Augmented reality

The iPhone 8 rumor mill: what to expect, or not

The iPhone 8 rumor mill: what to expect, or not

“You need to look no further than Apple’s iPhone to see how fast brilliantly written software presented on a beautifully designed device with a spectacular user interface will throw all the accepted notions about pricing, billing platforms and brand loyalty right out the window.” – Edgar Bronfman, Jr.

The iPhone rumor mill

2017 is the tenth anniversary of the iPhone; therefore, pundits are expecting significant changes to the existing design. The original iPhone was announced in 2007 where, on January 9, Steve Jobs announced to the world that his company was transforming the iPod, revolutionizing the mobile phone, as well as developing a unique internet device. Experts assumed that Jobs was talking about three different products; however, he stunned the world. He was announcing the first iPhone.

Consequently, every year Apple fans wait excitedly for the announcement of the latest iPhone. Rob Price of the UK Business Insider notes that even though we are still about six months away from the launch of the iPhone 8, the rumor mill is already buzzing with excitement.

While keeping in mind that these are just rumors and that Apple has not made any formal announcements, here are a few of the stories about the latest iPhone that are swirling around:

Screen size

It is anticipated that the next iPhone will have an edge-to-edge screen with curved edges. Apple will reduce the size of the bevels around the screen to allow for a bigger screen. In other words, Apple will…

Android O, Google Assistant and augmented reality: What to expect at Google I/O

Google’s biggest event of the year is about to get underway.

The company’s developers conference, Google I/O, is just hours away so naturally the rumor mill has already kicked into high gear. At this year’s event, we expect to hear much more about the next version of Android, Google’s plans for its Assistant, and what’s going on with its VR platform, Daydream.

Of course, as with every year, there are bound to be a few surprises as well. But for now, here’s a look at everything we’re expecting to see (and, in some cases not see) at I/O.

Android O(reo?)

Though Google already released the first developer preview for Android O (the version of Android after N, or Nougat), I/O is when we’ll finally hear about what’s next for Android in much, much, more detail. Given what we’ve seen in the preview, though, we know improvements to notifications and battery life are likely to be a big focus. We also know customizable app icons for different device types, picture-in-picture and improved autofill are also on the table.

Image: oreo

As for the name, it’s anyone’s guess. The company could go the crowd-source route like it did last year, or it could have the name already picked out. The current favorite, though, seems to be Android Oreo — and not just because it’s one of the only sugary treats that starts with the letter “O.”

Earlier this year, Oreo released a mobile game that encourages users to snap photos of cookies with their phones in order to virtually “dunk” the cookies through space. The game, which uses…

Microsoft insists on calling AR and VR ‘Mixed’ Reality. Maybe we should too.

Microsoft insists on calling AR and VR ‘Mixed’ Reality. Maybe we should too.

Back in 2015, when the the world was just beginning to pay serious attention to virtual reality, Microsoft surprised everyone by announcing HoloLens. Instead of surrounding you with virtual imagery – like Oculus and every other VR company – HoloLens brought the digital world into the real. To date, it remains one of the coolest things Microsoft has ever made.

But along with HoloLens came Mixed Reality, a term that seemed to confuse pretty much everyone not working in Redmond. ‘Virtual’ and ‘augmented’ reality were the established lingo, and HoloLens seemed to be just a fancy form of the latter. ‘Mixed’ reality reeked of marketing buzzword, it sounded lame, and so I avoided it as much as possible.

Now I’m starting to budge. In the last two years – culminating in this week’s Build conference – Microsoft has laid out a foundation for its grand scheme to fundamentally change how we interact with our devices. Knowing why Microsoft so stubbornly adheres to mixed reality is crucial to understanding how it plans to get there.

HoloLens was just the start.

Mixed Reality includes AR, VR, and beyond

Over the past few months, I’ve had several discussions about mixed reality with Greg Sullivan, Director of Communications for Windows and Devices at Microsoft. In each, he’s repeatedly drilled into my head the idea that mixed reality is a spectrum – one that encompasses VR, AR, and everything in-between. In fact, the term has academic origins that long predates modern virtual experiences.

So no, you’re not wrong to call HoloLens an AR headset, it’s just that AR is but one part of the mixed reality spectrum. The term also encompasses a wealth of other device categories:

  • Fully immersive VR headsets like Rift, Vive, and Microsoft’s offerings coming later this year.
  • Camera-based AR, like Snapchat’s funky masks or games like Pokemon Go.
  • Augmented virtuality experiences, whereby real-world elements are brought into a virtual experience.
  • Potential future devices, that can do the best of both worlds, changing between being opaque like Rift, or transparent like HoloLens.

While HoloLens happens to be an AR device, Microsoft would be doing itself a disservice to limit its scope to that bit of spectrum. HoloLens was the first device in the Windows Mixed Reality platform, which seeks to enable immersive experiences in all the above form factors.

But why go with HoloLens first? After all, VR headsets seemed to have more immediate consumer applications for things like gaming, and are a lot less expensive to produce than HoloLens.

