Billy Xiong Wrote: The 9 Biggest Virtual Reality Stocks

The 9 Biggest Virtual Reality Stocks

Billy Xiong Wrote: The 9 Biggest Virtual Reality Stocks

Virtual reality (VR) was once thought to be something of a technological holy grail — the type of tech that science-fiction plots revolved around and a subject that futurists and gadget enthusiasts opined about to great end. There’s still excitement surrounding the immersive worlds made possible by head-mounted displays, but that “holy grail” status has lessened to a degree as the dream has moved closer to reality.

Highly immersive consumer VR headsets hit the market in 2016, but high prices and a lack of must-have exclusive content meant that adoption for the new display medium has lagged behind the levels that many analysts anticipated. Head-mounted display development initiatives have also splintered somewhat, with augmented reality (AR) emerging as an alternative that’s less immersive, but more connected to the real world — and one that many market watchers and technology leaders view as having greater potential than virtual reality.

Still, the VR market has huge potential, and virtual-reality headsets continue to offer better price-to-performance dynamics and an expanding range of compatible apps and content. High-profile, exclusive video games are heading to VR, people are using panoramic cameras to create videos and photos for the format, and movie companies and platforms are providing ways to watch their content with headsets. And it’s not just video games and other forms of entertainment where the new display medium has big potential. VR could eventually bring about world-changing applications in fields like healthcare, manufacturing, and education. 

A man wearing a VR headset.

Image source: Getty Images.

The nine biggest stocks in virtual reality

The table below breaks down the nine biggest publicly traded companies with stocks that can be purchased on U.S. exchanges or through over-the-counter trading by market capitalization that have significant exposure to the virtual reality space: 

Company Market Capitalization Main Areas of VR Business
Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) $1.2 trillion Headsets, platform software, video games, cloud services
Alphabet (NASDAQ:GOOG)(NASDAQ:GOOGL) $923.76 billion Headsets, streaming video
Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) $916.15 billion Streaming video, cloud services, e-commerce
Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) $585.32 billion Headsets, social media, video games
Alibaba Holdings (NYSE:BABA) $569.01 billion E-commerce 
Tencent Holdings (OTC:TCEHY) $458.6 billion Social media, video games
Intel (NASDAQ:INTC) $260.35 billion Semiconductors, 360-degree camera technology
Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM) $100.74 billion Semiconductors, headsets
Sony (NYSE:SNE) $83.44 billion Headsets, video games

Data as of Dec. 31, 2019; Source: Yahoo! Finance.

1. Microsoft

Microsoft has thrived under the leadership of CEO Satya Nadella, who came on board in the chief-executive role in 2014 and ushered in a subscription-focused model for many of the company’s software products and focused on the growth of its Azure cloud-services business. Successes on those fronts have made the software giant one of the best-performing mega-cap stocks of the last decade. Microsoft’s impressive turnaround made it the largest company in the world at the end of 2019 — and also the largest company with exposure to the VR space. 

Virtual reality and augmented reality remain a small portion of the company’s business, but Microsoft has ways to benefit if these new, wearable display formats take off. The Windows 10 operating system allows compatible PCs and laptops to access Windows Mixed Reality — a platform for running VR and AR experiences.Microsoft also partnered with companies including Samsung, HP, Asus, and Dell to build headsets that run on the platform. While the company hasn’t manufactured its own virtual reality headset, it is responsible for the HoloLens augemented reality headsets.

Comments from Phil Spencer, the head of Microsoft’s Xbox gaming division, suggest that the company isn’t seeing much demand from its video game console user base for virtual reality and won’t make VR a big part of its next-generation system. However, Microsoft does have some exposure to virtual reality video game software — as its Minecraft video game has been one of the most popular early titles for VR devices and the company has made some smaller games and experiences for Windows Mixed Reality.Microsoft’s Mixer social media platform for streaming video game footage could also wind up seeing increased virtual-reality integration if the display format gains traction.

If virtual reality and augmented reality take off, it will also likely create increased demand for related cloud-infrastructure services — which could be a significant positive catalyst for Microsoft’s Azure business. Azure is one of the leading cloud services platforms, and server-side computing could help reduce the hardware requirements needed to create VR and AR experiences and process data generated from devices and software applications. 

2. Alphabet

Alphabet’s Google division dominates the search engine and digital advertising markets, and these strengths have made it one of the biggest success stories of the Internet Age. Like Microsoft, VR remains a very small component of Alphabet’s overall business strategy, but the search leader has been an early mover in the space and has some big platform advantages that make it a company to watch in the world of virtual reality. 

Alphabet made its first push into the consumer VR space in 2014 with Google Cardboard — a headset fashioned from cardboard that could be cut out and sized to attach to a user’s mobile phone screen. The low barrier to entry allowed Google Cardboard to achieve relatively high levels of adoption and put basic VR experiences into the hands of millions of mobile users.

The company then launched the Daydream View in 2016 — a headset that allowed users to connect a Google Pixel phone or select phones from Samsung, Asus, LG, and Motorola to use as a screen for mobile VR experiences. Alphabet followed this up with the Google Daydream in 2018 — a stand-alone VR headset with a built-in screen that was part of Lenovo‘s Mirage Solo hardware line and used Google’s VR platform.

Phone-based virtual reality initially enjoyed a significant adoption advantage in the U.S. market compared to headsets that featured built in screens, but this design approach has lost favor because dedicated VR headsets tend to offer superior capabilities. Google disabled support for the Daydream View headset with the introduction of its Pixel 4 phones, and many virtual-reality experts now believe that the days of the phone-powered VR experience is over.

It looks like the company is moving away from making phone-based VR hardware, but Alphabet doesn’t need to be a big player in the headset space in order to benefit from the growth VR. The wide reach of Google’s Android mobile operating system, its G Suite online software, and media platforms give it other avenues to benefit. 

As the biggest platform for online-video streaming, Google’s YouTube could become a huge a hub for VR content. YouTube already has a virtual reality app for experiencing content built around the display medium, but there’s still plenty of untapped potential. Alphabet’s push into the gaming industry with its streaming-based Stadia platform could also give it a position in the VR video game market — although issues with latency that have been a trouble for streaming gaming platforms will have to improve before optimal functionality can be achieved. 

3. Amazon

Amazon’s leadership positions in e-commerce and cloud computing have made it a giant in the tech space. The Jeff Bezos-led enterprise has also built positions in voice-operated smart speakers and streaming entertainment, and its vast resources and willingness to take substantial in order to deliver game-changing innovations suggest it will continue to be one of the world’s most influential companies for decades to come. With a wide footprint across the tech sector, Amazon has a range of ways to benefit if the VR market heats up.

The company has been experimenting with integrating virtual reality into its e-commerce platform. The company has developed limited-release kiosks that involve users navigating video game like shopping malls in a virtual-reality world and browsing highlighted items for its Prime Day shopping holiday.

