Inside VR - December 12th, 2019

Inside VR (Dec 12th, 2019)

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The present and future of virtual reality news and technology

1. Facebook will start using Oculus activity data to serve up customized ads to users. "Don't be surprised if you start encountering creepy Facebook ads encouraging you to play more VR games," warns Michael Kan, pointing out that yesterday Facebook's Oculus VR division announced the change in its data use policy in a blog post introducing new chat and friend-finding features coming to the VR headsets. Under the existing privacy policy, Facebook's Oculus division can already collect users' VR activity to serve promotional messages on and off the platform, which can include email-based notifications. The new language, however, how explicitly states the  social network can tap "information about your use of Oculus products to provide, personalize and improve Facebook Company Products, including to personalize the ads you see on and off Facebook Company Products." – PC MAG

2. After trying the Aerobanquets RMX experience hosted at the James Beard House, Emily Heil asks whether VR might be the future of fine dining. Inspired by the Futurist Cookbook - a 1932 manifesto in which the Italian avant-garde reimagined cuisine and its sensory components - Italian artist Mattia Casalegno collaborated with restaurateur Roni Mazumdar and chef Chintan Pandya to use VR technology to upend the experience of eating by divorcing the sense of taste from that of sight. “I wanted to work to bring us back to the realness, and eating is one of the most real things you can work with. (By using VR) in our brains, we are blanked out and we can start from scratch in a way,” he says. The seven bite-size dishes, consumed while users are immersed in VR play off the visual and aural cues, often in surprising ways, recounts Heil, who goes on to reflect on how the technology went beyond gimmicky in making her question the very nature of what constitutes eating in the first place. – WASHINGTON POST  

3. Marc Peruzzi argues that outdoors VR has largely been a bust. In spite of a growing trend towards using XR in applications such as sports training, there are still significant challenges to overcome such as motion sickness. Although the current impact of VR in outdoor pursuits remains modest, however, there are promising use cases such as that of legendary wingsuit pilot Jeb Corliss, who employs drones equipped with VR cameras to film prospective flight paths of otherwise unscoutable terrain and  Zwift, which is reportedly working on developing 3-D capabilities for its popular cycling experience platform. In the meantime, however, Peruzzi is quite content in continuing to experience the great outdoors IRL. – OUTSIDE ONLINE  

4. Researchers are using immersive experiences to help protect Koalas and their habitat. In a recent study published in the PLoS ONE  journal, scientists from Queensland University of Technology (QUT) and the ARC Centre of Excellence for Mathematical and Statistical Frontiers (ACEMS) outlined how a combination 360-degree imagery, heat-seeking drone cameras, and traditional ground surveys techniques were used to build a better statistical model for predicting the location of koalas and protect their habitat. Researchers were sent out to some of the 82 specific locations in the area where koalas were known to either be or not be, to take 360-degree images. Those images were then shown to a panel of koala experts wearing VR headsets. "A lot of the research done on immersive experiences suggests that it helps to bring back the memories associated with when that expert has been in the field in the past, so they can be more cognizant of making the decision about the likelihood that a koala would be there," explains the study's lead author Dr. Catherine Leigh, who adds that the advantage of using VR for the survey was it enabled them to bring the environment to the experts rather than having to take the experts to the field.– PHYS.ORG  

5. Sarafina Murphy-Gibson shares her experience of spending an hour in VR for the first time. "Though I was familiar with the concept of virtual reality, that didn’t prepare me for how immersive the experience is. Taking that first step out onto that shaking wooden board feels uncannily like the real thing," recounts the reporter when relating her experience of "walking the plank" in VR at a location-based arcade Escape Reality, which opened its first location in Sarasota County, Florida, back in 2016. Since then, owner Michael Katzman has introduced countless punters of all ages to a variety of experiences, including a woman in her 80s who realized her dream of visiting the Grand Canyon with Google Earth. – SARASOTA MAGAZINE

6.  An independent developer has built a fully functional 5-foot Game Boy Color in WebVR. Originally released in October of 1998, Nintendo's pocket-sized played host to titles such as Super Mario DX, Pokémon Yellow, and Worms: Director’s Cut. Now, thanks to Reddit user _talkol_1 gamers can access an emulator that lets them play those titles in WebVR on browsers such as Firefox Reality. VRScout's Kyle Melnick tried the experience, and although he says it was certainly not comfortable to stare up at the screen at a 70-degree angle while awkwardly slapping a series of giant buttons, he still rates it as an excellent example of WebVR’s ability to offer engaging 6DOF immersive experiences from a headsets web browser. – VRSCOUT

7. Aquariums and animal attractions are looking to immersive technology to enhance storytelling while allowing visitors to experience animals in a less captivity-focused way. One of the first aquariums to bring in virtual reality experiences was Sarasota’s Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium. The Gulf Coast aquarium in Florida also expressed its commitment to using "interactive, advanced, digital, and augmented reality technology" throughout the $130 million new Mote Science Education Aquarium. Emmy Award-winning director Ken Musen has worked with U.K.-based Immotion (which supplied the VR pods for Saratota's Aquarium experience) and a team of marine biologists from the Bimini Shark Lab in the Bahamas on a new immersive experience that document tiger and hammerhead shark behavior in unprecedented ways, showing, for example, how hammerheads are required to continually move their head from side to side to eliminate a large blind spot in front of them. In the coming months, Immotion plans to roll out more animal-focused, real-life VR experiences, including the Congo River, which will include up-close footage of multiple endangered species such as Forest Elephants and Mountain Gorillas in their natural habitat. – ORLANDO WEEKLY

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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