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 join us LIVE every Thursday @ 7PM PST/10 PM EST.
1. SAMSUNG AT VIDCON: BIG ANNOUNCEMENTS
Samsung solidified its commitment to the virtual reality space with some big announcements that essentially add up to an end-to-end consumer VR solution. They are rebranding Milk VR to Samsung VR, and opening up the content platform to users. Samsung VR is now somewhat similar to the App Store or Google Play store in that it’s where you can find the latest content for virtual reality products.
Creators can load their own 360-degree videos to the Samsung VR platform for sharing and for the first time view them in the Gear VR. Also announced is the Samsung Creator’s Program: Samsung Creators, as it’s called, will include a series of seminars and classes, empowering filmmakers and influencers to create in VR. But what fun is a program without a little friendly competition?
In July, the Samsung Creators program is launching a competition in ten categories for VR/360 content creators. If you’re one of the lucky winners, you get a cash prize, masterclasses with VR filmmaking pros, and travel to the Creators Awards ceremony in New York– because what is a competition without an awards ceremony? No word yet if Casey Neistat will be vlogging from that red carpet like he did from the Oscars this year…
2. LET’S TALK OCULUS: DRM NO MORE AND PATENT FOR NEW VR MOTION
Oculus has done a quick 180 on their position on Digital Rights Management: after repeatedly blocking patches that would enable users to access non-Oculus content, Oculus quietly updated its hardware-specific runtime and removed all evidence of that controversial DRM – and did not mention the change in its runtime notes.
Movement is a big issue in virtual reality, and developers have to be careful to make sure users are not nauseated by vestibular mismatch (your brain/eyes say “I’m moving” in the virtual world which contradicts your inner ear/balance which say “I’m stationary” in the real world). Teleportation has become a common way to move users around a virtual environment, but Oculus was just granted a patent for a novel method of movement that could be more intuitive.
The patent shows a smartphone head-mounted display that can read a person’s movements as well as track hand movements. The system determines your body pose, and you can move through an environment just by leaning where you want to move, similar to the way you lean to control a hoverboard.
3. POSITIONAL TRACKING FOR MOBILE VR: THE ‘ZED’ CAMERA
Smartphone VR is awesome because everyone has a smartphone in their pocket – but it does have positional tracking limitations (along with other big quality factors, of course). How do we bring positional tracking to smartphone VR?
Sterolabs, a San Francisco-based 3D imaging startup, is trying to bring some of the same high quality functions of full positional tracking to the Samsung Gear VR. The ZED stereo camera is now shipping to developers: it’s a depth-sensing camera that can be attached to any mobile VR headset – there are 2 RGB cameras in unit send data to an external graphics processor and use Sterolabs’ custom software to map your environment in real-time. The tech is similar to Microsoft’s Kinect, which uses infrared but is usually not able to be used outdoors.
4. NEW LAUNCHES, MOVEMENTS, AND MONEY
CryWorks, an immersive entertainment company formed by veteran VFX/CGI leaders (who have film credits like Star Wars, Jurassic Park and Harry Potter), announced an undisclosed seed round investment led by 451 Media Group (aka Michael Bay’s IP development company), 500 Mobile Collective, and leading cross-border venture fund WI Harper Group.
River Studios, born out of Rothenberg Ventures (which has early-stage investments in VR companies like FOVE, Jaunt, WEVR, and AltspaceVR) in 2015 as the answer to VR production work requests. The studio arm is now expanding into LA as the most recent commitment to work with Hollywood and influencer talent, bringing on Sam Macaroni, Andy Stack (former YouTube Space LA executive), and RYOT’s former director of digital content Stash Slionski. Examples of River Studio’s work are the traveling VR exhibition for Bjork, as well as the recent partnership with the Sacramento Kings and unveiling of their new uniforms in virtual reality.
VRTech is a new $5M Russian-based venture fund focused on business efficiency projects in the virtual reality space. They are planning to invest in 3-5 startups in a number of traditional fields like oil extraction, sporting broadcasts, and interactive excursions – one of the founders believes that using VR technologies eliminates or at least lowers the cost of creating real products which can help businesses scale up its profits by 30%. No word if they’re working on a virtual experience of Putin on a horse…
5. VR IN HOSPITALS
Los Angeles hospital and research center Cedars-Sinai has been on the forefront of the medical uses of VR technology, and now have partnered with AppliedVR to focus on therapeutic VR content for healthcare. They are working together to provide immersive VR games that distract the patient’s focus away from the surgery or recovery process and help virtually transport a patient from the medical environment to a stress-free scene.
This partnership is NOT the first time VR and the medical world have come together: this is building on 40+ years of proven academic research into how virtual reality can positively impact a patient’s well-being. One example of this research is the University of Washington, which has done extensive studies on VR as a pain distraction technique for burn victims – proven to have the same efficacy as morphine in pain reduction. When will doctors prescribe virtual reality instead of pills?