VR Digest: Magic Leap moves;
Oculus acquires hand-tracking startup

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written by Ian Hamilton (@hmltn) issue 25 – July 22, 2015
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Oculus acquires hand-tracking startup, opens registration for Connect and inks deal with Felix & Paul

Oculus acquired Israeli optical hand-tracking startup Pebbles Interfaces for about $60 million.

“We’ve always believed visual computing will be the next major platform in our lifetime, and we’re excited to join the Oculus team to achieve that vision for the future,” wrote Nadav Grossinger, CTO.

Pebbles joins Oculus’ previous acquisition Nimble Sense, which specialized in hand skeletal tracking. Pebbles’ demonstration video shows no skeletal tracking, so the two technologies may be complementary.

You can now apply to attend Oculus Connect 2, happening in Hollywood from September 23 to 25. The event costs $495 to attend (the price increases to $695 on August 25) with a limited number of “Indie” and “Student” passes available for $95. Oculus will evaluate all applications and those selected will be notified by mid-August. The keynote sessions will be livestreamed on the Oculus website. Brendan Iribe, Michael Abrash and John Carmack are slated to give keynote talks.

Oculus also made a deal with Montreal-based Felix & Paul Studios to make VR experiences for the Rift and Gear VR. The number of experiences included in the deal are unknown, but it is being called “the largest live-action VR deal to date.” Meanwhile, the L.A. Times also got an image from the “Henry” short film coming from Oculus Story Studio. The movie will be unveiled at a premiere event on July 28.


A prolific developer who sold his iPhone development shop to Walmart in 2012 is choosing HoloLens as the platform for Object Theory, his next company. Raven Zachary offered some thoughts on Twitter about the decision to focus on Microsoft’s headset for the business.

“I love VR as a user, and own several devices. I don’t have a clear path to building a biz on VR for clients outside of entertainment. I can build a biz on teams buying 5-10 [Hololens] devices and us building custom software for internal use. Not really planning App Store sales.”

The L.A. Times wrote about efforts to use mixed reality to magnify the surrounding environment for people with vision problems.

“Patients don the headset with a smartphone in it. The smartphone's camera takes real-time images from the patients' surroundings and magnifies them in front of their eyes. They can target the magnification and adjust its strength according to their needs.”

Magic Leap is moving its Florida operations into a former Motorola facility which might house the 340,000-square-foot “photonic lightfield chip” manufacturing facility recently teased by Rony Abovitz. That tease led MIT Technology Review to question whether the startup -- which raised $592 million so far -- is as well-capitalized as it needs to be to achieve its goals.

Sophia Elizabeth attended a VR hackathon in New York and was pleasantly surprised to find the event was 40 percent female. “In the United States, women make up 51% of the population. Our goal should be for the VR community to reflect that.”

Re/code takes us through a night at a VR arcade, visiting the Dave & Buster’s near Silicon Valley that features experiences put together by Seattle startup VRcade. The goal behind the startup is to make “virtual reality games available, for a price, to people who don’t or won’t have them in the home.”

The writer behind 1984’s “The Last Starfighter” (the first movie to use computer generated imagery) is hoping to resurrect the story with a TV show called “Starfighter Chronicles” that will play out part of its story through VR experiences. “We see this type of multiplatform extension as an important stepping stone between ‘framed’ video and immersive video,” co-founder Rick Rey told Road to VR.

Leap Motion highlights five experiences from its recent internal hackathon and gives an update on its Dragonfly module. The hand-tracking company also explained its jaw-dropping mixed reality workspace.

A helpful FAQ has been posted for those wishing to try out the HTC Vive during its “World Tour”. The Vive demonstration is about 20 minutes long, with an additional 10 minutes of setup time, so only 60 people can be accommodated per day.

As part of its anti-texting-and-driving campaign, AT&T is “letting you take the wheel of a car virtually to simulate what can happen the instant you turn your attention away from the road to respond to a beeping cell phone or to text.” In other news, someone apparently tried driving with a Gear VR on their head in pass-through mode.

Google has seen 1.1 million Cardboard viewers distributed to the public, according to UploadVR. The caveat is that it is likely that a large percentage of the simple, delicate paper-based phone holders, many of which are offered as giveaways, are not in use.

UC Davis holodeck researcher Oliver Kreylos followed up his HoloLens field of view comparison video we covered last week with another showing the FOV seen inside a VR headset like the Rift or Vive.

Re/code reports Nokia is set to reveal its first major VR project during a VIP event in LA next week.

Virtual Reality Digest is a VR Newsletter brought to you by Studio Transcendent, a producer of premium Virtual Reality experiences. We publish weekly on Wednesdays.
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