ByteDance Buys Startup Pico, Virtual Reality Headset Maker

TikTok parent company ByteDance has acquired startup Pico, which, according to IDC, was the third largest virtual reality headset manufacturer worldwide in Q1 2021, with shipments growing 44.7. percent year-over-year. The purchase marks ByteDance’s first step into virtual reality and the company said that Pico’s “comprehensive suite of software and hardware technologies, as well as the talent and deep expertise of the team, will support both our entry to the VR space and long-term investment in this emerging field.” Continue reading ByteDance Buys Startup Pico, Virtual Reality Headset Maker

HTC Vive Pro 2: 5K 120Hz VR for Enterprise, Serious Gamers

The recently launched HTC Vive Pro 2 VR headset offers a sharp 5K 120Hz desktop virtual reality experience. Priced at $1,399 for the entire package — and $799 for the headset alone (for those who invested previously in the Vive Pro or Valve Index) — the Vive Pro 2 retains the same design as the 2018 model and relies on older controllers but offers a wide range of attractive features for gamers. The 2,448 x 2,448 pixels per eye is a dramatic improvement over the previous Pro’s 1,440 x 1,600 pixels, which also offered a slower 90Hz refresh rate. Its LCDs also have RGB sub-pixels for increased sharpness. Continue reading HTC Vive Pro 2: 5K 120Hz VR for Enterprise, Serious Gamers

New Netflix Hire Signals the Service’s Push into Video Games

As part of its plan to expand into gaming, video streamer Netflix has hired former Electronic Arts and Facebook executive Mike Verdu as its vice president of game development. At Facebook, Verdu worked with developers to bring virtual reality games and other content to Oculus headsets. At Netflix, Verdu will report to chief operating officer Greg Peters and is mandated with bringing video games to the Netflix platform within the next year. Sources said that Netflix does not plan on charging subscribers extra for gaming content. Continue reading New Netflix Hire Signals the Service’s Push into Video Games

Cinematic and Narrative Virtual Reality Tech Moving Forward

At the Cannes Film Festival’s XR program, VeeR co-founder Jingshu Chen delivered a keynote on monetization of virtual reality, in which she referred to Gartner’s well-known Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies. She pointed out that Facebook’s 2014 acquisition of Oculus sparked the “peak of inflated expectations,” followed by a downhill path to the “trough of disillusionment” beginning in 2017, when headset sales slumped and some VR companies pulled back. Now, she said, we could be on the upward “slope of enlightenment.” Continue reading Cinematic and Narrative Virtual Reality Tech Moving Forward

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

Pandemic Is Accelerating the Adoption of Augmented Reality

The COVID-19 pandemic is driving increased demand for augmented reality at some companies, including Mercedes-Benz and L’Oréal (whose brands include Lancôme, Kiehl’s and Maybelline New York), in the last year. L’Oréal chief digital officer Lubomira Rochet stated that, “we saw the appetite, it grew and it’s our responsibility now to continue to innovate.” That company has debuted a number of AR projects for employees and customers in the last few months. One uses ModiFace AR to connect consumers with beauty advisers. Continue reading Pandemic Is Accelerating the Adoption of Augmented Reality

Tech Firms Consider Remote Work Options After Coronavirus

Apple, Facebook, Microsoft and Twitter were among the first U.S. companies to send their employees home as the coronavirus spread. Now, as they reopen their campuses, they are also allowing some of employees to continue to work from home. If that policy becomes widespread, it will be a major change from the college-like corporate campuses the companies built to encourage creativity and spontaneous interactions. Working from home will be its own perk and allow companies to broaden their search for workers. Continue reading Tech Firms Consider Remote Work Options After Coronavirus

Apple Acquires Virtual Reality Live Streaming Service NextVR

Apple has purchased NextVR, a virtual reality video service that offered 360-degree access to live events, including sporting events from NBA, WWE and NHL. With a VR headset, users could enjoy the feeling of “presence” in NextVR’s panoramic stereoscopic 3D scenes. The company also offered 2D smartphone access and planned to support augmented reality devices. The service never became popular, however, and a failed 2019 funding round followed by the coronavirus-related cancellation of sporting events left it struggling to survive. Continue reading Apple Acquires Virtual Reality Live Streaming Service NextVR