Amazon has yet to release any virtual reality shopping apps, but it has released an AR app for its e-commerce platform. This offering hasn’t caught on in a big way, but the company will likely be the biggest beneficiary if AR and VR usage for online retail gains ground in the Western market.

Amazon Prime users can’t shop in virtual reality yet, but the Prime Video streaming service has a VR mode that puts users in a simulated theater and allows them to watch titles from its library.And while there haven’t been any big entertainment releases for the display format from the company, Amazon has reportedly interested in developing its own VR content.

The e-commerce and cloud-computing leader also owns the Twitch social media platform for streaming video game footage, and viewers can watch their favorite broadcasters stream VR titles or set up their own streaming broadcasts. The company is also rumored to be launching its own streaming-based game platform sometime in the not-too-distant future, and it’s possible that VR functionality could be supported. 

Amazon’s cloud-computing platform could play an important role in pushing VR forward. Some developers are hoping that some of the intensive computing processes needed to create high-quality virtual reality can be offloaded to the cloud so that these experiences can be accessible on less-powerful computers or mobile devices. Amazon Web Services (AWS) already provides tools to aid in the creation of VR applications.

The company launched Amazon Sumerian in 2018 — a development suite for making VR and AR apps that can run in web browsers. Sumerian is part of the AWS Management Console and was designed with a range of industrial and creative applications in mind, and its features could be a draw to the company’s cloud services for developers looking to build cloud-distributed virtual reality and augmented reality experiences.  

4. Facebook

Like Alphabet, Facebook has leveraged technology strengths and massive reach for its software to establish a leading position in the digital-advertising market and change how the world connects. The social media company has a global active user base of more than two-billion people across its platforms, and it’s been looking to expand its digital empire in new directions. Virtual reality has been one of the company’s biggest growth-and-innovation plays outside of its core social media business.

Facebook acquired VR-company Oculus in 2014 at a price reported to be in the $3 billion range. Oculus remains one of the top headset brands, and its offerings have continued to improve and evolve in new directions since the release of the unit’s first consumer headset. The initial Oculus Rift headset debuted in 2016. It was then discontinued in 2019 after the launch of the Rift S hardware, which offers superior image resolution, headset tracking, and other upgrades.

The Oculus Rift S headset with two controllers.

Image source: Oculus.

The company also launched the Oculus Go (a VR headset that doesn’t need to be tethered to a computer) in 2018, and followed it up with the Oculus Quest (an updated non-tethered headset) in 2019. According to research by TrendForce, Oculus had a roughly 19.4% share of all virtual reality headsets shipped in 2018 and a 28.3% share of all VR headsets shipped in 2019.

CEO mark Zuckerberg has been very bullish on the future of VR, even going so far as to say that it could emerge as the next revolutionary computing platform. He’s also admitted that the company’s ambitions in the space have taken longer to come to fruition than initially anticipated, but it seems clear that Facebook remains committed to building a future in virtual reality. 

Oculus headsets now share data directly with Facebook, and the company is incorporating this information into its digital advertising platform and using it to shape the development of new applications for virtual reality. It’s also snatching up leading virtual-reality developers. 

Facebook purchased Beat Games (the developer behind the popular VR game Beat Saber) at the end of 2019, and comments from the press release announcing the acquisition suggested that more big VR moves are on the way. Facebook is also developing new VR games and experiences internally, and the company is likely to remain one of the most influential players in the virtual reality market for years to come.

5. Alibaba Holdings

Alibaba is China’s top e-commerce player and one of its largest technology companies. The e-commerce leader operates two main online retail platforms — one for consumers to sell goods to each other and one for consumers buy goods from larger businesses. With this focus, it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that Alibaba is often referred to as “the Amazon of China,” and the company has shown interest in building VR and AR use on its platforms.

China is not only the world’s biggest online retail market, it’s also the world’s biggest virtual reality market in terms of user count.Headsets tend to be significantly cheaper in the country, and that has helped to spur adoption — even if most of the hardware sold is phone-based and doesn’t measure up to the quality and functionality of Facebook’s Oculus products or HTC’s Vive headsets. Still, the combination of the world’s biggest VR installed base and the world’s biggest e-commerce market (it accounts for over 50% of overall spending) means that China is the market where virtual-reality-based shopping is most likely to take off, and Alibaba is a resource-rich first mover in the space.

Alibaba launched its first VR shopping experience, Buy+, in 2016. Buy+ allows users to navigate a virtual mall and then select and purchase items. The company then expanded the app to support AR, and it continued to roll out new virtual reality and augmented reality shopping features and options.

A woman wearing a VR headset and touching a 'Buy Now' icon.

Image source: Getty Images.

The Chinese e-commerce leader will likely continue to add features for these new display technologies as their capabilities improve and adoption for compatible hardware increases, and its push into other areas of tech give it additional virtual-reality exposure.  Like Amazon, Alibaba has also made a push into the cloud services space. That positions the company to benefit from an increased demand for cloud-based VR data processing and content distribution. Alibaba Cloud has also partnered with Intel to create more advanced VR broadcasting technologies.    

6. Tencent Holdings

Video games and social media applications are two of the biggest catalysts for driving VR adoption, and Tencent has very strong positions in both categories. The China-based tech giant is the world’s biggest gaming company and is responsible for hit titles like League of Legends, Honor of Kings, and Game for Peace. It also owns WeChat, the country’s biggest social media platform and one that functions as a hub for an ecosystem for thousands of mini-apps in addition to its core social network features. That makes Tencent a natural fit for the VR market.

The company has developed games exclusively for VR platforms and built headset functionality into some of its titles, but its exposure to virtual reality in the gaming space extends beyond its own efforts. In addition to making its own video games, Tencent also owns substantial stakes in other large gaming companies — including Activision Blizzard, Glu Mobile, Ubisoft, and Epic Games — among many others. It also owns large stakes in gameplay streaming platforms Huya and Douyu, so it could benefit if VR sees increased  adoption in that corner of the industry in addition to having plenty of potential with its own social media platforms.

The company’s CEO Pony Ma has expressed interest in building a virtual-reality version of WeChat, and the project is reportedly in development. Some augmented reality features have already launched on the platform, and additional AR and VR functionality will likely be added.

Like other social networks, WeChat is primarily monetized through digital advertising, and the immersive potential of AR and VR suggests big potential in the ad space. Studies have shown that ads on theses new display mediums tend to produce much higher engagement than traditional digital ads.

WeChat has roughly a billion monthly active users and has sky high levels of engagement because mini-apps used for everything from ride hailing to ordering food to banking and payment processing are part of the ecosystem. Having so many different third-party apps on the platform also means that Tencent can benefit from the VR mini-apps that other company’s launch. In addition to its core gaming, social media, and fintech businesses, the technology and media conglomerate is building its position in cloud services. Like other platform providers, Tencent’s offering could help pave the way for cloud-powered VR experiences and help process related data.

