Multisensory VR Allows Users to Step Into a Movie and Interact with Objects

Imagine stepping into a movie or virtual world and being able to interact with what’s there. That’s now possible through the magic of Hollywood combined with virtual reality technology.  For $20, the company Dreamscape takes visitors through a multi-sensory journey. Currently in Los Angeles, creators say they plan on opening more virtual reality venues across the U.S. and eventually to other countries.

  Once visitors step through these doors, they leave behind reality and embark on a journey to another world.

“We see Dreamscape as a travel agency that will take you on adventures that transcend time, space and dimension,” Bruce Vaughn, Dreamscape Immersive chief executive officer, said.   

Vaughn used to work on Disney theme park attractions and special effects.  

Imagine a trip to a zoo filled with alien creatures from outer space or going on a treasure hunt or an underwater adventure. That’s the world visitor Zach Green stepped into when he entered a Dreamscape room. 

“I kind of forgot I was in Earth for a second and I was actually under the ocean,” Green expressed.

Dreamscape makes it possible by combining Hollywood storytelling with the expertise of building theme parks. These ingredients are brought to life through virtual reality says motion picture screenwriter and producer Walter Parkes who is also co-founder and chairman of the board of Dreamscape.   

“Our technology allows us at Dreamscape to actually track your full body, all of your movements and render you in an avatar. We use the word registration where we’re actually registering you as a human presence inside a virtual world is very unique,” Parkes said.

Visitor Robin McMillan is wowed by the experience.

“I think it’s probably the future of entertainment in terms of a completely immersive experience. You kind of forget you’re in a room,” McMillan said.

Before stepping into the virtual world, travelers would first have to put on four sensors, one on each hand and one on each foot, have a backpack on and virtual reality goggles. Now they’re ready to step inside. 

“We blur that line between the physical and the virtual by letting you actually reach out and pet an alien creature or have a torch that actually lights your way and it’s physically there,” Vaughn said.

That’s not all. Each person’s backpack computer and the sensors in the room trigger special effects such as wind, mist and ground vibrations.  Six people at a time can take part in the 10 minute experience interact. The company is already planning new worlds for travelers to visit.

Multisensory VR Allows Users to Step Into a Movie and Interact with Objects

Imagine stepping into a movie or virtual world and being able to interact with what’s there. That’s now possible through the magic of Hollywood combined with virtual reality technology.  For $20, the company Dreamscape takes visitors through a multi-sensory journey. Currently in Los Angeles, creators say they plan on opening more virtual reality venues across the U.S. and eventually to other countries.

  Once visitors step through these doors, they leave behind reality and embark on a journey to another world.

“We see Dreamscape as a travel agency that will take you on adventures that transcend time, space and dimension,” Bruce Vaughn, Dreamscape Immersive chief executive officer, said.   

Vaughn used to work on Disney theme park attractions and special effects.  

Imagine a trip to a zoo filled with alien creatures from outer space or going on a treasure hunt or an underwater adventure. That’s the world visitor Zach Green stepped into when he entered a Dreamscape room. 

“I kind of forgot I was in Earth for a second and I was actually under the ocean,” Green expressed.

Dreamscape makes it possible by combining Hollywood storytelling with the expertise of building theme parks. These ingredients are brought to life through virtual reality says motion picture screenwriter and producer Walter Parkes who is also co-founder and chairman of the board of Dreamscape.   

“Our technology allows us at Dreamscape to actually track your full body, all of your movements and render you in an avatar. We use the word registration where we’re actually registering you as a human presence inside a virtual world is very unique,” Parkes said.

Visitor Robin McMillan is wowed by the experience.

“I think it’s probably the future of entertainment in terms of a completely immersive experience. You kind of forget you’re in a room,” McMillan said.

Before stepping into the virtual world, travelers would first have to put on four sensors, one on each hand and one on each foot, have a backpack on and virtual reality goggles. Now they’re ready to step inside. 

