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The Week in VR Review

A weekly podcast discussing the best in VR, hosted by Malia Probst. Snapchat patent points to AR Spectacles content, Oculus Story Studio shuts down while continuing their VR for Good program, Congress gets into VR, Milwaukee gets sued by an AR company, the investment & funding wrapup, and more…

You can enjoy the full audio recording below:

SNAPCHAT PATENT POINTS TO AUGMENTED SPECTACLES CONTENT

Filed all the way back in 2015, Snapchat’s patent for an augmented reality database has finally been published. Although companies often file patents that go unused, it points to how Snap, Inc. is thinking about the next steps for how people will publish content captured with Spectacles. Although the trendy product’s surprise rollout via a Snapbot treasure hunt was marketing gold, their functionality is limited: they just record 10 seconds of video. By using a GPS-based system that gauges your location, the system would pull from an existing database to add 2D virtual objects to your videos and photos taken with Spectacles. We can’t wait to see if (when?) Snap, Inc. is able to shrink the form factor to add a display to Spectacles, so you can make your surroundings spicier just by looking through your Specs.

OCULUS STORY STUDIO SHUTS DOWN, BUT MONEY GOES TO THE CREATORS

Facebook has shut down its internal VR production arm Oculus Story Studio. Creators of phenomenal early VR cinematic pieces like Lost, Henry (which won an Emmy!), and Wesley Allsbrook’s Dear Angelica, it seems that the studio’s purpose was to be an example of how to make great non-gaming content. Now that the industry has caught up a bit, and there are plenty of hungry and talented VR creators out there, Facebook is earmarking $50M to fund other people’s projects. “We’re now entering the next chapter of VR development, where new creators enter the market in anticipation of adoption and growth, and we’ve been looking at the best way to allocate our resources to create an impact on the ecosystem,” said Oculus’ VP of Content Jason Rubin– who will be the one allocating those funds. Speaking of funds…

OCULUS SAYS YES TO YEAR 2 OF VR FOR GOOD

Oculus is funding their VR for Good and Creators Lab programs for the second year in a row (and will be supported by that $50M which Facebook earmarked for externally developed content). VR for Good brings new creators to different global causes to highlight the need for social change and tell the stories of specific missions. Some highlights from 2016’s program are See Beyond Labels (Sarah Hill and Story UP Studios with Kamal Sinclair from Sundance New Frontiers) and One Eighty (Erin Aksu + Commonwealth Rights Initiative with Jess Kantor, indie filmmaker). Applications are open until May 15th, so sign up now!

CONGRESS GETS INTO VR… AND MILWAUKEE GETS SUED

If you’re concerned with the surrounding implications of VR and AR on our society, now you know who to call: The Reality Caucus. Formed by 5 members of Congress, the initiative is focusing on sharing information between Congress and the U.S. tech industry. The Caucus specifically calls out privacy and intellectual property as areas of concern, as well as heat mapping analytics and biometric data as particular examples. No word on how they’re thinking about free speech– which is one thing that an AR company feels Milwaukee is infringing upon with a recent ordinance that requires an interesting permit process for VR or AR apps (watch this story for legal precedents).

INVESTMENT & FUNDING WRAPUP

In their Series B round, Ultrahaptics has raised $23M for their tech that utilizes ultrasound to essentially push vibrations to your hands– resulting in a touchless interface that would let you feel like you were actually turning dials or flipping switches. One of the industries on which the company is aiming is automotive (control your dashboard with hand gestures!), and Dolby Family Ventures, Woodford Investment Management, Cornes and the IP Group participated in this round (which brings Ultrahaptics’ total funding to $40M).

Led by NVIDIA, a group of investors has funded fastdata.io with $1.5M for continued development on their real-time stream processing engine. Promising to increase processing speeds by three orders of magnitude while decreasing power requirements by almost 100%, these boosted efficiencies could potentially mean big things to VR/AR.

Absentia VR has raised $1.2M in pre-Series A from Exfinity Venture Partners and private investors to combine AI and virtual reality. The capital will be used to progress the development of Norah AI, which aims to create virtual reality content in the media and entertainment space with artificial intelligence (which gives an entirely new meaning to bot content).

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