7. Intel

VR and AR experiences would be impossible without capable semiconductors, and Intel has long been one of the biggest players in the chip space. The company’s solutions are used in both Apple and Windows-based computers and mobile devices, and the chipmaker has tailored some of its newer processors to support virtual reality capabilities. 

High-end virtual reality experiences require powerful hardware. In order to create an immersive experience, most non-phone VR applications render the image you’re seeing twice — once for each eye. VR experiences also tend to be more satisfying when running at faster frame rates and higher resolutions. Failing to render at high resolutions and frame rates can actually cause users to experience dizziness and nausea because the information your eyes are transmitting to the brain differs so much from what you’re used to. Delivering on all of these extra requirements requires a lot of extra processing power, and Intel’s newer, more powerful processors have been designed with this mind. 

In addition to designing VR-ready processors, Intel has also dabbled in VR device hardware. The company initially planned to release its own virtual-reality headset, dubbed “Project Alloy,” but the product never hit the market.

It looks like the chip giant’s ambitions in the headset-hardware space have been scrapped, but the company has developed high-end 360-degree cameras and software that’s used to broadcast professional sports-content for VR devices. The company’s True View 360-degree technology has been used by sports organizations including the NBA, MLB, NFL, PGA, and the Premier League.

8. Qualcomm

Qualcomm is another leader in the semiconductor space that has significant exposure to VR. The company’s processors power a huge section of mobile devices. Even phone-based virtual reality needs to have relatively powerful hardware in order to deliver the performance conditions for a pleasant and immersive experiences for users, and the company’s high-end Snapdragon chips help make mobile VR possible. Qualcomm’s chips are also used in many dedicated VR and AR headsets, and some of these solutions have been designed specifically for these new display mediums.

The chipmaker has a presence in the device hardware and software spaces as well. Qualcomm has made its own VR headsets for software developers to work on, and it’s working on a consumer-level untethered headset that can also be connected to a computer for improved performance.The company is also partnering with Pokemon Go developer Niantic Labs in order to develop augmented-reality glasses. 

On the software side, Qualcomm offers a toolkit for developers making virtual reality applications that run off of its Snapdragon mobile processors. The company is also betting that its software and hardware solutions combined with cloud-computing and 5G internet can bring about huge improvements for mobile-based virtual reality and augmented reality. The company launched its Boundless XR (short for “extended reality) platform in March 2019. Boundless XR allows for processing to be split between a mobile device and a computer or cloud server, paving the way for VR and AR experiences that are significantly better than what would be possible if a relatively low-power device like a phone had to do all the lifting. 

9. Sony

Sony built an empire in the consumer-electronics space, and used its strengths in product categories like music players, speakers, and televisions to build a bigger position in the world of entertainment content. Many of the product categories that helped the Japanese tech company grow over the decades have either been phased out or are no longer particularly lucrative, but it has found plenty of success in the world of video games. The company’s PlayStation gaming division is one of its most important business segments, and no other large video game company has been more aggressive about pushing into VR.

While Microsoft has been hesitant to pursue virtual reality for its Xbox platform, Sony eagerly jumped into the space — and it’s had impressive success in the market. PlayStation VR launched in 2016, and the company debuted a slightly updated version of the device the following year. Sony’s VR device has outperformed more-advanced, PC-focused headsets like the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive despite the PlayStation 4 user base being smaller than the PC user base.

The PlayStation VR currently stands as the best-selling high-end VR device, illustrating that video game content is a big driving factor in adoption for virtual reality. Research by TrendForce suggests that Sony shipped 36.7% of total non-phone VR headsets in 2018 and had a 43% of headset shipments in 2019 — making it the far-and-away market leader in the category.

While PlayStation VR wasn’t as technologically advanced as other high-end competitors, it has been significantly more affordable for people who already own a PlayStation 4 console, and it offered an overall quality experience with an easy pick-up-and-play approach and with that couldn’t be found on other platforms.  Sony is developing a new VR headset for use with its upcoming next-generation PlayStation console, and it remains one of the most important companies to watch in the virtual-reality space. 

Approach VR with a long view and evaluate stocks holistically

If you’re looking to invest in virtual reality stocks, it’s important that you make your investment choices based on the overall company and not just the VR components of its business. That’s especially true when dealing with the mega-cap and large-cap stocks profiled on this list.

There aren’t many publicly traded pure-play virtual reality companies to choose from, and the resources needed to develop industry-leading hardware and software in the space means that it’s top players tend to be the established giants of technology. The other side of that dynamic, for virtual reality investors, is that these giant companies typically have a wide range of businesses that also have to be evaluated in order to make sufficiently informed investment decisions.

In many cases, a company’s strengths in other businesses will bolster its chances of success in virtual reality, but it’s possible that a large company could have a very successful VR unit and still post poor stock performance due to other areas of the business underperforming.

It’s also important to keep in mind that the virtual reality market is still very young and will take some time to develop. Investing in companies that go on to be big winners in VR could lead to fantastic returns over the long run, but there’s still not much visibility on how the market will play out. Investors should approach the space with the understanding that a boom for the technology could be a decade away — and that outcome isn’t guaranteed. Virtual reality has tremendous potential, and it could turn into a lucrative market that delivers great performance for investors with well-informed approaches and expectations.

Yakir Gabay

Bay Area virtual reality amusement boldly goes to the next...

Jonathan Cartu Declares: Bay Area virtual reality amusement boldly goes to the next

It’s not every day that you find yourself fighting Klingons in downtown San Francisco.

But here I am, inexplicably locked in an ultra-intense battle against what feels like endless waves of hostile, sword-wielding, armor-clad alien warriors, who apparently crave my demise.

I take cover and fire upon them repeatedly with my super-cool phaser gun. But they just keep coming and coming.

“Surrender at once, human!” the Klingon commander yells. “And your death shall be quick!”

For a few pulse-pounding moments, I’m able to keep his ruthless troops at bay. Suddenly, though, I turn to discover that one has lurched up from behind and is breathing down my neck.


It’s a close encounter of the hideous kind — and it would be downright terrifying if it weren’t so fun. That’s because this ferocious firefight is just part of the mind-blowing “Star Trek: Discovery”-themed adventure at Sandbox VR, a virtual-reality amusement center on Market Street.

Sandbox, which also has a space in San Mateo, is one of several companies attempting to take cutting-edge virtual-reality technology and boldly go in a more ambitious, visually stunning, full-body direction while developing a new genre of entertainment.

“A lot of people tend to think that VR is just putting on a headset and watching a movie at home or seeing a game play out in front of you while you have a controller in your hand,” says Susan Washburn, store manager for San Francisco’s Sandbox VR. “We’re making it not only more immersive, but interactive with other people.”

