1. Google has announced the Glass Enterprise Edition 2 at $999. The device has been moved from out of Google parent company Alphabet’s X “moonshot factory” and into the Google family of products, letting Google “meet the demands of the growing market for wearables in the workplace,” according to the announcement blog post. Priced well below the original "Explorer Edition" Google Glass (which sold at $1,500) and significantly cheaper than the Microsoft HoloLens, Google is clearly aiming to compete in the enterprise mixed reality space, which means this product is not being sold directly to consumers. The new device contains an improved camera, USB-C port for faster charging, and a significant processing boost due to its Qualcomm’s Snapdragon XR1 chip, which is designed specifically for augmented and virtual reality, and is also powerful enough to incorporate computer vision and advanced machine learning capabilities into the headset. Glass also now runs on Android, with support for Android Enterprise Mobile Device Management. – THE VERGE
2. The first installment of Vader Immortal: A Star Wars VR series launched on the Oculus Quest. The interactive narrative runs at 45-60 minutes with an additional “Lightsaber Dojo” activity. It is set between the events of "Revenge of the Sith" and "A New Hope" and lets users step into the role of a smuggler operating near Mustafar. Quest users can download it today, but the experience will only be available on Rift headsets later in the spring. The project was created through the Lucasfilm Story Group and directed by Oscar-nominated visual effects supervisor Ben Snow (Attack of the Clones), who now works with Lucasfilm’s immersive entertainment arm ILMxLAB. Funding came from Oculus itself, although the company would not disclose the production budget. – HOLLYWOOD REPORTER
3. Spotlight: Women in VR - Estella Tse
By Alice Bonasio
Estella Tse grew up in Oakland, California, where she's always strived to find a balance between her traditional heritage – which mainly told her to “follow the rules” – and her more liberal American upbringing, which encouraged individualism and freedom of expression. She finally found a way to reconcile the two through her art, and immersive technology has provided new ways for her to exercise that artistic expression.
Her varied background and skillset – which includes web design, front-end development, sociology, illustration, and visual design – drew her to explore the intersection of art, technology, and impactful storytelling through pieces such as "Two Sides of the Same Coin," a piece which existed half in the physical world and half in augmented reality.
She explains that AR allows her to express herself in brand new and exciting ways, while also forcing her to be more thoughtful in the ways she creates her art. There’s also an additional layer of social interactivity that AR provides, she says, which spurs people on to share the content with friends and on social media:
"Creating for AR is more like creating a sculpture to be placed in a courtyard or someone’s living room — I have to consider how and where my viewer will be experiencing my piece. Unlike virtual reality which removes you completely from the real world, augmented reality begs for interaction with the real world. How does my piece relate or conflict with the space or manner in which it’ll be viewed?”
“New mediums that have come before, AR needs artists and creative energy to push the boundaries of what this technology can actually do. As a woman, as a POC, there are all sorts of opportunities I’ll be allowed in a new space that I wouldn’t have had in a more established space,” she concludes.
Every Tuesday we'll shine a spotlight on the female trailblazers making their mark in immersive tech. If you have a story you think we should feature, just hit reply to this email or tweet me @alicebonasio
4. Inaccessible shipwrecks can now be explored in VR. Newly launched by the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) the Virtual Archaeology Museum features 3-D models, video footage and mosaic maps of five 19th- and 20th-century shipwrecks. BOEM Gulf of Mexico regional director Mike Celata says that the 3-D models will allow them to see each shipwreck site as a whole and monitor changes over time, serving as a valuable teaching asset in both school and university classrooms. – SMITHSONIAN
5. Magic Leap is selling a mobile carrying case priced at $95. Currently only available on the company's website, it includes a central chamber for the headset and its "Lightpack" hip computer, with two side chambers for the charging pucks and "various straps for comfortable wear including a top handle and removable/adjustable strap to wear over the shoulder or messenger style. – NEXT REALITY
6. Adam Crute takes a look back at the history of virtual reality and how the technology could dramatically affect music-makers. – MUSIC TECH
7. Google is pulling the plug on its Jump Virtual Reality video stitching platform. The company is telling users to download their data before it shuts down on June 28, when it will start being erased – ECONOMIC TIMES
8. Todd Maddox explains the neuroscience behind immersive technology, and how it can help healthcare professionals to internalize and retain key training information in the long term. – TECH TRENDS
9. German media group ProSiebenSat.1 acquired a 20% stake in Holodeck VR. The company's location-based VR technology allows multiple visitors to explore virtual environments simultaneously. They are now looking for partnerships with new location owners and operators aiming to convert their empty spaces into Holodecks for their visitors.– BROADBAND TV NEWS
10. A YouTuber known as Drumsy posted a video of her avatar being baptized in Virtual Reality. Pastor D.J. Soto of the VR Church has been performing such ceremonies in VR for the past year, and says it has given Christians an experience they couldn’t otherwise have. –FUTURISM
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) and David Stegon (senior editor at Inside, whose reporting experience includes cryptocurrency and technology).