Over $2.1 Million Raised For New Virtual Reality And Esports Cryptocurrency, By Darren Heitner

Bitcoin and Ethereum are becoming commonly used words as Initial Coin Offerings are sprouting up. (Photo: ROSLAN RAHMAN/AFP/Getty Images)

Cryptocurrencies are all the rage in 2017. Names like Bitcoin and Ethereum have become a part of common dialogue as people seem to be interested in learning more about cryptocurrency markets and exploiting them in any way possible for financial gain. The markets are rather volatile, with the more popular Bitcoin falling in price by roughly 20% in a mere seven day span, but that has not dissuaded anyone from wanting to at least consider being part of the cryptocurrency action.

An industry that may be perfectly positioned for the exchange of such cryptocurrencies is gaming, where individuals are constantly competing to best the competition, often with some form of prize to be awarded for excelling. With the rise of esports, cryptocurrencies could be a clear match, and there are companies looking into the potential of same.

Take for instance NEVERDIE, a company that has been in the virtual reality space for many years that is now trying to create a cryptocurrency coin/token that can be used for transactions in the virtual reality world as well as for esports prizes. NEVERDIE is currently running what is referred to as an ICO — Initial Coin Offering — which is to raise funds, without regulation, for a cryptocurrency venture. NEVERDIE’s ICO ends August 1 with coins available on the Ethereum Blockchain. Thus far, over $2.1 million has been raised, including $50,000 from a single investor.

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This is the GoPro Fusion: the company’s all-in-one VR camera, by James Trew

Image Credit: AOL
GoPro surprised everybody when it teased its “Fusion” 360-degree action camera back in April. Mostly because GoPro rarely teases anything (Karma, perhaps being the exception), preferring to show up out of nowhere with a glossy release video and launch event. The half-reveal didn’t tell us much, just that there was a camera coming in the fall, it had a resolution of 5.2K, a feature called “OverCapture” that would allow you to “punch out” a regular video from the spherical capture and well, that was kinda it.

Today the company is willing to show a lot more leg, as it were. In fact, GoPro is using the Mountain Games (which it sponsors) as a platform to show it to the world for the first time. We’re here, and we’re getting the chance to check it out for ourselves to see if it really is the “ultimate GoPro.” In the meantime, here’s a first look at the actual device itself.

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GoPro’s New VR Camera Looks A Lot Less Confusing, by Jamie Feltham

Back in March we wrote about the reports that GoPro was making cuts to its VR division in an effort to refocus its core business. That much may be true, but the company still has a new VR camera on the way.

The company this month announced Fusion, a new device capable of capturing both 360 degree and traditional video content in up to 5.2K at 30fps. There aren’t many images of the device available yet, though it looks very different from the traditional square-shaped HeroCams we’re used to seeing. You can see some of the first panoramic footage captured with the new device below.

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Intel acquires Voke VR as it moves into immersive sports tech, by Mark Hachman

Very few people have likely either seen or heard of VR sports at this point, but that hasn’t stopped Intel from quickly snapping up its second startup, Voke, to lock up what it calls “immersive sports experiences.”

Intel said Thursday that it has bought Voke, described as a leader in bringing “live, virtual reality experiences to consumers.” “Imagine being able to witness a slam dunk from the defender’s perspective or the defensive rush from the quarterback’s perspective,” James Carwana, the general manager of Intel’s Sports Group, wrote in a blog post. “This kind of experience may sound futuristic, but it’s closer than you think.”

Voke uses an array of paired-lens, stereoscopic cameras to capture events like the Final Four and New York’s Fashion Week, then allows users to hopscotch around them to view the action from their choice of perspective.

That’s somewhat similar to Intel’s second VR acqusition, Replay Technologies, which Intel bought in March. Replay uses what it calls “freeD” cameras scattered around a basketball court, and combines the video inside Intel’s own servers. The aggregated, stitched-together video feed essentially turns a live feed of a basketball game into a live 3D model of the action, which users can also rotate or zoom in and out of to experience the action as they want. It appears that Voke’s technology may be used to provide more realistic video images that could be later stitched together using the Replay technology.

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Here’s How the NBA Is Stepping Up Its Virtual Reality Game, By Jonathan Varian

STAPLES Center on February 24, 2016 in Los Angeles, California. Andrew D. Bernstein — NBAE/Getty Images
STAPLES Center on February 24, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.
Andrew D. Bernstein — NBAE/Getty Images

The NBA will broadcast one game a week in virtual reality, starting October 27.

NBA Digital, a joint venture between Turner Sports and the NBA that manages the league’s online properties, said that it will broadcast one basketball game a week that viewers can watch in 360 degrees. The first custom broadcast will debut October 27 when the Sacramento Kings play against the San Antonio Spurs. During the broadcast, the NBA will stream the game in 180-degrees, in which viewers can turn their heads to follow the action, while a graphical display of the game’s statistics will be streamed in another 180-degrees to accompany the broadcast.

Viewers can watch the first game for free as long as they sign up for a free trial of the NBA League Pass, the NBA’s video subscription service, and have a Samsung Gear VR headset as well as the appropriate Samsung smartphone.

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What a venture capitalist sees in the virtual and augmented reality market, By Sunny Dhillon

Jonny Ahdout / Within
Jonny Ahdout / Within

Before my career as an investor, I worked at Warner Bros. and at a venture-backed startup that spun off from New Line Cinema. And as an early-stage VC with Signia Venture Partners, I’ve been actively hunting for virtual-reality opportunities in the media and entertainment industry — I couldn’t be more bullish on VR and AR as a fanboy, consumer and investor.

Most venture-backed startups around entertainment VR/AR have fallen into four buckets: Cinematic VR, sports/live events, content-creation tools/infrastructure and gaming.

