January VR/AR News #4: VR in Bangladesh, women in tech and the Oscars

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Photo by: Empathetic Media

This week our Spanish version of Life in Gawair launched with El Pais and was a great success. In the multi-media experience you will meet different characters from Gawair, Dhaka, Bangladesh via 360 video, comics and text. You will learn about their lives, their experience as climate refugees as well as working inside a garment factory. Special emphasis on education was given through a collaboration operation with the Maria Christina Foundation, that financially supports children in slums so they can afford to go to school.

This year’s Women Startup Challenge, which will be held at Google’s Chelsea campus in NYC on Feb. 15, has a focus on VR and AI. According to Wareable, the VR-focused teams competing include “Spirit AI which has built a “more expressive” character engine; Opaque Studios which is focusing on VR production tools for Hollywood; Didimo which transforms photos into 3D avatars (including for AR and VR) and Hauoli which is working on an acoustic based motion tracking system.”

Photo by: Felix & Paul Studios.

For The Verge, Adi Robertson put together a roundup of the best VR at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival, ranging from ’80s-era comedy “Miyubi,” written in partnership with Funny or Die, to interactive works including “Life of Us,” in which users grow from single-celled organisms to robots. While Sundance’s New Frontier program “has shone a spotlight on VR for the past five years, 2017 represents a particularly crucial juncture for the technology,” wrote Andrew Wallenstein for Variety. “This year’s showcase comes after a full year of availability for all sorts of hardware dedicated to VR viewing.”

Photo credit: Joi Lee

Former Google and Xiaomi executive Hugo Barra will lead Facebook’s VR projects, including Oculus VR, according to a post from Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg on Wednesday. The news follows the aftermath of several VR setbacks at Facebook. In addition to supposed slow sales of the $599 Oculus Rift headsets, as reported by The New York Times, “Facebook is also facing a lawsuit from ZeniMax Media, which has accused Oculus of stealing technology that went into the creation of the Oculus goggles.”

Meet Ryot Girls, a diverse team of women working with The Huffington Post’s RYOT to share the world’s biggest news stories in 360-degree video on Facebook. Ryot Girls most recently covered the Women’s March on Washington, which for them, highlighted the importance of women working together. “We decided to have an all-woman crew,” managing editor Averie Timm said, “because we felt like these protests [before, during, and after] the Women’s March are some of the most historic moments for feminists in our lifetime. What better way to cover it than with an all-female team?

In other film news, the short movie “Pearl” has made history as the first VR project to be nominated for an Academy Award. Inverse has the story behind how the Google Spotlight Stories film was made. 

This week, Google announced that now anyone can publish an app on its Daydream VR platform, albeit it follows a set of quality requirements.

To pounder: How can VR be used to visualize scientific data?

For fun: Hulu’s new VR series “On Stage” delves into what goes into the live performances of some of the world’s biggest artists. Check out the debut episode starring Lil Wayne.

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