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November 2017

Justice League’ IMAX VR Experience to Debut Haptic VR Controller from Tactical Haptics

The new IMAX VR Centres aim to fuse the best arcade VR games with the best peripherals, for an experience you can’t get from your home VR headset. For the new (and awkwardly named) Justice League: An IMAX VR Exclusive experience the Centre is set to debut the ‘Reactive Grip’ haptic controller from Tactical Haptics.

Tactical Haptics has been on the VR scene since the early days, developing their novel haptic technology which they call Reactive Grip.

The unique haptic tech incorporates sliding bars into the palm-grip of a controller, which can apply shear forces that replicate the feeling of an object moving within your hand (like the grip of a pistol, sword, or tennis racket twisting and pushing back against your palm). It’s a convincing and immersive effect that can’t be achieved with traditional rumble haptics.

Image courtesy Tactical Haptics

Tactical Haptics has continued to develop the tech over the last few years but hasn’t quite found a fit in the evolving VR market landscape. The company took the project to Kickstarter back in 2013 (years before Touch or Vive were announced), but failed to garner enough support from developers in the nascent VR community (hardly an ‘industry’ at that point). Last year the company raised $2.2 million, and has been exploring new opportunities afforded by the growing out-of-home VR entertainment market.

Now the company has announced that the Reactive Grip controller will see its commercial debut in a pilot project that pairs the device with the Justice League: An IMAX VR Exclusive experience in the IMAX VR Centre in Los Angeles to start:

The integrated haptic feedback will allow players to step into the shoes of the iconic DC Super Heroes and experience the inertia and impact of swinging Wonder Woman’s sword, the recoil of Cyborg’s white noise gun and mini-cannons, or the feeling of the drag reducing on Flash’s hands as they accelerate through a subway tunnel to save Metropolis.

The latest version of the controller is said to be “simplified, more robust, and more integrated than […] prior controller designs,” and is made to support both the Vive Tracker and Oculus Touch as tracking options. Tactical Haptics says they’ll be offering more details on their latest Reactive Grip controller design later this year and at the start of 2018 at CES.

The post ‘Justice League’ IMAX VR Experience to Debut Haptic VR Controller from Tactical Haptics appeared first on Road to VR. Source:

It is encouraging to see more members of the agency’s leadership team being named” says acting Administrator Lightfoot in a statement on the nomination of a CFO:

What is in the Senate’s massive tax bill — and what could change

During a speech in St. Charles, Mo., on Nov. 29, President Trump said congressional Republicans will pass a tax bill that “will be really, really special.” (The Washington Post)

The Senate plans to vote on the largest change to the U.S. tax code since the 1980s tonight (or early Friday). Lowering taxes for American businesses and families is the heart of President Trump’s plan to boost the economy, although not everyone gets a tax cut in the plan.

“We are going to be saying Merry Christmas again, with a big, beautiful tax cut,” Trump said Wednesday at a speech in Missouri.

The driving force of the Senate GOP tax bill, dubbed the “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act,” is to cut taxes on businesses. Lawmakers on the right and left agree that America’s 35 percent top tax rate on corporations is too high and not competitive with the rest of the world. The Senate bill would lower that rate to 20 percent, the biggest reduction ever for corporations. The big business cut would be permanent, while the rate reductions for real people are set to expire after 2025.

The Tax Cut and Jobs Act is more than a tax bill. It also makes sweeping changes to health care that are expected to lead to 13 million Americans dropping insurance, and it alters the treatment of state and local taxes, which could affect local government budgets for schools and roads.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said he is “hopeful” he has enough votes to pass the bill by the end of the week. The final version of the bill has been made public yet, leaving little time for analysis and debate. Many senators are also asking for last-minute changes to the bill. Some are concerned that the bill would add $1 trillion to America’s already sizable debt. Others don’t think the bill does enough for the middle class and small businesses.

McConnell needs 50 of the 52 GOP Senators to say yes because no Democrats are expected to vote for the bill. The House and Senate plans differ in many ways that would have to be worked out in a conference committee. Here’s a rundown of we know is in the bill — and what could change:

First, what could change last minute: Before the final vote, several senators are trying to make changes. Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) is concerned about the cost of the bill and wants to put in a trigger to raise taxes or cut spending if the bill doesn’t generate enough revenue in the coming years. Senator Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) doesn’t think the bill does enough for small businesses and “pass through” companies. He wants to see a large tax break for those businesses. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Mike Lee (R-Utah) want to see more relief for the working poor. They have proposed making more of the Child Tax Credit refundable, meaning poorer families would actually get more money back from the government. They would pay for that by not lowering the business tax rate as much. Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine) is not happy about eliminating all of the state and local tax deductions. She wants to find a compromise.

