1. Walmart CEO Doug McMillon believes that VR training helped employees react to the shooting in El Paso. The active shooting training scenario is part of the overall Walmart Academy experience which the company adopted earlier this year. McMillon, who has done the training himself, added that “there's something about doing that through VR that helps you, in some ways, live the experience and understand the steps that you need to take." Derek Belch, CEO of Strivr (the company that developed the training for Walmart) says a few store associates had reached out to thank them for the training since the shooting. "VR offers a medium that nothing even comes close to touching. It's not a generic environment; it helps with the learning and cognitive aspect because store associates can say, 'I was literally in this store,' or a store just like it with similar lights, colors, et cetera," Belch concludes. – FORTUNE
2. Google AI researchers have developed a lightweight approach that utilizes less processing power to accurately detect hand gestures. It uses the open-source, cross-platform MediaPipe framework to map up to 21 points of the hand and fingers via machine learning models. Google's method of hand and finger tracking actually divides the task over three machine learning models: A palm detection algorithm, another that identifies hand and knuckle coordinate points of the hand or hands within the camera view, and a third that infers the gesture in view by recording the pose for each finger and matching it with pre-defined hand gestures, with counting gestures and a variety of hand signs supported. – NEXT REALITY
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3. Throwback Thursday: Aspen Movie Map
The Aspen Movie Map was a hypermedia system developed at MIT in 1978. It worked much like an early version of Google Street View, using basic 3D graphics and photographs taken from a car driving through Aspen, Colorado, to give the user an interactive first-person journey around the city. Although it did not use a headset, the project's innovative first-person interactivity represented a smart examination of how VR could be used to transport people to other places. Running it required several Laserdisc players, a computer, and a touch screen display.
Aspen was filmed in early fall and winter, so users were able to experience the city in different seasons. To capture the data, a gyroscopic stabilizer with four 16mm stop-frame film cameras was mounted on top of a car with an encoder that triggered the cameras every ten feet. The distance was measured from an optical sensor attached to the hub of a bicycle wheel dragged behind the vehicle. The cameras were mounted in order to capture front, back, and side views as the car made its way through the city. Filming took place daily between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. to minimize lighting discrepancies, with the car was carefully driven down the center of every street in Aspen to enable match cuts.
The film was assembled into a collection of discontinuous scenes (one segment per view per city block) and then transferred to laserdisc. A database was made that correlated the layout of the video on the disc with the two-dimensional street plan. Thus linked, the user was able to choose a path through the city. Selected building contained additional data such as interior shots, historical images, menus of restaurants, or video interviews with city officials, so that users could take more in-depth virtual tours of those sites. Additional features of the map interface included the ability to jump back and forth between correlated aerial photographic and cartoon renderings with routes and landmarks highlighted; and to zoom in and out.
Image credit: By Walter.bender - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0
4. It has been five years since Mark Zuckerberg started his VR journey. As Facebook's annual Oculus conference approaches in September, Ian Hamilton looks back at the major milestones for the company, starting in 2014 when Oculus co-founder Palmer Luckey stepped on stage (on his birthday) and threw Minecraft foam swords at the gathered crowd of developers, to the recent announcement of the Oculus Quest, which was arguably the culmination of the vision the Facebook founder first set out. –UPLOADVR
5. An Austrian start-up has unveiled its Cybershoes at Gamescon. Joanna Nelium describes the device - which is compatible with any VR game that allows free movement with controllers - as "futuristic sandals, only with a thick, single strap that goes over the top of your foot, like a snowboard." The soles have a tracking wheel on the bottom with grips to make it easier to walk, run, and jump in-game while seated. They also have a feature called Z-scaling that allows you to calibrate your eye-height while seated, so you can also pick things up in-game without getting out of your chair. Cybershoes GmbH claims the shoes (which are available to order for $398) will also help to eliminate motion sickness since you're actually using your feet and legs to move in-game. – PC GAMER
6. The Otherworld VR arcade has officially opened to the public in London. Kyle Melnick describes the futuristic design of the venue as something straight out of "Tron: Legacy" and speculates that as VR arcades continue to grow in popularity and more facilities begin to sprout, the visual appeal of immersive establishments will become more important. “We wanted to create an immersive space suited to a wider demographic than those normally associated with the stereotypical carpeted games arcade from the 1980s,” confirms Lucas Che Tizard, founding director of Red Deer, which designed the space. – VRSCOUT
7. Now that we've had most of the major expected hardware releases for the year, it is a good time to look at the range of VR headsets available. Joshua Goldman gives a comprehensive overview of all the options currently on the market across PC, game console, phone and standalone, from the Oculus Quest to Valve Index and Google Daydream. His advice? "Don't spend a lot, and get something for the hardware you have." CNET
8. "Paper Beast" is a captivating game that combines open-world exploration and engaging narrative. Scott Hayden was impressed by the Pixel Reef's demonstration of the upcoming PSVR title he got to try out at Gamescom 2019, which is happening in Cologne, Germany, this week. "I was clearly charmed by the studio’s ability to not only deliver impressive and varied environments but also loads of novelty that truly made me feel like I’d been transported into the living dreamworld that emerged from the dust of big data," he recounts. – ROAD TO VR
9. To mark National Senior Citizen’s Day, Sol Rogers examines the different companies using Virtual Reality to improve the quality of life for the elderly. From overcoming social isolation to transporting the infirm to far-flung places, without the need to physically travel, the immersive power of the technology has produced impressive results through companies such as VR Genie, Rendever and others in this growing segment. – FORBES
10. A Brazilian animated VR film has been shortlisted for the 2019 Venice Film Festival. Narrated by Rodrigo Santoro, "The Line" tells a story of Pedro and Rosa, miniature dolls who struggle to live out their love story. Director Richard Laganaro says his goal was to create a narrative that could only be experienced in VR, and that the project provided him with the opportunity to bring new references, colors, textures, and sounds beyond the Northern Hemisphere into an immersive narrative. "The story needs the user to exist. To amplify the sense of presence, I’ve chosen not to use any cuts or teleportation throughout the experience. All user’s movements in the physical world are equivalent in the virtual world," he explains. – LATIN TIMES
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).