Inside VR - February 6th, 2020

Inside VR (Feb 6th, 2020)

AuraRing 5DoF Gesture System/ VR Experience Warns About Data Hacking / Rift S Leads VR Headset Growth on Steam

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The present and future of virtual reality news and technology

1. Oculus Quest's hand tracking feature will now activate automatically. The new v13 software update to the headset, which is rolling out this week, means that instead of having to activate the feature manually from the menu each time, the hand tracking functionality will kick in as soon as you put down your Touch controllers and see your hands. It will then remain as default until you disable it from the menu or reboot the headset. David Heaney writes that this is likely to significantly reduce the friction of using the experimental feature, and means that when you put on your Quest to quickly view or try something out you’ll instantly see your hands. The Quest firmware v13 should kick in automatically, but if you haven't had it yet, it is recommended that you try leaving your headset on standby connected to both power and WiFi. – UPLOADVR  

2. A Virtual Reality tool allows people to experience the struggles of coping with Alzheimer’s. The 3-minute video gets you to step into the world of “Harry,” a 76-year-old retired veterinarian and widower living with mid-stage Alzheimer’s disease, which makes even the simple task of brushing your teeth a challenge. Harry suffers from hallucinations, mistakes toothpaste for another medication, forgets to shut off the sink and is constantly confused about what time it is. The VR headset is, in fact, a very adept tool in providing the sense of disconnect and sensory impairment that a person living with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia experiences, said Christy Littlefield, an education program specialist and social worker with the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America’s Manhattan office. “The video is based on the common symptoms we see in our work every day,” Littlefield explains. – NY DAILY NEWS

3. University of Washington researchers have developed a low-power five degree of freedom (DoF) gesture ring and wristband. AuraRing is an electromagnetic tracking system that promises a combination of high-resolution tracking and low power consumption which could benefit XR experiences and wearable technologies across the board. The two-piece system consists of an index finger-sized ring containing a coil of wire wrapped 800 times around a 3D printed loop and a wristband that uses three sensor coils to determine the ring’s 5DoF orientation to a resolution is 0.1mm, with dynamic accuracy of 4.4mm. This is a much higher degree of precision than would be gathered through external camera monitoring of the same finger, and better enables applications such as air writing and freeform drawing without the need for a touch surface. The research was funded by the University of Washington’s Reality Lab, as well as Facebook, Futurewei, and Google. – VENTUREBEAT

4. The directors of Netflix’s "The Great Hack" created a VR experience to highlight the dangers of data manipulation in a world of smart devices. Persuasion Machines, which was showcased at this year's Sundance Film Festival, plunges users into a sterile living room environment filled with smart devices designed to weaponize our data against us. A home automated system referred to as EVA first introduces you to various devices actively collecting user data. As EVA becomes more involved in your day-to-day life, she eventually asks you to sign off on a lengthy terms-and-conditions list, which leads to a message warning that the system had been hacked and the voice of Will.i.am explains how major corporations such as Amazon and Facebook are already guilty of tracking every inch of our online activities in order to sell our information to others. – VRSCOUT

5. Students can visit Auschwitz on a Virtual Reality tour guided by Holocaust survivor Eva Kor. Ted Green, who created the 15-minute experience, said he wanted to use the technology to help spread Kor's message of empathy, courage and forgiveness. "She found a way to relate to young people and inspire them more than anyone I've ever met. And she took the messages that she learned and she relates them to kids today," he explained. The "Eva Virtual Reality Tour" takes students on a 360-degree tour of four locations in the camp which were central to Eva's story: the selection platform, the barracks, the "Blood Lab" where the Mengele Twins were experimented on, and the spot outside a crematorium where she announced her forgiveness. "Being able to put my hands out and 'oh this is what happened, this is how it looks,' I feel like it's easier to teach and you understand it more," said Dontanaja Watson, a student at McCutcheon High School in Lafayette, Indiana. Green now hopes to continue to share the experience with students across the state. – WLFI  

6. The Oculus Rift S is leading VR headset growth on Steam. The latest Valve Steam Survey figures from January show the single biggest leap yet in monthly-connected VR headsets on Steam, with year-over-year growth of 43 percent. Despite the headset's spotty stock availability since the holidays, the Rift S had its best month so far, reaching 24.34 percent market share of the headsets in use on Steam. Road to VR Editor Ben Lang estimates that the number of monthly-connected headsets on Steam now stands at 1.6 million, an increase of more than 271,000 from the month prior, and a strong step toward the 2.75 million headset milestone which we expect to see at the end of 2020. – ROAD TO VR

7. A VR arcade in Ohio is offering a lifeline for people dealing with addiction. Objective Reality Games, which opened last October in Chillicothe, Ohio, partnered with the Ross County Drug Court Program to provide sober support activities in Virtual Reality, offering recovering addicts a welcome distraction and, it could be argued, a much healthier form of escapism via immersive technology. According to the drug court coordinator Brandon Puckett, the program has had a success rate of about 75 percent, and the owner of the arcade himself - Colin Rose - graduated from the program six months ago before opening the VR escape rooms and arcade with the mission "to bring a fun and sober environment to our community." – 10TV WBNS  

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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