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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.

 

Augmented Reality & Virtual Reality in Rio Olympics 2016

We’ve come a long way from television broadcasts of sporting events where inclement weather, bad lighting or overexposure often resulted in dull, poor quality images. We now enjoy crisp, crystal clear footage of our favourite sporting events, on demand, in high definition.

With innovations in technology, the viewing experience of watching a sports broadcast is becoming increasingly just that, an experience.

The recent Rio Olympics was one such example. Not only was it broadcast in high definition (HD), some events were broadcast in the latest 8k Ultra high definition.

But more than clear images, the adoption of Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR) and 360 degree imagery is what really set this olympics apart.

Significant portions of the Rio Olympics were broadcast in HD in VR. From the opening and closing ceremonies, to selected events such as track and field, beach volleyball and gymnastics, approximately 85 hours of VR footage from Rio was made available for viewing.

Specially developed, custom-made cameras were rolled out specifically to capture this footage in all its glorious, ultra high-definition. Using compatible headsets and their mobile phones, for the first time, viewers could enjoy and experience portions of the Olympics, as if they were there.

blog-rio-img1No longer was the opening ceremony something to watch from one point of view on a screen. With a VR headset, your entire visual field became the screen, and the ceremony was not just in front of you, but behind and to the sides. It’s almost like you were there. And this is exactly what Production Manager for Olympic Broadcasting Services, Karen Mullins, wanted from this unprecedented method of sports broadcasting.

“VR is not about viewing in a traditional sense,” said Mullins. I’s about an ‘experience’ and we always tend to describe it as that, rather than as coverage.”

And what an experience it was. To watch the world’s top athletes go for gold on a flat screen is one thing. But to experience it as it happens around you, while in the comfort of your living room, is quite another. Even for those without compatible headsets, numerous providers had uploaded 360 degree videos of Olympic teasers, events and interviews on YouTube.

All one needed was to cue up a video and use a mouse pointer to scroll around for a complete 360 degree view. Even without a headset or VR goggles, it’s quite an arresting visual experience.

But technological innovations at the Olympics didn’t stop at virtual reality. A host of studios and companies employed heavy use of augmented reality in their presentation.

AR graphics seemed to dominate televised broadcasts of the Olympics. From simple graphics of data and stats, to touchscreen tables in front of TV presenters where Olympic basketball events appeared to be played out live and in miniature.

There was even a memorable 3D capture of sprinter Usain Bolt, who seemed to came alive in the studio, right next to TV presenters.

The Olympics were a notable testing ground for these new technologies, but it didn’t stop at just broadcasting.

The events themselves utilized a host of technological improvements, such as underwater lap counters, video referees for certain sports, real time GPS tracking for canoe sprints and rowing (to name a few).

There were also drones streaming images live from stadiums.

All things considered, “watching” a sports broadcast, in the traditional sense, might soon be a relic of the past. Increasingly, with technological advancements in VR and AR technology, sports broadcasts are becoming things to experience more than just watch.

The recent Olympics were most likely just a taster, a testing ground that showed us what was possible – that being a passive viewer is giving way to being an active spectator.

You no longer have to view a sporting event, you can virtually be there, look around and experience the action unfold around you, in dazzling 360-degree perfection.

 

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Staff blog: Come fly with me

Written by: Marcelo Silva

The 360 Fly is a 360-degree camera and it may be one of best consumer 360 cameras yet.

Its extensive features make it easy and safe to use, no matter your skill level. The fact that it’s shockproof and waterproof makes it an easy choice over its competitors.

It’s rock solid and even if it’s your first time capturing 360-video, it doesn’t feel like you’re carrying a delicate piece of equipment.

The 360 Fly is easy to setup. You download the app press a button on the camera link up the Wi-Fi and your ready to go.

My Experience

My experiences with this camera have varied from frustration to feeling complete satisfaction. When I took it out for my first casual test run I tried holding it with my hand at the base, given that you get a 240-degree vertical view. This didn’t work out well for me as the objects I wanted to film where too far and I was standing too close too the camera. I came out of the video looking crazy distorted and the building I was trying to film looked like it was way too far away due to the fish eye lens.

The 360 Fly’s size turned out to be a huge advantage. I’m usually shy when it comes to filming videos in public. The fear I have is, that someone’s going to get upset and yell at me for filming them. I took it out into the city to film and normally people with video cameras get looks but I wasn’t getting any looks! Nobody realized it was a camera. You have to have this camera mounted to a tripod or monopod when in use. I walked into an AFL football game with the camera in hand with a Joby Gorillapod tripod, which is a mini tripod, into Etihad stadium. I was worried that they wouldn’t let me in. Not only did they let me in, they let me in no questions asked. You may be or may not be aware but there’s an increased security presence at Australian football games this year and they do not allow video devices into stadiums.

One of the struggles I had with this camera was filming good content. I have experience in filmmaking as in utilizing normal non 360-cameras, and I’m familiar with filming techniques however nothing that I had learnt at university had prepared me for this. After some trial and error I learned how to film engaging 360-footage. A good idea would be you may want to invest in a strong monopod.

The joys of using the 360 Fly came from my visit to the Melbourne Aquarium where I was starting to get a hang of filming with the 360 Fly. I was worried the cameras low light performance would produce poor footage but I was pleasantly surprised. When I got to test out the footage on Google cardboard, I was completely breath taken, after all my mishaps filming I finally got some good footage. One of the best experiences you’ll have with the 360 Fly is filming an experience and re watching it on a VR headset to relive the experience – amazingly it’s as good as being there in person. The company that manufactures the 360 Fly also manufactures their own VR headset that you can attach your phone to.

I do not recommend using this device for taking 360 degree pictures as it takes a still from a video and morphs it into a panoramic image or a globe. So if you’re thinking about using this for still-pictures invest in something else other than 360 fly.

Video quality

The 360 records in 1500×1500 resolution at 30 frames per second and that will give you a 240-degree vertical view. When you’re watching a 360fly video you can look up to see the sky, but you can’t look all the way down (you’ll see a black octagonal object). Because the 360 Fly is the world’s first single lens 360 the camera has it short comings however this does help keep the price down.

Sharing videos from this device is remarkably simple. The app on your phone, tablet or computer allows you to share video on Facebook YouTube, Twitter, and even on Break.

Software

The software is easy to use but frustratingly limiting. And keep you in mind; it’s in its first generation. You can edit videos and put them together but there’s no option to overlay audio unless you intend on posting a video on the 360 Fly website; as video editor I found that to be an annoyance. As a filmmaker, you know never to use the default on camera mic because, most on cameras mics provide poor audio quality, and the 360 Fly is no exception. This adds to the frustration of not being able to overlay a separate audio track.

If your looking for something more professional with the ability to include title sequences and the ability to add an audio track this camera is not for you.

Conclusion

The 360 fly is an amazing piece of technology. If you are an early adopter in 360-video, I recommend purchasing this to start with, due to its size. You will need to learn how to film engaging video content for this medium. There is no point in in spending thousands of dollars to have a professional set up and realizing that there’s not much for you to film.

 

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