Mozilla is hoping you don't want to live in a material world

Subject: General Tech | April 5, 2018 - 02:19 PM |
Tagged: mozilla, firefox reality, VR, AR

Mozilla is working on Firefox Reality, a browser with an interface specifically designed for AR and VR interaction.  The source code for the browser is available already, you can follow the link to Github on The Register.  It is early days yet and the demo is unlikely to reflect what we will see as this project matures.  The demo shows a web interface being controlled by a virtual hand, similar to what we have seen in VR games but there is a little trickery involved as some of the transitions are unclear and there is no indication of how to type in an URL.  Navigating via bookmarks and links will be easy to implement and interface with but the real hurdle for utility will be typing.

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"Mozilla has decided the world needs a browser designed for augmented and mixed reality goggles."

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Source: The Register

GDC 2018: Qualcomm Talks Future of VR and AR with Upcoming Dev Kit

Subject: General Tech | March 21, 2018 - 09:20 AM |
Tagged: xr, VR, Tobii, qualcomm, HMD, GDC 2018, GDC, eye-tracking, developers, dev kit, AR

We have recently covered news of Qualcomm's ongoing VR/AR efforts (the two terms now combine as "XR", for eXtended reality), with news of the Snapdragon 845-powered reference HMD and more recently the collaboration with Tobii to bring eye-tracking to the Qualcomm development platform. Today at GDC Qualcomm is mapping out their vision for the future of XR, and providing additional details about the Snapdragon 845 dev kit - and announcing support for the HTC Vive Wave SDK.

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From Qualcomm:

For the first time, many new technologies that are crucial for an optimal and immersive VR user experience will be supported in the Snapdragon 845 Virtual Reality Development Kit. These include:

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  • Room-scale 6DoF SLAM: The Snapdragon 845 Virtual Reality Development Kit is engineered to help VR developers create applications that allow users to explore virtual worlds, moving freely around in a room, rather than being constrained to a single viewing position. Un-tethered mobile VR experiences like these can benefit from the Snapdragon 845 Virtual Reality Development Kit’s pre-optimized hardware and software for room-scale six degrees of freedom (6DoF) with “inside-out” simultaneous localization and mapping (SLAM). All of this is designed to be accomplished without any external setup in the room by the users, and without any cables or wires.
  • Qualcomm® Adreno™ Foveation: Our eyes are only able to observe significant details in a very small center of our field of vision - this region is called the “fovea”. Foveated rendering utilizes this understanding to boost performance & save power, while also improving visual quality. This is accomplished through multiple technology advancements for multi-view, tile-based foveation with eye-tracking and fine grain preemption to help VR application developers deliver truly immersive visuals with optimal power efficiency.

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  • Eye Tracking: Users naturally convey intentions about how and where they want to interact within virtual worlds through their eyes. Qualcomm Technologies worked with Tobii AB to develop an integrated and optimized eye tracking solution for the Snapdragon 845 VR Development Kit. The cutting-edge eye tracking solution on Snapdragon 845 VR Development Kit is designed to help developers utilize Tobii’s EyeCore™ eye tracking algorithms to create content that utilizes gaze direction for fast interactions, and superior intuitive interfaces.
  • Boundary System: The new SDK for the Snapdragon 845 VR Development Kit supports a boundary system that is engineered to help VR application developers accurately visualize real-world spatial constraints within virtual worlds, so that their applications can effectively manage notifications and play sequences for VR games or videos, as the user approaches the boundaries of the real-world play space.

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In addition to enhancing commercial reach for the VR developer community, Qualcomm Technologies is excited to announce support for the HTC Vive Wave™ VR SDK on the Snapdragon 845 Virtual Reality Development Kit, anticipated to be available later this year. The Vive Wave™ VR SDK is a comprehensive tool set of APIs that is designed to help developers create high-performance, Snapdragon-optimized content across diverse hardware vendors at scale, and offer a path to monetizing applications on future HTC Vive ready products via the multi-OEM Viveport™ application store.

The Snapdragon 845 HMD/dev kit and SDK are expected to be available in Q2 2018.

