind turbine repair test indicates that AR devices in industrial environments can improve performance by 34% on first use. This study is one of many that suggests VR/AR technologies is important in narrowing the skill gap between today’s tech-forward jobs and the available labor pool.

Related Stocks: General Electric Company ($GE)

 

5)INVESTMENT & FUNDING WRAPUP

Based in Sweden, audio company Dirac Research announced a $4.8M funding round to accelerate the development of its spatialized audio. Their Dynamic 3D Audio platform fixes sounds in space and mimics how human ears perceive sound: the audio comes from its location, which stays fixed regardless of how we turn our heads. Investors include the co-founder of Didner & Gerge fund management company, AAC Technologies from China, and others. Swedish music producer and songwriter Rami Yacoub also joined this funding round-- he’s worked with big names like Madonna, One Direction, Britney Spears, Backstreet Boys, and Tiesto.

 

Smart car tech company WayRay has raised an $18M Series B round, with Alibaba as the lead investor. Look forward to a consumer version of WayRay’s augmented reality dashboard technology, called Navion, sometime this year. Also coming up: WayRay is partnering with Banma Technologies to create an AR navigation and entertainment system for a Banma car, as a joint venture between Alibaba Group and SAIC, reportedly sometime in 2018.

Related Stocks: Alibaba Group Holding Limited ($BABA)

This week’s (3/14/17) Top5 VR&AR news

This week’s (3/14/17) Top5 VR&AR news

1) FACEBOOK FRENZY: NEW 360 APP + LIVE STREAMING + VOICE SEARCH

Facebook launches a dedicated 360 photo and video player, while teasing those of us in America with the prospect of live streaming our Gear VR games to Facebook. Facebook 360 is currently available on Gear VR, acting as a destination for the 1M+ 360 videos and 25M+ 360 photos that have been uploaded to the social media giant. There are currently four functions to try: Explore (see the most popular 360 content on Facebook), Following (stay in the loop with your friends’ 360 content), Timeline (re-live your own moments), and Saved (keep your favorite spherical experiences together). On the livestreaming front, if you live outside of the U.S. you are in luck: you can now stream your in-headset view to Facebook (you’ll have to wait on an unsure timeline, American VR enthusiasts). If those two announcements weren’t enough, Facebook has also rolled out Oculus Voice, which lets English speakers perform voice searches, and you can now watch 360 videos together with your friends in Oculus Rooms and create Oculus Events so that you can enter VR experiences together with your friends.

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

2) THE FUTURE REALLY DOES LOOK LIKE STAR TREK

Avegant’s main product is the Glyph, which looks like a pair of Beats headphones that you wear over your eyes to watch videos (any regular ol’ video). The Glyph does not have a screen; instead it projects LED images onto millions of microscopic mirrors that are beamed into your pupils--  which sort of results in the appearance of a giant flat screen floating right in front of your eyeballs. Now Avegant claims that they have cracked the code of next-level augmented reality, vaguely saying that they are using light field technology to display 3D objects to augment your surrounding environment. The company won’t disclose their underlying technology and the demo that they showed press was tethered to a PC, used external cameras for positional tracking, and was not interactive. While the company does emphasize that this is simply a research demo, we’ll just have to wait to be impressed… maybe just because we want it now. Until Avegant releases an actual AR product, with the Glyph you can still look like LaVar Burton while watching LaVar Burton in the meantime.
 

3) ZENIMAX AND OCULUS: THE PLOT THICKENS

The ZeniMax vs. Oculus lawsuit is starting to feel like a telenovela. After ZeniMax was awarded $500M from their suit against Oculus in January (which Oculus is appealing), now Oculus CTO John Carmack is personally suing ZeniMax for $22.5M--  what he claims is still owed him from 2009 when ZeniMax bought his game studio id Software (which birthed classics like Doom, for Pete’s sake). Regardless of what side you’re on in this fight, it needs to be acknowledged that Carmack is master of the burn. In the January lawsuit, he had meme-worthy lines like “I am not a Mac user unless under duress.” In this personal lawsuit Carmack throws Countess Dowager-level shade like "Sour grapes is not an affirmative defense to breach of contract” (bonus points if you love Downton Abbey).

