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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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Microsoft to Acquire Bethesda’s Parent Company ZeniMax for $7.5B

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Microsoft today announced that it’s entered into an agreement to acquire ZeniMax Media, the parent company of game studio Bethesda Softworks. According to TechCrunch, the price was set at $7.5 billion.

The acquisition is slated to include all of ZeniMax’s properties including Bethesda Game Studios, id Software, ZeniMax Online Studios, Arkane, MachineGames, Tango Gameworks, Alpha Dog, and Roundhouse Studios.

Once approved, this will make Microsoft the owners of some of the most influential titles in modern gaming, including franchises such as The Elder Scrolls, Fallout, Wolfenstein, DOOM, Dishonored, Prey, Quake, and Starfield.

ZeniMax’s fleet of studios have also been responsible for a number of VR titles such as DOOM VFR, Fallout 4 VR, Wolfenstein: Cyberpilot, and Skyrim VR.

Image courtesy Bethesda Softworks

Microsoft says in a blog post that the inclusion of ZeniMax’s studios will help continue the company’s commitment “to deliver a breadth of amazing games to discover and play on Xbox.”

Although Microsoft hasn’t said as much, it’s likely Bethesda will be narrowing its focus to develop their long-standing franchises for Xbox—an expensive weapon in the coming battle with Sony’s PlayStation 5.

“One of the things that has me most excited is seeing the roadmap with Bethesda’s future games, some announced and many unannounced, to Xbox console and PC including Starfield, the highly anticipated, new space epic currently in development by Bethesda Game Studios,” says Phil Spencer, head of Xbox.

Although it’s still unclear how the acquisition will affect Bethesda’s future VR aspirations—Microsoft still has no clear plan for VR headset support on its Xbox platform—Oculus’ Consulting CTO John Carmack says the acquisition may be a good thing for him at least.

Carmack co-founded id Software and was lead programmer of titles such as Wolfenstein 3D, Doom, and Quake. Ever since ZeniMax and Facebook’s Oculus were engaged in a lengthy legal battle over the alleged theft of intellectual property developed by Carmack back when he was employed by id Software, he was understandably unable to publicly engage with the games he developed.

Source: https://www.roadtovr.com/microsoft-acquire-bethesdas-zenimax-7-5-billion/

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Osso VR Secures $14M Investment to Further Develop VR Surgical Training Platform

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Osso VR today announced it has raised $14 million in Series A funding to further develop its VR surgical training platform.

The financing round was led by Kaiser Permanente Ventures, with participation from SignalFire, GSR, Scrum Ventures, Leslie Ventures and OCA Ventures.

According to Crunchbase, the Series A brings Osso VR’s overall funding to $16 million, with its most recent funding round arriving in June 2017.

Founded in late 2016 by UCLA and Harvard-trained orthopedic surgeon Justin Barad, MD, Osso VR has developed a VR training platform that allows surgeons and other healthcare professionals to learn and review medical procedures.

Apparently in the years since its founding, the company has celebrated a measure of success with surgical training programs worldwide. The company now says its platform is currently used by over 20 teaching hospitals and 11 medical device companies, distributed across 20 countries.

Not only does the platform allow for hands-on learning with surgical procedures, but it also includes assessment modules, which can gauge a trainee’s knowledge of “steps, level of precision and overall efficiency throughout the procedure providing a benchmark for proficiency.”

“Being on the frontlines as a provider gives me a daily reminder that we are facing an accelerating challenge with how we train for and practice procedures in medicine,” said CEO and co-founder  Justin Barad, MD. “We set out from day one with a focused mission: to improve patient outcomes, increase the adoption of higher value medical technology, and democratize access to surgical education around the world. Osso VR has done so much in such a short amount of time, yet we have much more to do. With strategic partners like Kaiser Permanente Ventures, we are ready to work together to ensure that patients all around the world have safe access to the best care.”

Source: https://www.roadtovr.com/osso-vr-investment-14-m-surgery/

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Emergency Preparedness for Virtual Community

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1. How to use subtle AR filters to survive your Zoom meetings?

2. The First No-Headset Virtual Monitor

3. Augmented reality (AR) is the future of Restaurant Menu?

4. Creating remote MR productions

Source: https://arvrjourney.com/emergency-preparedness-for-virtual-community-40080014e5cc?source=rss—-d01820283d6d—4

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