Design A Custom VR Avatar In Minutes With High Fidelity’s Virtual You App

Create a custom avatar for social events and work meetings.

The process is simple, you take a quick selfie on your phone and the app then analyzes your photo and creates a 3D representation of your likeness. You then take a few minutes to polish up your VR avatar to look even more like you by tweaking the shape of your face, the shape of your nose, choosing an outfit that reflects your personality, and adding accessories.

Virtual You gives you the ability to create a detailed VR avatar of yourself, whether it be an accurate representation of your real-world appearance or a completely original character.

There are literally over a thousand combinations available to you through the app.

Image Credit: High Fidelity

Once you’ve settled on a look, you can then pair your newly-created avatar and import it into your High Fidelity account or into any VR environment that uses High Fidelity’s open-source software, and use it during VR social events or work meeting.

Virtual You: 3D Avatar Creator is powered by VR/AR developer Wolf3D, a company focused on exploring the idea of bringing humanity and VR/AR together through realistic avatars that you can use in games and other virtual experiences.

In an official press release, Timmu Tõke CEO of Wolf3D said, “One of the first things people want to do in VR is make an avatar. Helping people do that quickly and easily, using the tools they already have, sets them up for a better VR experience.” 

Image Credit: High Fidelity

Virtual You started off as High Fidelity’s virtual office project – which is currently in development – to help give today’s modern-day workforce of global remote workers and traveling sales teams a way to collaborate and work together in VR. The company believes recognizable avatars will make virtual communication feel more seamless for remote teams; almost like flagging down a colleague for a quick discussion or finding your team in a crowded cafe during lunch—only instead of doing this in the real world, you’re doing it in VR.

Image Credit: High Fidelity

“Personalized avatars allow for the best of both worlds: an interactive, identifiable presence which resembles us, but one that requires no grooming, no clothes to be ironed and always has our game face on. Decades of research has shown that avatars can display superpowers — for example, the ability to maintain eye gaze via algorithm — that is impossible to achieve either face-to-face or over videoconference,” said Jeremy Bailenson, director of Stanford’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab.

In recent years, avatar rights have become a bit of a hot topic issue as more VR users begin recognizing the importance of their avatars. Last year VR social platform AltSpaceVR was faced with criticism during a townhall when they announced that they were planning on eliminating their recognizable robot avatars. The announcement inspired the BeeBot sendoff, during which AltSpaceVR users switched their avatars to the BeeBot and gathered together in the virtual space to say one last goodbye to their little yellow flying robot.

RIP BeeBot.

Image Credit: High Fidelity

Although High Fidelity’s VR office application isn’t available at the moment, the company is publicly releasing Virtual You based on the demand they have seen for personalized avatars in other use cases of its open-source software.

“As VR begins to transform our daily lives, we will often want to easily appear in virtual worlds as we do in the physical world,” said Philip Rosedale, CEO, and Co-founder of High Fidelity. “Avatars have always been a pillar of VR and virtual worlds, but unless you’re a dedicated enthusiast, creating them hasn’t been easy. By making 3D customizable avatars available through a mobile app, we’ve cleared an important step towards bringing VR to billions of people.”

Image Credit: High Fidelity

Just last year, High Fidelity pushed the limits of VR environments when they hosted their FUTVRE LANDS VR music festival, which brought in users from multiple platforms to participate in games, enjoy live music from professional DJ’s, watch a theater performance, and shop in a virtual marketplace bazaar; all culminating in a real-time live performance from five-time Grammy-nominated 80’ synth-pop artist, Thomas Dolby. 

High Fidelity VR platform is able to host up to 500 people at a time.
Virtual You: 3D Avatar Creator is currently available on compatible iOS and Android devices. High Fidelity is available via SteamVR and Oculus.

Feature Image Credit: High Fidelity

The post Design A Custom VR Avatar In Minutes With High Fidelity’s Virtual You App appeared first on VRScout.

Virtual Reality for Teachers

A new virtual reality project aims to help teachers develop and practice their skills before they enter the classroom.

As new technology is changing the look of classrooms around the world, a new project from two HGSE students aims to harness the power of virtual reality for teachers.

For the past year, Ed.L.D. candidates Hassan Brown and Kevin Bryant having been working on a virtual and augmented reality project called VRsatility, with the goal of providing teachers with an immersive virtual space to engage in realistic mock simulations to practice high stakes decision-making scenarios before entering the classroom.

“Research states that teachers make over 1,500 decisions per day,” Bryant says. “As former teachers, we understand the stress that accompanies many of these decisions. Learning through virtual simulation has become a common practice in other fields, so why not education?”

Both Brown and Bryant came to HGSE with an interest in educational innovation and technology. Brown, a former social worker and public middle and high school science and math teacher, had worked with the Gates Foundation around workforce development and teacher diversity in the Pacific Northwest; Bryant studied computer science as an undergraduate and worked in New York City schools as a math teacher and principal who led efforts to embed technology in his classrooms.

The idea for VRsatility was hatched during a January Term trip to Singapore and Tokyo, during which Brown and Bryant bonded over a mutual interest in culture and technology and a desire to explore what made the educational systems in those countries so successful in adopting and implementing new technology in their classrooms.

