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VR Digest: Magic Leap adds $794 million;
A dozen HTC Vive titles shown in Seattle

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VR Digest: A VR newsletter brought to you by Studio Transcendent
written by Ian Hamilton (@hmltn) issue 53 – February 3, 2016

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

Magic Leap adds $794 million

Florida-based startup Magic Leap announced a $794 million investment led by Alibaba, giving the Chinese e-commerce giant a spot on the mixed reality company’s board. The enormous investment brings the company’s total funding to date to around $1.4 billion and values the company at $4.5 billion. Magic Leap’s CEO published a post using visionary language to debut the term “Mixed Reality Lightfield” in describing the company’s technology.

Magic Leap CEO Rony Abovitz:

Here at Magic Leap we are gearing up for our First. Let’s not call it a product, although it is a product on many levels; but on some levels it needs to be more. We are setting up supply chain operations, manufacturing – many whirligigs and test machines and gizmos abound these days.
A Fast Company interview elicits more details about what the money will be used for:
Today's pile of cash will "accelerate that [releasing a first product]," he says. "It gets us well past launch." Abovitz goes on to note that "when you look at successful computing platform launches"—note the use of the word platform here; Magic Leap is developing hardware, software, and designing the user interface and user experience for what he calls an entirely new form of contextual computing—being able to think in multiple product cycles puts us in a different capability than the typical startup."

A dozen HTC Vive titles shown in Seattle

Valve showcased 12 upcoming titles for the Vive at an event in Seattle. Be sure to check out Tested’s hands-on videos, including Portal-like stealth game Budget Cuts (5 minutes), shooter Space Pirate Trainer (6 minutes), competitive shooter Hover Junkers (10 minutes), VR Minigolf (8 minutes) and exploration game The Gallery (10 minutes).

Some tips from developers of the games were compiled by Gamasutra. Joachim Holmér, co-founder of the company behind Budget Cuts:

“Ditch everything you know about game design, and just try to think of everything as new. Do a lot of experimentation, a lot of playtesting, and a lot of prototyping. There are so many turns you take during the design process…There are so many things you have to rethink. Just playtest everything.”

Bits

A cool 4-minute concept video for a VR experience called Loop shows a Rift DK2, treadmill and a Leap Motion hand movement sensor used to offer “a gamelike experience that lets you explore, deconstruct and alter its virtual worlds as you move through them.” Users will learn how to play with parameters in the underlying computer code to create interesting visual effects.

Alphabet (a.k.a. Google) has temporarily surpassed Apple to become the world’s most valuable company and is ramping up its VR efforts. New VP of virtual reality Clay Bavor gave an interview to Time.

“The amazing thing about Cardboard is that it’s truly VR for everyone with a smartphone….We think there’s something powerful and important in that. Is that the end of the line? Of course it’s not the end of the line. I think if you imagine the types of things that a company with the ambition and the technical resources and the know-how of Google would be working on, we’re working on a lot of those things.”

A nice infographic provides a guide to the known 2016 mobile VR headsets.

A Financial Times article (paywall) reports that Apple is building a secret team that’s already built a number of prototype VR/AR headsets.

Computer vision chip-maker Movidius is partnering with Google to improve what future mobile devices can see. This could have big implications for future Android-powered VR experiences.

The Void and its custom VR gear, which includes a haptic vest, will be demoed to thousands of attendees at TED.

The creator of Minecraft made a trippy Web-based fractal experience.

UploadVR reports that Steven Spielberg is working on an experience “solely for VR” with The Virtual Reality Company. The legendary director is also slated to make a movie out of the fun VR book Ready Player One.

One of the most popular early DK2-enabled titles, Euro Truck Simulator has now got a sequel. The descriptively named American Truck Simulator brings the action to North America, where users can haul cargo coast to coast in Virtual Reality while listening to their favorite radio stations. It supports runtime 0.7 & 0.8.

Microsoft has released another marketing video overselling the capabilities of their nonetheless impressive $3,000 augmented-reality Hololens headset. The ad imagines viewers of the Super Bowl enjoying a holographically enhanced football game, complete with quarterbacks bursting through the living room wall. At the 28-second mark there is a visualization of the Hololens’ actual field of view.
 

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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