Bay Area: Come Talk About Social VR Development

Among VR's many areas of development, social will arguably unlock the most value and network effect. In fact, the catalyst for the current wave of VR activity was Facebook's 2014 Oculus acquisition.

To that end, VRARA SF Chapter is partnering with ARVR MunchnLearn on its next event, coming up on Wednesday in Palo Alto: Social in VR: developer, marketer and platform perspectives.

The event is sure to draw an influential crowd of developers and enthusiasts in Social VR. See the link above for speakers and logistical details, and reach out to us with any questions.  

Georgia Tech Brothers Aim to Connect Finnish-Estonian Tech Scene

Original article here

By James Conroy; Journalist – former Assistant Psychologist – Technical Communicator – Connector – Contributor @Irish_TechNews.

I first met the Doudy brothers – Mikhail and Sergey – during the Virtual Reality World Congress in Bristol and more recently at the Latitude 59 conference in Tallinn, Estonia. Latitude 59 is the flagship start-up and tech event of the world’s first digital society which is now in its 10th year.

Having moved to Georgia from St. Petersburg with their parents in 1995, the pair subsequently went on to graduate from Georgia Tech with degrees in industrial engineering (Mikhail) and mechanical engineering (Sergey).

The duo always had a passionate interest in technology, where a young Mikhail “made rockets, gunpowder from scratch, and trebuchets in school”, while Sergey’s fascination with automotives and electronics inevitably led them down similar trajectories.

After spending years in the consultancy world and working for Panasonic, John Deere and Manhattan Associates, Sergey decided to buy a one way ticket back to St. Petersburg in pursuit of new opportunities and Mikhail soon followed.

Since their return the brothers have become well-known faces on the VR (Virtual Reality) and AR (Augmented Reality) scene and recently took the reins as co-presidents of the VRAR Association’s Russian Chapter.

I recently caught up with the brothers to find out what’s next on their radar.

So why Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality?

Sergey: We soon realised that our backgrounds were really useful – being Russian/American – it really pushed us forward. We got back in the tech scene and became really obsessed with VR/AR and decided to start pushing those technologies forward in Russia and became the co-presidents of the Russian chapter of the VRAR Association.

What about the technology excited you?

Sergey: Well VR/AR is interesting because it’s a potential tsunami. I mean, myself and Mike talked about it potentially becoming the next ‘dotcom boom’ – although we all know what happened to that later, it crashed – but this is definitely a more slow moving process which is a good sign because if you get into the game early you can be there and grow with it.

Mikhail: Every single aspect of VR and AR is amazing. It can affect every single aspect of your life. It can affect every industry. Every single thing is bound to be affected by it. Anything you can image that’s physical can be replaced virtually. A lot of problems humanity has can be helped through augmented and virtual reality, even in terms of poorer countries like India who can’t teach doctors because of limited physical equipment who could be educated through virtual reality. You can just create one software and then transfer it to billions, to everyone.

Mikhail also thinks it could really help in terms in terms of job satisfaction when it comes to the more taxing aspects of business travel. “Through VR you could zap into virtual locations and bypass what annoyed Serge about consultancy. You can have meetings in VR and have that physical presence. There’s so many possibilities.”

Is there a risk that this technology will make people more anti-social – a point often cited about mobile devices?

Mikhail: I don’t think VR will make people more anti-social, I think it will actually make them more social. So with Altspace VR – the social VR app – I was communicating with people in Germany, California, communicating with them all in the same room and it was amazing. It makes the world a whole lot smaller and opens opportunities. I was even in a virtual club with people dancing and I was like ‘wow, I’m as socially awkward in VR as I am in real life’. So what about when it becomes more realistic, what’s the difference.

Sergey: Social VR can actually improve social skills… When people are texting and writing to each other their written-English suffers greatly. They get lazy. In VR you can talk again, and it can help people communicate and interact in a more social way where you actually have to speak.

Mikhail: I agree with Serge there, I think texting is actually a low point of technology, when you think about Facebook, it’s just pictures, words… letters essentially. So once Facebook implements VR which everyone sees is happening, it’s going actually come back to talking, seeing body language, being able to see more emotions and feel more emotions.

Sergey: I think outside of the social aspect completely we can see tourism as a great example. I know a lot of my friends in the US from the south are a bit sheltered and haven’t been to places like New York or California. Travelling to Canada would be like travelling to the moon. It’s crazy. VR makes it very easy to travel to new locations and in a way it could be the actual stepping stone to make people really go somewhere. If they do it in VR they might think, ‘this isn’t so scary’ or ‘this place looks cool’ – Venice or London for example – and then they get a feel for it and might actually go in real life.

