VR Digest: Sundance Festival
Spotlights VR

The week's top VR news brought to you
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VR Digest: A VR newsletter brought to you by Studio Transcendent
written by Ian Hamilton (@hmltn) issue 52 – January 27, 2016

VR Digest: A Virtual Reality newsletter brought to you by Studio Transcendent

VR Digest’s first issue was published one year ago today! 52 weekly issues chronicling the transition to the arrival of consumer virtual reality feels like a huge achievement. We’ve released these newsletters like clockwork despite facing tight deadlines on other projects and the birth of Ian’s baby. Many of our readers have thanked us in person for providing this service, and we want to take this opportunity to thank you all for reading each issue and evangelizing this digest to your friends, family, and coworkers.

You are at the leading edge of a huge revolution that is going to sweep all of us up this year. VR is only getting bigger from here, and the release of Oculus, Vive and Playstation VR mean that the general public is finally going to become aware of the phenomenon on a broad basis and have an opportunity to experience it for themselves. That means a lot more coverage to dig through, and we’ll be here to help sort through it all.

Sundance Festival throws a spotlight on VR

VR made a big splash at the Sundance Film Festival this year. Dozens of virtual experiences were available including several you can watch from home on Google Cardboard and the Gear VR. Also on display at Sundance are five 60-second, 360-degree videos which won $10,000 in Samsung’s Gear Indie “There in 60 Seconds” challenge.

A VR film by Specular Theory that looks at the controversial issue of police brutality was also screened. The Leviathan Project uses both augmented reality and virtual reality, bringing Scott Westerfeld's Leviathan trilogy to life. Wevr and Reggie Watts showed off Waves, a humorous and psychedelic musical ride through Watts’ imagination.

Oculus Story Studio previewed their third project, Dear Angelica, as well as Quill, a painting app for Touch similar to Google’s Tilt Brush for Vive that was developed by Story Studio for the production of Dear Angelica. Art director and lead illustrator Wesley Allsbrook estimates she spends 5 hours a day in the Rift with Quill, painting artwork for the project. "I love movies, but I want to stay there," she told The Verge.

Oculus also released a video showing off some of the most high-profile VR “films” that have been or will soon be released on the platform, and announced that they are going to offer a “Story Studio University” VR filmmaking workshop at NYU and USC on February 13 with a follow-up master class in April.


Goldman Sachs released 58-page report estimating the size of the VR market. A breakdown of the analysis questions some of the assumptions in the report, which estimates nearly 6 million wired headsets could ship in 2016.

It was a busy week for VR industry news, with Apple hiring VR guru Doug Bowman,  YouTube bringing on Jaunt VR evangelist Scott Broock and Techcrunch writer Drew Olanoff heading to Rothenberg Ventures to work with River Studios.

Apple CEO Tim Cook was asked about VR during the quarterly earnings call, responding: “I don’t think it’s a’s really cool and has some interesting applications.”

The company is a sleeping giant in the space having quietly acquired and patented a lot of key technology for VR. Buzzfeed’s Tom Gara pointed out on Twitter that Apple lost more revenue due to currency fluctuations in the just ended quarter than Oculus’ parent company Facebook’s total haul over the same time period.

Recent rumors point to an order from Apple for OLED production from Japan Display for the iPhone 8 cycle. If Apple were to enter the VR space with a mobile solution it would make sense to wait until their OLED transition, because it is necessary for a basic VR technology called “low persistence”.

Project Starcade was announced at VRLA last week. It’s a virtual reality arcade that will be based in Los Angeles and use the ultra-wide field of view StarVR headset.

Project Literacy: A Life Unseen by Secret Location debuted at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland last week.

“I believe that news, documentaries, and causes get a new life (and a new tool to use) in virtual reality,” Eric W. Shamlin said. “There’s nothing that teleports you in the same way. Nothing puts you in the shoes of another person or in a remote location quite like VR.”

Canada’s new Prime Minister gave his stamp of approval to VR via Twitter.

Mark Zuckerberg posted a 2-minute video on Facebook showing how the company is optimizing bandwidth for users that stream VR videos. Anyone who has waited for a multi-gigabyte Felix & Paul video to download on their Gear VR knows how critical this technology is to the mobile headset’s adoption.

Polygon put together a guide to VR HMDs with everything known about the major players up to this point. “There are plenty of people who would love to get going in virtual reality, or would at least love to understand a bit more about the products coming this year. This guide will get you started.”

The Fulldome Blog posted an exhaustive look at the many different designs for 360-degree camera rigs that have been developed over the past year.

UploadVR went hands-on with Hover Junkers, a multiplayer Vive game, playing about 60 minutes straight in the game. “Multiple times during my playthrough I found myself so lost in the combat that my fight or flight instincts kicked in and my adrenaline spiked.”

Harry Potter meets Fantasia in the 1-minute trailer for Waltz of the Wizard, coming to HTC Vive.

Schell Games debuted a 1-minute trailer for a Vive version of its adorable Water Bears mobile game.

Photos showing the evolution of the HTC Vive over the last few years were posted on Twitter.

The developer behind the Star Trek Voyager Bridge VR experience is working on a new FTL-inspired project (FTL is a famously difficult survival game for PC and iPad) called Ghost Vector, shown in a 1-minute trailer. Players must find ways to repair an abandoned starship while defending against enemy attacks.

In a 3-minute video, Nick Pittom, who works with Immersive VR Education, shows off the motion capture suit used to animate astronauts for their Apollo 11 experience. One of the developers of Apollo 11, Drash, also explained in a Kickstarter update he will support the very simple Oculus Remote with the experience for people who might not be comfortable holding a traditional gamepad. Drash:

“It is far less intimidating than a gamepad, so that should be great for enticing players that it might not otherwise. I can't tell you how many times I've demo'd VR to someone unfamiliar with gamepads and having to move their fingers to the correct button - it must be a panicky feeling to be them, and that's not something we want.

Oculus will be paying test subjects $400 to come to their homes for 6-hours of research.

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