Daily Archives: February 1, 2020

No smoke, no water, no waste. VR could train the next generation of firefighters – CNN

Posted: February 1, 2020 at 2:46 pm

As these disasters become more frequent, firefighters are turning to new technology to help tackle them. Some fire departments in Australia and the United States have started using virtual reality (VR) to train firefighters.Australia-based FLAIM Systems has built a VR training simulator for firefighters. Wearing a headset, trainees are immersed in real-life scenarios that can be too dangerous to reproduce in the real world.

"The whole point of VR is that we can put people in a traditionally dangerous situation, let people make decisions, and let people make mistakes," James Mullins, founder and CEO of FLAIM Systems, told CNN Business.

The VR technology produces realistic renders of smoke, fire, water and fire-extinguishing foam in several different scenarios, such as a house fire, an aircraft fire or wildfire.

Trainees wear a heat suit that replicates the likely temperature in each scenario, controlled by software that determines the proximity and orientation to the fire and how that would affect the individual.

"We can heat a firefighter up to 100 degrees Celsius or so, roughly," says Mullin, but only for short timeframes. He adds that they can also replicate the force felt from the hose, and simultaneously measure the heart and respiration rate of the trainee.

The company was launched in 2017 by Deakin University in Victoria, Australia, where Mullins is an associate professor. In the two years since then, it has grown from a two-man team to 18 people and now distributes to firefighting training providers in 16 countries worldwide including Australia, the United Kingdom, Netherlands, Belgium and the United States.

Last year, Australia's Country Fire Authority (CFA) piloted the training system, and though it has yet to be approved for wider use, Greg Paterson, CFA's deputy chief officer, told CNN Business that it could be valuable in remote areas of the country.

It could be particularly useful in a bushfire context, he adds. "The ability to provide exposure to dangerous bushfire conditions allows volunteers to immerse themselves in realistic scenarios they would not normally be exposed to during training," says Paterson.

California trials

In October 2019, the Cosumnes Fire Department in California, teamed up with VR developers RiVR and Pico Interactive, to create its own training system for 20 new recruits. The trial was successful, and the department will continue to use VR in its training program.

"It allows them to experience first hand the unique challenges with communication, limited visibility and come face to face with the flames in fire situations that they most certainly will encounter during their firefighting career," said fire department captain Julie Rider.

An experienced firefighter herself, Rider said that she was impressed by how lifelike the VR scenario was.

"I could feel my heart rate climb as I looked around the room, seeing where the fire started, watching the rapid rate of fire spread," she said. "It was amazing to experience the inherent risk, extreme danger and fire intensity without feeling any of the dangerous effects from the fire."

Environmental impact

Using VR technology also reduces the environmental impact of firefighter training. Traditional training releases smoke and pollutants into the atmosphere from burning substances, affecting the surrounding air quality.

"Our technology enables people to train without discharging foam into the environment, without creating smoke, or using water," said Mullins.

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported the temperature that FLAIM's firefighting suits can be heated to.

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Training A New Generation Of Truck Drivers With Virtual Reality – Forbes

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SAN JOSE, CA - JANUARY 19: Fans experience the Clear the Ice Zamboni VR experience at the NHL ... [+] Centennial Truck Tour at SAP Center at San Jose on January 19, 2017 in San Jose, California. (Photo by Don Smith/NHLI via Getty Images) *** Local Caption ***

The trucking industry in the United States has been in arecession since 2019. Despite the fact that companies like Amazon and e-commerce companies are stressing an already weakened trucking industry, the industry needs to replace close to 90,000 drivers in this decade to keep up with demand.

A2019 studyfrom Brandon Hall Group showed theres an increase in using VR as a training tool in high-consequence industries where operator or driver mistakes can cause significant property damage and fatalities.

Companies in the survey said VR tools were a top learning priority for the next 24 months.

UPS started putting drivers in virtual reality (VR) simulators in 2017 as part of basic safety training. Other trucking companies are turning to VR simulation companies to create immersive learning opportunities for drivers.

We see that in the motor freight industry, saidJohn Kearney, CEO, Advanced Training Systems LLC. Kearney. Trucking companies, driving schools, and the general public are increasingly aware that simulation trainingthat is to say, virtual realityhelps produce drivers who are better prepared to deal with any situation they might encounter.

Historically, we used to have books and video. Now we have VR where we can physically operate equipment and gain the additional insight needed for comprehensive learning, added Kearney. VR solves a classic training dilemma: how do you safely prepare trainees to deal with dangerous or extraordinary situations?

