Recapping the top stories covered on the VRScout Report, a weekly podcast discussing the best in VR, hosted by Malia Probst. First Windows mixed reality dev headset ships, dive into the virtual world via Xbox, high-end VR gets more affordable, Rogue One used VR to direct scenes, the investment & funding wrapup, and much more…
FIRST WINDOWS MIXED REALITY HEADSET SHIPS LATER THIS MONTH
In the fall of 2016, Microsoft announced a partnership with a handful of hardware manufacturers to make developer headsets implementing the inside-out tracking technology seen on the HoloLens. Promising “world scale” tracking (which does not rely on external sensors or cameras for positional tracking), Microsoft now calls it Windows Mixed Reality after initially calling it Windows Holographic. Acer is Microsoft’s first partner to release a Windows Mixed Reality developer kit, which is shipping later this month– and the other partners (HP, Dell, Lenovo, ASUS, and 3Glasses) will be releasing theirs throughout the rest of this year. Keep in mind that these are developer kits meant to encourage development of mixed reality applications on Windows Mixed Reality– and not aimed (yet!) for the general public. However, you should get excited if you’re an Xbox owner…
YOU’LL BE ABLE TO DIVE INTO THE VIRTUAL WORLD ON XBOX NEXT YEAR
Microsoft’s master plan of industry domination is a long play, and its Windows Mixed Reality platform will not only be available to the HoloLens and other HMD manufacturers… but will also be integrated into the entire Xbox One family of devices next year (including Project Scorpio). As the first Windows Mixed Reality developer kits from Acer are shipping at the end of this month, developers will have an entire year to craft compelling content that can run on Xbox in 2018. Although Playstation VR has a nice head start on Xbox (selling 1M units since its release last fall), Microsoft is building Windows Mixed Reality to be “the most complete platform across the broadest range of mixed reality devices and experiences.” The platform will be compatible with PCs, HoloLens, other standalone headsets, and the entire Xbox One suite… which could give Microsoft a big advantage in the long run.
HIGH-END VIRTUAL REALITY JUST GOT MORE AFFORDABLE
Price is a big barrier to entry in this first wave of high-end consumer VR devices: unless you’re a gamer who already has a robust PC, you typically have to buy or build a computer with a powerful graphics card. As the two premiere VR hardware manufacturers, Oculus Rift and HTC Vive both recognize this impediment to adoption and are lowering the price to play, albeit in different ways. Facebook-owned Oculus has slashed Rift + Touch controller bundle prices from $800 to $600, which positions the Rift at a mere $100 more than the console-powered Playstation VR. HTC Vive has launched their own financing program which relieves the upfront pricing burden of their system– although still maintaining the total cost at $800.
ROGUE ONE DIRECTOR USED VR TO PLAN DIGITAL SCENES
Established Hollywood VFX studios and artists are enthusiastically embracing the virtual reality medium, and traditional production studios should get prepared for more disruption from the immersive technology space. For the recent Rogue One film, director Gareth Edwards used virtual reality to stage several several scenes. He would load a digital draft of a scene onto the HTC Vive, and then use the virtual world camera to record how he envisioned the film’s camera (the POV of the audience) moving around in that environment. These virtual recordings were then used as references for the final CGI scenes. Star Wars isn’t the only one getting the virtual pre-production treatment: it is rumored that Jon Favreau, director of Iron Man and major VR enthusiast, will also be integrating VR in the production of his upcoming live adaptation of The Lion King.
INVESTMENT & FUNDING WRAPUP
Florida-based edtech company Nearpod announced a $21M Series B funding round to accelerate the growth of their tech that aims to transform mobile devices into learning devices in classrooms. Over 10,000 U.S. schools are already using Nearpod’s interactive learning tools, and the added cash will help grow their virtual reality offerings. Bringing Nearpod’s total funding to $30.2M, this round was led by Insight Venture Partners, Reach Capital, GSV Education, AGP Miami, and Krillion Ventures.
FOX SPORTS USES VIRTUAL REALITY ART FOR SUPER BOWL COMMERCIALS
LA, GET EXCITED: BJORK’S VR EXHIBITION COMES TO LOS ANGELES
VALVE’S R&D IN EYE-TRACKING TO INCREASE
LOTS OF BIG UNITY ANNOUNCEMENTS AT GDC
WHEN WILL WIRELESS VR GET HERE?
HANDS ON WITH LG’S NEW STANDALONE HEADSET
KHRONOS INITIATIVE IS HUGE FOR OPEN STANDARDS
THE UPCOMING SAMSUNG GEAR VR CONTROLLER IS COOL
GE POWER USES VR TO CUT DESIGN TIME
DOES APPLE HAVE 1000+ ENGINEERS WORKING ON AR IN ISRAEL?
MIT USES AR AND LEGOS TO PLAN CITIES
NYC LAUNCHES VR/AR LAB
CHINA BUILDS VIRTUAL REALITY TOWN