AR & VR Tech Digest - March 2017

NASA using VR for training

NASA has revealed that it is using VR as a training tool for its astronauts. The training system uses both Oculus Rift and HTC Vive VR headsets to fabricate the experience of being in a zero-G environment carrying out space station maintenance. The astronaut in training is flown around the simulated environment to carry out repairs on the International Space Station (ISS) in a harness attached to a crane-like device. 

Theme parks disagree over AR or VR dilemma

Samsung is working with Six Flags, an American theme park company, to make a rollercoaster plus VR experience. On the Galaxy Attack rollercoaster riders wear Samsung Gear VR headsets with a Galaxy 7 inside, securely attached with multiple headbands and chinstraps. As the experience begins the user sees the real environment through the headset, and when the rollercoaster starts it switches into full VR mode. At that point the user is sent on a high-speed journey through a cityscape, and is tasked with shooting alien invaders using touchpads on either side of the headset.  
While Six Flags may be welcoming VR technology, at an event at the University of Southern California, rival Disney’s chief executive has expressed dislike of the medium’s isolating quality, instead saying that he is more interested in investigating how to integrate AR into Disney’s parks. 

Using Hololense to control a drone

A team from the University of California, Berkeley, (UC Berkeley) have developed an AR control method for drones. Part of the Immersive Semi-Autonomous Aerial Command System (ISAACS) project, it uses Microsoft’s Hololense AR glasses as a more intuitive way to control a fleet of drones. ISAACS uses SLAM (simultaneous localization and mapping) to determine the location of both user and drone and is able to interface with the drone’s low-level controller to improve user safety. The platform is not commercially ready.

Vive for makers

HTC has launched software, Make VR, to help 3D print designers. The software is usable with the HTC Vive headset creating a virtual workshop allowing users to design 3D printable objects in a 3D space. The Vive controllers can be used to model and sculpt the object. The designs can be sent to a printer in standard 3D printing formats, or it can be sent to Shapeways, a 3D printing company, for printing. 

HoloCube

Merge VR has developed a mixed reality experience that uses the company’s VR goggles and a two-inch square patterned cube, the HoloCube. The augmented reality glasses are actually a simple, smartphone-based VR headset with a hole at the front to allow the inserted smartphone to use the camera’s view. Through the HoloCube app the user can make the cube become a 3D model of, for example, a dinosaur. This model can then be rotated or brought closer by the user for closer examination of details.  The Merge VR headset costs USD59.99. The HoloCube is not yet available to buy.

Media using AR

According to a story on media and marketing website Digiday, Washington Post has revealed plans to use AR in its reporting and storytelling on its two apps, publishing one story every quarter. The first story will be a series by the Post’s art critic Philip Kennicot examining new architecture with the AR functionality allowing readers to explore the interiors and listen to narration on smartphones. Users will be guided through the story by following prompts. 

Film studio using VR

Imax and Warner Bros. Home Entertainment have announced plans to create three interactive VR experiences based on Justice League, Aquaman and a third unrevealed title. The first VR experience is planned for release in 4Q 2017. Initially the experiences will be released in Imax VR centres before being released for home consumption. 

VR for global business travel

Concur Labs has created a VR experience designed to help companies with staff that have travelled to an area affected by an unforeseen incident such as an earthquake or terrorist attack. In the demonstration of the idea, a global security manager uses a VR simulation to experience the crisis situation more realistically. The manager is able to receive up to the minute news on the situation, see which employees are at the site or heading there and bring up the employees’ contact details and communicate in real-time with the employees. 

Lowe’s use AR to help shoppers

Lowe’s, an American home appliance store, is using AR to help customers find products in two stores. Customers with a Tango-enabled smartphone can search for products, add them to a shopping list, locate them in the store and be guided to the product through the AR app’s directional arrow overlay. 

iQiyi reveals its 4K VR device

iQiyi, a Chinese video streaming website owned by Baidu, has unveiled its 4K all-in-one VR device called Qiyu, which has the company’s smart 3D stereo technology attached. Qiyu also has an inbuilt virtual assistant called Vivi to help users interact with the virtual world.  

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