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Facebook Announces Immersive Video

On March 25, 2015, Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced that the company will soon embrace immersive 360 degree video (aka "spherical video"). The company is now actively encouraging publishers and users to create and share their own spherical videos on Facebook.

One year ago Facebook acquired the company responsible for developing the Oculus Rift Virtual Reality (VR) headset. Facebook's Oculus acquisition was quickly followed by related VR product announcements by Google, Sony, Samsung, and Microsoft (see below).

Unlike VR, however, spherical video does not require a special headset, glasses or goggles to view. Although spherical video can produce a compelling and truly immersive experience when viewed using a VR headset/glasses/goggles, a less compelling experience can be had without the aid of any special equipment.

Google-funded Virtual Reality : Real or Fake?

On March 19, 2015, a startup company funded by Google released this video of what it claims is a game they are "playing around the office these days." In October, a scant six months ago, Magic Leap announced that it had raised over half a billion dollars ($542 million in Series B financing, to be precise) from a number of high-profile investors, including Google. Google, in fact, is the lead investor in Magic Leap.

Half a year later Magic Leap released this video to showcase its technology, technology the company's CEO and founder states "is going beyond the current perception of mobile computing, augmented reality, and virtual reality. We are transcending all three, and will revolutionize the way people communicate, purchase, learn, share and play."

The virtual reality game at the center of attention was developed in collaboration with Weta Workshop, the multi-award winning design studio known for its work on The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, The Hobbit Trilogy, King Kong, The Chronicles of Narnia, Avatar, District 9, The Adventures of Tintin, Elysium, Godzilla and more.

With more than half a billion dollars of funding, and close ties to Google and Weta, this otherwise unbelievable demo is more "real" than you might imagine.

Dad Attends Birth of Child in Virtual Reality

On March 14, 2015 Samsung announced that it had enabled the world's first live birth attended via Virtual Reality (VR), stating: "A world-first live streaming virtual reality birth using Samsung Gear VR has let an Australian father experience a life-defining moment he otherwise would have missed: the birth of his son. Perth couple, Alison and Jace Larke, welcomed their third child, son Steele Larke, to the world on February 20. However, Jace, a 'fly in, fly out' electrical contractor, faced a hard decision when an unavoidable work commitment required him to be in Queensland on the due date: take the job and miss the imminent birth of his third son, or refuse it and remain in Perth with his heavily pregnant wife Alison, but miss out on the contract work. Although in Chinchilla, a remote Queensland mining town, using the Samsung Gear VR headset, Jace was able to experience the birth in real time, almost as though he was standing in the Perth delivery room – 4,000 kilometres (nearly 2,500 miles) away."

Virtual Reality has the potential to bring us closer, but at what cost? Find at out IMMERSION 2015 in Paris where the world's experts in immersion and immersive technology convene this fall to address HoloLens, holograms, virtual reality (VR), cybernetics, and much more.

Microsoft HoloLens promises to change our world. Will it?

On Jan 21, 2015 Microsoft announced HoloLens, stating: "The era of holographic computing is here. When you change the way you see the world, you can change the world you see. Microsoft HoloLens brings high-definition holograms to life in your world, where they integrate with your physical places, spaces, and things. Holograms will improve the way you do things every day, and enable you to do things you’ve never done before."

HoloLens will change our world, proclaims Microsoft. But will it? Can it? Find at out IMMERSION 2015 in Paris where the world's experts in immersion and immersive technology convene this fall to address HoloLens, holograms, virtual reality (VR), cybernetics, and much more.

HTC Makes a Surprise Virtual Reality (VR) Headset

On March 1st, 2015 global smartphone and tablet maker HTC made an announcement that took the virtual reality (VR) and Immersive Education (iED) communities by surprise. HTC, in partnership with the popular video game company Valve, unveiled the "HTC Re Vive" virtual reality headset.

Although HTC's RE Vive headset looks similar to Facebook’s Oculus Rift, the Vive has one advantage in particular. And it's a big one: The Vive can track you. In other words, your own body becomes part of the immersive experience.

This single innovation prompted a rush of news headlines and expert commentary today, such as as "Move over Oculus," "Vive Will Take VR Mainstream," "Vive promises a new level of immersive education," and "The first room-scale"experience."

Yahoo : "HTC surprised the audience, and joined an emerging field in consumer tech, by introducing a virtual-reality headset on Sunday called the HTC Vive. The Vive looks similar to Facebook’s Oculus Rift headset, with one key difference: The device, along with a pair of “base stations” that you place inside your room and handheld controllers, can track your physical motions, so that you can move around a room and have your movement reflected in the game..." more in new window

PCWorld : "Move over, Oculus: HTC just announced its own VR hardware, the HTC Vive. And much like Samsung partnered with Oculus on its headset, HTC is also pairing with a powerful virtual reality pioneer: Valve. Yes, that Valve—the team behind Steam, Half-Life, and many, many more iconic PC gaming experiences..." more in new window

Variety : "HTC is ready to give its smartphone rival Samsung some competition in the virtual reality space, and already has lined up content from Lionsgate, HBO and Google for when its new Vive headset launches later this year. The company is developing Vive with Valve Software, a major player in the videogame industry through Steam, its online gaming platform, which has 125 million active accounts. Valve’s Steam Machine gaming console also is expected to play a significant role in powering Vive..." more in new window

New Samsung Galaxy Phone features Virtual Reality (VR)

New Samsung Galaxy Phone features Virtual Reality (VR)

On March 1st, 2015 Samsung announced two new "Galaxy" phones, the S6 and S6 Edge, both of which will feature a new generation of Samsung Gear VR:

CNET : "Samsung's making its second mobile VR headset, but that's a good thing. The original Samsung Gear VR was a surprisingly good mobile VR experience: built in collaboration with Oculus, it wowed most people including myself. But it only worked with the Galaxy Note 4: a great phone, but not one everyone necessarily owned. The newest Samsung Gear VR Innovator Edition for Samsung Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge fits the 5.1-inch display of the new Samsung S6 phones, but adds a few useful tweaks: the headset is 15 percent lighter than the previous edition for easier long-term wearing, and promises a more comfy design. The straps are newly designed, and added ventilation could help with longer-term use. Samsung promises the extra processing power and pixel density will improve the VR experience..." more in new window

TechCrunch : "Samsung continues investing in the future of mobile virtual reality, with a brand new version of Gear VR designed specifically to work with the new Galaxy S6 and S6 edge smartphones. The Gear VR still carries the ‘Innovator Edition’ tag that means it’s aimed primarily at bleeding edge tech enthusiasts and developers than the general public, and it continues to use Oculus technology to power the software and VR mechanics, but it’s designed to work specifically with the Galaxy S6’s new ultra-high resolution 577 ppi 5.1-inch Quad HD display..." more in new window

Engadget : "The original Gear VR headset actually made a little headway, even getting picked up by Best Buy. Its main barrier to entry, aside from its $199 price point, is limited device compatibility: if you don't have a Galaxy Note 4, you can't use the Gear VR. With Samsung today launching not one but two flagship smartphones, the number of VR-compatible smartphones from Samsung has just tripled. Presenting the aptly named Gear VR Innovator Edition for Galaxy S6 and S6 edge..." more in new window

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