Inside XR - July 17th, 2019

Inside XR (Jul 17th, 2019)

Army Tests HoloLens 2 / Minecraft Earth Comes to London and Seattle / Virtual Rip Currents

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1. A new version of the HoloLens designed for military use has been tested by the US Army. Earlier this year Microsoft announced a $480 million deal to supply thousands of HoloLens units to the army, in spite of strong objections from many of its employees. Army chiefs have praised the depth of perception in the Integrated Visual Augmentation System (IVAS), saying it looked like a "very good videogame." "It was like a pair of glasses … and literally you are walking through a room and seeing the target," says  Ryan McCarthy, acting secretary of the Army. The system – which is still in prototype phase and is not expected to deploy until 2022 at the earliest - also collects data to highlight areas that need improvement and further training. – MS POWER USER

2. The Wild, a VR architecture and design collaboration platform based in Oregon, is now integrating with the Oculus Quest. Promising to "dramatically reduce the complexity of collaborating in VR, the app is now hosted on the official Oculus Quest store, but still requires users to request access on the company's website. Since the Quest is less powerful than a high-end PC, it is recommended that smaller and more optimized files are used, suggesting that this deployment would be an addition to the current workflow rather than a replacement. – UPLOADVR

3. From the Forums: Minecraft Earth Beta Goes Live in London and Seattle

After opening registration for its closed Beta a few days ago, Microsoft has sent out the first batch of invites for the game, which is being rolled out region-by-region. The first two test grounds chosen were Seattle (not surprising given its proximity to Microsoft HQ) and London, but more cities are set to go live over the next few days. Android users will have to wait until later in the summer to play the game, however, since the beta only currently supports iOS. Microsoft HoloLens inventor Alex Kipman tweeted that he couldn't wait to play it.  – TECHCRUNCH

4.  Long Island beachgoers were testing a new VR simulation that could save them from drowning. Rip currents kill more than 100 people in the US every year, according to the United States Lifesaving Association, and the main reason for this is that most people are unaware of how to get out of them. "Rip currents themselves actually will not pull you under," explains Jase Bernhardt, an assistant professor at Hofstra University, which received $11,000 towards the purchase of two VR headsets through the New York Sea Grant program. The simulation she developed teaches swimmers that they should not try and fight the current and try to go back to land,  but instead swim parallel to the shore until an opportunity to exit the current comes up. – FOX 5

5. Bernard Marr looks at how data-hungry XR applications collect information that is much more personal and potentially dangerous in the wrong hands. Drawing from a recent report by Accenture  he writes that highly popular AR apps of the type that power the filters used by Snapchat and Facebook can gather intimate biometric data such as facial expressions, speech data, and even retina patterns that can be used to uniquely identify us, and while tech providers can try to ensure security and privacy, the truth is that there is no way of knowing for certain who has access to that information or what can be done with it. FORBES

6. Immersive tech entrepreneurs Fabio Hofnik and Mathieu Gayet have joined forces to launch The XR Database (XRDB). They hope this will become a valuable resource to the emerging extended reality (XR) community of content creators, who can promote their own work as well as access a range of experiences across the immersive spectrum, from 360 and 180 films across documentary, fiction, animations, music videos, interactive or narrative experiences, via headsets or location-based, immersive theater projects, and much more. – VRTL ACADEMY 

7. As the world's largest sheep and wool show kicks off in Bendigo, Australia, this Friday, visitors can experience what daily life is like on a farm using VR and AR. The Careers and Technology Hub at the 142nd Australian Sheep and Wool Show features a tour a 360-degree digital farm, where people can try their hand at clipping fleece and even inspect an AR ram (not the computer kind). “Farm VR is designed to encourage kids to jump into a career in the agriculture industry,” says Tim Gentle, from Think Digital, explaining that the experience blends VR with AR, as after users take off the headset they can use their smartphones to see an Augmented Reality ram they are selling. – SHEEP CENTRAL

8. A new range of phone cases and watch straps uses augmented reality to match accessories to your outfit. Streetwear brand Virtual Super Land and CASETiFY has designed products that work with green screen and AR technology to change according to the user's current mood and preferences. It is also sustainably made according to its creators Orsolya Szabo and Natasha Smith. – WONDERLAND MAGAZINE

9. Steve Dow explores how the contemporary Australian art scene is using immersive technology to push creative boundaries and address social issues. Artists such as Joan Ross were initially doubtful about VR, viewing it as a gimmick, but she was eventually won over by its immersive power, which she leveraged in a piece called "Did you ask the river?"  which recently premiered at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image in Melbourne. London-based Australian artist Shaun Gladwell helped create a 12-minute VR film, Exquisite Corpse, based on a surrealist parlor game, while Christian Thompson's "Bayi Gardiya" (which means "singing desert") shows how virtual reality can become an important and practical tool for language and cultural preservation. – ART GUIDE

10. Surgeons in London used virtual reality to plan complex operations to separate conjoined twins. The surgery to separate 2-year-old craniopagus (meaning connected at the skull) twins Marwa and Safa Ullah involved separating a complex network of delicate shared blood vessels, inserting a piece of plastic to keep the brains and blood vessels apart. A VR simulation was created to help doctors visualize the interior of the twins’ heads in order to practice before the first cut. "For surgeons, it’s massively helpful to actually be able to touch and hold things, it makes so much of a difference to understand how things are,” says consultant plastic and reconstructive surgeon Dr. David Dunaway. – CBS PHILLY

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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