@RoadtoVR @Oculus @benz145 | Inside VR - February, 11th 2020

Inside VR (Feb 11th, 2020)

No VR for Next Generation Xbox / Facebook Acquires Scape / Coronavirus Impact on Quest Products


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The present and future of virtual reality news and technology

1. VR may not be coming to the next-generation Xbox. During a podcast with GamerTag Radio, Microsoft gaming chief Phil Spencer suggested that adding VR support to the platform would take too much work at this point to justify its returns. Jeremy Horwitz reports for the VentureBeat that the comments follow a previous statement by Spencer, in which he said that “nobody’s asking for VR". Spender also once wrongly once claimed that “nobody’s selling millions and millions” of VR headsets, setting off a firestorm within the VR community. It remains to be seen, Horwitz writes, whether Microsoft’s decision to pass on VR in the early days of the Xbox Series X will be viewed as a prudent strategic move or a serious error in judgment. He adds that Microsoft could have ridden the wave to a major Xbox Series X exclusive for the 2020 holiday season. "Instead, it may wind up losing a few million potential early adopters to the PlayStation 5," Horwitz concludes.  – VENTUREBEAT

2. Facebook has acquired computer vision start-up Scape Technologies. Steve O'Hear reports for TechCrunch that the terms of the deal have not been disclosed, but by looking at other filings, including a recent share issue, he estimates the price of the deal (which gives Facebook Inc. majority control of the London-based company) to be around $40 million. Scape is working on a “Visual Positioning Service” which establishes location accuracy beyond the capabilities of GPS. O'Hear writes the acquisition by Facebook looks to be a good fit considering the social media giant's continued investment in immersive platforms. However, he says it also represents another – perhaps worrying -– example of U.S. tech companies snatching up U.K. machine learning and AI talent early.   –TECHCRUNCH

3. Spotlight: Women in VR - Courtney Cogburn 

By Alice Bonasio

Courtney Cogburn is a writer, director, and associate professor of social work at Columbia University whose work focuses on how emerging technologies affect vulnerable populations. Her work also investigates how advancements in VR and immersive media can be leveraged to address issues such as systemic racism. 

Her highly acclaimed project, 1000 Cut Journey, puts you in the shoes of Michael Sterling, a character experiencing racism in his daily life, enabling a firsthand experience of the impact this can have. Cogburn is currently working on updating 1000 Cut Journey in collaboration with Stanford and the studio iNK Stories, and continues to consider questions around how different skill sets and experiences can create new avenues for storytelling in VR. "I like transdisciplinary approaches," she says. "It's not my idea, it's the idea that we bring together as a team," she said in a recent interview with HP Garage.

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. The coronavirus outbreak is expected to have an impact on Oculus Quest production. The device had already sold out following high demand during the 2019 holiday season, but now the HMD is listed as “unavailable” in 17 out of 23 regions where the unit is sold, including the United States, Canada, and much of Europe. Facebook has put the blame for this on the coronavirus, saying that “like other companies, we’re expecting some additional impact on our hardware production due to the coronavirus. We’re taking precautions to ensure the safety of our employees, manufacturing partners, and customers, and are monitoring the situation closely.” – ROAD TO VR  

5. A video of a little boy playing in VR with a Nintendo Labo contraption has gone viral. "Saturday afternoons changed FOREVER" reads the caption to the captivating video tweeted by James Whatley, a strategy partner at Digitas UK, which had attracted over 37,000 views at the time of writing. Many users got in touch with Whatley asking for instructions on how to replicate the experience. He has duly provided detailed instructions on the tweet's thread, clarifying that you will need the Nintendo Labo, Robo Edition, for the Switch (not Lite). Good luck with changing your Saturday afternoons too. – @WHATLEYDUDE / TWITTER

6. VR has become a powerful tool for neuroscience research. Dori Grijseels, a University of Sussex Ph.D. Student, writes that VR has many advantages for researchers. "For one, the subject does not have to physically move for the world around them to change. This makes it easier to study the brain since techniques such as functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) can only be used on stationary subjects. There are, however, still many issues with the use of the technology - such as the limited number of senses it works on and a lack of proprioception (the feedback you get from your body about the position of your limbs). Grijseels concludes that we should not readily accept conclusions from VR studies without first considering how the use of VR may have affected them. She says hopefully, the differences in brain activity between VR and the real world will also become smaller as methods and immersive technologies become more sophisticated. – MASSIVE SCIENCE

7. Oculus Quest users have found a way to customize environments based on famous pop culture settings. For those not familiar with the workings of the Quest, everything you do starts with the "Home Environment" which is pretty much the VR equivalent of a home screen on a device such as a smartphone or a laptop. Although not officially sanctioned by Facebook, it is possible to customize this setup with third-party sideloading tools such as SideQuest, and the community has been having fun replicating spaces such as The Simpsons' living room. Harry Baker tested out the Game of Thrones environment for UploadVR and was quite impressed: "While the default Quest homes are quite small, I maxed out the allowed guardian boundaries for the throne room and still didn’t have enough room to walk around the entire environment." Baker also added that the video does not do justice to the surreal experience of actually standing in the iconic home of The Simpsons, and I certainly agree. – UPLOADVR  

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 Sheena Vasani, staff writer at Inside.

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