Augmented reality

AR/VR Weekly: Virtual reality takes a bigger stage at E3

You can get a good sense of the role virtual reality plays in the video game industry by comparing two of the biggest industry events in North America: the Game Developers Conference and the Electronic Entertainment Expo.

VR plays a crucial role at GDC, and this year’s event made a case that it’s not going anywhere. And while last year’s E3 showed off VR from Ubisoft and Sony, the platform didn’t feel like it was a big deal.

But that’s changing. Leading up to E3, we saw the momentum continue. Ubisoft released Star Trek: Bridge Crew a couple of weeks before the show, and the startup Experiment 9 added Dungeon Chess, the Dungeons & Dragons chess app for Oculus Rift, to Gear VR as it prepares to add more to its VR tabletop platform.

And then the big boys weighed in. Bethesda’s bringing Doom and Fallout 4 to VR, and Sony made announcements as well for the PlayStation VR platform. This includes a Final Fantasy XV experience and our Unreal Engine VR game of the show, Polyarc’s Moss.

E3 is becoming a bigger stage for VR. And it’s developing the same relationship with GDC that traditional gaming has: One show teaches you how to make cool games, and the other gives you one of the world’s biggest platforms to show them off.

Now, if only more of those 15,000 fans who came to E3 this year wiped their faces before donning a VR headset, not after, while enjoying the show.

For AR/VR coverage, send news tips to Dean Takahashi and Jeff Grubb (for those that cross over into PC gaming). Please send guest post submissions to Rowan Kaiser. Please be sure to visit our AR/VR Channel.

P.S. This Ubisoft game lets you “fly like an eagle.”

From GamesBeat

Those who are waiting for the upcoming The Bard’s Tale IV will have something to tide them over in the meantime: InXile Entertainment just released The Mage’s Tale, a virtual reality role-playing game that takes place between The Bard’s Tale III: Thief of Fate (1988) and The Bard’s Tale IV. The Mage’s Tale is available […]

Augmented Pixels has created a new way to navigate using computer vision, and LG Electronics is announcing today it has built a 3D camera module that uses that technology to assist autonomous robots. Palo Alto, California-based Augmented Pixels, a computer vision research and development company, calls the technology SLAM, or simultaneous location and mapping. It is […]

AR/VR Weekly: Virtual reality takes a bigger stage at E3

You can get a good sense of the role virtual reality plays in the video game industry by comparing two of the biggest industry events in North America: the Game Developers Conference and the Electronic Entertainment Expo.

VR plays a crucial role at GDC, and this year’s event made a case that it’s not going anywhere. And while last year’s E3 showed off VR from Ubisoft and Sony, the platform didn’t feel like it was a big deal.

But that’s changing. Leading up to E3, we saw the momentum continue. Ubisoft released Star Trek: Bridge Crew a couple of weeks before the show, and the startup Experiment 9 added Dungeon Chess, the Dungeons & Dragons chess app for Oculus Rift, to Gear VR as it prepares to add more to its VR tabletop platform.

And then the big boys weighed in. Bethesda’s bringing Doom and Fallout 4 to VR, and Sony made announcements as well for the PlayStation VR platform. This includes a Final Fantasy XV experience and our Unreal Engine VR game of the show, Polyarc’s Moss.

E3 is becoming a bigger stage for VR. And it’s developing the same relationship with GDC that traditional gaming has: One show teaches you how to make cool games, and the other gives you one of the world’s biggest platforms to show them off.

Now, if only more of those 15,000 fans who came to E3 this year wiped their faces before donning a VR headset, not after, while enjoying the show.

For AR/VR coverage, send news tips to Dean Takahashi and Jeff Grubb (for those that cross over into PC gaming). Please send guest post submissions to Rowan Kaiser. Please be sure to visit our AR/VR Channel.

P.S. This Ubisoft game lets you “fly like an eagle.”

From GamesBeat

Those who are waiting for the upcoming The Bard’s Tale IV will have something to tide them over in the meantime: InXile Entertainment just released The Mage’s Tale, a virtual reality role-playing game that takes place between The Bard’s Tale III: Thief of Fate (1988) and The Bard’s Tale IV. The Mage’s Tale is available […]

Augmented Pixels has created a new way to navigate using computer vision, and LG Electronics is announcing today it has built a 3D camera module that uses that technology to assist autonomous robots. Palo Alto, California-based Augmented Pixels, a computer vision research and development company, calls the technology SLAM, or simultaneous location and mapping. It is […]

LG uses Augmented Pixels’ sensor for better robot navigation and VR tracking

Augmented Pixels has created a new way to navigate using computer vision, and LG Electronics is announcing today it has built a 3D camera module that uses that technology to assist autonomous robots.

