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Plexus gloves bring VR sensations to your fingertips

Bringing a user’s hands into VR has been a pretty logical move for ambitious companies in the space. The mouse and keyboard just don’t make sense, and while more conventional physical controllers make sense for games like first-person shooters, gloves bring a lot to use cases that require a bit more finesse. We’ve seen glimpses into some of the work that Oculus is doing on VR gloves, and hand-tracking tech has been pursued by quite a few other startups, as well. Plexus is launching out of Y Combinator’s latest class of startups with ambitions to bring a low-cost solution that puts a flexible glove onto users’ hands that will deliver feedback for AR and VR without leaving them confused and their hands super sweaty. The Plexus glove relies on the existing tracking systems of HTC and Oculus headsets, though they’re also working on their own more svelte solution based on licensed SteamVR tracking tech. Basically, the tracking sensors grab the position of where the hands are in space via the magnetically attached tracker and, after calibrating a resting state of the user’s fingers, individual sensors communicate their position to the game engine. The silicone glove is a pretty effective design. Velcro straps secure the glove at your palm and the individual finger controls hook onto the end of your fingertips with motors that offer tactile feedback to users. I had a chance at a demo and the design makes navigation pretty effortless with most of the weight placed on the back of the wrist. After strapping on a pair of gloves, I was able to hold virtual items in my cupped hands and manipulate the position of objects. There is clearly still some work to be done on the software end in regards to motion latency. Plexus is shipping the gloves with toolkits for Unity and Unreal game engines. It’s clear, though, that a lot of the hardest work to tackle with gloves fall on the software design and the interaction engine that allow the physics of your real-world hand movements to do what you want in VR. Plexus is first approaching users on the enterprise side.

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Microsoft and Nintendo release Minecraft trailer focused on cross-play

In the world of gaming, cross-compatibility between platforms has always bene a bit of a white whale. While most players hope for it, console makers and game publishers haven’t always been so willing. Until recently. Microsoft, Nintendo and PC game makers have started making games more cross-compatible. Most notably, the companies have made Fortnite Battle Royale, the biggest game of the year, cross-compatible on the Switch, Xbox, iOS, and PC. Yes, there is a big name missing from that list. Sony has yet to budge , forcing PS4 players inside of a walled garden. Obviously, players have been outraged. But today, Microsoft and Nintendo are seemingly putting salt in the wound with a new trailer for Minecraft. Rather than focusing on the game, the trailer’s entire thesis is centered around the fact that it offers cross-play between Xbox and the Switch. In the video, you can see a Switch player and an Xbox player gaming together in the wonderful world of Minecraft

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Facebook launches gameshows platform with interactive video

Rather than build its own HQ trivia competitor, Facebook is launching a gameshow platform. Today the company announced a new set of interactive live and on-demand video features that let creators adds quizzes, polls, challenges, and gamification so players can be eliminated from a game for a wrong answer. The features could help Facebook achieve its new mission to push healthier active video consumption rather than passive zombie watching that hurts people’s well-being. Creators and publishers who want early access can sign up here . Gameshow launch partners include Fresno’s What’s In The Box where viewers guess what’s inside, and BuzzFeed News’ Outside Your Bubble where contestants have to guess what their opponents are thinking. Plus, Facebook is testing the ability to award prize money with (Business) INSIDER’s Confetti, where viewers answer trivia questions and can see friends’ responses, with winners splitting the cash. “Video is evolving away from just passive consumption to more interactive two-way formats”, Simo tells TechCrunch. “We think creators will want to reward people. If this is something that works will with Insider and Confetti, we may consider rolling out payments tools.” When asked if Facebook was inspired by HQ, Simo repeatedly dodged the question and avoiding mentioning the startup’s name, but relented in saying “I think they’re part of a much broader trend that is making content interactive. We’ve seen that across much more than one player.” Facebook won’t be taking a share of the prize money in this test. For now, it’s also forgoing its cut of its $4.99 per month subscriptions option that lets fans pay for exclusive content, which rolls out today to more creators. Facebook also just launched its Brand Collabs Manager that we scooped in May , which helps brands browse creators by demographic and portfolio so they can set up sponsored content and product placement deals.

