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Inside AR (Jan 15th, 2020)

2. Apple released a beta version of its Reality Converter for 3D files. The new macOS app now allows developers to convert, view, and customize USDZ (Apple’s Augmented Reality file format) into 3D objects. Mac Reality Converter is designed to be used in conjunction with the company's AR prototyping tool Reality Composer, which was unveiled at WWDC back in June 2019 alongside the RealityKit framework. Registered developers can download Reality Converter from Apple’s developer website now. – 9TO5MAC  

3. Bloomberg’s Christopher Yasiejko and Sarah Frier analyze how Facebook’s patent application trends last year might back up its strategic commitment to developing immersive tech. The social media company won 64 percent more patents in 2019 than in 2018, according to an analysis of figures from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office by Fairview Research’s IFI Patent Claims Services. The number of patents is a useful indicator of how the company is directing its research dollars and where it expects to reap the most return on investment in the future. Facebook’s total of 989 patents last year was more than triple the amount it received five years earlier, with 169 of those falling under the "Optical Elements" category (a nearly six-fold jump) with most of that growth concentrated on the "Heads-Up Displays" sub-category related to VR headsets. “I think it’s safe to say that their priorities in headsets are very serious, and it's a major focus of their R&D ” says Larry Cady, a senior analyst with IFI. – BLOOMBERG  

4. Swedish clothing retailer Carlings has released a new range of AR reusable political T-shirts. Developed for the brand by creative agency Virtue using Spark AR (Facebook's Augmented Reality platform), "The Last Statement" shirts are nearly blank to the naked eye, but when viewed through a smartphone or shared on social media, they become decked with a variety of bold designs and political messages which can be customized by the user. A relatively small logo near the shirt's neckline serves as a tracking point for a smartphone, so the Facebook and Instagram apps can accurately overlay the graphics. The wearer can currently choose from a range of 20 initial designs, with Carling promising to add more to keep options fresh. The shirt is only available to buy online via the Carlings website and is shipped in reusable packaging, with £10 ($13) from each T-shirt sold being donated to Wateraid. – DEZEEN

5. Schools are increasingly adopting AR tools in reading and writing activities to keep children engaged and trigger language skills and learning. Augmented Reality apps such as Quiver and Crayola Alive are becoming more frequently deployed by educators, bringing added layers of interactivity for young learners. Academized editor Aimee Laurence writes that immersive tech has a unique ability to trigger imagination, which can, in turn, lead to richer lessons and writing prompts. "In terms of language analysis, the adjectives that can be used to describe a scene become more abundant once the scene becomes a moving, interactive one, and the prompts triggered by that scenario are almost limitless," she writes. – AR POST

6. Google now has a patent in India for leaving messages in virtual graffiti. The patent application for a "Method and Apparatus for creating virtual graffiti in a mobile virtual and augmented reality system" was first filed by Motorola in June 2011, but has now been changed over to Google Technology Holding LLC. (Google acquired Motorola back in 2012.) The technology has the potential to work like a geolocation-based Augmented Reality messaging service, so that you could, for example, leave a message for a friend "written" on the door of a restaurant, perhaps recommending a particular dish, and when that particular friend visited the restaurant, they would get an alert prompting them to view the AR message. – BUSINESS STANDARD

7. Walgreens will use the Hololens 2 to train staff for its revamped stores. The U.S. retailer is deploying Mixed Reality technology to allow employees to navigate a 3D model of its new "Kroger Express" stores. The training program was developed by Microsoft partner Altoura, and modules teach you how to properly restock products, quality check perishable items and deal with unfamiliar customer service situations. Steven Lamontagne, vice president of physical design and formats for Deerfield (Walgreens’ parent company), says this is a valuable tool for allowing employees to familiarize themselves with the layout of the stores before the renovations are complete, so they are immediately confident within that new physical environment. – TECHNOLOGY RECORD

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

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