According to Sullivan, Microsoft wanted to start by solving the more difficult problem. VR headsets have the luxury of obscuring the real world. You can create more interesting experiences with some environmental interaction, but VR can be fun even while your feet are stationary.

HoloLens, on the other hand, required an understanding of the environment around the user. It was a deeper problem to solve, but one that would reap rewards; Sullivan says Microsoft used what it learned from HoloLens to create affordable VR headsets that beat the competition to the punch with inside-out tracking.

That means that, unlike Oculus and Vive, Microsoft’s partner VR headsets can map your movements in the real world without the need for messy external sensors. I’ve spent a fair amount with the…

Osmo Coding Jam game combines programming with music

Osmo has created some of the most creative apps for children with its augmented reality platform for the iPad, and it is launching another such game today called Osmo Coding Jam.

The title incorporates the familiar Osmo system to combine music and computer programming. The system uses a mirror to point the iPad camera in front of the iPad, where it applies computer vision to see blocks that a child puts in front of it. In this case, the blocks are used to program musical notes.

Palo Alto, Calif.-based Osmo believes the rush to teach kids science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) has struck a sour note. The brightest thinkers appreciate art and think creatively, not mechanically. That’s why Osmo has launched a way to learn coding while fostering creativity by making music. In May 2016, Osmo launched its first kids’ programming game, Osmo Coding.

“We wanted to bring creativity to coding,” said Pramod Sharma, the CEO of Osmo, in an interview with GamesBeat. “I see myself as a creative coder. We think the future is about coders and that music is very creative and a very powerful medium. We try to bring them together in this product.”

Above: Osmo Coding Jam brings out the creativity in kids.

Image Credit: Osmo

Thomas Edison played the piano, Albert Einstein played the violin, and recent research found that on average, high school students who studied music appreciation scored better on the SATs, both in the verbal and…

Snap CEO on Facebook threat: ‘Just because Yahoo has a search box, it doesn’t mean they’re Google’

On Snap’s first earnings call as a public company Wednesday, Wall Street had a particularly burning question for Snapchat founder Evan Spiegel: “Does Facebook scare you?” asked Richard Greenfield, an analyst at BTIG.

Following an earnings report that came in below analysts’ expectations on sales, profit and user growth—prompting Snap stock to plummet nearly 25% after-hours towards its IPO price of $17—26-year-old CEO Spiegel laughed at the question.

Greenfield had prefaced his query by noting that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg had announced a new camera feature with augmented reality last month, positioning the social media company in direct competition with Snapchat, which describes itself as a camera company.

“At the end of…

AR/VR Weekly: Don’t doubt virtual reality

Virtual reality is here to stay — shove your doubts aside.

Last year, we saw a couple of mood shifts on the VR scene. It was up — meteoric, really — as consumer solutions rolled out from HTC, Oculus, and Sony. Games and other entertainment experiences came out on a steady drumbeat, and some like Owlchemy Labs’ Job Simulator found fame and fortune.

But VR entered a “trough of disillusionment” hit at the end of the year, spilling over into early 2017. How’s it going now? GamesBeat turned to Dennis Scimecca, who’s been covering the emerging VR game industry, to dive deep into the scene at the recent Game Developers Conference. In his interviews and reports from numerous sessions, we find an industry that’s looking ahead and, instead of trying to find where it fits, it’s looking for how to grow into its own thing — and this, it appears, will rest on the people making games and experiences for VR.

One of my favorite parts of this how even the best designers are still learning how to move VR development forward. Carrie Witt of Owlchemy said that “Believability is more important than fidelity,” while others talked about how they’re moving forward on, well, movement.

The VR scene remains vibrant. And now, the people making games are full of confidence. And so are we.

–Jason Wilson, GamesBeat managing editor

P.S. Last week’s discussion at GamesBeat Summit about the future of augmented reality.

From GamesBeat

Uncorporeal Systems, a maker of virtual and augmented reality software, and Radiant Images, a digital cinema innovator and rental house, have partnered to enable Hollywood companies to create VR and AR experiences. Radiant Images will provide studio services and production support that’s paired with Uncorporeal’s cloud software. The partnership will initially focus on deploying Uncorporeal’s […]

Nvidia is expanding the capabilities of its VRworks toolkit to streamline the development process. The tech company revealed its new VRWorks audio and 360-degree video software development kits today. As part of the company’s presence at the GPU Technology Conference in San Jose, Nvidia showed off how the VRWorks Audio SDK can do real-time calculations […]

Augmented Reality Is Coming To Banner Ads

Samsung May Split Itself In Two

Less than a month after Mark Zuckerberg told developers about Facebook’s renewed focus on augmented reality, Blippar says its bringing the technology to the humble banner ad. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Less than a month after Mark Zuckerberg told developers about Facebook’s renewed focus on augmented reality, Blippar says its bringing the technology to the humble banner ad. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Augmented reality has been in stasis for the last couple of years, with app developers and gadget-makers still figuring out a mainstream use-case to trump the Pokémon GO phenomenon. London-based startup Blippar thinks the answer lies in advertising.

