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All The Feels From This Week’s VR/AR News

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This week, we’re going bananas for bunches of mixed reality. Sing, dance and socialize while wearing a headset or MASK. Buckle up for a wild ride, dodging lions and Gorillaz as you navigate the tangled, augmented forest.

It’s a crazy ecosystem fo sho. Here’s a breakdown of what’s happening in mixed reality’s unpredictable climates. The forecast is looking profitable and sunny, with a chance of billions.

VR for entertainment

VR for biz

  • Expedia uses VR for hotel bookings
  • Reformation + IKEA stores are feelin’ futuristic
  • Unity wants to apply VR to automotive, manufacturing, real estate and education industries

VR for serial

Yea, we’re excited about VR and anxiously waiting for the Friends or Serial of VR to take off. Speaking of friends, how does one tell a joke in VR? How does one laugh? Thanks to MindMaze’s new MASK, VR avatars can mimic the user’s emotions. Need a reason to smile? Just listen to the wonderfully wise Bill Gates tackle world issues.

Will you be donning a flower crown or a headset this weekend? If you’re heading to VRLA, be sure to swing by Vertebrae’s exhibition for some sweet surprises. 

Why VR Needs Serialized Content Right Now
TVREV — Cortney Harding

One-off VR activations are fine and dandy, but if VR hopes to compete with other top dogs in entertainment, there is a dire need for binge-able serialized content. Netflix piqued our collective interest with DVD rentals, but the pivot towards streaming full series online is what gave the company its sticking power.

Why Go On Safari When You Can Feed an African Lion Live, Via VR
TechCrunch — Mike Butcher

Startup Fountain Digital Labs is is trying to tap into VR’s empathy effect with its Virry VR platform (now nominated for a Webby Award) which allows people to virtually engage with real African animals up close and in their natural habitat. Virry VR, on the PS4, costs $9.99 and the Live Camera Subscription is $1.50/mo. You can also subscribe for $2.50/mo and thus to donate $1 to the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy.

Google’s Chrome VR Platform Now Works With Cardboard
The Verge — Adi Robertson

After adding support for WebVR to Chrome in February, Google is now extending it to work with Google Cardboard headsets. The WebVR standard lets people launch virtual reality experiences without downloading a special app. This is a sign that Google hasn’t forgotten about Cardboard as the VR market broadens its reach.

‘Rick and Morty’ Enter the VR Video Game Universe on April 20th
Engadget — Davindra Hardawar

Adult Swim and Owlchemy Labs, creator of Job Simulator, announced today that Rick and Morty: Virtual Rick-ality, will be a Rick and Morty VR series. While we’ve seen a few Rick and Morty games — most notably, the Pokemon-inspired Pocket Mortys — this is the series’ first VR entry, debuting 4/20.

This Billion-Dollar Startup Wants to Capture Your Emotions in Virtual Reality
TechCrunch —  Lucas Matney

Human communication entails more than just words. MindMaze Mask captures facial emotions in real-time to display non-verbal cues over VR via personalized avatars.

Virtual Reality Is About to Change Your Business
Entrepreneur — Amy Osmond Cook

VR’s business applications are just starting to be cracked. From reducing business travel, to opening new ways to collaborate, to bettering workplace health and efficiency, virtual reality means far more than just gaming.  

Virtual Reality Projected to Become a $7 Billion Business This Year, Hit $75 Billion by 2021
Variety — Janko Roettgers

Global virtual reality revenues will reach $7.17 billion by the end of this year, according to a new report by Greenlight Insights, which is also predicting that global VR revenues will total close to $75 billion by 2021. More than 65 percent of all VR revenues will come from headset sales this year, according to Greenlight. Consumer content will make up for around 12 percent, and VR cameras will make up another 11.6 percent. Over the next five years, the revenue split will slowly shift, with enterprise — think VR for construction companies, education etc. — making up for 24.2 percent of all revenue in 2021.

Lucasfilm to Bring ‘Star Wars’ Virtual Reality Headsets to Hospitals for Kids (Exclusive)
The Hollywood Reporter — Aaron Couch

Starlight Virtual Reality, a new VR initiative launching later this year, will put 270 VR headsets into hospitals across the country, and will feature content from the Star Wars universe, as well as from Google Expeditions, Daydream, Google Earth VR and Tilt Brush. Star Wars: Force for Change is the founding sponsor of the program, which is receiving additional funding from Niagara Cares and VR technology powered by Google.

Google’s VR Team Hires Developer Behind One of the Vive’s Best Apps
The Verge — Sam Byford

Logan Olson, developer of awesome virtual reality music creation tool SoundStage, is joining Clay Bavor’s VR team at Google. SoundStage lets you assemble and operate a music studio in the virtual space around you using the HTC Vive headset and wireless controllers — it’s like Tilt Brush for techno. I said it “feels like a visionary application” after spending time with it last year.

