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Inside VR (Dec 10th, 2019)

1. Native hand tracking for the Oculus Quest is set to start rolling out this week. First announced in September's Oculus Connect 6 conference, the feature will be part of update v12. Users will be able to access the functionality via the headset's Experimental Features menu. Once activated, you’ll then be able to navigate your way throughout the Quest Home interface as well as first-party Oculus apps like Oculus TV and the Oculus Browser using a series of natural hand gestures, such as pinching and swiping. This will be followed next week by an SDK for developers, allowing them to integrate hand tracking functionality into their own projects. – VRSCOUT

2. Adobe will buy Facebook’s 3D VR sculpting tool Oculus Medium. The terms of the sale weren't immediately disclosed, but the transaction illustrates the growing importance of virtual reality technology. "The creative tool enables users to sculpt, model and paint in an immersive environment – to easily create characters, objects, environments, expressive works of art and more," explains  Adobe 3D and Immersive Vice President Sebastian Deguy, adding in an official statement that the newly acquired platform, which is widely used in immersive film and video game production, had significantly advanced the creative and technical boundaries of 3D modeling. – FOX BUSINESS 

3. Spotlight: Women in VR - Hannah Gillis

By Alice Bonasio

Hannah Gillis is an entertainment producer who’s worked on Industrial Light and Magic’s Experience Lab and Lucasfilm’s Advanced Development Group. She first got involved in VR originated out of a passion for storytelling and Star Wars. She favors projects centered around simulated environments that appeal to users' senses via visual, audio and haptics.

She produced Star Wars Trials on Tatooine, ILMxLAB’s first real-time rendered virtual reality experience the entire project is a real glimpse into the future of engine-driven storytelling.

"As an R&D Project Manager, my background is a little bit different. It focuses on multidisciplinary education. I have my Bachelors in Fine Arts — focusing on digital media, computer science, and production — as well as my MBA in emerging technology. So, having that type of value in art and tech has really helped me contribute to “making magic” as I like to call it," she said in an interview for the Disability Visibility Project

Accessibility – like gender inclusion – is something @hannahlougillis is really passionate about, and she has been able to incorporate this into her creative work. "I am starting to research accessibility design in virtual reality for people with different medical conditions and how we can make our stories enjoyable for a wide array of audiences," she explains, adding that because "Trials on Tatooine" was an experimental project, it presented an opportunity to test it with a variety of people with varying disabilities.

"While it did hold up well, it could’ve been better, and we learned how we can do better in our future VR experiences, not only for that diverse audience, but really to use diversity to make the entire experience better as a whole. I think the message was really encouraging, especially for the VR industry, that there are disabled people all over the world who are intensely interested and want to engage in VR, but for a lot of different reasons or some design elements, it’s inaccessible. So that there is this whole market out there of people that really are interested. They’re like everybody else. They really want to get into the Star Wars universe."    

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 new Mixed Reality experience takes you on a multisensory journey to Titan. Saturn's largest moon is the destination for "Expedition Titan," the Hyperspace XR experience which is currently in beta at Seattle’s Pacific Science Center. Geekwire's Alan Boyle took along planetary scientist Baptiste Journaux, who was reportedly impressed by the 15-minute experience in spite of a couple of minor scientific niggles where the creators admittedly took "creative liberties." with the science. Diana Johns, the Pacific Science Center’s vice president of exhibits and life sciences, explains that having Hyperspace as part of its startup-in-residence program is allowing them to better explore how immersive technologies can enhance the museum experience by fine-tuning the product directly with patrons. The experience is open to visitors 10 and up and costs $15 ($12 for members). – GEEKWIRE

5. For its Futurists series, Justin Chan interviews Vrai Pictures Founder Jessica Brillhart, who explains why she shifted from traditional filmmaking to immersive storytelling. "I felt like there was more to what my brain wanted to do that was being allowed for in the medium I was in," Brillhart said. is involved in a number of initiatives ranging from developing hardware to the "LA River AR platform," which visualizes information taken from the LA River Index, a public resource that compiles everything — from water quality to social equity. "We created a table that has the topography of the LA River on it," she explained, talking about how immersive tech can fundamentally challenge the way we experience the real world when applied in projects such as these. "So you basically see like an evolution of just the communities, urban development, and then you can actually see LA differently. You know, this is LA based on population, this is LA based on pollution, all based on data that was collected about the river." – YAHOO

6. A teaser trailer has been released for a Twin Peaks Virtual Reality Experience, and it is delighting fans with its weirdness. Made in collaboration between the cult show's creator David Lynch, its broadcaster Showtime, and Collider Games, "Twin Peaks VR" is "as trippy, creepy, and disorienting as you'd expect" according to Gamesradar reporter Jordan Gerblick. Although the trailer does not give too much away in terms of gameplay, it seems to be a mash-up of supernatural, adventure, and escape room genres with puzzle-solving elements. More importantly, however, it will give die-hard fans (like yours truly) the chance to immerse themselves in locations such as the various crime scenes, the Sheriff's Department, Glastonbury Grove, the iconic Red Room. The game is scheduled for release later this year on Steam for Oculus Rift, Oculus Rift-S, HTC Vive, and HTC Vive Cosmos, with PSVR and Oculus Quest currently in development. – GAMES RADAR

7 . The U.S. Air Force is keen to tap into immersive technologies, but the use of Chinese parts limits their ability to be deployed in military operational environments. Col. Gerard Ryan, chief of the Air Force’s operational training infrastructure division, said during a panel discussion last week at the Interservice/Industry, Training, Simulation and Education Conference that he hopes firms can examine their supply chains and shift away from buying Chinese components but admits that doing so will probably make it more challenging and expensive to find the necessary parts. – DEFENSE NEWS

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

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