Palo Alto, California-based Augmented Pixels, a computer vision research and development company, calls the technology SLAM, or simultaneous location and mapping. It is targeting SLAM at robots, drones, AR, and VR.

The module can also be used for inside-out tracking for augmented reality and virtual reality headsets. That means that it figures out the position of the headset using a camera that is on the headset.

“Augmented Pixels currently has the fastest proprietary SLAM for mono and stereo cameras, as well as sensor fusion and technologies for autonomous navigation (obstacle avoidance, point cloud semantics, etc.) on the market,” said Vitaliy Goncharuk, CEO of Augmented…

Drone Takes Off With a Flick of the Wrist

One of the companion technologies in the developing field of augmented reality is gesture tracking. It’s one thing to put someone in a virtual or augmented world, but without a natural way to interact inside of it the user experience is likely to be limited. Of course, gestures can be used to control things in the real world as well, and to that end [Sarah]’s latest project uses this interesting human interface device to control a drone.

The project uses a Leap Motion sensor to detect and gather the gesture data, and feeds all of that information into…

AR/VR Weekly: Apple enters the fray

Apple VR demo

About time, Apple. Welcome to 2015.

This week at its Worldwide Developers Conference keynote, Apple finally jumped into the augmented and virtual reality world. ARKit is Apple’s tool for making AR applications, and it was the first of several announcements that show that the iPhone company is ready to take the next step into a larger world.

AR and VR could be a market that has more than 1 billion users and $60 billion in global revenues by 2021, tech adviser Digi-Capital estimates. And in a guest post for us, DC founder Tim Merel says that Apple “took the mobile AR war to the next level” with this announcement.

And Merel’s not the only one bullish on Apple and AR.

“With more than 130 million active iPhones in the U.S. alone and far less hardware/software fragmentation than Android, Apple’s move into AR stands to make it the largest player in the space virtually overnight. It will mint millions of new consumers for AR developers, all of whom have been shown the promise of the medium by Apple itself and are ready to see more,” says Randy Nelson of research firm Sensor Tower. “At the same time, the qualities that have made iOS the preferred platform for app developers will undoubtedly carry over to AR, so I believe Apple will make iOS the most attractive target platform possible for AR developers and content creators.”

And on the VR side, Valve says it’s bringing SteamVR to Macs. You’ll be able to play VR games on an HTC Vive or an Oculus Rift — though you may need an external graphics chip solution that Apple also announced (because, let’s face it, Macs just can’t cut VR without a little help, and Apple loves selling you accessories).

All of this has made game devs excited to see what comes from this new foray from the Mac maker.

I’m not so excited about VR coming to the Mac. I want to see something better than a slap-dash cobbling together of a Mac and an external video chip. Why do that when I can buy a VR-ready PC for less than $1,000 — or just hook up a headset to my powerful gaming rig? Yeah, my Air can keep being an email and Hearthstone machine.

But AR and iOS? That’s a dream team.

For AR/VR coverage, send news tips to Dean Takahashi and Jeff Grubb (for those that cross over into PC gaming). Please send guest post submissions to Rowan Kaiser….

Virtual reality tech may make ‘going shopping’ in real life a thing of the past

Virtual reality tech may make ‘going shopping’ in real life a thing of the past

High street shops are well-established online these days and provide new opportunities for interaction between shop and shopper. Consumers have become accustomed to shopping using a range of devices and the immense popularity of smartphones and mobile devices has led to the rise of mobile or m-retailing, with new communication and distribution channels created with these in mind. Perhaps this mix of the real and online worlds are helpful precursors for what may be the “next big thing”: virtual reality shopping.

Virtual reality (VR) experiences are typically provided through wearable headgear or goggles that block out the real world and immerse the user in a virtual one. This is distinguished from augmented reality (AR), where layers of digital content can be overlayed on the real world, providing access to both. For example, the digital information displayed on the visor of Google Glass.

Apps can provide ‘live’ augmented reality to try on superimposed accessories and clothes. Eawentling, CC BY-NC-SA

While AR can work with mobile devices and is already included in some apps, for VR to succeed the headgear needs to be comfortable, stylish and powered by sufficiently capable software so that the immersive visual effects are credible – and useful. It’s possible to add deeper engagement with the virtual world by incorporating other senses, for example tactile hand controls for handling and manipulating objects.

