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Inside VR & AR

Inside VR & AR (Nov 17th, 2016)

HTC announced it will invest $1.5 billion in two Chinese initiatives, in partnership with the Shenzhen Municipal Government. The China VR Research Institute aims to develop breakthroughs in sensors, displays, graphics and other areas, while the Shenzhen VR Investment Fund will be used to accelerate the growth of the Chinese VR industry. This is the latest of many new initiatives from HTC. - UPLOAD VR

MekaMon from Reach Robotics uses the physical and virtual worlds to turn your living room into a robot battleground. The mobile game features four-legged robot toys that use your smartphone camera to move anywhere in the room, including hiding behind your furniture, as they battle it out and try to outmaneuver each other. The AR app serves as the control center and fires the robots’ weapons. Players can physically upgrade their bots with weapons and shields, and trade out legs and body parts. - TECHCRUNCH

Google Earth VR is “the Google Earth experience I’ve been waiting for,” writes Adario Strange from Mashable. After trying out the new app on HTC Vive, he says the feeling of power is “immense” as you float over the planet and dive down into cities and mountains. “It’s easily one of the most powerful VR experiences in recent memory.” The app is available as a free download in the Steam VR store. - MASHABLE

Qantas Airways’ new Samsung Gear in-flight entertainment is a sign that virtual reality will be a big part of the travel industry's future. Released last week, the VR app allows Qantas passengers to explore some of Australia’s scenic views before ever setting foot in the country, including the Uluru sandstone monolith and the Sydney Harbor Bridge. Other companies like hotels and travel agencies are eager to use virtual reality to market travel destinations and celebrate moments in history. - SAVEUR

Virtual reality is still a boys club but has the opportunity to become more inclusive, according to Recode. Writer Craig Newmark points out that women are “swimming against the current” as computer science students and entrepreneurs flood into the VR/AR industry. The good news is that it’s relatively early in the industry’s development, and including women tech leaders is shown to make companies more profitable. Initiatives like Women Who Tech can help open the doors for women developers. - RECODE

Despite all the hype around virtual reality porn, augmented reality could actually be the future of adult entertainment. HoloFilm Studios and Utherverse president Anna Lee sees porn as a driving force behind headset sales, and predicts that highly sophisticated AR experiences are the next frontier. Rather than being in a virtual room with a virtual porn star, users will see the porn star in their own apartment — or on their own lap. - GEEKWIRE


On the Vive subreddit, users are debating the implications of HTC’s investment in Chinese initiatives. 

"Investing in tech instead of exclusives is a good way to go," writes rusty_dragon. "But feels like now it's not about HTC vs Oculus, but China winning VR industry." Kengine replies, "Agreed. It is the future so why not invest in it now? I'm sure it's being analyzed from a military viewpoint as well, such as for unmanned fighter jets/mechs in the future."

majstor76 says, "I feel this is investment in future R&D which will produce tech for gen 2 and beyond. And if your main competitor is Oculus/Facebook you better be prepared or they will overrun you in few generations."

Meanwhile, Google Earth VR is getting rave reviews on the Virtual Reality subreddit. "Flying over and through my home city of Boston almost made me cry," writes Valefox. "Standing at the top of the Matterhorn and looking down at the valley below gave me shivers. For a moment, I truly felt like I was standing on top of Half Dome. This is one of the best experiences in virtual reality, period. Please, Google: add support for the Oculus Rift and Touch controllers!"

Damo3000 writes, "Needs Street View added at some point. Oceans too. But it's phenomenal even at this stage. TAKE THAT FLAT EARTHERS!!"

Earlier this week we asked you: "How big of an issue are wires and cables in the VR world? How important is it for the technology to go wireless?"

Nicholas makes this useful comparison: "If it is anything like wireless headphones, the night & day difference and freedom of movement is right up there. So if I were to buy a VR system, I'd be wanting the wireless one. Sometimes you need to just go and grab a drink of water real quick and wireless headphones while gaming make this simple."

Reader Kent Bye from the Voices of VR podcast shared his philosophical experience with Google Earth VR and his interview with Product Manager Mike Podwall and Engineering Lead Dominik Kaeser. 

"Google Earth VR has been one of the most mind-blowing experiences that I’ve had so far in VR, for so many different reasons," he writes. "It’s felt like it’s been rewiring my brain to accommodate the new perspectives of the earth in a way similar to what returning astronauts report as 'The Overview Effect.' It’s also enabled me to navigate the earth based upon natural landmarks and without seeing borders, and therefore start to cultivate a new type relationship with the earth."

STRIVR Labs has received a round of funding and is looking to hire a number of skilled employees, from web developers to 3D artist/modelers to the VP of engineering. Check out their website for the full listing (Menlo Park)

Viacom NEXT is seeking a VR UX designer (NYC/Boston)

DreamLine is seeking a VR/AR expert (Warminster PA)

Emblematic Group is hiring a 2D animator for a project with a big name client (Santa Monica)

EdgeDNA is hiring a creative technologist (New York)

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