Kearney says that if a truck driver had traditional training in a classroom with a book and ride-along methodology and then experiences an accident, theres no proof he or she was trained in a particular skill and road hazard.

With digital simulation, there is a record of the training and a record of the responses the simulation, said Kearney. For example, we cant have someone run out in front of a real truck, but can in VR; we cant experience ice and skidding in actual truck but can in VR so for trucking companies and driving schools thats a plus for documentation and chain of custody training and could even have an impact on liability.

Kearney says he hopes that VR training will help bring new candidates to the trucking profession and create better prepared, safer drivers.

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Virtual reality is a bonkers fad that no one takes seriously but anyway, here’s someone to tell us to worry about hackers – The Register

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Enigma You'd think virtual reality's biggest problems right now are breaking into meaningful mainstream adoption, and not making wearers of the headsets look utterly ridiculous. But no, it's possible you are wrong.

For we're told the re-emergence of virtual and augmented reality hardware may bring with it hackers tormenting folks in new ways, or so believes an organization that says it's tackling said hackers.

Speaking at this year's USENIX Enigma conference in San Francisco, Kavya Pearlman, founder of the non-profit XR Safety Initiative (XRSI), outlined a number of ways miscreants could cause mischief after compromising headsets.

Her initiative is seeking donations to, among other goals, "establish safety and ethics standards" in virtual reality. The organization fears hackers could pwn internet-connected headsets just like they can break into home and corporate networks which isn't too unbelievable, truth be told. Witness the hijacking of poorly secured Ring devices by scumbags to intimidate and scare families.

On the one hand, it's perhaps a little premature to be worrying about future security problems with virtual reality gear, given it's a fad that surfaces and sinks every few years. On the other hand, fiends love finding new stuff on the internet to pwn be it printers, hospitals, cloud servers, security cameras, and so on so perhaps, with more net-connected techno-specs in use, this is something we can look forward to this decade.

"The attack surface that used to be your server or your network or your backend," as Pearlman put it, "has now expanded to your living room, your objects that you surround yourself with."

The most obvious dangers, according to Pearlman, are physical. Pointing to research conducted by XRSI and university eggheads, Pearlman warned of people being turned into "human joysticks" by hackers manipulating paths and directions in virtual worlds to redirect folks into harm's way. Like stubbing your toe on a cupboard or tripping up over a coffee table, we presume. At a stretch, someone could, we dunno, fall on a buzz saw or into a vat of molten iron if they were, for some reason, using the gear in an industrial plant.

Meanwhile, folks could maybe fall victim to "chaperone" attacks in which boundaries preventing people from wandering into danger areas are removed. Then there's the usual threat of ransomware scrambling device data, denial-of-service attacks knocking multi-user environments offline, remote-code execution bugs exploited to inject spyware into the techno-goggles, and, yeah, you get the idea.

Speaking of spyware: it's possible, we're told, to surveil someone by monitoring their compromised head gear. "Most of these devices have a front-facing camera," Pearlman said, adding a team of researchers were "able to turn on the camera without the person's knowledge and stream the video back to their server."

Then there's the potential for psychological attacks that use the immersion of virtual reality environments to freak out the wearer... until they pull the goggles off. "These technologies are so compelling," Pearlman opined. "We can use these technologies to hijack somebody's system and put them in a horror environment."

While XRSI's efforts to secure these gadgets are commendable and forewarned is forearmed with security with no documented exploits or attacks in the wild, and no mainstream adoption, panic ye not.

Sponsored: Detecting cyber attacks as a small to medium business

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Indians are embracing e-sports with augmented and virtual reality – Quartz India

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Looking at Big Tech as the next Big Oil.

This post has been corrected.

E-sports has emerged as an important mix in Indians overall sports-viewing experience.

About 73% of Indian respondents in a recent survey said they have watched e-sports, and 57% have played one, well ahead of enthusiasts in the US, UK, and European countries. Other Asian countries, including Singapore and Hong Kong, too, boast of big fan-following for e-sports, says a Jan. 30 report by Capgemini Research Institute.

The report gauges the impact of technology in transforming the viewing and playing experience of sports fans. The Capgemini Research Institute surveyed 10,363 sports fans across nine countries for the report.

The rise of digital technologies in sports has enhanced the viewing experience for fans as tech has become an integral part of how we consume e-sports, said the report.

