1. The Khronos Group has officially released OpenXR 1.0 at SIGGRAPH. Since announcing its Open XR Initiative at GDC 2019 in March, the industry consortium has created an open, royalty-free, cross-platform standard supported by all major immersive hardware and software companies. These specifications will enable extended reality applications to run with less device-specific customized code across multiple platforms, including those from Microsoft, Varjo, Epic Games and Oculus. As 5G networks fuel the next generation of XR smartglasses, multiple new players are expected to enter the market, so developing a common app framework becomes more crucial than ever in order not to create silos. “Now is the time for software developers to start putting OpenXR to work,” says OpenXR working group chair and lead Intel XR architect Brent Insko. – VENTUREBEAT
2. The newly opened Museum of Future Experiences (MoFE) in New York’s SoHo is selling strange social VR experiences. Claire Ballentine writes about her rather unsettling visit to the MoFE for Bloomberg, calling it the latest "millennial museum" to pop up in the City. Ballentine's personalized immersive experience lasted about an hour -- only 20 minutes of which were spent in VR -- and involved an elaborate setup including live actors and haptic gear. MoFE's creator David Askaryan, defines the Y-Combinator-funded location-based VR concept as “a curated cerebral experience blending immersive theater, psychology, and virtual reality for an intimate exploration of individual and collective consciousness.” – BLOOMBERG
3. Spotlight: Women in VR - Catherine Allen
By Alice Bonasio
Catherine Allen is an award-winning creator in the immersive space. She is co-founder and CEO of Limina, a company she started in 2016 to bring VR content to a wider audience. Before that, she produced genre-setting immersive pieces including one of the very first works which made a deep impression on me when I experienced it at the National Theater in London: BBC VR documentary Easter Rising: Voice of a Rebel.
“Making VR as an artist was such a joy, but the lack of diversity in audiences was something I couldn’t shake,” says Allen. “I was frustrated that the only people who could see my work were a really narrow group. Mainly young men who used their headset for gaming. What was the point of making VR content if the audience was this narrow?” she told The Guardian.
Allen is a champion for diversity, and believes we're in a position to build an inclusive immersive sector that challenges the status quo of gender imbalance in creative industries and tech.
A Vision for Women and VR (VWVR) is an initiative started by Allen with support from REFIG.ca, the University of Brighton and Kings College London. It constitutes a type of manifesto documenting the experiences and expertise of women working in this new industry, but also a rallying cry vocalizing the need for greater transparency and gender balance in the immersive sector.
"This is a timely challenge to ensure this transformative media is influenced by both men and women, reflects our society, shapes mainstream culture and affects behavioral change," reads the VWR website.
"Early adopters and the people who make it," she told a TEDx audience in Yok last year. "This is why it matters right now. Male bias is being woven into this new medium. However, what makes VR unique is its newness. It is setting off on the early stages of its journey and is still being shaped. The medium is still all to play for, and by studying the early mistakes of other industries like Hollywood and Silicon Valley we are well-placed to avoid going down that road again." "VR will not only be a mirror of society, it will be a catalyst for social change; an embedder of norms, an amplifier of stereotypes and a site for humanity’s hopes, fears and dreams to be enacted. So, who will steer VR's future?"
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. Germain Lussier tells the story of how he was invited to visit the Virtual Reality set of The Lion King back in December 2017. The building, where about 90 percent of the film was made, he recalls, was "about three miles from the Pacific Ocean and so non-descript you could drive by it every day for your entire life and have no idea what was going on inside". As well as looking into the technology itself, Lussier talks about Director Jon Favreau's vision, which went beyond merely remaking the well-loved animation classic. The challenge, Favreau said, was to create something that felt like an entirely different medium from either the film or the stage show so it could stand as yet a third way of telling this story: "Using these techniques and really making the visual effects department a creative partner from the inception allows us to present visual effects something like a BBC documentary, on top of telling the story, and having those two exist together,” said Favreau.– GIZMODO
5. UploadVR's Ian Hamilton checks out NVIDIA's foveated rendering demo at SIGGRAPH 2019 in Los Angeles. In this video you can see how the AR display uses gaze tracking to map out the user's Field of View in real-time. this approach is becoming increasingly popular for immersive displays as they allow for less processing power to be used, since the areas that the user is looking at remain sharp, while graphics in their peripheral vision (which normally is not in focus for the human eye) can be less detailed without compromising the quality of the user experience. – UPLOADVR
6. The Texas Children’s Hospital has introduced the CHARIOT Program—Childhood Anxiety Reduction through Innovation and Technology—to help calm pediatric patients ahead of surgery. “The use of our various technologies has made it easier to focus our patients’ attention away from an experience that is new and different and possibly frightening, said Clint Fuller, M.D., a pediatric anesthesiologist at the hospital. These technologies include using VR headsets donated by Starlight Children’s Foundation, which allow the children to have experiences that range from space exploration to deep-sea diving. – TMC.EDU
7. The first-generation HoloLens Mixed Reality headset will no longer get major OS updates. Microsoft has confirmed that the Windows 10 October 2018 Update will be the last one for the device, although it will continue to receive security and quality patches for the next ten years as it enters a Long Term Service (LTS) state. – WINDOWS CENTRAL
8. Applications are now open for the latest North American cohort of YouTube's VR Creator Lab. Following a successful edition in London, the program is set to return to Los Angeles in September, where it will host a three-day bootcamp including a series of workshops providing equipment, coaching, and funding to a select group of creatives. In order to apply, creators must be over 18 and have a YouTube account with over 100,000 followers and no current copyright or terms-of-service strikes. Those with over 10,000 subscribers can still apply (until August 6) for the one-day workshop taking place immediately after the bootcamp. – VRSCOUT
9. VR capture and streaming platform LIV has raised $1 million from a group of investors that includes Oculus founder Palmer Luckey. The start-up was founded in 2016 "to provide tools for creators and developers to share their experiences in real-time." It was part of the VIVE X Accelerator program, and VIVE has also invested in the company in this latest funding round, alongside Beat Games CEO Jaroslav Beck, Seedcamp and TechStars. – PCR
10. An extended reality laboratory is being built to attract new audiences to the rural UK county of Leicestershire. The XR lab is being funded by the Inspiring Science Fund, a partnership between the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy, UK Research and Innovation, and Wellcome. Its facilities will house workstations and a stereoscopic test dome to allow the creation of content for virtual, augmented and mixed reality media.– MUSEUMS AND HERITAGE ADVISOR
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).