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Inside AR (Jul 10th, 2019)

1. A mixed-reality opera combines music and immersive storytelling in a bold and effective way that doesn't feel gimmicky, writes Joshua Barone for the New York Times.  Michel van der Aa’s “Eight” is a mixed reality work that premiered last month in Amsterdam and is currently on view at the Aix Festival in France through July 30. The experience lasts around 15 minutes and centers on the story of an old woman looking back on her life. Mr. van der Aa has long integrated technology in his work (his 2002 chamber opera “One” featured the soprano Barbara Hannigan singing alongside virtual versions of herself) and he tells Barone that the intention with "Eight" was to provide viewers with something that went beyond a "cool five minutes" and fully integrated the storytelling with the technology. – NEW YORK TIMES

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2. AI author Luke Dormehl writes about a new image-editing tool being developed by MIT and IBM that would allow creators to "paint with neurons."  The assertion refers to the artificial neurons of a machine learning neural network that enables it. This example, which is available for users to demo but still at a proof of concept stage lets you upload an image and then modify any aspect of it, changing the size of objects or adding completely new items. This has interesting implications for immersive technology, as mixed- and augmented reality applications become more sophisticated. Integration with such AI features would bring us a step closer to a seamless merging of the physical and digital worlds. – DIGITAL TRENDS

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3. From the Forums: Getting a Virtual Massage 

The Esqapes Immersive Relaxation Center, which claims to be the first of its kind, opened on July 5 in Los Angeles, offering 10 different multisensory VR environments for customers to relax and receive massages. These include a koi pond at an ocean-side resort and a ski cabin with a crackling fireplace, complete with pumped-in fragrances that complement the experience. XR influencer and Enterprise Strategy lead at Magic Leap Cathy Hackl was among the first to book a treatment. In a Facebook post, she shared details about her 30-minute “Moroccan Twilight” treatment which cost $45 and included jasmine scents. She noted that although she usually preferred getting a massage from a human (Esqapes uses automated chairs) she was looking forward to trying it and invited feedback from other users on whether they were curious to try it out. – FACEBOOK

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4. Sarasota’s Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium virtual reality pods have been popular with visitors. For $6 per person, users can explore nine different adventures such as “Swimming With Humpbacks,”  which last between four and five minutes each. The pods were built by the U.K.-based virtual reality company Immotion and evoke realistic movements so that you get the sensation of, for example, swimming with the giant mammals in their natural habitat. Mote has plans to relocate to a new facility in the next couple of years, but until the new aquarium is built, it is hoping that immersive technology will help to enhance the experience for visitors at its current location. – SARASOTA MAGAZINE 

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5. The "Motley Fool Answers" podcast dedicated one of its recent editions to augmented reality.  Co-hosts Alison Southwick and Robert Brokamp invited senior Motley Fool analyst Jason Moser (who is spearheading a new Motley Fool service, Extreme Opportunities: Augmented Reality) to talk about industry use cases and which companies are capitalizing on this technology trend. – THE MOTLEY FOOL

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6. Digital imaging, VR and 3D modeling are increasingly being used by designers in the automotive industry, but there is still a space for traditional clay-modeling. SangYup Lee, a Hyundai Motor senior vice president and head of design says that the biggest hurdle is that VR tools are not yet entirely up to the task, as success can be a matter of a 2 mm to 3 mm difference, and 4K-resolution isn't yet available across the board. Thomas Ingenlath, CEO of Polestar and senior vice president of design at Volvo Cars, says: "the software and the tools we had could easily enable such a variety and such a level of artistry that previously only a clay modeler was able to create with his hands."– AUTOMOTIVE NEWS EUROPE

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7. The Siggraph conference which takes place from July 28 to August 1 at the Los Angeles Convention Center will feature its largest immersive program yet. The event is a major fixture of the tech industry calendar and has been going strong since 1973. This year it will feature no fewer than 48 immersive experiences across its VR Theater and Immersive Pavilion, including four never-before-seen projects from the likes of Disney, Magic Leap, and Epic Games. – VRSCOUT 

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8. As Location Based Entertainment (LBE) VR gains momentum, arcades are looking to diversify. Although offering immersive gaming experiences provides a sustainable business model, arcade owners such as Kasey Wheeler, who runs the Virtuality Gaming Den in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, want to expand into experiences that go beyond killing zombies.  "We’d like to do some meditation stuff, some virtual tours, some 3D modeling of the city, or get out to the assisted living and give some of the elderly folks a chance to get into the headsets and see what they see; give them a tour of their hometown and any place they might want to tour,” he says.– KELOLAND

Note: Brownie points for readers who spotted the Easter egg in the featured image. Recognize the Inside VR & AR poster boy? As one lady in the Women in VR Facebook Group recently pointed out, it's possibly the most famous beardy chin in the immersive tech industry!

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9. Beat Games' CEO, Jaroslav Beck, is shifting to a new role that will allow him to focus on creating music for the game and "pursuing future opportunities." Beat Saber's co-creator Vladmir Hrincar will replace Beck as the new CEO. David Jagneaux writes that the move comes as something of a surprise, yet it makes sense as Beck created the original soundtrack which was a major factor in making the game such a success, and diversification will be key if the company is to maintain its dominance in that space going forward. – UPLOADVR 

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10. Fox’s “First Responders Live” has incorporated AR in both its set design and storytelling. Through the use of augmented reality, the show is able to quickly add context about an officer or a location while keeping up with the pace of live events. The show's Los Angeles studio features augmented maps, logos, badges, infoboxes, and live video feeds designed by Full Mental Jacket and  CGLA Studios and powered by Zero Density’s Reality platform with rendering from the Unreal Engine and jib camera tracking from Mo-Sys. – NEWSCAST STUDIO 

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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

 

Editing team: Kim Lyons (Pittsburgh-based journalist and managing editor at Inside), David Stegon (senior editor at Inside, whose reporting experience includes cryptocurrency and technology), and Bobby Cherry (senior editor at Inside, who’s always on social media).

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