“We blur that line between the physical and the virtual by letting you actually reach out and pet an alien creature or have a torch that actually lights your way and it’s physically there,” Vaughn said.

That’s not all. Each person’s backpack computer and the sensors in the room trigger special effects such as wind, mist and ground vibrations.  Six people at a time can take part in the 10 minute experience interact. The company is already planning new worlds for travelers to visit.

New Zealand, France Plan Bid to Tackle Extremism on Social Media

In the wake of the Christchurch attack, New Zealand said on Wednesday that it would work with France in an effort to stop social media from being used to promote terrorism and violent extremism.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said in a statement that she will co-chair a meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris on May 15 that will seek to have world leaders and CEOs of tech companies agree to a pledge, called the Christchurch Call, to eliminate terrorist and violent extremist content online.

A lone gunman killed 50 people at two mosques in Christchurch on March 15, while livestreaming the massacre on Facebook.

Brenton Tarrant, 28, a suspected white supremacist, has been charged with 50 counts of murder for the mass shooting.

“It’s critical that technology platforms like Facebook are not perverted as a tool for terrorism, and instead become part of a global solution to countering extremism,” Ardern said in the statement.

“This meeting presents an opportunity for an act of unity between governments and the tech companies,” she added.

The meeting will be held alongside the Tech for Humanity meeting of G7 digital ministers, of which France is the chair, and France’s separate Tech for Good summit, both on 15 May, the statement said.

Ardern said at a press conference later on Wednesday that she has spoken with executives from a number of tech firms including Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft, Google and few other companies.

“The response I’ve received has been positive. No tech company, just like no government, would like to see violent extremism and terrorism online,” Ardern said at the media briefing, adding that she had also spoken with Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg directly on the topic.

A Facebook spokesman said the company looks forward to collaborating with government, industry and safety experts on a clear framework of rules.

“We’re evaluating how we can best support this effort and who among top Facebook executives will attend,” the spokesman said in a statement sent by email.

Facebook, the world’s largest social network with 2.7 billion users, has faced criticism since the Christchurch attack that it failed to tackle extremism.

One of the main groups representing Muslims in France has said it was suing Facebook and YouTube, a unit of Alphabet’s Google, accusing them of inciting violence by allowing the streaming of the Christchurch massacre on their platforms.

Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg said last month that the company was looking to place restrictions on who can go live on its platform based on certain criteria.

Despite US Pressure and Sanctions, No End in Sight to Venezuela Crisis

Three months after the U.S. intensified efforts to oust Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, the autocratic socialist leader remains in power. As VOA’s Brian Padden reports, the Trump administration may have overestimated the power of tough sanctions to coerce the Venezuelan military to abandon Maduro, and underestimated regional opposition to any military measure to force regime change.

Despite US Pressure and Sanctions, No End in Sight to Venezuela Crisis

Three months after the U.S. intensified efforts to oust Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, the autocratic socialist leader remains in power. As VOA’s Brian Padden reports, the Trump administration may have overestimated the power of tough sanctions to coerce the Venezuelan military to abandon Maduro, and underestimated regional opposition to any military measure to force regime change.

Google’s Wing Aviation Gets FAA OK for Drone Deliveries

Google affiliate Wing Aviation has received federal approval allowing it to make commercial deliveries by drone. 

It’s the first time a company has gotten a federal air carrier certification for drone deliveries. 

The approval from the Federal Aviation Administration means that Wing can operate commercial drone flights in part of Virginia, which it plans to begin later this year.

The FAA said Tuesday that the company met the agency’s safety requirements by participating in a pilot program in Virginia with the Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership and Virginia Tech, and by conducting thousands of flights in Australia over the past several years.

“This is an important step forward for the safe testing and integration of drones into our economy,” Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao said in a statement. 

Wing said the approval “means that we can begin a commercial service delivering goods from local businesses to homes in the United States.”

The company didn’t name any businesses that would take part in commercial deliveries. It said it plans to spend the next several months demonstrating its technology and answering questions from people and businesses in Blacksburg and Christiansburg, Virginia. 

