1. AltspaceVR will be available on the Oculus Quest starting September 12. The Social VR platform - which has been owned by Microsoft since 2017 - announced on Twitter that it would be integrating with Facebook's popular standalone HMD. The service is already available for free on Steam for most major headsets including the Oculus Rift and Go, as well as on Gear VR and Desktop via 2D Mode and supports interaction between large numbers of users, leveraging spatial audio capabilities to enhance immersion. Recently, Altspace has also been exploring the possibilities around hosting live events such as comedy shows on the platform, which is believed to be a huge untapped market for Virtual Reality. – ROAD TO VR
2. Taiwan is increasingly investing in immersive content co-productions. The recently created Taiwan Creative Content Agency (TAICCA) has made the development of VR films one of its key projects, and is hosting an immersive lineup reception at the Venice Film Festival this week to court partners for future co-productions. “The development of any new technology must be matched by creativity," Meng-Yin Yang, the director of Kaohsiung Film Archive told Variety. "Taiwan already has an advantage in terms of manufacturing hardware for VR content. Our creators were also willing to embrace and explore this new technology. I think that’s why Taiwan’s VR films have developed so quickly.”– VARIETY
3. Spotlight: Women in VR - Paisley Smith
By Alice Bonasio
Paisley Smith is a Canadian Virtual Reality filmmaker based in Los Angeles where she recently launched her own creative studio and interactive storytelling business, Paisley Smith Creative.
Coming from a more traditional 2D production background, she was one of the first to fully embrace the immersive medium with Project Syria VR which was selected for the 2015 Sundance Film Festival New Frontier.
At around the same time she started Virtual Reality Girls, a space to connect with, and showcase women working in emerging technology. This has since grown and merged into the Women in VR/AR community of over 10K people.
Alongside designer Caitlin Conlen, she also leads Feminist Futures, a world-building workshop where they design, build, and create the stories for an intersectional, feminist utopian future. According to Smith, this design thinking process can be used to create fiction, and as a way to find solutions for real-world issues.
"I believe we can use technology to connect more deeply with ourselves, and the world around us.The stories I tell are guided by my belief that if we are honest about our own experiences - the good, the bad, and the vulnerable," she says on her website.
Her work is a testament to that, including experiences such as Homestay - a reflection of her own personal and frustrating experience of coming to terms with suicide and grief - and Unceded Territories, a project which stands in solidarity with First Nations and Indigenous people fighting for climate justice.
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
4. The VOID's co-founder says he's applying lessons he learned as a magician to selling VR experiences to a mass consumer audience. Curtis Hickman, who is also the company's chief creative officer, tells NBC's Jonathan Bloom that he designed things that have been used by top magicians, and that this experience informs his strategy on location-based VR. "There's these things called 'convincers,' which are sort of these psychological little moments or hints that we put into the experience," he said. "One simple example is when you begin 'Secrets of the Empire,' the first thing we ask you to do is to sit down on this chair. Now, all you're seeing is a digital representation of a chair that, in your experience, may or may not exist. It's just a completely digital object. But we're asking you to trust us and put your weight on it. And so as soon as you do, that digital object has a sense of permanence," he explains, adding that this so-called "Path of Conviction" is a tactic often used by magicians in building up their acts.– NBC BAY AREA
5. Researchers at the Qualcomm Institute at UC San Diego are expanding access to their state-of-the-art high-resolution virtual environment. The Suncave is capable of displaying half a billion pixels, making it the highest resolution virtual reality environment on the planet with 70 4K resolution screens powered by 35 computers. The Suncave was built about two years ago. It follows Qualcomm’s StarCave, which only supported around 60 million pixels. "We developed new algorithms that allowed us to render more points and more high-resolution data sets in this space because there’s so much more detail the displays can produce," explains Jürgen Schulzemcomputer scientist at Qualcomm who developed the software for this project. – KPBS
6. Peter Graham praises "The Curious Tale of the Stolen Pets." The VRFocus journalist tested an early version of Fast Travel Games' new title at Gamescom last week, describing it as a "cute puzzle experience with a delightful artistic design featuring a storybook style narrative where you venture to different worlds from your childhood, guided by the voice of your grandfather." Graham concludes that it makes for very hands-on gaming akin to playing with Lego or building sandcastles. A release is scheduled for later this year, but no date has yet been set. –VRFOCUS
7. UPLOADVR journalist Harry Baker ponders on what makes a compelling location-based VR experience. After traveling to Melbourne to play two of the games currently offered by Zero Latency, Baker said he came away stunned by how different the two experiences felt. While "Zombie Outbreak" was something he "would never willingly play again," puzzle game "Engineerium" earned praise for showcasing the possibilities of the medium. "It just goes to show the degree to which game design can affect a VR experience," he concludes, adding that developers need to make sure that their level design, art style, and gameplay are developing at a pace that matches the expectations of consumers that are becoming increasingly used to VR technology.– UPLOADVR
8. Beat Saber has added a host of new artists and features to its latest update. Beat Games announced the popular VR game now has six new artists, and a customizable color picker that will allow users to choose their own color patterns as they play. New original songs include “Burning Sands” by Boom Kitty “Give A Little Love” by Pegboard Nerds and “Immortal” by Slippy. Beat Saber is available for $30 via Oculus, SteamVR, and PlayStation VR platforms, but the OST 3 update is available for free to existing users as of today. – VRSCOUT
9. VR is proving to be an empowering force for working women. Debrah Lee Charatan writes that Virtual reality doesn’t merely offer a vision for the future, but puts in place a support system and empowering technology that helps professional women thrive. It can do so by fulfilling a range of useful functions such as nourishing supportive mentorship groups, educating on and preventing sexual harassment and fostering empathy that ultimately could safeguard against workplace sexism. – CT POST
10. Borderlands 2 will get a large free upgrade on September 6th for the PSVR. According to its makers Gearbox, the "Bad Ass Mega Fun pack" will feature 16 extra lumps of downloadable content to keep fans busy. Eurogamer reports that campaigns such as "Captain Scarlet and Her Pirate's Booty," and "Mr. Torgue's Campaign of Carnage" have all been suitably finessed to work in VR.– EUROGAMER
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).