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Inside XR (Dec 16th, 2019)

1. An Augmented Reality application called iGYM is bridging the accessibility gap. The system developed by University of Michigan researchers allows users with disabilities to play and compete with their peers. USA Today's Mike Householder describes a game crossover between soccer and air hockey where, as players enter the court, a virtual circle appears around them and that circle moves with them as they traverse the arena. The players then expand the circle to strike a virtual ball into their opponent's goal. In order to level the playing field between gamers of different physical abilities, however, the system enables one player to run around while the other uses a "kick button" to widen the ring surrounding his wheelchair. The app is currently a research prototype, and its inventor, Professor Roland Graf, is currently looking for partners to help bring their project to the market. "Our vision with the system is to make it as simple and affordable as possible, so it can be installed and switched on like any video projector or light fixture in a school gym or community center," he says. – USA TODAY

2. Magic Leap's roadmap is still rather vague in spite of the recent wave of announcements. Scott Hayden sums up what is known about the company's current state and future plans, from its pivot towards enterprise customers to an interview that its Founder and CEO Rony Abovitz gave to Charlie Fink at Forbes, where he stated that the Magic Leap 2 would not be released until "sometime in 2021." Abovitz would not give specific details about the device's upcoming features, yet the same report by The Information maintains that Magic Leap 2 will include 5G connectivity, a wider field of view, a smaller and lighter form factor, and different color options. – ROAD TO VR  

3. The backlash against Magic Leap's unwarranted hype could hurt the AR industry as a whole, Rob Fahey argues in this opinion piece. Fahey believes that the recent woes experienced by the company were entirely predictable, adding that knowledgeable people in the industry would hardly have been surprised by the damning report published by The Information last week, which has nevertheless been enthusiastically – if vaguely – refuted by Magic Leap. Yet Fahey's main point is that the company's failure to set realistic expectations and deliver on its promises hurts the overall credibility of the industry and AR technology, making it more difficult for future launches to get a fair hearing from consumers who will inevitably be more jaded about it. As he puts, it: "It works this time, we promise" is simply a harder pitch to sell than "look at this cool new thing." – GAMESINDUSTRY.BIZ  

4. Next year's Sundance Film Festival will include a Biodigital Theater with a rotating lineup of VR theatrical works. The 2020 New Frontier program will feature 32 projects from 21 countries, including an underwater experience that will have attendees donning a wetsuit and snorkeling inside a giant pool while immersed in VR to simulate the sensation of floating in outer space. VRScout Editor Kyle Melnick talked to New Frontier's Chief Curator Shari Frilot about what festivalgoers can expect of the setup and wide-ranging features which include "All Kinds of Limbo," a VR musical involving multiple costume and set changes and "Solastalgia", a multi-user mixed reality piece that allows festival-goers to explore a post-apocalyptic Earth populated only by humanoid holograms performing the same tasks on repeat for eternity. “Powerful technologies now enable experiences that capture, replicate, and replace 'the real.' But it is even more special when the human touch converges with technology – when we are provoked to reach beyond what we know to be real and enter into unfamiliar terrain,” Frilot says.– VRSCOUT

5. An ambitious location-based AR experience connects you with the life and work of Jane Goodall. The exhibit "Becoming Jane: The Evolution of Dr. Jane Goodall" is a collaboration between the National Geographic Museum, Falcon's Creative Group, and the Jane Goodall Institute. It consists of six separate AR experiences, located in a 3D theater where footage mixing CGI and 360-degree film is projected on walls, ceiling, and floor. "Jane used unorthodox approaches to study chimpanzees, yielding extraordinary results. In a way, we’ve done the same thing with this exhibition," says Alan Parente, National Geographic Vice President of Creative. One of the experiences lets users interact with a life-sized hologram of Goodall, while in others, visitors can use a proprietary AR Headset called Falcon’s Vision to look for specific targets in their surroundings, which in turn trigger additional experiences. – AR POST   

6. The latest Lumin OS update for Magic Leap enables voice-control. In addition to features such as Twitch streaming and iris authentication, the update enables a range of voice controls of the system's interface. The initial voice offering allows users to open and close apps within the device, move apps and virtual objects, begin and end video recordings, take photos, raise or lower the volume, and open the launcher menu. Adario Strange tested these out for Next Reality, but although he was broadly enthusiastic about it, he also felt the company had missed out on a trick by making the interface respond to "Hey Lumin" as opposed to tying it in with Mica, which he describes as Magic Leap's "incredibly impressive virtual assistant." – NEXT REALITY

7. This year has seen significant progress in the immersive tech industries. Sol Rogers looks back on an eventful year for AR - which has seen developments such as the launch of the HoloLens 2 - and reflects that the stage is set for positive growth in 2020 and beyond. In addition to his top 10 picks across VR/AR/MR, he also points to recent reports such as PwC’s Seeing is believing (which predicts that AR and VR will add $1.5 trillion to global GDP by 2030) and Immerse UK’s report which shows that in the United Kingdom alone there are currently around 1,250 active immersive specialists, showing a growing ecosystem underpinned by £33 million from the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund which seems to be defying the country's current Brexit woes. – FORBES

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

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