What did ye take away from Latitude 59 and what are ye trying to achieve for St. Petersburg?

Mikhail: There’s three cities, everyone knows Tallinn, then there’s Helsinki and St. Petersburg, and they are very close to each other with tech scenes that are moving very fast. Tallinn and Helsinki are already working with each other with a lot of investments coming into them and Estonia is very forward thinking in terms of start-ups and entrepreneurship. St. Petersburg is doing this also but there’s also a huge gap. I recently read some information about Russia where the engineers and entrepreneurs in Russia are second only to Silicon Valley and Russian entrepreneurs have huge experience working on big projects, yet there’s a gap in terms of investments. 96% of investments in Russia are from within, so only 4% external. So the best talent and no investment which is obviously influenced by sanctions, but this also means opportunity to help St. Petersburg work with cities like Helsinki and Tallinn to drive the ecosystem in all of these counties forward. We’re still developing concrete step but this is big scale. We see this as an amazing opportunity to help everyone work forward.

We heard at Latitude 59 about the big plans Finland and Estonia – from the proposed Hyperloop to IoT companies like Sigfox working with Connected Baltics and Connected Finland – is the plan to help bring some of that attention and investment to Russia, or to potentially connect some of the Russian talent to move outwards?

Sergey: I think it’s a bit of both really. Say you have a start-up idea or group in Tallinn who maybe don’t have the greatest network or investment yet, I think this ecosystem could help these companies – the ones with good ideas – to tap St. Petersburg for talent or activate them in all three cities to move forward. The goal is to create a massive network, an ecosystem, where you can almost tap talent, investment and resources from each one of the cities in a massive pool.

What would you say to players a little further afield – such as in Ireland – who might hear what’s happening in locations like Tallinn, Helsinki and Finland and want to find out more about these ecosystems?

Sergey: First we want to focus on building a core structure here but then we’d love to start reaching further out in Europe and elsewhere to people who want to reach out. Currently our focus on Scandinavian countries, the Baltics, and at that point, definitely countries further afield like Ireland who are coming on the scene.

Mikhail: We’re focusing on a niche location and of course there are many niches in technology. So we’re focusing on these three cities, but this is a long term plan. Right now we’re focusing on tech start-ups and early to mid-stage entrepreneurs but if there’s any very keep entrepreneurs in Ireland or in Cork that would like to talk to us they should definitely get in touch.

Sergey: Or if they know about similar ecosystems, they should connect with us to discuss similar case studies, successes and failures. Yesterday we were talking to someone in Amsterdam who’s looking to start an accelerator there and trying to connect an ecosystem between Paris, Berlin and Amsterdam. So we’re connecting, learning and moving forward faster and maybe eventually we’ll even collaborate together.

VRARA Public Safety & Emergency Response Committee Presented at Stanford

Seven participants of the VRARA Public Safety & Emergency Response Committee presented to several hundred industry professionals at the Stanford National Accelerator Laboratory on June 2nd. The focus was a 90 minute segment provided by Committee members and included content from various disciplines, all with the goal of VR/AR enhanced Next-Gen community risk reduction platforms for citizens and first responders. Co-Chair Kirk Mckinzie has been on federal out of state travel to receive a NIST Virtual Public Safety Test Environment Challenge grant award. 

Podcast: Women in the VR/AR industry talk with New Reality Arts founder Jodi Schiller

Listen here

New Reality Arts founder Jodi Schiller is our guest this week and we chat about what led to the creation of the company along with why she also founded the rapidly growing ARVR Meetup for Women in San Francisco.

If you are looking for a company to help you get noticed at trade shows and other events utilizing VR & AR technologies, make sure to reach out to Jodi and the team at New Reality Arts to see how they can help you do just that.

Morph into an Augmented Human Worker with DAQRI’s Intel-powered Smart Helmet

By Vanessa Radd, VRARA Singapore Chapter President

AI and technology taking over human jobs?

Not quite. Put on DAQRI’s Smart Helmet and you will see why. It allows you to be an ‘Augmented Human’ worker. Targeting businesses rather than consumers, the wearable seeks to help boost employees’ productivity at work, by helping companies improve their workflows as well as troubleshooting on the factory floor or at construction sites — making for a great return on investment.

DAQRI’s Smart Helmet comes with a hard hat with safety goggles attached and is powered by Intel’s M7 chip and RealSense camera sensors.

Putting on the helmet, for so many human-tech capabilities it provides, I was surprised by how light and snug it was.

Vanessa Singapore VRARA2.jpeg

Its human-machine interface overlays schematics onto real objects and allows for pattern recognition, head tracking amongst others — very useful for workers who need to troubleshoot on the factory floor.

