The VRScout Report – The Week in VR Review

samsung-gear360-2017

Recapping the top stories covered on the VRScout Report, a weekly podcast discussing the best in VR, hosted by Malia Probst. Now iOS users can also use the new Samsung Gear 360 camera, HTC is releasing a standalone VR headset only to Japan, airlines are testing using AR to read your emotions, ride TopShop’s virtual waterslide without getting wet, the investment & funding wrapup, and more…

You can enjoy the full audio recording below:

REJOICE, iOS USERS: YOU CAN USE THE NEW SAMSUNG 360 CAMERA, TOO

I’ve been a big fan of the cute little Samsung Gear 360 camera since its first unveiling in the spring of 2016, and always recommend it to people inquiring about the best consumer-friendly 360 cameras out there. However, the BIG caveat has always been the same: you can’t use the Gear 360 app with an iOS device– that means no live view, no real-time rendering, no simple social sharing. Now, with the release of the second-generation Samsung 360 camera, the story has shifted: if you have an iPhone 7, 7+, 6S, 6S+, SE running iOS 10.0 or later you can use the Gear 360 app (unfortunately, this is not a retrograde compatibility– it only affects the new 2017 version). The cost is lower than the 2016 version with a pricetag of $ 229 and you can record in up to 4K resolution. Also notable, if you’re planning on getting the upcoming Galaxy S or S+, here is a bundle that pairs this little guy with the Galaxy S8 series for just $ 49.

THE STANDALONE MOBILE HEADSET THAT HTC IS KEEPING IN JAPAN

Remember, HTC is the Taiwanese-based hardware manufacturer and the HTC Vive Tech Corporation is a subsidiary that partners with American-based software company Valve for content via their huge Steam library. Keeping the separation between HTC and HTC Vive in mind, this story perhaps makes slightly more sense. HTC has announced a mobile headset called Link— which will only be available in Japan, works with HTC’s new U11 smartphone, and is not affiliated with HTC Vive. To make matters murkier, there’s also the recently-announced partnership between Google and HTC Vive to create new standalone mobile headsets for all Google Daydream-ready Android phones. If you’re confused as to what this means regarding the boundaries HTC and HTC Vive, well– I am too.

AIRLINES TESTING AUGMENTED REALITY TO READ YOUR EMOTIONS

Air New Zealand is one airlines provider that is testing how the Microsoft Hololens can help improve in-flight customer service. Flight attendants can wear the AR device and, through facial recognition technology, can access flight user data like destination, loyalty status, allergies, when they received their last in-flight snack or beverage… and even assess your mood. Although this project is only in the testing phase right now, it’s interesting to note that the software company that Air New Zealand is partnering with is Dimension Data. Since the word “data” is baked into the very name of the corporation, it is not a far stretch to imagine that they would also want to collect data on you… and maybe sell that data?

RIDE A VIRTUAL WATERSLIDE WITHOUT GETTING WET AT TOPSHOP

Releasing a simple 360 video as a marketing ploy is old news these days, so it’s refreshing when companies embrace VR to enhance their experiential brand activations in unique ways. Topshop is no stranger to using VR as a marketing tool (they live-streamed a virtual catwalk all the way back in 2014), but they’ve really taken the plunge on this one. At their flagship London store, Topshop made a waterslide simulator to celebrate the start of summer: complete with a virtual tube ride through a 3D recreation of the actual Oxford Street that lies just outside of the real-world store. Now this is what I call retail theater.

INVESTMENT & FUNDING WRAPUP

After quietly settling a gender discrimination lawsuit recently, it turns out that Magic Leap is back on the fundraising trail. Apparently the $ 1.4B that the secretive company has already secured is not enough to bring their proprietary augmented reality wearable tech to market, so reportedly Magic Leap is currently raising a Series D round of financing. Oh, and in case you were wondering if you had missed something–  no, they have still not yet released any kind of actual product.

Russia-based company Antilatency has raised a $ 2.1M seed round from Moscow-based fund IIDF. The company has created a solution for positional tracking on mobile VR, using infrared lights that are placed around the room and track you in real time by communicating with a small camera that you mount on a mobile VR headset.

Based in San Francisco, Unity Technologies has raised a new $ 400M round of private equity from Silver Lake Partners– bringing their total funding to almost $ 690M. The company makes Unity, the extremely popular video game engine development platform that underlies reportedly 90% of the VR applications for the Samsung Gear VR headset. According to CEO John Riccitiello, the company is using this financing for employee retention as well as a safety net for more growth.

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