August 5, 2021
Good morning, and welcome to Protocol Next Up. This week: How a bunch of extra sensors can improve VR, and why Apple and Roku have very different strategies for original content.
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During the past few days, I've been training to be an electrician, and it's not been going so well. Let's just say poking at those live wires with my screwdriver was not a good idea. Thankfully, the training happened in VR, so I live to tell the tale.
The VR vocational training software I used is being made by Mimbus, and it ran on the HP Reverb G2 Omnicept Edition, a VR headset with a bunch of sensors that track muscle movement, gaze, pupil size and pulse.
The Omnicept is not a consumer headset. HP sells the device for $1,249, and it also requires a gaming PC to power VR experiences. In addition, HP charges developers a 2% revenue share fee for any apps they build and market using the Omnicept's sensor SDK. Enterprise customers are charged additional fees to access the SDK.
Key to this is the headset's ability to measure cognitive load, which is the amount of brain power people exert going through the company's training courses. For that, HP developed machine-learning models that combine a bunch of the sensory data to provide insights into your level of attention and whether you are as overwhelmed — like when I was trying to repair that circuit breaker. "We know when the cognitive load is very high that you are too stressed, so we have to give you a simpler exercise," Da Dalto said. "And if the cognitive load is too low, that means that you are not concentrated at all."
Some of the headset's lower-level sensor data can be useful, too. Another company making use of the headset is Ovation, which has developed a VR app to help people hone their public speaking skills.
I don't usually cover enterprise VR for Next Up, but I wanted to give the HP Reverb G2 Omnicept Edition a spin because I was interested in finding out what this type of sensor data could mean for entertainment VR. After trying the headset for a few days, I walked away with three conclusions:
Oh, and one more thing: The next time there's a major electrical problem at your house, do yourself a favor and call an expert. They know what to do with those live wires.
"Let's say you're a little lonely. You go into the room, and you say to the first person you see: Do you like Mozart? [...] These people don't exist, okay. That's the metaverse." —CNBC's Jim Cramer, explaining the metaverse in the weirdest way possible.
"If [the] metaverse jumps the shark in 2021, we certainly have Jim Cramer to thank for doing his part." —VERSES Creative Director Mark Christiansen.
Outages aren't a matter of if, but when. According to data from ThousandEyes, global disruptions in March 2020 — when we saw remote work roll out at scale — were 63% higher than they were in January 2020.
Join Protocol's Biz Carson for a conversation with Atomic's Swathy Prithivi, Accel's Rich Wong and Asana's Oliver Jay during our upcoming event: Going Global: How Tech Companies Expand Internationally August 10 at 9 a.m. PT / 12 p.m. ET Learn More
Streaming services need compelling content to stand out among literally hundreds of competitors. Preferably with shows you can't watch anywhere else. But what makes a successful streaming original? That's actually quite hard to answer, as two recent success stories show.
Lesson learned: Great TV works, even when it's streamed. End of story? Well, not so fast. Roku has seen some notable success with its own originals, which weren't even made for TV to begin with.
One reason that we will continue to see a wide variety of originals is the different business models of the streamers producing them. Apple's video service is subscription-based and wants to compete with Netflix, which requires massive investments into premium cable-like content. Roku, on the other hand, makes its money with advertising, and CEO Anthony Wood assured investors on the company's earnings call Wednesday that the company won't be making any crazy expensive bets when it comes to originals. "The goal is to maintain a business model that works for us," he said.
VR can feel pretty exclusive to anyone in the room not wearing the headset, which is why Facebook has been experimenting with something the company calls "reverse passthrough." In a blog post, the company described reverse passthrough as "an experimental VR research demo that allows the eyes of someone wearing a headset to be seen by the outside world." Apparently, no one told Facebook's VR researchers that a former U.S. president solved this problem long ago. Thanks, Obama!
Thanks for reading — see you next week!