Inside XR - May 16th, 2019

Inside XR (May 16th, 2019)

Snapchat's Gender-Swap Filter / Minecraft AR Anniversary / Investing in Virtual Art

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1. The BBC has released an interactive VR mini-episode of Doctor Who. The 13-minute experience, called The Runaway, was produced by Passion Animation Studios and the BBC VR Hub, using motion-capture technology to capture Jodie Whittaker's live-action performance. Users without a VR headset should also be able to check out the experience at their local library in the UK, as part of the BBC's effort to make immersve technologies more accessible to the general public. Zillah Watson, head of BBC VR Hub, says that the organization invested heavily in the production in an effort to sharpen up the scriptwriting, involving the creative team on the Doctor Who television series to ensure it felt like an authentic adventure within the series' canon. – DIGITAL SPY

2. Snapchat's gender-swapping AR filter is proving popular with users. The feature allows users to take pictures of themselves, their friends, or any random person, and reimagine them as members of the opposite sex. The impressively realistic results that come from the slight modifications and morphing have made have startled and delighted people, making the app go viral with celebrities such as Miley Cyrus. – VRSCOUT 

3.  Throwback Thursday: Minecraft Anniversary 

It was ten years ago that Minecraft was born. Since then it has become a gaming sensation that has embedded itself in pop culture iconography. After being acquired by Microsoft in 2014, the IP has also become a highly effective educational tool which many users believe is a perfect fit for integration with immersive technologies. 

So when, at this year's Microsoft Build developers conference, the company's CEO Satya Nadella closed his keynote with a "one more thing" reveal - a teaser video implying that augmented reality integration might finally be coming to the platform, it understandably got journalists and fans quite excited. Mark Hachman, who was one of the lucky few to try a Mixed Reality demo of the game four years ago with the HoloLens, sees enormous potential in the match. 

The video concludes with a promise of more information to be announced on its website on May 17th, which is Minecraft's official birthday. 

4. There are new models emerging for funding and monetizing immersive media artworks. Amir Bozorgzadeh, CEO of XR start-up Virtuleap, argues that Mixed Reality makes an ideal pairing with the art world, but one which requires a significant mind-shift from artists and investors alike, citing examples such as Kaleidoscope VR, a funding platform and network for independent VR artists and creators which has so far raised over $4 million and funded over 20 XR projects. Danish artist Jakob Kudsk Steensen also believes the medium is monetizable, and successfully produces and sells limited edition mixed reality pieces which are routinely bought by investors and appreciate in value. ”My artworks are already worth twice as much now as they were two years ago,” he says.  VENTUREBEAT

5. Researchers are testing whether VR can help us enjoy ourselves. Michelle Craske, a psychiatry researcher at The University of California, Los Angeles is part of a team testing whether VR can counter anhedonia - the inability to feel pleasure in normally pleasurable activities - which is a common symptom of depression and other mental health conditions. – FORBES 

6.  Virtual Virtual Reality (V-VR) is a must-see surrealist masterpiece of the genre. According to Jamie Feltham, the game produced by Tender Claws offers up some of the strangest and most personable characters, together with laugh-out-loud funny and highly-interactive environments invite playful experimentation, while also posing deeper philosophical questions around the current status of VR. – UPLOADVR

7. Kindergarten students from Madison County, AL. are using VR to go on virtual field trips. Central Elementary School principal Alex Hughes says that as well as proving a big hit with the kids, this is one of the best teaching tools his school has been given.  – ROCKET CITY NEWS

8. Moss, one of the most popular titles for PlayStation VR is getting a free update in June. Entitled the Twilight Garden, it will expand the game with brand new content.and brings more "environments, challenges, and storytelling" – PUSHSQUARE

9. The Oculus Quest is undeniably the best wireless VR has to offer, according to this comprehensive review by Will Georgiad.  – EXPERT REVIEWS

10. A computational model developed by MIT researchers uses VR to challenge the way we think about race. Presented at the AAAI 2019 Spring Symposium, the Virtual Reality software prototype called Passage Home VR analyses how individuals perceive and cope with racial stressors. In the game, the user assumes the virtual identity of an African American girl whose high school teacher has accused her of plagiarizing an essay. The lab is now preparing to deploy and study its efficacy as a professional development tool for teachers. – MIT NEWS

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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