Wing said it will “solicit feedback with the goal of launching a delivery trial later this year.”

Wing said that to win FAA certification it had to show that one of its drone deliveries would pose less risk to pedestrians than the same trip made in a car. The company said its drones have flown more than 70,000 test flights and made more than 3,000 deliveries to customers in Australia.

The company is touting many benefits from deliveries by electric drones. It says medicine and food can be delivered faster, that drones will be especially helpful to consumers who need help getting around, and that they can reduce traffic and emissions. 

Drone usage in the U.S. has grown rapidly in some industries such as utilities, pipelines and agriculture. But drones have faced more obstacles in delivering retail packages and food because of federal regulations that bar most flights over crowds of people and beyond sight of the operator without a waiver from the FAA.

The federal government recently estimated that about 110,000 commercial drones were operating in the U.S., and that number is expected to zoom to about 450,000 in 2022. 

Amazon is working on drone delivery, a topic keen to CEO Jeff Bezos. Delivery companies including UPS and DHL have also conducted tests.

Leading Conservative Candidate Warns Populists to Back a United Europe

The leading conservative candidate in next month’s European Parliament elections says he would like to see Britain stay in the European Union and warned populist parties in Europe that they would have no place in the EU’s largest political bloc unless they shared its vision of an “integrated and more ambitious Europe.”

 

Manfred Weber, the center-right European People’s Party candidate and front-runner to replace Jean-Claude Juncker as president of the European Commission, visited Greece on Tuesday to launch his campaign for the May 23-26 elections across the bloc.

 

His priorities include having tough controls on migration, creating an EU crime-fighting agency modeled on the FBI and ending EU accession talks with Turkey. He spoke in an interview with The Associated Press.

 

WHAT ABOUT BREXIT?

 

Weber said he respected the result of Britain’s 2016 referendum to leave the EU. But he added “I personally would really enjoy and really would welcome if Great Britain would decide to stay.”

 

The EU has given Britain until Oct. 31 to ratify an agreement or leave the 28-nation EU without a deal — granting an extension after U.K. lawmakers repeatedly rejected British Prime Minister Theresa May’s divorce deal with the EU.

 

Several prominent European politicians have said they hoped Britain would eventually stay in the union, including European Council President Donald Tusk and Weber’s main opponent in the May election, Social Democrat candidate Frans Timmermans.

 

Weber stressed, however, the final decision on Brexit remained with British people.

 

“What we ask at the moment is simply to speed up (and) give us a clear indication what their plan for the future is, because we respect the outcome — we regret it — but we respect the outcome,” Weber said.

 

HOW SHOULD EUROPE HANDLE THE POPULIST THREAT?

 

Weber said the European People’s Party, which groups many conservative national parties under its umbrella at the European Parliament, remains willing to part ways with member parties that do not share its vision for deepening European integration.

 

“The EPP is … a party of values of common ideas,” he said. “That means for all of us who don’t believe anymore in the idea of a more integrated and more ambitious Europe for the future — they are not any more our parties.”

 

In March, the EPP suspended Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s Fidesz party over the nationalist government’s rejection of EU policies, but the party’s European lawmakers were allowed to remain in the conservative parliamentary group.

 

Weber spoke after a visit to an ancient temple at Nemea in southern Greece.

 

Speaking later at his campaign launch in Athens, Weber argued that European conservatives were the true founders of the EU and would fight those who undermined it.

 

“In the year 2019, we will fight against those who want to destroy our Europe. The nationalists will be our enemies,” he said.

MIGRATION STILL A PRIORITY IN EUROPE

 

Weber on Wednesday is traveling to Spain’s autonomous cities of Ceuta and Melilla on the tip of North Africa, to underscore the party’s commitment to maintaining tough controls on immigration.

 

Although the number of migrants and asylum-seekers trying to get into Europe has dropped sharply since the large influx in 2015, Weber said the issue remains a priority for the bloc.