Fans from Asian countries, including India, Hong Kong, and Singapore, lead in the adoption and acceptance of emerging technologies in sports. They are keen on using and experimenting with technologies such as augmented reality, virtual reality, and artificial intelligence. Close to three-quarters of them (74%) have experienced the use of emerging technology in the stadium, with India leading at 88%.

The use of emerging technologies in creating a unique fan experience is an exciting and rapidly growing area. Sports organisations across the world have a huge opportunity to tap into evolving expectations of fans and athletes to build a more connected, customised, and personalised engagement experience, said Darshan Shankavaram, global digital customer experience practice leader at Capgemini.

Also, sports enthusiasts worldwide are increasingly using technology available inside stadia to enhance their viewing experience. For example, most of the fans check for regular updates on a mobile app while watching the match live, they access wi-fi to share updates on social media, and use their mobile for ordering food & beverages to be delivered to their seat, according to the report.

Sports followers in Asia are also willing to spend more money if assured of a more engaging and rewarding sports experience.

About 71% of them said they would pay more if new technologies enhanced their stadium experience, compared to those in North America (40%), Europe (34%), and Australia (33%).

Correction: An earlier version of this post said: About 73% of Indians have watched e-sports. This has been corrected.

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Texas New virtual reality treatment brings veterans with PTSD back to where it all began 11 – KXXV News Channel 25

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Post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, is a mental health condition that can develop after a person witnesses or experiences a traumatic event.

It can be triggered by a life-threatening event like a car accident, a sexual assault, a natural disaster - or combat.

In Texas, a new virtual reality treatment is being used to help veterans suffering from PTSD.

For some, maybe they were on a crowded Iraqi street, or maybe, in a rural afghan village, but for as many as 30 percent of veterans, something happened

They are hiding from to this day.

The Strongmind system is designed to take them back there.

"We're trying to help patients to confront and reprocess difficult emotional memories, but in a safe place, Dr. Skip Rizzo from USC Institute for Creative Technologies said.

The system Dr. Skip Rizzo has developed for 15 years is being introduced to clinicians at the North Texas VA this week for them to use with their post-traumatic stress patients.

Traditionally, patients are asked to imagine the scenario they're troubled by.

"And then we can of course, blow stuff upall of a sudden things start to come back. They've been trying to avoid thinking or talking to anybody about it. And once you break that seal, you start to hear more and more and more, Rizzo said.

"it goes beyond what you see and what you hear. Down to what you were holding that day, and even what you were feeling that day," Jason Allen from Dallas said.

Charitable organization Soldierstrong has donated Strongmind to 13 Veteran Affairs Hospitals including three in Texas.

And that real-world use is expected to help develop the system further.

And I think we can move the needle forward not just for veterans but the whole civilian sector and improve the lives of people who are confronted by high stress," Rizzo said.

The Department of Veterans Affairs says up to 20 percent of vets who served in Iraq or Afghanistan have PTSD in any given year.

The VA says about 30 percent of Vietnam vets have had PTSD in their lifetime.

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UCSF Business Accelerator Studying Digital Therapeutics, Virtual Reality – mHealthIntelligence.com

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January 29, 2020 -A business accelerator launched out of the University of California at San Francisco is studying how digital therapeutic platforms, including virtual and augmented reality, can be used to improve access to care for underserved populations.

USCFs S.O.L.V.E. Health Tech is partnering with AppliedVR, a Los Angeles-based developer of virtual reality treatments, on the program.

The opportunity to work alongside AppliedVR in its quest to deliver virtual reality treatment to all patients helps fulfill our mission because of the sheer unmet need in the space of safe and effective pain management, Urmimala Sarkar, MD, MPH, a professor of medicine at UCSF Professor and co-founder of S.O.L.V.E. Health Tech, said in a press release. The unique ability of virtual reality to create an immersive and interactive environment has the potential to be a cost-effective strategy to deliver pain management for diverse patients, in the time and place of their choosing.

Patients who face socioeconomic or social determinant-related burdens and challenges should not be limited in treatment options especially if or when in need of novel or non-pharmacological treatment alternatives, added Matthew Stoudt, AppliedVRs co-founder and chief executive officer.

The project, which began in December, involves interviews with healthcare providers who are using virtual reality and other mHealth platforms in treating underserved populations. By identifying barriers to sustainability and scalability, researchers hope to create best practices that would allow providers and companies like AppliedVR to improve their AR and VR services.