It also grants you ‘X-ray’-like vision to see through, and inside of the objects. Workers can be alerted to danger zones, ensuring their safety, and which pipe or factory equipment need attention.

The whole experience is very fluid and does not feel clunky or gimmicky at all. Though you would need some time to get used to the menu navigation, it only takes minimal time to get up to speed.

The plus point is that the helmet allows you to be hands-free. All you need is to follow the instructions as projected into your vision by your helmet and your ability to select next steps on your menu with your eye and head movement.

Switching to the next item on the menu, I was then able to view and participate in a simulation of an operation on a human hand. This operating room application is a great way to bring augmented reality into medical training.

I’d be keen to see how the Smart Helmet can be utilized by emergency responders and those in law enforcement.

Besides the Smart Helmet, I also got to try on DAQRI’s prototype enterprise smart glasses. Lightweight, it can be used in many industries such as automotive, aerospace and healthcare.

DAQRI’s Smart Helmet and AR glasses offer both useful on-the-job and real-life applications.

All I can say is, the future of work is pretty rad.

About the author
Twitter @vanradd Contact: vanessa (at) thevrara (dot) com

Vanessa Radd is ranked the global top 3 augmented reality influencer and is the founding member of the XR Alliance. The XR Alliance is a global alliance for tech professionals in VR/AR/XR. Its FORCE is in alliance-building and VR/AR}XR for Good @xrforce. Vanessa is also the President of the global VR AR Association Singapore chapter.

###The DAQRI helmet was showcased for the first time in Singapore at a private event organized by the XR Alliance and Protiotype with the VR AR Association and TNB Ventures. ###

Video of the making of DAQRI Smart Helmet
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fCAShzXhBCI

VRARA Education Committee & WebGuyz VR Education Platform

By Ross Cohen, WebGuyz.nyc, Co-Chair VRARA Education Committee

WebGuyz is an industry agnostic startup on a mission to innovate the way students learn in the education system. WebGuyz's revolutionary SaaS platforms makes up the structure of educational programs, unifying all students and teachers, online and offline. WebGuyz created an entire modern and idealistic approach for education using VR & AR technology from Microsoft HoloLens and Oculus Rift. The solution provides students with a higher caliber of technology and puts them in a VR setting that enables each student with a visual, hands on, educational portal; The environment is controlled by the school’s administrator, and is fully integrated with the school’s curriculum.

Currently the program is running in several schools across the five boroughs of NYC with prodigious success and most importantly impeccable results. Student involved in the futuristic curriculums reported having new born set of skills and eagerness to scale and sharpen. WebGuyz program involves high demand curriculums such as, 3D design, backend managing skills, front-end management, developing applications for IoT devices as well as launching them, and cyber security awareness.

Together, the VR/AR Association (via the VRARA Education Committee) and WebGuyz will expand to more schools, revolutionizing and strengthening the learning process of the education system. The collaboration of The VR/AR Association will bolster the variety of devices and custom programming utilized within the curriculums, additionally improve the program as a whole from the input of industry leading experts within the association. The future for all looks virtually bright, teachers of the school systems will receive more classroom engagement, student attention span increases, and be prepared for the competitive world awaiting them, and the school district reputations rise from happy parents, students, and teachers.

WebGuyz has worked with Microsoft, CISCO, Google Education, New York State Career & Technical Education Organization, NYC Department of Education, Jump Into the Light VR Lab, New York Institute of Technology, and Metaverse.

The modern day teenager has a lower attention span than a goldfish, teenager coming in at 8 seconds and goldfish coming in at 9 seconds. The average attention human span back in 2000 was a whopping 12 seconds, and research proves the impact of this decrease in classrooms all around the country. The students are not to blame, the surrounding environment is the issue, giant social media platforms with massive amounts of content easily accessible with the touch of a finger, and evolving technology that trends for a day before the new best thing is introduced.

Instead of stripping students from their technology (i.e., mobile phones), and trying to control their personal environment in the classroom, WebGuyz strategically innovated an entire modern and idealistic approach using VR & AR technology from Microsoft HoloLens and Oculus Rift. The solution was to provide students with a higher caliber of technology, and to put them in a controlled VR environment, contrary to controlling their personal environments. A VR setting, entering each student into a visual, hands on, educational portal, completely controlled environment by the school’s (or university’s) administration, and fully integrating the school’s curriculums.

Not only do the students enjoy their technology ‘fix’, their attention span will increase as the WebGuyz program embeds into the education system. That’s just the immediate effects, the SaaS learning platforms is the other arm of this operation, working parallel to the controlled virtual reality environment. The learning platform is designed not only to help increase attention span, it increases engagement between teacher and student (a teacher’s dream come true), encourages teamwork (getting them ready for the real world), teaches responsibility and sharpens essential skills of tomorrow and beyond. Providing each student with a head start in a highly competitive and busy career environment.

