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Inside VR (Sep 17th, 2019)

1. Activists are making a VR film to show the long-term effects of a disastrous Uranium spill. In 1979, a dam on the Navajo Nation near Church Rock, New Mexico, broke at a uranium mill’s evaporation pond, releasing 94 million gallons of radioactive waste into the Puerco River. It was the largest accidental release of radioactive material in the United States history, contaminating not only the water but the entire food chain. To make the upcoming film about the subject - directed by VR artist and filmmaker Kayla Briet and entitled “Ways of Knowing” - arts collective Bombshelltoe has collected extensive 360-degree footage of land near the site to show how it has changed since the spill. – AP NEWS    

2. Facebook has just added hidden basic support for OpenXR to its Oculus Rift and Rift S headsets. OpenXR is the open standard API for VR/AR developed by a working group which includes Facebook, Valve, Microsoft, NVIDIA, AMD, HTC, Google, Unity, and Epic and is managed by non-profit industry consortium Khronos. When OpenXR 1.0 was first released back in March, Facebook stated that it would support it later in the year. Although not officially released yet, the support is currently available on the Public Test Channel of the Oculus Rift software, which users can opt into with one click, and VRScout tested this by adding the registry key which allowed them to successfully link OpenXR to the Oculus software. The API allows developers to write code which runs on any and all VR headsets and should shorten the time taken to develop cross-platform VR apps. – UPLOAD VR  

3. Spotlight: Women in VR - Timoni West

By Alice Bonasio

Timoni West is the Director of AR/VR (XR) at Unity Labs and virtually (haha) one of the most important people in the immersive ecosystem. According to Unity Technologies, its 3D engine has birthed about 60 percent of AR and VR experiences, with more than 91 percent of HoloLens experiences coming from Unity, and West is the person responsible for facilitating a great deal of that.

After working for companies such as Flickr and Foursquare, she joined Unity in 2015 where she worked on its first Virtual Reality editing tool - Editor XR - before being promoted to head of the authoring tools group later in that same year. There, she led a group of engineers and designers in building prototype immersive experiences while helping to shape Unity's broader strategy for AR and VR.

Since moving to her current role in 2017, she's focused on researching and executing the company's efforts to build advanced spatial computing tools such as the Project MARS Mixed Augmented Reality Studio - an extension that will enable developers to create apps that can directly interact with the real world.

West is clearly a driving force in the long-term development of immersive technology, and as such she takes a broad view that encompasses a wide range of interests. As she explains on her website:

"My interest range from creation tools to privacy and intent, digitally augmented social and physical spaces, applied machine learning, and hardware for new mediums — specifically inputs for spatial computing," says West. "I love hearing about new work in rendering tech, from headsets to holograms, and any company pushing the boundaries on how we can create a future we all want to live in."

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. A Portland filmmaker is using immersive media to highlight the stories of pioneering female pilots. Only 7 percent of pilots are women, and VR Filmmaker Rachel Bracker's episodic film, "With the Wind and the Stars" aims to draw attention to the fact that in spite of having the odds stacked against them, some of the most remarkable pilots out there are female. The episodes tell the stories of people such as Teara Fraser, who launched Canada’s first 100 percent indigenous woman-owned airline, and 21-year old "wing-nut" Hannah, who is building her own airplane from scratch. The films will be screened in VR through a variety of systems such as the Oculus Go, Google Daydream, or Samsung Gear VR. Episodes 1 and 2 will premiere in the fall of 2019, with the first one taking place in Portland on Sept. 21. – THE NEXT WEB

5. A new NHS pilot in England is trialing the use of personalized VR therapy in the treatment of Dementia. The Marston Court care home in Oxford, run by The Orders of St John Care Trust, has been testing resident's response to "Virtual Reminiscence therapy" developed by Virtue Health. The company's co-founder and CEO Arfa Rehman explains that the 360-degree footage is produced specifically to trigger personal memories related by the patient, such as - for a resident named Betty - visiting the street where she was born, got married, and lived most of her life prior to moving to the care home, or the B&B that her friend Sally used to run with her son in France before he died. BBC reporter Dougal Shaw's report is poignant at times, but I challenge anyone not to delight at the sight of Bill reliving his "rearing to go" days in the rock-and-roll dance halls. – BBC NEWS    

6. High Fidelity and Second Life Founder Phillip Rosedale laid out his vision for the present and future of Avatars. In this blog post, the Virtual Reality pioneer asks if instead of showing everyone our bedrooms, bad lighting and pajamas, we could instead present as a better everyday version of ourselves. He believes that recent breakthroughs in conveying virtual presence already make this possible, and foresees a shift in people presenting as realistic 3D avatars in cases where we’d formerly use video. One of the most tantalizing use cases he presents is that of “blind” job interviews, where the interviewer can’t see sex, color or class, which seems like a very useful way to bypass unconscious bias. –  HIGH FIDELITY BLOG

7. Adam Savage’s "Tested" series now has a Virtual Reality version available on the Oculus Quest and Go. Since launching in 2010, Savage's YouTube channel has gathered over 4.5M subscribers keen on watching him pursue unusual projects ranging from a true-to-life replica of the Excalibur to custom car seats for puppies. The VR experience developed by Whalerock and Lucky Hammers has interactive elements where users can explore Savage's workspace and then watch eight 15-minute, 180-degree stereoscopic videos of various projects by different makers. Chainsaw artist Griffon Ramsey describes the experience as “like being able to lean into the screen, adding that “in the past there was almost like this invisible wall up, but now it’s like you can break through this wall and feel like you’re there witnessing it." – VRSCOUT  

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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