Or as company CEO and founder Steve Zhao puts it: “This is something bigger and better. … It’s not a game, it’s not a movie, it’s not traditional VR. It’s a full-body experience that completely transforms you, where you become the experience itself.”

Players in VR gear enter “impossible” worlds via The Void. 

Also making a big splash in the location-based VR realm is The Void, which offers experiences linked to popular films such as “Star Wars,” “Ghostbusters” and “Jumanji.”

The Void operated a pop-up space in the Atrium at Westfield San Francisco Center late last summer and plans to open a permanent venue there soon. The company has set itself apart from rivals with an approach that moves players across an expansive physical set with sensory elements, allowing them to physically interact with their environment.

Curtis Hickman, co-founder and chief creative officer of The Void, insists that it’s all part of making the experience “as authentic as possible.”

“We take people into these impossible worlds and enable them to live these impossible moments,” he says. “You and your friends become characters in the movie. And if it’s hot, you feel the heat. If there’s a wall, you can touch it. If there’s a waterfall, you feel the moisture.”

Industry insiders hope that free-roam VR experiences, with their communal appeal, lavish settings and powerful storytelling, are the next entertainment craze. Sandbox VR has drawn votes of confidence from investors including Justin Timberlake, Katy Perry, Will Smith and former Golden State Warriors star Kevin Durant.

The Void, meanwhile, has formed partnerships with some of Hollywood’s biggest franchises. It operates 16 centers globally, including 11 in the U.S.

“I’ve seen a lot of skeptics going into (the Void experiences). But I never see one going out,” Hickman says. “It’s not a gimmick. It’s not a fad. It’s the future of entertainment.”

Speaking of the future, I have some pesky Klingons to subdue — and, fortunately, Washburn is kind enough to offer some aid to this awkward rookie gamer.

Our adventure began in a spacious, gray room that instantly transforms into an icy alien planet. Clad in special gear, we (and our avatars) assume the roles of Starfleet officers who are directed to investigate a distress signal. Mission accepted, naturally.

The experience lasts about 30 minutes, during which we are “beamed” to various locales and face off against one menacing threat after another. Along the way, we use tricorders to scan our whereabouts and hunt for clues. Enhancing the immersive enterprise are haptic vests that pulsate during the “teleportation” process.

The “Star Trek” VR experience also contains some competitive elements: The more enemies you kill, the higher your score goes. To that end, Washburn valiantly tries to make up for my slack, blasting away at the targets that I miss or overlook and being a super-good sport about it.

Fortunately, the game has a nice feature that allows participants to revive a “downed” friend. Washburn was forced to revive me more often than I want to admit, while I came to her rescue only a couple of times. Final score? Ugh. She smoked me.

But the stats tell only part of the story. More important is the thrill of experiencing a strange new fantasy world and working together to get through it. As the slogan outside the Sandbox VR facility proclaims: “In here, it’s possible.”

Yakir Gabay

Sunday's best deals: Samsung virtual reality, snow

Billy Xiong Reports: Sunday’s best deals: Samsung virtual reality, snow

We’ve gathered all of the day’s best deals on tech and more below to save you having to hunt them down alone. Most are limited in time, so make sure you don’t miss out.

Samsung HMD Odyssey+ headset – $229.99 (from $500)

The Samsung HMD Odyssey+ Windows mixed reality headset is down to $229.99 at Dell. This price is matching a sale through Samsung’s website. We saw it drop this low briefly last week, but it sold out quickly. We expect this deal won’t last long either. The next best price is $342 on Amazon, but most retailers like Best Buy and B&H sell it for around $500. Either way, today’s sale at $230 is a huge drop in price.

Great Price

Samsung HMD Odyssey+ Windows mixed reality headset with controllers Dell

Excellent intro to VR if you can’t afford more expensive options. 3K AMOLED display with 2880 x 1600 resolution and 110-degree field of view. Easy setup and inside-out tracking so you don’t need extra equipment. Works with Windows store and Steam.

$229.99 $500.00 $270 off

Greenworks cordless snow thrower – $221.23 (from $355)

The cordless snow thrower, which is one of two snow throwers on sale today, uses an 80V Li-ion system that lasts for up to 45 minutes of run time on a single battery, which is included. Keep the batteries stored at room temperature since you are most likely to use this snow thrower after snow, which means some very cold temperatures. And batteries tend not to work when it’s too cold.

Our favorite VPN service is more affordable now than ever before

The machine will require very little maintenance thanks to its quiet brushless motor technology. It also has a 20-inch clearing path so you can easily clear your sidewalks, walkways, driveways and more. With up to 10 inches of clearing depth, only the worst blizzards will give you trouble. The top chute on the snow thrower can also be rotated 180 degrees so you can displace the snow in the best location.

Let it snow

Greenworks 20-inch cordless snow thrower

There’s also a corded version on sale today only. Has a quiet brushless motor. Clear your driveway, sidewalk, or patio easily with a 20-inch clearing path. Goes 10 inches deep with a 180-degree chute for displacement. Batteries last up to 45 minutes.

$221.23 $355.00 $134 off

Life P2 true wireless earbuds – $49.99 (from $60)

The Soundcore Life P2 true wireless headphones are a perfect pick if you’re someone who’s worried about call quality when it comes to Bluetooth headphones, as Anker has integrated two microphones into each earbud to help your voice be clearly heard on the other end of the call. They even feature beamforming noise reduction and cVc 8.0 noise-cancelling technology to help enhance your voice and reduce the amount of background noise on your end.

Wireless Audio

Anker Soundcore Life P2 True Wireless Headphones

Worried about call quality with Bluetooth headphones? Anker’s latest earbuds keep that in mind, packing in four microphones so you have no trouble being heard clearly while taking calls hands-free. Clip the on-page coupon to save $10 instantly.

$49.99 $59.99 $10 off

Anker Alkaline 24-pack AA Batteries – $11.89 (from $16)

These alkaline AA batteries are compatible with so many electronics, from remote controls to children’s toys, game controllers, and more. However, unlike many other affordable options, these batteries will keep your electronics running for much longer thanks to their adaptive output which delivers just the power required by your device.

Anker’s AA batteries also feature PowerLock technology which creates an air- and liquid-tight seal to keep the power inside. That gives them a shelf life of up to 10 years. Plus, these batteries were built using recycled components, meaning you’ll be able to recycle them again once these batteries go dead.

Power Supply

Anker Alkaline AA Batteries (24-Pack)

These Alkaline AA batteries have a 10-year shelf life thanks to their PowerLock technology which creates an air- and liquid-tight seal to keep power inside. Today’s deal marks one of the lowest prices yet for this 24-pack at Amazon.

