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Inside VR

Inside VR (Aug 20th, 2019)

1. The “Westworld Awakening” experience has impressed reviewers so far. Based on HBO's hit science fiction series about sentient AI beings, it is the first project to expand upon that universe. When demoing part of the six-hour experience, CNN's Rachel Metz noted that it showed off the power of VR much more effectively than any other game she had tried. “I was captivated by virtual clothing so intricate you can examine the ruffles on collars and see-through diaphanous fabric,” she said, also noting how the unique way in which you move your characters through the world by swinging your arms helps create a greater sense of immersion. Developers Survios first conceived of the method for its 2017 game Sprint Vector, and it carried it over to Westworld Awakening to not only allow users to explore expansive 3D spaces without having to move around the room they're in, but also to help reduce nausea. The game is now available for $29.99 the Oculus Rift, Rift S, HTC Vive, and Vive Pro. – CNN

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2. Ramen VR became one of the latest projects to be backed by the Y Combinator. The start-up is using Improbable’s SpatialOS to build an MMO called "Zenith" which company CEO Andy Tsen describes as "the Upside Down from Stranger Things layered on top of your entire world." The company recently rolled out a Kickstarter to gauge interest for the game which has raised over $132,000 in its first week. They plan to launch an Alpha in six months, a beta in nine months and to go live broadly a year from now.– TECHCRUNCH

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3. Spotlight: Women in VR - Renate Fruchter

By Alice Bonasio

Collaboration is all the rage in the immersive technology space these days, but Dr. Renate Fruchter was doing it before it was cool -- for over 25 years to be precise. She is the founding director of the Project Based Learning Laboratory (PBL Lab) at Stanford, and a founding member of Women in Virtual Reality, which on its website describes Fruchter as a "stunning harnesser of virtual reality for over a decade in the architecture and construction industry."

There are now countless case studies emerging of how immersive technologies such as Virtual Reality enable better and more efficient collaboration in all industries, but arguably nowhere is this more evident than in the construction and architecture space. Yet the giant leaps and exponential growth we're experiencing at the moment is only possible because of the fundamental and persistent groundwork laid down by people such as Dr. Fruchter, who still teaches at Stanford using a  blend of instant messaging apps, web conferencing and screen-sharing programs, cloud-based collaboration platforms, and VR.

Every Tuesday we'll shine a spotlight on the female trailblazers making their mark in immersive tech and their work. If you have a story you think we should feature, just hit reply to this email or tweet me @alicebonasio

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4. VR is becoming increasingly accessible to educators. Better content, lower costs, and increasing awareness of how immersive experiences can drive better learning outcomes are driving adoption of what could become the most powerful teaching tool since the PC, writes Cera Hensley for Wired. In fact, she goes as far as claiming that "VR has the makings of a pedagogical silver bullet" due to its ability to create stronger memories than other forms of content delivery.  – WIRED

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5. Jamie Feltham demoes “Groundhog Day: Like Father Like Son” at Gamescom 2019. He defines the experience developed by Tequila Works as a curious mashup between a puzzle game and a sequel to the much-loved Bill Murray classic where you get directly involved in the narrative manipulating the time loop that your character. Fans will be able to step into the shoes of Phil Connors Jr, and get stuck in Punxsutawneydue on September 17. – UPLOADVR

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6. Stroke patients say that using VR tools have helped them recover their strength. Tina Orkin tells CBS Sacramento that she was one of the first people to try Cognitive's virtual rehab exercises when she had a stroke in 2016, and has since gone from being confined to a wheelchair to being able to play with her grandchildren. The platform uses gamification to engage patients and slowly build up their confidence, strength and coordination.  – CBS SACRAMENTO

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7. The VOID is continuing its steady expansion in the location-based VR entertainment space. The company - which offers multi-user VR experiences where players wear headsets and haptic backpacks while physically walking around a space which provides additional sensory inputs such as wind gusts, smells, and shaking floors - recently announced that it would be opening 25 new locations between now and 2022, which means that it is effectively doubling its current footprint. As part of that, new centers have now opened to the public in Atlanta, Minneapolis, and Washington D.C.– ROAD TO VR

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8. A virtual dentistry platform has been awarded one of Epic's MegaGrants. The Virteasy dental simulator which combines immersve simulations with haptic feedback technology has been in stealth mode so far, and is planning its first public demo at the Association for Dental Education in Europe (ADEE) conference in Berlin this week. The grant will be used by the company to develop the product further using Epic's Unreal engine.  –  MEDICAL SIMULATION

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9. Jeremy Horwitz addresses the familiar challenges of trying to convey VR experiences through words and 2D imagery.   The improvements made to the Oculus quest over the past months Over the past month have not been necessarily flashy, he claims, but are nonetheless fundamental for the long-term success of the medium. One such example is the "Guardian" functionality which creates a safety zone around the user which warns them when they're about to collide with real-world hazards. "It doesn’t look like much, but it enables almost everything that makes Quest special," he says, adding that users who try the feature invariably get blown away by the way the functionality lets them move safely within VR spaces. – VENTUREBEAT

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10. A start-up CEO used his own Virtual Reality platform to get into shape. “Having the ability to workout in VR gave me discipline and focus,” explains Mat Chacon, co-founder and CEO of Doghead Simulations, which are the makers of VR social and collaboration platform Rumii. He lost 15 pounds and gained muscle mass by regularly engaging in exercise routines, using different headsets to suit various exercise modes. Chacon claims that performing his workouts in a shared virtual space allowed him to interact with a community that kept him accountable while his avatar acted as a buffer that allowed him to overcome his insecurities.– VRSCOUT

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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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