Virtual Reality (VR) & Augmented Reality (AR) Tech Digest - January 2017

Baidu opens AR lab 

Following an announcement in September 2016 of a USD200 million investment in AR and AI, Chinese search engine company Baidu has announced that it is opening an AR lab. The company’s AR platform ‘Dusee’ has already been released and has been used by companies such as Lancôme, L’Oreal, and Mercedes-Benz. The AR function is already embedded into many of Baidu’s apps including Baidu Mobile search app, Baidu Maps and Baidu Nuomi. One novel use case is augmented reality experiences for historic monuments. For instance, by pointing the phone at a historic gate in Beijing a user can see on screen an AR recreation of how it would have looked at the time it was built, and people going about their business in period dress etc. 

Lumus’ AR glasses at CES 

At the Consumer Electronics Show 2017 Lumus, an AR wearables developer, showed two display prototypes, the Maximus and the Sleek. The Maximus is a bulky headset that can be worn at the same time as prescription glasses and provides a 55-degree field of vision, which Lumus says should provide a more realistic AR experience than AR glasses with a smaller field of vision. Meanwhile Lumus believes the Sleek offers a more stylish, compact and mobile set of AR glasses, which will be more suitable for casual users  than the Maximus.The devices rely on Lumus’ decade long development of waveguide technology which works by stretching and compressing a display which then flows down through the lenses until it meets crystals primed to reflect certain light frequencies that are then reflected, causing an image to appear. 

Sporty VR tourism

In the real world the record for cycling the length of the UK from Land’s End to John o’ Groats (874 miles in total) is 41 hours, 4 minutes and 20 seconds. Now enthusiast Aaron Puzey has cycled it in 85 hours, spread out over eight months using an exercise bike and VR headset tuned to a self-developed app which turns Google Streetview images into a 3D environment. He is currently launching a Kickstarter appeal to increase his scope to cycle anywhere in the world.

Create your own VR movies

Visionary, an American VR company, has developed a VR movie making application called Mindshow. Users, wearing VR headsets, are immersed in a tabula rasa environment. They then choose from a set of predefined environments to layer the blank space and decorate it with props. The users then add characters, which are brought to life by adding voice and mapping their own movements onto the character. The resulting VR movie is then ready to be shared with friends and family. At this stage the platform works with the HTC Vive.

Magic leap into the colourful

Magic Leap, an AR company, has had a patent granted for its design for a colour-blindness correcting head mounted device. The head mounted device, like a pair of glasses, has sensors to identify what deficiencies in colour vision are present and it then amplifies the light  which the colour-blind person is blind to helping them to better differentiate between, for example, green and red. Then the device will apply a filter to avoid colour overlap. It is also suggested that Magic Leap will be looking into assisting people with myopia, astigmatism and hyperopia in the future.

Rugby VR

Accenture has provided a virtual reality experience based around the RBS 6 Nations Rugby Championship to demonstrate VR’s potential for applications outside of game-playing. The proof of concept made available by Accenture on a beta virtual reality headset and development kit, allowed users to be in the midst of the action by placing existing reality into VR. Sports fans could enter the changing-rooms and interact with objects, then move out onto the field where they are met by Ben Kay, a rugby pundit. Kay provided analysis on the VR stadium’s big screens and explained/analysed game data - also visualised in the VR environment. 

HTC give away Tracker to creatives

HTC’s new Vive Tracker for HTC’s Vive VR headset is an accessory to track users’ movements. The tracker can be attached to physical objects such as a baseball bat, the movement of which can then be mapped into the VR environment. It can also be attached to a DSLR camera enabling users to enter their own mixed reality videos. 
HTC is providing the opportunity for VR developers to win a HTC Vive Tracker. 1,000 units are on offer and can be won by filling out a form detailing one’s company and current projects. 


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