High Fidelity Launches Virtual Reality Festival FUTVRE LANDS

High Fidelity has become known as a premiere social virtual reality (VR) platform where users can come together to enjoy live events like concerts in the virtual company of like-minded fans. Now High Fidelity are aiming to scale up that experience with plans to host its first festival completely in VR.

The festival, titled FUTVRE LANDS, will be entirely in VR and will feature, contests, giveaways and a VR live music show. The event will take place on 17th November, 2018. Fans can watch virtually through the FUTVRE LANDS domain or in-person by visiting High Fidelity’s VR Studio in San Francisco.

The company says that hosting a festival in VR comes with a number of advantages, as fans don’t need to worry about long queues, sudden changes in weather, heat or injuries in crowded front-row areas.

Since the experience will be free and open to the public, it will offer those who have not yet taken the plunge with VR the opportunity to try out a VR social experience. Anyone will be able to access FUTVRE LANDS by using a VR headset, desktop PC or Google Daydream-compatible Android smartphone.

“Our goal is to make High Fidelity an Internet-scale technology that allows anyone to create and share their VR experience in real-time,” said Philip Rosedale, CEO and founder of High Fidelity. “At FUTVRE LANDS, we’ll bring more people in VR together at the same time than ever before. For VR newcomers, it’s a fun way to dive into virtual reality to see what’s possible beyond video gaming. For our community of VR creators, it’s a chance to celebrate VR’s rapid progress toward more mainstream users.”

High Fidelity is presenting FUTVRE LANDS as part of ‘Virtual Reality Day’, a 24-hour series of VR and AR events which is being held in over 50 cities and countries around the world.

High Fidelity

For future coverage on new VR-related events, keep checking back with VRFocus.

Air Canada Brings VR Experience to Washington D.C.

If you were to do a survey of ‘Things Canada is famous for’ the dish Poutine is quite likely to appear on the list. For those not in the know, poutine is chips (french fries for our American friends) covered in cheese curds and gravy. To promote its service, Air Canada is bringing this iconic dish along with a special virtual reality (VR) experience to Washington D.C.

The pop-up Poutinerie by Air Canada will open in the Washington D.C. area from 9th November as part of an effort by the company to entice customers to explore the world on its airline.

In order to give visitors a taste of ts various destinations in Canada, Europe, Asia, the Middle East and South America, Air Canada is offering global twists on the classic Canadian dish of Poutine, such as the London Corner Fish n’ Chips, which consists of malt vinegar over chips, crispy fried cod, dill & caper tartar gravy, or Soa Paulo’s Sweet Chimi-Churrasco, which combines sweet potato fries with grilled carne asada, green chimchurri and queso blanco.

“The #AirCanadaFliesThere initiative is designed to connect Washington DC travelers and their spirit of adventure to iconic destinations in Canada, Asia and Europe,” said Lisa Pierce, Air Canada Senior Director of US Sales. “As we showcase Air Canada’s flight offerings from the US Capital region, we hope to inspire everyone to explore these remarkable destinations, and beyond. We are especially pleased to serve all three Washington DC Metro airports. Most recently, we added direct flights to our hub in Montreal from Dulles and BWI airports. We are truly honored to be a growing part of the Washington DC community, and proud to support the work of Martha’s Table by donating all of the proceeds of the poutinerie to the organization.”

After having a bite to eat, visitors will be able to take part in an Air Canada flight using VR. The on-board experience will let visitors find out what it is like to fly aboard an Air Canada jet. There will also be opportunities to win two tickets to Air Canada destinations.

For future coverage of new VR content, keep checking back with VRFocus.

ABC Uses 360 Degree Video and AR For Election Coverage

Politics touches almost every aspects of our lives in some way. It is therefore no surprise that so many tune in to see live coverage of elections as votes roll in on Election Day. As the US mid-term elections begin, many TV stations are drawing on advanced technology to help viewers understand how the race is progressing.

ABC News will be covering the 2018 midterms by using a custom-made 360-degree stage as well as specialised augmented reality (AR) technology. A 360-degree behind-the-scenes tour of the set is also available to view on the ABC News Facebook page.

The AR content is said to have taken a full year of planning, designing and development, with an estimated 700-1000 hours devoted purely to data testing to ensure everything will be all right on the night.

The expansive and specialised set, meanwhile, too six months to design and build, and seven weeks to fully assemble in the studio. According to ABC News Senior Production Designer Seth Easter, the entire thing will be taken apart and put into storage only seven days after the conclusion of the election. “The goal was to create a set that both the viewer and the presenters … could understand visually [as depicting] a very important election,” he said.

ABC News Director of Graphics Operations Tamar Gargle and Creative Director Hal Aronow-Theil led the development of the AR experience that lets audiences watch ABC Experts on the set, while simultaneously learning about the election and the results tally in a visual way.

