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Top News and Events in the Virtual and Augmented Reality World – April 2018

The key events and news that put virtual and augmented reality technology and its leading companies in the headlines in April 2018.

Although no major fair or convention was scheduled for the month, April had its fair share of important events in the world of virtual reality and augmented reality technologies. First of all, one of its key players launched a medical device which may help change the course of life for sufferers of one of the worst maladies of the 21st century.

As the European Union’s GDPR rules are set to come into force in May and set huge penalties for failure to protect personal data at the strictest standards, virtual and augmented reality companies are working hard to redefine their policies–one of these companies has officially announced their new practices.

Last, but not least, we take a look at how much the virtual and augmented reality markets have grown financially in 2017, with the help of a recent market research analysis.

Here are the key events that defined the virtual and augmented reality technology world this month:


Zara Launches In-Store Augmented Reality Experience

One of the top European fashion retailers, Zara, has seemed to lag behind in the adoption of new technologies to woo customers and earn their loyalty. However, things have changed with the launch of their new augmented reality experience, available in 120 selected stores across the globe.

The classic manikin displays have been replaced by an augmented reality fashion show in the window display. This holographic display shows off the best products of the brand, as presented by top models. Onlookers are encouraged to download the Zara branded augmented reality app (available both for Android and iOS) and enjoy this new shopping experience. Once the app is installed and launched, users can simply point their phones to the window display and enjoy the interactive show.

This experience was created by French creative director Ezra Petronio, who used 68 cameras installed on a surface of 170 square meters to capture the images of the models wearing Zara apparel.

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Google Adds WebVR to Chrome Browser

The latest Google Chrome update came with a surprise for users: the web browser now has WebVR enabled and supports all major models of PC-tethered virtual reality headsets.

Although the WebVR integration has been available for around 2 years for Android phone users, this is the first time PC users can enjoy web-based virtual reality experiences. Google Chrome 66 works with the WebVR functionality on VR-ready PCs running Windows 10.

In order to enable WebVR for their specific headset, users have to type “chrome://flags” in the URL bar and choose to enable or disable this option. The browser also includes a special feature for Oculus users, which helps them bypass the supplementary step of enabling Steam to enjoy VR experiences on their computer.


Google Launches Augmented Reality Microscope that Detects Cancer Cells

New technologies like virtual and augmented reality are already used for healthcare, but a significant step forward has been taken this month: Google has unveiled a new augmented reality microscope (ARM) which can detect cancer cells in real time, at the earliest phase of the disease.

This breakthrough promises a new lease on life for patients, who will have one new ally in the early detection and treatment of this terrible disease.

Here’s how the augmented reality microscope works:

The device developed by Google is based on a modified light microscope which integrates machine learning algorithms and image analysis. The augmented reality display is situated above the camera, which is in constant communication with the algorithm. This allows the microscope to start looking for cancerous cells as soon as a sample is placed beneath it.

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The good news is that the ARM device can be easily adapted and incorporated into existing medical equipment in healthcare facilities, making it an affordable option for hospitals and clinics worldwide. Right now, the augmented reality microscope is in the prototype phase, but it is extremely likely that it will develop into a mass produced device.


Oculus is Ready for GDPR with its Brand New Privacy Center

Facebook may be in hot water after the Cambridge Analytica scandal, but its virtual reality unit, Oculus, is ready to meet the tightest data protection regulation to date. One month before the European Union General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) becomes effective, the company has announced a brand new Privacy Center for all its users.

The “My Privacy Center” attached to every Oculus user account contains useful tools to see how much and what kind of personal data is shared with Oculus. The privacy center will be officially launched on May 20th, 5 days before the GDPR comes into force.

Oculus will also update it terms of service and privacy policy by adding extensive real life examples of how personal data is handled and used, as well as a code of conduct.

The mock page presented by Oculus as an example of how the new Privacy Center will look contains an extensive set of privacy settings, including:

  • Allowing or restricting search by real name by other Oculus users;
  • Controlling who can see the list of Oculus apps, the activity on Oculus platform, the friends list;
  • Offering a detailed list of newsletter topics which the user can allow or restrict;
  • Allowing or restricting invitations to participate in user research surveys.
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Consumer Market for Virtual and Augmented Reality Reached $32.5 Billion in 2017

Virtual and augmented reality global consumer spending increased by an impressive 72% in 2017, reaching total sales in amount of $32.5 billion. This data was presented in a recent market research study conducted by IHS Markit.

According to the study, which can be obtained here, $2.4 billion of the total amount represents VR headset sales. There is an expected growth to $5.9 billion by 2021, encouraged by the increased adoption of PC- and consoled-based virtual reality headsets, the drop in prices and the availability of a wide range of content suitable for all tastes and preferences.

However, augmented reality is set to be the winner of the sales race: “The consumer AR market is inherently better positioned than VR, because AR features are relevant to a wider cross-section of content and application categories”, stated the research and analysis director of IHS Markit, Piers Harding-Rolls.

Indeed, the market research report indicated that mobile apps including augmented reality features amassed a total spending of $2 billion in 2017. These apps belong to a wide range of categories: retail, gaming, entertainment, social media and communications.

The virtual reality market also experienced a steady increase in two terms:

  • Install base: 28 million in the first quarter of 2018, compared with 18 million in 2016;
  • Location-based VR venues: 8,945 – a 52% increase compared with 2016.

The future growth of the virtual reality market will also be positively influenced by the introduction of standalone headsets.


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