“In Singapore and Tokyo, we saw how comfortable students and teachers were with virtual reality and augmented reality,” says Brown. In Singapore, the two watched students in an aeronautics class scan QR codes that simulated malfunctioning equipment on board a virtual plane and then work in small groups to fix the issue.

Back at HGSE, the two began what they described as “a second job” outside of their Ed.L.D. Program, designing the early version of VRsatility. They spent months testing software and writing scenarios.

The early version of the program places the user into a virtual classroom as a student surrounded by classmates who are bullying you because of a poor grade on a recent test. “It’s a social-emotional example, and during the simulation you are fully immersed and part of the experience,” Bryant says. “You see real people in front of you and you decide how to react.”

In another scenario, a team is working on a presentation when another member walks in late. The screen freezes and the user decides how the team will respond, either positively or negatively, and then how the late team member will react. Brown and Bryant say future versions will have even more classroom examples and response options for users.

Following the virtual experience, users debrief with Brown and Bryant in the real world through a set of scripted questions to drive additional reflection. In future versions, the two will aim to provide school administrators with the tools to use VRsatility to work with teachers to adjust instructional practice.

“There are a vast array of scenarios that teachers can benefit from using VRsatility and we want to make sure we’re working with educators to figure out where we go with the next iteration,” Brown says.

This summer, Brown and Bryant were selected by the Harvard Innovation Lab (iLab) as a venture team to work on developing their project. VRsatility also received two rounds of funding from the Harvard Initiative for Learning & Teaching (HILT). The two had a chance to share an early version of the project during the HILT education showcase, where invited organizations like VRsatility could demonstrate their projects and receive feedback from other education innovators across disciplines.

“Both the iLab and HILT gave us a lot of confidence in VRsatility, and now we can really take it to the next level,” Brown says. “The education showcase at the iLab gave us the chance to get it into the hands of over 50 users, and it also allowed us to meet with different folks with interest in virtual reality who are supporting us in moving forward.”

After their summer work with the iLab, Brown and Bryant will serve as educational innovation fellows with HILT during the 2019–2020 academic year, where they’ll support other entrepreneurs around Harvard while also connecting with more potential future collaborators.

Besides refining their project, Brown and Bryant have spent the summer in talks with local school administrators as well as conducting research with a number of districts to learn how to bring VRsatility to a wide audience of educators.

“Our big picture is spurring social innovation in education,” Brown says. “We have one more year on campus, and we want to make sure we walk away with a viable project that can go to market.”



Links – Lernangebote in Deutschland

Immersive Learning Academy

VR Storytelling Could Transform Mental Health

In the early ‘90s, psychologist Albert “Skip” Rizzo was trying to rehabilitate cognitive function in brain injury patients with workbooks and pen-and-paper exercises – tools one might expect more from a special education class than a psychiatric treatment center. Then one patient, a frontal lobe-impaired 22-year-old, came in with a Game Boy, playing “Tetris.”

“This is a guy I couldn’t motivate for more than five minutes to stay focused, but there he was lasered in on this Game Boy,” Rizzo recalls. “That was the first lightbulb that we could start using digital technology to motivate and engage people.”

He became one of many medical professionals at the time to recognize the early potential of virtual reality (VR) to help diagnose and treat a wide range of mental health issues. In 1995, Rizzo accepted a research director position at USC’s Institute for Creative Technologies to launch a new kind of cognitive rehab, supplementing the old analog and talk therapy tools with VR simulations.

“Now the technology has caught up with the vision,” he says.

So, what is the vision? Given that most health concerns are inseparable from one’s environment, Rizzo calls VR “the ultimate Skinner box,” meaning it can create safe yet emotionally evocative experiences to serve virtually any assessment or treatment approach imaginable. These therapeutic programs could be uniquely reliable for evaluating patients in the subjective world of mental health, wherein up to 85 percent of conditions can go undetected, according to the World Health Organization.

VR could bridge this gap in awareness and improve diagnoses by letting providers monitor patients’ physiological reactions to virtual scenarios, resulting in better treatment outcomes down the line. At Exeter University, a “mirror game” requiring subjects to duplicate the movements and expressions of a virtual avatar aided early detection of schizophrenia. In a similar vein, University of Oxford researchers are developing a VR-based test that gauges subjects’ reactions to neutral social situations for instances of paranoid thinking. Another study from Cambridge University diagnosed early Alzheimer’s-related spatial impairments more accurately than the current gold standard method, just by having participants don an HTC Vive and retrace their steps along an unmarked L-shaped path.

Another area where VR offers proven advantages is “extinction learning,” a method for overcoming fear and emotional trauma by gradually desensitizing one to the source of their anxiety. Though patients know these experiences aren’t real, that doesn’t change the preconscious response and fear activation of their limbic systems, manifesting in increased heart rate and production of the stress hormone cortisol. Our emotional command centers naturally suspend disbelief even when our logical minds know better, putting VR on par with real-life exposure therapy in clinical effectiveness, but with none of the travel costs or physical danger.

While early programs were calibrated to extinguish common phobias like fear of heights (balancing on a plank between skyscrapers), flying (sitting on the runway in a commercial aircraft) and spiders (progressing through increasingly realistic arachnid encounters), advancements in tech have allowed researchers to tailor more complex experiences, like crowded streets to stimulate social anxiety or traumatic memories for PTSD.

