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TECH SPACE
Oculus proclaims dawn of 'virtual reality era'
By Glenn CHAPMAN
San Francisco (AFP) Sept 24, 2015


Nasdaq incubator opens to Silicon Valley startups
San Francisco (AFP) Sept 25, 2015 - An incubator for entrepreneurs flying the colors of the Nasdaq opened in San Francisco on Thursday, promising to strengthen ties between Silicon Valley startups and the electronic exchange.

The nonprofit Nasdaq Entrepreneurial Center billed its mission as being a hub where entrepreneurs from all industries can learn to build successful businesses and connect with experts, mentors, backers and more.

Center executive director Nicola Corzine described it as "a landing spot for founders, where they can learn from each other as they move their start-ups through the different challenges and growth stages of the entrepreneurial journey."

The 13,000 square foot (1,200 square meter) facility offers free education and training along with mentorship programs created in partnership with the Nasdaq exchange, businesses, and academic institutions, according to the center.

The center has the potential to help the Nasdaq become the preferred exchange where hot startup's go public with offerings of stock.

"Today's launch, which coincides with Nasdaq's 25th anniversary in the Bay Area, opens the doors to opportunities for entrepreneurs to connect with Nasdaq's network of innovative listed companies and their leaders," said Nasdaq vice chairman Bruce Aust, president of the center.

San Francisco and Silicon Valley are home to a broad array of accelerators intended to be supportive campuses for startups, and spots where established companies and investors can get early looks at potentially hot innovations.

The Nasdaq competes with the New York Stock Exchange to be the place where tech companies put their stock on the market.

Nasdaq's reputation took a hit in early 2012 when technical problems caused trouble with the high-profile initial public offering of Facebook shares.

Facebook-owned Oculus VR wooed software makers on Thursday with the promise of a budding "virtual reality era" and an alliance with streaming television powerhouse Netflix.

Some 1,500 people already intrigued by the potential of virtual reality packed the Dolby Theater in Los Angeles for keynote presentations at a second annual Oculus Connect developers conference.

"We believe the more power people have to share and experience all kinds of different things in the world, the better the world will be," Facebook co-founder and chief Mark Zuckerberg told the audience during a brief appearance on stage.

"After video, the next logical step is fully immersive virtual reality."

Facebook bought Oculus VR last year in a deal valued at $2 billion, heralding virtual reality as the next generation computing platform and one that will let people instantly "travel" to new places.

"It was like teleporting to some other place just by putting on a headset," Zuckerberg said while recounting the first time he tried a Rift prototype at Oculus offices.

"It was so good, I didn't want to really leave. I was seeing the next great technology platform."

The first Rift virtual reality headset is on track for release in the first quarter of next year, followed shortly thereafter by the debut of Touch controllers designed to let people reach in and interact with faux worlds.

Asus, Dell and Alienware will release personal computers with processing and graphics power configured for Rift virtual reality, and bearing a logo to show they are "Oculus Ready," according to vice president of product Nate Mitchell.

Oculus has yet to disclose what it will charge for Rift headsets, but said that Oculus Ready computers coming to market will have prices less than $1,000.

"This is a once-in-a-generation moment where we can create something that inspires millions of people... something that will change their lives forever," Oculus chief executive Brendan Iribe told the audience.

"This is the dawn of the virtual reality era."

- VR priced for mainstream -

Samsung Gear VR headgear powered by Oculus software is already on the market.

An improved version will debut in the United States in November at a price of $99, according to Peter Koo, a senior vice president in the mobile communications division of the South Korean consumer electronics titan.

"It is really virtual reality on the go," Oculus chief executive Brian Iribe said of Gear VR.

Koo said the price was intended to be affordable enough to make virtual reality "mainstream."

People are already sharing 360-degree video and playing immersive games using Gear VR headsets, which let the company's smartphones serve as display screens.

The new Gear VR model is 22 percent lighter than its predecessor, more comfortable to wear and has improve controls, according to Koo. The hardware works with the current year's line-up of Galaxy smartphones.

- Targeting gamers -

Oculus has taken direct aim at video game lovers, working with major studios and gaming engine makers to immerse players in virtual worlds.

An Oculus Arcade unveiled on Thursday boasted partners including Sega and Warner Brothers and games including Pac-Man and Sonic the Hedgehog.

Popular online building game Minecraft made by Swedish studio Mojang is diving into virtual reality with the launch next year of Rift, according to Oculus founder Palmer Luckey.

Oculus Cinema capabilities and offerings were broadened and virtual reality gear users will be able to immerse themselves in game play streamed by Amazon-owned Twitch.

Oculus also announced an alliance with Netflix to stream 360-degree video that will let viewers change perspective as if they were in the middle of on-screen action, with new Netflix content set to be released.

A Netflix application tailored for Samsung Gear VR lets members of the subscription video streaming service "get the Netflix experience from the comfort of a virtual couch" where ever they happen to be with the headset, Netflix engineering vice president Anthony Park said in a blog post.

The app features a Netflix Living Room where people can watch shows tailored for immersive viewing, according to Park.

"Despite all the talk of hardcore gamers and abstract metaverses, a lot of people want to watch movies and shows in virtual reality," Oculus chief technology officer John Cormack said in the post.

gc/mbe/ec

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Virtual reality stretching beyond video games
San Francisco (AFP) Sept 24, 2015
Virtual reality is a dream of video game lovers, but it is poised to blast far beyond play to education, medicine, architecture and other learning arenas. Thanks to head gear from Facebook-owned Oculus VR (Rift) and Sony's "Project Morpheus" - now renamed PlayStation VR - virtual reality is expected to hit the mainstream next year. Some developers, however, are intent on putting virtu ... read more


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