It’s been working with several automotive brands to launch mobile banner ads with augmented reality built into them. In one demonstration seen by Forbes, a smartphone user taps a banner ad which then swaps their screen out for an image of the inside of the car. The user can then move their phone around to see different parts of the car’s interior. If they give it permission to access their camera, they can see their real-life surroundings through the virtual windshield and windows of the car too.

“This is the industry’s first augmented-reality digital ad unit,” says Danny Lopez, who heads up product at Blippar, and says this is about giving digital display advertising a “new lease of life.” Blippar says a major car manufacturer will start showing augmented reality ads using Blippar’s software this month.

It’s worth noting that the number of people who avoid banner ads vastly outweighs those who deliberately tap on them. But Lopez says that the right wording, like “Jump inside our car right now,” can be enough to entice people to change their minds.

Blippar won’t say what other brands it is working with, but Lopez suggests the tech could be used for ads displaying clothes, and offer a means to use your smartphone camera to see what a jacket might look like on you.

Augmented reality has been around for years, and so have…

Microsoft’s HoloLens gets a new medical app using augmented reality for spinal surgery

Augmented reality (AR) isn’t just for Pokémon Go and Snapchat masks, the technology will can have practical applications in areas like medicine, too.

At least that’s the promise of the new Scopis Holographic Navigation Platform, which is designed to be used with the Microsoft HoloLens to help doctors perform spinal surgery.

The company claims that its system can use 3D tracking with the HoloLens to help accurately find…

Facebook First-Quarter Earnings: What To Watch

Robinhood Reinvents Stock Trading Without The Fees

Facebook reports its third quarterly earnings on Wednesday after markets close. (Courtesy of Facebook)

Facebook reports its first quarterly earnings on Wednesday after markets close.

Wall Street is expecting another strong quarter for Facebook FB +0.20%, as the social network continues to grow its massive mobile advertising business and sustain solid user growth across its suite of apps.

Analysts polled by Yahoo Finance expect adjusted earnings for the first quarter, ending March 31, of $1.12, up from 77 cents in the same period last year, and revenue of $7.8 billion, up 46% from the same period a year earlier when Facebook reported revenue of $5.4 billion. For the full year, the same analysts expect revenue of $27.6 billion, and earnings, excluding some items, of $6.25 per share.

Facebook shares closed on Tuesday at $152.78, and the stock is up about 33% since the beginning of this year as of Tuesday’s close. Facebook stock has risen about 15% since the company last reported earnings in February, compared to a 5% rise in the S&P over the same period. Facebook is set to report earnings after the markets close on Wednesday.

Facebook has recently come under scrutiny for its handling of violent and sensitive video content, especially live streamed footage. On a recurring basis, Facebook has enabled violent videos to be visible on the social network for hours before being removed or flagged with a warning label. At Facebook’s annual F8 developer conference in April, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg acknowledged the issue, addressing the murder of Robert Godwin Sr. in Cleveland, Ohio, which had been broadcast in a video on Facebook for hours before the company took it down. “We have a lot of work and we will keep doing all we can to prevent tragedies like this from happening,” Zuckerberg said on stage.

Facebook has made some big product updates since it last reported earnings, in large part, taking aim at its competitor Snapchat. Facebook has launched a version of Snapchat’s pioneering “Stories” feature, chains of photo and video messages with special effects, across its suite of apps: Facebook’s flagship app, Instagram, WhatsApp and Messenger. (The copycat strategy appears to be hampering Snapchat’s user growth. The app most recently reported 158 million daily active users. By contrast, Instagram has 700 million monthly users, while WhatsApp and Messenger have 1.2 billion monthly users.) Facebook also unveiled new effects for its cameras, such as falling snow and Picasso-like lenses. At F8, Zuckerberg’s biggest product news was Facebook making its camera an augmented reality (AR) platform. Facebook has started opening its AR platform to developers, a move which could be key to maintaining user engagement in the coming years.

Investors will be eager to hear any insights Facebook shares on its plans to invest in augmented reality and virtual reality (and sales of Facebook’s Oculus headset), updates on video monetization and viewership and plans to monetize messaging. Here are four areas investors will be closely watching:

1. User growth and engagement: Facebook has continued to see solid user growth and engagement, despite its mammoth size and reports that original sharing of posts and photos is declining somewhat on its main app. For the fourth quarter, Facebook reported 1.86 billion monthly active users, up 17% from a year…

5 hints about new products that fans are hoping Apple will drop today

Image Credit: Illustration by Eric Blattberg / VentureBeat

It’s Apple earnings day. And it’s a day when fans are crossing their fingers that executives will let slip any mention of future products that may be in the works.

Apple is famously tight-lipped about such things. Officially, anyways. But leaks come, nonetheless, and on a day when executives must spend an hour or so on a live phone call, well, hope that they’ll drop the slightest hint or clue springs eternal.

Here are five areas where we might have some chance of getting a wink or a nod:

  1. Amazon Echo competitor. It’s weird that a Siri-powered speaker doesn’t already exist. But word from KGI’s analyst Ming-Chi Kuo (via 9to5Mac) is that the company will announce one at its Worldwide Developer’s Conference in June. According to the report, it’s unclear when it would go…