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Inside VR (Oct 24th, 2019)

1. 5G and XR were hot topics at this week’s Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Los Angeles. Jeremy Horwitz deep-dives into the latest news and offerings to come out of the U.S. spinoff of the flagship MWC’s February show in Barcelona, which had a broader focus on consumer-facing news rather than new product launches. He was impressed with the way carriers such as Verizon - and Sprint in particular - showed off real-world 5G performance. "As I walked outside with a live 5G phone, I saw actual speeds ranging from 150-313Mbps, in some cases 30 times faster than the speeds of 4G T-Mobile and Verizon phones tested at the same times in the same places." Some of the XR demos, on offer, however, failed to really showcase the possibilities enabled by this connectivity. "By this time next year," he concludes, "5G and mixed reality hardware will be so widely available across the world that these early days of modest carrier participation and so-so demos may be forgotten; many people will be experiencing or able to experience the real thing every day." – VENTUREBEAT    

2.  Virtuix has partnered with HP to offer a $100,000 cash prize pool for its VR Omni Arena esports series.  The Omni treadmill is a unique motion platform (which VR Fitness Insider reporter Sonya Haskins describes as something resembling a giant baby walker) that enables 360-degree movement while the player is in Virtual Reality. Its makers - Virtuix - launched the Omniverse Esports competitive gaming platform last year as an incentive for customers to return as they attempted to climb local and global leaderboards. Jan Goetgeluk, founder and CEO of Virtuix says the contests have "exceeded all expectations," with more than 1,000 players in over a dozen countries participating. “Virtuix has built a competitive gaming experience that requires both video gaming skills and physical fitness. Such active esports offers a unique way for entertainment venues to reach a new audience of gamers, build a community of frequent players, and showcase the technology,” adds Joanna Popper, HP’s Global Head of Virtual Reality for Location-Based Entertainment. – VR FITNESS INSIDER  

3. Throwback Thursday: Total Recall 

It has been nearly 30 years since Paul Verhoeven's science fiction classic was first released, and while (much to Elon Musk's frustration) we haven't established a colony on Mars yet, the vision of taking vacations in other worlds using Virtual Reality is already something we can do. 

"Total Recall" was based on a short story from Philip K. Dick called "We Can Remember It for You Wholesale" and appropriately, the entire premise revolves around questioning how far we can trust our memories and what happens when we can simulate both our current and past perceptions. How does that, in turn, affect our future?  But of course, what you remember the most from the iconic film are Arnie’s great lines and the fantastic faces he pulls as he experiences the bad, the good, and the very ugly side of VR.

Looking back at the film, the concepts actually hold up quite well, and in my humble opinion, it presents a more believable dystopia than modern takes such as The I-Land (see below). And perhaps by 2084 (the year the story was actually set in), we will have moved even closer to that vision. Whether or not that's a good thing, however, I'll leave it for you to decide. 

4. A Kickstarter project hopes to fund a free platform to help people find and access mental health support. Matteo Valles and his brother were inspired by a friend's bereavement to start Grove, which allows people to make support groups in Virtual Reality around any topic such as depression, anxiety, addiction, or loss of a loved one. "Once launched, Grove will be one of the few apps on the Oculus store that are not game- or entertainment-focused. However, we hope that as VR improves and it becomes more widespread, that more and more companies will begin creating more real-world applications for VR," Valles writes. – TECH TRENDS   

5. Netflix's take on Virtual Reality dystopia has been generally panned, but Daniel Kelley argues that it fits the "so bad it's good" category. "The I-Land was only a seven-episode short run on Netflix, and trust me when I tell you, no one who watched it will ever fully remove it from their mind," Kelley writes of the VR-inspired story that (spoiler alert) contains a hilariously baffling incident involving some missing fingers and a bowl of chicken soup.  – OBSERVER

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6. A virtual arcade in Chicago has started offering VR-inspired cocktails. A few months after its opening, Redline VR is expanding its range from popular VR experiences such as "Star Trek: Bridge Crew" and VR racketball tournaments to mixing up virtual experiences with real-world tipples. Owners Jonathon Irons and Aaron Sawyer received an official liquor license from the city of Chicago, which now allows them to have a bar at the venue. The two initial drinks accompanied by VR experiences on offer are the "Pierced Navel” (Leopold Bros. Rocky Mountain Peach Whiskey, juice, schnapps, Fee Brothers Peach Bitters, and a sprig of thyme piercing a peach gummy) and the  “Chicago Handshake” (shot of Jeppson’s Malört accompanied by any classic midwestern beer). Other “hybrid” experiences include a "wine and 360 painting class" with Tilt Brush and a planned virtual tour of local breweries. – EATER CHICAGO

7.  VRTL has wrapped up its first podcasting season which has featured a range of XR industry trailblazers and leaders.  In a series of themed recaps, listeners can hear from various producers of award-winning studios (Kane Lee of Baobab Studios, Antoine Cayrol of Atlas V and Tupac Martir of Satore Studio) as they share their tips and tricks on how to create cinematic VR experiences. – VRTL ACADEMY

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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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