$11.89 $15.99 $4 off

Seagate FireCuda 2TB hybrid SSD – $59.99 (from $81)

The process is mostly automatic with the Seagate FireCuda (some SSHDs let you manually choose what to do with it). You get a 7200 RPM hard drive, which is already nice and fast for a hard drive. And then you get the cache system that gives you SSD-like performance for some stuff. This sort of drive is perfect if you have very limited storage options, like a laptop that only has one drive bay and is still using an ancient hard drive. The drive also won’t add to your power consumption, so you don’t have to worry about that.

Bit o This Bit o That

Seagate FireCuda 2TB internal solid state hybrid drive

This sort of drive is perfect if you have very limited storage options, like a laptop that only has one drive bay and is still using an ancient hard drive. It combines a speedy 7200 RPM storage drive with a speed boost similar to an SSD.

$59.99 $80.88 $21 off

Roav Viva Pro Alexa car charger – $34.99 (from $70)

Clip the on-page coupon to save 50% off the regular price. The Roav Viva Pro connects to your phone via Bluetooth, and then you connect the Viva Pro to your car’s stereo either via Bluetooth, Carplay, Android Auto, Aux-out, or FM transmission. It will use your phone’s data plan to access Alexa’s services and relay them through your car’s speakers. You can access the full-range of Alexa’s skills, including playing your favorite music, getting directions, or hearing the news. You can make and receive phone calls without taking your hand off the wheel. It also has voice isolation via two integrated mics that can accurately identify your voice over other car noises.

Road Trip Essentials

Anker Roav Viva Pro Alexa-enabled Car Charger

This 2-port USB car charger feature built-in Amazon Alexa so you can ask for directions, listen to an Audible audiobook, shop online, and more, all with your voice while you’re driving. Clip its on-page coupon to save 50% instantly.

$34.99 $69.99 $35 off

Powerline II 3-foot Lightning cable – $6.79 (from $9)

This MFi-certified 3-foot Lightning cable from Anker is designed to properly and safely charge Apple devices, meaning you won’t have to deal with any annoying popups saying your accessory isn’t supported once you plug it in. They’re very durable too, with tensile strength capable of withstanding 175 pounds, plus a 12,000 bend lifespan. Anker is so confident in their performance that the cables are backed with a lifetime warranty. Should you encounter any issues, simply reach out via email and you’ll get a replacement.

Take Charge

Anker Powerline II 3-foot Lightning Cable

This durable Lightning cable is designed to last 12 times longer than others and is MFi-certified to properly charge Apple devices safely. It even comes with a lifetime warranty.

$6.79 $9.13 $2 off

Mint Mobile is offering up to 40% off its service plans for three months when you join now! You can score any data plan for only $15 monthly for three months, though you’ll need to pay the full three-month cost in advance.

$15 per month at Mint Mobile

Security and privacy are important, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make a saving! This limited-time holiday offer at PureVPN drops the monthly cost to just $1.19 with code THRIFTER10. It works great on iOS, Android, macOS, Windows, and more.

$1.19 per month at PureVPN

This service launched earlier this year costs only $8 a month anyway, but you can get three months for free. The Essential bundle includes 300 channels of music, comedy, talk radio, and more. It’s only for online streaming not using your car’s satellite radio. Remember it will auto renew.

Free at SiriusXM

We may earn a commission for purchases using our links. Learn more.

Yakir Gabay

Vance County Schools students use zSpace through a partnership with the NC State College of Education's Friday Institute for Educational Innovation

Jonathan Cartu Report: Friday Institute Partners with Vance County Schools to

Vance County Schools students use zSpace through a partnership with the NC State College of Education's Friday Institute for Educational Innovation

Students in Vance County have held a beating human heart in their hands and taken an undersea adventure in the Arctic Ocean without ever leaving their classrooms. With the help of a team of faculty and graduate students from the NC State College of Education and the Friday Institute for Educational Innovation, these students have had the opportunity to conduct scientific investigations in ways that were never possible before with zSpace®, an innovative virtual reality technology found in three schools in the district.

Vance County Schools brought this NC State team to their schools to help them integrate this technology into their science curricula. This year, the Friday Institute team has developed and implemented a variety of science lesson plans using zSpace® for all 8th graders, about 230 students, at two Vance County schools: Vance County Middle School and STEM Early High School. Lessons focused on the heart and circulatory system, the ecology of the Arctic and the evolution of peppered moths in post-industrial England.

zSpace® provides an immersive, interactive, hands-on learning experience with applications in K-12 education and career and technical education in areas from health and medicine to automotive training. The zSpace® laptop, stylus and lightweight glasses allow students to view virtual 3-D models and fully immerse themselves in the content they’re studying.

“zSpace® allows students to conceptualize objects in a 3D environment that you can’t fully understand in a 2D environment,” said Project Lead M. Gail Jones, Ph.D., an NC State College of Education professor of science education, and Friday Institute faculty fellow. “You can explore the valves of a heart and watch them open and close or view the size and scale of bacteria. It’s motivating and allows students to do their own investigations.”

Research shows that simulation-based learning has been successful in providing “self-determined motivation as well as improve learning in general”, according to an article in the Journal of Engineering Education, “Investigating the Effect of 3D Simulation Based Learning on the Motivation and Performance of Engineering Students.” Immersive technologies also keep students engaged and in control of their learning, allow for collaboration and give room to make mistakes and experiment without costly or dangerous results.

“Immersive technologies encourage mistakes and empower students,” Jones said. “It allows students the opportunity to make mistakes, learn from them and recover quickly without the expense or stress of restarting an actual experience.”

Collaborations such as this one that use virtual reality technology advance the field of science while also providing opportunities to engage underrepresented populations in experiencing the wonder of science in ways that extend beyond the limitations of a classroom setting.

A recent zSpace® whitepaper, “Learning in the Digital Age: A Review of the Research on Innovative Technologies,” found that this technology could be especially “vital for students from historically underserved or under-performing groups in science” such as “English language learners who benefit from visual learning, students from diverse cultural backgrounds whose religion or values may prevent them from full participation in science experiences,” and students with attention-based disorders or special needs.

Not only did Vance County Schools students benefit from this learning experience, but so did NC State College of Education graduate students. Working with Jones, graduate students had the opportunity to think about how to use technology to enhance science education in the classroom while building their instructional skills teaching in a rural area.

“Seeing how rural counties integrated technology is exciting,” said Kathryn Rende, an Ph.D. student in science education and one of Jones’ graduate research assistants. “This project has helped me think about teaching in diverse populations and integrating technology in classrooms and in rural counties.”

The graduate students, aided by Jones, gave teachers intensive demonstrations of the technology, one-on-one support and ideas for integrating zSpace® into standards-based science lessons. Vance County teachers were able to grow with this project, too, expanding their science instruction, integrating technology into their lesson plans and becoming experts in the technology. Now, 16 Vance County Schools teachers are credentialed in zSpace®. In November 2019, a group of these teachers presented their lessons at the North Carolina Science Teacher Association conference in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. They shared with other teachers around the state about how they used zSpace® to enhance middle school science instruction in their classrooms.

