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April 23, 2018

Military augmented reality

Military augmented reality

In the past we reported in the past how AR is being used to reduce the maintenance skills gap in the US armed forces. So it should come as no surprise that even while AR struggles to get a foothold in the overpriced civilian market that military augmented reality technology is still going strong.

According to a 124-page report published by Research and Markets, the world’s military will spend about $1.79 billion on AR by December 1, 2025. Going back only as far as last year, the figure for 2017 was $511 million. This marks a compound growth rate of 17.4% per annum over an eight year span.

The report - Military Augmented Reality Market to 2025 – Global Analysis and Forecasts by Components, Product Type & Functions - takes both a broad and a detailed look at how developments in augmented reality is having an impact on the military.


Of course, one of the key differences between the military and civilian sectors is that price is no object to the military. In contrast, all but the wealthiest would balk at a set of AR goggles costing $3000. But that is peanuts for the military.

The key piece of military augmented reality hardware for the military is the so-called “heads-up” display: a Head Mounted Display (HMD). This enables the wearer to see the real-world about them, while at the same time, supplying the kind of data that would normally appear on a screen. Thus the wearer need never look down, or take their eyes off the surrounding environment. In the military, this is called “situational awareness”.

The main piece of data that military personnel need, while in the field, is navigational data. But they need to be aware of the presence and location of hostile forces and other dangers (e.g. land mines) at the same time.

Besides navigational data, heads-up displays can be used to supply information from HQ or other units, field orders, status updates, etc. This can facilitate better coordination between land, air and sea combat and intelligence units.

Military augmented reality in Future warfare

Future warfare

Old and new players

However, the most important and compelling use of military augmented reality is to assist combat units with rapid friend-foe identification. This is a vital component of combat readiness in order to avoid the horrendous mishap of friendly fire - which both costs lives and is extremely damaging to combat morale and national consensus.

But it is not just the big boys like the USA, Russia and China that are procuring these military augmented reality systems. It's not even just hi-tech countries with advanced military needs, like Israel and South Korea. On the contrary, hi-tech but recently peaceful Japan, oil-rich Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are buying into the new military technology.


And even less wealthy countries are getting in on the act. For example, South American market leaders like Brazil and Mexico, and third-world but populace India. Not to be outdone, the United States Defense Department is putting increased financial resources into military augmented reality technology, specifically to facilitate heads-up navigation.

One of the core technologies being developed for the US military is BARS (Battlefield Augmented Reality Systems). This development is being spearheaded by the Advanced Information Technology of Naval Research Laboratory. They are working in collaboration with Columbia University on this project.

But other companies such as the old mainframe computer manufacturers and some of the new hi-tech players are also getting in on the act. Companies mentioned in the report include: BAE Systems, Applied Research Associates, Inc, Google (now a subsidiary of Alphabet), Osterhout Design Group and Six15 Technologies.

But what is significant in this report, is that while the US and Canada remain the biggest procurers of military augmented reality, it is likely that their combined percentage share of the market will drop from its 2017 level of 70%.

October 12, 2017

The 5 Best Augmented Reality Glasses for Christmas 2018

Smart glasses

The big rush to release all sorts of products - and even mere announcements - in the field of Augmented Reality - can only mean one thing: Christmas is fast approaching. All the big companies, and many of the little ones, want to stake their claims to a share of this rich and fertile market. The trouble is, not many of them actually have a product.

A little backpedaling is necessary here. Many years ago - decades in fact - there was a headset that consisted of a small display that sat a couple of inches from one-eye and created a virtual image of a screen in front of one eye. The screen was monochrome (red specifically) and the image was produced by red LEDs that scanned up and down very rapidly. The product was never really a success, whether because of the price or because it was monochrome.

But now as augmented reality slowly but steadily hits the market, it looks like a case of plus ce change, plus la meme chose. Accordingly, in this review and comparison, we take a look at some of the new crop of augmented reality products and offer our recommendations.

Vufine+ AR Glasses

1_Vufine+ - 1

Vufine+ AR Glasses

Funded by a Kickstarter campaign, the Vufine+ is a wearable display that connects to your glasses, or the plain glass pair that comes with the display, if you don’t wear glasses. It creates a 720p virtual screen 4 inches across, about 12 inches from your eye, either in your principal line of sight or just below it. Okay, 4 inches might seem small, but it is no different to all but the biggest mobile phone displays and at about the same distance or less.

