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VR Digest:  Google reveals Jump;
Apple acquires an AR company

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Written by Ian Hamilton (@hmltn) June 3, 2015
VR Digest: A Virtual Reality newsletter brought to you by Studio Transcendent

Google reveals VR plans

Google’s developer conference came and went. The biggest VR-related announcement was Jump, a ring of GoPro cameras paired with the “Jump Assembler,” which is claimed to automate the process of stitching the footage together into seamless wraparound stereo video. It’s a bold claim; nobody has been able to develop a one-click stitcher yet that yields good results.

The company teamed with GoPro for its first 360 degree camera array allowing “all 16 cameras to act as one. It makes syncing easy and includes features like shared settings.” Google is accepting signups to try it this summer.

GoPro said it would independently release a six-camera monoscopic spherical camera rig later this year.

Google also upgraded its Cardboard platform so it will work with phones with screens sized up to 6 inches and features “a new button that works with any phone.” There’s also an official iPhone app (App Store link).

The Verge went in-depth (video) with Project Tango, Google’s tablet-based 3D-sensing system for mixed reality applications, including a heretofore undemonstrated use as an inside-out VR tracking solution. Chip maker Qualcomm said it is planning to push the Project Tango technology into a phone form factor later this year.

Google also debuted Soli (video), an extremely precise radar-based hand-tracking technology, as well as Jacquard (video), a project which weaves conductive material into fabric so that clothing itself can become an input device.
 

Apple acquires Metaio

Apple also made waves during the conference when Techcrunch discovered that the iPhone maker acquired Metaio, an augmented reality company.

Metaio is behind a number of already-in-use AR experiences like a Ferrari showroom app (video) that allows a person to visualize the inner workings and parts of the car while actually looking at it in the showroom, as well as a kiosk in Lego stores (video) allowing a person to hold up a Lego box and see a scene playing out on top of it.

Keep an eye on Apple’s developer conference from June 8 to 12. There are rumors that Apple will introduce a new Apple TV with onboard apps and new capabilities. As a reminder, in 2013 Apple acquired the Primesense motion-sensing technology that was key to the original Kinect from Microsoft.
 

Bits

 
A 52-page report from Piper Jaffray offers a comprehensive beginner’s guide to the VR industry, with overviews of the major players beginning on page 28. The firm estimates a ramp up over the next five years to the sale of 100 million headsets in 2020 but doubling to more than 200 million in 2022, with most units sold being wireless.
 

The Los Angeles Times reported on Southern California startups, including wraparound movie hosting service Vrideo. News site RYOT produced a movie about the Nepal quake which is hosted on Vrideo. It is available across multiple platforms, including Web browsers.

VR “used to be our secret that no one knew was going to be important,” Visionary VR co-founder Cosmo Scharf said. “Just in this last year alone, we've witnessed firsthand a transformation.”

Oculus Story Studio previewed its second movie with a blog post and video. In “Henry” you are put in the living room of an adorable (and painfully spiky) hedgehog who tragically just wants a hug for his birthday. The experience premieres at an event in Hollywood on July 28th.

NPR put couples inside Altspace to test social presence. Yes, the report concludes, a virtual robot can make a boyfriend jealous just by letting another virtual robot get too close to his girlfriend’s virtual robot.

Stanford’s Jeremy Bailenson defines social presence as “This magic feeling where all of a sudden: Wow! I know that person is an actual living, breathing human being on the other end, and it feels real. It's very difficult to quantify when it happens.”

KQED looked at how VR can help people reduce pain. The article looks at the work of Diane Gromala at the Simon Fraser University in Vancouver and her Pain Studies Lab, which allows patients to see a “mirrored version of oneself and to learn to control inner emotional states.”

“Users often say they feel confident that they can affect their pain, instead of feeling they are victims to it,” said Gromala.

Vice reported on German design firm HYVE and its Icarus “virtual reality-enabled workout station,” expected to crowdfund this summer. You lay down in the simulator and the design “works on balance alone.”

“When you are doing a steep descent in VR you are also doing it in reality, blood rushes into your head and you are sucked into the virtual environment,” said Johannes Scholl, senior designer. “This enables people to stay in virtual worlds longer, without getting ‘simulator sick.’”

The Hollywood Reporter published a lengthy report charting the legal war being waged around the technologies that allow celebrities to perform at places and times in which they no longer exist. That might seem like strange phrasing, but consider “the performances of Tupac Shakur and Michael Jackson really were actors hired to perform as them. Producers then used image capture and CGI technology to re-create the likenesses of the deceased stars then projected the digitally enhanced images in 3D using the derivation of the Pepper's Ghost illusion.” As Hatsune Miku would attest, digital celebrities that never age or die could be a massive and evergreen profit center in the near future.

NVIDIA announced a new flagship graphics card, the $650 GTX 980 Ti, along with the launch of a new software development kit that should enable increased game performance and hardware compatibility for headsets. The GameWorks VR SDK is available as an early release to “select VR headset and game developers.” There’s an in-depth presentation on GameWorks available as a PDF. The previous flagship GTX 980 has received a price cut.

Executives at Google-backed Magic Leap announced they are opening up to developers with a software development kit that integrates with Unreal and Unity. You’ll still likely have to sign a non-disclosure agreement to see anything interesting, with more details to come later.

CNET rounded up some oddly named VR headsets seen at CES Asia. Dlodo anyone?

Lenovo announced mobile goggles, but it is unclear where on the Cardboard – Gear VR spectrum they fall or if they will be made available in Western markets.

Sound designers will find an Oculus blog post about a new spatialized audio plugin useful.

FX Guide wrote a detailed report of light field-related technologies being worked on by OTOY, Magic Leap, NextVR and others. “Light fields are a relatively simple concept and are not that new, but their actual implementation is extremely hard to pull off.” Also, the first batch of entries into OTOY’s “Render the Metaverse” contest are available online for perusal using a browser. You can also sideload them into the OrbX app on the Gear VR.

Experiences

Now available on the Gear VR Store for both Note 4 and S6 owners, Battle for Avengers Tower from Samsung, Marvel, 72andSunny, and Framestore is a short – but epic – 3D battle sequence. There’s also a cool real-time rendered section where you embody Iron Man.

Felix & Paul Studios teamed with Cirque du Soleil to bring us Kurios, also on the Gear VR Store. The most technically accomplished 360 stereoscopic video yet released, it features perfect stitching to create a seamless wraparound stage, which the cast fills with comedy, music and acrobatics. If you have a Note 4, let it completely cool down before starting the experience, as it will be on the verge of overheating by the end.

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