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VR Industry Round-up: October 2016

With so much evolution at such a quick pace, VR news comes thick and fast, with new exciting announcements on an almost daily basis.

So we thought we’d take the opportunity to curate the biggest stories from the last 30 days in one handy place and share them with you.

Read on.

OCULUS CONNECT

The Oculus Connect (OC3) conference ran from Oct 5-7 and saw several game-changing announcements which pushed VR ever closer to the mainstream.

The first was Project Santa Cruz – otherwise known as Oculus Rift’s first untethered headset. Although still in prototype form, it presents a giant leap towards a future where VR is mainstream, affordable, and accessible, but it’s the first of its calibre to cut the cord without compromising on the quality of immersion.

Secondly, Facebook has big plans to transform VR from a solitary experience to a social one. VR is all about immersion, but Facebook asks: “Where is the value in an experience experienced alone?”

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With particular relevance to training and education, it places the focus firmly on interaction and communication within the VR space. Using avatars – which are set to get a lot more realistic – users and their friends will be able to ‘visit’ real-world scenes created from 360-degree photos. Its applications and implications for workplace training are immense.

Global teams coming together for a team-building session climbing Mount Kilimanjaro? Onboarding sessions with new employees from Beijing, New York, and London all present and correct? The possibilities are endless.

Mark Zuckerberg was also keen to stress the importance of education in the future of virtual reality. And this was no empty promise: the Facebook founder announced a $10 million investment fund for VR developers to build education content.

As he said: “Education is going to be a powerful example of the potential of VR. Already today, 10 percent of the experiences in the Oculus Store are education.”

ENTER MICROSOFT

Not to be outdone, Microsoft announced plans to dip its toe into the VR waters at their Windows 10 event on 26 October. Up until now, it has focused on AR and mixed reality technologies like the Hololens. But VR is hot property right now, and this push looks to edge some of the market from more established competitors like HTC and Oculus. The headset (which doesn’t currently have a name) is scheduled to be released in the US in 2017, and with prices starting from $299. A UK release date is yet to be announced.

TIME LAUNCHES NEW, EXPANSIVE VR PROGRAMME

Time magazine has announced a plethora of 360-degree video material – compatible with both mobile VR and premium headsets – launched under the flagship brand Life VR.

This move – which will be rolled out across Time’s other publications in due course – has the potential to fundamentally change the way everyday consumers read, consume and gather content for business and pleasure.

One of Life VR’s first releases is the companion to the documentary ‘Defying the Nazis’, and has to be experienced to be appreciated. Luckily for you, you can download either the iOS or Android app here, and watch the full experience for free.

VR FOR GOOD: EMPATHY AND SOCIAL IMPACT

Beyond gaming, beyond education and training, beyond storytelling; VR has real-world applications that we’re only just beginning to realise.

Since the UN’s 2015 release of ‘Clouds over Sidra’ – a VR film following a 12-year-old Syrian refugee – we are beginning to understand more about the way in which VR connects us to a subject on a deeper level. VR has been described as the ultimate empathy machine, and has been shown to double on-street charity donations.

Now, the UN is hoping to delve further into this human application, with the launch of their app UNVR, dedicated to 360-degree videos linked to specific fundraising calls to action. We can envisage a world of applications in human resource management and candidate selection: team decisions, psychometric interview tests, and diversity training to name but a few.

VR FOR SPORTS

The latest in a long line of industries exploring VR for more than simply entertainment, the world of professional sports is also beginning to see the benefits. US-based STRIVR has been working with NBA, NHL and MLB teams in the States to improve their overall play.

VR GIGS

Boiler Room, the online music broadcasting channel, has announced plans for a brand new virtual reality nightclub, allowing viewers to fully immerse themselves in nights out from the comfort of their own homes.

GOOGLE DAYDREAM VIEW

And last but not least, Google Daydream View is intended as a mobile VR device for the masses, with a price tag ($79 – around £65) to match. It’s an attractive, polished, more usable evolution of the rudimentary Google Cardboard, and we can see it being adopted on a grand scale.

Well, that’s about it: consider yourself all caught up with VR news. Until next month…
(If you can’t wait that long, why not check out our latest blogs in the meantime?)