zSpace and Unity Announces XR Resources for Education

Subject: General Tech | November 5, 2017 - 08:14 PM |
Tagged: Unity, zspace, xr, AR, VR

The Unity Educator Toolkit was created by Unity3D to integrate learning game development into the K-12 public curriculum. Now zSpace, which we’ve mentioned a few times, is joining in to the initiative with their mixed-reality platform. The company is known for creating displays that, when viewed with their glasses, track where you are and make the object appear to be in front of you. They also have a stylus that lets you interact with the virtual object.

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They are focused on the educational side of VR and AR.

It’s not entirely clear what this means, because a lot of the details are behind a sign-up process. That said, if you’re an educator, then check out the package to see if it’s relevant for you. Creating games is an interesting, albeit challenging and somewhat daunting, method of expressing oneself. Giving kids the tools to make little game jam-style expressions, or even using the technology in your actual lessons, will reach a new group of students.

Source: zSpace

Acer's take on a VR headset comes at a reasonable price

Subject: General Tech | August 2, 2017 - 12:55 PM |
Tagged: AR, acer

Acer's new mixed reality headset, is now available from the Microsoft Store.  The $300 price tag compares extremely favourably to the $3000 Hololens that Microsoft is selling.  The two headsets will both run on Windows Holographic and will have steep hardware requirements.  Acer recommends a Ryzen 8 1700 or Core i7 paired with at least an RX 480 or GTX 980 and 16GB of RAM.  The headset will not be able to overlay virtual images over real objects, hence the mixed reality moniker, rather it will be somewhat like a VR environment to work in.  Drop by The Inquirer for a peek.

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"The headset we tested in prototype last month is available to anyone looking to build content for it, for $300 a squirt. It had been made available in private beta to some devs back in April but now it's in the Microsoft Store."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

 

Source: The Inquirer

Move over HoloLens, enterprising new Glassholes are on the scene

Subject: General Tech | July 18, 2017 - 01:43 PM |
Tagged: hololens, AR, google glass, alphabet

Google Glass is back, but this time the users should be safely contained in manufacturing facilities and corporate buildings.  The initial launch lead to what many felt was a breach of public etiquette as there were many people who did not like the idea of being recorded with the AR glasses.  The new incarnation, Glass Enterprise Edition has an improved 8MP camera and a new red light that turns on when the glasses are recording video.  The WiFi bandwidth has been increased but Alphabet has not yet released the technical specifications publicly.  The Inquirer has a bit more information but nothing on the price, you will need to negotiate with Alphabet or one of it's partners to find that out, but you can expect it to be similar to the price of Microsoft's HoloLens.

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"This is good news, as it means you won't see glassholes wandering the streets in the space-age spectacles. Instead, Google Glass Enterprise Edition is being used by more than 50 businesses in the US, including AGCO, DHL, Dignity Health, NSF International, Sutter Health, The Boeing Company and Volkswagen. "

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: The Register

Qualcomm Partners with Bosch, OmniVision, and Ximmerse to Shore Up Mobile VR Sensors

Subject: Mobile | June 27, 2017 - 08:00 PM |
Tagged: xr, VR, qualcomm, google, daydream, AR

Qualcomm has put forward steady work on creating the vibrant hardware ecosystem for mobile VR to facilitate broad adoption of wireless, dedicated head mounted displays. Though the value of Samsung’s Gear VR and Google’s Daydream View cannot but overstated in moving the perception of consumer VR forward, the need to utilize your smart phone in a slot-in style design has its limitations. It consumes battery that you may require for other purposes, it limits the kinds of sensors that the VR system can utilize, and creates a sub-optimal form factor in order to allow for simple user installation.

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The Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 VR Reference Device

Qualcomm created the first standalone VR HMD reference design back in early 2016, powered by the Snapdragon 820 processor. Google partnered with Qualcomm at I/O to create the Daydream standalone VR headset reference design with the updated Snapdragon 835 Mobile Platform at its core, improving performance and graphical capability along the way. OEMs like Lenovo and HTC have already committed to Daydream standalone units, with Qualcomm at the heart of the hardware.

