Japanese new social VR platform ambr will release open beta version on May 25

On May 25th, a new social VR platform will join the Japanese VR industry. It is ambr and accepts pre user registration. The VR HMDs it supports are Oculus Go, Oculus Rift (Rift S) and HTC VIVE.
ambr is a social VR world where everyone can transform into their favorite avatars and communicate. You can have your own room where you can interact with and go to other users' rooms. If you link your account with 3D character platform VRoid Hub, you can upload your own avatars and use it with ambr by designing your own avatar.

In addition, ambr will collaborate with VTuber, VR games, real-world companies, shops and facilities in various ways.
They conducted a closed beta test last year and have been developing it for a year. Pre-registration is required to participate in the open β version, and virtual currency points "ambr points" will be presented to users who have pre-registered as a privilege.
Please use Google Translate as the registration form is written in Japanese only. If you have Oculus Go, Oculus Rift (Rift S) or HTC VIVE, it's not bad to experience here as an early user.


The world's largest VR creative festival Virtual Market 5 will be held from December

I recently wrote about the world's largest VR creative festival Virtual Market. It ended in great success on May 10th, and they decided on an upcoming event date. Virtual Market 5 will be held from December 19, 2020 to January 10, 2021.

See also:
The world's largest VR creative festival Virtual Market 4 got over 500,000 visitors

Virtual Market is a creative festival in the VR world. 43 companies and 1400 general creators are exhibiting, and various virtual goods made by them are on sale. In addition, companies are promoting their real products in a virtual world.
For example, Audi Japan made a virtual version of the electric car e-tron, and visitors took a test drive with it. Real-world salespersons of high-end department store Isetan-Mitsukoshi  served customers through their avatars in a virtual store. It is a new remote work style under the coronavirus pandemic. Seven-Eleven, a convenience store, sold avatars of Square Enix's popular game "NieR:Automata" at a virtual store.

The feature of this event is that many companies have already officially exhibited. So they are convinced that VR and virtual worlds will be the new fields of business.
This is being held by Japanese startup HIKKY, but many VR netizens from countries other than Japan also came to this event. So they are aiming to make Virtual Market 5 a more global event.

The Virtual Market 5 site is already open.

Art in VR : Virtual VIVID Ilya Kuvshinov Works Exhibition

Currently, art exhibitions have been canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic. Then, how about hold them in virtual worlds? "Virtual VIVID Ilya Kuvshinov Works Exhibition", an art exhibition of popular Russian illustrator Ilya Kuvshinov is being held at VR Chat and Japanese social VR platform clister until May 31.

Ilya Kuvshinov's works are popular in Japan, and she is known to have been in charge of character design for Ghost in the Shell: SAC_2045. This virtual exhibition is a reproduction of her real exhibition held in Tokyo, Akihabara in November 2019. However, no admission fee is required to view the virtual exhibition. Moreover, it is open 24 hours a day.

In addition, there are productions unique to the virtual world. When you go to the exhibition area of her Tokyo motif works, the crowds of town are played as background music. You will feel as you are in the middle of Tokyo.

When you stand in front of her work of snowscape, the sound of snowstorm is played as background music and snow particles come down.

Virtual art exhibitions are easier to hold in the virtual world than other events. Certainly, there are monetization challenges. However, it's a good way to get people around the world to appreciate art works. In addition, in this virtual exhibition, official goods sold at the gallery shop of the real exhibition are on sale. Mail order is good idea for monetization.

Virtual VIVID Ilya Kuvshinov Works Exhibition official site


Unite Tokyo 2020 by Unity Japan will be canceled

Events are being canceled one after another due to coronavirus pandemics. Unity Japan has announced that they will cancel the annual conference event Unite Tokyo 2020 in Tokyo since 2013.

Unite Tokyo is Japan's largest Unity event with many technical lectures and booth exhibitions for Japanese Unity users. This is the first time they have canceled this.
However, they are considering holding the event online and will announce more details once they are determined.
And, they will continue to support other Unity events, but these will only be online for a while, too.
They will post casual tech talks about Unity on Youtube until the coronavirus pandemic ends in Japan.
Their YouTube channel is here.

Facility for people with disabilities to become professional gamers

There are various welfare facilities for people with disabilities in Japan, but a cool facility ONEGAME will open in Ota City, Gunma Prefecture in June. It's a facility where they aim to become professional gamers in e-sports.

