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,Google Daydream is here, Snap Inc’s crazy product launch with Snapchat’s Spectacles, Apple has a patent for augmented reality maps, construction giant Caterpillar licenses AR products from ScopeAR, money and funding update, and more…. Special guest VRScout’s Jesse Damiani.
WHAT A DAY FOR A DAYDREAM…
The highly-anticipated Google Daydream headset is here. Priced at $79, it is currently only compatible with the Google Pixel phone. It’s simple and easy to slip the phone into the headset – they automatically sync, with no plugging required. The headset itself is made of cuddly fabric, and although it doesn’t block light very well, it feels like wearing yoga pants on your face. A Bluetooth-enabled controller is what sets the Daydream HMD apart from other current smartphone-powered VR headsets (the Samsung Gear VR is really the only true competitor in this quality tier, distinctly above a Cardboard-style headset).
Although not as robust as the HTC Vive controllers, the wand-like controller is easy to use… and fun. Although the content side of things will no doubt quickly explode, at the moment the app selection is a bit barren – but because the YouTube app [autoplay] is so good, there’s a big opportunity for YouTube 360 creators to break out here. Daydream VR is enabled on Android 7.1 phones that meet certain requirements, and it is likely that within the next year all flagship Android phones will be meet those standards. Because Android owns almost 90% of the global market share of smartphone operating systems, the significance of Daydream VR in its totality is a big deal.
SNAP, INC DROPS SPECTACLES FROM THE RAINBOW-VOMITING SKY
In preparation for its predicted IPO (with valuations in the $25B range), Snapchat renamed itself Snap, Inc. and announced their first hardware product… which just landed via yellow vending machines in Los Angeles. Called Snapbots, the bright yellow machines look like minions and dispense Spectacles – and the first drop was on Venice Beach. Attracting long lines, the limited supply ran out before lunchtime and no official rollout schedule has been announced – only a cryptic timer on the webpage which counts down to the next surprise Snapbot release on the map. The timer started again with a 24-hour countdown to the second location: revealed to be in Big Sur State Park in California. Not only did Snap, Inc. get all Willy Wonka level mysterious on their product release last week, but they also released an update to the Snapchat app which is another step in their master plan of bringing augmented reality to the masses.
APPLE’S 2011 AUGMENTED REALITY PATENT FINALLY MADE PUBLIC
First filed in 2011, the patent was published by the US Patent and Trademark Office with minimal changes. It reveals an app that could generate views of the user’s surroundings in real time with digital information superimposed, using the iPhone’s advanced sensors. Using a digital compass, accelerometer, and GPS, this augmented reality app could provide an interactive mapping tool that incorporates the real world surroundings. Using AR to visualize and assist travel is an obvious use case, with heads up displays already installed in many new vehicles – and with Tim Cook’s recent strong public beliefs about the technology, the reveal of Apple’s not-so-secret AR plans continues.
A COMPANY STARTED IN 1925 GETS AN AUGMENTED UPDATE
A Fortune 500 company, Caterpillar, Inc. has almost $90B in assets and is ranked #1 in the construction and mining equipment industry. The manufacturing behemoth announced a partnership with Scope AR, a creator of augmented reality smart instructions and live support video calling solutions that raised $2M in seed funding a few months ago. Caterpillar will be licensing a new interactive interface for remote workers to communicate and collaborate with experts in real time in order to increase efficiency. By augmenting technicians’ views with smart information and over-the-shoulder guidance in real time, Caterpillar joins Scope AR’s impressive list of enterprise clients (such as Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and Epson) at saving both time and money.
MONEY & FUNDING
San Diego-based GoMeta Inc. has raised $2M in seed funding to help users create the metaverse via their smartphone. Reminiscent of Pokemon Go with regards to the geo-tagged locations and scavenger hunt-like interaction, GoMeta is a user-generated world – anyone can build geo-specific “experiences” within the app’s builder tools. It is a bit of a star-studded angel investor lineup with funding coming from big names like Michael Eisner, former CEO of Disney.
Founded in 2011, Tobii’s eye-tracking products have been used by huge companies in the gaming space (Acer has launched several monitors incorporating the tech) to determine where users are looking on screens. The company went public on the Swedish stock exchange in spring of 2015 with $70M in equity funding (and is now valued at 3x its IPO price), and now Tobii aims to raise a further $50M in order to sprint further into the VR/AR space.
HTC VIVE RELEASES WIRELESS ADD-ON – from TPCAST, a company incubated in the Vive X Accelerator investment program; available from Chinese site only and currently sold out
HTC LAUNCHES DEDICATED VR MOBILE PLATFORM VIVEPORT M – extension of the Vive ecosystem that is dedicated exclusively to mobile devices
IMAX TO INVEST $50M IN VR CONTENT DEVELOPMENT – with Creative Artists Agency and Acer, the partnership will fund at least 25 VR projects including 360 videos as well as games
UK MAN USES VR TO REVISIT FRENCH TOWN HE LIBERATED IN WWII – 91 year old WWII veteran was presented w/ a medal by the mayor of Armentieres while in the Royal Chelsea Hospital in London
CONTROL YOUR REALITY WITH YOUR THOUGHTS – EyeMynd plans to launch an HMD powered by brainwave-monitoring EEG sensors in spring of 2017… with the VR consultant from Lawnmower Man as executive producer
FACE ELECTRODES LET YOU TASTE AND CHEW IN VR – using temperature changes to hijack thermally sensitive neurons on your tongue, or by electrically stimulating the chewing muscles in the jaw to simulate chewing
BOOSTING ALIBABA’S REVENUE ON SINGLES DAY W/ VR SHOPPING – after a $15B in gross sales from 2015’s Singles Day, global marketplace Alibaba promotes its VR shopping experience Buy+ on the Chinese anti-Valentine’s Day