Inside VR - January 30th, 2020

Inside VR (Jan 30th, 2020)

Firefighting in VR / Atari Immersive Hotels / How Amazon's Cloud Rendering Could be a Game-Changer for XR

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The present and future of virtual reality news and technology

1. Mark Zuckerberg says the Oculus Store sold almost $5 million worth of content on Christmas Day last year. During a recent call with investors, the Facebook CEO said that sales of the Oculus Quest had been "stronger than expected," although he would not disclose the exact number of units sold. Chief Financial Officer David Wehner added that the company's “other” revenue, which includes Facebook’s VR efforts, “year over year growth was driven by those HMD sales," which have seen the standalone headset back-ordered from some retailers as far as March. Unlike its Rift PC VR platform, Facebook carefully curates which software products are allowed to be sold via the Oculus Quest store. However, SideQuest and sideloading also allow some developers to distribute their VR games without receiving approval for release on the Oculus Store. – UPLOAD VR  

2. Fire departments in Australia and the U.S. are using Virtual Reality to train firefighters. Australia-based FLAIM Systems has trainees wear a heat suit controlled by software that calculates proximity and orientation to simulate the likely temperature corresponding to each VR scenario. "We can heat a firefighter up to 100 degrees Celsius or so, roughly, but only for short time frames," says the company's Founder and CEO James Mullins, adding that they can also replicate the force felt from the hose, and simultaneously measure the heart and respiration rate of the trainee. Julie Rider, an experienced firefighter, told CNN that she was impressed by the realism of the VR experience. She added she could feel her heart rate climbing as she looked around a room and watched a fire quickly spread. "It was amazing to experience the inherent risk, extreme danger and fire intensity without feeling any of the dangerous effects from the fire," she said. – CNN  

3. Atari is launching a chain of immersive gaming hotels in eight U.S. cities. The first location in Phoenix is due to break ground in the fall, with Las Vegas, Denver, Chicago, Austin, Seattle, San Francisco, and San Jose to immediately follow. The company's official announcement promises each location will offer "fully immersive experiences for every age and gaming ability, including the latest in VR and AR." Considering that construction is expected to take between 18 and 24 months, it is hard to determine what that will look like, given how quickly those technologies are evolving. Still, having the iconic game's pioneer lend its brand to such a project has got people excited. "Let's face it, how cool will it be to stay inside an Atari?!" said Napoleon Smith III, the producer of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles reboot series who will be heading up design and development alongside GSD Group and True North Studio. – NEW YORK TIMES

4. There is a cheap fix for those annoying surface scratches on your VR headset. Joe Parlock writes for Forbes that after recently scratching his Rift S lens, he sought a way to patch it himself, given that most VR manufacturers don't sell replacement lenses. His solution - which takes only a few minutes and costs less than $10 - uses plastic watch face repairing fluid. He does caution, however, by warning that lenses in HMD's like the Oculus Rift S and Quest or HTC's Vive and Index all have multiple layers, and if the scratches go beyond the top layer into what's called the Fresnel, the fix won't work. Even then, he adds that although it did improve the situation by around 90 percent, "It's not going to be like new – I still notice a very, very minor degree of blurring in incredibly dark VR space," he concludes. – FORBES

5. Amazon's newly announced Wavelength AWS service could be a game-changer in the XR space. Ben Lang reports that Amazon is engaging with major mobile carriers deploying 5G networks to locate AWS resources at the "edge" of these networks to facilitate low latency for applications like cloud-rendered AR and VR content. The service is currently undergoing pilot testing by customers using Verizon’s mobile edge compute (MEC) system, with Varjo's high-end enterprise VR headsets among the first applications to be announced. “Now, instead of having to develop expensive local computing services that would be impossible to run on a battery-operated device,” explains Varjo CEO Niko Eiden, adding that cloud rendering of AR and VR content is crucial to scaling the technology. – ROAD TO VR

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6. An Oxford University-backed VR project is helping reconnect refugees to their ancestral homes. Project Dastaan seeks to foster peace by promoting cultural dialogue between Pakistan, Bangladesh and India, the three countries affected by the 1947 Partition that resulted in many children being forcibly removed from their homes. Those refugees, many of whom are now in their 80s, now have the opportunity to virtually tour their childhood homes and villages, which have been filmed in 360-degree video as part of the project's Social Impact Program. Sam Dalrymple, co-founder and Operations Lead, says that ultimately the project is about stripping away the layers of politics – an attempt to solve a very simple problem where children forced to leave their homes have never returned. – REPUBLIC WORLD

7. A surreal 17-minute VR experience at Sundance took VRScout's Kyle Melnick from the outer reaches of space to beneath the Earth's surface in an effort to save the planet. Developed by Maltrato Films, Hypha centers around the circle of life, how death is part of the natural order, and an integral aspect of nature. After donning a Vive Pro headset, Melnick found himself surrounded by a forest crippled by human-made contamination and various other harmful elements that had turned the environment toxic and condemned the tree, which guided his experience to certain death. Not all is lost, however, as he recounts that "the experience culminated with me reemerging from the soil as a magnificent mushroom. Once I reached my max height, I began to physically shake back and forth in my headset, spreading nutrient-rich spores throughout the area and returning life to a once doomed forest in the process." – VRSCOUT  

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 Elizabeth Barr, staff writer at Inside.

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