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Inside AR (Dec 26th, 2018)

Happy Holidays! This end of year recap is presented in partnership with Owl Labs, makers of the Meeting Owl smart 360° conferencing camera. A great way to support the work we do on this newsletter is to check out the Meeting Owl. (Also, you can use code INSIDE for $100 off a Meeting Owl Pro Kit)

Hey, readers—I've really enjoyed curating VR & AR news for you this jam-packed year, and frankly, it's a bit of a dream come true for this tech + narrative-obsessed writer. As we head into 2019, I collected my 25 favorite trends and stories of the last year, but I also have a couple questions for you:

  1. What do you think was the most under-covered story or trend in VR or AR this year?
  2. How can we make this newsletter even more valuable to you in 2019?

Just hit reply and let me know what you think! Happy holidays!

- Eric @ Inside

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1. Education - Illustrated by the late-year announcement of free to use VR education tool “Engage,” 2018 saw major growth of VR technology used in wide-ranging education settings like K-12, retirement homes, and everywhere in between. — VRFOCUS

2. Practice - Training for surgical procedures can be costly and infrequent, given the need to train on a real, live human. Many hospitals and other industries in similar situations (Walmart’s “Black Friday” training, for instance) are looking to VR to help better simulate high-risk training. — ZDNET

3. Design/Manufacturing - Car manufacturers are looking to VR and AR to increase efficiency in the design process, on the assembly line, and elsewhere. And it's not just Tesla—Ford, Audi, Toyota and many more are deploying VR and AR into their systems. — BUSINESS INSIDER

4. Empathy Machines - Artists, educators, journalists, et al. are using VR to help folks shift their perspective, leading to a new(ish) label of “empathy machines.” Whether it's cultural empathy, empathy for the planet’s struggling ecosystem, or simply empathy for a professional athlete, VR was often involved in 2018. — VENTUREBEAT

5. Exercise - VR and AR undisputedly led to increased exercise for many this year, but it's the virtual exercise that yields IRL results that surprised many, led by high profile cases of significant weight loss via fantastic VR experience “Beat Saber” (see below). —  AV CLUB

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Meet the Owl featured in This Week in Startups 2018 Year in Review

No one has time for awful meetings! The Meeting Owl is a game changer and we use it all the time at Inside. Their smart 360° conferencing camera is seamless and the autofocus feature is LEGIT. If you have a remote team, you need to try a Meeting Owl. Use the 30-day return policy but we don’t think you’ll need it.

Use code INSIDE to get $100 off Meeting Owl Pro Kit.

6. After raising more than $2 billion and operating in stealth for years, Magic Leap finally revealed and started shipping its AR headset. The Magic Leap One costs $2,295 and is powered by an Nvidia Tegra X2 processor. — THE VERGE

7. HTC’s first-party wireless adapter finally ships--even though a third party solution had been available for a while, but not without trouble. Users began reporting issues with the devices quickly after launch, leading the company to urge some users to return their purchase. — ROAD TO VR

8. After updates to both iOS’ and Android’s AR tools in new phones, AR is emerging as more important to global users than VR. That’s in part due to Magic Leap’s launch, but also due to high profile AR advertising and content reaching more and more users. — VENTUREBEAT

9. Decades after it first started infecting our minds, Tetris finally comes to VR with the fantastic “Tetris Effect,” released on PSVR (also on 2D screens). Some have even suggested that the experience works well as a balm for 2018’s overactive minds. — ENGADGET

10. Beat Saber may have been the most popular VR experience of 2018. Even if not, it certainly takes the prize for inspiring the most actual exercise (see below for more info). — ROAD TO VR

11. Oculus’ announced its new wireless, standalone VR headset, the Oculus Quest, which is scheduled to ship this spring for $399. — TECHCRUNCH

12. Oculus filled out its VR headset lineup this year, not only announcing the “Oculus Quest” but also releasing the wireless, standalone Oculus Go headset. The Go doesn’t have the power of the Quest or the Rift, but has been marketed as a way to connect with friends, whether watching video content, “attending” a VR comedy club or sports match, and more. — FORBES

13. Another of several PSVR experiences making folks’ best of 2018 lists, "Moss" follows a Redwall-like mouse on an adventure. In addition to a fantastic story and compelling visuals, "Moss" was one of a few VR experiences to show platforming gameplay works very well in VR. — POLYGON

14. Brendan Iribe, Oculus co-founder and CEO of Facebook’s Oculus VR business, left the company in October, raising questions about Oculus' future under the Facebook umbrella. — FORTUNE

15. HTC opened its app store to Oculus users this fall, showing a smidgen of good will toward opening up compatibility of VR platforms, in addition to making more money. — ROAD TO VR

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16. HTC’s wireless, standalone VR headset, “Vive Focus” launched in China last year, but this fall came to the U.S and Europe. HTC mostly targeted enterprise customers with the Focus in the U.S. — ENGADGET 

17. Magic Leap hyped their AR headset for years. But once it finally launched, some were less than impressed given how rosy the predictions were. — MOTHERBOARD

18. Insomniac Games were the first to published a paid app on the new Magic Leap AR platform. Not only that, but the game looks like a lot of fun, too. — NEXT REALITY

19. “Astro Bot: Rescue Mission” was yet another of the great PSVR experiences released for the platform this year (See "Tetris Effect," "Moss" above). It also helped show that the kind of 2D platforming of Mario and other IPs can work very well in VR. — POLYGON

20. “Wipeout VR”  traces its roots way back into the 1990s, but it was only this year that players were able to race the game’s futuristic tracks at near light speed. There are reports of motion sickness, so short dips are recommended. — POLYGON

21. Years after promising its inclusion, Niantic Labs finally added player-vs-player features to its wildly successful AR app “Pokémon Go”. The app also received various upgrades that make the game hardly recognizable from the state it arrived in. — FORBES

22. VR startup Jaunt made large restructuring moves this fall when the company shifted its focus away from VR, instead devoting resources and staff to AR. — ROAD TO VR

23. Bethesda and ZeniMax reached a settlement on a lawsuit alleging stolen VR trade secrets. — VARIETY

24. From better lenses to new locomotion techniques and more, VR hardware is getting ever closer to better addressing VR’s physical demands. — ROAD TO VR

25. AMD, NVIDIA, Microsoft, Oculus and Valve announced the VirtualLink consortium to develop and encourage a single-cable solution for connecting PC VR headsets. — FORBES

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Written and curated by Eric Skalac, who is a hands-on IoT and VR/AR tinkerer, former NPR affiliate news director and eternal learner. He's based in central Illinois where the waves of grain are amber.

Editing team: Lon Harris (editor-in-chief at, game-master at Screen Junkies), Krystle Vermes (Breaking news editor at Inside, B2B marketing news reporter, host of the "All Day Paranormal" podcast), and Susmita Baral (editor at Inside, recent bylines in NatGeo, Teen Vogue, and Quartz. Runs the biggest mac and cheese account on Instagram).

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