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Cheq raises $5M for a proactive, AI-driven approach to safe ad placement

While brand safety and fraud prevention have been big topics in the online ad industry over the past couple years, Cheq CEO Guy Tytunovich argued that “first generation solutions for ad verification” aren’t good enough. The problem, Tytunovich said, is that existing products use sampling to alert advertisers to issues “after the fact.” Compare this to credit card fraud — if the credit card company only alerted you long after the fraud had occurred, “You’re not going to be happy with that kind of answer.” At Cheq, Tytunovich and his team have developed an approach that uses artificial intelligence to deliver what he calls “autonomous brand safety” — the idea is that when an ad is being served, Cheq can detect whether it might be a fraudulent impression that will only be seen by bots, or if it might show up next to content that a brand doesn’t want to be associated with. If there’s an issue, Tytunovich said, “We block the ad from being served in real time.” Beforehand, advertisers set up their own ad placement guidelines, and afterwards, they can see the reason why individual ads didn’t get served. Cheq is announcing that it has raised $5 million in Series A funding led by Battery Ventures . Tytunovich said that 80 percent of the Cheq team consists of developers, and that most of the funding will go towards further product development. If the Cheq approach really is so much better, why aren’t bigger, better-funded companies doing the same thing? Tytunovich pointed to his experience, and his team’s experience, in the Israel Defense Forces, where he said “they teach you to compensate for a lack of scale, of manpower, by focusing on automation and speed.” Similarly, Tytunovich said that at Cheq, “the name of the game is speed.” “A lot about our underlying technology lies around the speed of the data crunching,” he added. “We look at around 700 data parameters per impression … We need to be able to take all that data, analyze it and do it in real time.” Cheq has offices in Tokyo, New York and Tel Aviv. Tytunovich said it’s currently focused on the American and Japanese markets — customers listed on the Cheq website include Coca Cola, Turner and Mercedes-Benz. Update: A spokesperson clarified that those companies are listed on the Cheq website because Cheq participated with them in The Bridge program.

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Two weeks after Apple’s rejection, Valve removes game purchasing option from its beta Steam Link app for iOS, paving the way for potential approval…

Eli Hodapp / TouchArcade : Two weeks after Apple's rejection, Valve removes game purchasing option from its beta Steam Link app for iOS, paving the way for potential approval   —  Late last month we were lucky enough to be included in a TestFlight beta of Valve's upcoming Steam Link app, and I posted a hands-on preview …

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Elliot Schrage, Facebook’s VP of Communications and Public Policy and a key player in company’s response to data scandal is leaving after a decade at…

Kara Swisher / Recode : Elliot Schrage, Facebook's VP of Communications and Public Policy and a key player in company's response to data scandal is leaving after a decade at the firm   —  The longtime exec has been criticized recently for the social networking giant's rocky responses to a series of controversies.

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Feast your eyes on these uniquely beautiful indie games from E3

The AAA games on display at E3 this year have, as usual, an amazing array of beautiful, nearly photorealistic graphics — and while they’re amazing in their own way, I always find it fun to highlight a few games that take a totally different approach to their art. Here are a few that caught my eye this time around. Sable is a “coming-of-age tale of discovery” set in an open world that you can explore at your own pace. The overall look of the place is rather Journey-esque, but there’s also a shade of Hyper Light Drifter in the environments. Most interesting of all, however, is the visual effect that makes the whole thing look rather like a comic book by Moebius. The effect is a bit hit or miss — some details can end up warping or looking odd — but overall it’s extremely arresting and definitely set the game apart instantly from its more realistic peers. Hopefully the writing and gameplay live up to its visual style. Overwhelm is a chunkily pixelated hardcore shooter-platformer with a couple of interesting twists. First of all, you die in one hit. That’s what makes it hardcore.

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