Facebook Tests Trans-Atlantic Data Transmission, Sets Record

Facebook engineers tested the transmission of information across a trans-Atlantic-Internet cable, claiming they set a record by pushing two-and-a-half-times more data than current methods. The test was based on hardware designed by the Nokia-owned R&D facility Bell Labs, and relied on optical fiber Facebook owns inside the America Europe Connect (AEC) undersea cable that spans from New York to Ireland. Facebook’s test is part of a trend whereby Internet companies, rather than infrastructure firms, are driving the evolution of the Internet. Continue reading Facebook Tests Trans-Atlantic Data Transmission, Sets Record

Apple Makes Major Play in Augmented Reality, First for iPhone

Apple chief executive Tim Cook is bullish on augmented reality, believing that the nascent sector can be as game changing as smartphones were ten years ago. Sources say that Apple is following through by building a team of hardware and software experts, with the idea of dominating augmented reality as it comes to the fore. The same sources report that Apple’s AR team, run by former Dolby Laboratories executive Mike Rockwell, includes engineers that worked on Oculus and HoloLens headsets as well as top Hollywood VFX experts. Continue reading Apple Makes Major Play in Augmented Reality, First for iPhone

The Rise of Specialized Computing and New Era of Chip Design

Moore’s Law, which states that the number of transistors in a chip doubles approximately every two years, is sputtering to an end. As a result, an increasing number of companies are relying on specialized computing, which transforms software tasks into silicon chips rather than relying on CPUs. This key technology is behind two recent developments: Intel’s acquisition of Israeli startup Mobileye, which produces chips and software for autonomous vehicles, and Nvidia’s latest iteration of a system to speed up machine learning. Continue reading The Rise of Specialized Computing and New Era of Chip Design

Dolby Uses Biosensors to Research Media’s Impact on Viewers

Dolby Laboratories, known for its proprietary high-dynamic range technology, is conducting research on how media impacts human beings. The biophysical lab, run by chief scientist Poppy Crum, was established in 2015, growing out of research begun in 2012 to better understand human reactions to audio and video. In addition to aiming thermal cameras at them, the subjects wear a 64-channel EEG cap measuring electrical activity in the brain, heart rate and galvanic skin response trackers and a pulse oximeter. Continue reading Dolby Uses Biosensors to Research Media’s Impact on Viewers

NBA Embraces Virtual Reality, Drones and New Technologies

The NBA used last month’s All-Star game in New Orleans to showcase technology initiatives designed to create new fan experiences. Orlando Magic player Aaron Gordon, the NBA Slam Dunk Contest defending champion, received a pass from an Intel-powered drone to set up his tech-assisted dunk. NextVR, the company with exclusive VR live-streaming rights for NBA games, experimented with new camera angles. The NBA also hosted its 18th annual Technology Summit before All-Star Weekend, which included companies such as Instagram, Snap, Twitter and YouTube. Continue reading NBA Embraces Virtual Reality, Drones and New Technologies

South by Southwest Festival Highlights Latest VR Productions

Virtual reality productions are making a splash at SXSW in Austin, Texas. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the festival is featuring shooter game “Archangel,” Skydance Interactive’s first original; a trailer for the interactive, sci-fi experience “Trinity” directed by Patrick Boivin, the first VR series from UNLTD; and alternative reality project “Wonder Buffalo,” made possible by ETC’s “2016 Innovative Technology Award granted to filmmaker Christine Berg and writing partner Simon Shterenberg.” THR also notes that Skydance Interactive is “developing ‘Life VR’ in conjunction with Skydance’s sci-fi thriller ‘Life,’ which is opening March 24 through Columbia Pictures” and “Sony Pictures VR released its first virtual reality project, ‘Passengers VR,’ on Tuesday, timed with the digital and Blu-ray release of the motion picture.” Continue reading South by Southwest Festival Highlights Latest VR Productions

Brands Experiment with 360-Degree Video Tech on Snapchat

After making a splash on Facebook and YouTube, 360-degree videos have made their way to Snapchat. Major brands such as Chick-fil-A, Netflix and Universal Pictures have been experimenting with virtual experiences on the social platform. Universal took users on a tour of a masquerade ball from “Fifty Shades Darker,” while Netflix rolled out a 360-degree trailer for “Ultimate Beastmaster.” Michael Rucker, co-founder and COO of VR firm OmniVirt, notes that clients are seeing two to three times higher swipe-up rates when using the format. Engagement is also on an upswing, with the average user spending more than a minute with these experiences. Continue reading Brands Experiment with 360-Degree Video Tech on Snapchat