Billy Xiong

Cooper becomes world's first hospital to use new VR system...

Jonathan Cartu Stated: Cooper becomes world’s first hospital to use new VR system

A new wireless and mobile virtual reality system has been introduced for the first time to treat stroke victims at Cooper University Hospital in Camden, New Jersey.

California-based medical device producer Penumbra worked closely with a team of physicians and therapists at the Cooper Neurological Institute to develop a program for use of the REAL Immersive System.

The new VR system displays and tracks upper-extremity rehabilitation in interactive exercises for adult stroke patients. In a variety of virtual environments, patients are able to adjust their view simply by looking around. Hand controllers enable patients to move their avatar and interact with the virtual world.

“As an academic health system and a leading provider of advanced stroke and neurological services, we are committed to adding promising new treatment modalities to our complement of therapies,” said Tudor G. Jovin, chief of the Cooper Neurological Institute. “Virtual reality is an emerging new approach to treatment in stroke rehabilitation settings. We are proud of our role in the development of this new system and are excited to be the first hospital in the world to use it with our patients.”

With the Real Immersive System, therapists select games and monitor a patient’s virtual activity, which requires the movement of limbs to complete tasks.

“The therapist watches the patient maneuver through the exercises on the tablet in real-time and can increase or decrease the level of difficulty of the activities depending on the patient’s progress,” said Dave Owens, director of rehabilitation services at Cooper. “The system monitors and securely records objective data for the patient’s record.”

With Penumbra’s system, the Cooper Neurological Institute hopes to demonstrate a rehabilitation format that improves the patient experience and can be adopted more widely by other hospitals.

Billy Xiong

Chef’s VR new year dinner out to get Asian-Americans...

Billy Xiong Affirms: Chef’s VR new year dinner out to get Asian-Americans

Chef’s VR new year dinner out to get Asian-Americans talking  South China Morning Post

Billy Xiong

The 5 Biggest Virtual And Augmented Reality Trends In 2020

Jonathan Cartu Announced: The 5 Biggest Virtual And Augmented Reality Trends In 2020

2019 was a growth year for virtual and augmented reality (VR/AR)– known collectively as extended reality (XR). The presence of these breakthrough technologies began to be felt far away from the fields of gaming and entertainment, where they first became popular.

Virtual reality – where users wear a headset and are fully immersed in computer-generated environments – has been developed to meet design, marketing, education, training, and retail needs. Augmented reality – where computer images are superimposed onto the user’s view of the real world, through a screen or headset – is a more complex challenge, as it requires the software to “see” what is in front of it. But we’re getting used to seeing it used for more than adding cartoon features to selfie pictures or spotting Pokemon in the wild.

With global spending on XR technology is forecast to increase by 78.5% next year compared to this year, both technologies will be key trends to watch out for in 2020. We are likely to see a whole load of exciting new hardware offering even greater immersion and realism, as well as innovative use cases as industry gets to grips with what it can do.

Industrial use outpaces gaming and entertainment

Most people’s first experiences of VR and AR today are likely to be in gaming and entertainment. That’s likely to change, as research shows that the development of enterprise XR solutions is overtaking that on consumer solutions. The 2020 XR Industry Insight report collated by VR Intelligence states that 65% of the AR companies surveyed said they are working on industrial applications, while just 37% working on consumer products and software.

This shouldn’t be surprising – although games made the headlines in recent years thanks to Pokemon Go and Facebook’s Oculus Rift, the potential to boost productivity and safety using XR makes it an attractive proposition for industry. VR can be used to simulate working in dangerous environments or with expensive, easily damaged tools and equipment, without any of the risks. AR, on the other hand, can be used to relay essential information directly to the user about whatever happens to be in front of them – reducing the time spent by engineers, technicians, or maintenance staff referring to manuals and looking up information online while on the job. 

XR takes off in healthcare

The potential uses for these technologies in healthcare are obvious, and over 2020 we can expect to see many of these use cases transition from trials and pilots and gradually into general use. Virtual reality has already been adopted in therapy, where it is used to treat patients with phobias and anxiety disorders. Combined with biosensors that monitor physiological reactions like heart rate and perspiration, therapists can get a better understanding of how patients react to stressful situations in a safe, virtual environment. VR is also used to help people with autism develop social and communication skills, as well as to diagnose patients with visual or cognitive impairments, by tracking their eye movement.

The adoption of AR in healthcare is forecast to grow even more quickly – with the value of the market increasing by 38% annually until 2025. AR can be used by surgeons – both in the theater and in training – to alert them to risks or hazards while they are working. One app which has been developed uses AR to guide users towards defibrillator devices, should they need one when they are out in public. Another one helps nurses to find patients’ veins and avoid accidentally sticking needles where they aren’t wanted. As these innovations and others like them lead to improved patient outcomes and reduced cost of treatment, they are likely to become increasingly widespread throughout 2020.

Headsets get smaller, more mobile and more powerful

One of the biggest limiting factors with current XR technology is the need for encumbering headsets and display units. This is more of a problem with VR, where the powerful processing hardware needed to generate the graphics is usually contained within the headset. However, hardware devices have started to trend towards being “untethered” – For example, Facebook’s Oculus headset initially needed to be connected to a powerful PC, but this year became available as the self-contained Oculus Quest version.

As well as more mobile, headsets will be able to generate increasingly realistic “worlds” for the VR user to explore as the devices are fitted with more and more powerful processors. While early VR worlds were clearly computer-generated using low-resolution polygons, the vistas available to us in 2020 will move closer to reality, allowing for more immersive experiences. Possibly the most anticipated breakthrough will be Apple’s forthcoming 8K combined VR/AR glasses that will not be tethered to a computer or phone. The consumer tech giant is hoping that it will be the one to break XR into the mainstream with a high-end but affordable device, in the same way it did with the iPhone. 

5G opens new possibilities for VR and AR

Super-fast mobile networks will further boost the potential of XR to strengthen its presence in entertainment and make further inroads into industry during 2020.

The potential for data transfer speeds of up to 3 gigabits per second – by comparison, the average home broadband delivers well under 100 megabits per second – means 5G should be fast enough to stream VR and AR data from the cloud. Rather than needing to be wired up to powerful PCs, or encumbered by on-board hardware, viewing devices will upload tracking data to data centers where the heavy processing will be done. The rendered images can be delivered back to the user in real-time thanks to the speed of 5G and other advanced networks.

Streaming VR has been possible in a limited way for a few years now – Facebook lets you do it with your phone, but the experience is limited due to data transfer speeds and low on-device processing power. Combining it with the cloud and 5G technology means designers of VR and AR tools will be unencumbered by the need to deliver their experiences into a low-bandwidth, low-powered environment. The result will be cheaper headsets and viewing devices and more realistic VR simulations.

