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 enjoy the full audio recording below:
In this weekly VRScout Report wrapup, we cover the pulse on PlayStation VR, USA Today’s parent company premieres VR news show, the NBA to stream 1 game/week in virtual reality with NextVR, Google wants YOU, investment & funding wrapup, and more…
PLAYSTATION VR: TAKING THE PULSE
Sony’s PlayStation VR finally hit shelves on the 13th of October and the reviews are in… and they’re (mostly) good. Like the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift require a PC (albeit a heavy-duty one) to power your virtual exploring, the PSVR requires a PlayStation 4 console. As the current PS4 user base is over 40M, the console-powered VR rig is at a distinct advantage over the Vive and Rift, which have had to create install bases from nothing (with that being said, there have been 140K HTC Vive units sold since its release in April).
PSVR is everyone’s favorite headset in terms of comfort – the weight is distributed to the top of your head, and its display enclosure hangs over your face, not on your face like the Vive and the Rift do. The graphics are impressive, especially with lower frame rate requirements (PSVR runs a 60 fps, compared to 90 fps for the Vive/Rift), and the platform also has some decent content with 30 launch titles (and a total of at least 50 is promised before the end of the year). However, the PSVR’s positional tracking system has a lot of room for improvement; the camera-based Move controllers do not boast high levels of finesse, which means less control over your virtual hands. The PlayStation 4 Pro, the upcoming update to the three-year old PS4 console, should improve the graphics with 4K resolution, but that still won’t fix the issues with the tracking system… which is just good enough. Despite its faults, some retailers are attempting to charge for demos. Not cool.
USA TODAY’S PARENT COMPANY PREMIERES VR NEWS SHOW
Gannett Company Inc. is a publicly-traded American media holding company (USA Today is one of its properties) that was founded in 1923… and just premiered a weekly virtual reality news show. As a collaboration with YouTube, you can view VRtually There on USA Today’s mobile app on Android, iOS, or YouTube. Each episode will have 3 segments, and Emmy-winning producer David Hamlin was poached from National Geographic for the creative direction of the show. A new ad unit was introduced in the first episode – and they’re calling it a ‘cubemercial.’ As a related sidenote, stay tuned for another virtual foray into journalism this fall with Hulu’s upcoming The Big Picture: News in Virtual Reality – which will be content exclusive to Hulu’s VR app.
THE NBA ADDS VIRTUAL REALITY TO ITS $199 LEAGUE PASS
This season you’ll be able to get up close and personal with your favorite professional basketball players, thanks to NextVR. The Laguna Beach, CA-based virtual reality live streaming company has a 5 year deal with FOX Sports, has raised almost $120M in funding, and will be live streaming over 30 NBA games during the regular season. Although the first broadcast of the San Antonio Spurs and the Sacramento Kings on 10/27 will be free, the rest of the Tuesday live streams will require a $199 NBA League Pass. In order to preserve bandwidth, NextVR will be streaming 180 degrees of action and will display real time stats and graphics in the remaining 180 degrees of space behind you. You won’t be tasked with toggling around to different POVs, either – the live streams will be heavily produced to make sure the virtual audience always has the best vantage point. At this point, you can access via the NextVR app which is only available for the Samsung Gear VR headset – although other platforms should be given access soon.
GOOGLE WANTS YOU
Looking for a job in VR/AR? Take a look at Google’s job postings. In the last year, they have posted 15 full-time positions ranging from Device Calibration System Engineer for Tango to Creative Director for Daydream. As the average annual salary for Googlers is in the ballpark of $150K, these hires could equate a $2.5M+ yearly investment in virtual talent.
IT’S ABOUT THE MONEY, HONEY: INVESTMENTS IN VR/AR
Despite the fact that, according to Digi-Capital, a mere 6% of Americans will own a VR headset in 2016, future-looking venture capital firms have invested $500M in the VR/AR industry in Q3 of 2016. The average investment was $9.3M. $25M in funding to Baobab Studios adds more fuel to the company’s quest to become the ‘Pixar of VR’ – and this recent Series B coincidentally brings with it Larry Cutler, who was Pixar’s technical director on Toy Story 2 and Monsters, Inc. A subscription-based education service with interactive chemistry sets called MEL Science has raised $2.5M from Sistema Venture Capital in a Series A round. Pathbreaker Ventures has closed $12.9M for its first venture capital fund to focus on investing in early-stage companies developing technologies like VR/AR, robotics, AI, autonomous vehicles, and space technologies. Although the specific terms of the deal were not disclosed, Oculus has acquired Irish startup InfiniLED which specializes in super-efficient LEDs – so we might be seeing improved resolution on the next generation of Rifts.