1. ILMxLab and Oculus released the surprise Episode II of Vader Immortal during an Oculus Connect 6 (OC6) Keynote. The experience is now available on the Oculus Store for $10, and Dean Takahashi talked to its creators at OC6 and tried on an early demo - where you play a padawan (a sort of apprentice for those not versed in Star Wars lore) to Darth Vader. "It was better than the first episode because I could use Force Push powers to get rid of the enemies flying around me. And I got to hear the hissing breath of Lord Vader himself, who seems to take an interest in my ability to manipulate some rocks," he recounts. – VENTUREBEAT
2. Diners will be able to access premium Virtual Reality dinner experiences at a prestigious New York Venue later this month. The James Beard House, housed in 175-year-old town house in the West Village, is converting some of its staff offices into a dining room, where Top Chef's Gail Simmons has recorded a narration that will guide users through a gastronomic VR journey. For $125 (inclusive of gratuity and tax) visitors will get seven bite-size courses. Four guests can go at a time, and the Digital Gastronomy experience will play with memory, perception, and taste,” says Roni Mazumdar, the owner of Aerobanquets RMX which since March has been offering VR dining experience to more than 100 people, including musician David Byrne, architect James Ramsey, and Paul Miller (AKA DJ Spooky) a musician who’s collaborated with Metallica and Yoko Ono. Richard Morgan joined one of these unusual dinner parties and provides some context in this fascinating long read. The service will be available Oct. 30. – BLOOMBERG
3. Spotlight: Women in VR - Barbara Lippe
By Alice Bonasio
I first met Dr. Barbara Lippe (she holds a doctorate in Game Studies in case you're wondering) many moons ago at an independent video game festival in Nottingham in the United Kingdom. Back then I wrote a feature for Edge Magazine on the game she had developed, called Papermint, and we remained in touch since. As my own path eventually led me to focus my interest on immersive tech, I wasn't really surprised to find that Lippe - who combines the hats of game designer, artist, actor and entrepreneur in one cool-looking package that earned her the nickname “Björk of Virtual Worlds” had also been lured by this new medium's potential. She has, in fact, been named one of the 100 most influential women in VR, and if you follow this series, you know that's one elite club to be a member.
When demoing a product from a company called HolodeckVR at the Pioneers conference in Austria last year, I found out that she was in charge of content for them, and remains so after their recent rebranding as Spree Interactive. Their mission is to democratize location-based entertainment, helping to revitalize spaces such as shopping malls and bring together the best of real-world and digital experiences. It's a mighty challenge, but one that creative content makers such as Barbara are well-equipped to handle.
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. Digital models are becoming increasingly realistic, and popular. The Diigitals agency in the British town of Weymouth is the birthplace of the word's first virtual supermodel, Shudu, created by photographer Cameron-James Wilson. One of Shudu’s images made its way to Rihanna’s Fenty Beauty account, which amplified her to a bigger audience. In August 2018, Shudu stood alongside two other new digital influencers – Margot and Zhi – to model for Balmain. Since then, Diigitals has created six additional models (including a male one called Koffi) and many similar agencies have entered the space and attracted significant investment. Chris Stokel-Walker talks to the creators in the space and questions what actually constitutes "real" in a digital age where most celebrities are at least in part digital constructs. And as these creations expand their reach into other media such as video, it is only a matter of time before we start interacting with them in immersive spaces too. As Stokel-Walker puts it, "All hail your new social media overlords."– GQ
5. Porsche is rolling out passenger VR experiences. The carmaker has partnered with start-up Holoride to provide immersive content where sensors mimic the car's movements, thus minimizing issues such as motion sickness. Porsche and Holoride said the technology could be used for entertainment and educational purposes, and Holoride (which has previously worked with Disney and Audi) is also developing the technology on an open-source basis in order to reach a wider audience by the time it goes into production by 2021.– CNET
6. Star YouTubers Sam Wickert and Eric Leigh tell VRScout how they pivoted from 2D viral videos into VR. Wickert, 23, and Leigh, 22, met in high school, where they started a YouTube channel SOKRISPYMEDIA which eventually went viral and became extremely popular. While in college, however, they landed on an idea to produce a 360-degree virtual reality film which would eventually become a hit called “Channel Surfer.” They recount the challenge of making something that could only have been done in the new medium, rather than just adapting their existing work: “If you’re not getting something completely unique out of the VR version, why bother making it in VR at all?” Wickert asks. Their new series SOKRISPY DREAMS is available now on the Within app (which is downloadable on the App Store, Google Play, Oculus, SteamVR, Viveport, PSVR, and WebVR) alongside other immersive content by the pair. – VRSCOUT
7. A group of students from Cal Poly has created a VR experience to help train police to identify cases of human trafficking. "We're building an illicit massage parlor in virtual reality to help train law enforcement on different evidence and different things to look for," explains Zahnae Aquino, one of the developers in charge of the project. They hope that the Virtual Reality training will help police identify and close down illegal businesses in San Luis Obispo County, California, that serve as fronts for this trade. The virtual reality videos also let users interact with the victim. "What we've been trying to do is create a program that helps build the empathy that the non-governmental organizations already have but law enforcement is still trying to develop," Aquino added. – KEYT NEWS
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).