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

4) VR COMPANY LANDSCAPE GREW BY 40% IN 2016

Based in Palo Alto, CA, the Venture Reality Fund formed at the beginning of 2016 with the goal of building the future by financing it. Devoted to the VR/AR space, the venture capital firm closely monitors the industry and reports that the map of tracked companies in the VR space grew by 40% in 2016. Cofounders Tipatat Chennavasin and Marco DeMiroz reveal that content companies making apps for HMDs saw the largest growth, and gaming and entertainment nearly doubled in size. It sounds like even indies have a shot--  the VC firm saw the smart indie studios ones generate revenue towards profitability over the year. Other spotlights include VR content creation and management systems, education, healthcare, and journalism perhaps most important-- enterprise. DeMiroz paints a bright picture: we should expect all-in-one mobile headsets with full positional tracking and gesture control glory… soon.
 

5) DREAMSCAPE IMMERSIVE RAISES $11.36M SERIES A

Los Angeles-based developer studio Dreamscape Immersive raised an $11.36M Series A financing round with some big investor names: from Silicon Valley royalty like Peter Diamandis to Hollywood giant Steven Spielberg. With co-founder veterans from Dreamworks and Control Room and CEO Bruce Vaughn at the helm (who spent 25 years at Disney Imagineering), the company is planning on launching a flagship VR Multiplex in LA this fall. Other investors were IMAX, Warner Bros., 21st Century Fox, MGM, and Westfield Corporation.

Related Stocks: IMAX Corporation ($IMAX), Time Warner Inc. ($TWX), Twenty-First Century Fox, Inc. ($FOX), MGM Resorts International ($MGM), Westfield Corporation Limited ($WFD.AX)

...and more

 

BROOKSTONE BRINGS AR LASER TAG TO YOUR SMARTPHONE

DO RECENT GOOGLE JOB LISTINGS INDICATE UPCOMING MASS PRODUCTION?

VR HELPS CHEMOTHERAPY PATIENTS IN AUSTRALIA

VIMEO LAUNCHES 360VIMEO

GIPHY IN VR, EXACTLY WHAT WE NEEDED

SHAZAM PARTNERS WITH ZAPPAR FOR BRANDS & GETS AUGMENTED

IN CANADA YOU CAN BUY A CASE OF BEER WITH A VR HEADSET & WATCH HOCKEY

CHAIRISH DECASO LAUNCHES INTERIOR DESIGN AR APP

CNN LAUNCHES VR JOURNALISM PLATFORM

SO META: A VR STRIP CLUB VERSION OF A REAL STRIP CLUB

GO GO POWER RANGERS

KALEIDOSCOPE ANNOUNCES FALL LINEUP FOR VR CINEMA TOUR

LOWE’S USES VR TO HELP DIY HOME IMPROVEMENT WITH VR

HOLOLENS GOES EUROPEAN

TAKEAWAYS FROM 100M BRAND & PUBLISHER IMPRESSIONS

MIXED REALITY ARCADES ARE THE NEXT BIG THING, BUT NOT FOR VENTURE CAPITAL

This week’s (3/6/17) Top5 VR&AR news

This week’s (3/6/17) Top5 VR&AR news

1. FIRST WINDOWS MIXED REALITY HEADSET SHIPS LATER THIS MONTH

In the fall of 2016, Microsoft announced a partnership with a handful of hardware manufacturers to make developer headsets implementing the inside-out tracking technology seen on the HoloLens. Promising “world scale” tracking (which does not rely on external sensors or cameras for positional tracking), Microsoft now calls it Windows Mixed Reality after initially calling it Windows Holographic. Acer is Microsoft’s first partner to release a WIndows Mixed Reality developer kit, which is shipping later this month-- and the other partners (HP, Dell, Lenovo, ASUS, and 3Glasses) will be releasing theirs throughout the rest of this year. Keep in mind that these are developer kits meant to encourage development of mixed reality applications on Windows Mixed Reality-- and not aimed (yet!) for the general public. However, you should get excited if you’re an Xbox owner...