Qualcomm Technologies recently announced a HMD Accelerator Program (HAP) to help VR device manufacturers quickly develop premium standalone VR HMDs. At the core of this program is the standalone VR HMD reference design. It goes beyond a simple prototype device, offering a detailed reference design that allows manufacturers to apply their own customizations while utilizing our engineering, design, and experience in VR. The reference design is engineered to minimize software changes, hardware issues, and key component validation.

- Hugo Swart, Qualcomm Atheros, Inc.

As part of this venture, and to continue pushing the VR industry forward to more advanced capabilities like XR (extended reality, a merger of VR and AR), Qualcomm is announcing agreements with key component vendors aiming to tighten and strengthen the VR headset ecosystem.

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Hugo Swart, Senior Director, Product Management, Qualcomm Atheros, Inc.

Ximmerse has built a high-precision and drift-free controller for VR applications that offers low latency input and 3DoF (3 degrees of freedom) capability. This can “provide just about any interaction, such as pointing, selecting, grabbing, shooting, and much more. For precise 6 DoF positional tracking of your head, tight integration is required between the sensor fusion processing (Snapdragon) and the data from both the camera and inertial sensors.”

Bosch Sensortec has the BMX055 absolute orientation sensor that performs the function that its name would imply: precisely locating the user in the real world and tracking movement via accelerometer, gyroscope, and magnetometer.

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Finally, OmniVision integrates the OV9282 which is a 1MP high speed shutter image sensor for feature tracking.

These technologies, paired with the work Qualcomm has already done for the Snapdragon 835 VR Development Kit, including on the software side, is an important step to the growth of this segment of the market. I don’t know of anyone that doesn’t believe standalone, wireless headsets are the eventual future of VR and AR and the momentum created by Qualcomm, Google, and others continues its steady pace of development.

Source: Qualcomm

Yungchin Realty Group Partners with iStaging

Subject: General Tech | May 27, 2017 - 10:11 PM |
Tagged: xr, VR, mr, istaging, AR

iStaging is virtual-, augmented-, and mixed-reality company that focuses on the real estate, interior design, furniture, and related industries. The news that lead to this post is that Yungching Realty Group, based out of Taiwan, has partnered with iStaging to enhance their real estate business with VR and AR. The demo that they are showing at their press conference was a virtual street, which presented information about restaurants, schools, and other points of interest for someone researching the neighborhood.

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I’d expect our audience is more interested in the technology side of this, although let us know in the comments (or via email – my address is in my author page linked on the byline) if you’re interested in the enterprise / real-estate side. From the technology standpoint, it’s interesting to see applications like these push high-end graphics into more and more businesses, large and small. Likewise, these applications give a stable income that XR technology companies (ex: HTC Vive) can rely upon while they find a foothold in fickle, but potentially lucrative consumer market.

Lastly, I’m curious what applications will be possible when another round of innovation learns from this generation. What does this enable, even if only by expanding what people think is possible?

Definitely something to think about.

Source: iStaging

Move Over Nintendo Power GLove!

Subject: General Tech | March 29, 2017 - 09:04 PM |
Tagged: CaptoGlove, AR, VR, gaming, controller, bluetooth 4.0, BTLE 4.0, glove

There’s a new sheriff in town!  The jauntily named “CaptoGlove” promises to be a true game and VR controller in a handy glove.  Originally developed some five years ago by an Italian air force pilot for his recovering father, he has continued development of the unit so it is actually a useful game controller with a precise 3D space positioning system.  Codeveloped with the Reusch group in Italy, the CaptoGlove looks to be a pretty polished piece of gaming equipment useful in a wide variety of applications.

The glove features 10 degrees of freedom and a variety of potential actuations.  The glove caries about 10 hours of charge and can be quickly recharged.  It features Bluetooth Low Energy 4.0 connectivity.  It is essentially plug and play and the user can assign functions to the different fingers.

capto_01.png

It is a somewhat stylish looking product, which is not surprising given that Reusch has been making sporting gloves for some 80 years.  The material looks robust and should last a long, long time.  There are no details about replacing the battery, in fact many of the specifications about the glove are still unknown.  It does look to be a pretty dextrous implementation that supersedes products coming before it.

