Inside VR - November 7th, 2019

Inside VR (Nov 7th, 2019)

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The present and future of virtual reality news and technology

1. Facebook's non-advertising earnings were significantly boosted by strong Oculus Quest sales. According to its Oct. 30 earnings report, the company’s non-advertising revenue jumped to $269 million during the third quarter thanks to sales of the Oculus Quest sales, representing a 43% year-over-year increase. Nielsen’s SuperData Research estimates Oculus Quest sold 180,000 units (approximately $72 million worth) during the third quarter, totaling approximately 400,000 units since its launch earlier on May 21. “Quest is growing and doing quite well. We’re selling them as fast as we can make them, the demand has been strong and the content is starting to pick up,” Zuckerberg said.– QUARTZ  

2. The latest rumors about Apple's AR/VR headset point towards a potential collaboration with Valve. Andy Boxall reports that anonymous industry sources still believe the company will release a headset in 2020, and say that it is working with Valve - which is responsible for the Steam online game portal - to bring it to production. The reports further add that Apple is working with Quanta Computer and Pegatron on unit assembly. Although, as always, such speculation has to be taken with a healthy pinch of salt, Boxall does reflect that Apple's lengthy development process could mean it will bring something very new to the table.– DIGITAL TRENDS

3. Throwback Thursday: Cybertown

Cybertown (CT) was a US-based online community (initially called Colony City) which started back in 1996 as a showcase project for Sony. Cybertown ran on the Blaxxun Community Platform coupled with the Blaxxun Contact VRML (Virtual Reality Modeling Language), a standard for displaying 3D content, including virtual worlds and avatars on the web. 

Cybertown “Citizens” were allowed and encouraged to create 3D objects for use in-world. This eventually evolved into a 3D community that attracted more than one million registered users by 2000. These users were able to work jobs within the community, earning virtual money called CC's (CityCash) that could be used to buy 3D homes and items.

In 2000, Blaxxun was scheduled for an IPO, which was eventually derailed by the dot-com bubble. As a result, Cybertown, was given back to its founders and later sold to Integrated Virtual Networks, which started charging membership fees. Both the Cybertown platform and its parent company's domain were eventually closed in 2012.

4. Holographic arcade gaming is gaining in popularity as the technology advances. Australian-based start-up Voxon has developed 3D Volumetric displays that effectively slices and stacks light in layers. These create full 3D images and animations without any need for the user to wear a headset. The Voxon VX1 holographic display allows users to view 3D objects and animations from all angles and comes with a cupcake-sized, third-party 6-access controller to help navigate various content and manipulate volumetric images. The company is currently developing prototypes of a working Dejarik table which it hopes to install it within the Millennium Falcon at Disney Parks Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge.– VRSCOUT    

5. At Facebook’s annual Q3 earnings call last week, Mark Zuckerberg admitted that the company's immersive plans were taking "a bit longer" to materialize than he initially expected. Yet the company's CEO said he was still optimistic, and that the reasons why he thought this was going to be important and big were unchanged: "So we’re seeing a lot of people use these products and love them. And because of that, I think that we’re still going to get there,” he said.  The company is continuing to invest in its immersive roadmap, however. Its Facebook Horizons VR social platform is set to launch in 2020 alongside the highly anticipated Oculus Link, the software technology and hardware that is going to enable the Quest to run as a Rift S. – VRGEAR  

6. A VR program is helping to train social workers to better spot the warning signs of child abuse. Accenture worked with a New York-based digital agency Friends With Holograms on the "Accenture Avenues," a 20-minute training program that uses voice recognition and immersive environments to help caseworkers refine their skills in a real-world setting, interviewing a child, a mother, and a scary-looking father. "Only the immersive storytelling and interactivity of VR and voice could make this training so impactful," says Cortney Harding, founder of Friends With Holograms, Depending on how you asked a question, you get a different answer. It uses actual video of actors and actresses, rather than animated characters, to make it feel more real, she added. – VENTUREBEAT

7. Google is making its Cardboard project open-source. The company has released libraries for developers to build their Cardboard apps for Apple iOS and Android, which will support VR features such as motion tracking, lens distortion rendering, and user interaction via the viewer button. An Android QR code library has also been included to allow apps to be paired with any Cardboard viewer without the need for the specific Cardboard app. Google AR and VR product manager Jeffrey Chen wrote in a blog post that while the overall usage of Cardboard has declined and Google is no longer actively developing the Google VR software development kit, the company hopes that making Cardboard open-source will make it more consistently used for entertainment and education experiences, such as YouTube and Expeditions. Chen also reassured developers that the company would continue to support the Cardboard open source project by releasing new features, including an SDK package for Unity.– ZDNET  

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

Edited by Inside Dev and Inside Deals editor Sheena Vasani, a freelance journalist based in California.

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