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Inside AR (Aug 7th, 2019)

1. Facebook clarified its official position on how it uses the data captured by the Oculus Quest and Rift S headsets. Reporter Ben Lang obtained a statement from the company for Road to VR, which says that "the only information kept on their servers today consists of performance metrics that don’t contain any recognizable detail about your environment." These metrics, the company insists, are only used to improve the inside-out tracking system and they don't collect or store images or 3D maps of a user's environment. As Lang points out, however, the liberal use of the word "today" and the caveat that there are additional opt-ins for data use, as well as the promise that Facebook would notify users "if collecting this information on our servers is required for future VR experiences we provide on Quest and Rift S, for example, co-located multiplayer experiences" leaves plenty of legal wriggle room and means the VR community should be diligent in analyzing such policy updates to avoid erosion of those existing protections. – ROAD TO VR

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2. A newly granted patent shows how Amazon might use Augmented Reality to make its deliveries more efficient. First filed back in 2016, the patent published today details how AR would guide delivery agents by showing them useful data in real-time to wearable headset displays. Amazon inventor Robert Niewiadomski writes in the application that this could include information such as gate codes, preferred delivery entrance and safe places to leave parcels or cautionary notes about aggressive dogs. "You could even have the location of the key box flash on and off as you’re looking at the entryway to an apartment building," he adds. – GEEK WIRE

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3. – Jargon Watch: Occlusion* 

Occlusion is essentially the ability to hide virtual objects behind real things, and vice-versa. It boils down to making the interaction between our bits and our bytes more realistic, so that your atoms obey the same rules as your pixels. 

And it's all the rage at the moment, as all the major players in the industry such as Microsoft and Magic Leap are pouring resources in perfecting that feature. Most notably Apple, which wowed many commentators around WWDC with the new occlusion capabilities of its ARKit.  

The more realistic interplay between physical and digital world that occlusion enables is one of the reasons why people got excited by Minecraft Earth, and the fact that Apple provided that functionality in a more developer-friendly package was also probably a big factor in Microsoft's decision to stage their first Minecraft Earth demo at WWDC

But cracking occlusion is not easy. In this deep-dive post for Hackernoon, Neil Matthew explains all the complexities that make this one of the most elusive pieces in the complicated jigsaw of building compelling immersive experiences: 

According to Matthew, creating realistic occlusion in AR means selectively preventing parts of the virtual scene from rendering based on a constantly shifting knowledge of the real world, which involves 3 main functions. 

  1. Sensing the 3D structure of the real world.
  2. Reconstructing a digital 3D model of the world.
  3. Rendering that model as a transparent mask that hides virtual objects.

How well the industry manages to square that circle and make all these complex processes constantly running in the background look - and feel - seamless, will determine how realistic, enjoyable, and immersive our experiences are. 

*Not to be confused with collusion – please subscribe to Inside Trump for your fix of that!

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4. Daniel Cooper tests out the new Form Augmented Reality swim goggles at his local pool. The wearables officially go on sale today for $199 and are billed as a convenient tracker for amateur swimmers and professional athletes alike. The Vancouver-based team behind the project has had previous experience developing AR sports wearables under the Recon brand which was sold to Intel back in 2015 and subsequently shut down. Cooper rates it as a "focused product that does one job very well." with no unnecessary extra features, it weighs very little and its battery lasts for around 16 hours, deploying custom algorithms to automatically detect a wearer's swimming style. – ENDGADGET

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5. Facebook has created a 'Virtual Wing' at London's Tate gallery using its Spark AR platform. The project uncovers the stories behind artworks by artists such as Frank Bowling and Joseph Mallord William Turner with via the Instagram app activation, which works on iOS and Android smartphones. – NEXT REALITY

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6.  Seattle-based Vreal has announced it is shutting down and "moving on to new realities". The start-up which had raised $11.7 million for its VR streaming platform - which allowed players to record and share moments they’d spent in VR - employed about two dozen people and claimed its product was successful, yet says the "VR market never developed as quickly as we all had hoped, and we were definitely ahead of our time.”– UPLOADVR

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7. Queensland council in Australia is using immersive technologies to bring local history to life and boost tourism. During World War II Charters Towers became a base for the US Army during the Battle of the Coral Sea. Now with an AR app developed with a $54,000 State Government grant visitors can navigate through a  simulation of old military bunkers, experience a bomber squadron flyover, and interact with military artifacts. "You look at your phone and you really do believe you have stepped into one of those bunkers, as it was, at that period of time," Says Mayor Liz Schmidt "This kind of technology transcends all barriers, and lot of people coming on the tours are of the older generation, and some don’t have English isn't their first language, it enables an amazing experience for them," she concludes.– ABC NEWS

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8. The McClatchy publishing company is fostering debate around the ethics of immersive journalism. Theresa Poulson, who directs the Storytellers in Residence program at McClatchy's New Ventures Lab writes that the journalism industry can't afford to wait until the tech is perfect to explore its potential. "Since there’s no rulebook for ethical storytelling in this medium — which often involves more post-production work compared to photo or video — we decided to start our own," she explained. – IMMERSIVE SHOOTER

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9. The $750,000 open call from the Knight Foundation for Immersive projects has attracted a lot of interest since launching last week. “The call for ideas has already garnered immense interest in the arts and technology fields, and our initial informational webinar was booked to capacity – 200 attendees – in just a day,” says Foundation Director Chris Barr. Successful projects will address concepts around engaging new audiences, building new service models, expanding beyond walls, and distribution to multiple institutions: Those interested in applying can do so until August 12, and recipients will be announced in late fall 2019. – TECH TRENDS 

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10. Amusement park Busch Gardens is rolling out a streamlined model for using VR in theme park experiences. Slow turn-around times and concerns over hygiene have hampered the take-up of immersive tech in theme parks so far, leading many venues to shut down rides following disappointing results. The recently launched "Battle for Eire" experience in the Ireland section of the Williamsburg, Virginia, park is adopting a new approach, however, allowing visitors to be prepped while they wait in line, and for groups to be alternated so that up to 1,000 people can be serviced every hour.  – VRSCOUT

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This newsletter was written and curated by Alice Bonasio, a journalist and consultant obsessed with the immersive technology space, including AR/VR/MR/XR and any other acronyms that fit into the realities spectrum. Over the past 15 years, Alice has advised a wide range of start-ups and corporations on digital transformation and communication strategy and is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Tech Trends. She also regularly contributes to publications such as Quartz, Fast Company, Wired, Playboy, The Next Web, Ars Technica, VRScout and many others. Follow her on Twitter @alicebonasio

 

Editor: Kim Lyons (Pittsburgh-based journalist and managing editor at Inside).

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