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Inside VR (Aug 15th, 2019)

1. Oculus co-founder Nate Mitchell is leaving Facebook. Mitchell made the announcement on the Oculus subreddit, saying he’s taking time to travel, be with family, and recharge “after 7 incredible years”. He joined Oculus early on as part of the founding team alongside Brendan Iribe and Palmer Luckey. He was instrumental in helping Oculus move from prototype stage to the now-legendary crowdfunding campaign in 2012 which raised $2 million (out of an original  $250k target) and triggered the latest VR revolution, eventually leading to the company's $3 billion acquisition by Facebook in 2014. He then worked at Facebook to shape the company's roadmap towards the launch of the Oculus Rift in 2016, serving as a spokesperson and advocate for the technology. – THE VERGE

2. Immersed has launched a public co-working VR platform for remote workers. The company's CEO Renji Bijoy told VRScout that the product was developed in response to his own team's frustration, since they all worked remotely and could not find the right tools to let them collaborate in the way they wanted. He claims Immersed leverages the sense of presence that VR engenders to enable a much more collaborative experience than is possible with video conferencing or chat. The company is currently experimenting on a solution that uses a computer’s webcam to film the user’s hands, allowing them to perform physical gestures in the VR world without the need of a headset or motion controllers. “I think that is what is going to be a massive game-changer for people who in general don’t use VR. It lowers the barrier to entry,” he believes. – VRSCOUT

3.  Throwback Thursday - Super Cockpit

Tom Furness has been pioneering virtual and augmented reality for the past 50 years. At around the same time that Ivan Sutherland was building the “Sword of Damocles”, Furness was working as a military engineer developing an ambitious flight simulator project for the US Air Force. It eventually became known as the “Super Cockpit,” and Furness worked on it throughout the 1980s.

The resulting machine cost "hundreds of millions" to develop according to Furness, and was impressively ahead of its time - a training cockpit that could project 3D maps, infrared and radar imagery, as well as avionics data into a real-time 3D space. It also allowed trainee pilots to control an aircraft using gestures, speech, and even eye movements.

Furness eventually left the military to “beat his swords into plowshares” and bring these virtual reality technologies to the larger public by starting the Human Interface Technology Lab at the University of Washington and founding the Virtual World Society, a nonprofit organization building a community of creators to explore the potential for immersive technologies to make a positive impact on society. He also helped invent the virtual retinal display technology in the early 90s, which is being used as some of the basis of Magic Leap’s lightfield display technologies.  

4. A Virtual Reality simulation lets users detonate a nuclear bomb in central Manhattan and watch the results unfold.  Nukemap VR was funded by a $500,000 grant from the Carnegie Corporation as part of a three-year project at the Stevens Institute called Reinventing Civil Defense, which aims to "restore a broad, cultural understanding of nuclear risk". Dave Mosher describes his demo - which happened in New York on the 74th anniversary of the US bombing of Nagasaki during World War II - as “terrifyingly easy and disturbingly informative.” Nukemap VR is an evolution of the website Nukemap, which uses declassified information to let users select any spot to drop and detonate a bomb, then see what could happen. Over 180 million faux nuclear weapons have been set off using the tool since it launched in 2012. The site's creator, historian Alex Wellerstein, wanted it to be a resource for building awareness about nuclear weapons, and he partnered with Christopher Manzione to develop its VR version. – BUSINESS INSIDER

5. Jake Pitre goes in search of human interest stories told in virtual social platform VRChat. YouTube creator Syrmor has built a large following for his videos documenting candid encounters with random strangers on the platform. Pitre writes that this taps into a new form of human interest storytelling in the tradition of Studs Terkel’s oral histories of everyday people, and that this new form of digital mediation through avatars could help us better understand ourselves in the world today: "Whatever transmissions of emotion and affect that take place, then, are not merely virtual, but actualized". – HYPERALLERGIC

6. No Man’s Sky added its much-anticipated VR support to PC and PSVR, but many users are experiencing significant glitches when trying to play the game. The issues with the "Beyond" update released this week by Hello Games seem to be prevalent across PC VR headsets as well as Mixed Reality ones. In a Reddit thread, dozens of players have reported that the game simply crashes when they try loading it on a Windows Mixed Reality headset via Steam. Unlike gaming on a monitor, even dropping one frame in virtual reality can be a jarring experience because it means the user no longer gets an image that reflects their correct positioning in the virtual world.  –UPLOADVR

7. British Airways is offering VR as a first-class perk in some of its flights. BA passengers traveling in the first class cabin from  London's Heathrow airport to New York's JFK will be given headsets made by SkyLights, and offered the chance to experience Virtual Reality in-flight entertainment, the company announced this week. – CNET

8. Location-based Virtual Reality start-up Nomadic is opening its first open a VR center in Seoul, South Korea later this month. This is part of the company's broader move towards international expansion and is being done in partnership with the CGV Gangbyeon multiplex in Seoul, theater chain CGV and technology provider CJ 4DX (which also includes a distribution deal). Nomadic CEO Doug Griffin cites the region's “advanced gaming culture” as motivation for the choice.  – VARIETY

9. Massless will start shipping its new 3D stylus in Q4 2019. the Massless Pen is now available for pre-order with a $50 deposit as part of the total $500 price. This includes the stylus  (which the company claims has a 12-hour battery life and also includes a non-vr tablet mode), a dedicated camera with a stand, and one year’s subscription of the Massless Studio software. Following the initial release, the company plans to charge $1,000 for the Massless Pen and $20 per month or $200 per year for Massless Studio.– ROAD TO VR

10. Gender bias in design could be a factor in causing Cybersickness. Motion sickness in Virtual Reality affects between 40% and 70% of users and presents a serious obstacle toward widespread acceptance of the technology. "Studies have found that when a VR headset’s interpupillary distance (IPD) is too large, users experience greater discomfort, explained Bas Rokers, a psychologist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, speaking at a SIGGRAPH2019 panel. “The default for the headset is somewhat larger than the average the population which matches very nicely with the average male but doesn’t do it so well for females," he said, adding that  90% of women have pupils that are closer together than the default headset setting, and 27% of women's eyes don't fit the headset at all. In comparison, only 5% of men had had too narrow an IPD for the headset to match. – INSIDE SCIENCE

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: Kim Lyons (Pittsburgh-based journalist and managing editor at Inside).

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