It can be connected via a micro-to full HDMI cable to a smartphone, computer, camera or drone. The unit is basically a Liquid Crystal on Silicon (LCOS) projector that projects the image onto your eye. It has three degrees of freedom: up-down, tilt, left-right.

The unit comes with a magnetic docking station, so that it can be attached to the glasses when needed and put in your pocket when you don’t, without having to remove the glasses or fiddle with them extensively. It also comes with a standard (non-magnetic) docking station and a carrying case. Best of all, it comes in both left-handed and right handed configurations (or rather left eye and right eye) and is available in the US and Britain. And because we are coming up to Christmas, it can be gift wrapped.

There are three viewing modes: Standard (for unaltered 16:9 viewing), Fit (for 33% increased landscape viewing in 4:3) and Zoom (for 77% increased portrait viewing in 4:3). The stated runtime from the internal battery is 90 minutes, which we found to be about right. We would have hoped for longer as it is a small device, but that of course also limits the room for batteries. However, while the makers claim that the resolution is clear enough for both video and text, we found that it fell considerably short in the text department. It is just too small and at this resolution can’t be read.

While it can in theory attach to any glasses, if the glasses frame is light (or loose fitting) it can pull down on one side, so you might have to use a counterweight. You can also purchase a separate hat or head mount, if you prefer this to mounting the unit on glasses.

In practical usage, this unit is extremely versatile. You can use it as an alternative smartphone screen to protect your privacy when viewing sensitive (or embarrassing) content. You can use it as an alternative screen for close-up or macro photography, when you need to get the camera into an awkward position but are unable - or unwilling - to squeeze your head and torso into that awkward position.

Perhaps the most obvious and enjoyable usage is when flying a drone. Instead of merely watching the drone, you can see where what the drone’s camera sees. If you try this through a mobile phone or laptop, you face the dilemma of whether to look up at the drone or down at the screen. It is very hard to do both simultaneously. But with the Vufine+ it’s a breeze! You just look up at the drone with both eyes and see what the drone’s camera sees on the virtual display through one eye, just below your main line of sight.

You can also use it as a virtual cinema. Although it may not be fully immersive, there are times and circumstances when you need to be aware of your surroundings, but still want to enjoy a private viewing of a movie. This is the ideal solution. And unlike viewing the movie on your smartphone, you do not have to worry about the issue of aching arms from holding the phone out in front of you.

Another obvious use, is for working on-the-go. It is lighter than a laptop or even a tablet. Now of course, you still need to input data, whether it be on a keyboard, screen keyboard or phone. But by using the Vufine as the screen, you can keep the phone or tablet on your lap and enter data, without having to stare at the phone or tablet screen. Of course, it would be nice if you could type your input on a virtual keyboard in mid-air - and also nice if the unit was cordless - but you can’t have everything. Not yet, anyway.

VERDICT: Promising AR glasses, at a credible price.

Vuzix M100 Smart Glasses

Smart glasses

Vuzix M100 Smart Glasses

Vuzix describes these Smart Glasses as “an Android-based wearable computer.” In addition to pre-installed apps, it features an integrated 5-megapixel camera (16:9 ratio) that can capture stills and 1080p video. It has Bluetooth 4.00 connectivity for pairing with other Android devices, 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi, 1GB or RAM and 4GB of flash storage - expandable to 32GB.

The M100 does not have its own phone connection. To use it as a phone you would have to pair it with an Android phone or iPhone. However, it is packed with pretty much everything else you can think of: 

  • Integrated 3-degree of freedom head tracker (gyro, accelerometer, magnetometer),
  • 3 DOF gesture sensor (L/R, U/D, N/F)
  • Ambient light sensor
  • Proximity sensor
  • GPS
  • WQVGA 24-bit color display (also 16:9 and 2000 Nits brightness) This looks like a 21-inch screen at 4 meters with a 42 pixels per degree.
  • Noise cancelling microphone
  • Voice recognition
  • Ear speaker,
  • 550 mAh rechargeable internal battery (> 6 hours hands free w/o display or 2 hours hands free with display, 1-hour hands free + display + camera + high CPU loading)
  • External 3800 mAh rechargeable battery pack that attaches with an ultra-thin USB mini-B cable and increases battery life by up to 6.5 times.

