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

OpenAI Rolls Out Virtual World, Google Opens DeepMind Lab

OpenAI, the Elon Musk-supported artificial intelligence lab, just debuted Universe, a virtual world that is a software training ground for everything from games to Web browsers. Universe begins with approximately 1,000 software titles, with games from Valve and Microsoft. OpenAI is also in discussions with Microsoft to add the Project Malmo platform, based on the game “Minecraft,” and hopes to add Google AI lab’s DeepMind Lab environment, which was just made public. The goal is that Universe will help machines develop flexible brainpower. Continue reading OpenAI Rolls Out Virtual World, Google Opens DeepMind Lab

Facebook Opens Toy Box and Looks to Make VR More Social

Just before the Mobile World Congress opened in Barcelona, Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg announced a new in-house team, led by designers Daniel James and Michael Booth, tasked with building “social apps” for the Oculus. The announcement comes weeks before the release of the long-awaited VR headset Oculus Rift, priced at $600 as a standalone headset and, paired with a PC, starting at $1,500. Facebook also launched a demo of “Toy Box,” with virtual shared games, all part of a move towards making VR more social. Continue reading Facebook Opens Toy Box and Looks to Make VR More Social

Digital Hollywood Panel Discusses Interfaces and Future of VR

An all-star panel of futurists and inventors featuring John Underkoffler, CEO & chief scientist, Oblong Industries; Philip Rosedale, CEO of High Fidelity and founder of virtual world “Second Life;” Berkeley academic Jack McCauley, founder & president of McCauley Labs and a co-founder and chief engineer of Oculus; and Richard Marks, director of PlayStation Magic Lab looked above and beyond the introduction of VR to articulate an array of visions and technical challenges yet to be mastered. The panel took place at Digital Hollywood and was moderated by ETC project manager Philip Lelyveld. Continue reading Digital Hollywood Panel Discusses Interfaces and Future of VR

Second Life’s Linden Lab Debuts New Virtual Reality Project

Linden Lab, which innovated the virtual world Second Life in 2003, is entering virtual reality with Project Sansar. The company has been working behind the scenes to build virtual worlds for Oculus Rift and other VR headsets, and relies on its experience with Second Life to inform Project Sansar. Second Life is user-centric, allowing players to create and explore virtual landscapes of their own making. Project Sansar, on the other hand, allows brands to build VR worlds and link to them from websites or third-party apps. Continue reading Second Life’s Linden Lab Debuts New Virtual Reality Project

Minecraft Enjoys Global Success, Inspires Indie Developers

“Minecraft,” created by Markus Persson four years ago, has become one of the world’s most popular video games. Its 22 million users make it three times more popular than “World of Warcraft.” The virtual world’s simple gameplay provides users with creative freedom, offering Lego-like blocks to build basic structures that can be later transformed into palaces. It is also giving other game developers the idea that a successful video game can be made independently. Continue reading Minecraft Enjoys Global Success, Inspires Indie Developers