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Virtual reality goggles and robot-like machines are helping people with spine injuries gain mobility. Researchers in Brazil made the surprising discovery that injured people doing brain training while interacting with the machines were able to regain some sensation and movement. The findings suggest that damaged spinal tissue in some people with paraplegia can be retrained to a certain extent - NPR

Google wants to make virtual reality more social and less irritating. Before the launch of its virtual reality platform this autumn, Google’s Daydream Labs is exploring ways that it can make the whole experience reward friendly behavior and discourage VR trolls. The company is concerned that user autonomy in VR could lead to bullying as people test the limits of the experience — seeing if they can reach a hand through another player’s head, for example, or covering another player’s face with a virtual hat. One possible solution, outlined in an official blog post, is establishing a virtual ‘personal space’ that other players can’t invade. - THE STACK

Virtual reality could help you tackle your fear of public speaking. Speech Center VR, a Samsung Gear VR exclusive, uses scenarios to simulate a high-stress environment, like being trapped in a burning forest while giving a Powerpoint presentation. The scenarios (which also include more normal settings like board rooms) help people practice their skills and overcome nervousness. - TECH RADAR

Augmented reality could speed up construction projects. Builders are experimenting with Microsoft’s HoloLens to visualize projects and avoid expensive mistakes. In one case, a building company’s senior manager looked at a mockup of a project on HoloLens and noticed the steel frames the company planned to order were too long to fit the design, and changed the order with the supplier. The move saved the company an estimated $5,000 in labor costs. - MIT TECHNOLOGY REVIEW

Apple CEO Tim Cook says the company is 'high on AR for the long run' as the company invests heavily. Cook has signaled his interest in the emerging technologies, according to a report from analyst Gene Munster. The report states that this should ease investor concerns that Apple is moving too slow to develop new technology. Still, since there’s no widely adopted platform to power augmented reality experiences yet, smartphones are likely to continue to have a role, Munster writes. - CNBC

Virtual reality sunglasses could one day replace big boxy headsets — but one reviewer says they’re not quite there yet. Adi Robertson from The Verge tested Dlodlo’s $559 V1 headset, which he described as a cross between welding goggles and something a Las Vegas Elvis impersonator might wear. But while he says the headset delivers a decent core experience, it’s too front-heavy to fit properly without custom sizing and slides off when you turn your head or look downward. - THE VERGE

FROM THE FORUMS

On the Virtual Reality subreddit, gamers are enthusiastic about the new “Rollerforce” arcade shooter from the creators of iOmoon. “You’re riding on a rollercoaster type thing and shoot flashy guns at various enemies,” explains nerotep. “Similar to space pirate trainer except you are on a coaster and it has different environments and enemies and guns. How good it is I think will depend on what kind of depth there is.” rudedog8 remarks, “iOmoon was incredible. The dev is responsive and passionate about his art and work. I can almost guarantee that this will not be your mamma’s type of wave shooter. Very excited to see the release.”

According to Upload VR, "Rollerforce" is in development for both HTC Vive and, eventually, the Oculus Rift with Touch. More details regarding a trailer, release date, and review will be coming in the next few weeks.

At the Oculus subreddit, colinstalter complains that media outlets keep conflating VR with 2D 360-degree videos. “‘GoPro’s new VR camera system.’ No, it’s a 360 video camera system. It doesn’t even fit the basic definition of Virtual reality. I know multiple people think VR is dumb because they 'tried the VR before and it wasn't that interesting.' Turns out they were just watching a video from inside a bubble. Nowhere near as interesting as actually entering a virtual place and interacting with it.” djabor disagrees with that distinction, however. “VR is virtual reality. It's a virtual landscape where you can CREATE a model of reality or a new reality. So you can have a 360 degree video playing in your virtual world, some hand-tracked room-scale game or just sitting on your couch following a hopping goat up a mountain. It's VR not because of the content, but because of actively trying to confuse our sensory system that we are inside something else. It doesn't have to be 3d or even interactive to achieve that goal.”

VR/AR JOBS

Framestore in Los Angeles is looking for a gameplay/engine engineer to bring immersive experiences to the next level.

Starbreeze is hiring an electronic engineer in Los Angeles to work in VR gaming to develop high-end techniques applicable to large-scale environments.

CastAR in Palo Alto, California is seeking a game animator to help create experiences that demonstrate proven game mechanics.

Xwism Inc in Fremont, California is hiring a Unity developer to develop and improve their mobile app.

FROM THE MAILBAG

Earlier this week we asked you, “What sort of VR product did you expect to see by this point, but haven’t? And what developments in VR have surprised you? What are the major avenues available to this tech that haven’t been explored yet?”

John in Connecticut replies, “I expected 3D TV to go someplace, and become sort of a precursor to VR, and it went nowhere. I honestly expect VR to do the same thing. Here’s why:

1) it’s sort of gimmicky, just like 3D TV, and requires some serious investment to enjoy. 3D TV showed us the allure of enhancing the experience in that way wasn’t appealing enough, and there wasn’t enough must-see content, to make the cost worth it.

2) VR makes some people sick to their stomach (myself included) and goes against the natural way we view the world (being able to look in any direction without moving our heads) I don’t think that’s something mainstream users can get over, even if the technology gets much better.

3) If P-Go taught us anything, it’s making engaging experiences with equipment we already own and carry everywhere (phones) is the way to go. To enjoy AR, you don’t need a new pair of glasses or headset or anything. Just your phone.

For all this new tech, the bar of entry needs to be really low, or the rewards extremely high, to make something take off. P-Go’s bar of entry is very low, and it’s fun - so win. VR’s bar is high, requiring expensive equipment for a worthwhile experience (Vive, Oculus) and even then - the reward just isn’t there - so lose.”

Shaun writes, “I fully expected us to have VR enabled contact lenses by this point. With Google first out the gates with Glass, I expected an influx of innovation with multiple products being rolled out that enabled users to perform basic functionality such as simple Google searches, Maps, object identification and basic communication services (text messages / Whatsapp). Although it begs the question on how these different applications are managed by the user - it's clear now that the solution has to be voice enabled (it can't read your mind... Yet), which is where progress is only slowly picking up with the advances being made on the Alexa / Siri / Assistant front.”

And from Nina: “Maybe it already exists and I don't know about, but I'd like to experience where I'm going to sit when I buy tickets for a concert or sporting event.”  

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