These are impressive specs on paper. But how do they stack up in performance?

Vuzix M100 Smart Glasses

The answer is is that they work well once you figure them out, but getting everything to work just right can be tricky. Think of the first time you got a smart phone and had to learn how to use it. That’s how it is with this product. It’s a steep learning curve, unless you’re a natural techie. And it’s not cheap.

The real question then is how much added value you can get from a product like this? If the product was a complete standalone device, without the need for a phone, it would be great value for money. Instead it is merely a good product, for those who want to get the technology quickly, at a high price, before it goes from being the latest “must have” to a stale old “everyone has.”

VERDICT: Good features but you pay a high price for them.

Google Glasses XE V2

Google Glasses XE

Although already on its second life - and still far from all it promised to be - Google Glass is still the gorilla in the room of augmented reality. Or maybe that should be the elephant. The package contains Google Glass itself, RX Frames, mono earbuds, extra nose pads, a USB cable, charger, extra nose pads, a soft carrying case, a hard carrying case, a screwdriver and instructions.

The augmented reality display looks like a 25-inch television, eight feet away. It has a 5MP camera that can shoot stills and 720p videos. It also has an audio bone conduction transducer. This sounds ultra-modern but in fact is like the old-fashioned “bone fone” from four decades ago. It basically just produces vibrations in the bones (usually of the head) that are then conductive to the auditory nerves.

Various forms of connectivity are available, including 802.11 WiFi (2.4 GHz) 12 GB usable memory synced with Google Cloud. Battery life is about a day in normal usage, but with intensive use of battery-draining activities (like video) it can easily be a lot less. The kit includes a charger and micro-USB cable.

It is available for both Android and iOS. For Android it requires version 4.0.3 (Ice Cream Sandwich) or higher and for iOS, it requires iOS7 or higher. (iOS 7 was first used in the iPhone 4 and iPad 2.)

The problem is that it is not clear where Google Glass is going and there are not too many apps that use it.

VERDICT: Overpriced for what it can do and too much that it can't.

Optinvent ORA-2 AR Smart Glasses 

Optinvent ORA

This is a developer’s kit rather than a final product. That means, there are limited apps and the price is high - although in practice no higher than the Vuzix. That statement actually has to be qualified. Limited apps, means limited dedicated apps. The ORA-2 is perfectly capable of running existing Android apps, just like any Android smartphone or tablet.

In terms of hardware, it comes with a powerful spec: front-facing 1080p 5 MP camera, 9-axis motion sensor (gyro inertial sensors, accelerometer and magnetometer), Bluetooth 4.0, WiFi, GPS, a trackpad (mouse and swipe).

The 16.9 display has a resolution of 33 pixels per degree and the brightness level maxes out at 3000 Nits. Based on retinal projection, it has a feature called Flip-vu which offers two configurations: Augmented Reality and Glance. In the Augmented Reality configuration, the mini-projector is fully horizontal and in the path of the eye when focused on the distance through the upper part of the glasses lens. In Glance mode, the projector is 20° below the horizontal and you have to look down at it.

The overall system packs a punch in other respects too, with a dual-core 1.2 GHz ARM Cortex processor, built-in (noise-cancelling) microphone and ambient light sensor. The 1200 mAh battery lasts about five hours with the display of continuously. It is charged via a USB connection.

At present the product, comes with a disclaimer that it is not offered as a consumer product, but only as a development platform. This does not mean that you cannot buy it as a consumer, only that it is offered “as is” with no warranty express or implied and - perhaps more importantly - that it is not approved by the FCC or CE. Also, it can display the same content as the screen of the Android device to which it is attached, but it has no dedicated apps on the market just yet.

VERDICT: A rich man's toy, worth buying if you can afford it.