And what we know, based on earlier drafts:

Big win for corporations: The tax rate for big businesses would fall from 35 percent to 20 percent starting in 2019, a large reduction that would put America’s corporate tax rate at a lower level than many other foreign nations. On top of that, the bill also allows companies to bring back any money they have stored overseas at a very low tax rate of 10 percent (the House bill’s rate for cash repatriations is 14 percent). Companies would also be able to write off most of their expenses for new buildings and other investments for the next five years. Finally, the bill shifts the tax system on businesses from a worldwide system where U.S. companies are taxed on all income earned all over the world to a territorial system where businesses are mainly taxed on their earnings in the United States, a change corporations have advocated for many years. (There’s a possibility the business tax rate may drop to 22 percent if senators want additional revenue to use for bigger tax cuts for the middle class or small businesses).

Big win for (most of) the rich: The top tax rate for millionaires would fall under this plan (from 39.6 percent now to 38.5 percent). The richest Americans would also benefit from the alternative minimum tax (AMT) going away, a provision that has been in the tax code since 1969 to help prevent the wealthy from taking advantage of too many tax breaks and loopholes. Eliminating the AMT would have saved Trump millions on his taxes in 2005 (the only year we have his tax returns). The wealthy also get to keep deducting their contributions to charity and they benefit from a change that would exempt even more families from paying the estate tax when they pass property and other inheritance to kids and relatives. Overall, Congress’ official scorekeepers say over 80 percent of millionaires would pay less in taxes in the coming years under this plan.

Lower taxes for most Americans — until 2026: The bill keeps 7 tax brackets, but it cuts the rates at every level and it raises many of the income thresholds to qualify for the higher bracket  (for example, the new top rate of 38.5 percent would only apply to married couples making over $1 million. The top tax rate currently applies to individuals making over $477,000). The lower tax rates mean that most Americans — 62 percent — end up getting a tax cut in the coming years, but not everyone does because the bill also does away with some popular tax credits and savings (see list below).

Total elimination of the state and local tax deduction (SALT): About a third of Americans itemize their tax deductions and almost all of those people take the state and local tax deduction. The Senate GOP bill would do away with this entirely, a big knock to high tax states and cities like California, New York, Connecticut and New Jersey. The SALT deduction in effect helps to cushion state and local tax increases for schools, roads and municipal needs. There are concerns it will be harder for state and community governments to raise taxes if this provision goes into effect. (It’s important to note the House bill does keep some local deductions for property taxes, so it’s possible the total elimination would not last in the final bill. Some senators, including Susan Collins, are pushing to preserve property tax deductions, too.)

Total elimination of the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT). This is paid by about 5 million taxpayers, mostly people who earn over $100,000 in adjusted gross income, according to the Tax Policy Center.

A bigger standard deduction and Child Tax Credit, but the personal exemption goes away: At the moment, Americans are able to deduct $4,050 as a “personal exemption” for themselves, their spouse and each dependent. The Senate bill gets rid of the personal exemption entirely. To make up for this, the bill expand the standard deduction so the first $24,000 in income for a married couple ($12,000 for an individual) won’t get taxed. The bill also bumps up the Child Tax Credit from $1,000 now to $2,000. The overall effect is that most people are better off, but not all. AARP has come out against the bill, claiming it would raise taxes on over a million seniors by 2019, largely because of the various changes to credits and deductions. (There’s a possibility the more of the Child Tax Credit may become refundable, a change that would help more lower income Americans, but that is not part of the bill yet).

Goodbye to the ability to deduct losses from “fire, storm, shipwreck, or other casualty, or from theft.”

Goodbye to the deduction for tax preparation expenses. Republicans argue it will be much easier for most Americans to fill out their taxes now.

Goodbye to the deduction for people who bike to work.

Goodbye to the deduction for moving expenses.

Double the teacher expense credit. The Senate bill doubles the amount teachers are able to deduct for buying supplies for their classrooms. The current amount is $250. The Senate plan raises it to $500. (The House plan scraps this credit entirely, one of many differences between the bills).

Many small businesses get a win, but there’s a giant exception: Most businesses in America are organized as “pass through” companies (sole proprietorships, partnerships, LLCs and S-Corps) where the income from the business is “pass through” to the owner and taxed at his or her individual tax rate. Under this bill, most pass through businesses wouldn’t have to pay tax on 17.4 percent of their income. The idea is to give mom and pop shops a sizable tax break. But there are limitations. Law firms, doctors offices and other “service businesses” that earn over $250,000 wouldn’t be eligible for the deduction. Other really large pass through businesses would have a limit on how much they can deduct. The idea is to prevent millionaires from getting a really big tax break.

