Inside XR - July 11th, 2019 |

Inside XR (Jul 11th, 2019)

AR Swim Goggles / Hacking Virtual Worlds / Holographic Cockpit for Your Car

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1. Vancouver start-up Form unveiled augmented reality swimming goggles which will allow athletes and amateurs to keep track of performance data while in the pool. The device overlays a customizable range of metrics such as split times, distance, stroke rate, calories burned, and stroke count directly onto the wearer's field of view without obscuring their surroundings. The data is then stored and remains available through the Form Swim app on iOS and Android. “At the elite level, everything is measured down to the hundredth of a second, so having access to real-time metrics in your goggles is an absolute game-changer," says Scott Dickens, Director of Strategic Partnerships at Form, who was an Olympic swimmer before joining the company. The goggles promise to deliver up to 16 hours of tracking per charge and will begin shipping internationally on August 7 starting at $199.– USA TODAY

2. New York Post reporter Johnny Oleksinski tried his hand at VR tennis at Wimbledon. He recounts the experience of being greeted by former British No. 1 and Wimbledon champion Andy Murray, who "guides you through the procedures and provides gentle encouragement even when you’re garbage". Although only managing to score an unimpressive 750 points, Oleksinski said he had a good time and recommends that other tournaments such as the US Open follow suit in upgrading such interactive experiences to immersive technology. – NEW YORK POST

3. – Throwback Thursday: Forte VFX1 Headset

The Forte VFX1 was the most advanced, complex and expensive consumer VR system that appeared on the market during the mid-1990s VR craze. It was released in 1995 and cost about $599. It comprised a helmet, a handheld controller, and an ISA interface board.

The helmet - which in looks and functionality comes pretty close to what was portrayed in the 1992 classic “Lawnmower Man” - featured Two Degrees of Freedom (2DOF) head tracking with internal sensors for pitch (70 degrees), roll (70 degrees), and yaw (360 degrees) in addition to stereoscopic 3D and stereo audio. It even had cool features which we see in modern VR headsets, such as a “smart visor” that could be opened to allow the user to look at the outside world, without taking off the whole thing. 

The visuals, which by all accounts were very impressive for the time, were delivered by dual 0.7" 263 x 230 LCD displays capable of 256 colors. Optics comprised dual lenses with adjustable focus and interpupillary distance, with a 45-degree diagonal Field of View (FOV).  The helmet also included built-in stereo speakers and a condenser microphone.  

A hand-held controller called the Cyberpuck offered three buttons and internal sensors for pitch and roll.  Audio, video, and tracking information was transmitted via the VIP Board, a 16-bit ISA card that received video input from the video card's 26-pin VESA feature connector.

Making this complex setup work was not for the faint-hearted though, as it required a lot of calibrating and setup with good old MS-DOS. For starters, the system’s “VIP” card needed to be installed into an ISA slot of the host PC. This worked together with the PC’s video-card connected via VESA bus to provide stereoscopic imagery on both screens of the HMD.

For those keen on indulging in some retro gaming, you can still occasionally find operational headsets for sale - one sold on Ebay recently for $240 - and there is a surprising amount of content available for it, including classic games such as Duke Nukem 3D.

4. Automotive technology manufacturer Continental is working on a glasses-free 3D light-field technology that will turn a car's dashboard into a dynamic holographic display. Developed in partnership with Silicon Valley start-up Leia Inc.  the “Natural 3D Lightfield Instrument Cluster,” is able to bypass the need for a conventional head-tracker camera by using Leia's Diffractive Lightfield Backlighting (DLB) technology and producing eight different perspectives of the same object on the display which, when viewed from different angles, creates a 3D effect without the need of additional glasses or smart device. Third-party developers are being invited to create their own holographic applications using the Automotive Software Development Kit (SDK). “The car is clearly the next frontier for mobile,” says David Fattal, Leia Inc. co-founder and CEO. Production of the system is scheduled to begin in 2022. – VRSCOUT

5. Researchers highlight the vulnerability of virtual environments by hacking into three major VR platforms. In a demonstration performed at the Recon cybersecurity show in Montreal, Alex Radocea and Philip Pettersson showed how to hack virtual reality worlds on three platforms - VR Chat, Steam’s own Steam VR and, High Fidelity, an open source VR system with its own blockchain-based digital currency. Hacking immersive environments like these allow attackers to take full control of the victim's world and avatar, which can mean anything from annoying pranks to eavesdropping on conversations or injecting malware into their systems and spreading bugs through their networks.  Radocea and Pettersson disclosed the most recent bugs responsibly and all of the vulnerable platforms put a fix in place.– NAKED SECURITY

6. VR newbie Brian Dillon tries out a range of experiences at Dublin's VR Link. The VR Arcade which recently opened in the Irish capital works within a "time-house" model where you pay for a certain amount of time, during which you have access to unlimited tea, coffee, popcorn, board games, video games, and now virtual reality. Dillon rates his experience of "ducking and screaming like a five-year-old" as "a bit too real, but absolutely gas craic all the same." Until August, new visitors can get 45 minutes for €15 ($17), while €20 ($23)  will get you an hour and 15 minutes. – LOVIN DUBLIN 

7. Training for empathy is challenging but possible, and VR is the optimum medium for facilitating this at scale. In this analysis, Todd Maddox explains the Neuroscience behind immersive technologies’ unique ability to make us experience things from another person’s perspective. This requires training at an emotional, experiential and behavioral level, not just at a cognitive level, as empathy-building is facilitated by immersive experiences that are rich in context and emotion, engaging multiple learning systems in synchrony. – TECH TRENDS

8. In this article, Thuong Hoang, Lecturer in Virtual and Augmented Reality at Deakin University and Guy Wood-Bradley, Lecturer in IT, Deakin University, unpack the key principles of embodiment. The term refers to the connection between the real person and their virtual avatar, and is particularly pertinent to fields such as virtual and augmented reality. One of the examples cited is the "rubber hand experiment" which in this case was performed on actor Paul Giamatti for a National Geographic documentary. In the demonstration, the researchers manage - within a very short period of time, to make Giamatti "feel" the strokes of a brush on a prop hand placed in front of him. – THE CONVERSATION

9. Developers are modding the Valve Index with fans to keep the headset cooler. Jamie Feltham reports that in his experience the HMD became rather hot, and although this was not enough to cause concern, it did lead to some fogging issues. To combat this, some owners have taken to tinkering with the hardware using the files that Valve provided last month (then withdrew, and finally restored). One of the most popular designs shared on Reddit involved removing the headset’s front faceplate and fitting small fans inside. These are then connected up to the USB port on the front of the device to power them. – UPLOADVR

10. A Labrador mix named Tai has been taught to perform commands in response to remote-controlled vibrations in a haptic vest. Researchers at Ben-Gurion University in Israel presented the results of the project at the IEEE World Haptics Conference in Tokyo, which showed that cues issued by gentle vibration motors in the vest were as effective as vocal commands. Tai has become Israel’s only government-registered research dog, and the research team credits him in the published paper as a “truly good boy”. – NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC

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


Editing team: Kim Lyons (Pittsburgh-based journalist and managing editor at Inside), David Stegon (senior editor at Inside, whose reporting experience includes cryptocurrency and technology), and Bobby Cherry (senior editor at Inside, who’s always on social media).

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