This glove is on Kickstarter and they have almost achieved their goal in the past 6 days.  A single glove will be $160 through the Kickstarter and a pair will run $299.  The highest level includes two extra sensors that allow even more precision with gaming and VR/AR, but that comes at a steep $599.

capto_02.png

The gloves have been tested with all kinds of games and functionality is good.  The videos that CaptoGlove show off have decent performance and accuracy in many titles.  Currently there is no force feedback enabled nor announced.  This is not to say that it won’t show up in the future, but this first generation consumer product still has plenty of functionality to keep people interested.

AR/VR applications show the most promise for CaptoGlove.  It has been tested with all of the major projects out there and seems to work fine.  I will be very curious how well it works in applications like Tilt Brush!  If eventually they make a haptic version of the glove, it could be a killer application for it.

The Kickstart continues for the next 25 days and there are still many interesting bundles to be had.

Dubai Future Accelerator Program Backs zSpace

Subject: General Tech | March 28, 2017 - 09:54 PM |
Tagged: zspace, VR, AR

A few weeks ago, we posted about an education company that joined the Khronos Group’s OpenXR Working Group for VR and AR APIs. As I mentioned at the time, I have a personal interest in education technologies, due in part to my background before joining PC Perspective. While the education field is in need of more than just technology, companies like zSpace are building infrastructure to deliver information in new and more varied ways, which will hopefully reach more students (and reach the rest more deeply).

As for the news: after the previous post, zSpace followed up to let us know that they’ve been accepted into the Dubai Future Accelerators (DFA) program. This is a fairly large (hundreds of millions of dollars, USD) investment fund that primarily focuses on their amount of innovation. The fund has a handful of “challenge” areas, such as health and water / electricity, that are considered for the “public good” and thus eligible. I’m guessing zSpace qualified under “Knowledge and Human Development Authority” but their press release doesn’t elaborate.

Previously accepted companies, according to Forbes, are Honeywell and Hyperloop.

I'm not sure how much of our audience is focused in the education / IT sector, so let us know in the comments if you found this follow-up relevant to you. (PC Perspective allows anonymous comments, so you don't have to jump through too many hoops to leave your opinion.)

Source: zSpace

CES 2017: Qualcomm and ODG Announce AR Smartglasses Powered by Snapdragon 835

Subject: General Tech | January 3, 2017 - 09:10 PM |
Tagged: VR, SoC, snapdragon 835, qualcomm, processor, mobile, CES 2017, CES, AR

Qualcomm Technologies, Inc and ODG (Osterhout Design Group) have announced that the R-8 and R-9 smartglasses will be the first devices powered by the new Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 SoC. ODG is a developer of "mobile headworn computing and augmented reality technologies and products", and these new models leverage the reduced size and thermal requirements of the new Snapdragon 835 processor.

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The R-8 smartglasses, seated next to a glass mug for scale

"The premium Snapdragon 835 processor was designed from the ground-up to support new and innovative products and experiences beyond mobile phones, and it’s great to see that the first announced Snapdragon 835 devices will be ODG’s smartglasses," said Raj Talluri, senior vice president, product management, Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. "Thermal dissipation on a heavy compute but small device is very difficult so higher power efficiency is a must. The Snapdragon 835 processor, with our unique SoC design expertise on a 10nm process node, enables ODG to meet their design goals and develop lighter, smaller and sleeker smartglasses that take advantage of the new processor’s superior performance and power efficiency."

ODG-R9-Scale.jpg

The R-9 smartglasses

The Snapdragon-powered R-8 smartglasses are "lighter, smaller and sleeker than any other device in ODG’s portfolio", which should make their use a more attractive option for those interested in AR, VR, and Mixed Reality overlay capabilities. For their part the larger R-9 smartglasses are "based on ODG’s award-winning 50° FOV and 1080p Project Horizon platform". The company's previous smartglasses, the R-7, were powered by a Snapdragon 801 SoC.

Coverage of CES 2017 is brought to you by NVIDIA!

