ETC Launches First of Two Metaverse Experience Challenges

University of Southern California students were invited to participate in the first of two scheduled Metaverse Experience Challenges, hosted by ETC@USC. Making use of current and emerging tools, students were tasked with developing original ideas for compelling metaverse experiences. Six teams of randomly-grouped students started work at 1:00 pm on Friday, October 1 and presented their ideas to judges from Epic Games, Universal Pictures and Disney Research at 3:00 pm on Saturday, October 2. Each member of the winning teams — Meetaverse and Virtual Vinyl — received a Nintendo Switch “Fortnite” Edition, courtesy of Epic Games. Continue reading ETC Launches First of Two Metaverse Experience Challenges

Facebook Steps into Workplace VR with Horizon Workrooms

During the COVID-19 pandemic, IDC reported that Facebook sold more Oculus Quest 2 VR headsets than before. Now Facebook offers Quest 2 owners Horizon Workrooms, a free VR service that offers virtual meeting rooms. Users can participate with a customized cartoon avatar and the room offers virtual white boards for drawing and writing, a step towards what chief executive Mark Zuckerberg dubs the “mixed-reality future” for its 3.5 billion users. Zuckerberg introduced Workrooms in VR with employees and reporters in attendance. Continue reading Facebook Steps into Workplace VR with Horizon Workrooms

Facebook Posts Strong Earnings, Plans Its Metaverse Future

In Q2 2021, social giant Facebook’s profit doubled from a year earlier to $10.39 billion and revenue rose 56 percent to $29.08 billion, both numbers beating Wall Street expectations. Shares fell 3+ percent in after-hours trading, however, when Facebook predicted that revenue growth will slow for the rest of the year. Through the end of Q2, its stock has grown 22 percent. The company also said that Apple’s privacy changes in the new iOS will have a stronger impact in the current quarter as more users update their iOS devices. Meanwhile, Facebook continues to eye its metaverse future. Continue reading Facebook Posts Strong Earnings, Plans Its Metaverse Future

Game Platform Roblox Goes Public, Now Valued at $45 Billion

Gaming platform Roblox went public on Wednesday and saw its shares rise from a reference price of $45 to $69.50, valuing the company at $45 billion. A year ago, the company was valued at $4 billion. The NPD Group reported that a record-breaking $56.9 billion was spent on gaming in the U.S. in 2020, up 27 percent from 2019. Sony enjoyed a 62 percent rise in profit, and Microsoft recorded a first-ever $5 billion in quarterly gaming revenue. In a hot gaming market, Roblox delayed its listing to more accurately price its shares. Continue reading Game Platform Roblox Goes Public, Now Valued at $45 Billion

Microsoft Mesh Aims to Bring VR/AR Devices, Users Together

Microsoft Mesh is a new mixed-reality platform powered by Azure that enables people in different locations to meet and collaborate as digital representations of themselves in holographic experiences across a variety of devices. To demonstrate the shared experience, Microsoft technical fellow Alex Kipman appeared at the company’s Ignite digital conference this week via holoportation, and was joined by Cirque du Soleil co-founder Guy Laliberté, filmmaker James Cameron and Niantic CEO John Hanke to discuss related initiatives. Microsoft announced two apps built on the platform — a preview version for HoloLens 2 and a new Mesh-enabled version of AltspaceVR. Continue reading Microsoft Mesh Aims to Bring VR/AR Devices, Users Together

Roblox Counting on Older Consumers to Join App, Buy Stock

Roblox, valued last month at $29.5 billion, told prospective investors it is trying to lure older users onto its gaming, concerts and educational platform. Chief executive David Baszucki said the company is counting on older adults not just to join the platform but to buy its stock when it goes public next month. The Apple and Google application has been a top earner during the pandemic, with 2020 revenue jumping 82 percent to $923.9 million and number of hours spent on the platform more than doubling to 30.6 billion. Continue reading Roblox Counting on Older Consumers to Join App, Buy Stock

Sundance Film Festival Goes Virtual with Its New VR Platform

The Sundance Film Festival, a pioneer in showcasing virtual reality content with its New Frontier exhibition, partnered with Active Theory to build a VR platform that attendees can access with or without a headset. Sundance New Frontier curator Shari Frilot noted that building a virtual solution for New Frontier “solved so many problems we were having and struggling with on the ground.” Anyone will be able to access the platform by logging onto the website via a Sundance festival pass, including the $25 Explorer Pass. Continue reading Sundance Film Festival Goes Virtual with Its New VR Platform