Championed by health systems like Los Angeles-based Cedars-Sinai, which hosts an annual conference focused on VR applications in healthcare, the mHealth platform is now in use in dozens of locations around the country to help patients with issues like pain management, physical therapy and treatment of nervous disorders like anxiety. Earlier this year, Cedars-Sinaipresented the results of a studythat found VR to be effective as a digital therapeutic for in-patient treatment of pain.

We found that on-demand use of VR in a diverse group of hospitalized patients was well tolerated and resulted in statistically significant improvements in pain versus a control group exposed to an in-room health and wellness television channel, the study, led by Brennan Spiegel, MD, concluded. These results build upon earlier studies and further indicate that VR is an effective adjunctive therapy to complement traditional pain management protocols in hospitalized patients.

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Thornbury Picture House ‘first’ with regular virtual reality screenings – Sydney Morning Herald

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"It's the same with me," he adds. "I've been programming film events for the past 15 years and I thought I was pretty much across where film is at but it was only at MIFF a couple of years ago that it really occurred to me how far VR had moved from my preconceptions of it."

Like 3D before it, Virtual Reality has been touted by evangelists as the future of filmmaking for decades. But only with the emergence of lightweight affordable headsets in the past five years or so has this emergent medium begun to find both the audience and the community of content creators to begin fulfilling at least a little of that promise.

To date, the biggest commercial opportunities have been in gaming and non-narrative applications, such as virtual real estate inspections.

One of the first VR experiences takes the viewer inside the creation of artist Rone's enormous installation at Burnham Beeches. Credit:Peter Tarasiuk

But the fact the wearer of a headset can be transported into a completely foreign environment also lends itself to certain forms of storytelling too particularly immersive documentary and first-person tales. Trouble is, outside of film festivals and special events at the likes of ACMI, such films have been virtually (sorry) impossible to find.

So it is that Berger is programming, in what is believed to be an Australian first, one VR film a month, to play alongside regular film sessions. And for anyone with a ticket, the experience will be completely free.

He's got two headsets set up in the foyer, and they will play the same VR film simultaneously, four sessions per regular film (the idea is you come early to watch the VR, or stay after you've watched your movie on the big screen). That's a deliberate attempt to counter what some critics see as the great limitation of VR in the cinema the fact it so totally isolates its user from the people around them (which can sometimes give rise to the odd spectacle of people gathering to watch the jerky movements and shocked response of the oblivious person in the headset).

VR is more fun when enjoyed with a friend, as these young children discovered during the filming of Carriberrie.Credit:Dominic Allen

"A lot of people come to the cinema in pairs, and you do want to talk about [a VR experience] with a friend afterwards, just like you do with a film," Berger explains.

He's got his first three films lined up: a short immersive documentary on the artist RONE's recent installation at Burnham Beeches; Carriberrie, an exploration of indigenous dance; and Monster, a first-person story about a former Nazi skinhead in America.

But does he ultimately see a time when every one of the 57 seats in the cinema is occupied by a headset-wearing VR fan, like those 3D-goggle-wearing folk from the 1950s on the poster on the wall outside his picture house?

"Probably not," he says. "I think the future of VR is that people will be watching this content at home."

There's just no escaping the isolating effect of VR, even if you do watch with a friend, he says.

Youre missing out, in my opinion, on all the things that make a cinema like ours different and interesting having other people around you, being in a different environment, getting out of the house, having a glass of wine beside you.

It's pretty difficult to have drink wine when you've got a headset on it gets quite messy."

Karl Quinn is a senior culture writer at The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald.

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Virtual Reality and the Physical World Literally Collide in Hilarious Video – Comicbook.com

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Here's the thing about virtual reality that might not be immediately apparent: it can be a bit dangerous. Venturing out into a virtual experience itself isn't necessarily dangerous; it's virtual, after all. The problem is really when the virtual and physical worlds collide -- sometimes quite literally, as a recent video demonstrates.

Now, some important context is necessary first and foremost: many virtual reality headsets that allow for any significant movement require boundaries to be established. So, for example, if I plop on a virtual reality headset, one of the important steps is basically telling it where obstacles are by defining exactly how much free space there is to play around in. Anyone that's played around in VR is likely familiar with this setup.

This is all to say, it's still pretty dang funny to watch someone completely overestimate the amount of space they have and run face-first into a wall. You can check out exactly that in the video, shared on Reddit, below:

Thankfully, both the person wearing it and the Oculus Quest headset itself are fine. "He's fine," Reddit user amandasox8 later shared. "Quest still works. Minor scratch." There is also, apparently, a black mark on the wall. But considering the collision in the above video, that seems like a relatively small consequence.

