Category Archives for "News"
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.
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.
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.
Newsfeed - June 14, 2017
Intel is teaming up with Oculus and gaming network ESL in a bid to create a virtual reality eSports league called VR Challenger League.
There is already an established market for eSports, but combining them with VR is a potential growth area as hardware speeds increase and more competitive, multiplayer VR games are developed.
The plan has been developed hot on the heels of the success of the first US-wide Virtual Reality eSports Championship held in New York in May of this year.
The first round of gaming will start on July 12 and will take place online. The finals will take place in 2018 at Intel’s Extreme Masters World Championship. On the conditions of the deal is that the PSs used in competition both by the contestants and the organizers and administrators will use Intel microprocessors.
Unlike the New York event, the VR Challenger League will offer worldwide gamers the chance to compete. A combined purse of $200,000 is being put up for the winners.
The first two events scheduled are The Unspoken (from Insomniac) and Echo Arena (from Ready and Dawn due for release on July 20. 2017). The Unspoken is a game of magic, sorcery and supernatural powers. Details of the forthcoming Echo Arena are more sketchy, but Mashable have described it as “Ender's Game (as seen in the 2013 film) meets Tron (in terms of visual aesthetics).”
Figures about the uptake of The Unspoken are also sketchy, as Insomniac refuses to release them. But it is known to be popular within the hardcore VR gaming community.
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.
A new and potentially sinister use of Virtual Reality is being developed: assessing potential paedophiles and other sex offenders.
The test involves showing suspected paedophiles artificially generated images on children while the subjects of the tests are strapped with a Penile Plethysmograph device, a cuff-shaped sensor that measures blood-flow to the penis. The theory is that paedophiles are more likely to be sexually aroused by images of children and that this can be measured by the plethysmograph.
Penile plethysmography itself has been around for many decades and has been used to assess the risk of re-offending. But there has always been an ethical problem regarding what images can be shown to the subjects. Now, scientists at the University of Quebec in Outaouais have developed a test that works around these ethical objections.
In the present tests the subjects wear stereoscopic 3D headsets in addition to the penile plethysmograph. They are then shown, through the headset, artificially generated images of nude people of both genders and various age groups to identify what types arouse them sexually.
The headset it also equipped with eye-tracking technology to ensure that they are avoiding looking at the images by looking away.
'We do develop pornography,” said' Patrice Renaud, the head of the research. “But these images and animations are not used for the pleasure of the patient but to assess them.”
The research - which was conducted in August 2016, involved some 60 male subjects, some of whom had been convicted or were accused of sex offences and others who had so criminal records or accusations pending against them pertaining sexual interest in minors. The subjects were shown 3D animations of virtual characters for five 60-second periods, in each case followed by a 30 second period without the virtual character.
Renaud was able to reach conclusions about 54 out of the 60 subjects. However Renaud is mindful of that fact that sexual propensity alone is not a strong indicator of behaviour. Those with psycho-sexual disorders might also possess an ethical sense, cognitive faculty and capacity to empathize with human suffering, all of which might enable them to resist the temptation to indulge their aberrant sexual desires.
So his team is now using a combination of electroencephalography and Virtual Reality, using a head cap with multiple electrodes to identify whether the subject shows an empathy response to facial expressions of pain, fear and sadness in the virtual child.
'If we find that the guy is attracted to children and doesn't feel empathy for the fact that the child is in pain,” Renaud said, “that's good information for predicting behavior.'
Nevertheless, we at bestvr.tech remain skeptical.
Sony’s sales of its PlayStation VR headset have topped one million, according to a company statement, 429,000 of them in the first quarter of 2017 alone. This has “exceeded our expectations,” in the words of the President of Sony Interactive Entertainment, Atushi Morita.
The high sales figures may be partly due to the fact that Sony’s PSVR headset costs just $399 (USA) / 310 (UK) compared to $499.00 (USA) / £479.99 (UK) for the Oculus Rift and $799 (USA) / £995.00 (UK) for the HTC Vive.
But Sony also has the added advantage that there is an existing customer base of 60 million installed units of the PS4. And while the Vive and the Rift have support from the PC which has an even bigger installed user base, the PC is not primarily a games machine, but rather a working computer than can also be used for games. The PS4 is for hardened gamers who want added hardware, including VR.
Consumer uptake of VR headsets have been slower than expected being limited mostly to high-end gamers. Some two million VR headsets were sold in Q1 of 2017, compared to 380 million smartphones. It remains to be seen when - if ever - it takes off in the same was as television, personal computers and smartphones. Some major players - notably Apple - have ignored VR, or at least not launched any such products in the market.
But Sony is pressing ahead, emboldened by the knowledge that its sales would have been higher had they been better prepared to meet the demand.
We are boosting production,” Morita told Reuters, “and a supply shortage should be solved accordingly.”
Apple is finally getting into VR, at least at the support end, but not yet with a product of their own.
Despite its reputation as a cutting-edge developer of new consumer technology, Apple has steadfastly refused to get into Virtual Reality. The main reason has been the kludgy appearance of VR headsets and the inability to do much about it at the design level - at least with today’s technology. Despite the elegant design of the Royale Moon (a video viewing headset lacking VR capability) the makers of VR proper have been unable to improve on the clunky designs that haunt the market.
Kludgy appearance and high cost appear to be the main obstacle to market penetration and the reason why consumer uptake of the new technology has been commercially disappointing. Neither business nor the home computer user has been inclined to shell out the sums that the hardware costs. Only hardcore gamers have been ready to dig deep into their pockets.
Apple is not averse to relieving deep pocketed enthusiasts of their money. But they do have a powerful antipathy to putting their name onto products that don’t look cool. With Apple it was, is and always will be, about the look and feel. They may be busily beavering away in the backroom developing a cool-looking VR (or maybe considering buying a company that has produced a cool looking headset), but they sure as heck haven’t announced anything.
Now however, they have at least stepped into the VR market at the support end. And so on June 5 at the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference 2017, they announced that the new macOS High Sierra (due for release this Autumn) they will be giving support for the HTC Vive VR headset, but not the Oculus Rift. At least not yet. The Operating System will also support content created by the Unity and Unreal game engines.
They also announced a new high-spec iMac Pro packing enough processing power and memory to handle virtual reality internally. But it will come at a steep price: $4,999 upwards.
They will also be offering the Thunderbolt 3 external GPU development kit. Thunderbolt 3 (unlike its predecessors) uses USB type-C instead of MiniDisplayPort to connect to the PCI Express and Display Port. The development kits were not developed in-house by Apple however, and it remains to be seen how deep is Apple’s commitment to VR.
Apple appears to be more interested in Augmented Reality, at least in the short-run - possibly because the technology is closer at hand. But don’t bet against them coming up with a cool looking VR headset in 2018 if not sooner… like maybe this Christmas...