More of us will learn through VR and AR

Educational experiences in VR and AR will continue to become increasingly common throughout 2020. The immersive nature of VR means that pupils can engage with learning in fun new ways, and AR brings new flexibility to on-the-job training.

Already students can take a trip through time to visit the ancient Romans, or through space to experience conditions on other planets. But as the technology becomes moves away from niche and becomes part of the fabric of everyday education, we’re likely to see growth apart from simply providing “experiences,” into solving problems with current education systems. Distance learners could be taught in VR classrooms, meaning they don’t miss out on the benefits of learning in a collaborative environment, while AR training aids can ensure that access to the information needed to carry out a job is always on hand.    

You might also be interested in some of the best examples of how AR is already being used in business, which I discuss in this video:

Billy Xiong

Jonathan Cartu Wrote: Sydney Showground enhances event sales and marketing

The Sydney Showground has introduced a new interactive 360-degree virtual reality (VR) tour which to bring its precinct and customer experience to life.

Launched at the beginning of the month, the digital tool will provide a unique perspective for Sydney Showground clients, providing a one-stop-shop for all photos, 360-degree videos and fact sheets all while offering a dynamic VR tour of the site.

Designed by Rapturous Media, the interactive tool will take event sales into the new decade, assisting clients and prospects to understand the precinct, venue space, setups, location and functionality.

Sydney Showground Head of Sales, Andrew Roberts says the program will be invaluable to his team, commenting “the biggest challenge in event sales is painting a picture for clients, demonstrating the possibilities; VR allows us to show them.

“By accessing a 360-degree interactive tour, clients can experience the dynamic nature of the precinct through VR and begin to visualise their own event coming to life.

“This means they have an in-depth understanding of the Sydney Showground site before they even pick up the phone. It’s a new era for event sales and marketing.”

Throughout the ‘tour’ clients and prospects will also have the ability to take ‘snapshots’ of the venue to assist with latter planning, snapshots can then be shared or emailed to customers following the interactive experience.

The new experience can be viewed at

Image shows the Sydney Showgrounf during the 2019 Sydney Royal Easter Show.

Related Articles

12th January 2020 – Royal Agricultural Society fears impact of bushfires on Sydney Easter Show

17th December 2019 – The Royal Agricultural Society of NSW and Royal Easter Show secure multiple awards

8th October 2019 – Sydney Showground becomes Quayclean’s next big challenge

2nd October 2019 – The Royal Agricultural Society of NSW gets recognition for outstanding Risk Management Policies

18th September 2019 – Melbourne Convention Bureau wins Design Award for virtual reality

5th September 2019 – PMY Group to undertake major technology investment and management partnership at the Sydney Showgrounds

24th April 2019 – 2019 Sydney Royal Easter Show welcomes 900,000 visitors

16th April 2019 – Powerhouse Museum celebrates 50th Anniversary of the moon landing with virtual reality experiences 

15th April 2019 – NSW Fair Trading and SafeWork NSW assure visitors over Royal Easter Show safety

24th March 2019 – Sydney Showground begins AFL Season with introduction of reusable beer cups

18th March 2019 – Plastic drinking cups removed from Sydney Showground

25th January 2019 – Virtual and Augmented reality experiences created for tennis fans at the Australian Open 2019 

31st March 2018 – Organisers monitor potential ticket fraud at Sydney Royal Easter Show

28th June 2016 – Royal Agricultural Society of NSW appoints new Chief Executive

3rd April 2015 – Cake on a stick a hit at Sydney Royal Easter Show

25th March 2015 – Comprehensive risk and safety assessments undertaken in advance of 2015 Sydney Royal Easter Show

Asking a small favour
We hope that you value the news that we publish so while you’re here can we ask for your support?

The news we publish at is independent, credible (we hope) and free for you to access, with no pay walls and no annoying pop-up ads.

However, as an independent publisher, can we ask for you to support us by subscribing to the printed Australasian Leisure Management magazine – if you don’t already do so.

Published bi-monthly since 1997, the printed Australasian Leisure Management differs from this website in that it publishes longer, in-depth and analytical features covering aquatics, attractions, entertainment, events, fitness, parks, recreation, sport, tourism and venues management.

Subscriptions cost just $90 a year.

Click here to subscribe.

Yakir Gabay

The interactive "Metaverse" augmented reality zombie game that doubles as a middle school language arts lesson.

Billy Xiong Reviews: Zombies, Catapults And Simulated Surgery: Virtual Reality &

A group of teachers hold their phone in front of their faces. Using the camera they’re looking at the classroom they’re standing in…when suddenly a zombie appears. It warns they need to reach a safe house or they’ll be eaten alive.

 With that they face a series of locked doors. To open them and escape the undead’s grasp, they need to answer a series of vocabulary questions. Wait, what?

This is an augmented reality game about zombies, yes. But it’s also a language arts lesson for middle school students. 

This session was part of the “STEAMing It Up” conference at Northern Illinois University. 

If you don’t know what Augmented (AR) or Virtual Reality (VR) means or what the difference is, here’s a breakdown: Virtual Reality is when you put on a headset or glasses that drops you into a new 3-dimensional world. 

Augmented reality is when a device or app alters your perception of your world. Think of the popular mobile game Pokémon GO. The pocket monsters you want to capture pop up on your phone screen, scampering across your yard or wherever your phone camera is pointed. 

Hal Brynteson is an undergraduate researcher at NIU who helped present on AR. 

“It’s sometimes difficult to think of uses technology besides like, ‘Oh, that’s cool,’” said Brynteson. “Especially in education, what are students actually gaining from seeing the ocean in a VR headset? What can we measure? What can we create that’s new with these experiences?”

That question is the crux of this conference. 

Stacie O’Daniell teaches business education and technology at Genoa-Kingston High School. This is her first year in the classroom after years as an education administrator in the private sector.

O’Daniell knows she has catching up to do, especially when it comes to new tech.

And she hopes conferences like this one can help her learn more to keep up with their students.

O’Daniell attended another AR/VR workshop in the fall. 

“I took it back to my students and they taught me. They like to research what’s out there, and they brought those applications back to me. And that’s how we move forward with it. So it really was a student-led project,” said O’Daniell. 

She started integrating the AR/VR lessons with her school’s computer club first. 

“They really like the science ones where they can look at the human body and focus in on different parts and see how what each part does and how it relates to another part that’s been a big hit,” she said. 

Just being introduced to the concepts and platforms is useful, especially as AR/VR becomes more mainstream. 

While Genoa-Kingston students explore that, surgeons at Stanford University Medical Center use 3-D models in VR to simulate surgeries. They use images from their actual patient to map their strategy before they break any skin. 

“The education system has to change, and we have to meet these kids where they’re at,” said O’Daniell. “For example, the AR/VR, kids are learning through this and we’re meeting them where their skill sets are, instead of trying to put them in our box.” 

