Inside XR - May 9th, 2019 |

Inside XR (May 9th, 2019)

Google Scales Back on VR / The Legacy of Nintendo's Virtual Boy / Vader Immortal Preview

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1. Google appears to have scaled back its R&D efforts for VR hardware. The key message to come out of Google I/O seems to be that the company has largely abandoned its plans to push forward the development of headsets and content for virtual reality, focusing on augmented reality features for the Google Lens instead. Reports seem to agree that we are unlikely to see Google releasing a competitor for the upcoming Oculus Quest anytime soon.  – TECHCRUNCH

2. Ford is using VR tools to promote collaborative design among its global teams. The platform being piloted across five Ford studios around the world has been developed by Gravity Sketch. Workers wear headsets and use controllers to draw, rotate, expand and compress a 3D sketch. The Co-Creation feature allows designers around the world to work on and evaluate designs in real time while being in different offices. Michael Smith, design manager at Ford, said this could lead to efficient design work that may help accelerate a vehicle program's development. – CNBC

3. Throwback Thursday:  Nintendo Virtual Boy

The Nintendo Virtual Boy is widely considered one of Nintendo's greatest failures, but at the same time it has become a cult object, and learning a bit more about it also provides us with useful context on how the company has approached its latest (much better received) efforts with the Nintendo Labo VR

The Virtual Boy was is a 32-bit table-top video game console touted as the first of its kind to offer stereoscopic 3D graphics that promised to totally immerse the players in their own private universe. Content fell well short of expectations, however, with only 22 games ever being released for the system (a problem arguably still plaguing VR today)

At the time of its release in 1995, Nintendo of America projected hardware sales of 1.5 million units and software sales numbering 2.5 million by the end of the year. Nintendo had shipped 350,000 units of the Virtual Boy by December 1995, around three and a half months after its North American release. Panned by critics and plagued by health and safety concerns, sales fell well short of expectations and production ceased by early 1996.

The Virtual Boy created an illusion of depth through the effect known as parallax. In a manner similar to using a head-mounted display, the user looks into an eyepiece made of neoprene on the front of the machine, and then an eyeglass-style projector allows viewing of the monochromatic (in this case, red) image. Nintendo claimed that a color display would have made the system too expensive and resulted in "jumpy" images, so the company opted for a monochrome display.

Many reviewers complained of painful and frustrating physiological symptoms, and its controller was awkward, meant to be used sitting down at a table, which really hampered the freedom of movement required for immersive experiences. But while the console itself has been a failure, it was also ahead of its time in many respects, and the technology developed by Nintendo has since been incorporated into many of its products to this day. Also, if you come across one in a yard sale somewhere, you should probably snap it up. Fewer than 800,000 units were made worldwide, making it a valuable collector's item. 

4. Vader Immortal is Disney's most ambitious immersive storytelling project to date. Early reviews of the episodic experience designed by at ILMxLAB - an offshoot of Industrial Light and Magic and Lucasfilm’s special virtual reality division - have been positive. The segment is the first volume of a trilogy, with two other installments due this year, and the first one due to be available to download for $9.99 to the Quest headset on May 21.  David S. Goyer, a writer and executive producer who has worked on the screenplays to Batman Begins and Man of Steel, likens some of what is happening in VR storytelling to the original Walt Disney cartoon, Steamboat Willie. "Like we’re not even at the first half hour long cartoon yet. We’re at Luxo Jr.” That’s the once-groundbreaking now-primitive digital animation short Pixar created with hopping desk lamps in 1986,“ he explains– ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY 

5. Robert Glatter, MD looks at new studies that point to how VR can prove a valuable tool in treating patients suffering from mental health conditions such as dementia, anxiety, depression, eating disorders, PTSD, phobias, autism, and schizophrenia, by allowing them to enter and explore new environments which may help to alleviate symptoms, while also serving as a coping strategy.– FORBES

6. Spanish telco Telefónica showcased a virtual tourism exhibition in Segovia which took viewers back to the time of 15th Century Monarchs Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabella of Castile. The tour features a number of stops at historic sites where animated content is presented in 3D with characters imitating traditional marionettes. DIGITAL TV EUROPE

7. Sony has announced two new PSVR bundles due to be released by the end of May. One bundle includes  Blood & Truth and Everybody’s Golf VR, at $349.99  while the cheaper $299.99 bundle includes  Trover Saves the Universe! (from Rick and Morty creator Justin Roiland) and Five Nights at Freddy’s VR: Help Wanted. Both bundles include a PS VR system, a PlayStation camera, and a demo disc. – VARIETY

8. Digital Twin technology is a key part of how companies such as GE Digital and Siemens are using XR to enhance productivity. This article provides a useful overview of immersive technologies and use cases in Industry 4.0.  – ARC

9. The Oculus Quest comes out May 21, here are the bundle specifications and where to order it from.– IGN

10. Epson unveiled its new Smart Glasses, the Moverio BT-30C. Hugo Swart, head of XR for Qualcomm, says it will enable 'big-screen' immersive experiences and provide transformative benefits to both consumer and enterprise sectors."– 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).

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