PC Perspective's CES 2017 coverage is sponsored by NVIDIA.

Follow all of our coverage of the show at https://pcper.com/ces!

Source: Qualcomm

IDF 2016: Intel Project Alloy Promises Untethered VR and AR Experiences

Subject: General Tech, Processors, Displays, Shows and Expos | August 16, 2016 - 01:50 PM |
Tagged: VR, virtual reality, project alloy, Intel, augmented reality, AR

At the opening keynote to this summer’s Intel Developer Forum, CEO Brian Krzanich announced a new initiative to enable a completely untether VR platform called Project Alloy. Using Intel processors and sensors the goal of Project Alloy is to move all of the necessary compute into the headset itself, including enough battery to power the device for a typical session, removing the need for a high powered PC and a truly cordless experience.

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This is indeed the obvious end-game for VR and AR, though Intel isn’t the first to demonstrate a working prototype. AMD showed the Sulon Q, an AMD FX-based system that was a wireless VR headset. It had real specs too, including a 2560x1440 OLED 90Hz display, 8GB of DDR3 memory, an AMD FX-8800P APU with R7 graphics embedded. Intel’s Project Alloy is currently using unknown hardware and won’t have a true prototype release until the second half of 2017.

There is one key advantage that Intel has implemented with Alloy: RealSense cameras. The idea is simple but the implications are powerful. Intel demonstrated using your hands and even other real-world items to interact with the virtual world. RealSense cameras use depth sensing to tracking hands and fingers very accurately and with a device integrated into the headset and pointed out and down, Project Alloy prototypes will be able to “see” and track your hands, integrating them into the game and VR world in real-time.

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The demo that Intel put on during the keynote definitely showed the promise, but the implementation was clunky and less than what I expected from the company. Real hands just showed up in the game, rather than representing the hands with rendered hands that track accurately, and it definitely put a schism in the experience. Obviously it’s up to the application developer to determine how your hands would actually be represented, but it would have been better to show case that capability in the live demo.  

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Better than just tracking your hands, Project Alloy was able to track a dollar bill (why not a Benjamin Intel??!?) and use it to interact with a spinning lathe in the VR world. It interacted very accurately and with minimal latency – the potential for this kind of AR integration is expansive.

Those same RealSense cameras and data is used to map the space around you, preventing you from running into things or people or cats in the room. This enables the first “multi-room” tracking capability, giving VR/AR users a new range of flexibility and usability.

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Though I did not get hands on with the Alloy prototype itself, the unit on-stage looked pretty heavy, pretty bulky. Comfort will obviously be important for any kind of head mounted display, and Intel has plenty of time to iterate on the design for the next year to get it right. Both AMD and NVIDIA have been talking up the importance of GPU compute to provide high quality VR experiences, so Intel has an uphill battle to prove that its solution, without the need for external power or additional processing, can truly provide the untethered experience we all desire.

Lenovo's PHAB2 Family Features Project Tango-Powered PHAB2 Pro

Subject: Mobile | June 9, 2016 - 02:30 PM |
Tagged: Snapdragon 652, smartphone, project tango, phablet, PHAB2, Lenovo, augmented reality, AR

Lenovo has unveiled the PHAB2 family at their Lenovo Tech World event today, featuring the PHAB2 Pro, a phablet-sized mobile device powered by Google's Project Tango (now simply Google Tango) augmented-reality technology.

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Lenovo PHAB2 Pro (Image credit: Lenovo)

“Unlike any other phone, the PHAB2 Pro, powered by Tango technology – a set of sensors and software from Google that senses and maps its surroundings – makes a host of cutting-edge smartphone augmented reality (AR) experiences possible. For example, using AR apps, students can place true-to-scale virtual dinosaurs in their classrooms and enhance their learning through AR data overlays that appear while they walk around the creatures. AR gaming experiences let you play virtual dominos on your kitchen table, raise a digital pet in your bedroom and fight back swarms of aliens invading your house.

With Tango technology PHAB2 Pro can even begin to change the way people think about mapping indoor spaces to create new experiences like future augmented reality museum tours via the GuidiGO app. With Tango, PHAB2 Pro offers unprecedented experiences on a smartphone that will continually learn and improve.”

