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Inside VR (Sep 12th, 2019)

1. The HTC Vive Cosmos is available for preorders today. Writer Dean Takahashi gets some hands-on time with the highly anticipated HMD, which replaces the original Vive and is aimed at the consumer market. It will ship on October 3, priced at $699 (compared to the current Vive CE which currently retails at $499). Although Takahashi calls the headset an "engineering marvel" he also points out that the company had to balance out a number of difficult tradeoffs in terms of cost, visual quality, accessibility, and mobility. There is also a strong emphasis on providing users with a robust content library, with more than 1,700 titles on Viveport and over than 3,000 on Steam, in addition to 700 in Viveport Infinity. Pre-orders of the device will also come with a free 12-month subscription of the Infinity service. – VENTURE BEAT  

2. Adi Robertson reviewed the VR-themed dark thriller "Empathy, Inc." for the Verge. The film first premiered at the Cinepocalypse festival in 2018, but is now getting a broader release starting Friday in theaters and VOD from Sept. 24. It tells the story of a secretive company that creates an experience called “X-Treme Virtual Reality,” which lets rich users experience the lives of underprivileged people. Written by author Mark Leidner and directed by Yedidya Gorsetman, the titular startup evokes the real-world “empathy machine” theme, providing a critical caricature of VR’s place in culture today, according to Robertson. – THE VERGE

3. Throwback Thursday: HTC VIVE

It was just over three years ago when HTC just managed to beat Facebook to the post and release the Vive headset ahead of the Oculus Rift. 

Developed in partnership with Valve, the Vive was first unveiled at HTC's Mobile World Congress keynote in March 2015, and subsequently released in April 2016.

Three years is a long time in tech, and that's been especially true of the past 40 months or so in VR. While we can argue the relative merits of both headsets and of their current star replacements such as the Oculus Quest and HTC's Cosmos (see above), there is little doubt that this HMD played a pivotal role in enabling developers to create amazing experiences that have turned a lot of people onto immersive tech. In 2019, roughly a third of VR headsets using Valve’s Steam are HTC Vives.

Yet this is the official end of an era, since Dan O’Brien, General Manager of the Americas at HTC Vive confirmed that the current Vive CE is going to be "out of channel" in the next few weeks. "That’s coming to a long, storied end of life. I’m not sure how many products have made it that long in the CE space," he says. 

Users feeling extra nostalgic can indulge in watching this vintage video from the original 2016 release

4. Facebook's VR streaming platform Oculus Venues will host a concert by GRAMMY award-winning singer/songwriter H.E.R. The performance at the first-ever “Lights On Festival” will be streamed live from Concord,, California this Saturday, Sept.14. Users can watch it either on the Oculus Quest or Oculus Go headset. The live stream event, which will be hosted and curated by H.E.R. herself is being produced and broadcasted by Supersphere, VR live streaming specialists which also handled Venues’ recent VR broadcast of Billie Eilish live in Spain. – VRSCOUT 

5. In the latest edition of the "XR For Business" podcast, Alan Smithson interviews VR Vision's COO Lorne Fade. With the growing trend in immersive training and education, Fade offers useful insight to business leaders looking to deploy VR and 360° Video in the workplace, delving into some of the reasons why the technology has proven so effective in that space. – XR FOR BUSINESS PODCAST

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6. Theme parks are building more attractions around VR. Bernard Marr provides an interesting roundup for Forbes of the many different ways in which VR technology is being incorporated with thrill rides and theme park experiences. From allowing customers to visit a park in Virtual Reality to adding VR graphics to a rollercoaster ride as was done in Six Flags Great Adventure, there seems to be a natural fit. He also looks at the more recent phenomenon of parks such as China’s VR Star Theme Park,which are built from the ground up entirely around the concept of building VR as an attraction in its own right. –  FORBES  

7. German start-up Vality has built a prototype for a near-retina resolution compact form-factor VR headset. Road to VR got exclusive access to the 200-gram device which is meant as a proof of concept at this stage, with an expected release date to market in 2021. Ben Lang was impressed by the "impressively sharp" resolution afforded by a pair of 2K × 2K micro-displays which, across its 80 × 80 degree field of view, offers 36 PPD (pixels per degree) in the center of the view which the company promises to inicreast to 46 PPD in the final version. – ROAD TO VR

8. The HTC Vive is being officially retired. Following today's preorder release of the Vive Cosmos headset (see above), the original Vive (which is still being sold for $500 at the time of writing will be phased out and is expected to start becoming very scarce by the end of this quarter according to the company. – UPLOADVR

9. “LOW-FI” is an interesting VR game about a VR world which is doing well on KickstarterDeveloped by Iris VR, this is a follow up to their critically acclaimed game "Technolust" and features an expansive dystopian open world where you play a law enforcement officer working against your fellow humans in a regime ruled by Artificial Intelligence. With 20 days of its campaign yet left to go, the game has already surpassed its goal in raising over $58,000. – VR AND FUN

10. Future romantic relationships will increasingly be mediated by technologies such as AI, Robotics and VR. “We’re only just beginning to see what can be achieved through virtual reality,” says Prof Adrian Cheok, director of the Imagineering Institute research project, adding that the main challenges in making fully immersive experiences will lie in replicating taste, touch, and smell. He helped develop an app called “Kissenger” which prototypes some of these capabilities, but he believes we're not yet at a stage to take something like that to market.  – FINANCIAL 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).

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