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Inside VR (Dec 17th, 2019)

1. Paramount Pictures has announced a partnership with Bigscreen to show its movies in a Virtual Reality movie theater. The San Francisco-based VR start-up is teaming up with the motion picture giant to bring titles such as  “Interstellar” and “Star Trek” in a virtual movie theater, where users can watch the films together with friends. Tickets cost between $4 and $5 and performances will start every 30 minutes. Over the past few months, Bigscreen has tested the concept with free screenings which often attracted 1000 viewers or more according to its CEO Darshan Shankar, who argued that watching titles in 3D in this way will actually be better than in theaters, which tend to have only a few seats in a sweet spot for optimal viewing. Ultimately, the company hopes to be able to show movies as close as possible to their theatrical release dates. “We are moving our way up the chain,” says Shankar. – VARIETY

2. Varjo's new Mixed Reality XR-1 headset had CNET reporter Scott Stein in tears. But it wasn't the $10,000 price tag that made Stein cry. Rather, it was the thought that he had reached a significant milestone in VR, where he could actually see such headsets replacing his TV. Although the HMD is firmly targetted at enterprise customers at the moment, the possibilities for consumer applications are tantalizing, as the extremely high resolution of the pass-through video, together with low latency, makes the illusion click in ways that had simply not been possible before. "I walk to a desk near the window, with a chair next to it, that I'm advised isn't real. For a good few moments, I can't tell if it's virtual or not until I pass my hand through it," he recounts, adding that near the end of his "hallucinatory series of demos," he was given a real metallic ball to hold in one hand and a virtual one with the other. "I look at both. They both reflect the hotel room. I'm inside a virtual MC Escher experience," he marvels. – CNET

3. "Snow Crash," the book that inspired a generation to work in VR, will be made into a streaming exclusive series for HBO Max. Neal Stephenson's seminal 1992 science fiction novel, which coined and popularized terms such as "metaverse" and "avatar," is currently in production, although no release date has been set. Stephenson himself (who also works at Magic Leap in the role of "chief futurist") will be a producer for the series alongside Joe Cornish ("Attack the Block"), Angela Robinson ("The L Word"), along with Frank Marshall and Robert Zotnowski. This follows months of rumors of resurrecting attempts to bring Snow Crash to screens following a failed attempt to make a movie – ENGADGET

4. AltspaceVR has announced a series of features to make it easier for users to host and attend events in Virtual Reality. Microsoft’s social VR platform has just been updated with a renewed emphasis on creator hosted events. In the past, AltspaceVR has featured events with Reggie Watts, Bill Nye and more, but it is now streamlining its interface to make it more user-friendly and intuitive to set up your own gig. The app’s main menu, for example, has been redesigned to make searching for events easier, and the platform now includes interactive billboards which serve to advertise upcoming events and can even be used as a menu through which users can RSVP to events or even travel directly to them. Events can also now be categorized by type to help users find more of the kind of events they like to attend: Presentations, Performances, Talk Shows, Watch-Parties, Gaming, and Meetups, each one with its own set of appropriate furnishings and tools set as default. “Talk Show spaces will have all the furniture, microphones, and stage blocking set up. Presentation spaces will feature ready-to-use interactables like laser-pointers and instructions on how to showcase slides. As always, you’ll still have the option to customize your event as much as you want; but we’re also adding some helpful default options for those who are less interested in the set-up process,” Microsoft explained in its official release. – ROAD TO VR

5.  "Star Trek: Bridge Crew" is now available on the Oculus Quest.  The game that VRScout's Editor Kyle Melnick describes as "the ultimate friend-ruining VR experience" is now available without the hindrance of cables. It is, however, just as stressful as ever. The collaborative team-based experience tasks a group of up to four players with piloting the USS Aegis through an uncharted sector of space referred to as “The Trench” in search of a new home for the Vulcan population. To successfully complete your mission, you'll need to work as a team, communicating and strategizing with each other without giving in to the pressure. The game is available for $29.99 on the Oculus Quest, and in spite of stress-inducing warnings, Melnick says the ability to easily hop into one of VR’s most popular co-op experiences without the hassle of external trackers or cables makes this a must-buy. – VRSCOUT

6. Steven Kurutz explores a 1950's version of immersive technology. In this long-read article for The New York Times, Kurutz describes how Emmy-winning comedy writer Eric Drysdale has spent the past 25 years collecting thousands of 3-D photographs along with the antique equipment to make and view them. The technology was introduced commercially in 1947 by the David White Company of Milwaukee, maker of the Stereo Realist camera, which had two lenses, placed about eye-width apart, to replicate the way the human brain sees three-dimensional space. The camera used slide film, and a special hand-held viewer. Drysdale now shares his passion for the  medium in a traveling show called “Midcentury Stereopanorama.” Tickets cost $15 and places for each event are limited to about 12 due to the number of available viewers.  – THE NEW YORK TIMES  

7. Greg Dickinson takes a tour around the world in Virtual Reality, and questions whether we're getting any closer to substituting real-world travel for VR trips. From the comfort of his swivel Telegraph chair, the reporter describes the experience of having a lion sniff at his face, visiting Machu Picchu in 1532 (where he apparently saved a llama) and "climbing an enormous human pyramid in Tarragona." The point he makes is that virtual trips afford users the chance to do something they would normally not be able to in real life, so we might be entering an age where VR supplements our real-world travel rather than necessarily replacing it. – TELEGRAPH

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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