Recapping the top stories covered on the VRScout Report, a weekly podcast discussing the best in VR, hosted by Malia Probst. Four projects from Samsung’s C-Lab to watch this week, the next generation of Gear VR will come with a controller, Oculus Rift lands on the International Space Station, Zenimax tries to shut down Oculus, the investment wrapup and much more…
You can enjoy the full audio recording below:
ALL EYES ON SAMSUNG: FOUR PROJECTS TO WATCH FROM THE C-LAB
Samsung’s incubation program, called the C-lab, has backed developer education since 2012, and the C-lab program will be showcasing four of their prime VR/AR projects in Barcelona at the Mobile World Congress this week (remember that now-iconic Dystopian photo of Mark Zuckerberg strolling through a crowd of oblivious VR headset-wearing journalists? That was at Samsung’s last MWC in Barcelona last year). Keep an eye out for TraVRer (for 360 degrees of travel experiences), the Relúmĭno (a virtual visual aid for the sight impaired), VuildUs (an 3D modeling program for your interior design pleasure), and arguably the most intriguing: the Monitorless. Although suffering from an admittedly bulky moniker, the Monitorless is a glasses prototype that connects your computer or smartphone monitor via wifi and shows it as a heads up display– and lets lets you adjust the opacity. But Samsung isn’t stopping there…
THE NEXT GENERATION OF GEAR VR MAY COME WITH CONTROLLER
Although not yet officially confirmed by the Korean company, a recent FCC filing indicates that the next version of the Samsung Gear VR will boast its own controller. The popular Gear VR has moved 5.5M units since its release at the end of 2015– not bad for a headset that is only compatible with six of the most recent Samsung phones. While we do not yet have a release date for the next Gear VR, it looks like you won’t have to use a 3rd-party controller or the (not great!) touchpad on the side of the head-mounted device anymore. Soon you’ll be able to wave around a controller to instruct your virtual worlds, probably like a laser pointer. If you’d say this sounds similar to the Bluetooth-connected controller from Google’s Daydream, we wouldn’t disagree with you.
OCULUS RIFT ARRIVES TO THE INTERNATIONAL SPACE STATION
An Oculus Rift headset has been modified and certified for use in space by French space agency CNES. ISS astronaut Thomas Pesquet is conducting a neuroscience experiment called GRASP, which will test perception when reaching for virtual objects of someone who is weightless and floating in space. Pesquet will also be sending down some 360 videos he’s been taking on the ISS since arriving there in November. It was not an easy task to get the Rift approved for its space debut, however— lots of fun flammability and shatter tests had to be done (luckily the lenses are plastic and not glass), and the Rift’s native Constellation tracking system had to be replaced by an adapted European system that has been used in space experiments in the past.
ZENIMAX TRIES TO SHUT DOWN OCULUS
After winning their lawsuit against Oculus, ZeniMax is not satisfied with the mere $500M awarded– now they are really going in for the kill. The creators of Doom are looking to stop Oculus in its tracks, and not just the PC-powered Rift but the smartphone-powered Samsung Gear VR as well. The legal battle is over code developed by John Carmack (an employee of a ZeniMax corporation at the time), who eventually became the CTO of Oculus. If it is granted, the injunction would most likely turn the screws on Facebook to reach into its pockets for a settlement. However, Facebook is filing their own motion to appeal the original verdict— and those pockets are DEEP. Here’s a good verdict analysis if you’re interested in the original case.
MONEY, MOVES, AND FUNDING
Research firm SuperData released a new consumer VR report that claims the global VR hardware revenue will be $3.6B this year, which is a 142% increase from 2016. The report also says that Pokémon GO brought in the lion’s share of all AR software revenue in 2016 with a whopping 96% of earnings. SuperData also predicts that hardware will keep making more money than software, or at least until 2020. A word of caution: this is the analysis group that was sorely mistaken on their 2016 sales predictions (thanks for that, you so-called “Super” Data).
London-based augmented reality company Zappar has announced a $3.75M Series A funding round, led by investment house Hargreave Hale and participation from trade investors You & Mr. Jones and iDreamSky from China. The company has a free AR smartphone app that reacts to ‘zapcodes’, along with their flagship content creation tool ZapWorks. The funding will speed up development of several new products as well as more support for ZapWorks, which has been used by companies like Samsung and Vodafone.
Bigscreen VR has announced $3M seed round led by Andreeson Horowitz. The company provides a virtual shared space where you can bring in your computer monitor and work or enjoy content just like you would IRL – but the important thing here is that your remote friends and co-workers can join you and bring their own desktop screen. This opens up the potential for collaboration and entertainment, and the company says they have 150K users, with power users spending 20-30 hours/week in the app.
Bellevue, WA-based company Innovega has raised $3M to hasten development of its augmented reality and contact lens system eMacula (in development since 2008). A unique answer to the hard question of AR, eMacula has a tiny screen embedded in a pair of glasses that you’re able to focus on thanks to a special contact lens that lets you focus on objects half an inch away from your eye. The $3M round was led by Tencent, which is the parent company of the wildly popular WeChat, and this is the first private investment into the company– their total funding is now at $10M and prior investors are entities like DARPA and the National Science Foundation. The eMacula system is currently pending the FDA review process
PSVR’S SALES NUMBERS REVEALED AS A PLEASANT SURPRISE TO SONY
VIVE SHOWS US SOME USER DATA FROM CHINA
QUALCOMM’S REFERENCE VR HEADSET ADDS HAND TRACKING AND MORE
VALVE RELEASES 3D AUDIO TOOLKIT: STEAM AUDIO IS ON GITHUB NOW
VALVE PRESIDENT GABE NEWELL: ONLY 30 STEAM VR APPS HAVE MADE $250K+
STEAM VR LIGHTHOUSE BASE STATIONS GET LINUX SUPPORT
PLAY IN THE SAND AND THEN DRIVE AN AUDI AROUND IN YOUR CREATION
THE NBA RELEASES THEIR FIRST VR APP ON GOOGLE DAYDREAM
FLOAT IN POOL WITH A HEADSET ON YOUR FACE, MAAAAAN
DUBAI BRINGS CONSERVATION EFFORTS TO LIFE WITH DUBAI ZOO
GET EVEN MORE SURREAL, STEP INSIDE THE PAINTING WITH SOTHEBY’S
TILT BRUSH IS NOW AVAILABLE ON OCULUS RIFT, TOO
BEST 360 CAMERAS ACCORDING TO TOM’S HARDWARE
THE VR KEYBOARD YOU’VE BEEN LOOKING FOR
THE EYES HAVE IT: STARTUPS TRACKING YOUR EYEBALLS