TheWaveVR Closes $4 Million Round Of Financing And Releases A New VR Experience
VR and Fun — SJ Kim

TheWaveVR has been making a splash in the VR industry by changing the way we experience a live music show. The company has provided a welcoming platform where musicians and fans can come together to share an intimate moment in the VR space. Today, TheWaveVR has announced they’ll be releasing a beta version of their new social platform for shared music experiences in VR with the addition of raising $4 million in capital.

AEG Launches A New Branded Content Studio For The Music And Sport Industries
Forbes — Hugh McIntyre

AEG is one of the largest companies when it comes to all things live, and is officially launching AEG Studios, its own branded content division. Depending on the client and their goals, documentaries, webcasts, and even VR and 360-degree videos are all on the table.

Drizzy Manor: Take A VR Tour Of Drake’s Huge New Mansion
Fader — Jordan Darville

OPIATS has created a VR experience that’s a tour of Drake’s massive mansion, as both an attempt to show the massive scale of Drake’s new home, and to develop “a test-bed” for the studio to try our “new gameplay elements and mechanics.”

Retailers Use Augmented Reality, High Tech To Lure Shoppers
NBC News — Chiara Sottile + Jo Ling Kent

According to shopping analytics firm Shoppertrak, foot traffic at retail stores was down 57 percent between 2010 and 2015. Retailers are hoping tech like AR can help get improve shopping experiences and get people in stores. Shoppers at Reformation select sizes and colors on screens rather than on racks, and over the past year retailers like IKEA (Their Catalog App uses augmented reality to allow customers to virtually place and view 200 different IKEA products in their homes) and Sephora (Partnering with FaceCake for an AR makeover app) have embraced emerging tech to save retail.

Expedia wants you to virtually step into your hotel room before you book
Mashable — Yvette Tan

Expedia’s innovation lab seeks to use technology to make travel booking more enjoyable. This includes giving users virtual reality depictions of their listings, before a final purchase decision is made.

Gorillaz Launch New Augmented Reality App, Announce Global Album Listening Party
Pitchfork — Noah Yoo

Gorillaz have released a new mobile app that uses augmented reality technology to superimpose elements from their recent music videos into the user’s surroundings via the smartphone camera. The band have also announced a global listening party for their next album, Humanz, which is out April 28. “Fans will be invited – via the app – to the Humanz House Party, an exclusive worldwide listening event which will allow fans to hear the new album in full for the first time.The Humanz House Party will be the largest ever geo-specific listening experience bringing people together across 500 locations.”

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“Spirit House”  is spooky enough in two dimensions, thank you very much


John Legend is singing a new tune: virtual reality
The Los Angeles Times — Steven Zeitchik

Startup Baobab Studios is announcing a new animated VR series, “Rainbow Crow,” featuring John Legend. There is no plan at the moment to charge for “Rainbow Crow”; “We don’t believe the market is big enough to monetize”. “We want to build a pipeline for content that will make eventually make that possible.”

Free Gear VR With Samsung Galaxy S8 Could Add Millions Of New VR Owners
Upload VR — Ian Hamilton

Samsung continues last year’s promotion of giving away VR headsets with purchase of their latest Galaxy phone in a clear attempt to build market share and user familiarity with the system.

Unity Is Expanding To Deliver VR And AR Beyond Gaming
Upload VR — Jamie Feltham

Unity is working to see at how its platform could be applied in automotive, manufacturing, real estate and education industries.“People in automobile and manufacturing have raised a demand for interactive and immersive platforms for their customers and internal work,” said Quentin Staes-Polet, Director South Asia, Australia and New Zealand at Unity. “This high fidelity visualization cannot be achieved with 3D design tools. Therefore, we are consorting with IT integration firms that are building up augmented and virtual reality practices.”

AT&T Touts Major Acquisition News
Mobile Marketing Watch — Michael Essany

AT&T has confirmed plans to acquire Straight Path Communications Inc. in a deal worth a reported $1.6 billion. The deal “will support AT&T’s leadership in 5G, which will accelerate the delivery of new experiences for consumers and businesses like virtual and augmented reality, telemedicine, autonomous cars, smart cities and more,” AT&T said in a statement quoted by MarketWatch.

VR/AR Data Visualization and Analytics Pioneer, Virtualitics, Raises $4.4 Million Series A

Virtualitics combines VR/AR data visualization, artificial intelligence, natural language and machine learning to identify multidimensional relationships and actionable knowledge hidden in complex datasets. Today the startup announced it has raised $4.4 million in a Series A funding round led by The Venture Reality Fund (The VR Fund).

Virtual Reality Storytellers Are Ready To Get Into Your Headset
Forbes — Michael Humphrey

VR needs more than just novelty to achieve widespread popularity, it needs to be accessible and it needs to deliver experiences you can’t get anywhere else.

Long Beach BMW offering virtual rides, courtesy Oculus technology

Long Beach BMW dealership is utilizing VR headsets and stationary bikes to simulate test driving their motorcycle offerings. The setup is also being used by students in a local motorcycle rider safety program.

