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Inside VR (Sep 26th, 2019)

1. Police officers are receiving VR “empathy development training” to help them cope with their fear response to avoid fatal incidents. First responders often show up at various scenes with an adrenaline spike, explains Laura Brown, senior director of training at Axon, the technology company providing the training which also makes Tasers and police body cameras. Recently, the company launched similar virtual training to prepare first responders for scenarios involving people with autism and schizophrenia. This encouraged them to develop this latest module focusing on suicide prevention in conjunction with clinicians, behavioral analysts and law enforcement experts to design an immersive experience that places trainees in a realistic scenario involving a mental-health crisis. In the future, Brown adds, VR could also be used to review body-camera evidence, recruit new officers, conduct weapons training or be used as a therapy tool for officers suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. – WASHINGTON POST

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2. Facebook still has a lot to do if it wants to get a billion people into VR. Today is the second day of the Oculus Connect developers conference (OC6) conference in San Jose, California, and CNET editor-at-large Ian Sherr is there to reflect on past editions and what the future holds. He identifies the three major areas that have to reach a tipping point before mass consumer adoption, namely price, design and content. On price, for example, he points out that although the release of the Quest – a standalone system costing $399 is a bit leap forward, it still sees the headset competing with major game consoles which all retail at $299. On the content front, meanwhile, although the company has an app store with more than 1,300 titles including hits like Beat Saber, most developers struggle to make enough revenue from their VR content. – CNET

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3.  Throwback Thursday: The Wheatstone Stereoscope

Stereoscopic photography is a Victorian technology that was a (very) early precursor of VR, and still has many fans even in the modern age, including Queen guitarist Brian May. 

The Wheatstone stereoscope, invented in 1838, was the earliest of its type. It used a pair of mirrors at 45 degree angles to the user's eyes, each reflecting a picture located off to the side. It was the creation of Sir Charles Wheatstone, an English scientist and inventor who is most famous for the Wheatstone bridge used to measure an unknown electrical resistance, which was a major factor in the and as a major figure in the development of telegraphy. 

Wheatstone’s research demonstrated that the brain processes the different two-dimensional images from each eye into a single object of three dimensions, so viewing two side by side stereoscopic images or photos through a stereoscope can produce a sense of depth and immersion.

The machine was introduced in the year before practical photographic processes became available, so drawings were used. This type of stereoscope has the advantage that the two pictures can be very large if desired. Yet in spite of the seemingly enormous technology gulf spanning nearly 200 years, the very same design principles of that stereoscope are still used today in devices such as the Google Cardboard and other mobile VR headsets.  

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4. Fitness start-up YUR has secured a $1.1 million investment and released a new app to help users track the calories they burn in Virtual Reality. YUR’s patent-pending software will track how many calories users burn while using their Quest headset, and there will also be a companion app on Android and iOS that will allow them to sync that data with Apple Health and Google Fit. Previously, the YUR fitness tracking software has been integrated with games such as Beat Saber through mod support, but the new version won't be restricted to any particular games. It won't however, be available in the Oculus Store, only for installation via SideQuest – which is often used by Quest owners to install or modify games and apps that are not officially approved by Facebook. – UPLOADVR

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5. Variety offers an exclusive preview of the upcoming “Agent Emerson” VR film. The 15-minute piece will be released on Oculus Rift, Go and Quest, HTC Vive and Cosmos, as well as Sony Playstation VR on Nov. 22. The plot follows David Emerson, a CIA agent who wakes up to the realization that his body has been taken over by an evil general as part of an experimental weapons program.  Agent Emerson was shot POV-style with a special head-mounted camera rig strapped to the actor’s head.. Director Ilya Rozhkov explains how the restrictions of 360-degree VR filmmaking were woven into the actual plot: “The story of ‘Agent Emerson’ revolves around the themes of control over one’s own actions, the consequences, and personal responsibility that result from lack of that control,” Rozhkov said, adding that the protagonist is in the same boat with the audience, not being in control of his body.   – VARIETY  

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6. PokerStars is looking for a person to act as the company's VR ambassador. The company made the announcement to coincide with the launch of a major Virtual Reality Poker Tournament this Friday, with the first of three virtual “stops,” offering a first-place price of 25M. Players who register for the competition will receive a swag bag of digital accessories for their avatars, but all spots for the September spots have already been filled, although users can still sign up for the waitlist. – VRSCOUT  

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7. Room-scale VR could be holding the industry back. Joel Khalili discusses the relative merits of standing versus seated immersive experiences with industry experts as companies continue to struggle with the pervasive “locomotion problem.” Even games such as BeatSaber, some argue, are more comfortable if experienced while the user is sitting down, and for players to move without restrictions we will eventually need to move past the industry's current prejudice against seated experiences, aided by the emergence of  high-quality peripherals that demonstrate you don’t need a 2.5m2 to suspend reality.– VR FOCUS  

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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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