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Inside AR (Jul 25th, 2019)

1. Mark Zuckerberg says Facebook has succeeded in making the Oculus Quest sticky. As part of the company's quarterly earnings report, he said the company was selling the devices as fast as they could make them, and that - most importantly - they've "delivered an experience that people keep using week after week, and buying more content." He concluded by saying there is still a lot of work ahead to develop the ecosystem, but even if it takes longer than expected to deliver the promise of VR and AR at scale, the company remains committed to being one of the major contributors in that space. – UPLOADVR 

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2. Amazon is making its entire Prime film and television library available for VR headsets. The platform joins other popular streaming services such as Netflix and Hulu in making its content accessible on devices such as the Oculus Quest, Oculus Go, and Samsung Gear VR. Users can download the Prime Video VR app from their respective stores and sign in directly with their Prime accounts, which should link automatically to any existing subscriptions. Those without a membership can still access content they purchased via Amazon.com, as well as a selection of free 360 experiences such as Baobab Studios’ ASTEROIDS! and INVASION!, as well as Kaleidoscope and RYOT’s Vestige and many others. Users can search for what they want to watch using voice commands or the colorful "cardboard city" interface, before being transported to a movie theater virtual environment (where users are able to adjust screen size and positioning for comfort) to watch their selections. –  VARIETY

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3. Throwback Thursday: DisneyQuest

As far as I'm concerned, 2016 was a pretty good year for VR. People were starting to get really excited about the technology and some significant advances were being made, and I wrote my first article about VR Porn for Playboy. But it was also the end of an era as Disney announced that it would be closing down its pioneering Indoor Interactive Theme Park, DisneyQuest. 

Originally opened in 1998, the Orlando five-story indoor interactive theme park cost an estimated $90 million and boasted (for the time) cutting edge computer graphics and HMDs (whenever you moan about how bulky VR headsets are, do take a look pictures like the one below to put things into some perspective).

Multi-sensory rides such as "Aladdin's Magic Carpet" and "Ride the Comix" proved really popular for years, but by the end of the '90s it was suffering from a lack of investment, before finally closing its doors permanently and making way for a new attraction on July 3, 2017. Still, it was a relatively early proof of concept as to the appetite for location-based VR entertainment, something that companies like The VOID are now reviving in a big way. 

Not only that, but DisneyQuest was also the launchpad for many prominent careers in the immersive field, as those who worked for the company are still shaping the industry ecosystem. Case-in-point being Avi Bar-Zeev, who after working for them in the 90s moved to Microsoft and then Apple, where he was rumored to be involved in the development of their AR glasses. 

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4. A neurofeedback multi sensory experience could help users relax by visualizing and manipulating their brainwaves in Virtual Reality. Researchers at the RMIT University in Melbourne conducted a small-scale study (recently presented at the CHI 2019 conference) which highlighted the potential of such systems to promote healthy sleep. The experience was originally conceived as a public art project by PluginHUMAN called Inter-Dream, and involves users lying on a gently vibrating bed wearing a VR headset while their brain's electrical activity is monitored via electroencephalogram (EEG). The idea is that participants can start to recognize and modify their thought patterns to achieve restful sleep. "There's been a lot more focus on brain-computer interfacing recently, and we're anticipating it will become more pervasive," says researcher Nathan Semertzidis from RMIT's Exertion Games Lab. "So, we're exploring different ways in which that technology can be used to enhance the quality of life for people using it." –  ABC NEWS

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5. The Firefox Reality browser is now available on the Oculus Quest. Mozilla's VR web browser can be downloaded for free from the Oculus Quest store. This follows the release of the Firefox Reality browser for other 6DoF (Six Degrees of Freedom) headsets including the HTC Vive Focus Plus and Lenovo Mirage. Firefox Reality is currently available in 10 different languages, including Japanese, Korean, Simplified Chinese and Traditional Chinese and offers Enhanced Tracking Protection enabled by default to safeguard user privacy. –  TECH TRENDS 

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6. BehaVR uses Virtual Reality to motivate healthy behavior in patients with stress-induced chronic pain. The Kentucky-based startup founded by former Humana CTO Aaron Gani has so far licensed its platform to over a hundred clinical clients nationwide. It offers personalized experiences built around education, motivational content, and the activation of mindfulness and emotional regulation skill-building to teach patients to be less reactive to stressful emotions and learn new tools to regulate and manage their emotional state. They also offer a program for those in addiction recovery. –  HYPEPOTAMUS

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7. The Parkway Panthers varsity football team is using VR to train their quarterbacks. "It’s not only beneficial for a quarterback, but I can go behind the defense and record how they are moving and how they’re fitting to our run scheme," says Parkway (Bossier City, Louisiana) passing game coordinator Jeff Harper. "Load it up and now our QBs can come back and watch it," he explains. The key advantage, according to the quarterbacks using the immersive training system is its ability to pause and rewind plays, which allows them to pinpoint mistakes and see things from a coach's perspective. –  ARKLATEX

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8. The Knight Foundation will award $750,000 in funding for immersive projects. The application window will open on July 27 for "ideas exploring how arts institutions can present immersive experiences to engage audiences." U.S.-based cultural organizations, technologists, and others who are working to use immersive technology in the arts are welcome to apply. Grant recipients will be awarded a share of the $750K pool and receive mixed-reality mentorship and technology support from Microsoft. – KNIGHT FOUNDATION

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9. Italy is embracing Virtual Reality in its education system. As early as 2017, the country launched a series of conferences called “Immersive Italy,” dedicated to teaching and immersive technologies. The country has continued to see a significant shift from traditional rote learning to modern methods that emphasize creativity and the application of thinking skills, and immersive technologies play a big role in implementing this new strategy.  –  THE MARAVI POST

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10. Windows Mixed reality users are now able to run OpenXR-based applications by installing the app from the Microsoft Store. OpenXR allows developers to code applications that are portable across a wide range of hardware platforms.The app supports both the ARM64 and x64-based processor and requires either an Xbox One or minimum Windows 10 version 17763.0 to run.  MS POWER USER

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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

 

Editor: Kim Lyons (Pittsburgh-based journalist and managing editor at Inside).

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