1. The VOID has closed a deal with Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield (URW) to bring location-based VR experiences to malls across the US and Europe. URW owns 32 properties in the U.S. including Westfield World Trade Center in New York, which will be among the first to host immersive experiences such as “Star Wars: Secrets of the Empire” and “Ralph Breaks VR” in VOID pop-ups. The VOID currently has 11 permanent locations across the world and reportedly has received $20 million investment from James Murdoch. It is hoped that such location-based entertainment VR can help attract more visitors and reverse the trend of mall closures. – CNBC
2. Microsoft has committed a $1 billion investment in OpenAI. The research lab based in San Francisco was founded by Elon Musk and Sam Altman, among others, and is dedicated to the ambitious goal of creating Artificial General Intelligence (AGI). It currently operates as a capped-profit entity where investors can only expect up to 100x returns, but it is unclear what the terms of the Microsoft investment will be, beyond making it an exclusive provider of cloud computing services to OpenAI and working together to develop new technologies. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said the partnership would keep “AI safety front and center” so that “everyone can benefit,” while HoloLens inventor and Microsoft Technical Fellow Alex Kipman tweeted that he was very excited about this new partnership, hinting at potential mixed reality AI crossovers down the line. – THE VERGE
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3. Follow Friday: Lucas Rizzotto
Award-winning Immersive artist, developer, and director Lucas Rizzotto is in his element pushing the boundaries of VR/AR Storytelling.
A fellow Brazilian like myself (there's a surprising number of us in the immersive space, such as @akipman who is also well worth a follow) Rizzotto recently debuted his latest experience at Tribeca, called "Where Thoughts Go."
This is an ambitious collaborative project which left many participants in tears - where visitors leave anonymous voice logs that appear in the dreamy environment as little creatures that flit around in the air. It's a sort of social network that takes the form of an ethereal immersive world, which its creators hope will have a positive impact on people's lives and mental health.
"The internet is too cold of a place – we want to change that. In exploring new ways to bring people together through technology, we found that sharing emotional moments and exchanging ideas through VR opened limitless conversation," says Rizzotto
To keep up with the latest on his projects and broader immersive industry musings, follow him on Twitter @_LucasRizzotto
4. The US Navy has partnered with Magic Leap to use Mixed Reality to train its sailors in anti-terrorism, code of conduct, and expeditionary warfare. The Office of Naval Research (ONR) and Naval Surface Warfare Center (NSWC) are building the trial system on the Magic Leap One headset using Haptech Inc haptic feedback technology to simulate realistic weapon recoil. The Magic Leap Horizons software provides advanced weapons tracking and allows trainers to create multiple adaptable scenarios. – MARITIME EXECUTIVE
5. The Morpholio board app for interior designers places highly detailed objects in the real world. Although many platforms have started using mixed reality to help retail customers visualize products in their own homes, the Morpholio board app (currently only available for the iPad but with an iPhone release expected shortly) claims to provide a much higher level of detail, enabling designers to confidently judge factors such as colour variations, texture, or fine stitching. This is made possible, the company says, by using Apple’s ARkit, USDZ 3D file format which enables ‘people occlusion’ in ios13. The app also allows designers to add AR items to their mood boards and translate AR selections into cut sheets and furniture lists that can be shared with contractors and collaborators. – DESIGN BOOM
6. Comedian Tiffany Haddish raised some eyebrows by wearing a VR headset as she walked through an airport. The actress, best known for her role as Nekeisha Williams on the NBC sitcom The Carmichael Show, wore the HMD as she made her way to security (where she presumably had to remove it). It's unclear whether this was an attempt to frustrate the photographers following her by obscuring her face, or whether she really was experiencing "a beautiful garden of success" as she told the insistent paparazzi. – HOTNEWHIPHOP
7. NYPD officers trained for active shooter scenarios in VR at the national September 11 memorial. Louisiana State University’s National Center for Biomedical Research and Training organizes the training, which is integrated into a certified eight-hour course. In the VR portion, officers wear HMDs, and have specialized guns and body markers that translate body movements into realistic avatar actions. After completing the training, officers review an after-action report and video footage with an instructor to discuss potential improvements.– GCN
8. EdTech start-up PlayShifu has raised $7 million with its AR interactive globe toy. The series A funding brings the total raised by the company (which has offices in San Francisco and Bangalore) to $8.5 million. According to its founders, their flagship product, the Shifu Orboot has a user base of over 100,000 children in the US, and boasts high levels of repeat engagement, with more than 40 percent of kids continuing to use it after two months. Teachers from 28 states have experimented with the company's products and apps, and it says they plan to enter over 2,000 schools this year. – ZDNET
9. Two Bit Circus CEO talks about the "New Hollywood" opportunity for immersive content makers. In an event held near Downtown Los Angeles for small business owners, Brent Bushnell spoke about a "massive, macro-shift from passive to active entertainment" and how his company carved out a niche for itself by creating a “high-tech circus” with a network of micro-amusement parks featuring VR-enhanced escape rooms and immersive theaters. – LA TIMES
10. North Carolina State University is working with first responders in the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (DC Metro) to test various immersive user interfaces for use by emergency responders. The IntelliVisor project, funded by a $1.1 million grant from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is looking to develop VR software that can help law enforcement, firefighters and emergency medical technicians respond to crises more rapidly and efficiently. Researchers are also testing factors such as the optimum amount of visual information to display, as well as user interfaces such as spoken natural language interface which would allow hands-free interaction with the system. – NC STATE 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
Editor: Kim Lyons (Pittsburgh-based journalist and managing editor at Inside).