The virtual reality war is set to be a battle of financial endurance

The eventual champion in the race for VR supremacy is likely to be the company that can last the longest without making a profit, according to a report published yesterday by a leading technology intelligence provider.

The report, which was published by Current Analysis in response to HTC’s reveal of its updated Vive VR headset and custom controllers,  acknowledged that content availability was likely to determine which headset – Oculus’ Rift, Sony’s PlayStation VR or the Valve co-created Vive – would come out on top initially. However, it argued that it would take far longer for high-end VR headsets to become mainstream, meaning companies may need to run at a loss for some time.

“Whoever gets the largest commitment to the best content is likely to garner the lion’s share of early adopter purchases, but mainstream adoption and profitability could still be a long way off,” wrote Avi Greengart, research director of consumer platforms and devices at Current Analysis.

As a result, the companies with the deepest pockets are likely to have the biggest advantage, giving the Facebook-owned Oculus a serious edge.

“Oculus should stress to developers that no matter who gets the best start, Facebook gives it the resources to survive long enough to succeed,” added Greengart.

Image courtesy of Oculus.

Image courtesy of Oculus.

With pre-orders for the consumer edition of the Oculus Rift opening later today despite no word yet on price or precise release date, the company looks set to get an early march on HTC, which will not be releasing the Vive until April.

However, Vive’s newly announced features, which include a built-in camera, could persuade some to wait, particularly as those who’ve managed to lay their hands on the updated headset are making some very positive noises.

“We demoed the system at CES and were impressed. It still has screen-door effect, but images are much higher contrast than before,” said Greengart.

“The camera allows the software to alert you to real-world objects in the room, which makes gameplay safer. The system was significantly more comfortable to wear and was not disorienting – or nausea-inducing – to enter or exit.”

Image and featured image courtesy of HTC

Image and featured image courtesy of HTC.

If the long-term success of virtual reality headsets does prove to be down to money, neither HTC nor Facebook is in a particularly poor position. Both have considerable cash to spare, and could certainly afford to keep the products afloat for several years.

However, for Facebook the Oculus Rift is an opportunity to get ahead on an emerging form of communication, something that is likely to be immensely valuable for the long-term success of its social media network. As a result, it’s likely to want to make the Rift a success no matter what the cost.

By contrast, HTC has far less crossovers between the Vive and its other products, meaning if the battle proves to be a long, loss-making slog, it could well find its shareholders unwilling to keep funding the headset.

Scientists implant device to boost human memory

Scientists have enhanced human memory for the first time with a “memory prosthesis” brain implant. The team behind the device say it can boost performance on memory tests by up to 30%, and a similar approach may work for enhancing other brain skills, such as vision or movement.

Source: New Scientist

Astronomers discover Earth-sized world 11 light years away

A planet, Ross 128 b, has been discovered in orbit around a red dwarf star just 11 light years from the Sun. The planet is 35% more massive than Earth, and it likely exists at the edge of the small, relatively faint star's habitable zone even though it is 20 times closer to its star than the Earth is to the Sun.

Source: Ars Technica

An algorithm can see what you've learned before going to sleep

Researcher fed the brain activity from sleeping subjects to a machine learning algorithm, and it was able to determine what the subject had learned before falling asleep. In other words, an algorithm was able to effectively ‘read’ electrical activity from sleeping brains and determine what they were memorising as a result.

Source: Motherboard

Elon Musk unveils Tesla Truck and Tesla Roadster

Elon Musk has unveiled the long-anticipated 'Tesla Semi' – the company's first electric articulated lorry. The vehicle has a range of 500 miles on a single charge, and will go into production in 2019. Unexpectedly, Tesla also revealed a new Roadster, which will have a range of close to 1,000km (620 miles) on a single charge and will do 0-100mph in 4.2 seconds.

Source: BBC

Arrivo plans to build 200mph hyperloop-lite track

Arrivo, the company founded by former Hyperloop One engineer Brogan BamBrogan, has announced a partnership with Colorado’s Department of Transportation. Arrivo will now build a magnetised track to transport existing vehicles, cargo sleds and specially designed vehicles alongside preexisting freeways at 200mph in the city of Denver.

Source: The Verge

Boston Dynamics' Atlas robot can now do backflips

It's been a busy week for Boston Dynamics, first the company revealed it SpotMini robot dog was getting an upgrade, and now the company has shared a video of its Atlas humanoid robot leaping from platforms and doing a backflip. It seems like an obvious thing to say, but it's not easy to make a robot do a backflip, so how Boston Dynamics has managed it is anyone's guess.

Source: WIRED

The all new Factor Magazine is here – your guide to how today, tomorrow and beyond are being shaped

Guess who’s back, back again.

It’s been a few months, but Factor has returned with a bigger and better format, bringing the same future news and discussion, but on a platform that you can read on any device.

We’ve been working towards this for a long, long time: this is how we’ve always wanted the magazine to look, and we’re so happy to share this with you. It can be viewed on any web browser, on anything from a mobile to a monster PC, and if you’re on a desktop or laptop, click the button in the bottom right-hand corner for the ultimate shiny reading experience. A digital magazine has never looked this good. Probably.

Unfortunately that means no more iPad app, but as you can easily read the magazine from an iPad web browser, we hope you’ll agree that what we’ve gained is so much better than what’s been lost.

So anyway, here it is: the Winter 2017 issue of Factor, the first issue of the quarterly version of the magazine.

In case any of you are worrying about us publishing the magazine quarterly, trust us you don’t need to. We’ve produced the biggest issue of Factor ever, so packed with futuristic awesomeness, that we’ve had to divide it into three sections: Today, Tomorrow and Beyond.

Today deals with the futuristic present, as much of what we think of as ‘the future’ already exists today. We look at how humanoid robots are being employed as co-workers, hear from the legendary Richard Stallman about the vanishing state of privacy and discover how automation is already taking jobs. Plus, we take a light hearted look at the futuristic world of Mr Tesla, Elon Musk, and provide our festive present suggestions in a bumper futuristic gift guide.

Moving on to Tomorrow, and it’s all about the world of the next few decades, as technologies that are in development now reach fruition and seep into our everyday lives. We consider how flying cars are inching towards reality, with a look at both Lilium and the newly announced UberAir, and find out how driverless delivery may be the first true instance of the self-driving future.  Plus, we also look at the Christmas dinners of the future, because why the hell not.

Finally, in Beyond we look at the way-out future that many of us probably won’t live to see, but is supremely cool to think about. We ask leading futurists to predict what’s in store in the 22nd century – not the most positive of pictures, unfortunately – and consider what jobs will remain in a post-automation world. Plus, we look at the potential first homes of the human race beyond the solar system, and check out how asteroid mining is set to shape off-earth development.

Take a look, and if you like what you see and read, please share the magazine with your friends, or tell us what you think. This is a completely free magazine, with not an ad in sight, so it’s always good to know that it’s worth the effort.