 

He wants to speed up the increased deployment of EU border guards, creating standing force of 10,000 border guards by 2022, or five years earlier than planned.

 

“My experience, when I speak with people all over Europe, is that the migration debate — especially illegal migration — is still the dominant political issue,” he said.

WEBER HELPS OTHER EUROPEAN CONSERVATIVES

 

The 46-year-old Weber, a relatively unknown politician outside his native Germany, focused the early stages of his campaign on countries where conservative allies are also facing national elections.

 

He began with Greece to voice support for Kyriakos Mitsotakis, the 51-year-old leader of the center-right New Democracy party, who is leading polls in an election year. In Spain, he will join the struggling 38-year-old conservative leader Pablo Casado in a country that is holding a general election on Sunday.

 

With Spain’s conservatives splintering into three factions, Casado is trailing in opinion polls behind the Socialist incumbent, Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez. Weber’s office said he is also planning campaign stops in Lithuania and Malta over the next week.

Venezuelans Seek Joy Amid the Chaos

A night at a bar is interrupted by a power outage, going to a baseball game is prohibitively expensive, and a trip to a nearby beach requires months of savings. But many Venezuelans have not given up on finding ways to smile.

Despite an economic crisis that has led to shortages of food and medicine and has prompted more than three million to emigrate, Venezuelans are seeking ways to have fun and spend time with family in the hope of easing their discomfort.

Still, the increased frequency of blackouts and a political showdown between the socialist government and the opposition has cast a cloud of uncertainty, leaving many Venezuelans bereft of simple pleasures.

Venezuela fell to the 108th place in the 2019 World Happiness Report prepared by the United Nations, down from 102nd place in 2018. In the Western hemisphere, only Haiti was below the oil-rich nation, ranking 147th out of 156 countries studied by the U.N.

The happiness report — which in its first edition in 2012 placed Venezuela in the 19th position — is based on indicators such as gross domestic product per capita, generosity, life expectancy, social freedom and absence of corruption.

Venezuela was plunged into darkness with two massive blackouts in March, generating water shortages and prompting the government to suspend work and school. Earlier this month, the government launched a power rationing plan, and electricity remains intermittent in many parts of the country. 

In search of distraction, Venezuelans from the country’s capital of Caracas have long taken to the nearby seaside state of Vargas to spend weekends with family and friends on the shores of the Caribbean.

“You put your mind in another place,” said Leonel Martinez, a 26-year-old soldier, while relaxing on the sand with his girlfriend while her nephews played nearby. “It’s a way to think about something besides what is happening in the country.”

But in a country where the monthly minimum wage amounts to just $6 per month, the $15-$20 a day trip to the beach can require months of savings and advance planning.

Martinez, who said he used to take the 40-kilometer (25-mile) trip to the beach frequently, said it was the first time he had gone in a year.

“It’s not something you can do every day, because of the situation in the country,” said Martinez.

‘In this world, there is no crisis’

For Venezuelans, queuing for food is a daily ordeal. They also are used to trying multiple pharmacies and hospitals in search of the medicines they need, and more recently have grown accustomed to collecting water from streams.

But that has not stopped Joaquin Nino, a cash-strapped 35-year-old father of two, from taking his kids to an amusement park in southern Caracas.

“We have to work miracles just to have some fun,” Nino said.

At a parade in eastern Caracas celebrating Holy Week, revelers dressed in straw hats topped with flowers sang, banged drums and blew trumpets to tropical beats. With the sun beating down, one marcher who gave his name as Carlos remembers how in past years onlookers would douse those marching with water to cool them down.

“Now, because of the problems with the water, that probably will not happen,” he said.

In central Caracas, a group of men of all ages meet every Sunday to play softball while a handful of their relatives watch. The wire fence that once surrounded the field was long ago stolen. The lights, which once allowed the group to play at night, were also pilfered.

