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Inside VR (Oct 22nd, 2019)

1. A new video shows how Microsoft wants to turn real-world walks into Virtual experiences.  The "DreamWalker" project shows off the concept of how it would be possible to make our daily commutes more interesting by converting real-world walks into Virtual Reality experiences. For the demonstration, eight testers wandered around the Microsoft campus in Redmond for around 15 minutes equipped with a prototype testing rig which included a backpack with a PC, VR headset, and full monitor, among other components that used inside-out tracking, RGBD frames and GPS data to allow users to navigate around obstacles in real-time. Wearers were presented with three VR environments: New York City, a beach, and a frontier town where various visual clues such as arrows and yellow ball markers steered them away from danger. – VENTUREBEAT

2. The BBC has closed down its VR Hub. Although the British public broadcaster declined to share audience figures, the Times of London previously reported VR content “attracted tiny audiences.” The unit produced and commissioned VR films such as a Virtual spacewalk experience called "Home" and a VR drama based on the hit show "Doctor Who".  BBC Commissioning Editor for Virtual Reality Zillah Watson wrote in a blog post published last Tuesday that although the VR Hub will be wrapping up its commissioning and production work, the organization would continue to identify audience opportunities for VR and license existing projects. A BBC spokesperson also told Fortune that they might still choose to create VR content using the learnings and research that have emerged from the hub’s work, and which should continue to be a useful resource for the industry in general. – FORTUNE  

3. Spotlight: Women in VR - Carrie Shaw

By Alice Bonasio

Carrie Shaw is the CEO and founder Embodied Labs, an immersive education and wellness platform for professional and family caregivers and the older adults they serve, something that was inspired by her experience of being her mother's primary caregiver when she was diagnosed with Early Onset Alzheimer's disease.

Shaw is used to working at the intersection of health education, technology, and storytelling.  After graduating from UNC-Chapel Hill with a B.S. in Public Health, Carrie spent 2 years working as a Health Education Peace Corps volunteer in the Dominican Republic where she fell in love with the way visual communication tools have the unique potential to cross-cultural, language, and education barriers. Following that time, Carrie worked as a medical visualization research assistant and a teaching assistant for undergraduate Anatomy & Physiology.

She says her mother's condition opened her eyes to the needs of caregivers and the aging services workforce, leading her to complete a Master's of Science in Biomedical Visualization and eventually found her company. In July 2018, Embodied Labs won Grand Prize and a $250K award from The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation's XR in Education Prize Challenge, and the company is now scaling its training platform which currently engages over 100 organizations in the healthcare space.

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 virtual pop group has released a music album entirely created by machines. The Auxuman’s are a collective of AI-driven virtual musicians using a combination of internet data, artificial intelligence, and generative tools to develop their own original compositions. Their 10-track album, which is available for free, features music from each of the five artists - Yona, Mony, Gemini, Hexe, and Zoya, all of which have their own personalities inspired by human behaviour, according to Auxuman CEO Ash Koosha, who added that the lyrics, melodies, rhythm, sequences, audio texture were all generated by machines and AI. Auxuman Vol. 1 is available for free, and plan to release new music every month on YouTube, Soundcloud, Spotify, and Bandcamp.– VRSCOUT

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5. A celebrity-studded "strategic round" has brought the total investment in Sandbox VR to $82 million. The location-based VR start-up had closed a series A investment round of $68 million at the beginning of this year, to which it now added another $11 million “strategic” round, populated by A-listers such as Justin Timberlake, Katy Perry, Orlando Bloom, and Will Smith. Sandbox VR plans to open 16 locations by 2020 and recently partnered with CBS Interactive Studios to create a title based on Star Trek IP. – TECHCRUNCH  

6. Guardian's arts correspondent Jonathan Jones reviews the Louvre's hotly-anticipated Leonardo da Vinci exhibition and says VR would have thrilled the Renaissance genius. Jones argues that the fetishization of Leonardo's paintings does him a disservice, and revels in the fact the new exhibition features items that effectively chart his transformation from an artist into a polymath. "It’s impossible to exhaust Leonardo’s science-fiction prophecies, and this exhibition joyously opens his notebooks to us all," he enthuses, while calling the accompanying VR experience where you can come face-to-face with Lisa del Giocondo, the Florentine silk merchant’s wife who posed for the Mona Lisa in 1503 "freaky" - and something that Leonardo would have probably preferred over his original painting. "One thread that connects his experiments is the belief that the mathematics of perspective can mirror and make worlds. Virtual reality’s illusion of solidity is a Renaissance dream come true," he adds.   THE GUARDIAN

7. Microsoft’s latest discovered VR patent for a haptic mat compatible with gaming consoles has fueled fresh speculation about its immersive gaming plans. With the PS5 being released next year and a much-improved version of the PSVR reportedly in the works, many are wondering if Microsoft might actually have something up its sleeve that would allow the Xbox Project Scarlett to compete with Sony in that arena. So far the company has been very tight-lipped about immersive elements, but some punters have gone as far as claiming that the console will support integration with the Oculus Rift S headset instead. – SHORTLIST

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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