VR: 4 news stories from 2022 // Konrad Krawczyk

Chinese and Korean storefronts emptied as AR conquers visual merchandising

Mass luxury brands and retailers never fail to come up with new ways to steal fashionistas’ attention. We’ve seen collaborations with artists, giant public sculptures, even holographic exhibits. But this year, fashion brands are betting on personal appeal.

This season, several fashion houses – including Kenzo, Balenciaga, and even Chanel, decided to empty their storefronts of any actual apparel. Instead, their storefronts became wireframes for virtual exhibits displayed personally for the passers-by on their own AR screens, whether it’s Apple Lens or Baidu Glasses. Not to mention – the ads are based on personalised profiles of customers’ previous purchases and current searches, downloaded from the mainland Chinese Social Profile.

These breakthrough campaigns now have only been presented in several flagship stores in Shanghai, Hong Kong, Beijing and Seoul. These are likely the only cities so far with enough AR users for the storefronts not to come across as what they are – empty.

The new Apple X headset is lighter than your sunglasses

“The future. Right in front of your eyes” – says the slogan of the new Apple X virtual reality headset.

The new VR goggles designed by Apple in California certainly are easier on the eyes than their predecessors. Last year, the Apple’s CEO presented the first 32K screen to ever be implemented on a VR headset. This, as often with Apple, has been a sensation, and quite a controversial one, after several people passed away while waiting in line for the first release of Apple X at 5th Ave flagship store. But that’s not it: the headset itself had some major technical issues on the way, most of which were related to its enormous use of electricity and Internet bandwidth.

Apple did not pull from the idea, however. As East Asian countries are adapting XR technologies (and 5G Internet) at an exponential rate, Apple sees an enormous opportunity for growth. And this year during WWDC, they presented an entirely new version of their headset. It has the same screen as its predecessor, but it’s wrapped up in an entirely new design – which looks like a hybrid of a headset from Ready Player One and classic  Wayfarer sunglasses. The weight is extraordinary – less than 6 ounces, placing it below some of the most well-known Ray Ban sunglasses models.

We can’t wait to see it in real life.

Korean average broadband peaks at 200 mbps. But not everyone can enjoy it. [See video]

The new governmental 3-year plan to increase the average internet speed tenfold by 2022 has been more than accomplished. “This is an enormous step for Korea’s growth online and offline” – said the Korea’s Minister of Computing and Virtual Environments – “The new Internet speed benchmark is crucial for growth of areas such as virtual and augmented reality, digital schooling, international communication, finances and science.

This statistic, however, only applies to the Southern part of Korea. Although it’s been two years since the Korean Pact has been ratified, with open borders and plans for steady unification of Koreas, these two areas remain to be parallel universes in terms of access to digital technology. The South Korean growth, largely driven by hi-tech, has given its citizens the privilege of access to the most cutting-edge technology worldwide. This has not been the case for the North, where only the chosen few have been given access to very limited and sluggish connections and devices. As the Internet penetration for South Korea peaks at 98%, this statistic for the North is only 53%.

See the video in your glasses: South Korean tries to explain virtual reality to a North Korean. [LINK]

The Real Virtual Family reunites in California

Ashley and Francisco have met in San Jose in 2015, and fell in love at the first sight. Ever since, everything went perfect. But there was just one thing – Francisco was an undocumented immigrant. In 2019, he has been found by the immigration office and deported across the Mexican border. It seemed like everything’s over – but these two extremely skilful engineers didn’t give up. Instead, they gave Francisco a digital persona, wrapped in a two-wheeled robot. The robot featured a screen and a 360 stereoscopic camera – so that Francisco could see audiovisual footage from California in his VR glasses.

Francisco’s partner, Ashley, has documented their lives on a YouTube channel called the Real Virtual Family, which has quickly become viral. Prior to the deportation, they worked at the same startup, therefore Francisco could continue working remotely across the wall, while Ashley technically received wage for Francisco’s work and passed it forward as remittance through bitcoin. Nothing about Francisco’s presence in San Jose could be deemed illegal.

After the Trump era deportation laws have been repealed in 2021, Francisco instantly applied for a skilled work permit in America, and got it after 15 months. Maybe happy endings exist, after all.

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