In-store tech

Magic mirrors, where how you’d like to look is projected onto your actual appearance. Intel[index company=intel], CC BY-SA

However, the use of technology by retailers in-store has been patchy. The availability of in-store Wi-Fi has increased, and some stores offer touchscreens and tablets for customers to browse and search for items and look up information. More common are video screens displaying fashion collections, often connected to apps offering inspirational looks. However more cutting edge tech, such as magic mirrors that overlay the image of…

Mobile AR could hit $60 billion by 2021 thanks to Apple and Facebook

The mobile AR platform war kicked off at F8 with Mark Zuckerberg’s proclamation that “we’re making the camera the first augmented reality platform.” That simple sentence transformed what had been a one-hit wonder in Pokémon Go into an epic battle between Facebook, Apple, Google, Tencent, Snap, Alibaba, Baidu, Samsung, Huawei and more. Apple’s announcement of its ARkit for iOS this week as “the largest AR platform in the world” took the mobile AR war to the next level. They’re fighting over a market that could hit over a billion users and $60 billion revenue globally by 2021 (as detailed in Digi-Capital’s new Mobile Augmented Reality Report).

Software is eating the (mobile AR) world

While folks were distracted by the prospect of an iPhone AR being launched by Apple, Facebook changed the game fundamentally by launching its mobile AR Platform. But Apple secretly had its own mobile AR software plans brewing ahead and countered with ARkit for iOS. So where mobile AR hardware from Apple, Samsung, Huawei and others could deliver an installed base over 400 million users by 2021, Facebook, Tencent, Apple, Snap and others could drive a mobile AR software user base in the hundreds of millions next year, and billions by 2021. Mobile AR software platforms could deliver over 4 times the number of users of dedicated mobile AR hardware.

All about that base

Some folks might be incredulous at these sorts of numbers. So let’s look at hard data on installed bases and conversion rates for the major players to get a sense of scale.

Facebook’s AR platform could be rolled out to Facebook Messenger’s 1.2 billion monthly active users, WhatsApp’s 1.2 billion MAU, and Instagram’s 700 million MAU. While it’s tempting to add these numbers together, significant overlap means that is too aggressive (i.e. Facebook doesn’t have 3.1 billion unique MAU). It’s more conservative to think about either Messenger or WhatsApp as a starting point for the number of unique users Facebook could try to migrate to its AR Platform. And Facebook knows what it’s doing when migrating users to new features. 15 percent of WhatsApp users use Status 10 weeks after launch, 29 percent of Instagram users use Stories less than a year after launch, and 54 percent of Instagram users use Direct 4 years after launch. Now that’s a growth curve.

But let’s not forget that Apple is expert when it comes to converting existing users to new software, with 86 percent of Apple’s nearly 700 million iPhones installing iOS 10 a year after launch. That’s a pretty compelling prospect for the rollout of ARkit.

Tencent has 846 million MAU for WeChat, and migrated 61 percent of them to use Moments every time they open WeChat 5 years after launch. While Tencent hasn’t formally announced its AR platform yet, it battled Alibaba in the mobile AR market earlier this year. Of Snap’s 300 million MAU, they’ve migrated 45 percent to Stories 4 years after launch. Snap doesn’t describe Lenses as mobile AR yet, but it’s still fighting a head-to-head battle with Facebook and Apple over mobile AR. And this is before considering LINE, Kakao, Snow, Baidu and more.

The platforms entering the mobile AR software market have billions of users. They’re great at migrating them to new features. If hard data is anything to go by, the only user numbers that make sense for mobile AR software platforms are big ones.

Hard wearing

We’ve been saying for the last 2 years Apple is…

Massless lets you write with a pen in virtual reality

Massless showed off a pen for writing in virtual reality. It was a nice surprise at the Augmented World Expo, where 212 companies showed their wares for VR and augmented reality.

It is a unique solution, and it shows that some things that are ordinary in the real world can be innovative and marvelous in the virtual world.

The Massless Pen allows you to point precisely at objects in VR, and it also lets you write in VR spaces. The pen uses VR to solve modelling challenges in animation, civil engineering, and mechanical engineering. It could enable better design, manipulation, review, and collaboration.

It is the brainchild of Jack Cohen, CEO of Massless, who believes it can bring the benefits of immersive VR to complex, precision 3D modelling applications. You can use it to navigate in an intuitive way, and it is accessible because everybody knows how to use a pen. The company is based in San Francisco and London.

Working with large 3D monitors on has always been slow and cumbersome on traditional 2D monitors. But in VR, you can rotate the models and understand them better, turning the images until you get the…

AR/VR Weekly: Buying stuff in VR without facing … reality

If free-to-play games are ever going to take root in virtual reality, they’re going to need a way for people to pay for sparkly outfits, extra energy, and other in-app purchases while still in VR. Looks like someone is working on that.

Worldpay is demoing a system to make payments in VR work. This could be a crucial step in not just helping games gain a stronger footing in VR but also enabling so much of its commercial potential as a virtual showroom. Imagine picking up a book in a digital bookstore, flipping through its VR pages, and then buying a copy for your e-reader of choice … or a good old-fashioned hardcover.