Source: Qualcomm

Tobii and Qualcomm Announce Collaboration on Mobile VR Headsets with Eye-Tracking

Subject: General Tech | March 16, 2018 - 09:45 AM |
Tagged: xr, VR, Tobii, snapdragon 845, qualcomm, mobile, HMD, head mounted display, eye tracking, AR, Adreno 630

Tobii and Qualcomm's collaboration in the VR HMD (head-mounted display) space is a convergence of two recent stories, with Tobii's impressing showing of a prototype HMD device at CES featuring their eye-tracking technology, and Qualcomm's unvieling last month of their updated mobile VR platform, featuring the new Snapdragon 845.

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The Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 Mobile VR Reference Platform

What does this new collaboration mean for the VR industry? For now it means a new reference design and dev kit with the latest tech from Tobii and Qualcomm:

"As a result of their collaboration, Tobii and Qualcomm are creating a full reference design and development kit for the Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 Mobile VR Platform, which includes Tobii's EyeCore eye tracking algorithms and hardware design. Tobii will license its eye tracking technologies and system and collaborate with HMD manufacturers on the optical solution for the reference design."

The press release announcing this collaboration recaps the benefits of Tobii eye tracking in a mobile VR/AR device, which include:

  • Foveated Rendering: VR/AR devices become aware of where you are looking and can direct high-definition graphics processing power to that exact spot in real time. This enables higher definition displays, more efficient devices, longer battery life and increased mobility.
  • Interpupillary Distance: Devices automatically orient images to align with your pupils. This enables devices to adapt to the individual user, helping to increase the visual quality of virtual and augmented reality experiences.
  • Hand-Eye Coordination: By using your eyes in harmony with your hands and associated controllers, truly natural interaction and immersion, not possible without the use of gaze, is realized.
  • Interactive Eye Contact: Devices can accurately track your gaze in real time, enabling content creators to express one of the most fundamental dimensions of human interaction – eye contact. VR technologies hold the promise of enabling a new and immersive medium for social interaction. The addition of true eye contact to virtual reality helps deliver that promise.

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Tobii's prototype eye-tracking HMD

For its part, Qualcomm's Snapdragon 845-powered VR mobile platform promises greater portability of a better VR experience, with expanded freedom on top of the improved graphics horsepower from the new Adreno 630 GPU in the Snapdragon 845. This portability includes 6DoF (6 degrees of freedom) using external cameras to identify location within a room, eliminating the need for external room sensors.

"Together, 6DoF and SLAM deliver Roomscale - the ability to track the body and location within a room so you can freely walk around your XR environment without cables or separate room sensors – the first on a mobile standalone device. Much of this is processed on the new dedicated Qualcomm Hexagon Digital Signal Processor (DSP) and Adreno Graphics Processing Unit within the Snapdragon 845. Qualcomm Technologies’ reference designs have supported some of the first wave of standalone VR devices from VR ecosystem leaders like Google Daydream, Oculus and Vive."

It is up to developers, and consumer interest in VR moving forward, to see what this collaboration will produce. To editorialize briefly, from first-hand experience I can vouch for the positive impact of eye-tracking with an HMD, and if future products live up to the promise of a portable, high-performance VR experience (with a more natural feel from less rapid head movement) a new generation of VR enthusiasts could be born.

Source: PR Newswire

Intel flaunts their Vaunt and its fricking laser beams

Subject: General Tech | February 6, 2018 - 11:40 AM |
Tagged: Intel, vaunt, AR

Intel recently showed off a prototype of their Vaunt smart glasses, which have a significant advantage over Google's failed Glass, no visible camera.   Instead these glasses fire a laser into your eyeholes, something you usually are told to avoid but in this case should be perfectly safe.  The laser projects small monochrome images or text at the bottom of your field of vision, which does not interfere with your line of sight and is mostly invisible until you look down.  So far the amount of information able to be displayed is limited on the prototype and it is a long way off of hitting the market so you should expect changes.  If you have some sort of minor vision problem, The Inquirer assures us that you will still be able to see the information the Vaunt displays.

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"Instead, the Vaunt glasses use a low-powered class one laser to project a monochrome 400x150 resolution image on to the retina of your eye. Yeah, if you find eyes queasy you might want to get yourself a cup of tea."

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Source: The Inquirer

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."

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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. "

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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.

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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.

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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.