Starting in 2003, Rizzo modified a VR shooter game into an exposure tool called “BRAVEMIND” for veterans to reprocess their traumatic experiences, whether relating to IED blasts or sexual assault, with a therapist virtually recreating the memory as described.

“Most treatments out there for PTSD don’t have a lot of empirical evidence,” explains Rizzo. “The ones that do so far are ones that help a person focus on addressing the trauma, not avoiding it.”

The same principle seems to apply for another trial use of VR to treat schizophrenia. Traditionally, therapists advise patients to ignore auditory hallucinations, but a University of Montreal research team instead helped them create and interact with virtual avatars for the voices in their heads. While four of 19 subjects quit after the first session, the remaining 15 rated each interaction less frightening than the last, and their hallucination-related distress dropped an average of 5 points on a scale of 20 by the study’s end.

More recently, Rizzo and others have taken VR a step further, exploring something increasingly unheard of in American healthcare – prevention.

“BRAVEMIND” was retooled into the award-winning training simulation “STRIVE,” or Stress Resilience In Virtual Environments, preparing military members for the trials and traumas of combat before they’re deployed. Standing atop a vibrating platform in an immersive headset, recruits experience 15-minutes episodes at the midpoint of which an “emotionally challenging” event occurs based on real combat situations, such as the death of a civilian child or beating of a woman for infidelity. The scenario pauses, and a virtual “mentor” pulls players aside to help them process the event and teach physiological coping strategies, like deep breathing with a pair of onscreen lungs.

“We’re trying to engage people in stuff they normally get by way of death by PowerPoint,” says Rizzo. “We know experiential learning with a story sticks in the brain way more than somebody telling you in a lecture.”

Other psychological applications where VR has shown promise include weakening cravings that drive addiction and relapse, reducing body size overestimation in anorexia patients, imparting job interview skills to the autistic or formerly incarcerated, distracting from acutely discomforting procedures like chemotherapy and teaching mindfulness in ways that can engage and offer relief for even chronic pain sufferers. Some VR treatments are already rolling out to clinicians’ offices and consumers – “BRAVEMIND” and “STRIVE” are being donated by the charity SoldierStrong to VA offices across America, while the company Limbix offers $200 monthly subscriptions for a headset with their range of medical-grade VR apps.

Yet this ability to literally shape and heal human minds has mainly been overshadowed by commercial excitement for VR video games, not that Rizzo minds. Gaming industry investment has driven the technology to new heights in sensory immersion and new lows in cost – from $15k for a full setup in the ‘90s to $200 for a standalone headset today – giving it a clinical edge over pricier techniques like neuroimaging.

Now, however, Rizzo considers the incubation period for VR over and stresses the need to distinguish between entertainment versus health-related applications, lest business motives get in the way of credible science and set back public acceptance of the technology. There are many ethical considerations still to be sorted out as well, like ensuring providers have adequate training on the tech as well as patients’ needs and establishing safeguards for self-administered VR treatments.

“We’re not building games here,” Rizzo emphasizes, “we’re building experiences.”

But at the same time, that gaming element may be the key to VR’s revolutionary potential for healthcare. Effective treatment means nothing if people don’t use it, and the allure of VR, demonstrated time and time again in preliminary studies, could actually drive engagement and education in mental health as a whole. Just as the introduction of flight training simulators in the ‘30s led to a precipitous drop in aircraft accidents, this could be another immersive practice tool to minimize real-world distress, but with a universal scope and appeal well beyond that of any Game Boy.



Editorial: How Qualcomm’s New Enterprise XR Program Can Accelerate Growth

Right now enterprise XR is where most growth in XR is happening outside of Oculus and Sony’s walled gardens.

If you look at the majority headset manufacturers and the major developments happening in the industry, most of them are targeting the enterprise market. This is happening for a multitude of reasons, but the primary reasons are that the industries where XR makes the most sense are already able to quickly realize their ROI and the cost of XR is marginal to the size of the benefits. This is a natural progression that we’ve seen other previous technology platforms have taken, including the PC and smartphone and there’s no reason to believe that XR will be any different. A lot of that XR has been on the PC with VR headsets, with nearly all automotive manufacturers using VR somewhere in their design process and most architectural firms are also using VR somewhere in their projects.

We are also seeing companies like Walmart utilizing mobile VR headsets like the Oculus Go for training employees, which has already helped as the CEO said that training helped save lives in the El Paso shooting because of active shooter training. There are also countless examples of enterprise AR helping enterprises to reduce training time and maintenance mistakes ranging from industries like Oil & Gas to automotive repair. However, the reality is that long term, many enterprises are going to want to adopt XR in ways that match the way their workers work, which is increasingly mobile and not tethered to a PC or a single location. Additionally, a lot of companies still don’t completely understand how they can leverage XR, be it AR or VR, within their company to improve productivity, reduce costs or simply accomplish things that were previously impossible. Some enterprises might be better fit for AR while others may be better fit for VR and there are companies out there that specialize in helping enterprises find the answer to those questions.