“There’s great potential for creative, interactive storytelling to help the viewer better understand complex information,” Gargle and Aronow-Theil explained. “We have had consultants from three vendors: Astucemedia, who are our graphics and creative consultants; Vizrt, for the graphics engines and graphics tracking; and Mo-Sys, the camera-tracking system,” Gargle added.

The ABC News coverage on the election will begin at 8pm on Tuesday 6th November, 2018. For future coverage on new AR content, keep checking back with VRFocus.

League of Legends Championship Opens with AR K-Pop Concert

League of Legends remains incredibly popular both for players and for those who are fans of e-sports. As such, the League of Legends Annual World Championships draws a huge crowd, which this year celebrated its opening ceremony with a special K-Pop performance enhanced with augmented reality (AR).

The K-Pop performance was created specifically to promote the four new K/DA skins, which were recently introduced into League of Legends. To celebrate the launch, developer Riot Games teamed up with K-Pop group (G)I-DLE as well as American artists Madison Beer and Jaira Burns.

Riot Games decided to create a fictional K-Pop group called K/DA, which features hero characters Ahri, Akali, Evelynn and Kai’Sa as members. For the opening ceremony, Riot Games decided to bring fiction and reality together by having its fictional band perform alongside a real one.

The song Pop/Stars by (G)I-DLE was performed on stage, accompanied by the four K/DA skins through the power of AR. The AR skins emerge from the air and then glide across the stage, dancing and strutting to the tune of the song as the audience cheers in appreciation.

As well as the on-stage performance, there is also an accompanying animated music video for Pop/Stars which features all four of the K/DA skins. The music performance was designed to kick off the World Championships, taking place in Incheon, South Korea, in style.

The K/DA skins have been released in the League Store. One particular skin, the K/DA Kai’Sa Prestige Edition skin also comes with a unique loading screen, splash art and VFX, but is only available until 19th November, 2018. The Pop/Stars song cal also be purchased from Google Play and iTunes, among others, priced at $1.29 (USD).

This is not the first time that Riot Games has used AR for its big live events, as the 2017 World championships saw an AR dragon zooming around the Beijing National Stadium.

For future coverage on new uses of AR technology, keep checking back with VRFocus.

EFF Unveils VR Tool To Spot Surveillance Devices

Statistics say that the average American citizen can be caught on camera more than 75 times in a day. CCTV cameras are meant to be there to keep people safe from theft and violent crime. However, as George Orwell noted in his famous novel 1984, it is all too easy for these surveillance devices to becomes tools of oppression. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) have launched a virtual reality (VR) experience designed to teach people how to spot surveillance technologies.

Spot the Surveillance has been designed to work with a VR headset, but can also work in a standard web browser. The user is placed in a San Francisco street scene, where a young person is being confronted by police. The user is challenged to identify all the surveillance tools in use.

The surveillance devices that can be found during the 10 minute VR experience include a body camera, an automated license plate reader, a drone, a mobile biometric device and a pan-tilt-zoom camera. The EFF have drawn on several years of research as part of its Street-Level Surveillance Project, which was created to catalogue how technology can be used and abused by law enforcement.

“We are living in an age of surveillance, where hard-to-spot cameras capture our faces and our license plates, drones in the sky videotape our streets, and police carry mobile biometric devices to scan people’s fingerprints,” said EFF Senior Investigative Researcher Dave Maass. “We made our ‘Spot the Surveillance’ VR tool to help people recognize these spying technologies around them and understand what their capabilities are.”

“One of our goals at EFF is to experiment with how emerging online technologies can help bring about awareness and change,” said EFF Web Developer Laura Schatzkin, who coded the project. “The issue of ubiquitous police surveillance was a perfect match for virtual reality. We hope that after being immersed in this digital experience users will acquire a new perspective on privacy that will stay with them when they remove the headset and go out into the real world.”

(Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images)

The Spot the Surveillance VR experience can be found on the EFF website. For future coverage on new VR content, keep checking back with VRFocus.

Samsung Will Focus on Augmented Reality At Developer Conference

A number of companies have become interested in upping their game in the augmented reality (AR) sphere since the launch of Apple’s ARKit and Google’s ARCore. One of those is Samsung, who is said to be intending on devoting quite a bit of time during its upcoming developer conference to AR.

The Samsung developers conference is due to take place in San Francisco on 7th-8th November. The focus is set to be on artificial intelligence (AI) as well as AR and voice, encompassing both voice commands and digital assistance.

Samsung S9 event ARemoji faces

The conference schedule lists a total of six sessions devoted to AR technology, with one promising tips on how to become a ‘superstar AR developer’. In addition many experts believe that Samsung will be unveiling an AR Cloud service titled Project Whare. Some analysts are even predicting the announcement of an AR headset.

