If it keeps on rainin, the levee’s gonna break.

It is common knowledge that as technology evolves, individuals are becoming more informed and driven to create content aligned to their passions. Think about the content you are seeing in your social feeds – your colleague’s oddball memes, Aunt Sue with puppy’s ears and your old school mate Trevor Lam and his latest “work of art” – everyone around us is getting more and more able to express their creativity and publish it too. Facebook Augmented Reality (AR) is going to allow people to express themselves a whole lot more.

 

Give everyone the power to share anything with anyone.

– Mark Zuckerberg

 

What is F8 – and why should you care?

The Facebook Developers conference (F8) was first hosted in 2007 – where the team at FB presented the social graph – or a rendition of the concept of a social network. Subsequent editions of F8 hosted similarly theoretical principles behind the evolution of the behemoth that FB is today. Essentially, this is the conference where they announce their next plans, and given how integrated FB is in our lives today – you might want to be aware of what’s ahead.

 

F8 2017: Facebook Augmented Reality

Earlier this week, at F8 2017, Mark Zuckerberg (Zuck!) shared an update on the next phase of FB’s 10-year product plan, originally shared in at F8 2016. Commencing with some warm up jokes about the release of Fast and the Furious 8 (the “other” F8 ) this week, Zuck proceeded to give us a snapshot of how FB plans to integrate AR into camera functions in their apps.

 

Click to read: Business Insider’s article on the release of the FB 10-year plan

Mark Zuckerberg’s keynote from Day 1 of F8

 

FB, AR & Cameras – how do they come together?

In recent times, the FB family of apps (FB, Messenger, Instagram & Whatsapp) have seen the integration of camera icons across the board – enabling functions such as video conferencing. While these changes have gone unnoticed by some, it is estimated that the FB messenger app has 1.2 billion monthly users.

 

Facebook-Messenger-Video-Calling

FB Messenger with camera Icon (Source: Forbes)

Click to read: Forbes article on Facebook Messenger passing 1.2 billion users

 

And how does AR fit into this equation?

Zuck went on to share a common understanding that AR is essentially used for three key purposes;

  • The overlay of data onto the physical reality around us – such as messages or information
  • The ability to add digital objects into our surroundings – like a virtual television or gaming avatars
  • Enhancements to physical objects around us – like buildings or human faces.

Facebook Augmented Reality will work by aggregating these tools – the cameras within FB apps will allow users to create AR “experiences” – and they will seem quite familiar once you see them. AR is not rare – we’ve all seen it in one form or the other – quite possibly most recently in the form of Pokemon Go.

Now, we all know that Pokemon Go was a huge driver in bringing AR to the mainstream – even if it was little more than a temporary fad for most. You’ve also undoubtedly heard us go on about how the popularity of the game was influential in the voluminous cash injection industry players received in 2016. But this could very well be, to quote Led Zeppelin, when the levee’s gonna break.

 

Where might you have seen AR in action?

Some use cases we’ve found interesting

 

So how does it all work exactly? (A splash of technical jargon)

This vision comes to life with the incorporation of some technological building blocks;

  • Simultaneous localization and mapping (SLAM) – a technique borrowed from Artificial intelligence – enabling users to integrate digital elements into the reality in front of them
  • 3D effects – capturing and interacting with scenes that you can explore and effects that you can adjust
  • Object recognition – technology that can identify items around you, that can then be targets for the overlay of digital content

 

What about Virtual Reality?

AR and Virtual Reality align quite well, and in that vein, FB is launching a platform called Facebook spaces – where you can interact with people in a virtual environment through the Oculus Rift.

 

Facebook spaces (from F8 2017)

Meanwhile, we’ve been doing our own experiments with the Rift too!

image1 (1)

 

 

Early days in terms of adoption – and the plan for an open platform

Zuck reiterated a key message around AR: It is yet in a rudimentary phase of development – and most of the use cases around us are still evolving too. Don’t expect the world to change overnight.

That being said, in offering an open platform and leveraging the huge universe that lives on FB – users will be able to create AR experiences on their own, and share them online. In doing so, new users will have access to parallel creations by fellow users from around the internet.

This spike in available content will invariably help everyone around us find AR experiences that fit their fancy – especially if this punt from FB is a good one – and at Appearition, we certainly believe Facebook Augmented Reality is going to be something special for all of us.

