SoftBank, Saudi Arabia Announce World’s Largest Tech Fund

Over the weekend, during President Trump’s visit to Saudi Arabia, Japan’s SoftBank Group and Saudi Arabia’s sovereign-wealth Public Investment Fund (PIF) announced the launch of a new tech fund that has so far secured $93 billion of capital. The “SoftBank Vision Fund is targeting a total of $100 billion within six months,” reports The Wall Street Journal, and plans to “steer capital to cutting-edge technologies in U.S. startups and other global firms.” SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son already promised to invest $50 billion of the new fund in American startups. Continue reading SoftBank, Saudi Arabia Announce World’s Largest Tech Fund

Google Makes Bid to Expand Revenue Sources Beyond Search

The focus for Google at its annual I/O developer conference was artificial intelligence. Google Assistant will now be available for the Apple iPhone, a way to introduce millions more people to Google’s AI capabilities. Google also revealed more about its software development kit for Google Assistant, saying it will be better integrated into TVs, let the user type requests and questions, and add skills such as payments and receipts. Third party developers plan to integrate Assistant into numerous products. Continue reading Google Makes Bid to Expand Revenue Sources Beyond Search

Microsoft Introduces Windows 10 Update, Mixed Reality Tools

Microsoft’s Windows 10 operating system update will allow apps to work across devices, including those running rival operating systems from Apple and Alphabet. For example, in a feature called “Pick Up Where You Left Off,” a user can finish editing a document on an iPhone that she started on a Windows PC; both devices must have Cortana to work. The company also introduced Windows Mixed Reality motion controller, which enables gaming in virtual worlds and tracks movement via sensors in the device and the paired headset. Continue reading Microsoft Introduces Windows 10 Update, Mixed Reality Tools

Nvidia’s Project Holodeck: Photoreal Graphics in Shared VR

At Nvidia’s GPU Technology Conference, the company’s chief executive Jen-Hsun Haung introduced Project Holodeck, which aims to provide an experimental multi-user virtual environment with real-time photorealistic graphics and real-world physics. The new technology, which uses Epic’s Unreal Engine 4 and Nvidia’s GameWorks, VRWorks and DesignWorks, is targeted at design engineers and their collaborators. Nvidia’s Project Holodeck demo involved Koenigsegg Automotive, a Swedish company that makes exotic sports cars. Continue reading Nvidia’s Project Holodeck: Photoreal Graphics in Shared VR

Video Electronics Standards Association Set to Tackle AR/VR

The Video Electronics Standards Association (VESA) just formed a Special Interest Group (SIG) to examine standardization for augmented reality and virtual reality. With the rise of AR/VR-enabled eyeglasses and head-mounted displays for gaming and movies, developers are finding that the lack of standards is negatively impacting their ability to make products interoperable. According to VESA, the lack of standards also increases the complexity and cost of development, ownership and replacement and creates confusion for end users. Continue reading Video Electronics Standards Association Set to Tackle AR/VR

Facebook Likely to Launch Its TV-Like Programs in Mid-June

Facebook plans to debut two-dozen TV-like programs in mid-June. A few shows will be big-budget longer shows that cleave most closely to TV content; the rest will be lower-budget shows of five to 10 minutes that will refresh every 24 hours. According to sources, the social media company has already greenlit several shows. With scripted, high-quality programs, Facebook hopes to garner younger viewers. The move also puts it in competition with Amazon, YouTube and Snap among other platforms hoping to attract advertising dollars. Continue reading Facebook Likely to Launch Its TV-Like Programs in Mid-June

Facebook to Shutter its Oculus Story Studio VR Content Unit

Facebook announced it is closing Oculus Story Studio and canceling all current projects, reports Variety. The award-winning studio, responsible for notable VR shorts including “Lost,” “Henry” and “Dear Angelica,” opened in early 2015. “We’ve been looking at the best way to allocate our resources to create an impact on the ecosystem,” wrote Jason Rubin, Oculus VP of content. “After careful consideration, we’ve decided to shift our focus away from internal content creation to support more external production. As part of that shift, we’ll be winding down Story Studio.” Facebook plans to continue investing in experiential VR content from outside artists and developers. Continue reading Facebook to Shutter its Oculus Story Studio VR Content Unit

Unity CEO Reframes XR Discussion, Re-Energizes the Flock

Unity Technologies CEO John Riccitiello drew a fresh picture of the XR industry in his keynote address at the Vision VR/AR Summit 2017 in Hollywood this week (extended reality — or XR — is an umbrella term that includes VR, AR and MR). Riccitiello admonished analysts for their overly exuberant prognostications and reactionary pessimism about the VR market. He projected that XR adoption and value calculations will exceed expectations in 2023 if three conditions are met: a price point below $1,000 for all the necessary hardware; truly mobile technology; and content that can be monetized across 100,000,000 devices, at minimum. Continue reading Unity CEO Reframes XR Discussion, Re-Energizes the Flock

Students Discuss Their Media Habits at ETC Member Meeting

The ETC@USC has produced a 10-minute highlights reel edited from a one-hour discussion with a panel of eight USC students that took place at the ETC’s April 6th All Members Meeting. The panel of undergraduates included students studying business, the arts, journalism and technology. The students discussed what motivates them to go to a movie theater, the role of big screen TVs in their lives, what they think of VR and AR, what they would buy if they were given $3,000 to spend on entertainment, and a number of other interesting topics. Visit the ETC website or YouTube channel to access the video.