But collaboration isn’t limited to conferences, it’s also online. Hal Brynteson says Metaverse, the augmented reality app the teachers used, is a great example. 

“Another reason we chose Metaverse is it already has an existing online teacher community. So, you can look up and browse through different games,” said Brynteson.  

Matthew Swed is an undergraduate researcher studying applied mathematics at NIU. In another session, he gave educators the basics of Unity. It’s a software engine used to build video games. 

“I just want to kind of go through it a bit, so that you’re not completely overwhelmed.”

Swed built a makeshift catapult in the software’s 3-D space. Then he dropped a weight on it and launches a ball across the screen. 

“You could go in and have the kids see what happens if you made the weight to be like 75, instead of 50, or you could go to the ammo and you could change the weight of the ammo and see how that affects the path of it or you could change the weight of the catapult even.”

The software gives the tools to learn how to build video games with little to no prior coding experience. 

“Kids physics class could create simulations?” asks one of the teachers. “Oh, yeah. But you can also do better than this,” said Swed. 

Luckily, like Metaverse, there’s an online ecosystem in place to help you learn. Students and teachers can find step-by-step tutorials, quick recipes for simple games. 

“As a high school student, if you had handed me this software, a bunch of videos and said, ‘this is how video games are made.’ I wouldn’t have even needed a classroom setting, I would have just taken it on my own initiative and taking time to learn all of this stuff.”

Stacie O’Daniell hopes to inspire that kind of curiosity when she takes the tools back to her classroom for the next generation of programmers, engineers and artists.

Yakir Gabay

The virtual reality platform changing how we experience art

Billy Xiong Announces: The virtual reality platform changing how we experience art

When the world’s biggest artists have a vision for virtual reality, London-based Acute Art provides the platform to make it possible.

Ai Weiwei debuted his latest artwork this week, but the Chinese native did not choose a gallery or international festival for its premiere. Instead, he went straight to people’s phones.

Omni is a virtual reality (VR) artwork — and the artist’s first venture in this field. The immersive documentary follows a herd of elephants in Myanmar before moving to a migrant camp in Bangladesh and exploring daily life there.

A screenshot from Ai Weiwei’s Omni. Courtesy of Acute Art.

While it is the artist’s first VR piece of work, Ai has explored immigration and the lives of refugees often — recently, with a 196-foot inflatable installation of a raft filled with human figures in life jackets at 2018’s Biennale of Sydney.

On the release of Omni this week, Ai told The Guardian: “I feel a lot of positive things about humanity even in the worst conditions.” “I don’t want to show that there is just sadness. Happiness and sadness always coexist,” he added.

As a way to spread that message, Ai turned to VR. Users can explore the surroundings of the elephants and when the camera travels through the migrant settlement, children run around the camera. Streaming the video on a mobile provides a 360-degree experience.

“What happens if the most significant artists of our era get access to the first new medium of our century?”

Omni is a collaboration with a London-based production company Acute Art, which specialises in VR and augmented reality (AR). Acute Art’s director, Daniel Birnbaum, tells Design Week: “Our ambition is rather grand.” It is guided by the question: “What happens if the most significant artists of our era get access to the first new medium of our century?”

So far the technology has been used by A-list names in art such as Jeff Koons, Olafur Eliasson and Louisa Clement. The work produced is the result of “intense collaborations” with the artist, Birnbaum says.

Jeff Koons’ Phyrne. Courtesy of Acute Art.

“The genesis of the work will always be based on a relationship with the artist and the idea,” he adds. “We then work together to develop this idea within the medium with our team of specialist developers.”

In 2018, a Marina Abramovic piece featured a virtual version of the artist, standing in a glass tank that is slowly filling with water. Rising explored issues of climate change and its impact on humanity. The virtual Abramovic pleas with users — though the artist calls those experiencing the piece “players” — to reconsider their impact on the natural world, asking them to both support the planet and save her from drowning.

Marina Abramovic developing Rising. Courtesy of Acute Art.

In order to capture her likeness and create an avatar, Acute Art tracked Abramovic’ facial expressions; the developers also submerged the artist in a tank of water. Abramovic said that VR created “enormous” possibility. “Whatever you can do with your body,” she adds. You as avatar can actually do endlessly.”

Birnbaum says that one “beauty” of the technology is how universally it can be developed. The one variable in the process is how much physical time the artist spends at the studio, he says — “whether they prefer in-person sessions of working remotely from their studios across the world, be it Boston, Berlin or Beijing”.

The artist’s avatar. Courtesy of Acute Art

Behind the user experience

Rising was originally shown at the Venice Biennale in 2018; visitors were given an Oculus headset for the experience. Birnbaum says that while using a headset provides a “more total, complete and immersive experience for the audience”, Acute Art’s app has reached “wider audiences”.

The app is free to download and use. On the platform, you can pick a virtual experience, then choose to download it or stream it. Once an experience loads, users simply have to tilt their phone to move around a 360-degree outlook. You can tap and drag to change the camera’s perspective.

Antony Gormley’s Lunatick. Courtesy of Acute Art

“With the app, we have found that the AR works well and can be viewed by much wider audiences as many more people have smart phones and can engage much more readily with the artwork,” Birnbaum says.

The experiences vary; while Rising created an avatar of the artist, some pieces are more of a simulated experience, such as Jakob Steensen’s Aquaphobia which guides people through an apocalyptic aquatic landscape. Others, like Ai’s Omni, offer new perspectives on artwork. One experience provides a bird’s-eye view of the London Mastaba, the floating 2018 installation in Hyde Park from Christo & Jeanne-Claude which consisted of 7,506 multi-coloured barrels.

“More interestingly accessible”

The platform provides a global reach, putting art — and in Abramovic’ case a virtual version of the artist herself — in people’s hands. It allows people who may want to see her art but could not go to the Venice Biennale the opportunity to experience it for themselves (and for free).

It also offers possibilities to people who might be mobility-impaired. Birnbaum says that these benefits were another guiding influence; “Acute Art was established to make these artworks in virtual and augmented reality available to as wide an audience as possible.”

Ai Weiwei’s Omni. Courtesy of Acute Art.

In Ai’s case, it also helps to spread the message of the documentary further afield. On 30 January, he is presenting the project to an audience in London. But with the Acute Art platform, Omni can be experienced anywhere in the world.

How might this intersection between art and technology progress? Birnbaum envisions a “higher uptake among the world’s leading museums and institutions” with a “stronger engagement with VR and AR in their collections and exhibitions”. This would make the art not only more accessible, but also more “interestingly accessible” to audiences.

Birnbaum’s ambition is not limited to simply improving the status quo, however. “I also believe that entirely new exhibitions formats will develop,” he says. One of the end goals? “A climate friendlier global art world.”

Yakir Gabay