That’s why Qualcomm’s XR Enterprise Program makes so much sense, Qualcomm’s chipsets are already in pretty much all of the mobile XR headsets out there today, including Microsoft’s Hololens 2, HTC Vive Focus, Pico Goblin 4K, Lenovo Mirage Solo, Oculus’ Quest and Go, Google Glass 2, Nreal Light, RealWear HMT-1 and Vuzix M400. Earlier this year, Qualcomm announced an XR viewer program which is designed to help pair 5G smartphone manufacturers with XR viewer manufacturers to address some of the issues with some AR headsets being too bulky for some users and not having 5G built-in quite yet. The XR Enterprise Program aims to continue that work and connect its hardware partners like the aforementioned headset manufacturers (and future headset manufacturers) with enterprise solution providers in a broad array of industries including manufacturing, energy, healthcare, aerospace, education, insurance, retail, transportation and AEC (architecture, engineering & construction).

Qualcomm’s program will give the first members — enterprise solution providers — access to partners’ technical support resources, promotional opportunities, marketing promotion, joint planning and business development including matchmaking with other members. This also helps these enterprise solutions providers learn how to walk in XR before they run (for example: testing out smart viewers before they go full AR). A lot of enterprises may still be unfamiliar with where AR and VR technologies are at today in terms of capability and Qualcomm’s knowledge and connections should be able to help.

The program is part of Qualcomm’s broader Qualcomm Advantage Network, which is the company’s already existing ecosystem accelerator initiative which aims to help small to medium players grow into bigger more successful players in the company’s respective market. This also means that members selected for the program should get access to Qualcomm’s broader XR industry insights, connections with their end customers, visibility into upcoming hardware and software features and a Qualcomm XR Enterprise Program badge to display on their website and promotional materials. For more information and to apply to enter the program, follow this link to Qualcomm’s website.

Qualcomm already has a pretty big bench of companies participating in or supporting the XR Enterprise Program both from the XR world as well as the enterprise training and services industries. Companies like AMA, Cognitive3D, Librestream, Mitchell International, UbiMAX and Zerolight round out the enterprise solutions providers. In addition to them, companies like Arvizio, NIBIRU, Nrealal, Pico, RealWear, Scope AR, STRIVR, XR Health, VictoryXR and Vuzix are already onboard. That’s a pretty comprehensive list of companies already driving the mobile XR space with the latest in headsets and enterprise ecosystem services. Do note, that while some of the headset vendors are involved and supporting the program, they are not technically a part of the XR Enterprise Program.

My father used to own an auto shop, and I can immediately think of numerous ways that an AR headset could help train new mechanics or assist an experienced mechanic with a difficult problem. In that business, labor is your margin and every minute wasted is money lost. Also, it could help auto mechanics build trust with their customers, so when they say something is broken or needs replacing, they can pull up a photo or video of that area for the customer to see for themselves. This simply wouldn’t be as easy to do with a PC-tethered headset. That’s why companies like Mitchell International are getting involved, they build software for the auto repair industry among other things.

One big angle to consider is that while today enterprise XR is primarily PC-based, it will shift toward mobile much like most of the computing has today. Most PC growth is in laptops and smartphones are still a billion-device industry. XR is already making the shift toward mobile with standalone headsets gaining popularity and performance, with the Oculus Quest being a perfect example of that. AR is also going to be inherently mobile because the real benefits of AR will only be realized in the real world, which means having constant connectivity and AR world anchors. All of this will heavily lean on 5G as an enabling technology, which I believe Qualcomm gets better than anyone else in the industry. Because of Qualcomm’s understanding of 5G, I believe it would be key to understand the role it will play in enterprise XR and why such a program would be valuable for both Qualcomm and its partners.

Disclosure: Moor Insights & Strategy, like all research and analyst firms, provides or has provided research, analysis, advising, and/or consulting to many high-tech companies in the industry including AMD, Microsoft, Intel, and Qualcomm. The author does not hold any equity positions with any companies cited in this column.

The post Editorial: How Qualcomm’s New Enterprise XR Program Can Accelerate Growth appeared first on UploadVR.

Apple AR Headset FOV, Codename, and Stereoscopic Rendering Mode Reportedly Found in iOS 13.1

Steadily becoming the biggest open-secret in the industry… more evidence has come to light that Apple in ongoing development of an AR headset. Inside iOS 13.1 beta 3, a developer claims to have found codenames, display dimensions, and fields of view, for three separate AR devices, as well as functional ‘StarTester’ test mode which renders a stereoscopic view.

A developer sifting through iOS 13.1 beta 3 has reportedly unlocked a ‘StarTester’ mode which renders a stereoscopic view suitable for an AR headset. The mode is part of Apple’s ‘StarBoard’ system which was recently uncovered in iOS and described therein as a “system shell for stereo AR enabled apps.”

Working under the name xSnow on Twitter, the developer apparently loaded their own test scene into StarTester and was able to capture the stereoscopic output.

This kind of dual view is commonly seen in the AR and VR space, allowing an app to render two slightly different views (one for each eye) to provide stereoscopic depth when seen through a headset.

Beyond StarTester, the developer says files within iOS 13.1 beta 3 include references to three different AR devices codenamed Franc, Luck, and Garta, with diagonal fields of view specified as 61°, 58°, and 68° respectively. The developer also claims that the files include 3D models of each headset’s display, which may be used to calculate correct view projections or distortions.

Apple Offers Impressive Web-based AR Previews of New Mac Pro

There’s also references to ‘HoloKit‘, a Google Cardboard-style AR headset which Apple may be using for software prototyping until they lock down their own headset hardware and are able to make enough prototypes for internal distribution and development.