VRARA Criminal Justice Committee Visits a School in Queens, NY to talk VR

Assistant Ocean County Prosecutor Rory Wells, Co-Chair of the VR/AR Association’s Criminal Justice Committee, had the opportunity to speak with students at the Irwin Altman Middle School 172 in Floral Park, NY on Thursday June 15, 2017.

School Media Specialist and Librarian Margaret Borger invited Rory to speak with students researching new technology.  The students were looking at how developing technology will continue to affect all areas of our life with one group choosing law and criminal justice as a focus.

Rory spoke on current topics in criminal justice and potential criminal applications for new technology such as virtual reality, augmented reality and the use of 360-degree cameras for investigations.

The student interaction was high with lots of questions and it was a great visit overall.  “We are at the point where advanced technology is organic to this coming generation, what they are starting with today, we only dreamed about.  The next three to five years will move at lightning speed”, says Assistant Prosecutor Rory Wells (Ocean County, NJ).

ALERT: Tonight's SF Chapter Event Postponed

Due to the logistics and road closures for tomorrow's Golden State Warriors Victory Parade (closures start at 6pm tonight) we are forced to postpone tonights SF chapter event.

After long discussions with the venue and Oakland PD, we regretfully arrived on this conclusion as the safest option. The venue is in downtown Oakland in the middle of the parade route.

Registered attendees will receive an email to this effect, automatic admission to the new date, and something extra. We will issue full refunds to anyone who can not make the new date.

That date will be devised ASAP, as we are able to line up speaker schedules and venue availability. More to come, and we apologize for the curveball. We are bummed to say the least.

In an ironic twist for the sake of comic relief: The Golden State Warriors have been a double edged sword for SF Chapter events: as a great past speaker, and now source of postponement.

But we'll roll with it. Here is more from our past events and stay tuned for more. Go Warriors. 

VRARA Vancouver Member Spotlight: Miguel Testa of PanoRabbit

VRARA Vancouver Spotlight:

Miguel Testa, CEO of PanoRabbit

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Interview with Laura Ryu, VRARA Vancouver Marketing Manager

What attracted you the most into the VR industry? I got hooked into the VR industry after an HTC Vive Game Jam hosted by CDM. At the time, neither the Vive nor the Oculus Rift have had consumer releases, so I’ve never really tried before then. Before starting on coding our team’s entry, we had the chance to try some room-scale demos by the sponsors. I was overcome by awe of how real it felt. But it was the moment I uploaded a test build I created with Unreal Engine 4 that I really came to love VR. I made a room whose walls are made from the stock UE4 materials with a single light in the centre. The moment I put on the headset is the single most transformative experience in my career. I was inside a world, simple as it maybe, that I created. I could walk through it, see it’s details, see how the light bounces from different angles. From then on, I decided that I wanted to build more worlds like that one.

What is your company all about? PanoRabbit is all about making VR and 360 panoramas simple. At the time, there were not a lot of tools to upload 360 content to share and view in Virtual Reality. Most of the time, you had to make a basic Unity scene to view 360 photos in VR. I found this to be a pain, since I was doing some work in the Real Estate space making VR walkthroughs. My co-founder, Kenny Wong, approached me and shared the idea of making a platform that simplifies the process of sharing panoramas to be viewed in VR.

What do you love the most about your company (product, service-wise, culture, etc)? I love our users. We have been laying low for the past little while because we’re thinking of reworking a lot of aspects of our product, but we have a couple of core users who still upload panoramas regularly.

What excites you the most about the VR/AR industry and how is your company going towards it? The VR/AR industry is always evolving and there’s always something new around the corner. One particular aspect of the industry that is getting a lot of steam lately is the new frameworks and tools coming out for mobile and web VR development. Among these are A-Frame, Viro VR, and React VR. These new tools will help us integrate new and exciting features into our product. We look forward bringing those into our new builds.

What is one thing that we can expect from PanoRabbit in the future? We’ve been experimenting and working on a major overhaul these past few months, so expect a big upgrade sometime in the future!

 

If you want to learn more about PanoRabbit, check them out:

https://panorabbit.com/

https://www.facebook.com/panorabbit/

https://twitter.com/PanoRabbit

 

Key Challenges to Adoption of VR/AR for Healthcare

For more info, contact us

Co-Authors: 

In April, the VRARA Digital Health Committee conducted an industry survey.  Our goal was to understand the current state of the VR/AR healthcare market and identify challenges to adopting VR/AR healthcare solutions.

