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By Tom Ffiske // 20 January 2021
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The boredom of lockdown leap-frogged my bao-making skills. Also, last week I appeared in the Between Realities podcast, talking about CES and what we're playing.
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Webinar
Perception Codes is hosting a webinar on 4 February, to showcase its DesktopAR and Holo-SDK Unity plugin. Combined, developers can add holograms to their AR projects and create engaging content for their clients. Attendees receive a one-year developers license for free, so consider signing up today. 

Disclaimer: I have been paid to provide freelance webinar support for Perception Codes.
The Main Story
Let's talk about AR and storytelling. What prompted this was the launch of Wallace and Gromit's 'The Big Fix Up,' a new AR experience made by Fictioneers.

I'm slightly biased. Aardman has basically grabbed my nostalgia by its modelling-clay balls, so I was bound to take a look - and it's really good! But it also got me thinking about the role of AR in telling stories. Users become an active participant, moving around a virtual world while being guided by the characters... almost like a guided tour. How do you adapt a story to AR?

I asked the Fictioneers team, and they agree that it helps put users in the experience. 'It’s become a lot more accessible in the last couple of years,' said a representative, 'but there aren’t too many other apps out there that take advantage of AR and its capabilities in the way we do.' The team also used
Unity MARS to build the experience, which they enjoyed: 'Unity MARS gives us the ability to quickly iterate content while testing in a variety of unique environment, all without making a single build.'

On this, I then asked the Unity team about where they think AR storytelling is going. 'We see the future of AR as a part of everyday life and we’re committed to ensuring that anyone can take part in this future by creating tools that are widely accessible so that creators can reach the broadest audience possible.' That was Timoni West, Vice President, XR Tools at Unity. 

Provided that the experience is designed for it, I agree that AR is a compelling tool to use. Anything hammered in would not work. But in this case, it's a tasteful implementation with an enjoyable piece of work. 
When my housemate is about to shop, but I am stuck on a Zoom call. Photo credit: Aardman Animations, W&G, and Fictioneers.
Sponsored message from Igloo Vision
For an outstanding immersive installation, the AgriTech Centre of Excellence worked with Igloo Vision on the brand-new ACE Suite. Kitted out with 3D-enabled floor-projection, users truly feel they're stepping right into - and onto - any kind of content. Find out more. 
Analysis of the top stories
Got a news story? Let me know at tom (at) virtualperceptions (dot) com.

Taco Bell made its CEO make an announcement as an AR potato.
  • Firstly, yes, you read that right. 
  • Secondly, I am not sure why they did this. Perhaps the quirk makes it good for social media, making it shareable. It's certainly not a high-end use of the tech, but it's clever for Twitter. 
  • On reflection, I think it is smart. But the main barrier for agencies is convincing the CEO to go through with it... good luck with that. Perhaps smaller-scale examples could work in the future? 
How many more people are playing VR games on Steam? 
  • Quite a few, actually. Valve announced that game sales are up 32 per cent year-on-year. This does not count the sales of Half Life: Alyx, which adds an additional 39 per cent on top of that. Basically, Valve wanted to flex hard and show that their game sold a stupid amount.
  • My question: does it show that the VR ecosystem is strong, or that Valve is pushing the industry hard, similar to Facebook? I say a mix of both, as a 32 per cent growth rate (minus Alyx) is really, really quick in any industry. 
Other stories
  • AngellXR updated sandboXR so it is easier to add WebXR experiences. 
  • AWE announced AWE Academy, where people in the XR community can learn core new skills. 
  • Gateway Science Project made a VR zoo for children
  • HTC predicts the rise of 'all-in-two' devices in 2021 (which shouldn't come as much of a surprise). Also, the professional VR football training title Rezzil Player 21 is now available on Viveport.
  • Kuato Studios raised £4.5m in a round led by Horizons Ventures, and is launching a VR title called Panic Room.
  • Norwegian Refugee Council and Stargate Media launched an app that profiles a range of experiences on the lives of the displaced. 
  • Oculus announced two new features: the ability for multiple accounts to log into a single headset; and the ability to share apps with others on the device.
    • (The news was on the cusp of being out-of-date, but it's worth mentioning due to its significance for many people). 
  • PACE is now a Unity Verified Solutions partner.
  • Perp Games and Charm Games announced a partnership to bring FORM and Twilight Path to retail.
  • Realize Medical Announces Appointment of Advisor, Professor Robert J. Stone.
  • RealWear announced that Fugro has selected and deployed the RealWear HMT-1 headsets
  • VR/AR Global Summit is now looking for speakers, sponsors, and exhibitors. 
  • Zappar released an SDK for Reach and three.js, so developers can create AR using the company's computer vision libraries.
    • Disclaimer: I help Zappar as a freelance communications manager. 
  • ZeroLight, AWS, and Lucid demonstrate a cloud-based way to show cars immersively. 
'VR Girls' is a ready-to-use pack of 2D illustrations, videos, and patterns. Check out the pack for commercial purposes. Credit: Jill Adams. 
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That's all for this week! Want to have a chat, let me know about a news story, or talk business? Either reply to this email, or contact tom (at) virtualperceptions (dot) com. Have an excellent day! 

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