Inside VR - October 8th, 2019

Inside VR (Oct 8th, 2019)

Microsoft's VR Mat / Honda Trains Robots in Virtual Reality / Shameless Podcast Plug

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The present and future of virtual reality news and technology

1. Microsoft has filed a patent for a Virtual Reality mat. The patent application filed this week describes a “virtual reality floor mat activity region” with built-in “fiducial markers” and “spatially distributed pressure sensors” to communicate with the VR console to pinpoint the physical location on the mat, data that could then be used to help shape the virtual world around the user. Although it might seem strange at first - and Gizmodo's Alyse Stanley certainly pokes a bit of fun at the concept - that Microsoft is getting into the rug business, I have tried many experiences which have been greatly enhanced by a bit of floor rumble, so the addition of haptics to such a device could prove useful beyond the safety features of stopping users from bumping into their furniture while in VR. – GIZMODO

2. Ben Lang comprehensively reviews the new Vive Cosmos and finds several shortcomings in HTC's latest HMD. The headset finds itself in the awkward position of simultaneously defending itself from a longstanding rival (Oculus) on the low-end and its former ally (Valve) on the high-end. The outcome feels a bit like a compromise, and Lang is not a fan of the feel of the hardware. He concedes, however, that significant strides have been made in tracking and visuals, although he is unsure what these justify its $700 price tag. "Unfortunately Cosmos’ halo-style head-mount seems to offer two mutually exclusive choices: comfort or clarity," he says," explaining that while the Rift S also shares the same ‘comfort or clarity’ problem with regards to ergonomics, Cosmos’ weight and front-heavy design amplify the issue even more.  – ROAD TO VR

3. Spotlight: Women in VR - Janicza Bravo

By Alice Bonasio

Activist and VR filmmaker Janicza Bravo was initially skeptical about VR, but became a convert when she realized the impactful multi-sensory potential of the medium, which she brilliantly demonstrated in her debut immersive piece ”Hard World for Small Things.” The challenging yet humorous piece draws attention to the problem of police brutality, using Virtual Reality to bring the viewer into a closer, more intimate contact with these often-dismissed and dehumanized "minorities."

The live-action fiction piece (she says that watching Chris Milk's talk on VR as an empathy machine was a big influence at the time) about police violence which was featured in the 2016 Virtual Arcade at the Tribeca Film Festival and built upon her impressive previous film and theater work. Born in New York, where she studied theater at university, raised in Panama, and now residing in Los Angeles, Bravo has been making innovative and engaging independent cinema since 2011, and her short "Gregory Go Boom" won the Grand Jury Prize at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival and she was subsequently named one of Filmmaker Magazine’s "25 New Faces of Independent Cinema.

Interestingly, she said in a 2016 interview that her background in theatre proved really useful when she started working in VR. “I started to feel like directing theater with a camera, like theater in the round. You start to get the feeling that you're the actor on the stage. You feel like one of the performers in the piece. I directed it that way. When you call action, it feels like the opening night of a play every time. The director cannot stay on the stage. On a traditional film set, there’s a camera and monitors and the director hangs out in one corner of the room while the performance happens. With VR and the way its cameras work, you call action and then you’re hiding in a hole somewhere and the actors have full control of the world,” she explained.

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. Facebook is beta testing yet another social VR platform. Scott Stein goes inside Facebook Horizon, the company's latest attempt to figure out the elusive problem of getting people into Social VR even as it prepares to phase out its previous products in that arena - Spaces and Rooms. AltspaceVR Founder Eric Romo, who is now Facebook's AR/VR Experiences Director, tells Stein that there are no immediate plans for any sort of integration with the 2D platform and other apps, and that the focus is on creating a flow of experience between VR and social that feels seamless and natural, as well as safe, for users. Overall, however, Stein was rather unsettled by the Disney-like vibe of the platform and was left with more questions than answers about how the interplay with Facebook will actually pan out. "A week or so later, I still feel a little weirded out by the perpetually sunny vibe of Horizon," he says. – CNET

5. Post Malone will perform a live VR concert on Oculus Venues this month. The GRAMMY Award-nominated rapper, singer and songwriter will have his second foray into immersive performance (last year he partnered with MelodyVR for a 360-degree live stream of a sold-out show at the Toyota Music Factory) on Oct. 18. Over the past six months Oculus Venues, the popular VR streaming platform from Facebook has hosted live performances from a large number of major acts such as H.E.R. Malone's show will be produced in collaboration with immersive streaming company Supersphere, which previously did live streams for Billie Eilish and Tenacious D  on the platform. Users on either Oculus Go or Oculus Quest will be able to catch a VR180 live stream of Malone’s stop in Raleigh, North Carolina as part of his ongoing “Runaway Tour.”– VRSCOUT

6. Virtual Reality is being used to teach robots to perform routine tasks more effectively. Harry Baker looks into an early-stage prototype from the Toyota Research (TR) Institute which aims to develop a line of robots that assist humans,  potentially allowing older generations to live longer in their own homes. “We teach the robot parameters that are part of a set of safe behaviors – and that’s robust to a changing environment, explains Jeremy Ma, Senior Manager at TR, adding that through VR users can control the robot, allowing them to easily perform actions as the robot and teach new activities and tasks." When one of the robots learns a new activity, it can then pass that info onto a shared system for the other robots to use, which Toyota calls ‘fleet learning’ (hopefully not in a Skynet sort of way). – UPLOADVR

7. A very special guest was featured on this week's edition of the XR for Business podcast. Usually, I blush at blatant self-promotion, but since you've read this far I'm assuming that you probably have at least a passing interest in my work and how I went down this immersive tech rabbit hole. You might even be interested in my speculative musings about where the entire thing might be headed. If that's the case, you could do a lot worse than listen to this fun chat I had with Alan Smithson, the CEO of XR Ignite and host of the excellent XR for Business podcast. – XR FOR BUSINESS

And for more brilliant podcasts fed to your inbox every day, do be sure to subscribe to Inside Podcasting!

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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