Recapping the top stories covered on the VRScout Report, a weekly live video show and podcast discussing the best in VR, hosted by Malia Probst. You can join us LIVE every Thursday @ 7PM PST/10 PM EST.
1. Snapchat Sure Can Keep a Secret…
Snapchat acquired Seene, a 3D model platform, a couple of months ago – keeping the deal tightly under wraps. Seene is comparable to Instagram for 3D photos, but Snapchat’s interest is likely more in the company’s computer vision and engineering team than the current consumer app.
This latest acquisition is another piece in a secretive strategy: over the past few years Snapchat has quietly acquired a couple of other potentially augmented reality-related companies as well as talent. In 2014, Snapchat paid $15M for Vergence Labs, a company experimenting with augmented reality and whose notable product was Epiphany Eyewear – a stylish pair of smartglasses that could possibly lay the groundwork for an eventual Snapchat augmented reality device. In 2015, Snapchat acquired Looksery for $150M. Their facial tracking modification technology eventually enabled the popular “Lenses” feature.
With regards to talent, Snapchat has been acquiring there in a big way as well, hiring people from Oculus, Hololens, Qualcomm, as well as a few designers who have created glasses for names like Michael Kors and Lady Gaga. All these pieces of hidden information have some analysts thinking that Snapchat is paving the way for a possible augmented reality device while training a prime demographic to expect their friends to sometimes wear a puppy face filter.
2. Augmented Reality Gets Its First Smartphone-Powered Headset and a BIG Partnership Between Hollywood-Backed Giants
Did Seebright just release the augmented reality equivalent of Google Cardboard? The Seebright Ripple is the first of its kind, using your smartphone to access augmented reality apps and is very accessible at the $40 price point. Hey devs! The Seebright SDK also supports Unity and Unreal engines and is compatible with both iOS and Android.
Two well-established companies with serious Hollywood money are joining forces. The Osterhout Design Group is an integrated hardware company with a deep background in advanced augmented reality innovation with the US military, and have their principal outsider investor in 21st Century FOX. ODG is teaming up with OTOY for “Project Horizon” – an augmented reality platform as well as AR glasses that have a wide field of view, can dynamically switch between VR and AR modes, and beam holograph-rendered mixed reality images into the viewer’s eyes.
OTOY, a graphics-based software solution whose cloud-based light field streaming and hybrid rendering tech has been used in films like Fantastic Four and Spiderman 3 is one of the most well-funded companies in the mixed reality industry with $101M in funding and a $300M valuation. This partnership is sure to make major waves and shake up expectations for mixed reality content as well as hardware.
3. Someone is Always Ready to Help THIS version of the HTC Vive…
Although it’s not too different from their consumer model, HTC Vive is releasing a business edition of their high-end headset – and a dedicated Business Edition support line is one of the perks. The Vive BE’s higher price point ($1200 compared to the $799 consumer model) covers this extra support as well as warranty. Significantly, the Vive BE is geared towards commercial licensing and bulk-ordering is now possible – this adds to HTC’s established network of commercial partners and reinforces the perception that HTC is pursuing enterprises as their target demographic.
In related news, the consumer version of the HTC Vive is now promised to be shipped within 72 hours of ordering as well as additional retail availability and demo locations. If you haven’t yet had the pleasure of experiencing the HTC Vive’s roomscale virtual experience, you should check the Microsoft, Game Stop, or Micro Center location closest to you!
4. FINALLY! Facebook Enables Native 360 Photos
You can now upload a 360 degree photo to the Book of Face just like you would with a normal photo. You don’t even need a 360 camera– you can capture a spherical photo with a panoramic photo app. Keep an eye out for the Compass icon, which will mark the 360 photos in your newsfeed. Although Facebook has had 360 video capabilities since September 2015, it’s not clear why they have waited so long to release 360 photo functionality. In a clear Google snub, you can view Facebook 360 photos with a Gear VR… but not with Cardboard.
5. Newly Formed Getty Images Virtual Reality Group Wants to Put You Inside Stock Photos
Based in Seattle and formed in 1995, Getty Images has over 80 million still images and more than 50,000 hours of stock film footage – and now they’re adding over 12,000 spherical photos to their collection. Getty Images have been amassing a supply of 360 photos since the 2012 Olympics in London, so it is apropos that they will be sending a 360 camera along with every photographer to Rio for the Olympics this summer.
They are also partnering with Google to provide images for the Google Expedition program, which is an education-focused initiative that brings virtual field trips to selected classrooms around the world. From immersive volleyball spikes to underwater aquatic tours, now Getty Images has got you covered!