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Augmented Reality is a Reality: This Week’s VR + AR News

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Tim Cook favors AR to VR, saying that the implications of augmented reality will be as significant as the smartphone, and the iPhone 8 will reportedly include augmented reality. 8i pushes ahead with AR app Holo to become an established AR player by the time Apple, Google and Snap Inc. make AR mainstream.

In the meantime, brands like Loreal dip their toes in AR through Snapchat sponsored lenses. As Snap Inc. prepares for its IPO, it becomes clear that Snap’s plan is to become a leader in augmented reality.

Dreamscape Immersive follows in the steps of IMAX, hoping to bring VR experiences to malls nationwide. IMAX continues to lead the VR industry, announcing plans to open more VR Centers globally and a recent investment in Dreamscape Immersive.

A Forrester Report and the CEO of Valve state that virtual reality is not yet ready for the mainstream, or for marketers. However, engineers are finding used for the medium that will improve humanity, such as eSight 3 leveraging AR to help blind people see.

Magic Leap leaked its first AR hardware prototype and Pokemon Go finally released an update to its sensational AR game this week. But despite the buzz around Pokemon Go, many consumers still don’t know what exactly AR is…therefore Microsoft’s HoloLens is embracing B2B2C marketing to get AR in the hands of consumers.

The Case for Snap Inc: Augmented Reality
TechCrunch — Sib Mahapatra

Snap’s market domination depends on the success of Snap’s plan to become the leading platform for augmented reality experiences. According to Sib, “At a high level, AR features are authentic because they are only visible to folks ‘in the know,’ expressive because they create a brand new channel for interacting with the world and playfully making the mundane interesting. Unlike the ephemeral content produced by interaction between users, Snapchat AR content could become a permanent fixture in the world around us, affording Snap with the UGC moat it needs to grow to its full potential without hemorrhaging users to competitors.”

Is AR Ready for Mainstream Business?
PC Mag — Rob Marvin

Since consumer awareness of augmented reality is still relatively low, in the short-term it might make more sense to market AR as a B2B rather than B2C software. Microsoft is marketing HoloLens in a business-to-business (B2B) fashion but with the end goal of getting the technology to consumers through targeted, branded experiences- calling this approach B2B2C. Lowe’s is using HoloLens for an  AR shopping app.

VR Brings Ancient Worlds to Life
NBC News — Megan Gannon

Stuart Eve is using AR/VR to bring ancient ruins and sites to life– his most recent project is an immersive experience for the 1815 Battle of Waterloo. Stuart isn’t alone: Melbourne-based startup called Lithodomos recently released an Ancient Jerusalem app. Glasgow-based Soluis has a new VR app that lets users explore South Africa’s ancient rock art.

Intel Technology Brings VR to the PGA Tour
Fox News — Robert Gray

The PGA Tour wants to keep up with other sports leagues like the NBA, which offers weekly VR broadcasts. The PGA Tour is working on an interactive VR stream with Intel Sports Group’s Voke, which has also produced VR content for the NFL and NCAA’s Final 4 game.

When Will AR Become a Reality?
Seeker — Dave Roos

Until AR glasses become mainstream, the biggest potential for AR adoption is via smartphone applications. But the technology is still buggy, and many Americans are confused about what augmented reality is.In a ReportLinker survey conducted last September — the same month that Pokémon Go downloads surpasses 500 million — 58% of Americans said they were “not at all familiar with” augmented reality.

Report: Virtual Reality is Not Quite Ready for Marketers
MarTech Today — Barry Levine

A Forrester Report finds that “critical-mass consumer adoption of high-end VR headsets is five years away,” although 360-degree video “will flourish on low-to-mid-end VR devices in the meantime.” VR is considered to be immersive and generated environments that change as you move through them. Although 360-degree video can be viewed on a headset as an immersive environment, it is a kind of “light VR” because it is a recorded spherical video that is always the same space and events.

It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia Brought to Life in VR
The Drum — John McCarthy

FX has partnered with Jaunt to promote the latest season of ‘It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia’ with a VR 360-video that plays out just like an episode of the show.