The VR game being played here, according to other social media comments, is Crisis VRigade from developer Sumalab, and it puts players in the role of a SWAT member dealing with a hostage situation. Given the adrenaline likely involved in playing, maybe running into walls is more common than other VR games? Hard to say.

"Together with a SWAT team you will have to deal with the situation and take care of the terrorists who are robbing the bank," the game's official description reads in part. "Your mission is crystal clear: finish off all hostile elements and keep your teammates and hostages alive. Make your way through the bank to the safe where the terrorist have made a stronghold and threaten to kill the hostages if their demands are not met."

Have you ever had any trouble with virtual reality headsets like this? Or have you seen anyone having problems? Let us know in the comments, or hit me up directly on Twitter at @rollinbishop to talk all things gaming!

The Oculus Quest, among other virtual reality headsets, is currently available wherever such things are sold. You can check out all of our previous coverage of virtual reality right here.

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Disney fans will love Frozen VR. When can they see it? Maybe…never – CNET

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Myth: A Frozen Tale is Disney Animation's first virtual-reality short based on a blockbuster franchise.

Disney's Frozen 2 virtual-reality short is sure to delight superfans of Elsa, Anna and Disney Animation. Its creators are excited to get it out there, perhaps even on the company's new streaming service, Disney Plus. We just don't know when -- or if -- fans will ever be able to experience it in VR.

Myth: A Frozen Tale is a beautifully stylized origin story of the nature-spirit characters of Frozen's blockbuster movie sequel. Featuring characters like the cute, fiery salamander Bruni, glittering water horse Nokk and flighty air spirit Gale (which Disney actually created with the help of VR as a production tool), Myth is a fairy tale retold inside the Frozen universe. It's only the second VR short made in-house by Walt Disney Animation Studios, and it's the first one to bring a Disney Animation blockbuster franchise into virtual reality. Disney has shown off Myth on the sidelines of theSundance Film Festivalhere in Park City, Utah.

Myth first immerses you in a modest family home in Frozen's kingdom of Arendelle, where two children beg their mother to retell their favorite story before bed. Then the room around you disappears, and you enter a gorgeously rendered stylization of the enchanted forest that Elsa and her band penetrate on their journey. It's a bit like standing inside themost abstract portions of Elsa's big musical numbers, but the VR feels magnitudes more elaborate, and it totally surrounds you. Or, in the case of the earth giants, it towers over you too.

(The production design of Myth comes from Brittney Lee, a visual development artist who worked on both Frozen and its sequel and focused on elements like Elsa's costumes.)

The look of Disney's Myth VR resembles the more abstract segments of Frozen 2's songs Into the Unknown and Show Yourself.

But Myth's cloudy future underscores one of the reasons virtual reality has had such a hard time winning over consumers.

VR was one of technology's buzziest trends a few years ago, but its hype has fizzled as widespread adoption proved elusive. Consumers have been ambivalent about the odd, expensive headsets you strap to your face. Gotta-see-it content (say, something built on a blockbuster animated-movie franchise...) might compel more people to give the unfamiliar format a try. But giants like Disney must weigh the risks of putting a highly lucrative franchise into an unproven medium.

Other arms of Disney have toyed with VR before, mostly in gaming experiments rather than storytelling. Disney has produced severalMarvel-based VR gamesand anotherVR gamebased on Disney Animation'sRalph Breaks the Internet. And its Pixar animation studio also created a VR project based onCocoin partnership with Facebook's Oculus in 2017.

With Myth, there's also the paradox of putting a fairy tale into VR. Disney's film draws a family audience, with viewers in a range of ages. But kids are definitely one of the biggest -- if not the most important -- audience for franchises like Frozen. And every major company that makes VR headsets recommends you don't give them to children younger than 12 or 13 years old.

The creative team members behind Myth said they're eager to get the project in front of fans in some form. They have "a lot of irons in the fire" for possible releases, Nicholas Russell, the producer of the piece, said in an interview Friday.

But if it follows the path of Disney Animation's previous -- and first -- VR short, it wouldn't be publicly released as VR even more than a year after its premiere.

Cycles, a VR animation about the milestones of one family over decades in their beloved home, premiered in August 2018 at a Canadian computer graphics industry conference. It had its US premiere about a month later at the New York Film Festival, and it's been exhibited selectively at places like Sundance since then. But the VR version has never been publicly released.