Related Stocks:
Microsoft Corporation ($MSFT), Hewlett Packard Enterprise Company ($HPE), Dell Technologies Inc. ($DVMT), Lenovo Group Limited ($LNVGY), ASUSTeK Computer Inc. ($2357.TW)

 

2. YOU’LL BE ABLE TO DIVE INTO THE VIRTUAL WORLD ON XBOX NEXT YEAR

|Microsoft’s master plan of industry domination is a long play, and its Windows Mixed Reality platform will not only be available to the HoloLens and other HMD manufacturers… but will also be integrated into the entire Xbox One family of devices next year (including Project Scorpio). As the first Windows Mixed Reality developer kits from Acer are shipping at the end of this month, developers will have an entire year to craft compelling content that can run on Xbox in 2018. Although Playstation VR has a nice head start on Xbox (selling 1M units since its release last fall), Microsoft is building Windows Mixed Reality to be “the most complete platform across the broadest range of mixed reality devices and experiences.” The platform will be compatible with PCs, HoloLens, other standalone headsets, and the entire Xbox One suite… which could give Microsoft a big advantage in the long run.

Related Stocks:
Microsoft Corporation ($MSFT), Sony Corporation ($SNE)

 

3. HIGH-END VIRTUAL REALITY JUST GOT MORE AFFORDABLE

Price is a big barrier to entry in this first wave of high-end consumer VR devices: unless you’re a gamer who already has a robust PC, you typically have to buy or build a computer with a powerful graphics card. As the two premiere VR hardware manufacturers, Oculus Rift and HTC Vive both recognize this impediment to adoption and are lowering the price to play, albeit in different ways. Facebook-owned Oculus has slashed Rift + Touch controller bundle prices from $800 to $600, which positions the Rift at a mere $100 more than the console-powered Playstation VR. HTC Vive has launched their own financing program which relieves the upfront pricing burden of their system--  although still maintaining the total cost at $800.

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

 

4. ROGUE ONE DIRECTOR USED VR TO PLAN DIGITAL SCENES

Established Hollywood VFX studios and artists are enthusiastically embracing the virtual reality medium, and traditional production studios should get prepared for more disruption from the immersive technology space. For the recent Rogue One film, director Gareth Edwards used virtual reality to stage several several scenes. He would load a digital draft of a scene onto the HTC Vive, and then use the virtual world camera to record how he envisioned the film’s camera (the POV of the audience) moving around in that environment. These virtual recordings were then used as references for the final CGI scenes. Star Wars isn’t the only one getting the virtual pre-production treatment: it is rumored that Jon Favreau, director of Iron Man and major VR enthusiast, will also be integrating VR in the production of his upcoming live adaptation of The Lion King.

Related Stocks:
The Walt Disney Company ($DIS), HTC Corporation ($2498.TW)

 

5. INVESTMENT & FUNDING WRAPUP

Florida-based edtech company Nearpod announced a $21M Series B funding round to accelerate the growth of their tech that aims to transform mobile devices into learning devices in classrooms. Over 10,000 U.S. schools are already using Nearpod’s interactive learning tools, and the added cash will help grow their virtual reality offerings. Bringing Nearpod’s total funding to $30.2M, this round was led by Insight Venture Partners, Reach Capital, GSV Education, AGP Miami, and Krillion Ventures.

 

...and more

FOX SPORTS USES VIRTUAL REALITY ART FOR SUPER BOWL COMMERCIALS

LA, GET EXCITED: BJORK’S VR EXHIBITION COMES TO LOS ANGELES

VALVE’S R&D IN EYE-TRACKING TO INCREASE

LOTS OF BIG UNITY ANNOUNCEMENTS AT GDC

WHEN WILL WIRELESS VR GET HERE?

HANDS ON WITH LG’S NEW STANDALONE HEADSET

KHRONOS INITIATIVE IS HUGE FOR OPEN STANDARDS

THE UPCOMING SAMSUNG GEAR VR CONTROLLER IS COOL

GE POWER USES VR TO CUT DESIGN TIME

DOES APPLE HAVE 1000+ ENGINEERS WORKING ON AR IN ISRAEL?

MIT USES AR AND LEGOS TO PLAN CITIES

NYC LAUNCHES VR/AR LAB

CHINA BUILDS VIRTUAL REALITY TOWN

This week’s (2/27/17) Top5 VR&AR news

This week’s (2/27/17) Top5 VR&AR news

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

1. ALL EYES ON SAMSUNG: 4 PROJECTS TO WATCH FROM THE C-LAB

Samsung’s incubation program, called the C-lab, has backed developer education since 2012, and the C-lab program will be showcasing four of their prime VR/AR projects in Barcelona at the Mobile World Congress this week (remember that now-iconic Dystopian photo of Mark Zuckerberg strolling through a crowd of oblivious VR headset-wearing journalists? That was at Samsung’s last MWC in Barcelona last year). Keep an eye out for TraVRer (for 360 degrees of travel experiences), the Relúmĭno (a virtual visual aid for the sight impaired), VuildUs (an 3D modeling program for your interior design pleasure), and arguably the most intriguing: the Monitorless. Although suffering from an admittedly bulky moniker, the Monitorless is a glasses prototype that connects your computer or smartphone monitor via wifi and shows it as a heads up display--  and lets lets you adjust the opacity. But Samsung isn’t stopping there...