Continue reading Students Discuss Their Media Habits at ETC Member Meeting

NAB 2017: NextGen TV Will Bring Innovation, New Revenues

An NAB panel on upcoming changes in Digital TV, moderated by NAB vice president of spectrum policy Alison Neplokh, focused on the challenges and promises of deploying ATSC 3.0., or as an increasing number of industry experts are dubbing it, NextGen TV. Neplokh noted that FCC chair Ajit Pai stated the rules will be in place by the end of 2017, enabling broadcasters to adopt it quickly. South Korea is also going online with ATSC 3.0 next month, allowing U.S. broadcasters to learn from its experiences. Continue reading NAB 2017: NextGen TV Will Bring Innovation, New Revenues

NAB 2017: Assimilate, Z CAM Tackle VR Production Workflow

At NAB 2017, China-based Z CAM, which offers an interchangeable lens mount 4K VR camera, inked a partnership with Assimilate, which offers an interactive, creative platform. The Z CAM S1 VR camera is a four-sensor system with high-speed Ethernet port, providing 4K at 60fps or 6K at 30fps (post-stitching output) and Z CAM’s WonderStitch. That is paired with Assimilate’s real-time Scratch VR Z bundle, which includes the features of Scratch and Scratch Web plus 360-degree tools and features, stitching and ambisonic audio. Continue reading NAB 2017: Assimilate, Z CAM Tackle VR Production Workflow

NAB 2017: ETC Panel Tells the Producer’s Perspective on VR

The final panel at ETC’s conference on VR/AR convened producers who have worked on virtual reality projects. Producers Guild of America vice president, new media council John Canning moderated the discussion with producers from ETC@USC, StoryTech Immersive, Digital-Reign and The Virtual Reality Company. StoryTech Immersive president/chief storyteller Brian Seth Hurst spoke about his experiences creating “My Brother’s Keeper,” a 360 spin-off of PBS’s “Mercy Street.” “We were able to get close and intimate with our actors,” he said. Continue reading NAB 2017: ETC Panel Tells the Producer’s Perspective on VR

NAB 2017: Oculus Details Journey to VR Film ‘Dear Angelica’

Oculus Story Studio founder/technical director Max Planck was invited to the ETC conference on AR/VR at NAB to discuss his company’s creation of “Dear Angelica,” a 13-minute dreamlike VR tale of how we remember our loved ones. The film, which played to great acclaim at the last Sundance Film Festival, is notable for the fact that it was entirely hand-painted inside VR space, by illustrator/art director Wesley Allsbrook, and written and directed by Saschka Unseld. Planck described how the inspiration for the film came out of graphic novels. Continue reading NAB 2017: Oculus Details Journey to VR Film ‘Dear Angelica’

NAB 2017: A Look at VR Short ‘Pearl’ and Its Ambisonic Audio

Oscar-nominated “Pearl,” the short VR film directed by Passion Pictures’ Patrick Osborne, was the focus of a discussion about ambisonic audio during this week’s ETC conference on VR/AR in Las Vegas. Google Spotlight Stories creative director, audio and music Scot Stafford and Dramatic Audio Post sound designer/mixer Jamey Scott described their work on the film as well as their path to working on 360-degree and VR movies. Stafford pointed to his work at a story incubator at Motorola, run by Google, to make content for the mobile platform. Continue reading NAB 2017: A Look at VR Short ‘Pearl’ and Its Ambisonic Audio

NAB 2017: Google Unveils the New $17K Yi Halo VR Camera

At NAB this week, Google introduced its latest VR camera, the Yi Halo, one year after partnering with Xiaomi-backed, Chinese action cam maker Yi Technology. The $17,000 spherical device, which uses Google’s cloud-based stitching system Jump for producing stereoscopic 360-degree videos, will be available this summer. The Yi Halo combines 16 4K action cams with an extra camera facing upwards. While Google unveiled Odyssey two years ago, featuring 16 GoPros, the rig has largely served as a test case. The Yi Halo, however, is commercially designed with feature improvements and multiple extras. Continue reading NAB 2017: Google Unveils the New $17K Yi Halo VR Camera

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