The large phablet devices are full smartphones, not just small tablets, and the three models offer widely varying specs with significant improvements in each successive model. We'll begin by looking at the base configuration.

Lenovo PHAB2

PHAB2.jpg

The PHAB2 (Image credit: Lenovo)

  • Display: 6.4-inch HD (1280x720) IPS
  • Processor: MediaTek MTK 8735 Quad-Core Processor
  • Memory: 3 GB
  • Storage: 32 GB (expandable up to 128 GB via microSD)
  • Sound: Triple Array Microphone with
  • Active Noise-Cancellation; Dolby Atmos + Dolby Audio Capture 5.1
  • Camera:
    • Rear: 13 MP PDAF Fast-Focus
    • Front: 5 MP 85° Wide Angle
  • Battery: 4050 mAh

Next up is the PHAB2 Plus, which improves on the base model's display, SoC, and particularly the cameras:

“The PHAB2 Plus comes with two 13MP rear cameras that have instant focus, fast f1.8 lenses and the same professional-grade Futjitsu Milbeaut image signal processor that powers the Leica camera.”

Lenovo PHAB2 Plus

PHAB2 Plus.jpg

The PHAB2 Plus (Image credit: Lenovo)

  • Display: 6.4-inch FHD (1920x1080) IPS
  • Processor: MediaTek MTK 8783 Octa-Core Processor
  • Memory: 3 GB
  • Storage: 32 GB (expandable up to 128 GB via microSD)
  • Sound: Triple Array Microphone with Active Noise-Cancellation; Dolby Atmos + Dolby Audio Capture 5.1
  • Cameras:
    • Rear: 13 MP Dual Camera Milbeaut ISP, F2.0 Aperture, 1.34 Big Pixel, Laser Focus with PDAF Light Supplement
    • Front: 8 MP Fixed-Focus, F2.2 Aperture, 1.4 μm Big Pixel, Light Supplement
  • Battery: 4050 mAh

Next up we have the PHAB2 Pro, the flagship of the lineup, which moves to a Qualcomm Snapdragon SoC from the MediaTek chips in the first two phones, and offers a higher screen resolution and (most importantly for this launch) Google Tango support - the first product equipped with this AR technology.

Lenovo PHAB2 Pro

PHAB2 Pro.jpg

The PHAB2 Pro (Image credit: Lenovo)

  • Display: 6.4-inch QHD (2560x1440) IPS Assertive Display
  • Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 652 Processor Built for Tango
  • Memory: 4 GB
  • Storage: 64 GB (expandable up to 128 GB via microSD)
  • Sound: Triple Array Microphone with Active Noise-Cancellation; Dolby Atmos + Dolby Audio Capture 5.1
  • Cameras:
    • Rear: 16 MP PDAF Fast-Focus, Depth Sensor for Tango, Motion Tracking Sensor for Tango
    • Front: 8 MP Fixed-Focus, F2.2 Aperture, 1.4 μm Big Pixel
  • Battery: 4050 mAh

There will be a retail presence in the U.S. for the PHAB2 Pro, with Best Buy confirmed as an outlet for the Google Tango device. Additionally, in a move that is perplexing at first, the PHAB2 Pro will be featured for sale in Lowe's home improvement stores. (Wait, what?) A move which actually makes sense once you’ve read Lenovo’s press release:

“Homeowners can also now use their PHAB2 Pro to remodel their homes by visualizing real home furnishings in their living rooms and kitchens. Home improvement company Lowe’s is one of the first partners to develop a Tango-enabled application, Lowe’s Vision. The app empowers customers by leveraging Tango technology to measure spaces and visualize how products like appliances and décor, or materials like countertops or backsplash tile, will all look and fit together in a room. With Lowe’s Vision, customers will be able to control a new generation of augmented reality tools with a mere tap of the finger.”

As to pricing, the base PHAB2 has an MSRP of $199, the PHAB2 Plus moves up to $299, and the PHAB2 Pro will be $499. Availability set for September of this year.

Source: Lenovo