The findings come not long after we spotted Apple posting a heap of new job listings for AR/VR positions which point to new products on the horizon, including roles for ‘AR/VR Demo Evangelist’ and ‘Product Manager, AR/VR’.

Increasingly, questions surrounding an Apple AR headset seem not to be if, but what and when.

The post Apple AR Headset FOV, Codename, and Stereoscopic Rendering Mode Reportedly Found in iOS 13.1 appeared first on Road to VR.

Cancer Therapy, Gravity Suit Research Before Crew and Cargo Launches

The six-member Expedition 60 crew from the United States, Russia and Italy
The six-member Expedition 60 crew from the United States, Russia and Italy gathers for a portrait inside the International Space Station’s Harmony module. At the top from left, are NASA astronaut Andrew Morgan, Roscosmos cosmonaut Alexander Skvortsov, ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Luca Parmitano, station commander Alexey Ovchinin of Roscosmos and NASA astronauts Christina Koch and Nick Hague.

The Expedition 60 crew is getting ready to welcome a Japanese cargo craft and new space residents next week before splitting up the following week. Meanwhile, the orbiting lab residents are starting the weekend exploring potential cancer therapies and testing a suit that counteracts the effects of microgravity.

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency has set Monday, Sept. 23 at 12:30 p.m. EDT for the launch of its H-II Transfer Vehicle-8 (HTV-8) cargo craft to resupply the space station. The HTV-8 will take a five-day trip before its capture with the Canadarm2 robotic arm and installation to the station’s Harmony module.

A pair of Expedition 61 crewmembers will blast off to the International Space Station on Wednesday with the tenth spaceflight participant to visit the orbiting lab. NASA astronaut Jessica Meir, Roscosmos cosmonaut Oleg Skripochka and spaceflight participant Hazzaa Ali Almansoori from the United Arab Emirates will take a near six-hour ride aboard the Soyuz MS-15 crew ship and dock to the station’s Zvezda service module.

Almansoori will stay in space for eight days and return to Earth with station Commander Alexey Ovchinin and NASA Flight Engineer Nick Hague. The trio will undock from the Rassvet module in the Soyuz MS-12 spaceship on Oct. 3 and parachute to a landing in Kazakhstan about three and a half hours later. Their departure signifies the official start of the Expedition 61 mission.

Science to benefit humans on Earth and astronauts in space is always ongoing and today was no exception. NASA astronauts Christina Koch and Andrew Morgan were processing protein crystal samples and loading them into an incubator for the Microgravity Crystals study. The research is exploring cancer therapies targeting a protein responsible for tumor growth and survival.

Cosmonaut Alexander Skvortsov checked out a specialized suit today that pulls body fluids, such as water and blood, towards the feet of a space resident. He monitored Ovchinin who wore the Lower Negative Body Pressure suit while testing its ability to counteract the headward fluid shifts caused by microgravity. Astronauts have reported increased head and eye pressure due to the upward flow after living for months at a time in weightlessness.

Astronaut Luca Parmitano of ESA (European Space Agency) recorded himself on a 360-degree video camera as he demonstrated rotational dynamics with a soccer ball. The experiment is investigating the general behavior of free-flying objects in microgravity. Results could inform the design of small robots in space and even improve sports equipment on Earth.

PokerStars VR Poker Tour Kicks Off Next Week, Company Announces Search For VR Ambassador

The free-to-play tournament will be open to all players, so long as they have the virtual dough.

Next Friday, PokerStars VR will kick off their inaugural PokerStars Virtual Reality Poker Tournament, offering players the chance to obtain eternal poker glory and join the ranks of fellow PokeStars legends. Composed of three virtual “stops,” the tournament will feature buy-ins catering to players of varying levels, beginning with three events taking place at the end of the month.

Kicking off September 27th, the VRPT Space event will have players duking it out in space aboard the Galaxy Space Station:

  • Friday, September 27th – Mini Main Event: 1M chip buy-in with a 60M guarantee. First place takes home 25M.
  • Saturday, September 28 – Main Event: a 5M chip buy-in with a 300M chip guarantee. First place takes home 125M. The event will also feature a yet-to-be-announced “special guest.”
  • Sunday, September 29 – Ultra High Roller: 25M chip buy-in with a 200M chip guarantee. First place takes home at least 100M.
Image Credit: Lucky VR Inc.

Following September’s competitions, VRPT participants will then battle it out at the Macau space in October before the tournaments final stop at a yet-to-be-announced location in November. Winners of each competition will receive a coveted VRPT bracelet for their avatar as well as additional points towards the Player of the Year leader board, forever signifying to other players that, yes, I am better than you.

Fear not, however, my fellow amateurs. Each player who registers for the competition will receive a free swag bag of digital accessories for their avatars; this includes a PokerStars hat, an astronaut-themed rubber ducky, a VRPT microphone, custom headphones, additional chips, and several other virtual goodies. 

Image Credit: Lucky VR Inc.

Finally, PokerStars has announced their search for an official VR ambassador to serve as the primary representative of the PokerStars VR community. Little information regarding the necessary qualifications has been revealed as of yet, though we can only assume that skill, as well as overall player personality, will be significant factors in the selection process. 

“We’re looking for our first official PokerStars VR Ambassador,” said PokerStars in an official release. “A global, galactic, roving ambassador in a headset, making history as the first person ever to occupy such a role. All without having to put your shoes on.”