Moverio BT-300 Smart Glasses (AR Developer Edition)

Moverio BT-300 Smart Glasses

Like the Optinvent above, this is a developer edition, rather than a consumer product, and priced the same too. Using a transparent si-OLED display it features binocular projection providing views for both eyes. This means that unlike most Augmented Reality headsets (but like Virtual Reality headsets) these smart glasses offer the option of side-by-side 3D viewing - albeit at lower resolution. The result is a virtual 80-inch screen at “distance” of 5 meters to a 320-inch screen at a distance of 20 meters. This is only a 23° field of view. But for AR (as distinct from VR) that is perfectly reasonable.

But first, what’s in the box?

  • Moverio BT-300 (Headset and Controller)
  • AC Adapter (100 – 240 V AC, 50/60 Hz, 0.15 A)
  • USB Cable
  • Carrying Case (semi-hard type)
  • Inner-ear Earphone with Microphone
  • 1x Shade (40%)
  • Inner Frame for Optical Lenses
  • 2x Temple Grip
  • Quick Setup Guide
  • Nose Pad (OTG type)
  • User Manual

The glasses are unquestionably light. Indeed, according to the manufacturers, they are the world’s lightest Si-OLED-powered, binocular, transparent smart glasses, weighing in at only 2.5 ounces or 69 grams. They are powered by an Intel® Atom™ x5 1.44GHz Quad Core CPU.

In many respects, this product ticks all the right boxes, with a front facing 5MP camera, head-tracking, choice of wireless connectivity, six-hour battery life, etc. The display’s 720p falls short of the 1080p, but is par for the course with most AR glasses currently. With 24-bit color and a 30Hz refresh rate, the image is very clear, even in bright, sunny conditions - a key test for augmented reality glasses.

As it is a developer kit, it is again in the position of not having many dedicated apps. But it can be used out of the box for a multiplicity of functions, including pretty much anything you can do on your Android smartphone - and of course getting a bird's-eye view when you fly a drone!

Moverio BT-300 Smart Glasses

You can wear these glasses over prescription glasses, so no problems there. They even have their own apps market from which you can download games, like Protocol Zero, and practical apps, like VR Architecture Walkthrough, a Virtual Reality Architectural Visualization app. These apps, and many others there, are free. There is even an app for drone control.

On minor drawback is the trackpad, which is rather tricky and fiddly to use. But once you get the hang of it, the inconvenience is minor.

VERDICT: Beats the Optinvent by a nose for Best AR glasses.

The Final Word


While people speculate on the future of AR and ask questions like “Will Apple enter the fray with its own headset?”, “Will the Microsoft HoloLens become an affordable consumer product?”, “Will Google Glass come down in price and hit the mainstream?” and even “Will Amazon bring out an AR Kindle?” we are missing the point. AR, in some form, is already here.

Yes, it is expensive - although the Vufine+ challenges even this assumption – yes, it is a bit rough around the edges, both figuratively and literally. But it is here! There is a market for it. For those who really want it, the technology is affordable. And there is an element of choice.

You can be the owner of an AR headset this Christmas - ditto for your loves ones - if you’re ready to dip your hands into your pocket. Of course, it’s not for everyone. Some people may prefer to hold out. But there are no breakthroughs around the corner. And all products eventually wear out and need replacing. So, unless you are hoping for some big announcement in a year’s time and are willing to hold out that long, now is the time to buy a cool-looking pair of AR glasses.

August 22, 2017

Oculus Enters Augmented Reality

Oculus Rift

Oculus owner Facebook is working on the development of augmented reality glasses that combine a real-world background with superimposed data and imagery. Our spies (or rather researchers) in the US Patent Office, report that Facebook has filed a patent for glasses with a two-dimensional overlay display.

Unlike the Oculus Rift, which is a completely immersive virtual reality headset, this new offering is more of a set of smart-glasses that add imagery or data without completely cutting off the wearer or immersing them in a virtual world. This means that the wearer can move about freely and safety and interact with both the real world and the virtual one that overlays it.

This would put Oculus parent Facebook in direct competition with Snapchat Spectacles and Microsoft’s Hololens, that currently sells in Development Edition form for a “mere” $3000 and in Commercial Suite form for a not so “mere” $5000.