In one question, we compiled a list of common hurdles to innovation and adoption of VR/AR healthcare solutions and asked respondents to rank them based on how significant each was to them, on a scale of 0 - 5 (five being “very significant”, zero being “not at all significant.”)

Our sample was small but we think reasonable conclusions can be drawn.  Below are the median rankings for each of 12 challenges, in order of significance.  (Note:  while this first round was illuminating, we’re planning subsequent surveys to do a deeper dive into some of these key issues in the near future.)

Monetary/Funding Issues

(Significant Challenge: 4 out of 5)

Many of the respondents are startups developing AR/VR content, eyewear, or end-to-end solutions. So it’s not surprising that money and funding for product development, research and other marketing costs are at the top of the list. VR/AR for healthcare is still in its infancy, in search of technology innovators and visionaries willing to demo, refine and evangelize widely marketable applications. Given the obvious benefits of various emerging VR/AR technologies including pain diminution, surgical planning and practice, 3D radiological imaging and medical education, we’re confident that it won’t be long before customers and investors start to invest in best-in-class solutions. 

Committee members have noticed that hospitals are increasing budgets for clinical simulation centers to allow them to purchase VR/AR equipment. Third party companies that work with medical organizations are starting to budget for VR/AR solutions as well.

Technical limitations; Organizational Issues; Lack of Knowledge / Research (Moderately Significant Challenges: 3 out of 5)

Technical limitations

This is a broad category and responses reflect a multitude of use cases.  For some, the size of VR systems limits their use in certain clinical settings.  For others, mobile VR platforms can only provide so much immersion with a pocket size computer. Computer specifications and resolution of available devices can also be limiting factors for some medical centers.  VRARA Digital Health committee members are working on near-term solutions to these challenges. This is another area that we feel confident will improve over time as Moore’s law and market competition lead to improvements in both size and power.

Clinical organizational issues

You’ve probably heard that healthcare is a hard industry to change, and not lacking in bureaucracy. Electronic medical records, for example, have been in use at major hospitals for almost two decades, yet there are many places that still use paper charts.

Committee members and respondents identified several aspects of modern clinical organizations that can impede adoption of VR/AR technologies in healthcare, such as:  availability of and access to infrastructure (i.e. bluetooth connectivity);  platform friction (compatibility of VR/AR software with other healthcare software, EMR issues, and privacy issues);  and procurement procedures (vendor relations, lengthy and complex public tender processes, and arduous hospital board decision making processes.)

AR solutions are likely to be adopted more quickly due to decreased platform friction of widely-adopted smartphone technologies.  But it’s our guess that clinical organizational issues are likely to be some of the hardest (and slowest) issues to resolve.

Lack of knowledge

About VR/AR and its uses for your end users/customers

This is an area of particular interest for the VRARA committee. Many of our contacts and colleagues have heard of VR/AR being used for gaming and entertainment, but are unaware of the medical use cases and the research behind them. Disseminating this knowledge is an important goal of the committee. We know many people say they “get it” as soon as they demo VR/AR for the first time because it’s very intuitive, but most patients and providers have never had a live VR/AR experience. Understanding immersion is best done through one’s own eyes.  

 

Lack of enough research studies around VR/AR in healthcare

A quick search of research studies shows over 3536 publications with “virtual reality” or “augmented reality” or “mixed reality” in the title since 1991. However, depending on the clinical use case there may only be a handful of useful studies.  AR/MR tech is so new that only a small fraction of published research (574) examines its use in healthcare. Several areas still need randomized control trials to show evidence for mainstream adoption of AR/VR/MR by healthcare providers.

 

Regulation, Resistance, & Market Forces

Somewhat significant:  2 out of 5

Regulation/Insurance/Policy issues

Regulatory, insurance and policy issues always pose major hurdles for those working in healthcare. We’re speculating that they’re not more significant for responders right now because many times, regulation comes after wide-scale adoption. It’s on everyone’s minds, but we may not see a significant amount of red tape until VR/AR is more widely used in healthcare.

Resistance to new technology with end user/customers

The baby boomers still make up the largest percent of population by generation. Thus, they make up a large portion of both healthcare providers and patients. Nevertheless, reluctance to try new tech doesn’t seem to be a major concern for most respondents.  There could be several reasons why this is true: for one thing, the majority of companies that responded are not making products or content for a specific demographic so age isn’t relevant.  Second, physicians are typically early adopters of both professional and consumer tech, and interest in this new technology is high.

Market Issues and Cultural Obstacles (cultural competency)

Several respondents cited geographic and cultural obstacles as they try to market products in multiple countries, and a few mentioned resistance from Pharma to tech-based therapeutics.  While it wasn’t called out as a major challenge we think it’s still important to keep culture in mind, especially given the international make-up of both the medical and VR/AR innovation communities.  

