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Inside VR (Aug 29th, 2019)

1. Jessica Outlaw and Susan Persky lay out the case for more stringent protection for data collected in immersive environments. Biometric tracking data - micro-movements of head, torso, hands, and eyes - can be medical data, they argue, as it can be used to diagnose or predict anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, addiction, ADHD, autism spectrum disorder and more about a person’s cognitive and physical function. It should furthermore be treated as Personally Identifiable Information (PII) since anonymizing VR and AR tracking data is nearly impossible due to the fact individuals have unique patterns of movement. In fact, a study where researchers collected data at 95 time points in VR, proved they could identify an individual with 90 percent accuracy. "Data collected by VR technologies is currently unregulated, and how it is collected, used and shared is not monitored by any external entity," they warn. – WORLD ECONOMIC FORUM

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2. Musician Lindsey Stirling performed a Virtual Reality concert on Twitch to promote her upcoming album Artemis. The show digitized Stirling into an avatar as she played full set and answered questions from fans in between songs including her latest single, "The Upside. She wore a bodysuit that tracked her movements in real-time as she danced and played the violin.– EDM 

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3. – Throwback Thursday: Videoplace

Circa 1975, Myron Krueger created an early interactive virtual platform called the Videoplace, which was first displayed at the Milwaukee Art Center. Consisting of a series of dark rooms with large video screens, it used computer graphics, projectors, video cameras, video displays and position-sensing technology to create a "VR" environment. 

Users could see their computer-generated silhouettes which mimicked their own movements and actions, and could interact with silhouettes generated by users in other rooms, conveying the possibility that people could communicate within a virtual world even if they weren't physically close.

Krueger's idea with the Videoplace was the creation of an artificial reality that surrounded the users, and responded to their movements and actions, without being encumbered by wearing a headset or gloves. It was the culmination of several iterations of artificial reality systems: GLOWFLOW, METAPLAY, and PSYCHIC SPACE; each offering improvements over the previous installation until VIDEOPLACE became a fully-fledged artificial reality lab at the University of Connecticut, where it is now on permanent display at the State Museum of Natural History.

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4. The Israeli Army is using Virtual Reality to teach its troops how to navigate the network of tunnels created by Hamas and Hezbollah. Members of the Yahalom, or Diamond special operations unit of the army’s combat engineering corps go through the immersive training to familiarize themselves with the tunnel's configurations and prepare for various scenarios. “Technology is an essential part of the fight,” which justifies heavy investment, says a commanding officer of Yahalom’s training center at a military base in central Israel, identified only as "H." for security reasons. There are a dozen soldiers on the current course, and over 100 have been through it since it began three years ago. – TIMES OF ISRAEL

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5. A new VR experience aims to introduce users to the world of Bondage and Discipline, Sadism and Masochism (BDSM). The "Dominatrix Simulator" episodic game was crowdfunded on Patreon and developed by Deviant.Tech. Its founders, who go by the names of Deviant Dev and Devilish Domina, say that they hope playing it will help people better understand the fetish and lifestyle beyond the surface."We want to build something that’s more than a simple masturbatory experience and hope through trial-and-error that we’re able to find the sweet spot between entertaining, titillating and educational," says Domina. – THE SUN

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6.  Student athletes at Bryant High School in Arkansas are using Virtual Reality to learn to recognize early signs of concussions.  The training is provided by CrashCourse's VR goggles as part of an effort to push for more concussion education, since one in five high school student-athletes will experience a concussion. "A lot of our students that suffer concussions don't know that they have," Anthony Owen with the Department of Education said. "Awareness is a major component of this; being able to recognize those symptoms such as blacking out, disorientation, lack of concentration, and poor balance," he says.– KATV

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7. Nuclear generation company Fortum is using Virtual Reality to train employees on routine and emergency procedures. Over 90% of employees at the company's Loviisa, Finland site have completed the training using the high-resolution Varjo VR-1 headset. According to Program Lead  Joakim Bergroth, the level of image detail afforded by the HMD is good enough so that workers can easily distinguish the smallest digits from a control room display during a VR simulation and read the tiny print on virtual manuals. – VRSCOUT

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8. Recognizing the 400th anniversary of the first African slaves arriving in North America, USA Today launched a "1619: Searching for Answers." The Multimedia series includes an immersive experience that allows users to tour the San Juan Bautista, the ship that carried enslaved Africans through the tortuous and often fatal Middle Passage. The landing of the first enslaved Africans in 1619 is one of the most important events and dates in our history, but it hasn't been treated as such," said Nicole Carroll, editor-in-chief at USA Today.  "Our goal is to educate and inform Americans about the history that continues to shape and influence the country we are today," she concludes – NEXT REALITY 

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9. Hong Saraboth, the founder of Virtual Reality Cambodia, wants to make the technology widely accessible in his country. Cambodian-born Saraboth fled the country as a refugee, settled in the US, and recently returned home after 30 years, taking it as his mission to democratize access to Extended Reality (XR) so that more people are able to see its potential as he had. His company is the first Virtual Reality company in the country and received a grant from Facebook’s Community Leadership Programme “ and introduced nearly 1,500 children to the technology through their VR Learning Lab EdTech community program last year.  – THE PHNOM PENH POST  

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10.  An entrepreneur based in Bristol, UK has launched a Kickstarter for a VR locomotion gadget that sits on top of your chair. The VRGO Mini deploys a ’tilt-to-move’ scheme which uses an inertial measurement unit (IMU) comprised of an accelerometer, gyroscope, and magnetometer, which tells the game which direction the user is turning or tilting. The more expensive version of the product also comes with integrated haptics and will ship for $180 if the $20,000 crowdfunding goal is reached by the end of September.  – ROAD TO VR

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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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