Facebook plans to integrate the new AR glasses with existing games consoles and personal audio. But they also have more ambitious plans, closely related to their social networking comfort zone. They recently started Facebook Spaces, a kind of virtual version of their social network, using the Oculus Rift, animated avatars and virtual environments.

Facebook and Oculus see a bright future for AR smart glasses a few years down the line. But they face stiff competition from Microsoft, who hold a clear lead with the Hololens, and Apple, who are still trailing behind. Apple, however, are poised to join the fray in October or November of this year with the release of the iPhone 8 and its new iOS 11 operating system. The iOS 11 features extensive AR support.

And, of course, one cannot ignore one other major player in the AR field: Google. The original front-runner in the AR pack, with their 2013 Google Glass, Alphabet (Google’s 2015 post-restructuring parent), is now placing its hopes on a redeveloped Google Glass with an emphasis on business.

Apple’s recent entry appears to be more software oriented. They have yet to develop an AR or VR headset.

August 21, 2017

Apple’s Augmented Reality For The iPhone 8 Will Be Positively Disrupting

iPhone 8

Apple’s impending Augmented Reality support for the iPhone, promises to be disrupting in a good and positive way. Some pundits are referring to to it as a game changer.

The iPhone 8 heralds the debut of iOS11. And Apple has promised Augmented Reality as part of iOS11. Indeed the new iOS holds out so much promise, that it is almost certain that older hardware in the iOS ecosystem will be upgraded to the new OS when it becomes available.

Apple’s dedicated hard core customer base effectively makes the commercial success of the iPhone 8 a foregone conclusion (barring a Samsung Note 7 style debacle!). That alone, together with the millions of customers who upgrade their old iPhones and old iPads, will give Apple an enormous ready-made audience for compatible AR offerings. This in turn will make the new operating system all the more tempting for third parties to write new software taking advantage of the breakthrough features. And more third party support will create a positive feedback loop that will drive sales even further.

Up until now, Apple has taken a rather standoffish position on both VR and AR. But there have been hints for a long time now, that at least in the realm of Augmented Reality, Apple has spotted some clear commercial prospects. But this combination of a new iOS with AR support and a new iPhone to take advantage of it, has a good chance of putting Apple at the front of the grid for the next lap in the VR/AR race. This means that Apple will not only lead the pack, they will also be in a position to set the terms.

Apple has already given early developers a head-start in creating AR content for iOS 11, at the 2017 WWDC, with the issue of ARKit, a developer framework for the system. In addition to giving the market a heads-up on Apple’s strategy, this also enables developers to have their AR software ready for launch in conjunction with the iPhone’s official debut – slated for November, or possibly a month earlier.

The real promise of AR is spread across practical apps and games in equal measure. AR works by superimposing virtual images on top of real ones. So it is possible to introduce a virtual intruder into your home, for you to fight against, or to visualize that extension to your house that you’ve been thinking about. However, this will only happen, if Apple also comes up with suitable hardware for superimposing the virtual over the real. A phone screen on its own, just won’t cut it.

Not everyone agrees on this hardware prerequisite however. Apple observer Gene Munster thinks that simply holding up one’s phone and letting the software superimpose data over the camera’s image will be enough to change the game. He gives the example of holding up one’s camera in a supermarket to find the goods one is looking for or locating one’s seat in an auditorium. But that alone is hardly an advance. An audio prompt would work just as well and without requiring one to gaze at a computer screen.

June 21, 2017

Is The iPhone 8 Apple’s Foray Into Augmented Reality?

10-VR NEWSFEED - June 21 2017 - Applie iPhone 8 and VR Speculation

I am so excited about it, I just want to yell out and scream.”

These were the words that Apple CEO Tim Cook used to describe his enthusiasm about augmented reality. But so far, Apple has shown no sign of actually entering that particular competitive arena - or even the related one of virtual reality.

But are things about to change with the impending launch of the iPhone 8. As usual, the build-up to the launch is enshrouded in secrecy. The expected developments include and edge to edge screen and obviously a higher resolution camera. There is also speculation that they will do away with the physical Home button, in favour of touching the screen.

However, the rumor mill has also been grinding out stories about how this iPhone will have some integrated AR capability. It is known that Apple is pushing into AR from the software end - hence their announcement of the ARKit for the iOS 11 operating system, due out this fall. The ARKit will let developers create augmented reality apps for iOS 11. And the operating system will ship with the iPhone 8.

