Inside XR - July 18th, 2019

Inside XR (Jul 18th, 2019)

Holographic Translating Doppelgänger / Second Life Turns Sixteen / Emmy Nominations for Immersive Experiences /

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1. Microsoft put on an impressive demo of a hologram delivering a keynote in fluent Japanese. At the Inspire partner conference in Las Vegas, Azure executive Julia White walked on stage wearing a HoloLens 2 device, where she was eventually joined by her holographic Doppelgänger - created in the company's volumetric capture studio in San Francisco. The hologram then delivered the second part of the keynote in Japanese. This was achieved through AI technologies and neural text-to-speech which sampled recordings of her voice to create a personalized signature, combined with machine-translation to produce the Japanese-language speech. As body-scanning technologies make their way into next-generation smartphones this proof-of-concept could well materialize into amazing practical applications of spatial computing.  – THE VERGE

2. Technology Columnist Geoffrey A. Fowler investigates how FaceApp could take data privacy violation to a much more worrying level. Writing for the Washington Post (paywall) Fowler questions whether FaceApp is using our faces and the maps it makes of them for other purposes, such as running facial identification. And just because they might not be doing so at present, it does not preclude them (or anyone who they choose to share the data with) from doing whatever they wish with it in future (as stated in their terms and conditions). This is part of a broader discussion which is particularly relevant to immersive technologies: As we collect more behavioural data from devices which track our gestures, speech and even biometric signals, how do we protect that highly personal information from being misused? – WASHINGTON POST

3. – Throwback Thursday: Second Life

June 23rd, 2003 saw the birth of the longest-enduring virtual world out there. If Second Life was a person, it would be a teenager (and in fact, the platform has just finished celebrating its "Sweet Sixteen" birthday). 

Over more than a decade and a half - a respectable tenure for any company, but light-years in terms of the fickle tech industry - the platform has created over 57 million user accounts and it still retains a core of 1 million highly active and dedicated users. This community is highly passionate about how empowering the platform is, especially for people with disabilities and other minorities. They also make money from their activities (SL paid out $68 million to creators in 2017 alone).

Linden Lab - the company that owns Second Life - now wants to replicate - and scale up - this success with Sansar - a social VR platform that hopes to take the success of SL into the new immersive computing era. 

But although many of SL's most dedicated and influential users such as Bernhard Drax have enthusiastically taken to creating content on Sansar, don't expect it to retire anytime soon, as its users are fiercely protective of all it has achieved and what it means for them.

In fact, as a journalist reporting in that space, I can honestly say that the quickest way to incite a social media mob is to claim a "VR first" of any sort, and just watch as the examples of how that has all be done - multiple times and many years ago -  on Second Life. 

4. Sony's latest patents give more clues about the next generation of PSVR Headsets. In this article Danny Paez cross-references the various patents the company has filed as well as credible leaks to build up a more solid picture of what the new headset might look like. Whether or not a new version of the HMD is released with the PS5 (rumors to that effect are building up, but Sony has also confirmed that the current PSVR will be compatible with the new console) it is almost certain that we will see a PSVR2 release at some point, and there is a lot in those documents to encourage fans, such as a $250 price point, foveated rendering, wireless connectivity, and better tracking capabilities. The latest patent also lays out plans to use acceleration and gyro sensors to detect how users tilt their heads, which could help combat motion sickness. – INVERSE 

5. A recent report by Digi-Capital claims there could be a window of one year to 18 months for corporate and VC “smart money” to close AR/VR  deals at sensible valuations. Tim Merel - who is managing director at the Silicon Valley-based AR/VR/XR adviser firm - writes for Venturebeat that if the market begins to take off in late 2020 driven by continued investment and product launches from Apple, Facebook and others, investors stand to reap the rewards. The conclusions are based on data collated by the company's AR/VR Analytics Platform which tracked over $5.4 billion augmented reality investment and virtual reality investment in the last 12 months to Q2 2019. – VENTUREBEAT

6. An event will explore applications of 360 video, augmented reality, virtual reality and mixed reality in news next week. Hosted by the Knight-Bagehot Fellowship in Economics and Business Journalism and Columbia University, the second edition of the Journalism 360 Unconference will take place on Tuesday, July 23, 2019, in New York City. Tickets for the event cost $30 and include the chance to see demos of the immersive projects supported by the 2018 Journalism 360 Challenge as well as talks and discussions with creators, producers, newsroom leaders and technologists working on immersive storytelling. Confirmed speakers include Jamie Pallot, co-founder of Emblematic, and Marcelle Hopkins, co-director, Immersive Journalism at The New York Times, as well as Shazna Nessa, deputy managing editor, global head of visuals at The Wall Street Journal. – EVENTBRITE

7. Two VR experiences have been nominated for Emmy Awards. Fable Studio’s Wolves in the Walls: It’s All over and ILMxLAB’s Vader Immortal: A Star Wars VR Story have been recognized in the ‘Outstanding Innovation in Interactive Media.’ category. This continues a trend towards inclusion of immersive experiences in the awards, as last year saw seven nominations, with Henry - produced by Oculus Studios - winning the award for “Outstanding Original Interactive Program” and Scatter’s VR documentary Zero Days scooping the gong for “Outstanding New Approaches: Documentary.”– VRSCOUT 

8. Drones and VR simulation came together in one wild tech party in Brooklyn. In what she describes as "one of the most memorable parties of the year," Brooklyn Eagle Journalist Mary Frost Agger climbed aboard the "Allianz Birdly", a full-body avian VR simulator where the player moves the wings up and down and controls the tilt of the body. As the name suggests, the VR simulation puts the rider up in the air over a virtual city, where they can soar like a bird - or crash into trees and skyscrapers. – BROOKLYN EAGLE

9. Users are petitioning Microsoft to get Minecraft onto the Oculus Quest. At the time of writing, a thread started by a group of fans on the official Minecraft Forum has gathered over 1,900 votes. A similarly popular petition was started for the Oculus Go, however, and that never materialized into a port, so it is unclear whether the strategy will prove successful this time around. Jamie Feltham points out that Minecraft already supports the Oculus Rift and Windows VR headsets on PC, and that a Quest release would be closer to those versions than it would the Gear VR release, bringing the entire original game, complete with motion controls, into VR. – UPLOAD VR

10. A new immersive documentary is hoping to win hearts and minds for space exploration. Felix & Paul Studios is working on an ambitious collaboration with NASA, Time, and the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS), which manages the U.S. National Laboratory aboard the International Space Station (ISS). The planned six-part VR documentary, "Space Explorers: The ISS Experience" is set to be released next year, and the Montreal-based filmmakers, who have invested $4 million in the project, hope that it will spark a surge of interest in both immersive technology and in the idea of sending humans back into space.– BLOOMBERG

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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