 

The Magic that is AR – QnA with Tomi T Ahonen

Over the past few years – you would have heard us refer to Tomi T Ahonen – a thought leader in the tech space with a distinct passion for AR and author of 12 books on mobile. We are delighted to share a brief QnA that Tomi was kind enough to do with us – 5 questions, 5 minutes (and a bit) – Enjoy!
 
1. How do you think augmented reality/virtual reality industry has evolved over the past 5 years and where would you like to see the industry in the next 5 years? 
 
AR is in an exploratory phase right now. The things that made Pokemon Go such a big hit last year, the individual elements had all been done already before, only Nintendo and Niantic managed to put in the ‘right mix’ of the right elements. But I do believe the future of AR will have us looking at Pokemon Go of 2016 as the ‘early dawn’ and the service be to the industry similar to what MySpace was to social media before Facebook. An initial successful ‘proof-of-concept’ vehicle but others will emerge far bigger and more successful than even this – bearing in mind that Pokemon Go was the most successful new game launch in gaming history. 
 
For the industry I think the next five years will see more validation of various business concepts that will be seen as viable and steady. I think the Ikea furniture catalog AR application is one of the most sustainable on a retail/commerce side; various user-assistance uses of AR in say the Audi user-manual for cars, are an obvious big area that can now get a boost when AR has been ‘validated’ by Pokemon Go. But in 5 years AR will have a Billion consumers using it, AR will be as normal for most users on their smartphones as going to Facebook or Whatsapp or Skype might be today.
 
TV is old news, mobile is now, but AR is the next big thing
 
2. Who, in your opinion, are the more influential players in this industry, and where do you see the most potential for development?
 
I think the big driver for AR is entertainment at least initially. It is a very ‘fun’ type of use of mobile, especially if you compare to say ‘payments’ and mobile money, which is far more ‘useful’ than strictly fun (who loves paying?). I would think that again, the Pokemon Go experience will drive other brands from Disney to Hollywood and TV, to start to deploy AR into their brand experiences. Imagine the next James Bond movie (isn’t it time 007 visited Australia?) – I could very well imagine a Bond-themed adventure ‘game’ with AR that included elements from the movie and set ideally in locations that the movie itself was shot. Or take any of the big action hero movies, the Iron Man, Superman, Spiderman, Batman etc type of movies – these would seem like naturals to go to AR soon. Any strictly animated movies and various currently-popular TV shows – they should already have some kind of AR concept under development to ‘be the next Pokemon Go’ haha..
 
If we think of tech companies, I don’t see anyone moving ahead of the pack so far. And on AR specialist firms, Layar had an early head-start but they don’t seem to (at least yet) have gotten to that ‘Google front-runner’ status of what we typically see in tech like Amazon in retail or Facebook in social media etc.
 
3. Everyone has been talking about AR extensively, particularly post Pokemon, but in your opinion, what are the top 3 benefits of this technology?
 
First off, AR is truly magical. As such, it appeals remarkably strongly to young people. I would guess that once the big ‘youth brands’ figure out that TV is old news, mobile is now, but AR is the next big thing – we will see news like Adidas made last week, when they said they will end TV advertisements because the youth are on their smartphones. I can foresee a time when especially youth-targeted brands start to set AR as their primary media/advertising channel. Secondly AR is ‘illustrative’ and by this I mean it can show us what to do, and how to do it. In any kind of learning situation, AR can project the video of the optimal performance and that can be incredibly powerful in helping illustrate how to do things. User guides and manuals will soon all be AR-enabled. Don’t make me read a manual. Show me how to do it. And the third big benefit is that AR is inherently digital AND inherently mobile. That means it is fully ready for the future digitally-converged world when our money and communciations and media and consumption and behavior and preferences etc will all be done through mobile and using digital means. AR could become ‘the next thing’ after video on mobile. This would be on the progression that mobile was first voice, then text, then pictures, now videos, and next… AR. But we have to see if that comes to be.
 
4. Given the relative ease of implementing the technology, what are some challenges faced by companies looking to adopt AR at an enterprise level?
 
A big problem for most businesses is to find a suitably frequent behavior that could be enhanced or expanded via AR. So if you bought your new car, and once had a problem changing the oil, and used the AR guide once – you will pretty much forget its even possible and won’t get the chance to explore and ‘enjoy’ it. Even as the car company may have built many dozens of AR use-cases to assist the car-owner. But in the case of Pokemon Go there is a lot of ‘repetitive’ behavior and ‘returning’ behavior, so you have to come back and nurture the eggs, and walk the distance to hatch the eggs, and so forth. They have done a lot of thinking on the human ‘addiction-building’ repetitive behavior. I often tell the story of cinema vs bus ticket in mobile payments. Most people go to the cinema only a few times per year. We don’t really ‘learn’ or ‘remember’ that we could pay for that ticket on our mobile phone. But if we commute to work or school every day by bus, we’ll learn in a few days how much more convenient it is to pay by mobile.
 