Related Stocks:
Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd ($005930.KS)

 

2. THE NEXT GENERATION OF GEAR VR MAY COME WITH CONTROLLER

Although not yet officially confirmed by the Korean company, a recent FCC filing indicates that the next version of the Samsung Gear VR will boast its own controller. The popular Gear VR has moved 5.5M units since its release at the end of 2015-- not bad for a headset that is only compatible with six of the most recent Samsung phones. While we do not yet have a release date for the next Gear VR, it looks like you won’t have to use a 3rd-party controller or the (not great!) touchpad on the side of the head-mounted device anymore. Soon you’ll be able to wave around a controller to instruct your virtual worlds, probably like a laser pointer. If you’d say this sounds similar to the Bluetooth-connected controller from Google’s Daydream, we wouldn’t disagree with you.

Related Stocks:
Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd ($005930.KS)
Alphabet, Inc. ($GOOG)

 

3. OCULUS RIFT ARRIVES TO THE INTERNATIONAL SPACE STATION

An Oculus Rift headset has been modified and certified for use in space by French space agency CNES. ISS astronaut Thomas Pesquet is conducting a neuroscience experiment called GRASP, which will test perception when reaching for virtual objects of someone who is weightless and floating in space. Pesquet will also be sending down some 360 videos he’s been taking on the ISS since arriving there in November. It was not an easy task to get the Rift approved for its space debut, however---  lots of fun flammability and shatter tests had to be done (luckily the lenses are plastic and not glass), and the Rift’s native Constellation tracking system had to be replaced by an adapted European system that has been used in space experiments in the past.

Related Stocks:
Facebook, Inc. ($FB)

 

4. ZENIMAX TRIES TO SHUT DOWN OCULUS

After winning their lawsuit against Oculus, ZeniMax is not satisfied with the mere $500M awarded--  now they are really going in for the kill. The creators of Doom are looking to stop Oculus in its tracks, and not just the PC-powered Rift but the smartphone-powered Samsung Gear VR as well. The legal battle is over code developed by John Carmack (an employee of a ZeniMax corporation at the time), who eventually became the CTO of Oculus. If it is granted, the injunction would most likely turn the screws on Facebook to reach into its pockets for a settlement. However, Facebook is filing their own motion to appeal the original verdict--- and those pockets are DEEP. Here’s a good verdict analysis if you’re interested in the original case.

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

 

5. MONEY, MOVES, AND FUNDING

Research firm SuperData released a new consumer VR report that claims the global VR hardware revenue will be $3.6B this year, which is a 142% increase from 2016. The report also says that Pokémon GO brought in the lion’s share of all AR software revenue in 2016 with a whopping 96% of earnings. SuperData also predicts that hardware will keep making more money than software, or at least until 2020. A word of caution: this is the analysis group that was sorely mistaken on their 2016 sales predictions (thanks for that, you so-called “Super” Data).

 

London-based augmented reality company Zappar has announced a $3.75M Series A funding round, led by investment house Hargreave Hale and participation from trade investors You & Mr. Jones and iDreamSky from China. The company has a free AR smartphone app that reacts to ‘zapcodes’, along with their flagship content creation tool ZapWorks. The funding will speed up development of several new products as well as more support for ZapWorks, which has been used by companies like Samsung and Vodafone.

 

Bigscreen VR has announced $3M seed round led by Andreeson Horowitz. The company provides a virtual shared space where you can bring in your computer monitor and work or enjoy content just like you would IRL - but the important thing here is that your remote friends and co-workers can join you and bring their own desktop screen. This opens up the potential for collaboration and entertainment, and the company says they have 150K users, with power users spending 20-30 hours/week in the app.
 