 

Lack of Interest, Concern About Side Effects

Minimal Challenge: 1 out of 5

Lack of interest in VR/AR amongst patients and healthcare staff is of little concern to providers for now.  As Facebook, Google, Oculus, Samsung and Sony continue to aggressively market VR/AR experiences for consumers, more people will be exposed to it and interest will grow.  That said, patient demand and pull-through will eventually have a powerful influence on administrative and clinical decision-makers.

Early VR studies (in the 2000’s) caused a minority of patients to report feeling nauseous when using immersive VR.  Over time, improved graphics, frame rates and game design have fixed some of the problems that caused that particular side effect and it seems to be less of a problem today. Motion sickness may continue to be a problem for a shrinking percent of populations studied, but is not a significant issue for this group of respondents.

Recap of VRARA Chicago Event

By Gina Joseph

We knew Chicago was already on the road to becoming a legitimate tech hub when we started InContext back in 2009. But never has it been so obvious just how innovative the city has really gotten than learning about some amazing startups at the VR/AR Association Chicago chapter launch event that took place yesterday evening.

As we previously wrote, InContext CTO Tracey Wiedmeyer was asked to head the Chicago chapter of the VR/AR Association, and represent the immersive Midwest scene. Last night we kicked off the chapter at the Aon Center, with speakers and demos from VR/AR companies DOME3DRelativity VRQuriosity, and VIATechnik. Highlights included hearing about DOME3D’s 360 video work with Warren Buffett, and learning what goes into creating live 360 VR for Lollapalooza.

The discussion also got into the ethics involving VR and what it will mean for journalism, how it will affect online viewing, and, as Relativity VR’s Tim Woensdregt put it, how VR is “the great empathy machine.” We got to learn about how architectural firms are utilizing VR, and experience what it felt like to be on top of one of the parade busses after the Blackhawks won the 2015 Stanley Cup.

The kickoff of the VRARA Chicago chapter was just the start of what will be many events to come. InContext will host a VRARA event in Minneapolis in the near future, so stay tuned for that, Minnesotans! Future Midwest VRARA events will include panelists, more demos, and of course, food and drinks to keep you energized, so be sure to stay on top of what’s coming up. In the meantime, contact us here at InContext  or on Twitter at @vrara_chicago for more information on how you can be involved in the VR/AR Association Chicago chapter. We hope to see you (virtually or IRL) very soon!

 

Torch Digital becomes a Member of the global VR/AR Association, NYC Chapter

New York  - Torch Digital is pleased to announce that it has become the newest member of the global VR/AR Association.

Both the VR/AR Association and Torch Digital are dedicated to fostering growth in the virtual reality and augmented reality industries.  As a member, Torch Digital will participate in the Association's initiatives by which Torch Digital will be connected with VR AR organizations to accelerate the market with smart growth.

In addition, Torch Digital is excited about partnering with other developers to create a bridge for their talent to our wide berth of contacts with advertising, Fortune 500 and major media companies hungry for engaging innovations in VR and AR.

“We are happy to have a VR veteran and pioneer such as Carlo Spicola, the Founder of Torch Digital,” says Kris Kolo, Global Executive Director of the VR/AR Association. He has pioneered VR as both an interface and content for some of the first Enhanced Music CDs for Skinny Puppy and the Wu-Tang Clan as early as the 90’s. He also created the first hit VR downloadable ‘app’ Hey Arnold! VR Room for Nickelodeon, which became Nick’s most downloaded digital toy in the USA and three additional markets. “We are excited to see what comes next and look forward to his(Carlo’s) growing involvement with the association,” says Kris Kolo.

“We are excited to participate in the AR/VR Association in New York and abroad” says Carlo Spicola.  “We look forward to creating VR and AR content solutions that serve our core values of using VR/AR to educate, engage and entertain the general public.”