AR is truly magical. As such, it appeals remarkably strongly to young people.
 
5. Any final thoughts/advice to newcomers in the industry or people wanting to learn how it all works?
 
I do look for the magical. A Disney birthday cake that has Cinderella in it to sing to the 5 year old princess that special day. A penguin at a Tokyo zoo who shows the path how to get from the train station to the zoo, and the penguin waddles exactly like a real penguin, as it walks. This is the kind of magic we can experience in AR and we should seek more of that. And make sure the consumers can share and spread the fun with their friends, through social media etc.
 
Note: Check out Tomi’s Tedx Talk on Augmented Reality being the 8th Mass Medium
 

Developers’ Post: Top 5 Unity tutorials regarding AR/VR

Vuforia How To :

Vuforia is probably the most reliable and easy to use AR platform on the market. This video-guide will help you setup your own AR experience in a few minutes only. They made it really accessible, and whether you’re a developer or a company, having your own set of AR experiences will help you promote yourself and stand out.

Cardboard / Gear VR :

When it comes to VR, cardboard has always been the most accessible out there, followed by Gear VR (which is actually pretty good in quality). This video is, in my opinion, the one who explains best how to get started with basic VR, and create immersive experiences for your clients, fans, future employers or relatives!

Vive Setup & Input :

If you are looking to get into standalone VR projects, VIVE is probably the right headset for you. This tutorial will teach you how to get started, which is something that I feel needs far more attention than most developers give. It’s easy to forget sometimes, that the best virtual experiences need the best inputs.

Custom Editor :

If there is one thing on Unity which is underrated, it’s definitively Custom Editors. They allow a much faster production efficiency as a programmer, and will let some teammates which aren’t necessarily good at programming to handle the design of your game or application without a sweat.

 

Shader (Shaderforge, a Unity asset) :

Shaderforge for Unity, or Unreal’s material, or Blender or any node-based material systems are something that all devs should, sooner or later, get good at. When reaching late development, it’s noticeable that 70% of the efficiency issues can get fixed by making your own shaders, and that can eventually, become essential. The fact that they are node-based only makes it easier to work with, and enabled better results.

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Three ways to use virtual reality to drive social change

In this day and age, we can use social media, augmented reality and virtual reality to drive social change by altering the way we campaign for causes. When a potential audience of billions can be reached with content to highlight a social issue, the impact is often swift and significant – think of the Ice Bucket Challenge. Augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR) and mixed reality (MR) have major roles to play in an era where change is literally in the palm of anyone’s hand. Here’s why.

It gives people a voice

billgates-booksOne of the best ways to open hearts and minds to a cause is to connect potential contributors with the people who stand to benefit from their con
tributions. No less than Bill Gates has shown how it’s done, allowing readers of his blog
Gates Notes to join him in his efforts to combat AIDS in Africa in a 360-degree VR film. “Meeting” people living with AIDS and the people working towards an AIDS-free future inspires viewers to make a difference.

 

Helping others connect with a situation

 

Now that you’ve met the people who need your help, VR can give you a better understanding of why they need your help. “If you could shuffle all of the homes in the world like a deck of cards so that people in wealthy countries lived side by side with people from poor countries, it would transform the world’s fight against poverty, hunger, and disease,” Gates writes. “It would be impossible for people to look away, impossible for them not to help.”

syria

It can be difficult to connect with an issue when you don’t see it for what it really is. Even consistent news coverage has the tendency to fade into the background when we only hear one-off stories and see isolated images. Take the Syrian refugee crisis. The Syrian civil war has gone on for so long. Many people are now numb to the suffering of civilians affected by the conflict. With immersive 360-degree VR films, however, you are not able to tune out or multi-task; you focus on the subject. The International Rescue Committee recognised this and used it in a film called Four Walls, made in collaboration with YouVisit. In Four Walls, you experience the living conditions of a refugee camp in Lebanon and witness the claustrophobia first-hand. You also see how their hopes and desires are not far removed from your own.