Facebook Rolls Out VR App, Vimeo Adds 360 Video Support

Facebook launched its first dedicated virtual reality app, Facebook 360, initially available only for the Samsung Gear VR mobile headset. The new app, for download via the Oculus Store, will serve as a central hub for the more than one million 360 videos and 25 million 360 photos already posted to the site. Meanwhile, Vimeo has joined competitors Facebook and YouTube in introducing support for 360-degree video content. The site now features a channel of curated 360 videos in addition to a series of tutorials designed to assist video creators with producing immersive content. Continue reading Facebook Rolls Out VR App, Vimeo Adds 360 Video Support

Facebook Introduces Voice Recognition Tech to VR Headsets

Facebook announced the beta release of a new voice search feature for the company’s Oculus Rift and Samsung’s Gear VR. “This feature lets you perform voice searches from Oculus Home to intuitively navigate games, apps, and experiences,” explains the Oculus team, noting future plans to “add even more functionality like seeing if a friend is online or contextual commands to invite people to a play a game with you.” While VentureBeat points out the feature “won’t let you look at your friends, your notifications, your profile, your avatar, app updates that you haven’t installed, or individual settings,” the review is largely positive and envisions future applications: “The speech technology might well end up becoming a part of Facebook’s more popular services, like WhatsApp, Messenger, Instagram, and even good old Facebook itself.” Continue reading Facebook Introduces Voice Recognition Tech to VR Headsets

Eye-Catching Products Displayed at Mobile World Congress

Consumer electronics companies from all over the world debut their newest gadgets at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, and this year some of the most notable new devices were not phones. The interactive HoloCube by Merge, for example, is an AR system that displays games and educational content on a toy cube. Roborace built a self-driving car that can reach speeds of 200 mph. Additional gadgets that made a splash this year include a new 12-inch Samsung tablet, the 5x Dual Camera Zoom prototype from Oppo, and Giroptic’s 360-degree, live-streaming camera. Continue reading Eye-Catching Products Displayed at Mobile World Congress

Game Developers Conference: What’s Next in VR Storytelling

VR leaders gathered for day two of the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco last week. Many of the talks addressed techniques for dealing with a medium in which you present a story and a world to the ‘visitor,’ but you have limited control over how the visitor experiences it. The “Job Simulator” team created microstories bounded by story pinchpoints within a macrostory. The HBO “Westworld” VR and Baobab Studios teams rewarded visitors for taking actions that advance the story, but embedded triggers that advance the story when the visitor misses the cues. The “Trials on Tatooine” team learned that understanding and accommodating visitors with varying physical abilities can not only improve user experience design, but inform story development. Continue reading Game Developers Conference: What’s Next in VR Storytelling

Mixed Reality Technology Is Coming to Xbox Game Consoles

Microsoft plans to integrate its Windows Mixed Reality technology into the Xbox One and the next iteration of the Xbox (currently codenamed “Project Scorpio”), coming out next year. Windows Mixed Reality tech powers Microsoft’s HoloLens AR headset, as well as AR and VR headsets from other manufacturers. Acer is making a Windows Mixed Reality headset that can support both VR and AR experiences. Microsoft will compete with Sony’s Playstation VR and others in the VR gaming space. Continue reading Mixed Reality Technology Is Coming to Xbox Game Consoles

Nintendo Releases Switch, Anticipated Hybrid Game Console

Nintendo just released Switch, a new console that combines mobile and home gaming. A tablet with wireless controllers that can be used anywhere, the Switch is aimed at enabling inventive software that will help distinguish it from its rivals. Unlike past platforms, the Switch was created without the direct participation of Super Mario and Wii veterans Shigeru Miyamoto, Genyo Takeda and their team. Shinya Takahashi, who oversaw its development, says the Switch comes loaded with capabilities allowing a variety of content. Continue reading Nintendo Releases Switch, Anticipated Hybrid Game Console

Google’s Daydream, Cardboard Continue to Gain Momentum

Google has now shipped 10 million Cardboard VR sets. That’s double the number Google had shipped from the device’s launch in 2014 to July of last year. Meanwhile, the company is also pushing its next generation of VR devices like the Daydream View headset. The variety of phones and content for the platform are continuing to expand, and current users are already watching an average of 40 minutes per week. Google is working with content partners such as Hulu, Netflix and HBO. Continue reading Google’s Daydream, Cardboard Continue to Gain Momentum

Facebook Drops Price of its Rift VR Headset to Spur Adoption

In an effort to jumpstart sales, Facebook-owned Oculus VR is slashing $100 off the price of its Rift virtual reality headset and its Touch motion controllers. The Rift headset will be lowered to $499, while the Touch drops to $99. Consumers will still need a computer with enough power to support the Rift. When the headset launched last spring, consumers were surprised by the $599 price tag. According to Jason Rubin, Oculus VR head of content, recent surveys indicate that cost has been the primary obstacle to sales. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg believes VR will take at least 10 years to become our next computing platform. Continue reading Facebook Drops Price of its Rift VR Headset to Spur Adoption

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