Inside XR - September 27th, 2019

Inside XR (Sep 27th, 2019)

Facebook Digital Teleportation / Amazon’s Smartglasses / AR Treasure Hunt in London

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1. At Oculus Connect 6, Facebook announced it is officially working on “lightweight, all-day wearable” Augmented Reality glasses. The company would not give specific details about a roadmap for actually getting such a device to market, but it did offer some insight into its broader long-term vision for its Reality Labs division (FRL). It plans on using machine vision alongside localization and mapping technology to create "LiveMaps," drawing from data such as crowdsourced geo-tagged images to create shared virtual maps that can be accessed by devices in real-time. Future AR glasses would be able to tap into those maps, enabling a sort of “digital teleportation” through hyper-realistic avatars. As fun as all that sounds, however, it does involve Facebook gathering and digesting vast amounts of data, not only about users, but about every single aspect of the world around them, so the company vows to "continue this work with privacy in mind," adding that they are still in the research phase, but are “committed to doing that research out in the open." Privacy concerns aside, the core concept here is that companies like Facebook are directing resources towards building the core infrastructure that will underpin better immersive experiences, and that is an exciting sign that the industry as a whole is maturing. – QUARTZ

2. Amazon unveiled its new Echo smartglasses at its Alexa event on Wednesday. Weighing only 1.1 ounces, the frames cost $180 but are only available by invitation in the U.S. The Echo Frames are part of Amazon's "Day One Editions," a program for experimental products that are complete but offered with limited availability, explains Dave Limp, senior vice president of devices and services. At this stage, the glasses work with audio-only, discreetly directing Alexa's responses to user queries via speakers placed in the frames. With shipments of AR glasses are projected to surpass 150,000 in 2019 and to hit 2.7 million devices in 2023, however, it is hard not to anticipate that the company might be planning to integrate such capabilities, via its Amazon Sumerian platform perhaps, into wearables at a later stage. – CNET

3. Follow Friday: Christina Heller 

Christina is a volumetric video and XR pro, and the CEO of the Metastage studio ( @metastagexr ). With a solid background in TV and journalism, where she worked on cinematography, camera, and electric for various productions, she brings an understanding of traditional media to the emerging XR content space.  Heller also co-founded the VR Playhouse, a creative studio based in Los Angeles which specializes in VR and AR which has produced many interesting 360 pieces such as the Enter the Mind of Jack,  Other key projects include Defying the Nazis with Ken Burns, as well as and DAWN’s “Not Above That” VR music video. “The Surrogate,” which was nominated for an Innovation Award at SXSW. Follow @ChristinaHeller on Twitter for cool videos of the latest immersive tech and updates from events such as Oculus Connect which she attended this week. 

4. Vodafone has launched a location-based Augmented Reality mobile game in London powered by blockchain technology. Writing for the Next Web, David Canellis likens the game to a craze back in 2017 which saw an Ethereum app called CryptoKitties become so popular that it crippled the entire blockchain, also leading to a short-lived black market on collectibles, with rare CryptoKitties selling for over $50,000 each. The "Find Unlimited" game is powered by blockchain technology and was released as part of a promotional Apple giveaway. Players need to find and interact with unique non-fungible tokens (NFTs) tokens called “Vatoms.” 36 of these will appear around Central London locations this week, and participants can use their phone camera to collect them. The tokens will be redeemable for prizes (including an iPhone 11) at a later stage, and Vodafone customers will receive advance clues as to their placement, although the game is open for anyone to participate. – THE NEXT WEB

5.  German startup DronOSS developed an AR-based system to train drone pilots. The company's software, developed by Unity, works with a prototype camera-based component called the ARbox that rides below the drone and transmits large amounts of position, rotation, and video data to the company's client app on any digital device such as AR or VR headset, tablet, or computer. The AR overlay is created on the DronOSS software, then added to the drone's video feed. The prototype ARbox currently only works if the pilot is less than 1 kilometer away from the drone, yet the plan is to integrate it with 5G technologies to pipe DronOSS's AR-enhanced birds-eye-view to pilots anywhere. With a new EU standard for drone operator licensing expected to be rolled out across Europe by next year, DronOSS Founder Luciano Mora -  who is based at The Technical University of Cologne with his team - expect that this will greatly increase demand for products such as theirs. – NEXT REALITY

6. Facebook's Andrew “Boz” Bosworth outlines the company's vision and ambitions for its AR/VR unit which he leads. “The scope of our ambitions is so much bigger than what’s on the surface,” the Facebook executive told Fortune as he inspected the new 770,000-square-feet complex in Burlingame, Calif. where the company's AR/VR teams are expected to move into by the end of fall. He added that these ambitions meant that these technologies needed to enable new ways for people to connect and collaborate, saying this brought fresh challenges in terms of earning users' trust, especially with regards to data protection. ”Entering into virtual and augmented realities, where online experiences feel much more real, raises the stakes and also makes the environments harder to police," he acknowledged. – FORTUNE  

7.  Immersive technology and content will now get Producers Guild Awards. The 31st edition of the prestigious accolades given by the Producers Guild of America (PGA) taking place in January 2020 will include a new award for Innovation which includes VR and AR. The judging panel for the new category will include the likes of Kim Adams (Co-founder, Adventure Lab) Nancy Bennett (Chief Creative Officer and founding member, Two Bit Circus) Dr. Jacquelyn Ford Morie (Founder and Chief Scientist, All These Worlds LLC.) Joanna Popper (Global Head of VR for Location-Based Experience, Hewlett Packard) and Yelena Rachitsky (Executive Producer of Experiences at Oculus) The application period for nominations is open until November 15 and entries can be submitted (there is a $150 fee) on the PGA's website. – INDIEWIRE  

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

Editor: David Stegon (senior editor at Inside, whose reporting experience includes cryptocurrency and technology).

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