Recapping the top stories covered on the VRScout Report, a weekly podcast discussing the best in VR, hosted by Malia Probst. Time to applaud for a sweet deal on the HTC Vive, Clash of Clans partners w/ Facebook to bring AR to fans, control VR with your mind, new predictions for spending & investment are out, the investment & funding wrapup, and more…
1. PUT YOUR HANDS TOGETHER FOR A PRICE BREAK ON THE VIVE
Oh baby, it might be time to finally break down and get yourself that sweet roomscale VR (right out of the box!… well, sort of. You still have to set it up). After much recent speculation of a possible price drop, the HTC Vive has joined the Oculus Rift in the discount club—cutting $200 off the previously $799 tag. Heck, even if you wait a bit, it seems like HTC is setting themselves up for some nice sales numbers this holiday season.
2. CLASH OF CLANS PARTNERS WITH FACEBOOK TO BRINGS AR TO FANS
I have to admit I’ve never played the game, but regardless if you’re a fan or not—the numbers are undeniable: Clash of Clans is one of the top grossing mobile games. Supercell, the company behind the addictive little world of the Builder, raked in $2.3B in revenue last year — and they just partnered with Facebook to use the AR Camera Effects platform in a unique celebration of the Clash of Clans’ 5th birthday. Although the execution seems almost standard to anyone who has enjoyed Snapchat for any length of time (you can augment your face to look like the Builder character, or turn the camera around to place a 3D Builder in your real world environment), it’s significant in a couple of ways. One is the social sharing implementation—you can share your Builder creations directly to your Facebook Timeline. Another one is numbers: Clash of Clans has 100M daily users. Will all those players try it? That is an unlikely possibility, as this activation is not featured or accessible via the Facebook Camera—you have to go to Clash of Clan’s page to find this post linking you to Facebook’s Camera Effects page which auto-launches the AR camera. It seems likely that Facebook will take another page out of Snap’s playbook eventually, and offer brands the option to have their AR app featured within the Facebook Camera itself.
3. CONTROL VR WITH YOUR THOUGHTS
Brain computer interfaces…so hot right now. Early one-way BCIs have been around since the 1920s in the form of EEGs, and studies in the 1970s showed that brains can be used as controllers—or at least in monkeys. Although not a new concept, BCIs are getting a lot of attention recently with high-profile entrepreneurs like Elon Musk and Bryan Johnson forming brain-focused companies, and even the 2015 Disney Accelerator included a hardware company making wearable brain devices. Not one to be left out, Facebook is in on the action too—announcing this past spring that they’re building BCIs for “skin hearing” and typing with your mind. With that being said, BCIs are typically not very dependable outside of controlled lab settings when distractions, lack of expertise, and other factors come into play. With all this being said, maybe we can expect to see mind-controlled VR games come to arcades next year…if a BCI VR/AR company called Neurable gets their way.
4. NEW PREDICTIONS FOR GLOBAL VR/AR SPENDING & INVESTMENT OVER NEXT 4 YEARS
A new report from International Data Corp is now live, predicting that the immersive technology market will rise by 100%+ over each of the next four years. Predictably, the retail and manufacturing segments will be the starting leaders for adoption as well as investment—but IDC sees education, government, and transportation as big embracers of VR/AR solutions. The report also looks to regions like Canada, Central/Eastern Europe, and Western Europe to be the fastest-growing areas, and also says the US is be the largest in terms of spending total—at least in 2017.
5. INVESTMENT & FUNDING WRAPUP
Based out of Erfurt, Germany, software company Fayteq has been acquired by Facebook for an undisclosed amount. Selling tools to video editor software companies like Adobe, their plug-ins empower video editors to track objects—and then use that tracking data to add or remove desired objects. Facebook recently launched its Camera Effects platform for augmented reality, so this acquisition of talent/patents/IP could help their near-term uses for Fayteq’s technology. It could also be useful for adding objects to live streaming in real time, or for Instagram Stories (remember, Facebook paid $1B to buy Instagram back in 2012—which some people predict would have been worth somewhere in the range of $25B-$50B if it was not acquired).
Emeryville, California-based immersive ad company Immersv announced $10.5M in funding. The company provides a platform for advertisers in 360 video content and VR, and says they are generating revenue. Rogers Venture Partners led the Series A round, with participation coming from the Venture Reality Fund, Foundation Capital, Initial Capital HTC, Gree, East Ventures, MCJ, i-mobile, Metaps, and angel Gigi Levy.
Based in Edmonton, Canada, virtual reality training company Serious Labs has raised $5M in Series A funding for their work in immersive training solutions for the heavy industry/construction industry — like cranes, backhoes, and forklifts. United Rentals and Brick and Mortar Ventures provided the equity financing, and the company has secured $3.5M in new development contracts.
Chinese tech platform HiScene, based in Shanghai, has raised a $14M Series B investment round. The company is an SDK, cloud, and management platform for augmented reality—enables AR companies to build for iOS, Windows, and Android. HiScene focuses on the education, healthcare, and marketing industries, and also has image recognition tech and AR hardware devices. The round was led by Chinese investment firm Shanghai Cableway Investment, with participation from Vstar Capital, Sincere Capital, and Meitu Inc.
Based in the US with offices in San Francisco and New York, financial technology company Lampix has raised $14.2M… via blockchain. The company is creating a blockchain-based “image mining” network for computer vision systems—and augmented reality. Lampix was founded in 2015, and is building an ecosystem (from database to software to hardware) that they descibe as a “new blockchain that will hold data-sets of real world objects” and aims to transform any flat surface into a smart surface. Want more details? Knock yourself out, the company wrote an 85-page whitepaper on the project.
…and just a few more…
Mario Kart VR in Japan looks amazing
Has social vr pioneer Altspace been brought back to life?
New omnidirectional solution Strider VR uses a treadmill, rotating ball array, and a Kinect sensor
UPS is using VR to train its drivers
Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s new virtual reality film is showcased at LACMA
This AR headset helps the hearing impaired… with subtitles