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Combining VR With Esports To Train The Next Big Soccer Star

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VR leads the way for a new generation immersive training technology.

No doubt about it, eSports is one of the fastest-growing industries in the world. Competitive gaming is now considered a full-fledged sport, meanwhile professional, amateur, and school athletes have already begun incorporating VR and other virtual simulators as part of their training.

Cue the American Youth Soccer Cooperative for Esports (AYCE), an organization focused on combining cutting-edge VR technology with esports experts to train athletes in a digital environment.

The first big move for AYCE is having Indiana Soccer partner with the Manchester, England based VR company Rezzil to give players an esports training platform that can help them develop into elite soccer players on the field.

Using the analytics platform GYO Score, combined with Rezzil’s VR tools, coaches will be able to track thousands of “natural movement” data points for players as they train on the field or in the gym, providing athletes with deep analytical assessment – including player skill level, wellness, and overall cognitive capabilities. 

Training through Rezzil’s VR platform, players interact with a virtual ball while moving their bodies as if they were on an actual soccer field. Vive Trackers attached to the legs and feet of the player tracks their movements through the experience, allowing them to interact with the in-game world using their lower body. While they practice, a digital hologram guides them through different drills and techniques. The entire virtual simulation will lean heavily on the idea of esports, which will blend VR and gaming into a data-rich experience.

We already know why VR is an amazing training tool for athletes. It supercharges the conventional training experience, helps you improve your decision making during competition, and allows you to face virtual opponents without the risk of physical contact. But how exactly do esports factor into all of this? 

During an interview with VRScout, Steve Isaacs—teacher of Game Design and Development at Bernards Township Public Schools, PBS Lead Digital Innovator, and esports expert—explained to me that it’s all because of popularity.

Isaac explains, “The way kids consume content now through Twitch, YouTube, etc. It all features gaming content which is growing as our new form of TV,” adding, “Sports teams are starting to realize that they are losing market share to esports, so they are developing esports organizations within their own professional sports clubs.”

Isaac also tells me that, from a scholastic perspective, curriculums are being developed in areas including SEL, CTE, STEM/STEAM, video production, and even full high school English Language Arts using esports as the foundation. 

Esports is literally reshaping how athletes and non-athletes learn and train. What the American Youth Soccer Cooperative for Esports is doing is blending all of these thoughts to improve physical sports gameplay.

“We believe the ability to provide technological solutions is crucial to helping sports players improve their talents for the game they love,” said Dave Guthrie, Executive Director of Indiana Soccer Association in an official press release. “In this case, the ability to participate in virtual simulation training as well as obtain detailed analytics to games will help develop our players tremendously.”

Time will tell if the Indiana Soccer partnership with Rezzil will produce the next big soccer star through VR training and esports, but win or lose, it’s still a GOAAAAAALLLLL!!!! for VR and esports.

Image Credit: Mi Hiepa Sports

Source: https://vrscout.com/news/combining-vr-esports-soccer-training/

AR/VR

Enterprise VR Hardware Specialist Varjo Raises $54 Million in Latest Funding Round

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Varjo, the Finnish virtual reality (VR) company behind headsets like the mixed reality XR-1 and the new VR-2/VR-2 Pro has been enjoying an influx of investment in 2020. Last month the company announced it had been awarded an Epic Megagrant and today it has confirmed the closure of a Series C funding round of $54 million USD.

Varjo products

Existing investors including Lifeline Ventures, Atomico, EQT Ventures and Volvo Cars Tech Fund participated, whilst the round also saw Tesi, NordicNinja, and Swisscanto Invest by Zürcher Kantonalbank invest for the first time. Varjo also announced that Timo Toikkanen (previously COO of Varjo) has been appointed as the new CEO with co-founder and previous CEO, Niko Eiden, staying on as CXO and board member. 

This brings the total investment in Varjo to over $100 million as the company continues to expand its global presence and improve its hardware lineup. Companies including Volvo Cars, Boeing, Audi and Siemens already use its range of headsets, from training to design.

“We are seeing tremendous demand for virtual and mixed reality use cases, particularly as much of the world continues to work remotely,” said Toikkanen in a statement. “When you combine the photorealistic resolution and accurate, integrated eye tracking found in our devices with the broad software compatibility we offer, the possibilities for creating, training and running research in immersive environments are endless. With support from our growing group of investors, we look forward to scaling our operations and delivering the cutting-edge technology our customers need to transform the way they work.”

Varjo XR-1

Varjo’s headsets are known for their unique display design – called the Bionic Display. Its made up of two screens, a small 3000ppi display for fine, close up detail and a larger, lower-resolution ‘Context Screen’ to provide a wider field of view (FoV). The Varjo XR-1 Developer Edition – which is based on the original VR-1 – arrived earlier this year and retails for $9,995.

The Varjo VR-2 and VR-2 Pro both launched last year, updating the original VR headsets will better screens and features such as improved peripheral vision and colour consistency. Like all the company’s products, these are purely focused on the enterprise market, the Varjo VR-2 starts from $4,995 while the VR-2 Pro starts from $5,995. For further updates from Varjo, keep reading VRFocus.

