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VR vs. In Other News…

There are only so many hours in a day, as I am sure you are aware. As 2016 ticks down and I slowly approach the end of my second year on VRFocus it’s incredible how much things have changed since those early days. You remember. The pre-retail days when people were chattering on about what the newfangled Oculus Rift DK1 and DK2 signified. Amazing isn’t it? Barely a handful of years and things have already changed so dramatically. In those early days there was of course a lot less news, which obviously follows since what “the product” of virtual reality (VR) was going to be was still very much up for discussion. Now there are breaking stories all over the place. With all manner of industries and platforms taking an interest in an ever increasing number (no, really we should probably make a list at some point) of head-mounted displays (HMDs) for VR, augmented reality (AR), mixed reality (MR) and…some… other terms people are touting mostly so they can perhaps trademark them.

Something you probably don’t know is, among the various hats I wear at VRFocus – I occasionally joke that my true job title is ‘hatstand’ – is I find a lot of the stories we write about.  As such I can confirm that we’ve gone from a trickle of stories we could tell you about to ‘Oh dear God, it’s coming into the house! The barricade is doing nothing – everyone get to the roof!’. It’s one of the benefits to there being several VR specialist websites out there. I would hope you get, to a degree, different viewpoints and different stories through this; as I likewise hope you believe that we at VRFocus give you a great variety of stories and topics. But the truth of the matter is that we simply can’t tell you everything that is going on, so we give you as good a selection as we can before they are deemed to old to really bring up any more. As, naturally, other stories come up to replace them.  I was thinking on this when deciding what to write for this week’s VR vs, and I thought ‘why not actually cover these’. Not just some either. What if I actually gave you a rapid fire summary of things we’ve not covered. Because the items we aren’t able or in the end choose not to write about. Perhaps as they are relatively minor in the grand scheme of things – come from all over the place and is indicative of just how the technology is spreading.

A note before we begin: There may be things you know, and there may be things you’ve seen elsewhere. Not being you, I don’t know that. So telling me in the comments that you saw it on VR So-and-so last Wednesday is kind of irrelevant, as that’s not the point of this. So here we go…

