1. The $999 Valve Index kit will ship by the end of June, but initial reviews are disappointing. Valve is the creator of the Steam portal as well as the hugely popular Half-Life video game series, so there were high expectations surrounding the unveiling of its new virtual reality HMD. However, Sam Machkovech argues in this in-depth review that overall the headset seems relatively unambitious and presents no significant leap forward in technology (still requires cable-tethering to a computer and external lighthouse sensors) while also suffering from a lack of content which would convince users to buy it. Its biggest selling points, he says, are a significant FOV (Field of View) boost and a design that enables “long term comfort,” so that users can spend significant periods of time in VR environments without experiencing discomfort. – ARS TECHNICA
2. Mark Zuckerberg confirmed in his F8 keynote yesterday that the Oculus Rift S and Oculus Quest would both ship on May 21 at $399. Five years after Facebook bought Oculus for $2 billion, Mike Murphy asks ‘what exactly is there to do in VR?’ and argues that consumer gaming and video haven't significantly shifted during that time, although he expects that might change soon with some upcoming game titles set to potentially rival the quality of traditional gaming consoles. This was reflected in Zuckerberg's broadening focus on immersive technologies and their applications at F8, which included Oculus for Business - a platform that will eventually offer enterprise software for VR - and Spark AR, Facebook’s augmented reality development platform. – QUARTZ
3. Applications are open for this year's London edition of YouTube Creator Lab which will happen in May. In 2018, the lab’s diverse roster of immersive projects included a partnership with Cirque du Soleil, a behind-the-scenes look at Britain’s Got Talent, a sample of Romanian horror and tagging along with Japanese traveling family Bilingirl Chika. Set near King’s Cross Station, Creator Lab London 2019 will begin with a three-day intensive boot camp designed to give creators the tools to produce AAA VR180 content. Applicants looking to join must be over 18 years old and own a non-consumer brand YouTube channel with at least 100,000 subscribers. Applications are open now until May 20th at 5pm BST. – VRSCOUT
4. An AR app is aiming to improve sales targeting by using Artificial Intelligence and cloud technology to judge shopper reactions in real-time. NexTech’s “sentiment-based technology solution” for its Try-It-On retail augmented reality platform is available to online retailers for $79 per month. It essentially involves using a smartphone's front camera to capture a user's reaction to products they are seeing (in the real world or online) in real time. These would then be analysed in real-time by Artificial Intelligence based on Microsoft Azure. – VENTUREBEAT
Lag (or Latency) is essentially the time between an action and its corresponding reaction. These are terms that game designers are very familiar with, as it doesn't make for good user experience if there are long delays between a gamer inputting a command on a controller and their avatar performing the action on screen, for example.
For Immersive technologies, however, that is even more of a crucial issue, as the user is placed inside that environment, and a disconnect that can feel annoying in a videogame can be truly disorienting in VR if objects around them fail to adjust to their movement in a way that feels natural to their brains' natural navigation systems.
When there is a long delay between real-world movement and that movement being represented within VR it tends to cause issues such as disorientation and motion sickness.
Generally speaking, achieving low latency requires greater processing power – typically using multiple graphics processors – yet there are many compromise and workaround solutions and best practices that companies such as Oculus recommend for developers to adopt in order to minimize any user discomfort.
Every First Wednesday of each month we’re going to dig deeper into the vocabulary of immersive tech, unpicking some of the jargon and buzzwords that get bandied about in this space. As always suggestions and feedback are welcome, just hit reply to this email!
5. Machine learning analytics company Splunk has designed a business flow suite designed to mine data and processes across correlated platforms, including augmented reality. – ZDNET
6. Ben Kuchera says the Oculus Quest is the most innovative virtual reality headset since the arrival of the original Oculus Rift and HTC Vive. It provides six degrees of freedom without the need for any extensive setup or use of external sensors to enjoy VR. – POLYGON
7. What is the ideal length of a cinematic VR video? This article explores some of the possible answers and delves briefly into some of the technical challenges still surrounding immersive content production. It's part of an ongoing series of articles and active discussion on the 360 VR Video Professionals group on Facebook– IMMERSIVE SHOOTER
8. "The Dead Must Die" Magic Leap Game of Thrones experience is proving a big hit at the Tribeca Film Festival. Joan E. Solsman described how the mixed reality experience produced in partnership with AT&T and HBO merges real-world props and holographic characters to great effect. – CNET
9. Oculus Quest’s inside-out tracking is bringing PC VR titles to mobile. Yet in order to make that possible, developers have had to make adaptations and some compromises to port them over. This article provides some useful side-by-side comparisons on four titles in their Quest and Rift versions. – UPLOADVR
10. Berlin-based designer Dominik Hofacker speculates on what Apple AR smartglasses could look like. Although purely conceptual and not associated with Apple, such concept renderings provide a way for users to begin envisioning the possibilities behind mainstream AR wearables. – NEXT REALITY
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
Editing team: Kim Lyons (Pittsburgh-based journalist and managing editor at Inside); Susmita Baral (senior editor at Inside, who runs the biggest mac and cheese account on Instagram); and David Stegon (senior editor at Inside, whose reporting experience includes cryptocurrency and technology).