Image Credit: Lucky VR Inc.

PokerStars VR is available to play free on Oculus Rift/Rift S, and Oculus Quest via Oculus, and the HTC Vive/Vive Pro, Windows Mixed Reality, and Valve Index via SteamVR.

Unfortunately, all spots for the September stop have already been filled, though you can still sign-up for the wait-list. PokerStars will provide updates on the tournaments future stops as we grow closer to their respective dates. 

Feature Image Credit: Lucky VR Inc.

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Immersive Exhibit Brings Climate Change To Life

It’s almost a cliché to say this, but the best art does more than just look appealing. It reaches into your brain and soul and won’t let go. You’ll still be thinking about it days later trying to piece together what exactly you experienced. Arcadia Earth, a fully immersive art installation focused on environmental issues, is exactly that kind of experience.

Experiential artist Valentino Vettori is the brain behind the design of this 15-room journey examining the plight of our planet. Human scale art installations, many of them making use of augmented and virtual reality, overpower your senses, and force you to contemplate the subject matter.

Each of the rooms has been created to highlight a specific challenge facing our environment—challenges including overfishing, plastic pollution, food waste, deforestation and climate change.

An impressive roster of environmental artists—Samuelle Green, Tamara Kotianovsky, Etty Yaniv, Cindy Pease Roe, Poramit Thantapalit, Jesse Harrod, Justin Bolognino/META, Katie Donahue, Katharina Hoerath, Charlotte Becket and Emmy Mikelson—have worked to use upcycled and reusable materials to create their awe-inspiring pieces.

One room hits particularly close to home for New Yorkers, a cave created out of 44,000 recycled plastic bags by artist Basia Goszczynska that reflects upon the New York state ban on bags. That number isn’t just a coincidence either, 44,000 is the number of bags that New Yorkers use every single minute!

Each installation makes you confront the damage that we are doing to our planet on a daily basis. While it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the enormity of it all, that’s not the point, and each installation contains a placard with tips for what you can do to help on a daily basis.

Arcadia Earth has partnered with Oceanic Global, a non-profit dedicated to ocean conservation, and proceeds from all ticket sales will go to further raise awareness about how humans are damaging our ecosystem.

Arcadia Earth is located at 718 Broadway and is open to the public through January 2020. Tickets for general admission are $33, student tickets are $27 and tickets for children ages 6-14 are $12.


Foto: Arcadia Earth, David Mitchell

Messe bietet neue Plattform für 5G in Hannover

Mit der Konferenz 5G CMM startet die Deutsche Messe AG zusammen mit Partnern ein Konferenzformat rund um den neuen Mobilfunkstandard. Damit wird das Thema Industrie 4.0 fortgesetzt. Premiere ist vom 8. bis zum 10. Oktober.

Das Kürzel CIA hat für Professor Hans Schotten noch eine zweite Bedeutung. CIA bedeutet für ihn auch: connected, intelligent und – wahlweise – autonome oder automatic. Muss man diese Begriffe noch übersetzen? So verstanden, steht CIA jedenfalls für die Dreieinigkeit der Digitalisierung, sagt Schotten. Und genau darum dreht sich eine neue Konferenz im Oktober in Hannover, die von der Deutschen Messe AG mit einer Reihe von Partnern vorangetrieben wird. Zentral ist dabei der neue Mobilfunkstandard 5G.

Dieser neue Standard gilt als wesentlicher Schrittmacher auf dem Weg zur Industrie 4.0, in den letzten Jahren das zentrale Thema der Hannover Messe. 5G ermöglicht Datenübertragung in Echtzeit bei höherer Verlässlichkeit: Dr. Reinhard Heister, Experte beim Maschinenbauverband VDMA, erwartet in der Industrie einen Paradigmenwechsel weg von der kabelgebundenen Datenübertragung hin zum Mobilfunknetz. Mit 5G ergeben sich neue Möglichkeiten für die Vernetzung von Maschinen und Anlagen. Kein Wunder, dass Hans Schotten, der im Bereich Funkkommunikation und Navigation forscht und Netz-Experte im Deutschen Forschungszentrum für Künstliche Intelligenz ist, 5G für eine Schlüsseltechnologie der Digitalisierung hält – „vielleicht die wichtigste“, sagte er.

Das Potenzial für den neuen Mobilfunkstandard sehen Experten dabei eher nicht im privaten Bereich, sondern in der Industrie. Über ein Unternehmensgelände kann dabei ein eigenes 5G-Netz gespannt werden – die Experten sprechen von einem so genannten Campus-Netz. Das kann vom Unternehmen selbst betrieben oder bei einem Netzanbieter eingekauft werden. Hauptsache, es ist für den Mittelstand erschwinglich: Kleine und mittlere Unternehmen müssen bei 5G mitgenommen werden, entsprechend dürfen die Frequenzgebühren nicht zu hoch sein. Die wurden noch gar nicht festgelegt, wofür Digitalstaatssekretär Stefan Muhle deutliche Worte fand: Dass technisch alles vorbereitet sei, es aber auf der Seite der Verwaltung hakt, sei schon „ein bisschen bekloppt.“