Cycles was Disney Animation's first VR short.

On Friday, Disney adapted Cycles into a two-dimensional edition -- what some in VR circles call a "flattie" -- and released it as a regular-video short on Disney Plus, the company's new streaming service launched in November. Included as an episode in Disney Plus' Short Circuit collection of short films, Cycles in 2D retains the same story, but it loses all the virtual elements that gave it visceral punch in VR.

And to people accustomed to the highly rendered computer animation from traditional Disney features, VR adapted to 2D may look chunky by comparison. Traditional computer animation has the advantage of hours and hours of supercomputers performing all the math necessary to output those moving images that look so beautiful and real. But VR is what's known as live-rendered animation. It has to do all that number-crunching in milliseconds, using a computer you might be able to buy off the shelf at Best Buy.

As a result, characters in Cycles don't have the same smoothness to the planes of their faces or arms that people are used to. They look more geometrical.

Jeff Gipson, the director of both Cycles and Myth, said that the beauty of creating a VR film like Myth in what is essentially a video-game engine is that his team can adapt it into a flat version that could potentially be on Disney Plus someday, like Cycles.

"Maybe as the technology continues to progress, hopefully the age limits [and] restrictions will evolve and allow for audiences of all ages to enjoy both Myth: A Frozen Tale and Cycles in the format they were created in," he said.

Myth VR debuted in November at the world premiere of Frozen 2 in Hollywood, where a group of about 2,000 after-party attendees had the opportunity to check it out. Here in Park City, it's being screened by invitation-only to select members of the film industry and press. To even enter the room where Myth was set up, I had to sign a nondisclosure contract under the gaze of a security guard whose forearms seemed as big as my thighs.

Fans curious how it feels to step into the mythology of Frozen will just have to wait to see if they ever get the chance, beefy security guard or not.

Originally published Jan. 27.Update Jan. 28:Adds more details.

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Hemp CBD Demand Is Poor. Prices Are Falling, in a Blow to Farmers – Barron’s

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Many farmers planted hemp last year, hoping for a bit of the billions in sales predicted for the newly legal, nonintoxicating variety of cannabis that yields the soothing stuff called CBD. But demand didnt materialize, so piles of hemp biomass sit unsold, and the price of what does sell fell about 30% from December to January, according to researchers at New Leaf Data Services.

Its a glut and it is going to get worse. [L]arge volumes of biomass remain unsold, says New Leafs Hemp Benchmarksreport for January, suggesting that further price erosion is possible.

Demand for CBD, or cannabidiol, extracted from the biomass is equally poor. Inventories are growing and cash transactions are rare. When sales of CBD oil did occur, says the report, the price in January was 25% below Decembers.

Even Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell was a hemp enthusiast when Congress legalized the plant in late 2018, hoping for a new cash crop to make up for declining sales of tobacco in states like McConnells Kentucky. Cowen & Co. analysts predicted that CBD would prove a $16 billion opportunity for companies like Canopy Growth (ticker: CGC) and Tilray (TLRY). Boosters believed that CBD products would soon line the food, beverage and cosmetics aisles of supermarkets, drugstores, and mass merchandisers. Fashionable people would wear hemp threads. Barrons was skeptical.

See our April CBD feature: CBD Is the New Marijuana. But Dont Buy Into the Craze for Hemp Stocks.

Consumer packaged-goods giants like PepsiCo (PEP) and big retailers like Walmart (WMT) havent committed to CBD-laced products. A big reason for that is concerns voiced by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which says it cant permit the biologically-active ingredient in food and drink without tests of CBDs safety. State health regulators in places such as California are also keeping it off shelves.

Even mail-order specialists like Charlottes Web Holdings (CWEB. Canada) blame regulators for stunting CBDs sales growth. The companys stock has slid 60% since our April article, while those of CBD plays CV Sciences (CVSI) and Green Growth Brands (GGB. Canada) are down more than 80%.

CBD may someday become a hot health additive, but for now, farmers are pulling back. Hemp Benchmarks reports that only a fraction of the acreage licensed to grow hemp was harvested in 2019, yet a glut still resulted.

As the 2020 planting season approaches, farmers ought to be buying seeds and starter plants. But in a time of year when demand for those things should be high, the market researchers are finding that their January prices are lower than they were in October.

Wholesale hemp markets continue to face significant challenges, says Hemp Benchmarks.

Write to Bill Alpert at william.alpert@barrons.com

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