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Inside VR (Sep 10th, 2019)

1. Microsoft Research has developed a prototype haptic VR controller. The TORC was developed at KAIST University and uses a Vive Tracker to offer "high-dexterity finger interaction" to users. The controller deploys a pressure sensor to detect when the user is squeezing or gripping an object. The thumbpad is also able to simulate texture when moving it. Jamie Feltham writes for UPLOADVR that this looks to be an interesting middle ground between something like the Index controllers and more robust haptic systems like HaptX. which could fit alongside a modern VR controller. – UPLOADVR  

2. Burger King continues to troll McDonald’s on Augmented Reality. The company worked with German agency Grabarz & Partners to create a new experience called "Escape the Clown" timed with the release of "IT Chapter 2." Available exclusively to users in Germany, it involves a rather elaborate way of getting a free (well, one-cent, so practically free) Whopper. Using the MyBK app, they need to find a special AR-enabled advertisement that’s been snuck into the organization’s cinema-themed magazine (located at every McDonald’s restaurant). This triggers an AR animation with 3D red balloons and unlocks the location of the nearest BK where they can claim their hard-earned prize. –  VRSCOUT

3. Spotlight: Women in VR - Yuka Kojima

By Alice Bonasio

After studying psychology at University, Yuka Kojima got a job as a game developer at Sony Computer Entertainment Japan, where she worked on many Playstation 3 titles and projects. Until, that is, she discovered VR and decided to go her own way. 

In May 2014 she co-founded Fove, a company that deployed revolutionary software to improve eye-tracking technology housed in a VR headset. Their Kickstarter campaign raised over $500,000 and the company went on to get $13 million in investment from the likes of Samsung and Foxconn. 

Kojima, who has been featured on Forbes Japan as one of the world's 100 most powerful women, has a flair for storytelling and enjoys writing graphic novels, but she believes that the future of immersive storytelling lies in interactivity, which is why she advocates making the best use of the eye-tracking and facial recognition technology.

“We want to be the company that figures out VR’s unsolved problems,” Kojima said in an interview for the Japan Times.

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. Immersive social platform VRChat has closed a $10 million Series C investment round. The latest funding comes in addition to a previous round of investment amounting to $5.2 million. Ben Lang writes that the sometimes zany mashup of aesthetics and activities on the site, and the fact that it allows VR users to mingle with those that either don't have or don't want to use headsets has made the game popular on the livestreaming scene, affording it a top 100 rank among Twitch titles by average viewers. VRChat said at the that in 2018 it had seen 4 million unique users, 30% of which were using VR. – ROAD TO VR 

5. Google recently filed a patent showcasing the progress it has made in VR over the past years. This has triggered speculation that the company may be planning a new wireless Virtual Reality glass that would give users an immersive experience while using a streaming service, since the patent shows an HMD with embedded advanced wireless technology. The sketch also showcases hand controllers and radio technology and two WLAN as well as one WPAN modules on the back. The headsets should work with both smartphones and PCs.– MS POWER USER

6. Portland-based start-up The Wild is expanding its immersive collaboration platform. The company partnered with Igloo Vision - which makes immersive 360° projection spaces that don't require users to wear a headset - to open new avenues for collaboration and experiential design review for teams working in architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC).  –  TECH TRENDS  

7. At IFA 2019 in Berlin, Shara Tibken got an exclusive early preview of a secretive new social VR Platform. XRSpace is spearheaded by former HTC CEO Peter Chou, who believes he's cracked the conundrum of making Virtual Reality more social and give it mass-appeal. Although she was not allowed to talk much about her experience before the upcoming launch in 2020, there were hints that  5G would play a big role. "AR/VR, with its immersive entertainment, just may be the thing that shows consumers why they truly need 5G, Chou says, "but first someone has to build an experience for it. What I'm working on is the second generation of VR."– CNET

8. Immersive media opens up a whole new world to actors according to Dutch Writer, Director, and Actor Cassandra De Klerck. In this podcast, De Klerck talks about how the future of acting might be influenced by technical innovations such as VR/AR. She is the founder of Virtual Acting, a company specialized in teaching and consulting how to act in immersive worlds. – VRTL

9. Virtual reality is being used in a variety of ways by surgeons at George Washington University. Dr. Keith Mortman talks about how he uses VR to show patients what their tumor looks like inside their body. “This is three-dimensional, so the patient gets a deeper meaning, what the tumor looks like, where it’s located, how big it is relative to other structures, as well as the surgical approach I need to take in order to remove it,” he explains. – WTOP  

10. Dexter Thomas interviews the user known in VRChat as Symor, whom he calls the "Dr Phil’ of Virtual Reality." The Toronto-based YouTuber has released a series of viral videos taken on the VRChat platform which have earned him over half a million subscribers on YouTube. He tells Thomas about how he started providing emotional support to other users, and what is is like to have "cartoon pigs telling you their deepest and darkest secrets." – VICE

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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