Muhle vertrat bei der Vorstellung des neuen Konferenzformats in Hannover die niedersächsische Landespolitik: 5G CMM heißt dieses neue Format, und hinter der Abkürzung CMM steckt connected mobile machines. Vernetzung von Maschinen – damit sind unter anderem auch (autonome) Fahrzeuge gemeint, und künstliche Intelligenz schwingt ohnehin immer mit. Damit ist man im Prinzip wieder bei der Dreieinigkeit der Digitalisierung, bei Hans Schottens CIA als Zusammenwirken von Vernetzung und künstlicher Intelligenz mit dem Ziel Automatisierung und Autonomie. Die rund 100 Austeller, die an den drei Tagen vom 8. bis zum 10. Oktober Hannover erwartet werden, bringen zehn bis 15 Beispielanwendungen mit. Etwa eine Toranlage mit Zugangskontrolle für autonome Autos. Oder digitale Fahrspuren, wiederum für selbststeuernde Fahrzeuge. Erweiterte Realität, sprich: Augmented Reality, und virtuelle Welten sind ebenso Thema wie die Frage, auf welche Weise sich ein Campus-Netz schützen lässt. Ein so genannter Expert Circle, eine Gruppe von Fachleuten, justiert dabei die Themen im Vorfeld der 5G CMM, um möglichst auf der Höhe der Zeit zu sein. Als die Konferenz Anfang September vorgestellt wurde, hatten sich unmittelbar vorher rund 20 Experten in Hannover getroffen – insgesamt sind mehr als doppelt so viele Unternehmen und Institutionen im Expertenkreis vertreten.

Die 5G CMM sieht Messechef Dr. Jochen Köckler als „logischen Folgeschritt“ für einen Messestandort, an dem das Thema digitale Transformation nicht nur bei der Hannover Messe eine wesentliche Rolle spielt. Unmittelbar nach der Versteigerung der Frequenzen will er das Thema früh besetzen und zog Parallelen zur Industrie 4.0: Hier war die Messe nicht nur früh dabei, sondern 2012/13 so etwas wie eine Geburtshelferin eines heute zentralen Themas. Die weitere Entwicklung zum Megathema ist bekannt. Mit dem frühen Zugriff – der neue Kongress wurde schon vor Monaten angekündigt – will Köckler das Thema in Hannover sichern. Und ausbauen. Bereits im Dezember 2020 soll aus dem Kongress eine Messe werden. Das würde sicher helfen, ein Ziel zu erreichen, dass von 5G-Experten so fomuliert wird: Wenn Deutschland schon nicht beim Netzausbau ganz vorne ist, dann sollte aber gute Ausgangsposition bei der Umsetzung und Nutzung von 5G in der Industrie gehalten und ausgebaut werden.



Messe bietet neue Plattform für 5G in Hannover

Virtuelle Realität soll bei Demenz Erinnerungen wecken

Künstliche Welten werden in vielen therapeutischen Bereichen eingesetzt. Doch viele Neurologen halten das für ethisch fragwürdig.

Ein Straßenzug wie in den Fünfzigern, in den Schaufenstern der Geschäfte die Mode und Marken von einst. Aus einem Lokal hört man „Wenn bei Capri die rote Sonne im Meer versinkt“; das weckt Erinnerungen an früher. Szenenwechsel: eine Spinne. Schon spürt man sie über den Handrücken laufen, unangenehm, eklig, der persönliche Supergau. Oder auch das: Unangenehme Enge in einem Aufzug, zu viele Menschen auf kleinstem Raum, keine Möglichkeit auszusteigen. Mit Hilfe der Virtuellen Realität (VR) lassen sich schier unendlich viele Szenarien täuschend echt dreidimensional simulieren. Man braucht nur eine spezielle Brille, Handschuhe, die sensorische Reize vermitteln, und Kopfhörer für den Ton.

Die Technologie ermöglicht als Freizeitvergnügen das Eintauchen in die fantastischsten Welten, sie kann Wissenschaftlern zu Forschungszwecken dienen, Architekten bei der Planung helfen und wird in Flugsimulatoren genutzt, um Piloten zu trainieren. Doch auch in derMedizin und in Pflegeheimen kann Virtuelle Realität eingesetzt werden – eine Tatsache, die vermutlich weit weniger bekannt ist als die derzeit häufig thematisierte zunehmende Bedeutung der Künstlichen Intelligenz für Diagnostik und Therapie.

Virtuelle Reise ins Wirtschaftswunderland

Erkrankungen, bei denen die Anwendung von Virtueller Realität diskutiert oder zum Teil bereits erprobt wird, sind vor allem Phobien, Zwänge, Demenz, Schlaganfallfolgen, posttraumatische Belastungsstörungen, Essstörungen und das Aufmerksamkeits-Defizit-Hyperaktivitätssyndrom (ADHS). So startete zum Beispiel 2017 an einer Klinik in Krefeld ein Projekt mit dem Titel „Krefeld im Wirtschaftswunderland“, das Demenzkranke mit VR-Brillen in die Welt der 1950er Jahre versetzt.

Die Idee ist es, mit dieser Reise in die Vergangenheit bei den Patienten Erinnerungen und positive Gefühle hervorzurufen. Dahinter steht die Hoffnung, auf diese Weise den Krankheitsverlauf zumindest zu verlangsamen. Die Deutsche Alzheimer Gesellschaft findet diese Methode durchaus sinnvoll, hat aber auch bereits darauf hingewiesen, dass sie eher für Patienten in einem frühen Stadium der Erkrankung geeignet sei.

