The VRScout Report – The Week in VR Review
1. MAGIC LEAP, THE NOTORIOUSLY SECRETIVE STARTUP, STEPS INTO SPOTLIGHT
Magic Leap has raised $1.5B for mixed reality lightfield technology that no one has actually seen (outside of a small number of people with ironclad NDAs), and is funded by giants like Google and Alibaba. Now it looks like the 600-person company, based in an old Motorola factory in Fort Lauderdale (yes that’s in Florida, guys – not a neighborhood in San Francisco), is finally breaking their vow of silence.
At a Fortune magazine technology conference in Aspen, CMO Brian Wallace and CEO Rony Abovitz (who sold his surgical robot company for $1.65B in 2013) got on stage to fuel the fire on the hype train. Boldly equating Magic Leap to a “baby Apple” (a reference to their end-to-end approach making not only the hardware but also software, chips, sensors, UI, electronics, etc.) their goal is to get people using their “neurologically true visual perception” glasses all day, every day. Describing their graphics as so realistic that they’re considering making them “a little brighter, a little hyperreal [to help] distinguish between what’s Magic Leap and what’s not,” Wallace and Abovitz poured plenty of hyperbole on the stage, and hinted at a fall release, but still kept their mouths shut on a specific date.
2. POKEMON GO: OFFICIALLY A CULTURAL PHENOMENON
After its release, fanfare, and rocketship ride to the top of the App Store, Pokemon Go is still the #1 download. It hasn’t been a journey without obstacles, however – the privacy and security concerns are real. News broke that users who logged in via Google account were allowing full access to their Google accounts – meaning photos, browsing history, emails, etc. Nianctic released a statement saying that the “Pokemon Go account creation process on iOS erroneously requests full access permission for the user’s Google account. However, Pokémon GO only accesses basic Google profile information (specifically, your User ID and email address) and no other Google account information is or has been accessed or collected.”
Hillary Clinton, who can relate to email-related scandals, held a campaign event at a Pokestop in Ohio – her website calls all trainers to “get free Pokemon, and battle each other while you register voters and learn more about Sec. Hillary Clinton! Kids welcome!” Not to be outdone on topical culture references and Millennial pandering, Donald Trump posted a video on his official Facebook page with a GIF of Hillary turning into a Pokemon getting caught with the phrase “Crooked Hillary No.” Classy!
3. MONEY MOVES & FUNDING
Unity Technologies, developer of the massively popular Unity cross-platform game engine, raised $181M in their Series C round. This funding puts the 12-year old company, the largest global development platform for creating 2D, 3D, VR and AR games and experiences, at a valuation of $1.5B. The round was led by DFJ Growth, and also in the round are China Investment Corporation, Thrive Capital, FreeS Fund, and Max Levchin. Existing investors include WestSummit Capital and Sequoia Capital. In a topical sidenote, Pokemon Go was built on Unity’s platform, so you have them to thank for your blossoming Pokedex.
Scope AR, a company based in San Francisco and specializes in AR smart instructions and live support video calling solutions, has raised $2M in seed funding. Companies like Lockheed Martin and Toyota use Scope AR products like WorkLink and Remote AR to lower costs, improve learning, and increase knowledge retention rates. Investors in this round include New Stack Ventures, Susa Ventures, and Presence Capital Fund.
4. OCULUS UPDATE: TOUCH CONTROLLERS AND NO MORE RIFT SHIPPING DELAYS
We’ve anxiously been awaiting the release of the Oculus Touch controllers, slated to ship this fall, and Oculus’s CEO Brendan Iribe stated via Twitter that the controllers will be shipped “in volume” in the fourth quarter of this year. Perhaps pre-orders for Touch will launch around the time of Oculus Connect 3 developer conference (Oct 5-7 in San Jose)? Regardless of speculation swirling around pre-order predictions, those early adopters who pre-ordered a Rift in January should have first dibs on the hand controllers. In more good news in Oculus Land, the company is now officially caught up with back-ordered units, and are increasing inventory for online as well as brick-and-mortar retail partners as well as adding more Rift demo locations at Best Buy in the US.
5. WHAT IS TESLA GOING TO DO WITH VIRTUAL REALITY?
Who knows! But, it’s clear that the electric car company is developing some kind of plan. A job posting recently surfaced on Tesla’s website for their Fremont, CA offices. It is a virtual reality and augmented reality software engineer role, who they want to “develop software apps and simulations for Virtual and Augmented Reality environments… and demonstrate sophisticated Virtual applications.”