In this new segment, we bring you the last week’s highlights from within the immersive tech industry.
First up this week it’s Facebook, again. Only this time we’re talking about Augmented reality rather than virtual reality. It was officially announced last week at the connect conference that Facebook have entered into a multiyear deal with optics giant Luxottica, who are better known as the owners of brands such as Oakley and Ray Bans to name a few. The deal will see the two companies work closely together to create a pair of consumer focused augmented reality glasses. The pairing was actually first reported last year, with tentative product release dates of 2023, 24 or 2025 at the latest, however, last week Zuckerberg announced that a consumer release will be coming in 2021. We’re assuming the quicker turnaround time is in order to get there before Apple as they’ve also been making a fair bit of noise recently about a pair of smart wearables powered by the iPhone.
Mark Zuckerberg also announced that Facebook plans to start ‘Project Aria’ this month. It’s a research device that looks like a pair of chunky black rimmed glasses that gather all sorts of useful real world data that can be used in the development of consumer products.
Project Aria will be worn by Facebook employees around the campus and out in public. The glasses themselves don’t actually have AR capabilities but are able to capture video, audio, location, and eye-tracking data. Andrew Bosworth, Facebook’s head of hardware was quick to point out that sensitive data such as identifiable faces and licence plates will be scrubbed and areas such as restrooms will be strictly off limits.
AR wearables such as the Hololens from Microsoft and the Magic Leap device are already proving extremely popular as enterprise tools but facebook's development of a consumer device will surely be a game-changer for the mainstream public and I’m very excited to experience the results.
ROUND AND ROUND
Next up we’re sticking with augmented reality, but AR with a twist. Up until a year or so ago reliable AR experiences had to be distributed through native smartphone apps. And although these experiences would often deliver extremely engaging content, it always required a user to download files onto their devices. Then along came Web AR which enables augmented reality experiences directly through a browser. To start with the technology was a little clumsy and tracking was far from perfect but things are different now! 8th wall is one of the pioneers within the industry. They produce a platform that enables the creation of web-based experiences and they do a very good job if it. Companies such as Kellogs, Adidas, LEGO, and RedBull have utilised the technology to engage with their customers.
This week they announced that the technology is now able to track curved objects such as bottles, coffee cups, and cans. Bringing cylindrical and conical image targets to the web was a highly requested feature from developers in order to meet the massive demand from consumer brands looking to use AR to engage their customers with their product, without the need to download an app. Developers are now able to target multiple regions on the same product and combine flat and curved image targets.
The world of AR is becoming more accessible and more engaging as companies like 8th Wall push the boundaries that enable content creators and brands to do amazing things!
To find out more visit 8thwall.com
And finally this week we want to highlight an amazing technical advancement from ULTRALEAP, the team behind the LEAP motion sensor. Last week saw the official release of the Stereo IR 170 hand tracking module. The device formally known as the Rigel has been made widely available as an evaluation kit. We’ve had our hands on the product (excuse the pun) for a few months now while integrating it into our XIST free roam VR system and I must say that it has instantly noticeable improvements over the LEAP Motion.
The device itself is an infrared camera that is able to pick up the shape of a hand and fingers enabling fully accurate hand tracking as well as used for gesture controls. This means that it can be paired with a VR headset doing away with the need for controllers and creating an additional sense of realism.
The technology has been integrated into the VARJO VR-2 Pro headset, a leader in the industrial grade VR/XR headset category. The headset already has human eye resolution so required the absolute best in hand tracking technology. The stereo IR 170 uses Ultraleap’s hand tracking software, it has a 170 degree by 170-degree field of view and a longer tracking range than the company's previous device.
The kit is supplied in a plastic case with a USB header for easy plug and play evaluation, however, the camera module can be integrated directly into a 3rd party device. The IR 170 is already embedded not only in the VARJO headset but also in the Pimax hand tracking module, Dreamcraft’s twilight saga midnight ride attraction, and the aforementioned XIST free roam VR system.
If you’re interested in getting your hands on one of these to see what it’s capable of simply head on over to ultraleap.com