Virtual Reality Gains Traction in Mental Health Care

Cade Metz, NYTimes:

Backed by the venture capital firm Sequoia Capital, Limbix is less than a year old. The creators of its new service, including its chief executive and co-founder, Benjamin Lewis, worked in the seminal virtual reality efforts at Google and Facebook.

The hardware and software they are working with is still very young, but Limbix builds on more than two decades of research and clinical trials involving virtual reality and exposure therapy. At a time when much-hyped headsets like the Daydream and Facebook’s Oculus are still struggling to find a wide audience in the world of gaming — let alone other markets — psychology is an area where technology and medical experts believe this technology can be a benefit.

As far back as the mid-1990s, clinical trials showed that this kind of technology could help treat phobias and other conditions, like post-traumatic stress disorder.

VR is gaining steam in the medical community, amongst mental health professionals and as a supplement to medication-based treatment. Early results are incredibly promising; adapting proven therapy techniques to virtual reality seems to be an obvious starting point with huge upside. The trick will be getting so-called digital medicine approved as a legit form of care by regulators and insurance companies.

Until health care providers are able to bill insurers for VR-based treatments, so-called digital medicine will only be a option for those with deep pockets and/or access to practitioners willing to treat people for free.

Facebook Live 360 Adds 4K and VR Support

Lucas Matney, TechCrunch:

Full 1080p is fine for spherical photos, but it’s actually a pretty low resolution for video when all those pixels are stretched over a 360-sphere. Today, Facebook is bringing 4K support to Live 360, and, along with it, support for viewing broadcasts in the Facebook 360 app on Gear VR.

360 video is arguably more of a novelty than full VR at this point. Sure, 360 video is more widely available, and watchable on a standard phone or computer screen without a headset. But when’s the last time you heard anybody get excited about a 360 video? At least enthusiasts keep coming back for more VR content.

Apple Applies for AR Glasses Patent

Jack Purcher, Patently Apple:

Apple acquired Metaio the creator of ‘Thermal Touch’ and a new Augmented Reality Interface for Wearables and beyond back in 2015. Their technology is thought to be behind Apple’s push into augmented reality and ARKit. This year a Metaio patent application surfaced under Apple for moving furniture in augmented reality. Apple was also granted a patent for indoor navigation that covered new capabilities for a future iDevice camera allowing it to recognize building names or paintings and then adding AR identifying markers on the user’s iDevice photos. Today another original Metaio patent application under Apple has surfaced relating augmented reality. More specifically it covers a method for representing points of interest in a view of a real environment on a screen of an iPhone with interaction functionality. The buzz is that the patent covers AR smartglasses as noted in our cover graphic, something that Apple has been adding to a series of new and updated trademarks of late ( onetwothree and four).

Worth noting that Apple applies for, and is granted, plenty of patents that never translate into shipping products.

HTC Reveals Vive Standalone VR Headset for China

Adi Robertson, The Verge:

HTC is partnering with Qualcomm for a self-contained Vive virtual reality headset exclusive to the Chinese market. The headset, called the Vive Standalone, is billed as a “premium” device and will run apps from HTC’s Viveport platform. It’s powered by a Snapdragon 835 chip and is based on Qualcomm’s all-in-one reference design, which includes inside-out positional tracking that would put it in the company of high-end tethered headsets.

Great news for the VR industry, and not terribly surprising. My big question is if and when we’ll see a Vive Standalone for the US market.

HTC is already on record as an OEM partner for Google’s Daydream standalone headsets, which will support Google’s platform, not Viveport. Google services aren’t always reliable in China, however, which is likely at least part of why HTC is announcing Vive Standalone, and not a Daydream rig, for that market.

It would make all sorts of strategic and (presumably) financial sense for HTC to also launch Vive Standalone in the states to compete with the standalone headsets rumored to be coming from Facebook and Samsung in the next 6-12 months. But who knows what may be happening behind the scenes with Google and HTC to shape both companies’ launch strategies.