For more information please visit torchdigital.com 

The Future Of Monetization Isn’t What It Used To Be

This is a post from VRARA SF member ADVR, authored by My Tran. It can be read in full here

It’s (thankfully) not often that a famous football player is accused of a double homicide that leads the LAPD in a slow-speed chase on national television, inadvertently scoring the Ford Bronco the most memorable unpaid visibility of all time. A lot has changed since the 90’s, and, as our world becomes increasingly digital and interconnected, the way we consume media and retain information also continues to evolve. As it stands, we’ve adjusted to the inundation of digital marketing via mental tunnel vision and by employing applications to block ads for us. Anyone who has ever searched for a product online is familiar with what can be summed up as being stalked around the web; in my particular case, because I visited jewelry designer Pamela Love’s website some time this past month, Pamela Love product ads “follow” me to any site privy to my browsing history. Whatever annoyance I felt was negligible, until I was forced to look at ads for $450 jewelry alongside an article on the humanitarian crisis in Aleppo. Pamela Love’s marketing team isn’t to blame; it’s the fault of an algorithm that doesn’t discriminate product from content. However, experiencing that cognitive dissonance means I now have a negative association with Pamela Love’s products. These digital marketing methods are very much embedded in the online ad culture and will continue to be a means of distributing sponsored content. Still, I would argue that to further perpetuate these marketing habits will only exacerbate the public’s growing distaste towards sponsored brand presence and encourage the use ad blockers.

Where retargeting is an example of informed but non-contextual digital marketing, ads built around a story represent the other end of the marketing spectrum. Major labels commission reputable ad agencies that know how to frame their brand in a relevant narrative. But smaller companies that don’t have that luxury still know that a strong story — a reason why for the product — resonates. In 2014, toy startup Goldieblox produced an ad that won a four-million dollar Super Bowl spot. That Goldiblox ad then went viral, resulting in sales that have increased 7000% since. People voluntarily view and share ads that embed the product inside of a quality story, and the positive emotional footprint casts the brand in a favorable light, which encourages spending. When we look towards the future, the evolution of programmatic advertising in virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) calls for us to set a precedent for advertising practices that resist problematic 2D digital marketing methods. Designing an unskippable ad in VR and AR means matching an immersive platform with narratively immersive sponsored content.

Read the rest

Apple AR Kit has me Seeing AppleVision

Like Spectacles, AppleVision will enable filters, lenses and actually do much more than PokémonGo.

Apple will be able to enable new novel AR solutions for real problems that are annoying AF in real life. Picture a bespoke life experience complete with virtual assistant.

From the moment you put on your AppleVision ‘specs,’ your daily calendar renders your schedule for the day and a side bar of pending action items are aggregated from emails; which can be easily parsed and collated simply by voice command or ear end taps. Apple has you covered.

Instead of a boring commute to the office, specs offer you entertainment pulled from your Apple ecosystem with integrated third party data for more news or work options.

I can now see my work emails on the main specs display and have the market news running on the sidebar (periphery); all without even opening my laptop or looking down at my phone.

Later in my day, leaving work I can ask specs to tell me which gym is less busy for my cardio machine and buy me dinner within 10 mins. of my estimated gym completion time; no more waiting in lines for the right workout machines or getting (h)angry after -cuz I can't wait for my food. My life is good.

Once at my apartment I can ask specs to show me new movie content and sync with my TV for an 8pm start time while I take the dog for his walk.  Maybe I ask specs to route me (via fun green AR arrows and my dogs pic) to the least crowded dog park or a dog friendly bar for a pre-dinner aperitif. Now my life is even better.

Apple has a lot to offer. Just use your imagination. For now the ARKit otherwise called ‘world tracking’ actually only enables the iPhone or iPad’s camera coupled with their motion sensors to ‘pin’ objects to one point in space. Yet once you multiply this feature to a bunch of points in an environment, plus working in conjunction with finding flat surfaces, many functionalities can then be deployed.

Although it is still early, the clear win for AR and Apple is that now developers can create for the masses and scale with controlled costs. So even if Apple decides not to leverage and integrate its entire ecosystem, fun and exciting things are sure to come very soon.

Recap of VRARA Birmingham Chapter Event

By Kev Blair, VRARA Birmingham Chapter President

A great big thank you to those that made it to the VRARA Lunch event! 

Currently the association has 36 chapters that reach across the world including London. Birmingham is now the latest addition to the chapters of the VRAR association. Kevin Blair from Atmos VR is the driving force behind the creation of a Birmingham chapter which saw its launch on Monday Evening. 

The launch event featured several guest speakers in Steve Dann from the London Chapter, Immersive and multi-sensor storyteller Sarah Jones and Alan Dohalz from the Design and Media Technology Lab at Birmingham City University. 

VRARA Training Program LA Class: Building Great VR/AR Products

RSVP here

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Reserve your spot at our next class of the VRARA Training Program, taught by VR/AR Product Lead and VRARA Mentor Sami Ramly.

Building Great VR/AR Products: the Art of Product Management for Emerging Technologies


About the Class:

This class dives deep into Product best practices for anyone looking to make VR or AR and hoping to get people actually using their products - after the demo novelty has worn off. Topics to be covered include Product-Market Fit, Product Strategy, Product Development, Design, Prototyping, Monetization, Customer Development, Growth, Analytics, and more. All examples will be focused on VR/AR but some parallels will be drawn with adjacent industries. There will also be valuable learnings and applications for startups and companies in emerging technologies in general.