  • We with AR and with Pokémon GO, which is now the subject of a second class action lawsuit. It seems a number of people weren’t very happy about having crowds of people descend on their property just because a Snorlax is in their back garden or their driveway is a Pokéstop. This “intentional, unauthorised” placement of gyms and stops represents, according to (the ironically sounding like it should be a Pokémon name) law firm Pomerantz LLP,  a “continued invasion” of their privacy. An attorney on the case stated that ,”Defendants recklessly developed and marketed a product without properly considering its impact on private homeowners, depriving them of their right to enjoy their property without nuisance.  The Pokémon Company, Nintendo, and Niantic failed to realize that their virtual game has very real-world consequences.”
    Pokemon Go GIF
  • It is probably something of a blessed relief to our American readers that the election is nearly over. However if everything somehow spirals down into a worse hell than it already seems to be, you may want to escape into the bliss of VR – and thanks to a tour going on which re-commences tomorrow in Chicago you might well be able to do that. Entitled the Virtual Reality Experience Tour, the tour is being run by VR Voice in conjunction with the Creating IT Futures Foundation. Running from 1AM to 5PM, local time at the Conference Center at University of Chicago advanced registration in free. Future stops for the tour are New York (November 15th), Boston (November 17th) and Las Vegas on January 6th 2016.
  • Onto education, Virtualspeech have launched a new application called Language VR, as you might imagine with company and application names such as those it is a vocabulary learning app. It offers an array of different options as it aims not just to teach you the language but teach you about the culture of the language you are studying too. Allowing you to listen to literary classics such as Treasure Island and Alice In Wonderland in audiobook form with both language texts on screen, take in 360 degree images of various locations around the world with descriptions about their history. The app even has roleplay tasks for you to help hone your skills.VirtualSpeech
  • Sony’s recent financial results for Q2 of 2016 missed their target according to a report over at Bloomberg, in part due to an earthquake back in April which damaged one of its chip making facilities. The main direction and focus of profit generation for the company at present is the PlayStation however which enjoyed 320 Billion Yen in sales netting the company a cool 19 Billion Yen in profit.  PlayStation VR is believed to be the driving force for this future push, however according to one quoted analyst Sony’s setup to launch wasn’t the best. “Their guidance for PSVR shipments didn’t sound particularly strong, so perhaps that didn’t meet expectations which is why we’re seeing some disappointment.” Hmm, I seem to recall someone saying something about Sony not doing enough on this very column…
  • Drinks company Mountain Dew is not a stranger to appearing on VRFocus. Previously we’ve covered representatives being high on the potential for VR advertising, a snowboarding experience from them, a NASCAR related tie-in from them and the company used 360 degree video as part of a campaign back in May. The company has just wrapped on the first appearance of art, fashion and technology showcase The Camo Collective which also featured the debut of CamoFlector. Created by Portland-based studio dotdotdash, CamoFlector is an AR experience that uses special mirrors to ‘virtually’ outfit people in custom patterns from the Collective’s “Camo Out” campaign and then puts you in a music video. You can expect to find it, and other aspects of the convention at other Mountain Dew promotional events throughout the remainder of 2016 and into 2017.
  • Over to Education, Canada’s Groupe Média TFO has launched LUV – an incubator for the next generation of content and specifically for virtual universe production. It’s a laboratory designed to create French-language educational content. Speaking at the launch, Minister for Education Mitzie Hunter said, “It’s important that Ontario’s students engage with technology and develop global competencies like critical thinking, problem solving and creativity. Thanks to partners like Groupe Média TFO, students have access to online educational resources that will allow them to build on these skills and ensure they thrive in tomorrow’s economy.”
  • Next more AR and the field of healthcare: AR companies such as Vuzix, Ubimax and Pristine are amongst those mentioned as those expected to lead the way in medical training by ABI Research. An impact that will truly begin to be seen and felt not in 2017 but during 2018 and 2019. “Before medical AR reaches its inflection point, several key milestones need to be met,” according to Michael Inouye, the Principal Analyst at ABI Research whose reported findings can be viewed here. “Early first responder trials need to move forward to deployments. Expansion into more medical education applications will be critical, because they will ensure that AR becomes a tool that future professionals learn and can use after graduation, in the medical field and beyond. Interest for AR in surgery shows great promise but will require significant investment as well as safety trials.  We expect to see this all start to take shape as early as 2017.”
    Vuzix M300
  • Speaking of market predictions, a report from Scalar Market Research indicates that the wearable technology sector – of which AR is included, alongside such technologies as smart watches – is set to have a total market worth of over 71 Billion US Dollars by 2021. North America and Europe are expected to lead the way in terms of adoption and “key players” are expected to include Sony, Microsoft and Google, as well as company’s such as Xiaomi.
  • Back to health, and among a number of topics Digital Health Summit at CES 2017 will be examining the role of technology in modern medicine from everything from training to prevention to cure and rehabilitation. Naturally VR and AR are a part of the conversation and their use in treatment for mental illness, trauma and other afflictions as well as its use in pain reduction will be a topic discussed. The session takes place on January 6 at 11:30 AM, PT.
  • Lastly film, and one from a little bit further back as this was mid-October: At Paramount Pictures’ VR On The Lot a keynote speech from Robert Stromberg (winner of an Oscar for special effects and more recently the crafter of the VR tie-in for The Martian) discussed Steven Spielberg’s reaction to putting on a modern-era VR headset for the first time. “I remember how truly excited he was when he took the headset off… it was like he was a kid again.” A promising statement indeed, one can only imagine what someone like Spielberg could craft with the medium. Stromberg himself finished with the assertion that “I truly believe that VR will reach into all of our lives.”

There we go, a quick helter-skelter rider through just some of the other stories out there we never even got a chance to cover. It shows you just how much VR and AR there is out there. Games, film, education, health, industry – it’s all happening. Changing, evolving all the time. What will be revealed next? Let’s find out…