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Inside XR

Inside XR (May 3rd, 2019)

1. Microsoft will release a HoloLens 2 edition for developers starting at $3,500. Ahead of its annual Build conference next week, the company announced that the new development edition kits would also be available on monthly subscriptions from $99 per month. The packages will include $500 in Azure credits, which ties into Microsoft’s broader cloud strategy – but there is yet no official date for when they will become available. It was also announced in the pre-conference briefing that by the end of May Epic's Unreal Engine 4 will support streaming and native platform integration for HoloLens 2, and that the package will also include a three-month trial of Unity Pro and the Unity PiXYZ Plugin for CAD data. Tim McDonough, GM of Industrial at Unity, said the addition of this to the bundle will give businesses the immediate ability to create real-time 2D, 3D, VR, and AR interactive experiences. – SLASHGEAR

2. Madonna performed her latest single at the Billboard Music Awards together with five of her Augmented Reality personas. The elaborately choreographed stunt used volumetric capture at a studio in London to allow the singer to create avatars representing different facets of her alter-ego 'Madame X.' It was a collaboration with creative AR company Sequin, newly founded by Emmy-nominated industry creators Lawrence Jones and Robert DeFranco (whose past projects include weather visualizations for The Weather Channel, and an AR-enhanced performance by K/DA) while a Canadian company created further digital assets for the performance using the Unreal engine. A tool called Brainstorm was used by the international team to bring it all together,  layering broadcast objects, including motion graphics and character generation with real-time data, feeding data from the physical cameras into Unreal Engine so everything from the real set lined up with the digital replication, which could only be viewed through the Las Vegas's venue screens. – ENDGADGET

3. Follow Friday: Cathy Hackl

Cathy Hackl is an Emmy-nominated communicator who has become one of the most prominent influencers in the immersive technology space. She’s also a prolific speaker and powerful advocate for women in tech. Having worked for companies like HTC in the past, she’s recently joined Magic Leap.

She also gives a voice to under-represented communities in the evolving VR/AR/XR space, often speaking at events in Spanish, as in this TEDX event where she explored the power of these technologies as storytelling mediums.

Her @CathyHackl  feed is populated with current events where she will be speaking as well as interesting and relevant industry news and conversations with other creators and influencers, so it’s a pretty good one to follow if you’re interested in keeping a finger on the beat of the VR industry.

Every week we give a shout out to someone worth following. Send your #FollowFriday nominations to or hit reply to this email.

4. Churches across the US are embracing technology, including conducting whole services in Virtual Reality.  “We are leaving the information age and entering the experience age of VR and AR,” said D.J. Soto, pastor of VR Church, where roughly 150 avatars regularly attend services hosted in various virtual environments generated on AltspaceVR. Soto believes these virtual churches are much more inclusive, allowing for conversations to happen which would be difficult in physical places of worship. “Let’s have discussions for or against God, and let’s be respectful. Everybody is invited to a VR church,” he says– USA TODAY

5. Google is adding four new Detective Pikachu Playmoji to its augmented reality Playground service. Users will be able to download and take photos with the movie versions of Charizard, Jigglypuff, Mr. Mime, and Detective Pikachu on selected Android phones. – THE VERGE

6. From the Forums

It emerged on Reddit that Walmart users who had pre-ordered their Oculus Quest standalone VR headsets received them nearly three weeks before the shipping date. The administrative error has now been rectified, and the hardware won't work until May 21, when the software for them is released. –UPLOADVR

7. At the Aircraft Interiors Expo, Airplane seat maker Jamco demonstrated how using Mixed Reality in devices such as the HoloLens can help train and support staff in conducting maintenance and procedures which avoid or reduce the need for blocked seats. – RUNWAY GIRL NETWORK

8. Virtual Reality scenarios are being used to help train employees on what constitutes sexual harassment in the workplace. Lauren Schiller talks to Morgan Mercer, CEO of enterprise training platform Vantage Point, who believes  immersive technology may offer the key to helping workers and supervisors comprehend the nuances of what sexual harassment looks like – SALON

9. It is possible to create immersive experiences with no coding skills. Many platforms are now available - from Amazon's Sumerian to Varwin, based on Google's Blockly visual language - which require little or no programming expertise. – VRSCOUT

10. Microsoft is developing a Touch Rigid Controller (TORC), which uses haptic feedback to mimic the feel of 3D objects. Developed in collaboration with Kaist, a national research university in South Korea, the device is composed of a rigid shell that has no visible moving parts, which is meant to be held between a thumb and two fingers. The TORC will be demoed at the ACM CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, which runs from May 4-9 in Glasgow, UK.– TOM’S HARDWARE

This newsletter was written and curated by Alice Bonasio, a journalist and consultant obsessed with the immersive technology space, including AR/VR/MR/XR and any other acronyms that fit into the realities spectrum. Over the past 15 years, Alice has advised a wide range of start-ups and corporations on digital transformation and communication strategy and is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Tech Trends. She also regularly contributes to publications such as Quartz, Fast Company, Wired, Playboy, The Next Web, Ars Technica, VRScout and many others. Follow her on Twitter @alicebonasio


Editing team: Kim Lyons (Pittsburgh-based journalist and managing editor at Inside); Susmita Baral (senior editor at Inside, who runs the biggest mac and cheese account on Instagram); and David Stegon (senior editor at Inside, whose reporting experience includes cryptocurrency and technology).

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