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Inside XR (Oct 18th, 2019)

1. Google is pivoting away from VR to concentrate on mobile-based Augmented Reality. Senior FastCo writer Mark Wilson analyzes the company's recent announcement that it was abandoning its Daydream headset, honing in on a commitment to invest heavily "in helpful AR experiences like Google Lens, AR walking navigation in Maps, and AR in Search that use the smartphone camera to bridge the digital and physical worlds." The takeaway, Wilson concludes, is that Google is betting that AR will succeed where Virtual Reality has failed and that its greatest impact will be on smartphones rather than wearable standalone hardware. – FAST COMPANY  

2. Within released a new ‘Willowcrest Manor’ ghost experience on its Wonderscope platform for Halloween. “We crafted this story with the intention of creating a narrative that was not just seasonal and fun, but highly participatory and fully immersive," says Within’s lead creative and technical artist Thor Benitez, explaining how the company built a dollhouse-sized manor where kids play the house ghost and use their device to explore, tap and talk (or scream) their way through the adventure. Wonderscope stories cost $4.99 each as in-app purchases. – VARIETY   

3. Follow Friday: Tom Emrich. Tom's unique mix of experience in the immersive space includes being a venture capitalist, product manager, journalist, consultant, evangelist and community builder. Most recently, he's joined the 8th Wall as VP of Product, where he hopes to advance his mission to bring Augmented Reality to everyone and help the world prepare for the next wave of computing.  Sometimes called the “man from the future,” Tom is an XR thought leader who played a critical role in building the AR & VR ecosystem producing conference & expos and meetups in the USA, EU, Asia, and MEA for nearly six years, growing the AWE community to over 250,000.  Tom was one of the founding partners at Super Ventures, a Silicon Valley-based fund dedicated to AR established in 2016, which he continues to support as an advisor. He is a mentor at RLab and Techstars and works closely with many startups. Follow him @tomemrich (or at the very least visit his feed to check out his awesome Halloween AR Filter

4. XR festival VRHAM! (Virtual Reality & Arts Festival Hamburg) partnered up with Spanish multidisciplinary artist MAGOZ on Augmented Reality artistic project. QR codes placed in Hamburg’s Rathausmarkt square could be scanned using a Facebook-based mobile app, triggering images of boats floating in the sky and characters walking on the roofs of the historic square. “I’ll try to say things with images. I use poetry or poetic resources to say the things I want to say and in the last year, I have been very much into technology – coding, creating hybrid artworks, MAGOZ explains. “Rather than visual fireworks. AR adds more things to the actual world. Technology makes my work more interactive, but it is still very experimental.” – AR POST  

5. Adario Strange tested out Sotheby's new Magic Leap One Curate app that lets people place furniture around their homes in Mixed Reality. Developed by Silicon Valley-based roOomy, the app is also available on iOS and Android, but Strange was impressed by the level of immersion offered by the ML1 version. "Although the mobile apps can offer a relatively decent idea of what may or may not work in your home via AR, the Curate app on Magic Leap One allows you to wander around and examine life-sized furniture outside of the boundaries of a tiny handheld screen," he says, adding that the effect feels very much like walking around an actual showroom. Curate doesn't currently offer click-to-buy functionality on the Magic Leap Version, but it is capable of alerting users when they are trying to place virtual items in a space already occupied by a real-world object. – NEXT REALITY  

6. Shoppers can now use the HoloLens 2 to browse the catalog of premium furniture designers Natuzzi. Following positive customer feedback from its first Mixed Reality showroom which opened in August in New York, the brand has added a similar dedicated space to its location at Tottenham Court Road in London where customers can browse through digital twins for various pieces of Natuzzi furniture.  Before the shopper comes into the store, the company's interior designers build a 3D rendering of the shopper's living room walls, ceilings, floors, windows, and personal decor based on photographs and measurements, which the company's creative director Pasquale Junior Natuzzi hopes will help it reduce the  closing ratio  (the number of successful sales compared to the number of presentations) by at least one third. The firm plans to start rolling HoloLens out globally by 2020 as part of a three-way partnership that includes Microsoft and B2B company Hevolus. – ZDNET

7. Portal-ble​, ​an open-source prototype software developed at Brown University allows users to interact intuitively with virtual objects. “We wanted to make something that made AR portable so that people could use it anywhere without any bulky headsets," explains Jeff Huang, the assistant professor of computer science who developed the system with support from The National Science Foundation and Pixar. To optimize the real-world physics, Huang enlisted students in a class he was teaching to come up with tasks they might want to do in the AR world, such as stacking a set of blocks, iterating it and adding elements such as vibration feedback which aided the interactions. The Portal-ble source code for Android is freely available for download on the researchers’ website, and iPhone code will follow .“We really just want to put this out there and see what people do with it,” he says. The team will present the work at the ACM Symposium on User Interface Software and Technology in New Orleans. – FUTURITY   

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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