Inside VR - October 3rd, 2019

Inside VR (Oct 3rd, 2019)

The Walking Dead Coming to VR / Synthetic Skin Lets You Touch Virtual Worlds / Experiencing Hunger in Virtual Reality

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The present and future of virtual reality news and technology

1. Fans got a first preview of the upcoming Walking Dead VR game. The first trailer of “The Walking Dead: Saints and Sinners," was released this week and quickly gathered a lot of Twitter buzz. Developed by Skydance Interactive, the game is expected to be released on January 23 next year. It offers more than 15 hours of gameplay divided into 20 main missions, with a storyline set in New Orleans three years after the original outbreak, which turned large parts of the population into “walkers.”  Janko Roettgers of Variety was granted a half-hour demo of the game on the Oculus Rift S, and commented that the constant back and forth between action-filled combat scenes, moments of quiet exploration and dialogue with dubious characters was reminiscent of the structure of the hit TV show and built a general sense of unease where you constantly expect zombies to burst out of every corner, and struggle with deciding which humans (if any) to trust. “Obviously, we want people to feel uncomfortable because it’s ‘The Walking Dead’,” confirmed the game’s art director Jake Geiger. – VARIETY  

2. Leaked meeting transcripts originally published by The Verge revealed that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg thinks that the future of immersive technologies will feature brain-computer interfaces at some level. When asked by company employees in July about technologies such as the ones being developed by Elon Musk's Neuralink, Zuckerberg said: “I think as part of AR and VR, we’ll end up having hand interfaces, we’ll end up having voice, and I think we’ll have a little bit of just direct brain,” although he stressed that the company would favor a non-invasive approach (in contrast to Neuralink's implant-based tech), even joking about the potential headlines should they choose to go the other way “Facebook wants to perform brain surgery,” I don’t want to see the congressional hearings on that one, he reportedly quipped. – UPLOADVR

3. Throwback Thursday: The Microsoft HoloLens

Tech works a bit like dog years, so it is fair to say that the launch of the original HoloLens back in March 2016 feels like a very long time ago. Yet while the immersive space has certainly evolved a lot in the past three and a half years, and we have seen significant improvements in the upcoming HoloLens 2, it is worth noting that the device represented a major leap forward, not least in areas which have now become industry standard for most XR devices such as Spatial Audio

Microsoft HoloLens, which was known under development as Project Baraboo, was the brainchild of Microsoft Technical Fellow Alex Kipman, and was the first untethered, self-contained holographic computer to effectively blend the real and digital worlds into one experience - hence the Microsoft-coined terminology of "Mixed Reality." 

I was impressed with the quality of the experience in spite of the much-criticized limited Field of View (FOV) and Microsoft's strategy of not marketing the expensive device to consumers saw it build a very healthy content ecosystem around enterprise customers and partners, where Mixed Reality proved to be a powerful tool for training and optimizing industry 4.0 applications. With the new eye-tracking and improved field of view capabilities of the HoloLens 2, as well as several new entrants in the smart glasses space, it will certainly be interesting to see what 2020 brings. 

4. A new study builds on the evidence for the efficacy of VR as a tool for treating post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Tomos Morgan investigates how immersive therapy has helped patients such as Matt Neve, who had previously tried counseling and cognitive behavioral therapy, but are known as having "treatment-resistant PTSD." He was part of a group of 42 veterans who took part in a two-year study by Cardiff University and Cardiff and Vale University Health Board (CVUHB) which used a form of Virtual Reality called 3MDR, which involves patients walking on a treadmill in front of a screen which projects images depicting the type of trauma experienced. "We are helping individuals to overcome the avoidance, by walking towards the picture on a treadmill it's very difficult to avoid it," explains lead researcher Prof Jon Bisson, adding that results indicated some patients saw an almost 40% improvement in their symptoms following the treatment. – BBC  

5. It is now possible to visit the Palace of Versailles in photorealistic Virtual Reality. Similar to the well-received Il Divino: Michelangelo’s Sistine Ceiling in VR unveiled earlier this year, the experience - co-created by makemepulse in collaboration with Google Arts & Culture and Château de Versailles - offers users the chance to visit the palace from wherever they are in the world, for free. According to Google, you’ll be able to teleport across 24 individual rooms scattered across 36,000 meters of capture space, experiencing these both in daylight and in "night mode. ”VersaillesVR – The Palace Is Yours" is now available on HTC Vive/Vive Pro, Windows Mixed Reality, and Valve Index via SteamVR. – VRSCOUT  

6. Swiss researchers have developed a haptic skin prototype that could be used to let users touch and feel Virtual Reality. The skin is thin enough (500 nanometers) not to interfere with movement, and made of silicone and electrodes comprising a liquid-solid gallium mixture and pneumatic actuators which can be pumped with air to provide feedback to the user. Scientists at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne's (EPFL) Reconfigurable Robotics Lab (RRL) and the Laboratory for Soft Bioelectronic Interfaces (LSBI) described the tech in a paper published in the Soft Robotics Journal entitled Closed-Loop Haptic Feedback Control Using a Self-Sensing Soft Pneumatic Actuator Skin. "This is the first time we have developed an entirely soft artificial skin where both sensors and actuators are integrated. This gives us closed-loop control, which means we can accurately and reliably modulate the vibratory stimulation felt by the user," says the paper's lead author Harshal Sonar. – TECHRADAR

7. An exhibit conveys the experience of going hungry through Virtual Reality. Gary Brode reports on the “Hunger Through My Lens” project which opened this week at the McNichols Civic Center in Denver, Colorado. "You’re in a grocery store with the shopper on the screen who is having an internal dialogue," says M'lissa Baker with Hunger Free Colorado spent the past year creating the experience, adding that she hopes that people will walk away from the experience with a broader perspective on what it feels like when you're not able to afford to eat. The exhibit is open until October 25th and also features a reaction board from visitors that have so far described it as "stressful" and "heartbreaking," highlighting how impactful the medium can be for building empathy. – THE DENVER CHANNEL  

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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