One-Life, a company that provides welfare services mainly in Gunma Prefecture, has originally been involved in e-Sports participation of people with disabilities. They introduce equipment for each type of people with disabilities and train by coaches. In addition, in August 2019, they held Japan's first people with disabilities e-Sports competition event using the League of Legends.
ONEGAME is a development form of these, and is a facility for continuing jobs. They not only train e-Sports players, but also event management staff and announcers to help people with disabilities become independent through e-Sports.

This is Japan's first welfare facility and a welfare project. I hope this succeeds.


Tokyo Game Show 2020 and CEDEC 2020 canceled(and CEDEC will be held online)

Of course this is due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Today, Japan's Computer Entertainment Supplier's Association(CESA) has made two big decisions. They will cancel this year's Tokyo Game Show 2020 and CEDEC 2020, the conference event for developers.

These two events are held in September each year, and autumn feature of Japanese game industries. However, CESA considers the health of visitors, exhibitors, presses, and staff, as the coronavirus infection is spreading worldwide and it is still unpredictable in Japan. So they decided to cancel.
However, they also decided to host the events online at the same time. It has already been decided that CEDEC 2020 will be held online without changing the schedule. Details such as specific contents and platforms will be announced in the near future.

It's future artists - Let's create a virtual singer with AI

Even though today's virtual artists have virtual figures, real people are in them. Even popular vocaloids are based on the voices of real-life actors. However, what if AI learns music and aims to become a singer?
EXDREAM, a company that manages music TECH schools, opened an AI Virtual Singer Lab in the online salon community operated by the crowdfunding platform CAMPFIRE.

This is a project to create and grow him/her with supporters, aiming at the music production by AI by making AI machine learn MIDI. In this project, supporters provide MIDI data, and AI learns them. The research results of what he/she composes will be shared with the supporters. In addition, the machine learning data generated by this project will be distributed, and supporters will be free to use them for their own research and studies.

Of course, he/she has shows on Youtube or Facebook like other virtual artists(VTuber). There are two monthly billing plans to participate in this project. For a monthly fee of 1000 yen, you can watch his/her show every month and read the report email magazines. With a monthly fee of 10,000 yen, you can get many benefits, but unfortunately, all support is in Japanese only.

Japanese virtual performer startup COVER has raised 700 million yen

The real entertainment industry is in recession due to the coronavirus pandemic, but the virtual entertainment industry is booming and the news of funding is continuous.

See also:
Japanese VR performance platform VARK has raised 200 million yen

Japanese virtual performer startup COVER has raised a total of 700 million yen from venture capitalists and individual investors. As a result, their cumulative amount raised to about 1 billion yen.

They are startups of virtual performers(VTuber). Under their umbrella are women's VTuber group Hololive, men's VTuber group Holostars, and the virtual music label Inonaka Music.
In particular, they have recently been focusing on overseas expansion, starting activities in China's video sharing service Bilibili in January 2019, and starting a VTuber business in China in September 2019. They also started the VTuber business in Indonesia in April 2020 and are currently holding a VTuber audition in the English-speaking world.

See also:
Japanese VTuber Productions will expand into the English-speaking world

Their most popular VTuber Tokino-Sora. She debuted in September 2017 and their business started.

Now they have 50 VTubers, and the total number of YouTube and Bilibili fans has exceeded 15 million.

With the funds raised this time, they will strengthen VTubers support, further accelerate VTuber business overseas such as English-speaking countries, and develop new services of XR such as virtual show platform.


The world's largest VR creative festival Virtual Market 4 got over 500,000 visitors

Currently, all real-life events have been canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic. Meanwhile, virtual world events are thriving.
Japanese VR startup HIKKY announced that the VR creative festival Virtual Market 4 they have been holding since April 29 got more than 500,000 visitors. It will be held until May 10, and they expect to eventually reach one million visitors.

Virtual Market is a creative festival in the VR world. 43 companies and 1400 general creators are exhibiting, and various virtual goods made by them are on sale. In addition, companies are promoting their real products in a virtual world. It's like a real trade show, but because it's a virtual world, the venues are ornately decorated.

See also:
The postponed movie Black Widow will participate in the VR Creative Festival

At this event, exhibitors and visitors can buy and sell various virtual goods, real clothes, PCs, etc. They can also ride the vehicles, watch the videos, walk the cities and enjoy communication. 
This is an event sponsored by a Japanese company, but users from various countries as well as Japan are visiting here. According to them, visitors say, "I feel as if I'm running around outdoors," "I can enjoy safely in a virtual world even under recent circumstances."

Exhibitors also said, "In the virtual world, customers can receive services from their homes without being affected by the coronavirus, and products are purchased." "Feedback not only from Japan but also from overseas users I was able to get it and felt the potential for a new market."

Below are the major companies exhibiting.

