1.GAP ENVISIONS A FUTURE WITH AR DRESSING ROOMS
GAP, not exactly known for its cutting edge fashion or technology, is releasing an augmented reality app that lets you model potential purchases without stepping foot outside your home. A 3D model, that you customize with your measurements, is positioned in front of you and you can see how your virtual mannequin looks in different outfits. It’s a bummer that it will only be available for big partner Google’s Tango-enabled smartphones, which right now only consists of Lenovo’s Phab2 Pro. However, in-app purchases are reportedly implemented-- so it’ll be interesting to see what that user interface and buying process looks like.
2. ZENIMAX WINS OCULUS LAWSUIT, COMES OUT SWINGING
Facebook will have to cough up $500M after losing their legal battle with ZeniMax. Oculus founder Palmer Luckey was found guilty of violating a non-disclosure agreement with ZeniMax while developing the early prototype of the Oculus Rift-- and Luckey will have to personally pony up a cool $50M in the suit. Although ZeniMax is only collecting less than 13% of the $4B it was seeking, the company is threatening to file an injunction to put a stop to sales of the Rift. ZeniMax isn’t stopping there, announcing an acquisition of Escalation Studios, a VR-experienced game development company-- and is staying tight-lipped about the cost.
Facebook, Inc. ($FB)
3.THE SUPER CREEPY VR PORN HEAD CAMERA
It’s ironic that the camera developed specifically for the adult VR film industry is one of the eeriest things I’ve ever seen. VR Bangers, an adult VR content studio, has developed what is essentially a mannequin head with eyes made of 4K cameras and binaural microphones as ears. Custom-built by the studio’s R&D team, it is supposed to prompt a “warmer and more intimate emotional attachment between the performer and the recording device if the device itself is able to be kissed, caressed, and whispered to.” As a perhaps-unforeseen seasonal bonus, it’ll probably fit right in with your Halloween decor!
4.NYU VIRTUAL REALITY DANCE PROGRAM
Virtual reality is not new to NYU’s Tisch School for the Arts, and numerous student projects have already been created utilizing 360 photo and video. However, dance and VR is a new combination to the school-- and a live virtual reality dance performance is the focal point of an upcoming show, merging technology and immersive theater elements. Utilizing motion capture technology and live music, the multidisciplinary approach to the performance is one of the first of its kind at universities.
5.MONEY, MOVES AND FUNDING
Over the course of 2016, venture capitalists and corporate investors threw $2.3B into the virtual and augmented reality industry, which was an impressive 300% growth from the $700M+ funds that were invested in 2015.
Virtual reality studio Against Gravity has received $5M in seed funding to “continue to build the future of social VR” with their popular platform Rec Room. Based in Seattle, the studio claims that 100K+ users have used the platform in the second half of 2016. Investors include the Venture Reality Fund, Vulca, Sequoia, First Round, Anorak, and others.
Melbourne, Australia-based archaeological startup Lithodomos VR has raised $679K to help progress its focus on accurately creating reconstructions of ancient sites and artifacts in virtual reality. Aiming at the tourism, entertainment, and education industries, the company has already released 3D recreated sites from places like Rome, Athens, Paris, and Jerusalem. Led by a PhD student, the company’s seed round is raised from undisclosed angels.
Pasadena, CA-based Virtualitics has raised $3M to further development on its VR data visualization software. Intended to help provide insight into complicated data sets, the company’s software was reportedly based on 10+ years of research at Caltech and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory-- they have talent on their team from both of those entities, in addition to a former Deutsche Bank managing director. The company’s seed round was funded by unnamed angel investors.
Austin, TX-based virtual reality ad platform SubVRsive Inc. has received an undisclosed amount of investment from WPP. SubVRsive has clients like Lionsgate Entertainment, Showtime Networks Inc., and the American Heart Association. WPP is a London-based advertising, marketing, and communications giant that is rapidly expanding-- making more than two dozen acquisitions last year. This investment in SubVRsive continues to expand WPP’s empire, which operates in more than 100 countries.