“I always come because my husband plays,” said Delia Jimenez, a 62-year-old industrial designer who jumps up from the stands whenever her husband comes up to bat. “We have fun and we shake off our stress.”

A few blocks away, groups of young people come together to break-dance, which they say is a way to disconnect. But some admitted that they had not been eating enough recently to be able to spend as much time dancing as they used to.

“When we’re out here dancing, we don’t think about the state of the country,” said Yeafersonth Manrique, a 24-year-old drenched in sweat after a long practice. “In this world, there is no crisis.”

Brazilian Court Reduces Sentence of Ex-President da Silva

Brazil’s second-highest court reduced the sentence of incarcerated former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva on Tuesday, opening the possibility he could be moved to house arrest later this year.

 

The Superior Court of Justice vote was in response to a request by da Silva’s lawyers that it annul the ex-president’s corruption conviction or reduce his sentence. The session’s four judges voted unanimously to uphold the conviction but lower the sentence from 12 years and one month to eight years and 10 months.

 

The shorter sentence opens a pathway for da Silva to get out of a cell later this year.

Under Brazilian law, after serving at least one-sixth of their sentence, prisoners can request to serve the remainder under house arrest or under a “semi-open regime” in which inmates leave for work but sleep in prison. Da Silva was jailed in April 2018 and will have served a sixth of the reduced sentence in September.

 

Da Silva, who was president in 2003-2010, was convicted of corruption and money laundering over a beachfront apartment that prosecutors say he received from a construction company in exchange for lucrative government contracts.

 

Da Silva and his Worker’s Party maintain he is innocent and say he was persecuted by political enemies to prevent him from running for president again. Others believe justice was served for a corrupt politician.

 

The former president is the most prominent figure jailed in an anti-corruption investigation called “Operation Car Wash” that has snared dozens of prominent politicians and business figures in Brazil.

Venezuelan Opposition Envoy Addresses OAS

A Venezuelan opposition envoy addressed the Organization of American States from his country’s seat Tuesday, the first time it has happened in the two decades since a socialist administration rose to power in the South American nation.

 

Gustavo Tarre delivered a speech during a session held by the Permanent Council of the OAS exactly three months after Juan Guaido, leader of Venezuela’s opposition-controlled congress, declared himself the country’s interim president in an escalating confrontation with President Niclolas Maduro.

 

Ambassadors from at least four Caribbean countries — Barbados, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Trinidad and Tobago — left the room before Tarre spoke, showing their opposition to his recognition by the OAS as Venezuela’s representative.

 

The U.S. and most of the regional group’s 34 member states recognize Guaido as Venezuela’s interim leader. They say Maduro wasn’t legitimately re-elected last year because leading opposition candidates weren’t permitted to run.

 

Francisco Paparoni was the last Venezuelan representative to the OAS not aligned with Chavismo, the socialist movement associated with the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. Paparoni stepped down in April 1999, two months after Chavez became president and began two decades of socialist rule.

 

Maduro succeeded Chavez in 2017 started a two-year process to abandon the Washington-based OAS, but Guaido earlier this year asked it to ignore Maduro’s request and designated Tarre as his own envoy.

 

Tarre plans to keep attending OAS sessions and representing Venezuela, even though Maduro’s government announced plans to hold a rally next Saturday to celebrate its departure from the organization.

 

Samuel Moncada, Venezuelan ambassador to the United Nations and the only diplomat loyal to Maduro currently on U.S. territory, used to attend OAS sessions representing his country. But the State Department recently restricted his movements to a 25-mile (40-kilometer) radius around New York.

 

Tarre, who was recognized earlier this month with the support of 18 countries, said in his speech that he will work to organize free and fair elections in his country and that it once again recognize the authority of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.

 

Tarre is considered part of the traditional political class that ruled Venezuela until Chavez was elected president. He served as a congressman in 1979-1999 for the Christian Democratic party.

 

The OAS and the Inter-American Development Bank are the only two multilateral organizations that recognize Guaido as interim president of Venezuela.