With Tiny Stereoscopic 360-Degree Camera, Live Planet Aims To Succeed Where Others Failed, by Ian Hamilton

Startup Live Planet plans to deliver its first cameras in December as part of an end-to-end stereoscopic 360-degree video platform aimed at making it easier for creators to stream live high-quality content.

Live Planet is led by serial entrepreneur Halsey Minor, who largely self-funded this company after a long track record at the start of businesses like CNET,  Salesforce and GrandCentral (which later became Google Voice). With 360-degree video, he’s intimately aware of the failures of other products on the market, including Nokia’s OZO, and aims to succeed through a combination of high-quality hardware and easy-to-use software.

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Lytro Announces VR Light Field Rendering Software ‘Volume Tracer’, by Scott Hayden

Lytro, the once consumer-facing light field camera company which has recently pivoted to create high-end production tools, has announced a light field rendering software for VR that essentially aims to free developers from the current limitations of real-time rendering. The company calls it ‘Volume Tracer’.

Light field cameras are typically hailed as the next necessary technology in bridging the gap between real-time rendered experiences and 360 video—two VR content types that for now act as bookends on the spectrum of immersive to less-than-immersive virtual media. Professional-level light field cameras, like Lytro’s Immerge prototype, still aren’t yet in common use though, but light fields aren’t only capable of being generated with expensive/large physical cameras.

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Kandao Obsidian VR Camera Triumphs in Excellent Product Design at the German Design Award 2018

SHENZHEN, China, Oct. 23, 2017 /PRNewswire/ — Kandao Technology, a Shenzhen-based leading VR camera manufacturer and solution provider, announced today that its flagship Obsidian 3D VR camera has been selected as a winner as the German Design Award 2018 in the Excellent Product Design category.

The German Design Award is one of the most prestigious design competitions in the world. Every year, only a select few products who are already recognized  worldwide with high design and quality standard are eligible for nomination by the German Design Council. The “winner” title is an award of excellence bestowed only on entries chosen by the jury from within each category.

From over 5,000 entries among various international participants, a judging panel of experts chose the Kandao Obsidian 3D VR camera as this year’s winner in the Excellent Product Design category. The panel described Obsidian as “surprisingly user-friendly” as users can operate it purely by instinct no matter how complicated the hardware and software inside are, it is truly a camera designed for VR content creators. This achievement marked Kandao Obsidian’s first nomination in this award. It is also the second international award received by Obsidian, following a previous award of “Best of Innovation Honoree” at CES 2017.

The Obsidian 3D VR camera was developed to enable innovative storytellers to create high-quality stereoscopic 360-degree videos for immersive virtual reality experience. It comes equipped with a deep learning based post-production software solution for stitching and depth map generation and offers up to 8K resolution 3D spherical videos, still image capturing capability and the addition of 3D 4K VR live streaming functionality.

With the product and technology, Kandao Technology makes every effort to explore new ways to apply VR in various industries, for example, VR in education, travel, live events, and the furniture, wedding, and real estate industries, to change the way how people feel and connect to the world.

Now, the Obsidian 3D VR camera is available for purchase worldwide at an official price of $6999.

Samsung’s 360 Round camera livestreams 3D VR, by John Fingas

Samsung

Samsung already has a virtual reality camera in the form of the Gear 360, but it’s not really for pros — it’s for everyday users who want to record a 360-degree video on the street. What if you’re a pro, or a well-heeled enthusiast? Samsung has you covered: it’s launching the previously hinted-at 360 Round. The disc-shaped device carries a whopping 17 2-megapixel cameras and six microphones (plus two mic ports) to create 3D (that is, stereoscopic) VR video. It’s powerful enough to livestream 4K VR at a smooth 30 frames per second, helped in part by software that promises to stitch together immersive video with virtually no lag.

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Lytro Launches Light-Field Tool Aimed at Animated Virtual Reality, by Carolyn Giardina

Its first demonstration short will be presented this week at the On the Lot confab.

 

Lytro, the Silicon Valley-based company that’s developing light-field based technology for Hollywood, is launching a new tool for the animation community to use to create virtual reality and other immersive experiences.

Describing it as a “virtual version of our physical cameras,” Lytro Cinema general manager Buzz Hays said the new Lytro Volume Tracer is light-field technology-based software designed to help animators get a quality level and realism closer to that of high-end animated features, but with near real-time rendering, bringing it more in line with the capabilities offered in a game engine.

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New Procedural Speech Animation From Disney Research Could Make for More Realistic VR Avatars, by Ben Lang

A new paper authored by researchers from Disney Research and several universities describes a new approach to procedural speech animation based on deep learning. The system samples audio recordings of human speech and uses it to automatically generate matching mouth animation. The method has applications ranging from increased efficiency in animation pipelines to making social VR interactions more convincing by animating the speech of avatars in real-time in social VR settings.

Researchers from Disney Research, University of East Anglia, California Institute of Technology, and Carnegie Mellon University, have authored a paper titled A Deep Learning Approach for Generalized Speech Animation. The paper describes a system which has been trained with a ‘deep learning / neural network’ approach, using eight hours of reference footage (2,543 sentences) from a single speaker to teach the system the shape the mouth should make during various units of speech (called phonemes) and combinations thereof.

Below: The face on the right is the reference footage. The left face is overlaid with a mouth generated from the system based only on the audio input, after training with the video.

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The Keepers of VR, by Devar Ardalan

COURTESY OF WORLD OCEANS FESTIVAL

When I first met Jeff Olm, he told me about Under the Canopy, a VR film that was shot using moving cameras and drones in the Amazon. It felt surreal to mount the VR headset and descend into the rainforest, in full stereo might I add. I asked to learn more about the production and Olm sent me a series of links. I especially loved going behind-the-scenes with a sloth in VR.

Jeff Olm is a VR/AR creative director and also co-chair of the VR/AR Association’s Stories and Audiences Committee. Together with several other industry thought leaders, we recently published the Top 10 Virtual Reality Best Practices in an effort to capture into one source the rapidly evolving knowledge about VR.

The radically new experiences that the medium provides today have been decades in the making. As part of this living document, we seek to present not only our experiences with the hardware and software, but also to dig into the specifics of development and content production. This work is especially timely given that analysts are projecting VR will transform into a multi-billion dollar industry in the next decade.

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Here Be Dragons VR studio closes $10 million Series A led by Discovery, by Lucas Matney

Here Be Dragons, an immersive production studio focused on virtual reality content, has closed a $10 million Series A round led by Discovery Communications with participation also coming from David Droga and David Jones. The raise sets the virtual reality studio’s valuation at $55 million pre-money, the company confirmed to TechCrunch.

As part of the round, Discovery exec Rebecca Howard will be joining Here Be Dragons’ board of directors.

While content bets are never all that simple (let alone ones focused on emerging technologies like VR), Here Be Dragons CEO Patrick Milling-Smith believes his company is in a great place after reaching profitability and working with partners like Nike, Samsung, The New York Times and GE.

The Series A raise will go toward building out some of the various divisions within the studio, Milling-Smith tells me, with a particular focus on creative development.

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Oculus to Talk “Breakthroughs in Spatial Audio Technologies” at Connect Conference, by Ben Lang

Oculus Connect 4, the company’s fourth annual developer conference, is set for October 11th and 12th in San Jose, California. There, Oculus will share with developers some of its latest research and developments, including what’s coming to the company’s VR Audio SDK.

Spatial audio is hugely important for creating convincing virtual reality worlds. Traditional stereo audio often sounds like it emanates from within your head.

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