Top 5 Virtual Reality & Augmented Reality News 💥 💥 💥
It’s a Facebook frenzy: new 360 app + live streaming in VR + voice search, our Avegant future looks like Star Trek, ZeniMax and Oculus: the plot thickens, VR companies grew 40% in 2016, investment & funding wrapup, and more…
1) FACEBOOK FRENZY: NEW 360 APP + LIVE STREAMING + VOICE SEARCH
Facebook launches a dedicated 360 photo and video player, while teasing those of us in America with the prospect of live streaming our Gear VR games to Facebook. Facebook 360 is currently available on Gear VR, acting as a destination for the 1M+ 360 videos and 25M+ 360 photos that have been uploaded to the social media giant. There are currently four functions to try: Explore (see the most popular 360 content on Facebook), Following (stay in the loop with your friends’ 360 content), Timeline (re-live your own moments), and Saved (keep your favorite spherical experiences together). On the livestreaming front, if you live outside of the U.S. you are in luck: you can now stream your in-headset view to Facebook (you’ll have to wait on an unsure timeline, American VR enthusiasts). If those two announcements weren’t enough, Facebook has also rolled out Oculus Voice, which lets English speakers perform voice searches, and you can now watch 360 videos together with your friends in Oculus Rooms and create Oculus Events so that you can enter VR experiences together with your friends.
2) THE FUTURE REALLY DOES LOOK LIKE STAR TREK
Avegant’s main product is the Glyph, which looks like a pair of Beats headphones that you wear over your eyes to watch videos (any regular ol’ video). The Glyph does not have a screen; instead it projects LED images onto millions of microscopic mirrors that are beamed into your pupils — which sort of results in the appearance of a giant flat screen floating right in front of your eyeballs. Now Avegant claims that they have cracked the code of next-level augmented reality, vaguely saying that they are using light field technology to display 3D objects to augment your surrounding environment. The company won’t disclose their underlying technology and the demo that they showed press was tethered to a PC, used external cameras for positional tracking, and was not interactive. While the company does emphasize that this is simply a research demo, we’ll just have to wait to be impressed… maybe just because we want it now. Until Avegant releases an actual AR product, with the Glyph you can still look like LaVar Burton while watching LaVar Burton in the meantime.
3) ZENIMAX AND OCULUS: THE PLOT THICKENS
The ZeniMax vs. Oculus lawsuit is starting to feel like a telenovela. After ZeniMax was awarded $500M from their suit against Oculus in January (which Oculus is appealing), now Oculus CTO John Carmack is personally suing ZeniMax for $22.5M — what he claims is still owed him from 2009 when ZeniMax bought his game studio id Software (which birthed classics like Doom, for Pete’s sake). Regardless of what side you’re on in this fight, it needs to be acknowledged that Carmack is master of the burn. In the January lawsuit, he had meme-worthy lines like “I am not a Mac user unless under duress.” In this personal lawsuit Carmack throws Countess Dowager-level shade like “Sour grapes is not an affirmative defense to breach of contract” (bonus points if you love Downton Abbey).
4) VR COMPANY LANDSCAPE GREW BY 40% IN 2016
Based in Palo Alto, CA, the Venture Reality Fund formed at the beginning of 2016 with the goal of building the future by financing it. Devoted to the VR/AR space, the venture capital firm closely monitors the industry and reports that the map of tracked companies in the VR space grew by 40% in 2016. Cofounders Tipatat Chennavasin and Marco DeMiroz reveal that content companies making apps for HMDs saw the largest growth, and gaming and entertainment nearly doubled in size. It sounds like even indies have a shot — the VC firm saw the smart indie studios ones generate revenue towards profitability over the year. Other spotlights include VR content creation and management systems, education, healthcare, and journalism perhaps most important — enterprise. DeMiroz paints a bright picture: we should expect all-in-one mobile headsets with full positional tracking and gesture control glory… soon.
5) DREAMSCAPE IMMERSIVE RAISES $11.36M SERIES A
Los Angeles-based developer studio Dreamscape Immersive raised an $11.36M Series A financing round with some big investor names: from Silicon Valley royalty like Peter Diamandis to Hollywood giant Steven Spielberg. With co-founder veterans from Dreamworks and Control Room and CEO Bruce Vaughn at the helm (who spent 25 years at Disney Imagineering), the company is planning on launching a flagship VR Multiplex in LA this fall. Other investors were IMAX, Warner Bros., 21st Century Fox, MGM, and Westfield Corporation.
Malia Probst is Director of Brand Development for VRScout, one of the world’s leading immersive media companies, and host of the VRScout Report podcast — discussing all the news in the VR/AR space. Also check out her interviews with leaders in the virtual reality and augmented reality industry on the Real Virtual Show podcast.