Spatial Intros Augmented Reality Platform for Mobile Devices

With the COVID-19 pandemic, use of Zoom and other platforms enabling remote collaboration has skyrocketed. Now, Spatial Systems, a holographic platform for augmented reality and virtual reality, debuted an AR app for iOS and Android that can run on nearly any current generation mobile device. Pricey AR and VR headsets have remained out of reach for many, but there are billions of smartphones enabled for augmented reality on the market. Spatial relied on ARKit and ARCore for iOS and Android to achieve its AR and VR capabilities. Continue reading Spatial Intros Augmented Reality Platform for Mobile Devices

Nvidia Cuts Video-Conferencing Bandwidth by Factor of Ten

Last month Nvidia launched Maxine, a software development kit containing technology the company claims will cut the bandwidth requirements of video-conferencing software by a factor of ten. A neural network creates a compressed version of a person’s face which, when sent across the network, is decompressed by a second neural network. The software can also make helpful corrections to the image, such as rotating a face to look straight forward or replacing it with a digital avatar. Nvidia is now waiting for software developers to productize the technology. Continue reading Nvidia Cuts Video-Conferencing Bandwidth by Factor of Ten

Spatial VR/AR Meeting Platform Is Now Free and Open to All

Spatial lets its enterprise customers use VR or mixed reality headsets to meet in virtual spaces. The company now plans to launch support for desktop web browsers, Android and iOS — open to all and free. That support means virtual meetings can include participants who do not have a headset. According to Spatial co-founder and chief executive Anand Agarawala, “in light of COVID, we’ve actually had an intense amount of demand — about a 1,000 percent increase.” He added that, unlike Zoom, “something like VR gives you that level of presence and personification.” Continue reading Spatial VR/AR Meeting Platform Is Now Free and Open to All

Manticore Games Launches Alpha Test for Development Tools

In 2016, Frederic Descamps and Jordan Maynard formed Manticore Games to build real-time experiences, adding a tool to quickly test out ideas and insert them into a game and enabling gamers to easily customize the experience with new items. Now they’ve turned those intuitive tools into a service, dubbed Core, currently in closed alpha testing. An open alpha test is expected “in the near future.” As a game creation tool and eventual marketplace, Core is intended to democratize game development. Continue reading Manticore Games Launches Alpha Test for Development Tools

Spotify Tests a Beta Version of Music App Aimed at Children

Spotify Technology has just unveiled an app specifically designed for children between the ages of 3 and 12. Spotify Kids, which is available for free to Spotify Premium Family members, is being tested in the U.K., Sweden, Denmark, Australia and New Zealand. The most notable change is visual: Spotify Kids offers kids the animated creature of their choice to act as an avatar in an environment full of colors and doodles. There are two Spotify Kids versions, one for younger children and another for older ones. Continue reading Spotify Tests a Beta Version of Music App Aimed at Children

Snap’s Bitmoji TV Features Users’ Avatars in Short Videos

In Snapchat’s animated series Bitmoji TV, which launches February 1, the user’s avatar stars — and the last person he Snapchatted co-stars — in various TV scenarios, including sitcoms, soap operas and reality competitions. This first season will debut 10 three-to-four-minute episodes, unveiled on Saturday mornings. As Bitmoji founder/chief executive Ba Blackstock puts it, “we’re bringing back Saturday morning cartoons.” The series takes off from Bitmoji Stories, which stars the user’s avatar in funny situations. Continue reading Snap’s Bitmoji TV Features Users’ Avatars in Short Videos

Docomo to Unveil 8K VR Live for Concerts, Events in March

In March, Japanese wireless company NTT Docomo will debut an 8K VR streaming service that relies on next generation 5G technology for its bandwidth and low latency capabilities. The 8KVR Live service will become part of Docomo’s Shinkansen Live Connect; the name refers to the country’s bullet trains. The new service will enable pay-per-view access to live venues such as concerts. Users with VR headsets and 5G smartphones will be able to watch the live event from a viewing angle of their choosing. Continue reading Docomo to Unveil 8K VR Live for Concerts, Events in March

CES: Expectations for the Immersive Experience Landscape

When CES 2020 opens on January 7th in Las Vegas, I expect experiences — of which ‘entertainment’ is one option — will be center stage. We will be watching for repositioning of products and services as experiences, as well as for new ideas for experiences themselves. To state the obvious, for mixed reality and immersive experiences to work well, the user experience (UX) should be intuitive and match user expectations. Companies are working to achieve this by dealing in their own individual ways with the convergence of multisensory, multiplatform, immersive media technology and language (VR, AR, MR, XR); AI; 5G; IoT; robotics and autonomous things; and blockchain. Gartner describes this as a shift from technology-literate people to people-literate technology. Continue reading CES: Expectations for the Immersive Experience Landscape