Inside XR - September 20th, 2019

Inside XR (Sep 20th, 2019)

Facebook's Stella Ray-Bans / AR Ice Sculpture in Regent's Park / $400,000 F-35 Pilot Helmet

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1. Facebook is reportedly partnering with Ray-Ban on its latest Augmented Reality glasses project. Facebook has been working to build its own augmented reality glasses - codenamed “Orion” -  for the past few years, confirming it was developing the technology back in 2018. The company's ambition is to come up with a device that will eventually replace smartphones altogether. Luxottica, makers of the popular Ray-Ban glasses, will now be directly involved in these efforts according to a report by The Information, but in a new project codenamed “Stella.” These glasses are likely to come to market before “Orion,” (although still several years away, with 2023 cited as the earliest release window) and - like Snap Spectacles - feature a camera allowing users to record moments of their day and share them. – THE VERGE

2. The Frieze London art fair has installed an AR sculpture in Regent's Park. The virtual artwork was announced before the Frieze London and Frieze Masters art fairs which take place in London from Oct. 3-6. Three hovering ice slab sculptures by the South Korean artist Koo Jeong A can be viewed through a mobile phone app. “It looks just as realistic as the sculpture next to it. If you take a photo of it or you send it your friends, they will not be able to tell whether it is real or virtual,” says Daniel Birnbaum, the director of Acute Art, which commissioned the work called "Density." Acute Art gives artists access to virtual and augmented reality, an area still in “the stone age” but developing fast according to Birnbaum, who added that he especially liked the fact that these "entities" were introduced in the quintessentially classical environment of a royal park alongside traditional statues. – THE GUARDIAN

3. – Follow Friday: Jeri Ellsworth 

@jeriellsworth is an AR game developer and the co-founder/CEO of Tilt Five, a company developing Mixed Reality glasses for holographic table-top gaming (yes, that's as fun as it sounds, and her Twitter feed is full of examples of how that plays out). Jeri is a tech industry veteran, having opened a chain of computer stores back in the 90s, then pivoting to chip design when the market crashed. The joystick she developed with a chip containing 30 retro games went understandably viral, and she's continued to push the boundaries of innovative gaming experiences since. The first AR company she founded,  CastAR more than doubled its Kickstarter goal of $400,000, raising over $1 million before she took that immersive tabletop gaming concept to her work @tiltfive.

4. ThirdEye's X2 MR glasses claim to be the world’s smallest Mixed Reality headset. After launching its first MR headset at CES in 2018 the company has continued to work on making their designs lighter and smaller, recently patenting an Organic Light Emitting Diode technology which they say will allow them to keep doing that for future models as well. The $2,000 X2 MR is primarily aimed at enterprise, and the company's Founder Nick Cherukuri claims its use can increase workplace productivity by as much as 40 percent. The proprietary onboard software works with a wide array of cameras and sensors built into the glasses, including thermal and ambient light sensors, a microphone, a 3-axis accelerometer, a gyroscope, and a compass as well as two greyscale cameras and a high-resolution RGB camera. – AR POST  

5. A Virtual HUD helmet produced for F-35 Lightning pilots costs $400,000. Developed by Rockwell Collins and Elbit Systems of America, the Gen III Helmet-Mounted Display System (HMDS) carbon-fiber helmet is 3D-milled to custom fit each pilot, with the custom fit ensuring that alignment of the pilots' eyes and helmet displays is precise, which allows pilots greater ability to see the display during high-G maneuvers. The technology lets pilots “see through the plane,” says Elbit America Senior Director of Communications Rod Gibbons, adding that the helmet uses a tracker to tell where the pilot is looking at any given time, then, working with the Distributed Aperture System (DAS)’s 360-degree real-time video, augments the vision in both eyes with additional information, even if the pilot isn’t looking out the cockpit’s windshield. – AVIONICS MAGAZINE

6. The Venture Reality Fund, which invests primarily in immersive applications and games, has just released its latest quarterly update covering Q1 and Q2 of 2019. The fund now tracks more than 380 companies on the AR landscape, a 33 percent increase from 2018. According to its co-Founder Tipatat Chenavasin, HMD AR is experiencing a transition phase, which is why we have seen companies like Daqri and  Meta shut down. The update also identifies a growing demand for consumer AR wearables spurred by launches such as  North’s Focals smart glasses and Form’s ARswimming goggles. There is also increased interest in volumetric capture content driven by growing 5G networks capabilities. Overall, Chenavasin concludes, AR’s future is bright as we enter a new phase of its growth cycle.– TECH TRENDS 

7. Reality Composer, Apple's new Augmented Reality prototyping app, has now been released on the App Store for iPhone and iPad. Apple announced a new Swift-only AR framework called RealityKit and accompanying Reality Composer app at WWDC in June and now Reality Composer has become available as a free download from the App Store (iOS 13 required). According to the company's release, this will allow anyone to quickly prototype and produce content for AR experiences that are ready to integrate into apps using Xcode or export to AR Quick Look. – 9 TO 5 MAC

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: David Stegon (senior editor at Inside, whose reporting experience includes cryptocurrency and technology).

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