All of this is known. But what does it mean in practice? Well, it’s hard to say with Apple because they almost never respond to rumors. But two of the rumors about the iPhone 8 have indirectly been confirmed.

First, an executive from Wistrom, an Apple supplier, told their shareholders at their recent AGM “Assembly process for the previous generations of [iPhones] have not changed much, though new features like waterproof and wireless charging now require some different testing, and waterproof function will alter the assembly process a bit.” The iPhone 7 is water-resistant, but not waterproof and does not have wireless charging.

Secondly, it was reported in respected source Nikkei Asian Review that Largan Precision (another Apple supplier) has announced that its 3D-sensing lenses will be “ready to ship in the second half of this year.” There are already front-facing cameras that can unlock a phone, (like the Samsung Galaxy S8), but they can be tricked with a photo of a face. A camera with a 3D sensing lens, is thought to be immune from this type of low-tech hack. The 3D camera will also map the user’s face with 3D lasers, making the system yet more secure.

However could there be more to what is coming from Apple this Fall? No one as yet knows what the iPhone 8 will even look like, there is speculation that it will in fact resemble a single clear piece of glass. There are also reports that it will have a dual lens, stereoscopic camera.

But at this stage all we can do is wait and see.

June 20, 2017

Augmented Reality Can Reduce Maintenance Skills Gap

9-VR NEWSFEED June 20 2017 - AR can fill military tech skills shortage-2

Military technicians are now being assisted by Augmented Reality

Competition for human resources between the military and civilian engineering sectors has created a shortage of skilled maintenance engineers in the military. Although well-funded, the armed forces simply can’t compete with the kind of salaries offered by the civilian commercial sector. The result is that different branches of the military also have to compete with each other.


But a solution is on the horizon, suggested by Kevin Deal, Vice President of Aviation and Defense at IFS. The idea is that a technician wearing an AR headset can see both what he is working on and additional information flashed up in his field of view. This information can be transmitted from a distance - even the other side of the world if necessary.

9-VR NEWSFEED June 20 2017 - AR can fill military tech skills shortage-1

AR can fill military tech skills shortage

Deal has pointed out that virtual reality, involving totally immersive simulations, is already used in training. He has suggested that engineers and technicians with more advanced skills can remain at the home base, whilst being able to provide remote assistance via wearable devices worn by technicians in the field.


“Current mobile solutions support collaboration and drive better data capture and compliance, but even these devices cannot solve the ‘right skills in the right place’ issue,” Deal said.


He added that “maintenance personnel could of course contact senior technicians via cellphone, but there is no way of seeing or demonstrating how a task should be executed. These are often airworthiness decisions. Integrating the latest technology with a configuration-controlled solution adds the necessary rigor to remote maintenance tasks.”


The alternative would be to recruit more technicians with higher level skills and qualifications - at considerably greater cost - or to fly those high-level technicians to various far-flung locations on an ad hoc basis. Neither of these alternative solutions was all that attractive once one factors in the cost and takes into account the large number of widely separated locations where such skills may be needed at a moment’s notice.

June 19, 2017

Augmented Reality Can Help People Quit Smoking

8- VR NEWSFEED June 19 2017 AR to help smokers visualize

One of the problems with getting people to stop smoking is that even if they “know” it is bad for them in some intellectual sense, they can’t really imagine how bad it really is.


The problem is the gulf between intellectual or “cognitive” knowledge and human feeling.Look at a slug or a cockroach and we feel disgust and revulsion. Look at a raw chicken and we wonder what it’ll taste like when cooked. We don’t think about the fact that currently, in its uncooked state, it is laden with bacteria. The same is true of the effect of smoking on the lungs, the heart and the arteries.


But that is all about to change thanks to new software being developed for augmented reality at Birmingham City University.


The idea is to create an augmented reality view of what is going on inside the patient and showing it to them as means of encouraging them to change their lifestyles in general and to quit smoking in particular. The software creates 3D replicas of the patient’s internal organs that are far clearer and sharper than anything that an X-ray, MRI or Ultrasound scan could provide. The replica can also be rotated and shown from all sides to show the patient the full impact of their lifestyle choices as well as where they are headed.