Two of the sessions are planned to be dedicated towards creating AR emojis for Samsung’s smartphone devices, similar to the ones already released by Disney featuring characters from some of its popular movies, like The Incredibles.

Samsung are also planning to highlight innovations in the AR area, such as Project Whare, an AR cloud service that has been worked on by the Samsung Next incubator. Project Whare has not yet had an official announcement, but a Spokesperson said there were plans for a ‘soft roll-out’ at the conference.

Other companies have also been working on AR cloud services, with companies such as Niantic Labs, Google and Magic Leap all aiming to go beyond AR camera filters by finding a way of storing digital information about the real world and making it available to multiple users.

While little is known of any work on an AR headset, at the Virtual Reality Strategy conference last month, Samsung director of XR Developer Relations Farsh Fallah mentioned it as a possibility.

For future coverage on Samsung and its work in AR and VR, keep checking back with VRFocus.

Muse Announce Next World Tour Will Feature VR

A number of artists and musicians have turned to immersive technology such as augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) in order to give fans a closer look at exclusive concerts, or provide a new perspective on music videos. Rock band Muse are also embracing the technology as part of its new tour to support its new album, Simulation Theory.

Muse have become known for their showmanship and spectacular staging, which in the past has included sophisticated special effects, a rotating stage and lying drones. This time Muse have partnered with Microsoft to bring VR and mixed reality (MR) to its newest show.

Fans will be able to buy an ‘Enhanced Experience’ package, which will not only provide a front-row seat, but will also let fans get access to a specially created Muse Mixed Reality Pre-Show Party, which is being powered by Microsoft.

The pre-show party will let users take part in three different VR videogames which have been inspired by songs from the Simulation Theory album. There will also be the ability to take selfies with stage props and memorabilia from music videos. An exclusive show poster and ‘Thought Contagion’ lunchbox are also included in the package.

The Simulation Theory World Tour is set to head to North America, the UK and Russia. Fans will be able to pre-order the album up until 8th November for pre-sale access on 13th November.

For those less keen on the VR pre-show, a Premium Ticket bundle is also available, which doesn’t include the VR party. Further information about ticket bundles can be found on the official tour website. Tickets will go on general sale on 16th November.

Tour dates are as follows:

  • 02/22 – Houston, TX @ Toyota Center
  • 02/24 – Dallas, TX @ American Airlines Center
  • 02/26 – Phoenix, AZ @ Talking Stick Resort Arena
  • 02/28 – Salt Lake City, UT @ Vivint Smart Home Arena
  • 03/02 – Las Vegas, NV @ Mandalay Bay Events Center
  • 03/05 – San Diego, CA @ Valley View Casino Center
  • 03/07 – Sacramento, CA @ Golden 1 Center
  • 03/09 – Oakland, CA @ Oracle Arena
  • 03/24 – Sunrise, FL @ BB&T Center
  • 03/26 – Atlanta, GA @ State Farm Arena
  • 03/28 – Toronto, ON @ Scotiabank Arena
  • 03/30 – Montreal, QC @ Bell Centre
  • 03/31 – Quebec, QC @ City Videotron Centre
  • 04/02 – Washington, DC @ Capital One Arena
  • 04/04 – Detroit, MI @ Little Caesar’s Arena
  • 04/07 – Philadelphia, PA @ Wells Fargo Center
  • 04/10 – Boston, MA @ TD Garden
  • 05/26 – Prague, CZ @ Letnany Airport
  • 05/28 – Budapest, HU @ Papp Laszlo Sports Arena
  • 05/29 – Graz, AT @ Stadthalle Graz
  • 06/01 – London, UK @ London Stadium
  • 06/08 – Manchester, UK @ Etihad Stadium
  • 06/12 – Riga, LV @ Arena Riga
  • 06/16 – Moscow, RU @ Luzhniki Stadium
  • 06/18 – Helsinki, FI @ Suvilahti Open Air
  • 06/22 – Krakow, PL @ Tauron Arena Krakow
  • 06/27 – Nijmegen, NL @ Goffertpark
  • 06/29 – Cologne, DE @ Rhein Energie Stadion
  • 07/03 – Zurich, CH @ Hallenstadion
  • 07/06 – Paris, FR @ Stade de France
  • 07/09 – Marseille, FR @ Stade Orange Velodrome
  • 07/12 – Milan, IT @ San Siro Stadium
  • 07/16 – Bordeaux, FR @ Matmut Atlantique
  • 07/20 – Rome, IT @ Stadio Olimpico
  • 07/24 – Lisbon, PT @ Passeio Martimo de Alges
  • 07/26 – Madrid, ES @ Wanda Metropolitano

For future coverage on new uses for VR technology, keep checking back with VRFocus.

