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Inside AR

Inside AR (Aug 2nd, 2019)

1. Sandbox VR has partnered with NBC to create a Star Trek Holodeck experience. The San Francisco-based startup (which has recently secured $68 million round of investment) announced that it will release “Star Trek: Discovery Away Mission” this fall at its locations in Hong Kong, the Bay Area and Los Angeles, with New York, Austin, San Diego and Chicago following soon after. The 30-minute experience guided by “Star Trek Discovery’s” starfleet officer Sylvia Tilly (Mary Wiseman) will allow up to six people at a time to immerse themselves in the Star Trek universe complete with phasers and tricoders. "We wanted to make a 0.1 version of the holodeck,” says Siqi Chen, Sandbox President and chief product officer, who says that this has been a dream project for the team, and that recreating the feel of the Star Trek experience meant  focusing more on collective problem-solving than combat situations - although the experience does include some of those as well. – VARIETY

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2. The USC Institute for Creative Technologies (ICT) has developed a program to help veterans re-enter the job market by giving them a safe yet challenging environment to practice interview techniques. There is still an under-the-radar stigma associated with employing veterans, according to ICT Associate Producer Wendy Whitcup, which is why simulating difficult situations can make the difference between getting a job or not. Some of the hostile scripts might seem over the top, yet the researchers say that they were written in collaboration with veterans who actually did get asked questions such as  “Did you kill anybody?” during job interviews. The simulation includes six virtual characters of different races and genders who can display hostile body language and facial expressions such as scowling. Researchers say that this setup provides veterans with a scenario that is real enough to build their confidence without feeling too stressful. U.S. Vets, a nonprofit for at-risk veterans in Los Angeles, started using an earlier version of the technology in 2016 and found that 36 out of the 37 veterans who participated were subsequently able to find jobs. – LA MAGAZINE

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3.  Follow Friday: Jane Gauntlett

Jane Gauntlett is an artist, writer, director, producer working with a range of immersive tech in innovative ways. She founded the In My Shoes Project back in 2009, which she describes as an " ever-expanding library of interactive audio and audio visual experiences that use storytelling, technology, touch, taste and smell to recreate real-life experiences. "This constitutes a series of pieces combining multi-sensory theatre, technology (Audio, 360 film & VR) and first-person documentary to recreate extraordinary real-life events and engender empathy. They include two highly acclaimed 360 immersive experiences ‘In My Shoes: Dancing With Myself’ (2015), and ‘In My Shoes: Intimacy’ (2017) and after experiencing those I personally am looking forward to seeing what comes next. 

Follow her on Twitter @JaneGauntlett

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4. Heather Newman reviews the VirZoom exercise bike experience on the Oculus Quest headset, saying it had her "sweating happily". The application - which is already available on the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive and PSVR - lets you explore a range of 3D landscapes generated with Google Maps data, as well as more outlandish scenarios such as riding a flying horse or driving a race car. The company recently changed its pricing model to offer more free games and reduced ts annual memberships for premium access to $99.95 per year. Both VZFit Explorer and VZFit Play require a $99 VZFit Sensor Kit, which includes a sensor that attaches to one pedal crank with elastic bands, and a thumb button that clips onto your handlebars for easy controls while riding. The quality of the Quest sensors, Newman adds, improved the experience by making movements such as turning feel more natural. – UPLOADVR 

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5. Can holographic projection technology eventually leapfrog headsets altogether? In this deep-dive post, writer Shel Israel looks at a New York-based start-up called the Looking Glass Factory, which has set itself the ambitious task of providing immersive experiences that don't require wearables. The company was started with $100,000 raised in a crowdfunding campaign, which allowed them to open their Brooklyn office in New York five years ago. Since then, they raised over $13.8 million and grown their team to 30. Currently the holographic displays are limited to a box setup (which the company sells directly on its website, ranging in price from $600 to $6,000) , but Israel was nevertheless impressed by its possibilities, saying that coming across it at the AWE conference in May provided him with his first “Aha Moment”, of the show. – SHELISRAEL.COM

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6. From letting customers visualize their takeaway before ordering to providing better training for catering staff, immersive technologies are being increasingly used by the food industry. Gergana Mileva investigates how restauranteurs are using Augmented Reality applications such as Le Petit Chef to enhance the gastronomic experience. There are also practical examples of chains such as Baregurger using an app called QReal - previously known as Kabaq - to provide customers with realistic renders of what the food on the menu actually looks like on a plate. – ARPOST

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7. Artists are exploring the potential of Augmented Reality to enhance and present their work. American photographer Lucas Blalock is the latest high-profile name to embrace immersive technology in a creative way to bring a new perspective to his art. He is taking part in the  Whitney Museum’s Biennial this summer. His works come alive when viewed through a customized smartphone app. Blalock told the FT that although he was still getting his head around the technology, he was captivated by it as he felt that AR offered  “such a wild set of possibilities”.  – FINANCIAL TIMES

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8. New "Hidden Side" LEGO Augmented Reality kits are being sold on the Apple online store. Each set affords kids (and grown-ups, let's be honest) with a set of unique interactions that work in tandem with the physical built toys. Based on the  "chilling, creative world of ghosts," the sets come to life when viewed on an iOS device. The Wrecked Shrimp Boat set, for example, lets you explore a sunken boat before engaging in a boss fight. There are currently four sets available ranging in price from around $30 to the pricier Newbury Haunted High School which will set you back $129.95. – MAC RUMORS

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9.  Fable Studio will award between $1,000 and $25,000 to developers looking to create better virtual beings. “We want to seed a new industry combining virtual assistants, immersive, AI, and virtual influences," says  Edward Saatchi, CEO of Fable Studio. The grants will be awarded in four categories - games, enterprise, social and education - and are open to individuals and businesses until September 17th.– VRSCOUT

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10.  Apple has just listed a new batch of AR/VR-focused jobs, fueling rumors that its Augmented Reality glasses project is entering a new phase. Following the re-assignment of Kim Vorrath to the team reportedly in charge of the project, the company has posted several roles on its hiring website ranging from an AR/VR demo evangelist to system UI, system frameworks, and software engineers.The vacancies are in Apple’s Technology Development Group, the part of the company which is reportedly working on AR glasses, yet the job descriptions specifically refer to  “AR/VR”, which has prompted speculation that the company might be working on a device capable of handling both. – VENTUREBEAT

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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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