Bellevue, WA-based company Innovega has raised $3M to hasten development of its augmented reality and contact lens system eMacula (in development since 2008). A unique answer to the hard question of AR, eMacula has a tiny screen embedded in a pair of glasses that you’re able to focus on thanks to a special contact lens that lets you focus on objects half an inch away from your eye. The $3M round was led by Tencent, which is the parent company of the wildly popular WeChat, and this is the first private investment into the company-- their total funding is now at $10M and prior investors are entities like DARPA and the National Science Foundation. The eMacula system is currently pending the FDA review process

Related Stocks:
Nintendo Co. Ltd. ($NTDOY)
Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd ($005930.KS)
Vodafone Group Plc ($VOD)

 

...and more

PSVR’S SALES NUMBERS REVEALED AS A PLEASANT SURPRISE TO SONY
 

VIVE SHOWS US SOME USER DATA FROM CHINA
 

QUALCOMM’S REFERENCE VR HEADSET ADDS HAND TRACKING AND MORE
 

VALVE RELEASES 3D AUDIO TOOLKIT: STEAM AUDIO IS ON GITHUB NOW

 

VALVE PRESIDENT GABE NEWELL: ONLY 30 STEAM VR APPS HAVE MADE $250K+

 

STEAM VR LIGHTHOUSE BASE STATIONS GET LINUX SUPPORT

 

PLAY IN THE SAND AND THEN DRIVE AN AUDI AROUND IN YOUR CREATION

 

THE NBA RELEASES THEIR FIRST VR APP ON GOOGLE DAYDREAM
 

FLOAT IN POOL WITH A HEADSET ON YOUR FACE, MAAAAAN

 

DUBAI BRINGS CONSERVATION EFFORTS TO LIFE WITH DUBAI ZOO

 

GET EVEN MORE SURREAL, STEP INSIDE THE PAINTING WITH SOTHEBY’S

 

TILT BRUSH IS NOW AVAILABLE ON OCULUS RIFT, TOO

 

BEST 360 CAMERAS ACCORDING TO TOM’S HARDWARE

 

THE VR KEYBOARD YOU’VE BEEN LOOKING FOR

 

THE EYES HAVE IT: STARTUPS TRACKING YOUR EYEBALLS

This week’s (2/20/17) Top5 VR&AR news

This week’s (2/20/17) Top5 VR&AR news

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

1.NOW YOU CAN FEEL THE WIND ON YOUR FACE IN VR

Researchers at the National University of Singapore first showed us how face electrodes can simulate food in virtual reality--  and now they are bringing wind and heat to your virtual world. Called the Ambiotherm, the apparatus hooks onto the VR headset and blows air in your face with rotating fans and has a neck-mounted unit that heats up or cools down to simulate temperature. It’s too bad this just exists in a lab and we can’t play with it.

 

2.HOW DO YOU HELP THE VISUALLY IMPAIRED WITH VR/AR? LETS COUNT THE WAYS

Virtual and augmented reality technology is being used to help people who are blessed with perfect vision - and lots of interesting solutions are out there. VR is being used to correct conditions like amblyopia (sometimes called “lazy eye”) by San Francisco-based company Vivid Vision; instead of a childhood-scarring eyepatch or invasive surgery, virtual reality is the prescribed treatment. For the legally blind, the eSight 3 is a $10,000 headset that uses high-speed cameras to display an algorithmically-enhanced view of the world in real time. A startup out of Oxford, OxSight is building AR glasses that described as “hearing aids for the blind.” A developer out of Portland, OR named Javier Davalos has made an Hololens app that utilizes audio feedback for real-world navigation help for the visually impaired. If you have terrible eyesight like me, stay tuned to these sorts of developments - perhaps I can eventually get VR treatment to correct my vision instead of LASIK!

Related Stocks:
Microsoft Corporation ($MSFT)
 

3.THE PGA TEES OFF IN VR

In November 2016, Intel acquired virtual reality company Voke whose 360 replay technology has been widely used in the sports world (the company also counts the Sacramento Kings among their investors). Voke calls its main product TrueVR, which is a proprietary stereoscopic camera and software that can deliver content across various devices-- not just virtual reality headsets. Now, Intel is using Voke to bring professional golf to virtual reality with an emphasis on interactivity and the unique ability to zoom into the action.