Lernen, mit der Angst umzugehen

Großes Potenzial wird der Virtuellen Realität auch in der Psychotherapie zugeschrieben. Am besten erforscht ist die Anwendung bei Phobien. Dafür werden angstauslösende Situationen, Tiere oder Objekte digital simuliert – und die Patienten dann in der Virtuellen Realität damit konfrontiert. Wer zum Beispiel Angst vor Hunden hat, trifft in der künstlichen Welt auf die Vierbeiner. Wer sich davor fürchtet, durch Tunnels zu fahren, muss genau das in der Virtuellen Realität aushalten. Die Idee dahinter: Frei vom extremen Stress, den eine tatsächliche Begegnung auslösen würde, sollen die Patienten unter therapeutischer Anleitung Strategien lernen, mit ihrer Angst umzugehen und sie bestenfalls zu überwinden.

Auch ein Einsatz der digitalen Helfer bei Essstörungen und anderen Suchterkrankungen würde auf einer solchen Konfrontation beruhen. Im einen Fall ginge es darum, die Abneigung gegen Essen zu überwinden, im anderen darum, beim Anblick von Alkohol oder Drogen der Versuchung zu widerstehen.

„Wie virtuelle Realität wirkt, ist kaum untersucht“

Die Virtuelle Realität – eine Bereicherung der therapeutischen Möglichkeiten also und das völlig ohne unerwünschte Nebenwirkungen? Nicht ganz. In einem Artikel, der im Fachjournal „Nature Medicine“ veröffentlich wurde, mahnen Wissenschaftler des Universitätsklinikums Freiburg gemeinsam mit Kollegen aus der Schweiz und den Niederlanden einen sensiblen Einsatz von Virtueller Realität in der Medizin und in der Pflege an.

Für die Wissenschaftler stellen sich dabei vor allem ethische Fragen. Zwar ließen sich „grundsätzlich“ mittels Virtueller Realität „positive Effekte erzielen“, sagt Philipp Kellmeyer, Neurologe an der Klinik für Neurochirurgie des Universitätsklinikums Freiburg und am Freiburg Institute of Advanced Studies. „Wie Virtuelle Realität kognitiv und emotional auf die Betroffenen wirkt, ist aber noch kaum untersucht“, gibt er zu bedenken. „Und die Grenze zwischen Realität und VR verschwindet immer mehr.“ Letztlich beruhten die therapeutischen Zwecke somit auf einer „Täuschung oder Illusion“. Ein weiterer Einwand des Neurologen lautet: „Die VR-Anwendung zielt auf eine Verhaltensänderung des Nutzers ab, der sich der Nutzer nicht entziehen kann.“ Dadurch, so Philipp Kellmeyer, sei die „autonome Entscheidungsfindung gefährdet“.

„Gravierender Eingriff in die Autonomie“ von Demenzkranken

Besonders kritisch sieht der Mediziner diesen Aspekt im Hinblick auf Menschen mit Demenz. Zwar räumt er ein, dass die Simulation einer früheren, vertrauten Umgebung auf Demenzkranke im Pflegeheim durchaus „beruhigend wirken“ könne. Allerdings stelle es auch einen „gravierenden Eingriff in ihre Autonomie“ dar, wenn diese Menschen „nicht mehr zwischen Realität und Fiktion unterscheiden“ könnten.

Ob das immer mit der Menschenwürde zu vereinbaren sei, erscheint dem Neurologen zumindest fraglich. Als kritisch bewertet Kellmeyer zudem den Effekt, dass Nutzer „emotionale Bindungen zu virtuellen Figuren“ aufbaue und diese als „vermeintlich reale Menschen“ wahrnehme. „Dies könnte einen sozialen Rückzug aus der realen Welt zur Folge haben“, befürchtet der Nerologe.

Kritiker: ethisch fragwürdiges Vorgehen

Auch für den Schweizer Demenzexperten Michael Schmieder ist das Vorgaukeln nur virtuell existenter Welten ethisch fragwürdig, wenn jene Menschen, die darin eintauchen sollen, nicht mehr in der Lage sind, die Täuschung als solche zu erkennen. Auf der Plattform „“ schreibt er: „Menschen mit Demenz absichtlich zu täuschen, um ihnen damit etwas, Gutes zu tun‘ ist meiner Meinung nach höchst problematisch, selbst wenn dies mit der ausschließlichen (?) Absicht geschieht, biographische Erinnerungen wieder zu beleben.“ Auch weist Schmieder darauf hin, dass Demenzkranke nicht nur in ihren Erinnerungen leben, „sondern immer auch im Hier und Jetzt“.

Die Autoren des Artikels in „Nature Medicine“ um den Freiburger Neurologen Kellmeyer lehnen Virtuelle Realität nicht grundsätzlich ab, auch nicht in der Pflege von Menschen mit Demenz. Künftig müssten Anwendungen jedoch stärker auf die Nutzer ausgerichtet und Patienten frühzeitig in die weitere Entwicklung mit einbezogen werden.



Bild: Experten sind skeptisch, ob das Vorgaukeln von Realitäten bei demenzkranken Menschen ethisch vertretbar ist. © Getty