Source: https://www.vrfocus.com/2020/08/enterprise-vr-hardware-specialist-varjo-raises-54-million-in-latest-funding-round/

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Varjo Raises $54M Financing to Support Its Retina-Quality VR/AR Headsets for Enterprise

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Varjo, the Helsinki, Finland-based creators of high pixel density VR/AR headsets for enterprise, today announced it’s closed a $54 million Series C funding round. The company says it will use the funds to accelerate the global expansion and development of its XR hardware and software products.

Investors include Tesi, NordicNinja, Swisscanto Invest by Zürcher Kantonalbank, Lifeline Ventures, Atomico, EQT Ventures and Volvo Cars Tech Fund.

The Series C financing brings the company’s overall total funds to $100 million to date.

In addition to the latest funding round, the company’s COO, Timo Toikkanen, will be leading Varjo as CEO. Co-founder and previous CEO, Niko Eiden, will be continuing as CXO and as a board member.

“We are seeing tremendous demand for virtual and mixed reality use cases, particularly as much of the world continues to work remotely,” said Toikkanen. “When you combine the photorealistic resolution and accurate, integrated eye tracking found in our devices with the broad software compatibility we offer, the possibilities for creating, training and running research in immersive environments are endless. With support from our growing group of investors, we look forward to scaling our operations and delivering the cutting-edge technology our customers need to transform the way they work.”

Varjo is known for its enterprise-level “human-eye resolution” VR/AR headsets, including the XR-1 Developer Edition, VR-2 and VR-2 Pro. Companies such as Volvo Cars, Boeing, Audi, and Siemens use Varjo headsets for industrial applications including training and simulation, design and engineering, and research and development.

Since its founding in 2016, Varjo has expanded its global operations and reseller network to over 40 countries in North America, Europe, the Middle East, and Asia Pacific, with the launch of sales and direct shipping to markets such as Singapore, Israel, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand.

Source: https://www.roadtovr.com/varjo-investment-54-m-xr-headset/

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Mozilla is Shuttering its XR Team Amidst Major Layoff, But ‘Hubs’ Will Continue

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Mozilla, the company behind Firefox, today announced that it’s laying off 250 employees, apparently shuttering the team responsible for most of its web-focused XR development. Hubs, the company’s web-based social VR app, will continue forward.

Mozilla has been a leading proponent for bringing XR experiences to the web. Five years ago the company published a guest article on Road to VR laying down their plans to make VR a “first class citizen on the web.”

In the intervening years the company’s XR team has created and contributed to a foundation for immersive experiences on the web with projects like A-Frame, WebVR & WebXR support in Firefox, WebXR Viewer on iOS, the Firefox Reality browser, Hubs, and more.

Hubs—perhaps the team’s most ambitious project to date—is an immersive social space that runs directly in the browser with no installation and has rich support for VR headsets while still being accessible through smartphone and PC browsers. Supporting Hubs is Spoke, a completely browser-based 3D modeling tool that lets anyone build custom spaces for Hubs.

Hubs (and possibly Spoke by extension) may turn out to be the only ones of the bunch to survive the shuttering of Mozilla’s XR team which has come as part of a layoff of some 250 of the company’s 1,000 or so employees.

The company announced the news today saying that “significant restructuring” needed to happen to “ensure financial stability over the long term.” In an internal message shared today with employees, the company said the layoffs were more than a short-term decision:

The changes we’re making today are focused on creating an organization that is best equipped to provide products and services that deliver on our mission and aim to make Mozilla Corporation sustainable, over the long term, in the COVID and post-COVID eras. We did not simply “trim.” We did not approach this as a stop-gap or a way to get us through the next few months. We looked at what Mozilla Corporation needs to do to be sustainable and have impact over time. Then we reshaped the organization to meet this, mapping the critical roles and skill sets required to deliver on this outcome.

According to the message, the restructuring will bring a “new product organization outside of Firefox that will both ship new products faster and develop new revenue streams.”

Initial projects handled by that group will include Hubs, the company says, among non-VR projects like Pocket, VPN, Web Assembly, and security & privacy products.

The company hasn’t offered much more in the way of detail, but an employee on Twitter said that the company is “closing down the XR team,” which suggests that most of the company’s immersive web projects beyond Hubs may not continue.

Another Mozilla employee urged on Twitter, “don’t write off Mozilla Hubs just yet. We’re still here, fighting for the open web,” and said that the company’s XR team has “put us in a position to succeed and we won’t let their work go to waste. Hubs was designed from the start to be resilient and we will get through this.”

Earlier this year Mozilla launched Hubs Cloud. While anyone can make and join rooms for free in Hubs, with Hubs Cloud, Mozilla is giving away the foundation of the platform itself so that organizations can use it as a basis for their own, self-hosted virtual spaces that can be customized and extended to their needs, making it a decentralized platform.

Source: https://www.roadtovr.com/mozilla-is-shuttering-its-xr-team-amidst-layoffs-but-hubs-will-continue/

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