AR Horror Attraction Comes to UK

By now it is fairly well established that horror tends to work extremely well with virtual reality (VR). Indeed, there have been a number of VR experiences, videogames and location-based attractions that take advantage of this. So far the use of horror with augmented reality (AR) has not been thoroughly explored, something which Red Frog Digital are trying to change with Zombie HoloMaze.

AR content developer Red Frog Digital have devised an AR horror attraction that involves visitors donning an AR headset in order to battle against, and ultimately attempt to escape from, a zombie horde.

The AR experience has been devised as a mix between horror scare maze and escape room. Visitors wear an AR headset that not only comes with Ar glasses, but also a head-mounted weapon. Players are given a time limit, in which they need to explore the maze and find a secret antidote. Failure to find the antidote means they are doomed to become one of the zombies they are trying to escape.

Obstacles in the way include hidden trap doors, zombie dogs, blockades and a variety of undead creatures. The attraction had its initial debut at the PrimEvil scare attraction event, which took place in Norwich, UK.

“With augmented reality at the forefront of technology, we thought it be amazing to add an extra layer to human actors from traditional scare mazes with incredibly detailed 3D holograms,” James Loveridge, commercial director at Red Frog Digital, explained. “Our HoloMaze effectively transports guests inside of a video game, blurring the lines between real and virtual terror.”

Red Frog say the concept was developed after it had some initial success at VRLA, an event which is described as one of the biggest immersive technology events in the world. The company says the small footprint of the attraction means it is suitable for a large number of locations.

For future coverage of new and upcoming AR content, keep checking back with VRFocus.

Niantic Labs Announces Ingress Prime Now Available

Niantic Labs are best known for creating the incredibly popular augmented reality (AR) title Pokemon Go, but before that, Niantic Labs worked on another mobile title called Ingress, which attracted a global audience. Niantic have now announced that Ingress is getting an overhaul.

Now Niantic Labs have analysed the data gathered from working on both Ingress and Pokemon Go as well as listening to feedback from users regarding gameplay design and features. The result of this has been an overhaul of Ingress, titled Ingress Prime.

Ingress first launched in 2012, and ultimately racked up over 20 million downloads worldwide, being available in over 200 countries. The technology pioneered by Niantic in Ingress was then used as the foundation for Pokemon Go.

The company says it has spent six years working on improving Ingress, and are keen to share with both existing and new players to new innovations introduced in Ingress Prime, which are said to build on the multiplayer gameplay, narrative integration and real-world experiences of the original geared towards veteran and new players.

Several quality-of-life improvements have been added to Ingress Prime, such as quick-swipe menus, inventory management, the ability to link a Facebook account as well as new security features. There is also a new training function that will serve as an introduction for new players.

In Ingress, players take on the role of ‘Agents’ of either The Enlightened or The Resistance, who each have their own mission and philosophy. Agents need to learn how to control Portals, areas which are hidden as areas of interest in the real world, in order to extract a powerful resource called Exotic Matter (XM).

Agents can work alongside faction-specific AR programs, which shape the story of Ingress. The outcome of certain key events can be influences by Agents in real-world events, known as Anomalies.

Ingress Prime is available now in Apple App Store and Google Play Store. Further information on the app can be found on the Niantic Labs blog.

For future coverage on new and upcoming AR titles, keep checking back with VRFocus.

Early Bird Discount Price For DreamGlass AR Headset Soon To Expire

Earlier this year, augmented reality (AR) hardware company DreamWorld sought to compete with the big names in AR and mixed reality (MR) such as Microsoft’s HoloLens by launching an affordable AR headset called DreamGlass. Now time is running out for consumers and developers to get the device at its discounted ‘Early bird’ price.

Currently developers and consumers can purchase the DreamGlass AR headset directly from the DreamWorld website for $399 (USD). This offer is set to expire on 5th December, 2018. After that, the price will take a jump up to $619.

The DreamGlass AR headset offers users a 90 degree field-of-view, along with 2.5K resolution, 3 Degrees of Freedom (3DoF) head tracking and hand gesture recognitions. The device is said to be about half a pound in weight and can tether to either a smartphone or PC.

The tethering can be done using a USB Type-C connector, which lets users interact with the AR content displayed on the headset by using the smartphone as a controller. Similarly, the device can also be connected to a PC, which is useful for development and prototyping of AR and MR content.

The company heave created a software development kit (SDK) which is based on the Unity engine. Unity is commonly used in all avenues of videogame development, and has a number of tools for creating AR and MR content, and is supported by both Windows and Android.

The creators of DreamGlass hope that by making the SDK easy to use, it will encourage developers to create new and innovative AR and MR content. The discounted early price is intended to encourage smaller and independent developers who might lack the resources of larger studios to purchase the DreamGlass and commence creating content.

DreamWorld says that all DreamGlass orders will be shipped within three days. Further information can be found on the DreamWorld website.

For future coverage of AR and MR hardware, keep checking back with VRFocus.