Moviemakers are exploring opportunities for director-uncontrolled viewer perspective in VR movies. Visual effects engineers improve motion-capture techniques for inserting real-life human holograms into virtual worlds. Movie studios look to additive VR/AR “bonus content” to help market their tentpole $100 million theatrical releases. Game developers look to create ethereal escapes and immersive horror and shooter games. And concert and sporting event producers look to engage (and monetize) fans on a new and exciting event viewing medium.

As an investor, I’m looking at all of these closely, alongside a few enterprise applications of VR/AR (particularly within training and education), but for the purposes of this article, let’s stick to the entertainment biz.

Cinematic VR

Cinematic VR refers to storytelling and short films — content whose success is dependent on creativity more than on unique, defensible technology. We have seen a host of venture-backed startups emerge in this category: Baobab, Penrose, Within (formerly VRSE), Felix & Paul and, at one time, even Oculus’s internal Story Studio. For the most part, these companies have either been started by recently minted Harvard Business School MBAs or by folks with significant past creative/technical show business experience. Investor-wise, strategics such as Comcast Ventures have been particularly active in cinematic VR; however, it was Andreessen Horowitz that wrote the biggest check to date for an early-stage cinematic VR startup (for Within).

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Extreme Sports Showcase GoPro’s Virtual Reality Opportunity, By Travis Holium

AN IMAGE CAPTURED VIA A GOPRO OMNI DEVICE. IMAGE SOURCE: GOPRO.

Tech companies are tripping over themselves to build out their virtual reality products, battling to be the platform of choice for consumers. Alphabet’s (NASDAQ: GOOG) Daydream, Facebook’s (NASDAQ: FB) Oculus, and Sony’s Playstation VR are the leaders in high-tech virtual reality, positioned primarily for gaming. But there’s another VR market that’s developing right under our noses as well. GoPro (NASDAQ:GPRO) has quietly been building a suite of products that are bringing virtual reality to the devices we already own. No need for an expensive headset or a game console to view content from GoPro; all you need is your phone.

The recent release of professional snowboarder Travis Rice’s The Fourth Phase movie may be the best example of how virtual reality could change how we experience content. GoPro has launched a four-part series with footage from The Fourth Phase on its YouTube channel. “Feel what it’s like to ride in a helicopter and snowboard with … Travis Rice, as captured in this GoPro Omni VR experience,” the company entices. “This exclusive series, ‘GoPro Perspectives: The Fourth Phase with Travis Rice,’ will reveal what it’s like to be Travis as he drops into some of the world’s biggest lines.”

Extreme sports will show how amazing this content can be for millions of viewers. And GoPro hopes that will translate to more sales and video uploads in the future.

GOPRO'S OMNI IMAGE CAPTURE RIG. IMAGE SOURCE: GOPRO.
GOPRO’S OMNI IMAGE CAPTURE RIG. IMAGE SOURCE: GOPRO.

Virtual reality (or 360 video) has been slow to launch, partly because the content capture devices and distribution platforms are just now starting to emerge. GoPro’s six-camera Omni capture system — along with software called Stitch, acquired when it bought Kolor — has been an early leader in the space.

Watch the Omni video on GoPro’s Facebook page of Travis Rice snowboarding down a mountain or video from the top of a motocross car and you’ll experience extreme sports like never before. It’s an immersive video of action sports that’s like nothing that’s been captured before, available by simply launching Facebook or the GoPro VR app on your phone. And people are starting to see the content, which could lead to more sales for GoPro.

Travis Rice’s VR video taken with GoPro’s Omni had been viewed 1.9 million times on Facebook in the first four days it was available on GoPro’s page. And GoPro’s VR app is starting to generate hundreds of thousands of views for videos put online under GoPro’s platform. Exposure to this incredible content should mean sales for GoPro’s VR products.

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Sports Illustrated Teams to Produce First Complete Mt. Everest Climb in Virtual Reality

Sólfar Studios is also bringing Everest VR to HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, and PlayStation VR this year. Sólfar Studios

Sports Illustrated will partner with Endemol Shine Beyond USA to produce the first documentary series of a complete climb of Mt. Everest to be presented in virtual reality.

The production, titled “Capturing Everest,” will debut in early 2017, on Time Inc.’s new LIFE VR platform TIME 0.00% , and will also be released on SI.com in 360-degree video. The production is presented by Sports Illustrated.

The video was shot over the span of two months, using cameras on zip lines and on the body harnesses of climbers, who include six-time Everest summiteer Garret Madison and three-time Everest summiteer Brent Bishop. For the first time, viewers will be able to experience the climb in first-person using virtual reality.

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How Fox Sports is bringing augmented reality to NFL games, By Mark Spoonauer

As a tech nerd and a New York Giants fan, I couldn’t help but geek out during the recent Giants-Cowboys game. Fox Sports debuted a new kind of augmented-reality graphics package that placed a massively tall scoreboard on the field in 3D and then later added a larger-than-life quarterback comparison.

As the aerial Skycam moved forward, the perspective changed as I watched my TV, allowing me to peek around the side of a digital Eli Manning and then literally move through the graphics to see the live action. I’ve never seen anything like it before, because it had never been done before.

According to Michael Davies, senior vice president of field and technical operations for Fox Sports, this is just the beginning of what’s possible with AR graphics. And the source of his and his team’s inspiration is clear.
The key to the new AR graphics package is the Skycam, which provides the quintessential video-game-like view that’s piloted above the field and sits right behind the play. Last year, Fox Sports used the Skycam to debut a virtual 1st-and-10 line from above, and now it’s working with three vendors — Skycam, Sportvision and Vizrt — to show other types of augmented reality and 3D graphics on the field.

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