Dr Ian Williams, heading the team, explained: “If you select the lungs, it allows you to interact with the lungs by rotating or enlarging them as if they were in front of you as an actual object. If the patient was a smoker you could put a texture to reflect the effects of smoking.”


Each patient gets a customized view relevant to them, their condition and their lifestyle. For example, “if the patient was a smoker,” Dr. Williams explained, “you could put a texture to reflect the effects of smoking.”


Another application, Dr Williams is considering, is showing patients what their forthcoming medical or surgical procedure will entail. This could both re-assure the patient and encourage them to cooperate with post operative care.

June 12, 2017

Augmented Reality Company Sues Former Employee Over Trade Secrets

5-VR NEWSFEED June12 2017 - Augmented Reality Company Sues Former Employee

Augmented reality startup Meta is suing a former employee, claiming that he stole trade secrets. Zhangyi Zhong, the former head of optics at the California company is being sued along with rival augmented reality company DreamWorld USA and 20 unnamed defendants.


Zhong was employed by Meta between March 2015 and July 2016 before leaving to create his own company, DreamWorld and develop a competitive product for them. The lawsuit alleges that:


Evidence in the public domain provides compelling proof that Zhangyi Zhong and his start-up company, Dreamworld USA, Inc., have shamelessly leveraged Zhong’s sixteen months of employment at Meta Company to misappropriate confidential and trade secret information relating to Meta’s technologies, supply chain, manufacturing methods and relationships, as well as business, investment and market strategies. Through the use of that confidential and trade secret information, Zhong and Dreamworld have jump-started their development of a prototype augmented reality device, and are on the verge of launching a campaign to steal what they can from Meta’s market share and investor base for personal gain.


DreamWorld has responded by describing the charges as “completely baseless.”


The background to the case is that DreamWorld has just announced the release of its first product - an augmented reality headset called DreamGlass, priced at $350. In contrast, the Meta 2 headset, which was launched last year, is priced at $950.


The Meta lawsuit further claims that:


On July 21, 2016, Zhong emailed his direct manager and Meta’s Human Resources staff and informed them that he was resigning from his employment at Meta, effective the following day (i.e., July 22, 2016). In that message, Zhong attributed his decision to resign to “some old medical conditions which need serious attention now. My doctor suggests avoid [sic] any work activities.” Zhong further represented that he had decided, in light of this medical advice, “. . . to take a break and stop working for a while.”


The suit goes on to accuse Zhong of secretly setting up DreamWorld under a variation of his name and running the company through an intermediary whom Meta allege is Zhong’s wife or girlfriend.


Meta claim that they initially accepted Zhong’s explanation of his resignation in good faith but then became when an article in Upload reviewed the DreamWorld glasses, pointing out that they were lighter and cheaper than both the Meta 2 and the Microsoft Hololens. The article also stated that the DreamGlass has: “a Meta-esque optics system that places the screens at an angle above the lenses.”


The meta lawsuit alleges misappropriation of trade secrets, breach of contract and fraudulent business practices. DreamWorld has disputed the allegations, describing them as “completely baseless and without merit.” They further state that they they will respond in due course.

January 29, 2018

Airbnb planning to use virtual (and augmented) reality

airbnb-ar

Airbnb has just announced that they are going to start integrating virtual and augmented and reality into their business model.

The company - having started off using the internet as an aggregator to link property owners and short-term tenants and tourists, is now adding AR and VR as an extra layer to enhance the user experience. The company has divided the use of these technologies into two areas of application: Before the trip and During the trip.

Before the trip, Airbnb explained on their website, potential travellers could use VR to enable potential customers to view properties that they were considering renting and explore them in more detail than pictures alone can facilitate.The idea is that hosts would be able to scan the apartments and houses creating 360 degree images that could then be viewed either flat (on computer monitors and phone screens) or in VR head-mounted displays. They explain:

Virtual reality gives us an opportunity to reshape where inspiration is drawn from, and take travel planning to the next level. It can also allow people to connect with their destination, host, and co-travelers. Capabilities like 360 photos and 3D scans allow a person to step inside a home or city and understand what to expect and how to orient themselves before they leave the comfort of their own home.

