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The Week in VR Review

A weekly podcast discussing the best in VR, hosted by Malia Probst. PlayStation looks to an arcade rollout, Shazam goes augmented, AMD wants to go wireless, HTC Viveport’s new subscription service, the investment & funding wrapup, and more…

You can enjoy the full audio recording below:

IT’S NOW WAY EASIER TO COMBINE 360 VIDEO AND ANIMATION

Now you can easily integrate computer generated images and animations into your 360 videos, as well as create inexpensive interactivity. The process is simple, and creates two layers of spherical video played simultaneously. The 3D object layer is inserted, like the meat in a sandwich, between the two 360 video layers– so now you can add dinosaurs to your real-life neighborhood park. Demonstrated live on-stage during the Unity Vision Summit, you can already try it out for yourself in the Unity 2017 beta.

THE STREAMING SERVICES BATTLE IT OUT IN VR: CRACKLE ANNOUNCES THEIR PLANS

Streaming services Netflix and Hulu have been in the VR space for a while (Netflix announced their app for Gear VR all the way back in the fall of 2015), and Sony-owned Crackle is attempting to catch up. You’ll soon be able to enjoy Crackle’s content on a flat screen in an immersive virtual theater environment, and the company has also announced VR content that will be companion pieces to their original content. The first one will star Rupert Grint (yes, Ron Weasley) and will take viewers deeper into the world of Snatch, Crackle’s original drama series. It will be exclusively distributed on PlayStation VR, and Crackle has also started production for VR experience for their original stop-motion animated series SuperMansion. Not to stop there, Crackle is also pushing to become the first VOD network to provide VR advertising opportunities– which should be a solid argument for brands to release their immersive content on Crackle.

NETFLIX LOOKS TO GET AUGMENTED

Although Netflix CEO Reed Hastings has publicly been dismissive of the VR/AR medium as anything other than a vehicle for video games, actions should speak louder than words: Netflix is now working on an app for the Hololens. You’ve been able to pop on a VR headset and watch any Netflix content on a flatscreen TV in a virtual living room for a year and a half, and according to a recent job posting you’ll soon be able to do the same with the Microsoft Hololens.

ICYMI: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW FROM FACEBOOK’S F8 CONFERENCE

Facebook wants to convert their current 1.7B monthly traditional users into virtual reality users, but there’s a big challenge: how do you show someone without a VR headset what VR is? Well, a recent announcement addresses that very problem– Facebook is releasing 360 video recording software to developers. This is how the software development kit will work: a developer adds the new plug-in to their game engine content, and then users can record their VR sessions… and post them to Facebook in the form of 360 videos. These 360 videos will show up not only in News Feeds, but you’ll also be able to relive the spherical virtual moments in a headset as well as viewable inside Facebook Spaces…

Now you can combine your virtual friends and your real world friends with Facebook Spaces. If you already have an Oculus Rift and Touch controllers, you can join the early open beta and dial in your parents via Facebook Messenger. Now, your parents can’t actually join you without a Rift, but you can have a Skype-style video call with them. A virtual call from Spaces will show up as a regular video Messenger call–  and then when your parents answer it, they’ll be able to chat with your avatar (whose cartoon mouth will be remarkably well-synced to your real yapper). Of course, your friends with Rifts can virtually join and you can share things like drawing in 3D, be immersed in a 360 photo or video together, show each other Moments or traditional photos, as well as take virtual selfies. Although Spaces is currently limited to only a few activities, and it’s only compatible with the Oculus Rift VR hardware, expect to see more virtual amusements as well as accessible hardware… eventually.

Perhaps a direct dig at recently self-professed “camera company” Snap, Inc., Mark Zuckerberg prefaced his recent Facebook Camera Effects announcement with some pointed words: “when you look around at all of the different cameras that are out there today, no one has built a platform yet.” In a possible direct move against their upstart competitor, Facebook has announced their Camera Effects suite with two major tools. The first tool is their “open platform” AR Studio (now accepting developer applications), which is similar to Snapchat Lenses and is a toolset for 3D artists to make augmented reality integrations to photos and videos. The second tool is called Frame Studio, and empowers any Facebook user to design static overlays to visual media (as well as being akin to Snapchat’s Geofilters). Looks like everyone wants to be a camera company these days.

Facebook has released two new camera designs as impressive (and almost magical?) followups to their $30K reference camera blueprints that they released a bit over a year ago. The flying saucer shape of 2016 has been, somewhat regrettably, replaced with an all-seeing eye design for the x6 (6 cameras) and the x24 (you guessed it– 24 cameras). The two designs will be licensed to a select group of commercial partners… and the x24 claims to shoot 8K with 6 degrees of freedom. 6DOF means that you can actually move around the image, and the camera was created with the help of a thermal imaging company FLIR. These babies should shake up the 360 video world… as well as the post-production industry.

THE INVESTMENT & FUNDING WRAPUP

Based in Helsinki, Finland, Vizor raised $2.3M in funding. Vizor is a virtual reality software company that has recently launched the private beta of its VR creation and hosting platform. It is aimed at simplifying the 360 video and WebVR experiences on websites or Facebook. The round was led the the Venture Reality Fund, with participation from Boost VC, Lifeline Ventures, and Sisu Game Ventures.

The music-focused startup The Wave has raised another $4M in capital, adding to a previous $2.5M raised last fall. Based out of Austin, TX, the company enables fans from all over the globe to attend virtual shows with friends and watch artists perform live. The company has released the beta version of its social VR platform on Steam Early Access, and the new round of funding has been led by Upfront Ventures, with participation from the Venture Reality Fund, RRE Ventures, KPCB Edge, and Greycroft VR Gaming Tracker Fund.

]HP’s corporate venture arm has invested in the Venture Reality Fund, one of the most experienced funds in the VR/AR industry. Although the amount of the deal was not disclosed, the VRF’s co-founder and general partner Marco DeMiroz said they are “excited to have HP Tech as a key investor in our fund and look forward to working closely with their team to introduce new applications for corporate innovation and productivity, while enhancing the customer experience and product development.”

…and just a few more…

RIDLEY SCOTT’S PRODUCTION COMPANY LAUNCHES DEDICATED VR DIVISION, RELEASES ALIEN VR
TRIBECA FILM FESTIVAL LOVES VR
NOKIA AND LUCASFILM PARTNER FOR THE LAST JEDI VR CONTENT
NOW YOU CAN SHARE, SAVE, AND REMIX YOUR TILT BRUSH MASTERPIECES
JOHN LEGEND & BAOBAB STUDIOS TEAM UP FOR VR FILM
ADOBE IS WORKING ON NEXT-LEVEL ALGORITHMS FOR YOUR 360 VIEWING PLEASURE
YES, YOU’LL BE SCARED: UPCOMING WALKING DEAD VR EXPERIENCE CONFIRMED
APPLE HIRES AUGMENTED REALITY EXPERT FROM NASA
INTEL TEAMS UP WITH STANFORD AND CARNEGIE MELLON
GOOGLE’S JUMP START PROGRAM CONNECTS CREATORS WITH CAMERAS & RESOURCES
HUGGING AND SMELLING TREES… BECAUSE ART

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