HTC is Developing a Mobile VR Headset
Fast Company — Daniel Terdiman

HTC is reportedly developing a new mobile VR headset, expected to be available by the end of the year. HTC emphasises that there are several ways to approach VR beyond headsets or strapping a mobile phone to a headset that include the full spectrum.

eSight 3 Headset Uses Augmented Reality to Help the Legally Blind See
Mashable — Lance Ulanoff

The eSight 3 looks like a more elegant VR/AR headset, but uses aspects of mixed reality to restore sight for the legally blind. “Yvonne [beta tester] has some vestigial retinal function. We stimulate what remains to send more information to the brain through the eye,” said eSight Director of Marketing Jeff Fenton. With eSight 3, said Fenton, she effectively has 20/25 vision.

Lytro Raises $60 Million, Announces First VR Project With Chris Milk’s Within
Variety — Janko Roettgers

Camera maker Lytro has raised a $60 million Series D round of funding, setting itself apart from other VR camera makers by relying on light field capture. The big question is how this technology will change VR storytelling — and to explore this, Lytro has teamed up with Chris Milk’s Within for a project that is expected to premiere in the second quarter of this year.

Valve CEO: ‘We’re Comfortable with the Idea that VR will Turn out to be a Complete Failure’
Business Insider — Ben Gilbert

The Valve CEO speaks to the chicken and egg issue in VR: there simply isn’t enough good VR content for people to buy expensive headsets in large quantity. It’s a space currently reserved for people who are willing to shell out big bucks to be on the bleeding edge of technology — a cool space, but one that’s tremendously limited.

IMAX CEO Says VR Industry ‘In Need of a Jump-Start’
Los Angeles Times — Ryan Faughnder

“Whether it’s the lack content or consumer access to headsets, the industry has been in a holding pattern, slow to go mainstream,” said IMAX CEO Richard Gelfond. That’s why IMAX has been fostering partnerships and programs with Google, Skydance Media, Ubisoft, AMC Theaters and Regal Entertainment Group.

IMAX Unveils Flagship VR Center + Invests in Dreamscape Immersive
Variety — Sarah Ahern

At the unofficial unveiling of the IMAX VR center in LA on Tuesday, attendees got to experience 14 different viewing pods and also learned about IMAX’s plans to open four more this year, including New York and Shanghai locations. IMAX also announced that it has joined Steven Spielberg, Twentieth Century Fox, Warner Bros. and other corporations as first-round investors in Dreamscape Immersive, a new Los-Angeles based startup for location based VR.

Pokemon Go Gets First Huge Update
TechCrunch — Greg Kumparak

Later this week, Pokemon Go will release its first major update, adding 80 more Pokemon characters, more rural locations and several more tweaks. This will hopefully bring back players who deleted the app after they got bored.

100 Million VR Headsets Projected By 2021
MediaPost — Chase Martin

According to a new study by ABI Research, the market for stand-alone VR systems will grow nearly 10 times faster than mobile in 2021. ABI predicts that more than 100 million virtual reality devices will be shipped by 2021.

Imagining the Future of VR at Google
MIT Technology Review — Jason Pontin

MIT spoke with Jessica Brillhart is the principal filmmaker for virtual reality at Google. She makes VR experiences (including World Tour) and conventional movies, and she evaluates new VR technologies, such as Google’s own Cardboard.

Tim Cook Sheds Light on Apple’s AR Strategy
Business Insider

Tim Cook’s comments about AR as a revolutionary core technology reveal that Apple will probably focus its AR efforts on the smartphone, rather than developing a headset. AR fits nicely with Apple’s smartphone-centric business plan, and AR apps could bolster Apple’s services business.

Loreal Lets Snapchatters Apply Makeup with AR
Adweek — Lauren Johnson

Snapchat has been pitching its interactive augmented reality lenses to brands for the past 15 months, which reportedly cost between $600,000 – $750,000 for a one-day lens– but reportedly prices dropped to $330,000 last month. Valentine’s Day will be the third time Loreal sponsors a lens, using AR to let users virtually apply lipstick and eyeliner.