Related Stocks:
Intel Corporation ($INTC)

 

4.EX-HEAD OF SONY PLAYSTATION LONDON FORMS CROSS-PLATFORM VR GAME STUDIO

A hot spot for development, London has birthed a new VR-focused game studio - but not just any game studio. Formed by Dave Ranyard, who was the lead at Sony’s London Studio during PSVR’s creation, it includes a handful of early-days development of the PlayStation VR--  back when it was still a code name (Project Morpheus was one of my favorite code names). This dream team chose a fitting moniker---  Dream Reality Interactive might just be one of the most seasoned VR game developer teams out there.

Related Stocks:
Sony Corporation ($SNE)

 

5.MONEY, MOVES AND FUNDING

Birthed in New Zealand and raised in Los Angeles, CA, volumetric capture company 8i has announced a Series B round of $27M. The funding disclosure coincided with other big news: 8i will release a smartphone app called the Holo app later this year. Although Google Tango-style software that enables smartphones to sense their surrounding environment is required, you can choose from premade holograms and position the 3D model in your real world room (ICYMI here’s a primer on Google Tango). The funding round was led by Time Warner Investments, Baidu Ventures, with participation from Hearst Ventures, Verizon Ventures, and others--  and brings 8i’s total funding to $41M (oh, and Ashton Kutcher is one of their earlier investors).

 

The Mountain View, CA-based light field capture company Lytro just received $60M in a Series D funding round that was led by Blue Pool Capital (associated with the co-founders of Alibaba), which brings its total funding to $210M. Lytro also announced a content partnership with Within, headed by Chris Milk and formerly known as Vrse (keep an eye out for the Q2 release of their first co-production). Another update from the company: Lytro is updating their previously-360 degree light field sensor system to a 180-degree system, in order to allow for more creative control and a traditional “behind-the-camera” real life perspective for the director and crew.

 

India and U.S.-based Imaginate has raised $500,000 to continue development of its collaboration platform, NuSpace, which aims to be the Webex of VR/AR. The collaboration platform is device agnostic (so you could use a Microsoft Hololens while communicating with someone wearing an Oculus Rift), and the B2B company is focusing on the training and education space. The round was from SRI Capital, which is a seed stage venture fund in Philadelphia.

 

The notoriously secretive mixed reality company Magic Leap has acquired parts of Dacuda, a B2B computer vision software company. The company disclosed that it is divesting its 3D scanning assets which could be used to facilitate inside-out positional tracking (which does not require external sensors) for Magic Leap’s product. The covert product still has not been publicly shown, and the well-funded Magic Leap ($1.3B in investment from companies like Alibaba and Google) has undergone quite a bit of bad press recently. Unsurprisingly, the terms of this acquisition have not been disclosed.

Related Stocks:
Alphabet, Inc. ($GOOG)
Alibaba Group Holding Limited ($BABA)
Microsoft Corporation ($MSFT)
Facebook, Inc. ($FB)

...and more

 

SNAP, INC. FILES TO GO PUBLIC - REPORT: “THE NEXT FACEBOOK OR ANOTHER TWITTER?”

 

FIRST IMAX VR CENTER IS OPEN IN LA AND READY TO GIVE VR A “JUMP START”

 

SEE BATMAN’S VIEW FROM INSIDE THE BATMOBILE WITH AUGMENTED REALITY

 

TOYMAKER HASBRO TO RELEASE A HEAD MOUNTED SIMON SAYS GAME

 

THE NBA ALL STAR WEEKEND BROUGHT TO YOU IN VIRTUAL REALITY

 

IT’S ALWAYS SUNNY IN PHILADELPHIA GET THE VIRTUAL TREATMENT

 

THE LOS ANGELES NATURAL HISTORY MUSEUM IS SHOWING OFF VR

 

AUGMENT YOUR CLIMBING WALL

 

DOCTORS USE VR TO HELP KIDS GET OVER THE FEAR OF MRI MACHINES

 

BEEFEATER’S VR EXPERIENCE IS RAD

 

EVER WANT TO BE AN ASTRONAUT? NOW YOU CAN FEEL LIKE ONE

 

HTC VIVE LEADS THE CHINESE MARKET

 

GET YOUR FEELS IN VR: NEW HAPTIC VEST ABOUT TO LAUNCH ON KICKSTARTER

 

VIRTUAL TRAINING PUT TO THE REAL WORLD TEST - ON A CRANE

 

FACEBOOK’S UPCOMING  DEVELOPER CONFERENCE WILL HIGHLIGHT SOCIAL AND WEBVR

 

ALMOST 40% OF GAME DEVELOPERS ARE WORKING ON VR