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:
1. POKEMON GO GO GO!
Pokemon Go could be the perfect storm of nostalgia, brand recognition, and technology. Continuing in Snapchat’s path to bring an accessible version of augmented reality to the general public via mobile phone and shared social experiences, Pokemon Go is officially a viral hit. As a joint venture between Niantic and Nintendo, the AR app builds upon the gigantic Pokemon franchise which already makes $1.5B in revenue annually and is one of the most popular and valuable licenses in the world.
People all over the world are running around their neighborhoods, heads down, hunting Pokemon – and getting a little exercise in the process! The free app was #1 on the app store in under 5 hours, and is already grossing more money from in-app purchases than well-established games like Clash of Clans.
But it’s not just fun and Squirtles – although the app warns players to be aware of their surroundings at all times, there have been quite a few reported injuries from distracted players running into things, as well as police departments, local businesses, and universities being forced to mandate where and when you can level up. One woman in Wyoming even found a dead body while hunting for cute augmented monsters by a local river under a bridge. Was she deterred from future Pokemonning (yes, it’s now a verb)? No. She still “wants to find a water Pokemon.” Although many people have praised the app for getting them moving around in the *gasp* fresh air, keep your head on a swivel, folks — in Missouri, armed robbers were using the game to lure people to an isolated location. Even a capturing a Charizard isn’t worth getting mugged.
2. THE MOST BORING PART OF VIRTUAL REALITY PORN: STATISTICS
VR porn is heating up, and is predicted to be a $1B industry in less than 10 years. According to Google Trends, the search term “Virtual Reality Porn” has increased by almost 10,000%. Google knows everything, so who are the ones downloading the most? Turns out, it’s our friends Down Under.
Australia is the country with the most VR porn downloads; in fact, they like it so much that 3 out of the top 5 cities in the world that use VR porn are in Australia. Although the dubious award of #1 goes to Helsinki in Finland, #2-4 are Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane (Singapore is #5). Also on the topic of VR porn popularity, the first free adult website to feature 360-degree adult content is Pornhub – and already 3.2M people have subscribed since March. Here’s looking at you, April.
3. MONEY MOVES AND INVESTMENTS
Jerry Yang, co-founder of Yahoo! (who left the co. in 2012 and has become a leading venture capitalist), released a video singing the praises of the VR/AR industry as a viable investment opportunity with HTC Vive. Prior successful investments by Yang include a little company called Evernote – and Yang’s early stage fund, Ame Cloud Ventures, has invested $25M in content studio and distribution platform WEVR.
NextVR, virtual reality live streaming sensation, has received $20M in Series B round from Chinese state-owned CITIC Guoan. The 2.3% in Class B shares puts the valuation of NextVR at $800M, and with all their recent successful partnerships with companies such as NBC Sports, CNN, and their 5-year deal with FOX Sports – NextVR continues their push as leader in the field of VR and live streaming.
Virtuix Omni, the creators of an omnidirectional treadmill that empowers movement and activity in virtual reality, has paired up with Hero Entertainment – creators of the largest first-person shooter game in China. Its eSports affiliate, Hero Sports, is also the owner of Hero Pro League, the biggest professional mobile eSports league in China. But it’s not just the big boys investing in Virtuix – over 1,300 smaller investors have invested in the company through SeedInvest. FYI – the crowdfunding round is still accepting investment. You have until July 31st to throw your money at round treadmills transporting you around virtual worlds.
An undisclosed amount of seed funding has been invested in a virtual reality company out of Mumbai. SpectraVR produces high-end, 360-degree videos and animated interactive VR content, and US-based Rothenberg Ventures has invested a mystery amount of moolah in the India-based company.
4. VIRTUAL MEDICAL MAGIC
Samsung has been experimenting in phobia treatment with their Gear VR in Sweden. Gamifying virtual reality exposure therapy, they have shown positive results in only three hours. The experience begins with the virtual spider being cartoonish – wearing a helmet and shoes – which gradually progresses to a realistic arachnid. VR exposure therapy has been well proven in medical and academic research – it will be interesting to see if this can be replicated on a large-scale, consumer level at some point.
(From spiders to pigs – is this Charlotte’s Web?)
In Chicago, pigs no longer fear Rush University. The Medical Center announced they would not operate on female pigs as practice anymore. Instead, their obstetrics and gynecology students will be using VR to train for surgery. PETA loves this so hard they donated $6K to save the swine. Seriously.
5. KEEPING THE HULK UNDER WRAPS
Universal Studios Orlando has been secretly beta testing visitors on a virtual reality Hulk experience in the Toon Loon Amphitheater. In exchange for a survey, the human guinea pigs have reported experiencing a 3-scene Hulk-related virtual reality demo. It’s not clear how this experience will eventually be used – but it better be Hulk huge.
Derren Brown, the famous English mentalist and illusionist (a fancy phrase for “magician”), released a complex virtual reality experience which puts 58 VR users in a suspended railway carriage. It’s a no-doubt intense 13-minute journey, powered by the high-end HTC Vive and uses live actors to further mix the reality. Derren Brown is genuinely incredible, and this gem took 3 years to develop and over a year to build: no doubt it will be magical.