Audi Japan:

Visitors can test drive the virtual version of the electric car e-tron.

High-end department store Mitsukoshi

Fashion brand WEGO

Movie company TOHO Cinemas

Convenience store Seven-Eleven

Game company Square Enix

Virtual Market 4 is being held on VRChat and Virtual Cast until May 10.

Way to participate:


Japan's National Museum of Nature and Science opened VR museum

Japan's National Museum of Nature and Science opened VR museum "THE WILDLIFE MUSEUM" to displaying 3D models of valuable stuffed mammals.

The stuffed mammals they carry are very popular, and the hall where they are exhibited is well received by many visitors. Most of these stuffed animals were donated to them by Watson T. Yoshimoto(1909~2004), a Japanese American businessman in Hawaii. There are about 400 of these, so all of them cannot be displayed, and they are usually kept in the specimen storage and are not open to the public.

Nowadays, they are also temporarily closed due to the coronavirus pandemic, and the popular stuffed animals' hall is closed. So they develop a VR museum on VR platform "STYLY" of Psychic VR Lab. The exterior of the VR Museum is a design that reproduces the “WILD LIFE MUSEUM” that Yoshimoto built in Hawaii at his own expense in 1992.

However, the inside of the VR Museum is a magnificent natural landscape, where 24 stuffed animals are displayed. The stuffed animals are made by 3D scanning and you can watch it from any angle. It would be fun to watch with a flashlight in night mode. This is a viewing method that is impossible in a real museum. Of course, captions are attached to each stuffed animal.

You can browse THE WILDLIFE MUSEUM on PC web browsers or VR head mounted displays (Oculus Rift · Rift S / HTC VIVE / Oculus Quest).

Japanese VR performance platform VARK has raised 200 million yen

Japanese VR performance platform VARK has raised 200 million yen in an investment round led by venture capital ANRI.

VARK is a platform for virtual artists to hold shows and is like a VR club. It supports Oculus Quest, Oculus Go and PlayStation VR, and the application is free to download. Every time the show is held, fans of the virtual artists will purchase virtual tickets and enter the venue of the VR world just like a real show. They held first show on Christmas Eve 2018 and have held shows for various virtual artists so far. Recently, musicals have also been performed.

They have also begun to support real-life artists who have been unable to hold shows due to the coronavirus pandemic. So far, they have held shows of virtual artists, but in the future they want to virtualize real artists and bring them to the VR world.
The funds they raised will focus on developing new features and recruiting new talent.


Local-limited Pokemon goods can be mail-ordered now

Pokemon is implementing a local economic promotion project called "Pokemon Local Act" in Japan. It is a project that appeals to the charm of Pokemon and the regions of Japan, and in cooperation with the local companies, and sell Pokemon collaboration products limited to each regions.

Usually these products are not sold online. Because Pokemon staff and local companies are hoping that Pokemon fans will actually come to the regions, feel the charm of it and buy collaboration products. In other words, this project is a tourism promotion project, and local Pokemon products are only sold in each regions.
However, due to the coronavirus pandemic, people are now unable to leave their homes. So local companies have decided to sell Pokemon collaboration products on online.
Currently, Pokemon products of Hokkaido, Iwate, Miyagi, Fukushima, Tottori and Kagawa are sold online.

Products list:

Unfortunately they don't support international shipping, but once the coronavirus pandemic has ended, please go on a trip to these regions and buy local Pokemon products.

"The local power is awesome!"


Japan's largest indie game show BitSummit will hold an online event due to the coronavirus pandemic

Many events are currently being canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic. BitSummit, Japan's largest indie game show, is one of them. So they will hold an online event "BitSummit Gaiden" from June 27th to 28th.

BitSummit is Japan's largest indie game festival held in Kyoto every year. Their purpose is to "show Japanese interesting indie games to foreign countries" and was launched in the latter half of 2012. The initial number of visitors was small, about 200, but in 2018 the number of visitors exceeded 11,000 and grew into a huge event.
They planned to hold it again in May this year, but postponed it due to a coronavirus pandemic. So they are holding BitSummit Gaiden, an online showcase of games from developers who couldn't attend the event.
These are the contents of the event.

-Live streaming via BitSummit official Twitch channel
-Virtual developers booths where you can interact with developers on Discord
-Live streaming by influencers
-Demo play of selected games sponsored by BitSummit

Information about special guest speakers, influencers, and sponsors will be announced on the BitSummit website, Twitter, and Facebook soon. In addition, a charity related to the coronavirus pandemic is planned.