The individual health insurance mandate goes away. Americans would no longer be required to purchase health insurance or else pay a penalty. The Senate plan repeals the “individual mandate.” The Congressional Budget Office, the official nonpartisan estimators, have predicted that this change would cause health insurance premiums to rise by about 10 percent a year and for 4 million people to drop insurance by 2019 and 13 million to drop it by 2027.

Parents can start a college savings account for an unborn child. The bill allows people to start a 529 college savings plan when a child is “in utero.”

Homeowners who sell a home worth less than $250,000 will have a harder time avoiding taxes. At the moment, someone who sells a home worth under $250,000 who lived in it for at least two of the past five years doesn’t have to pay taxes on any gains. Under the Senate plan, people would have to live in the home for at least five of the past eight years.

Only the richest 1,800 Americans would to pay the estate tax. At the moment, when a person passes away they can leave up to $5.5 million in property and other assets for their kids or other heirs without anyone paying tax. Inheritance above that amount is taxed at a 40 percent rate. The Senate plan would double the exemption limit, so any inheritance up to $11 million for individuals ($22 for married couples) would not be taxed.

A “Harvard tax” on big college endowments. Private colleges like Harvard with endowments worth over $250,000 per student would pay a 1.4 percent tax on investment gains every year.

Read more:

Trump and GOP blowing through yellow lights on way to massive tax overhaul

President Trump says the tax bill will ‘cost me a fortune.’ That’s false. Source:

Richard Branson: Don’t be afraid to ask questions – you might learn something

Panopto Educational Video Platform Adds 360 Degrees Support

The possibility for virtual reality (VR) and related immersive technologies to help within the field of education has been discussed on VRFocus many times since we first went live in 2014.  Over the last few years we’ve covered many stories about all kinds of education programmes not just in educating schoolchildren but adults too, both in a professional training capacity and as part of a more casual learning experience when tied to institutions such as art galleries and museums. There’s even been some crossover between the fields of education and entertainment, a good example being the work of World of Tanks developers Wargaming, whose ‘Special Projects Division’ works with institutions to educate people about their subject matter

Whilst both augmented reality (AR) and VR are both used for education perhaps the most common way we see it being used is with 360 degree video, and one video platform focused on learning experiences just announced a new upgrade to bring 360 into the mix.

The service in question in Panopto, a Seattle based firm whose platform specialises in hosting content for universities and businesses. As part of what they are terming a major update for the service as a whole, which also includes the addition of speech recognition in nine languages to their inside-video search technology Smart Search and sees it integrated with both and Verbit.a captioning providers. 360 degree video is added for the first time to allow its customers to upload 360 degree compatible footage and view it either by a compatible VR head mounted display (HMD) or Panopto’s own video player.

“When we originally designed Panopto, our goal was to provide people with an online learning experience that replicated the classroom environment. Support for VR video is the next logical step toward this vision.” Explained Eric Burns, the Co-Founder and CEO of Panopto. “Enabling people to actively explore and engage in their learning environment simply by tilting their phone or turning their head.”

Panopto’s main goal is to helps businesses and universities create searchable video libraries of their institutional knowledge. Recording lectures and talks, seminars and conferences, discussions, performances and other related events. Celebrating its tenth year this year, the service has now clocked up so many videos Panopto claim it to be the “the largest repository of expert learning videos in the world”.

VRFocus will be keeping you up to date with further developments with Panopto’s 360 degree service as we get them. Source:

Zipped for iOS ipad

While iOS is quite powerful, it still cannot natively take a .zip file and unzip its contents. My go-to app is Zipped. It’s only $1, and it does exactly what I need it to do. You can take a .zip file and extract it to the Files app. It also supports drag and drop on the iPad. You can also create zip files from a collection of files as well.

It currently supports zip, .png, .jpg, .html, .pages, .docx, .pdf, .numbers, .xlsx, .pptx, .rtf, .txt, .mp4, .mov, .aiff, .mp3, .wav, .psd, .caf, .md, .csv, .json, and .js files.

Get it on the App Store for $1.

Buy Now


@JamesGunn Vol 3 should have the bobbit worm wandering the cosmos in search of his father. Call it “The Bobbit: an unexpected journey.”

@JamesGunn Is the monster in Guardians 2 a distant cousin of the bobbit worm? Perhaps his long-lost father?