Or ordering red seats when buying a car in a VR showroom. Or seeing just how cool that electric nimbus will look on your character’s bow in an online VR game.

But none of this can happen without a way to pay for it. With a VR brouhaha brewing on mobile and more folks getting into VR broadcasting, it’s important that we find an easy way to make purchases without having to take the Rift off our head and face … a reality.

For AR/VR coverage, send news tips to Dean Takahashi and Jeff Grubb (for those that cross over into PC gaming). Please send guest post submissions to Rowan Kaiser. Please be sure to visit our AR/VR Channel.

—Jason Wilson, GamesBeat managing editor

P.S. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story screenwriter Gary Whitta has thoughts on VR that have nothing to do with a galaxy far, far away.

From GamesBeat

Samsung Gear AR VR Weekly

Virtual reality (VR) is one of the big breakout trends of the past few years, but the nascent technology faces some obstacles if it’s ever to truly go mainstream — and one of those is the lack of content. While the applications for VR in gaming are well understood, for the fledgling medium to reach scale it […]

Samsung Gear AR VR Weekly

I like to encourage an iterative approach to designing immersive games, which happens if developers and studios simply afford themselves the space and opportunity to experiment in order to discover how their concept can be designed with effective hooks that get players to play repeatedly. Earlier this month I published an article that…

The factions of the mobile AR war

Mark Zuckerberg’s “We’re making the camera the first augmented reality platform” was the most important step so far toward mass market AR. Where Pokémon Go gave many consumers their first taste of mobile AR, and Google Tango ushered in the race towards high end mobile AR phones, Facebook’s AR Platform now democratizes mobile AR regardless of hardware. Apple launching an AR enabled iPhone this year or next year could combine with Facebook to kick-start the mobile AR market at scale, and also be the final step towards the next great platform war. Consumers will win as usual, but there will be blood (as we detailed in Digi-Capital’s new Mobile Augmented Reality Report).

The platform question

Hardware and software platforms are so intertwined that it can be hard to tell the difference, and this has played in Apple’s favor for the last decade. But Apple, Samsung and other phone makers have done such a great job with existing hardware, that this may backfire for mobile AR. Facebook’s AR Platform, for example, has shown exactly how the major social and messaging platforms can play the game using nothing more than a standard smartphone camera. So while device manufacturers roll out new hardware to build an installed base for AR phones, established and startup social/messaging platforms could build a mobile AR ecosystem and user base in a fraction of the time at a fraction of the cost. They’ll also be able to leverage this advantage as dedicated AR phones come to market.

What is mobile AR anyway?

At one end Pokémon Go is what some industry insiders call “the best worst example of AR”, because its ambient mobile AR is pretty basic. Lovely graphics positioned approximately against the real world on your phone screen, using basic computer vision and positional tracking. Nonetheless it’s introduced mass consumers to mobile AR, and they’ve loved playing with it.

At the other end of the spectrum is Google Tango, with hardware based immersive mobile AR driven by integrated hardware and software. Without diving into the technical weeds, Tango phones enable accurate motion tracking, area learning and depth perception in a device that looks much like any other smartphone. The difference comes from a motion tracking camera, a depth sensing camera, an infrared projector, computer vision and Simultaneous Localization And Mapping software. So virtual objects superimposed on the real world appear as you would expect them to if they were really there. But Tango’s time is yet to come in terms of consumer awareness and app ecosystem (though Google, Lenovo and Asus are trying).

Facebook and Snap’s software-based immersive mobile AR is a serious contender, as it combines the ubiquity of ambient mobile AR with some of the computer vision and SLAM that previously required dedicated hardware. While Google Tango’s sensors enable heavier duty mobile AR apps, that’s not the problem Facebook and Snap are solving. By plugging immersive software based mobile AR into the largest consumer platforms on the planet, they’re democratizing mobile AR for everyone for free. And free is a good price point. This hasn’t escaped the notice of Tencent in China either. Mark Zuckerberg, Evan Spiegel and Pony Ma didn’t get to where they are by being dummies, and so it is with software based mobile AR.

The cool kids

There’s another factor in the democratization of mobile AR that Pokémon Go highlighted – demographics. Sixty-eight percent of Pokémon Go users are between 13 and 29 years old. Even though that came from a very specific set of circumstances, it is the largest sample set of mobile AR mass adoption to date.

For comparison in terms of major consumer platforms: Eighty-eight percent of Americans from 18 to 29 use Facebook (two-thirds of them use Messenger), 76 percent of U.S. teens own an iPhone (81 percent want their next phone to be one), 75 percent of WeChat users are between 20 and 30, and 60 percent of Snapchat users are between 13 and 24. Spot the pattern?

Mobile AR will be adopted by the young. Platforms that can scale…