The typical audience includes (but is not restricted to) professionals who identify as makers, creatives, builders, creators and anyone involved in the product development process (entrepreneurs, executives, engineers, designers, product managers, developers, producers, directors, etc). If you're a marketer, evangelist, sales wizard or promoter of a VR/AR product, you will find it useful to learn what makes competing products great, good or bad, why your product with high traction could suffer in retention, and why the VR/AR product cemetery is full of has-beens and could-haves.

About Sami Ramly

Sami is a VR/AR Mentor & Faculty at VRARA, a member of the select Product Leaders group at Product That Counts in Silicon Valley, as well as a Mentor at Stanford, UCLA, USC, SIGGRAPH, LIFE, LebNet and others. He has spoken about VR & AR at CES, Digital Hollywood, Plug & Play, Hero City, UC Berkeley, UCLA Anderson, Otis, and many VRARA events. Sami is currently the VR Product Management Lead at Wevr where he heads the Product efforts for Transport, the native network for VR creatives and their audience. He also sits on the Executive Board of Predictera and the Advisory Board of Rabbit Hole VR, Stanford's VR/AR maker community, featured in Business Insider as a place where “the next big thing in VR could come.”

VRARA Singapore Partners with XR Alliance & Samsung for VR for Healthcare

RSVP for the event here

The XR Alliance is a global alliance for tech professionals in VR/AR/XR. Its force is in alliance-building and VR/AR/XR for Good. @xrforce

"Collaborative learning in VR Healthcare"

Medical VR applications, such as augmented vision surgery, remote treatment and distance diagnosis, are becoming increasingly common worldwide. In Singapore, new techniques are being pioneered that go further to help provide non-invasive and completely safe outcomes without using established trial-practice-and-error approaches.

Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) has teamed up with Side Effects Asia Pacific to work on VR technology systems for advanced healthcare and medical training.

The new systems will enable trainees to experience realistic 3D medical emergency scenarios, allowing digital feedback and overlay information to be integrated with existing medical images. In other words, trainees will be able to experience and practice fully immersive, on-the-spot decision-making scenarios during the resuscitation of critically ill or severely injured virtual patients.

In this upcoming session, TK Ng, CEO of Side Effects Asia Pacific, will share more about their insights and experiences developing cutting edge healthcare and medical VR simulations with the new Gear VR Controller as a key interaction device. He will also give strategic tips and advice on how to deliver and scale cutting-edge medical simulations to the entire healthcare and medical industry in the most cost-effective and practical way.

Surprise and Delight: Successful AR Monetization via Snapchat

For gen Z and at least half of Millennials, Snapchat is their social media channel of choice. And, they are very loyal to Snapchat. With that said, across the board today’s user/audience expects contextually relevant, visually engaging, ad content in order to connect with a brand or business.

So what does that mean and how is Snapchat killing it?

That means that ads need to have a simple and clear message with a call to action that penetrates. Snapchat ads let the creative do the talking while the user feels like they are being entertained by an experience unique for them but also to share with all their friends.

So why does this matter for VR/AR?

So far, Snapchat is the only social media channel to use AR in their ad monetization scheme; allowing brands or businesses to sponsor a lens or geofilter. Successful campaigns by default all have an interactive element via the lens/geofilter and personalization via the user generated content/pic. However, each AR element clearly adds value for both the brands and the user. It’s a perfect mashup of surprise and delight.

Show me the numbers

According to eMarketer, Snapchat will generate $935.46 million in ad revenue this year and capture 2% of the social network ad dollars.

So how does Snap measure success?

Snapchat measures performance a bit differently from the other guys as well. For example, ‘viewability, provides metrics for how much attention your ad has received,’ as stated on their site. Reach is pretty standard but ‘resonance’ gages thought and feeling about your ad. While ‘reaction’ tracks in-store lift in sales. Last but not least is ‘verification,’ which provides third party data to keep things transparent.

The takeaway

AR presents a fundamental shift in the future of doing business, period. The now approx 35-40% of users just on Snapchat alone will grow. The interactive ‘fun/play’ element of AR will soon evolve into ever more sophisticated functionalities that both provide a service and engage the user in a unique and positive way. Picture AR integrated into much more of our daily journey, from picking up your local coffee to getting on your next flight. Plus the Spectales; AR will make it into this form factor, i.e., glasses. Brands that want to survive will rid themselves of customer pain-points via AR solutions aimed for maximum customer satisfaction. Everybody else will either adapt or be rendered obsolete. The future is now (i.e., "adapt or die").