The results of these campaigns, as reported by Adweek, are promising. From the Syrian refugee crisis to non-profits championing clean water and education, VR films have brought in donations. In a recent UNICEF campaign, a VR film telling the story of a Syrian girl living in a refugee camp in Jordan boosted donations to US$3.8 billion – double what they expected to receive.

Putting benefactors in the shoes of beneficiaries

For organisations fighting diseases and illnesses, one important way to generate donations is to show people what it would be like to have that disease or illness themselves. To do that, Alzheimer’s Research UK and Visyon launched A Walk Through Dementia, a Google Cardboard app. This app recreates everyday situations faced by those who suffer from dementia – grocery shopping, walking around the neighbourhood visyon_-a-walk-through-dementia-1and simply being at home. Improving the public’s knowledge and pushing them to see the difficulty of life with the condition shifts it away from being an abstract concept. Recognising the impact that dementia could have on your own life and the lives of the people you care about, you realise the importance of taking immediate action and supporting organisations doing research to defeat
it.

Inspired to take your cause further with mixed reality? We want to be on your team. At Appearition, our goal is simple – tailored solutions that maximise ROI and deliver sustainable stakeholder value. We employ a partnership model driven by principles in change management. We ensure the complex mesh created by our solutions makes sense for our clients. Contact us to find out more.

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Image Sources

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IndustryAR: Augmented Reality Military Training

For soldiers to be effective, training must resemble real world scenarios as closely as possible. Real life battle conditions are loud, chaotic and dangerous. However augmented reality military training is a safer way to engage soldiers in real life simulations. 

battlefieldmedic2There is the real possibility of death or injury and a soldier can easily be overwhelmed by sensory overload. That is why realistic training is essential to building muscle memory and desentizing a soldier to the unique stimulus of real world battle conditions. This will also help in producing an effective, efficient soldier.

The challenge of augmented reality military training is, it is still fairly new. Thus, like any technology in its relative infancy, expensive and bulky.

Indeed, the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) cited the “burden on the soldier” as one of the impediments to AR adoption.

The others barriers mentioned towards augmented reality military training were minor. These obstacles can and will be easily addressed over time as the technology evolves and is tweaked and perfected. Barriers such as a lack of accuracy in terms of a digitally generated element in a user’s field of vision; or the pace of the technology evolving.navyvr

Augmented reality has also proved useful in providing support for naval operations. This is done by speeding up an operator’s decision making and helping to reduce mistakes. The technology takes a cognitive load off the operator by interpreting and processing technical information. It then presents it in a more easily understood format.

It also helps engineers and maintenance crews by facilitating repairs, disassembly and general maintenance via interactive technical diagrams, videos and animations.

Augmented reality is picking up where virtual reality left off, providing high-fidelity augmentation to already hyper-realistic military training. It enhances real world training scenarios with essential elements that are cheaper and safer to replicate, while maintaining the verisimilitude of the battlefield.

Furthermore, augmented reality military training reduces the cognitive load on operators. It also provides easily understood information to speed up decision making. All of this not on a separate screen, but on the very reality of the battlefield itself, in the real world, in real time.

 

Image source: (1) (2) (3)

 

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IndustryAR: Augmented Reality Transport Improving Daily Life

Augmented reality transport has helped tourists navigate train lines, assist cyclists in urban traffic and improve logistics transportation optimization. However, there is still significant room to develop in this industry and it will do so over the coming years.

Augmented reality on roads

big_livemap2In the UK, there are similar developments with bicycle helmets. Through augmented reality transport, safety is promoted by ensuring cyclists maintain a head-up stance, as the pertinent information appears in their visor, and not down on a smartphone.

As an added bonus, a feature called blind spot visualization is being explored. If developed and added, this could greatly reduce the incidence of heavy vehicles cutting into to bicycle paths, a major cause of cycling fatalities.

Yet another perk is a feature that could suggest bike routes that are less polluted by heavy traffic. An especially helpful feature for most industrialized, heavily trafficked cities. And of course, navigation would be the backbone of such an app.

Augmented reality in logistics

AR applications can also be a big asset to logistics companies by optimizing transportation. Applications could help drivers by improvingaugmented_reality
navigational efficiency and safety. AR could also help workers identify, at a glance, if a particular shipment is the correct one, or if it meets the required import/export regulations.

These are processes often take a long time to perform manually, and they run up costs. In a nutshell, AR has the potential to take a lot of the ‘grunt’ out of grunt work and help move things along more smoothly and efficiently.