Japanese mobile game superstar Nameko is back with power-ups

Nameko is a veteran Japanese mobile game character. Many games and character goods have been released since his/her first mobile game Mushroom Garden(Nameko Saibai Kit : なめこ栽培キット) was released in June 2011. True, his/her recent popularity has settled down, but he/she continues to update. Mushroom Garden Deluxe Kiwami, the latest mobile game from the Nameko series, has been released today. Download is free(iOS/Android).

This is a renewal version of Mushroom Garden Deluxe released in 2012, which is more playable and more powerful. The high quality game screen, the addition of new Namekos, allows you to harvest more than 700 Namekos. Also, new background music and new features have been added.

Unfortunately, the English version has not been released yet, but since the Nameko series up to now is available in multiple languages including English, probably this will also be released in English.
Even so, this series is really fatal. The first game was released three months after The Great East Japan Earthquake and the latest release of the series was released during the coronavirus pandemic. Nameko is a Japanese time-killing companion.


The postponed movie Black Widow will participate in the VR Creative Festival

Currently, movie theaters throughout Japan are temporarily closed due to the coronavirus pandemic, and many new movies have been postponed. Black Widow is one of them. It was to be screened this spring, but it was postponed until November. Until then Until, how should they appeal to movie fans? Therefore, Japanese cinema company TOHO Cinemas decided to exhibit it at Virtual Market 4, the world's largest VR creative festival.

Virtual Market is a creative festival in the VR world sponsored by Japanese VR startup HIKKY. 43 companies and 1400 general creators are exhibiting, and various virtual goods made by them are on sale. It's like a real trade show, but because it's a virtual world, the venues are ornately decorated. It's the 4th time this time, and last time there were 710,000 visitors.

TOHO Cinemas will exhibit a booth that recreates their Roppongi Hills theater at this event. They will show the Black Widow trailer and provide free wallpaper images of limited edition, US poster wallpaper images, and US poster images of Marvel Studios movies so far.
In addition, a popular voice actor who is the main cast of the Internet movie show will appear there as an avatar and interact with the visitors.

Virtual Market 4 will be held on VRChat from April 29 to May 10. Please check this URL for how to participate.



World's first VTuber Kizuna AI has her own management company

Activ8, a startup that produces and manages virtual artists, announced that they will spin-off their popular virtual artist Kizuna AI. By doing so, they hope to boost her momentum and tackle even greater challenges.

Kizuna AI is the world's first virtual YouTuber. She opened her YouTube channel "AIChannel" in 2016 and started her activities. Fans of this channel have now surpassed 2.7 million. Since 2018, she has also started working as a singer, releasing songs and appearing at festivals.

riginally she was one of the VTubers belonging to Activ8, but her popularity now extends beyond Japan to all over the world. So, they decided to spin off the Project A.I. team, which has been in charge of her production, to make it independent.

On the other hand, they are aiming to create opportunities for virtual artists by further strengthening the xR content business including Spectacle, a VR live show system that will be released in the future.


Japanese VTuber Productions will expand into the English-speaking world

Japanese virtual performer startup COVER holds an audition to choose VTuber that can play active part in the English-speaking world in their VTuber production hololive production. With this, they aim for VTuber production that can gain popularity in the global market.

The hololive production is home to a large number of virtual performers who use their system to post videos and perform live streaming.

English version of their official Twitter account

The application condition for this audition is that you are an English speaker, over 18 years old, and regardless of gender. If you adopted, you can get cute avatars designed by popular illustrators. In addition, the gadgets needed for your performer activities are also supported.

The audition details page is here.

Let's transform into Amabie, a youkai who dispels infectious diseases with AR!

KAYAC, a Japanese content creative agency, has released the Snap Camera effect of Amabie, a youkai who is said to dispel infectious diseases. You can transform into him/her for free.

Amabie is a youkai who appeared in the sea in Kumamoto Prefecture during the Edo period.
In the form of a mermaid with long hair, beak and three-tailed tail, he/she told witnesses to show people his/her pictures during an epidemic.
Although he/she was not a famous youkai, but Japanese netizens who hoped for the end of the coronavirus pandemic from around the beginning of March have posted various illustrations on social networking services.

See also:
Japanese monster goes viral on hopes for end to coronavirus pandemic (The Japan Times)

You can use this Amabie effect with Snap Camera, a free PC desktop app. When you open or close your mouth, the Amabie's beak opens and closes accordingly. Also, when you shake your body to the left or right, Amabie's hair moves softly. Let's pray that the coronavirus pandemic will end as soon as possible by transforming into Amabie at a video meeting! Search "AmabieMask" from Search Lenses of Snap Camera.