Facebook Provides Early Global Access to eSports Feature

Facebook Gaming is introducing worldwide early access to tournaments for eSports amateurs. Though the feature had been in development for some time, said Facebook Gaming head engineer Mina Abouseif, the company released it early to help people shut-in due to the coronavirus pandemic cope better with the isolation. The tournaments feature was originally designed for live gaming events, but Facebook shifted it to one that will help people stay connected to friends, family and communities via “friendly competition.” Continue reading Facebook Provides Early Global Access to eSports Feature

Japan’s Virtual YouTube Celebrities Test the Waters in China

Japan’s most popular YouTube star is Kizuna AI, a virtual teenager with thigh-high socks and a pink hair ribbon, brought to life by an off-screen actress. Millions of fans follow Kizuna, the brainchild of Activ8, a Tokyo-based company. According to Activ8 founder Takeshi Osaka, what sets such so-called virtual YouTubers (or VTubers) apart is that “you can believe they actually exist.” To create Kizuna, Activ8 uses motion capture gear to create skits, music videos and game streams for its over four million subscribers. Continue reading Japan’s Virtual YouTube Celebrities Test the Waters in China

Already Internet Celebs, Virtual Beings Get First Emmy Nod

Fable Studio’s “Wolves in the Walls,” a VR adaptation of a Neil Gaiman children’s book, won a Primetime Emmy Award for outstanding innovation in interactive media. The player is in the role of an imaginary friend for the CG child Lucy and uses VR goggles and handheld motion controllers to join her on an investigation of strange noises in the house. Lucy is also the first “virtual being” to win an Emmy, according to Fable co-founder Edward Saatchi, who defines that as a digital character with whom you have a two-way relationship. Virtual beings are growing in popularity on social platforms such as Instagram, where some are becoming digital influencers. Continue reading Already Internet Celebs, Virtual Beings Get First Emmy Nod

Some Execs Oppose Rebranding of Popular Facebook Apps

Facebook is adding its name to Instagram and WhatsApp as part of a decision to unify its apps by branding them with the parent company’s name. The Facebook moniker will be visible on marketing and within the apps. Some Facebook employees purportedly oppose the move. The rebranding will bring the two popular apps in line with the naming conventions of Oculus, Portal and Workplace. The move to rebrand the two apps was first discovered in March, but at the time Facebook said it was just “testing the change” on a handful of users. Continue reading Some Execs Oppose Rebranding of Popular Facebook Apps

Companies Support the Khronos Group’s OpenXR Standard

After launching an experimental version of the OpenXR specification several months ago, the Khronos Group consortium debuted the official version of the standard aimed at enabling cross-platform AR and VR applications. The Group said it will continue to improve the spec and maintain “full backwards compatibility.” Microsoft quickly embraced OpenXR, releasing it in its store before the official version was introduced. Any user of Windows Mixed Reality or HoloLens can install it to run any OpenXR-based app. Continue reading Companies Support the Khronos Group’s OpenXR Standard

Snap Inc. Hoping to Expand Use of Music in Snapchat App

As Snap faces increased pressure from competitors such as Facebook’s Instagram and ByteDance’s TikTok, the company is reportedly talking with music labels for broader licensing agreements to allow increased use of music via the popular Snapchat app. According to people familiar with the matter, Snap is in discussions with Sony Music Entertainment, Universal Music Group and Warner Music Group. Snap is not looking to launch the next Spotify, but rather expand the way its users can integrate music into Snaps and social media applications. Continue reading Snap Inc. Hoping to Expand Use of Music in Snapchat App

Study: High-End VR Activity Increased Significantly in 2018

According to a new report from research firm IDC, consumer interest has waned recently for smartphone-dependent VR devices, while tethered and standalone models are growing more popular. IDC surveyed 1,643 VR users across France, Germany, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States and learned that the number of “high-performance” VR headsets increased 60 percent from 2017 to 3.9 million devices in 2018. The study identified different categories of users, based on their amount of time spent with VR devices, including a “hardcore” group (12 percent) that spent 16 or more hours monthly with VR. Continue reading Study: High-End VR Activity Increased Significantly in 2018

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