Samsung Brings VR to New York Fashion Week
Fortune — Rachel King

Samsung has teamed with FTL Moda, a fashion production firm, to produce what the two are calling “the first all-digital fashion presentation.” The footage was shot in digital and 360-digital in Milan, and will premiere at an invite-only event in NYC.

Apple’s iPhone 8 Will Most Likely Include AR Technology
CNBC — Giovanny Moreano

Goldman Sachs analyst Simona Jankowski wrote, “Following recent industry commentary, we are increasingly confident that the upcoming iPhone 8 will include AR [augmented reality] technology that represents a significant feature upgrade from prior iterations.”

8i’s Holo App Wants to Bring Holographic Videos to the Mainstream
Recode — Lauren Goode

8i, the company behind Holohamm at Sundance, has just raised $27 million and is about to debut an app called Holo. App users can choose from a selection of pre-made holograms in the app — whether it’s a celebrity, a political impersonator or a cute dog — and “place” the hologram in the room. Users can walk up to the hologram and even take a selfie or video with it. 8i is trying to be well-positioned in the AR market, placing bets on Apple and Google making rapid advancements into the space. 8i’s primary target has been movie studios, and says that the conversations are much easier when a smartphone–rather than a headset– is involved.

Steven Spielberg-backed Startup is Creating VR Experiences in Malls
MarketWatch —  Ben Fritz

Dreamscape Immersive, a new venture backed by three studios and Steven Spielberg has raised $11 million as it aims to launch its first VR storefront at a Los Angeles mall this fall with plans to open more stores next year. It will feature original VR experiences plus ones tied to major film franchises. The experience utilizes Swiss firm Artanim’s technology that lets multiple people interact in one VR environment.

How About a Virtual Vacation?
New York Times —  Jane L Levere

Tourism boards across the world– from Las Vegas to Thailand to Australia– have been releasing 360 videos and VR experiences to let travelers “test drive” destinations before booking plane tickets. Hospitality brands have also taken the VR plunge, from Carnival Cruises to Best Western.

Why Intel is Excited About VR
Fox Business — Ashraf Eassa

Intel predicts that sales of virtual reality headsets that connect to personal computers are “growing at a 70% compounded annual growth rate. Intel will benefit from sales from the processor and chips that power VR.

Tim Cook Says Impact of AR Will Rival iPhone
The Independent — David Phelan

Tim Cook regards augmented reality as a “big idea” core technology, that would impact the world much like the smartphone has. He’s excited about AR because unlike virtual reality which closes the world out, AR allows individuals to be present in the world but allows an improvement on what’s happening presently.

VR’s Distribution Problem
MediaPost — Josh Engroff

No company wants to invest millions into VR just to realize that it only works on one device. The platform decision is one of VR’s greatest barriers to entry. Marketers may want to forgo VR and focus on smartphone-based AR for now. Or companies can take the long view on ROI and invest in VR now, leveraging partners like Immersv and EntryPoint.

Eye Tracking Technology Will Change These 4 Industries
The Next Web — Ben Dickson

The acquisition of eye tracking companies EyeFluence and Eye Tribe by Google and Facebook respectively, signify that a massive change in human-computer interaction is about to occur. Eye tracking will have the largest impact on virtual reality, advertising, market research and gaming.

Magic Leap Leaks First Prototype
Business Insider — Kif Leswing

Scrambling before a major board meeting, a prototype of Magic Leap’s first AR device has been leaked, resembling a jetpack. Magic Leap has raised $1.39 billion dollars in venture capital, valuing the company at $4.5 billion, from investors including Andreessen Horowitz, Kleiner Perkins, Google, JPMorgan, Fidelity and Alibaba.

Each week, we bring you the most relevant stories covering the business of virtual and augmented reality, which we produce with our partner Vertebrae, the native ad platform for VR/AR.