Serving 360, VR Ads Programmatically
MediaPost — Philip Rosenstein

VR and 360 video advertising platform, OmniVirt, worked with ABC to programmatically serve a 360 video experience for the its new drama series “Time After Time.” The 360 video ad units developed by OmniVirt were served programmatically through Google’s DoubleClick Bid Manager. The enhanced ad units can be served to typical ad placements, like banner and pre-roll spots, as well as on mobile browsers. Many experts believe 2017 will be the year when we experience increased scale for 360 and VR ads in the form of many additional eyeballs. In two to three years, “we anticipate a full-on adoption of VR with headsets.” Separately, OmniVert and SpotX announced a partnership last week powering 360 virtual reality advertising for brands. The partnership aims to bring OmniVirt’s 360 VR technology across all media owners on SpotX’s platform, giving marketers the ability to distribute their 360 VR content at scale.

Tenjin Brings User Analytic Reports To Daydream
Upload VR — Jamie Feltham

Tenjin’s is bringing its mobile marketing analytics tools over to Google’s VR platform, “Daydream”. This will allow developers to track user behavior inside Daydream apps, generating statistics on things like ad visibility and engagement within the app.

8 Eye-Catching Digital Marketing Stats From This Week
Adweek — Christopher Heine

It’s projected that the average person spends 5 years of their lifetime on social media. Typical Snapchat ads struggle with AVR and conversions, but shine for app install rates. Survey finds 89% of B2C marketers find influencer advertising valuable.

Just How Big Is The Virtual Reality Market And Where Is It Going Next?
Forbes — Paul Armstrong

100 million VR units sold last year (admittedly 88mm of which were Google cardboard… which is more a cheap 360 degree video facilitator than true VR hardware). VR continues to be a growth industry however, with developing real use cases in the medicine, education and enterprise. Gaming and entertainment remain huge opportunities, but the tech still seems clunky and quite far for its primetime moment. 

Judge to Decide Whether Pokémon Go Suit Can Proceed
MSN — Giovanni Bruno

A federal judge is set to decide whether a case can move forward alleging Nintendo’s hit augmented reality game “Pokémon Go” of violating trespassing and negligence laws. This ruling could carry wider implications for game and software creators which send users to specific locations.

Drive Through A Battle Zone In This Nissan Star Wars VR Experience
VRScout — Kyle Melnick

To help celebrate the blu-ray release of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Nissan has teamed up with Lucasfilm Ltd., Skywalker Sound and Industrial Light & Magic to release a ridiculously intense 360-degree VR experience centered around the epic intergalactic battle.

On the Vive’s First Birthday, the VR Conversation is Getting Calmer
The Verge — Adi Robertson

One year ago today, HTC released the Vive virtual reality headset, marking a turning point for virtual reality. The Vive wasn’t the first commercial VR headset, or even the first commercial high-end headset. But besides the simple Google Cardboard, it was the first major headset released without help from Oculus, proving VR didn’t belong to any one company. It was also the first one to come with sophisticated motion controls, ushering in a completely new class of experiences. In some ways, the Vive’s launch was the moment that VR began feeling like a real industry, rather than a Facebook-backed passion project. A year later, that optimism has turned into something more mature, but less visible.

Cody Brown Has a Broad Vision for Virtual Reality
New York Times — Molly Oswaks

Cody Brown started IRL to exploit what he calls virtual reality’s untapped social potential. “An overwhelming number of people have not discovered room-scale V.R., or high-end V.R., and they will not believe the hype until you put it on their face,” he said. To that end, he has been hosting parties in Brooklyn and Manhattan for friends and colleages. While parties help spread the word, he also wants to create a V.R. incubation community. He is also consulting with a Hollywood studio for a simultaneous V.R. experience tied to a major motion picture.

VR 360-Degree Video and Big Data Are Changing the Pay TV Landscape, Enabling More Immersive Experiences
CED Magazine — Alain Nochimowski

BI Intelligence estimates that shipments of virtual reality (VR) headsets increased by about 1047% year-over-year to 8.2 million in 2016, enabling the virtual reality space to exceed $1 billion in revenue for the first time, according to research by Deloitte. Another factor that may contribute to the growth of VR and 360-degree video this year is the recent formation of the VR Industry Forum (VRIF), a nonprofit industry group that is dedicated to pushing widespread adoption of virtual reality.

Sony Goes Commercial After Virtual-Reality Check on PlayStation VR
Wall Street Journal — Takashi Mochizuki

Sony plans to expand marketing of its PlayStation VR virtual-reality headset to commercial customers including entertainment facilities in Japan, such as theme parks and arcades. The technology took hold among consumers at a slower-than-expected pace, so the Japanese arm of PlayStation has set up a “location-based entertainment” unit.

UK’s First VR Escape Room Set to Open April 22
VR and Fun — Alexandra Sedor

On April 22, Tick Tock Unlock, a successful brick and mortar escape room company, will open its first “Hyper Reality Experience” escape room in the UK. This experience will be unique because it offers the social/group aspect, one of the main components to real-life escape rooms, that home systems lack.


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.