But the company doesn’t stop there. They are also considering ways in which augmented reality could be used to assist travellers in making use of the facilities in the house or apartment. For example, the system could also allow for customers/tenants with AR glasses to see instruction notes overlaid on specific areas of the property or even instructions for specific appliances.

...it can also be stressful when someone doesn’t know how to unlock the door or turn on the hot water for a shower, or when they’re hopelessly lost and everything is in a foreign language.

Augmented reality and related technologies let us recognize surroundings and provide contextual, timely information to navigate these pain points. Just think how welcome, pulling up  directions to the coffee mugs on a mobile device will be first thing in the morning. Or, instant translations on how to work that German thermostat.

However, Airbnb is going further in its ideas of how to enrich the customer experience:

Augmented reality can also breathe life into a space and tell the story behind the personal items to connect a traveler with their host and a new city in richer, more immersive ways.This last idea might seem less practical and more a way of stretching the concept. But it shows that Airbnb are really using their creating imagination to extract maximum value from these emerging technologies.

March 26, 2018

Virtual Reality Shopping has arrived

Virtual reality shopping at Ikea

In the past, online shopping has been limited to looking at a few product pictures or occasionally a video, accompanied by a description of the product. For some reasons, online vendors never quite got around to virtual reality shopping. You couldn’t take a virtual walkthrough of a store, pushing a trolley, seeing the goods on shelves and picking them and taking a look at them from all sides. Even Amazon, despite its size and deep coffers, preferred to be little more than a text and picture catalogue for online purchase.

Now, however, things are changing. And all thanks to Virtual Reality headsets. The obvious and sensible way to provide online shopping - mimic the experience of a physical shop rather than a printed catalogue - has skipped a generation. You still won’t see it on a flat 2D screen any time soon. But it is now coming to 3D. Strap on a VR headset and you can quite literally walk through an online store and make purchases. Virtual reality shopping has arrived.

Ikea leads the way in virtual Reality shopping

With the IKEA app below, you can mimic the experience of walking through an IKEA store an making purchases.

But with this one, you can even move things around, change the colors, and really see how different variations would look. This is true virtual reality shopping!

You can do the same with their kitchen app, where you can move things around and design your kitchen the way you want it. We have talked about visualizing furniture in situ in the past.

In some cases, you can even take items off the shelves and buy them. This should be de riguer for virtual reality shopping, because most stores these days are self-service. Take for example this demo (below) of ShelfZone from InVRsion, for the HTC Vive. Their virtual store app and platform can not only enable you to walk through a virtual store and pick up the items you want to buy. It has eye-tracking, voice recognition and speech simulation. This means that you can talk to it and obtain help in finding what you are looking for, just as you could with a friendly and helpful member of front line staff in a real store.

Alternatively, Santa Clara based company Cappasity is offering online shopping for Software as a Service. With their platform, even a small online retailer can be up and running very quickly with their own virtual reality shopping store. And it is scalable.

Other retail technology

But even more a conventional shopping trip can be enhanced with modern technology. Take for example, the Google Glass augmented reality app below. It flashes up product information and advice when you walk through the shop, according to what you are looking at. You can ask it questions, select recipes and ask where the ingredients are, make a video call and share what you are looking at for advice. Strictly speaking, this is not virtual reality shopping. But it is impressive nevertheless.

More conventional still is Amazon Go. This is a self-service store which cuts out the need for standing in a check-out queue. You log in with an app and cameras and sensors track you (and every other customer) what you take off the shelf and what you put back.

So far, they have only have one store - in Seattle - which opened on December 5, 2016, and to the public on January 22, 2018. It is all explained in the following video.

Again, this is not virtual reality shopping. But it is high tech shopping that will inevitable compete with its virtual counterpart, because it offers immediacy and convenience.

Finally, there is the virtual interactive mirror, that enables you to try on clothes without actually changing into them. It would mostly be located in stores - although in theory there is no reason why it cannot be located in people’s homes too, to help them make their selections and choices. Of course, it can only you tell you what the clothes look like, not whether they feel comfortable. But it’s still a useful technology for eliminating the items you don’t want.

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