While AR is finding some expression in the transportation industry, it is still early stages. There are plenty of applications still in development. However, this is less of a limitation and more of an indication of a vast future potential.

Image source (1) (2) (3)

 

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IndustryAR: Augmented Reality in Defence and Military

When it comes to defence and the military, every advantage matters. We live in a technological age where the most effective military is not one with the most soldiers, but the best technology. And the best technology right now is Augmented Reaaugmented-reality-600lity (AR) in defence.

The US military has already begun employing AR technology in its training cycles, most notably during an Infantry Officer Course in Quantico last year.

Young Marines got to test out a new AR-based system known as the Augmented Immersive Team Trainer (AITT). It’s a system that trains troops in calling in airstrikes and artillery barrages.

Traditionally, this form of training is difficult to conduct. Munitions and targets can only be used once and aircraft and artillery barges are prohibitively expensive, and often unavailable during these training cycles.

However, the AITT proved extremely beneficial in this regard. The expensive components such as aircraft, bombs and their resulting explosions, could be digitally created and overlaid on a real-world training battlefield.

These elements would of course be required to behave realistically, a fairly easy task. There was no need to worry about limited munitions, unavailable jets or single-use targets.

The added bonus is that unlike virtual reality, augmented reality in defence allowed troops to go through the actual physical motions of training. Soldiers require actual walls and stairs, real world obstacles to build up muscle memory.

Another advantage of augmented reality in military training systems is its mobility. Current USMC training requires Marines to go to a specific location and often requires the use of significant contractor support. With AR-based training systems however, these devices can be move around easily and the set up is usually far less complicated.

df4fad14-9444-11e4-_831351cThe reason why virtual reality falls short is that it takes away from the real world battlefield. It’s great for a fighter pilot in a cockpit simulator, as he essentially deals with buttons, joysticks and screens. He himself is static while it is his vehicle that moves in space.
Thus, apart from the massive G-forces, this is fairly easy to simulate through VR.

Also, similar technology such as Google Glass can sometimes be more of an impediment than an asset.

It is essentially another screen, just much closer to the eye of the soldier. There is still a cognitive load and time lag when a soldier shifts his attention to the screen. He will then need to mentally processes that information in relation to his real world situation. Augmented reality in defence does the processing for you. The information overlayed in an understandable format. In other words, you simply ‘see it as it is’.

 

Image source: (1) (2) (3)

 

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Wearable technology to win

There has been speculation about whether wearable technology gave English Premier League (EPL) team Leicester City the edge it needed to win the Premier League last year. This is especially impressive, considering that the season prior, and the ten years before that, Leicester City was not even in the Premier League to begin with. They had been relegated to the lower divisions and were languishing there for some time.

blog-wearable-technology-img1The type of wearable technology used by sports teams is slightly different from AR and VR simulations and headsets. Their wearable technology gives team coaches a unique insight into a player’s overall fitness. It measures heart rate, position, direction, speed and distance covered. It can even go as far as measuring the force and angle of a tackle. Using all this data in concert with complex algorithms, wearable technology can accurately predict the level of a player’s health and energy, in other words, match fitness.

Approximately 8% of top-tier teams employ the use of wearable technology, and Leicester City is one of them. On a scale as large as the EPL, a star striker’s match fitness could mean the difference between victory and defeat. It’s no coincidence that Jamie Vardy, Leicester’s striker, played every game, while Manchester United’s Wayne Rooney had to sit out more than a third of the season due to injuries.

In a sporting context like the EPL, where players are bought and sold for tens of millions of Pounds, and wins and losses translate into huge fluctuations in the bottom line, an edge like the ability to reduce a player’s injury rates, makes a huge difference.

blog-wearable-technology-img2Wearable technology has also had a significant impact on Rugby League, where data from wearables can clearly show the drop-off in work rates of certain players who need to replaced, and timely substitutions can be game changers. Wearables are also used in the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) where they gather data such as the force produced from certain strikes, heart rate and distance covered in the octagon. The Australian Footy League (AFL) employs the use of wearable technology to keep tabs on players’ health, fitness and work rates. It seems like wearable technology, augmented reality and virtual reality have come from relative obscurity and are all of a sudden seamlessly woven into the fabric of sports. From development laboratories to the world stage, what was not so long ago viewed as a gimmick is now a crucial tool in the performance of athletes and sports teams.

 

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