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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!

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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
 

Staff Blog: Mucking about with 360 VideoSphere VR Part 3

Interested in 360 VideoSphere (360 Virtual Reality)? This series shares what I learnt producing a short film aboard an old Sailing Ship for the Melbourne Fringe Festival[1].

In the last update, my team of volunteers were looking forward to shooting our first 360 VR short film. Then we hit a hurdle. Our cinematographer was unable to do any test shots or editing, due to incompatibility with his computer and the festival’s practice camera.

AWFUL AUDIO, OR AUDACIOUS?

The hurdle was followed by a face-first tumble into the mud when our sound engineer had an overseas job at the same time as the shoot. We could not reschedule; Melbourne Regatta Day aligned with our shooting window, and was too good to miss.

Plan B. We contacted other specialists, and they were keen to try 360 VideoSphere production, but there was not enough time to line up people and equipment. So we fell back to Plan C; use the Samsung Gear 360 camera’s inbuilt microphone. This would not be great if you’re recording a concert, or producing a narrative that requires directional sound to direct audience attention. Still, for our purposes we were pretty pleased with the quality.

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NEW TECHNOLOGY? IF WISDOM FAILS TRY TENACITY

Conventional wisdom with emerging technology is test it early and iron out the inevitable problems. It’s wisdom for a reason.

Unfortunately, the festival’s production units were unavailable in advance. So, we could give up, or improvise and manage the risk. We decided to go for it, and as expected, encountered problems right away.

It is not possible to get behind a 360 camera and look through a viewfinder, but with the Samsung Gear you can use your phone as a remote viewer. A nifty feature, unless as in this case, Samsung block access to the app because you’re in a country where the Camera has yet to be officially released. The festival hadn’t identified this issue because like us, this was their inaugural spin on the 360 dancefloor.

Short of trying solutions like IP masking to make it look like we were in South Korea (where the camera was bought) we would have to shoot blind – so that’s what we did. For example, we climbed the mast and out onto a yardarm to attach the camera. Then, we recovered it after 10 minutes to physically connect it to my laptop and review the footage.

Sometimes even workarounds need a workaround. The case around the camera’s USB port was too small for our cable, and modifying the borrowed camera was out of the question. Our resident inventor, Andrew, borrowed the skipper’s knife and whittled away his own USB cable’s superfluous housing. I admit, I was sceptical but it fit neatly into the Camera’s port.

IN THE NEXT UPDATE

So after a long day shooting we had plenty of good footage.

However, 360 VideoSphere (360 VR) film is captured on multiple cameras. So, this composite footage must be “stitched” together before it can be edited. The results create some unique trials in the editing suit!

USEFUL LINKS

 

For an immersive experience and ease of use try using a Google Cardboard headset and selecting this icon in YouTube: google_cardboard_logo

 

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Staff Blog: Mucking about with 360 VideoSphere VR Part 2

All Goes Well, Until It Doesn’t

Interested in 360 VR (VideoSphere)? This series shares what I learnt producing one aboard an old Sailing Ship for the Melbourne Fringe Festival[1].

I was lucky enough to come across the opportunity at a VR (Virtual Reality) meetup to produce a VideoSphere short film, with the camera and expert guidance supplied[2]. I have produced traditional video, and was already intrigued after seeing two staff from ABC TV talk about their experience at an earlier Mixed Reality meetup[3].

When Amy Nelson and Astrid Scott explained how they produced the ABC’s first 360 production, I was struck by how accessible they made it[4]. They faced the challenge of placing their camera on a pole over an angry bull in the middle of a rodeo in outback Queensland. For other shots they had the camera operator hiding behind a barrel. Not because of the bull, but because hiding the crew behind the camera is not an option, when there is no “behind” the camera.

They were candid about accepting mistakes. They knew that many of the rules learned over the last century do not apply to this medium so new practices must be developed through experimentation.

So given this chance, my first thought was ‘brilliant!’ which is my reaction to anything related to Virtual and Augmented Reality. But I had no team, no 360 experience, and no time. So, it had everything going for it but common sense.

1830’s Cultural Heritage Meets 360 Video

The festival required a proposal. Cultural Heritage (i.e. history) kinda rocks and everybody loves old fashioned sailing ships, whatever their opinion of Johnny Depp’s (over)acting in Pirates of the Caribbean. However, not everybody can spend time aboard one, let alone to climb out onto a yard-arm high above the deck. I have been a volunteer aboard the Enterprize, an educational tourism ship, for the last few years, and this was a way to share the experience.

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The first step was to create a storyboard (a sequence of shots, like panels in a comic book) and get the festival and the ship’s management on board.

The next step was to put together a team. For the cinematography I called on Andrew Gotts, an old friend who has worked in video production. He enjoys experimental technology, and has a good head for heights. He suggested an editor, Nadia Nusatea, so that made three. We still required an audio specialist so I approached Darius Kedros who runs a VR Audio special interest group[5].

There were a few short weeks to learn the technology, shoot and edit. But we now had a plan, a team, and something to film.

Cameras and Audio Equal Trouble and Strife

Then, bad news. The practice camera provided was incompatible with Andrew’s hardware, and we could not borrow the production camera until less than a day before the shoot. Our choices were to quit, or go in blind.

Worse news. Darius would be overseas for an extended period. Understandably he did not want to risk his very expensive audio capture equipment with somebody else; particularly when it would be suspended over salt water.

Next week

In next week’s edition: All At Sea But Problem Solving: We improvise to solve our production problems and capture our footage, but even editing 360 creates its own obstacles

Useful Links

Many of these are Melbourne (Australia) based, but you can find similar resources wherever you are.

  1. Part 1 of this Series: https://www.appearition.com/mucking-about-with-360-videosphere-vr/ 
  2. Nathan Beattie’s VR Developers’ Meetup: https://www.meetup.com/Melbourne-VR/
  3. Leah Bunny and Emily Harridge’s Real World VR Meetuphttps://www.meetup.com/Melbourne-VR-Virtual-Reality-Meetup/
  4. ABC TV’s first 360 VideoSphere production: http://mobile.abc.net.au/news/2015-12-03/vr:-the-life-of-a-bronc-rider/6966832
  5. Darius Kedros and Sally Kellaway’s VR Audio Group: http://www.meetup.com/Melbourne-AR-VR-Audio-Meetup/

 

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Staff Blog: Mucking about with 360 VideoSphere VR Part 1

I looked about Antarctica in all directions. From the snowy landscape rising towards the centre of the continent to the waves breaking against the beach; a beach made of large pebbles, clearly visible at my feet.

VideoSphere (360 video) is real world footage that enables you to look in all directions including up and down even on a regular computer. Use a VR (Virtual Reality) headset and it will fill your field of view and move with your head. This means you are no longer limited to a window predefined by somebody else. I’m a history geek so I used it for Cultural Heritage. However, if it is broadcast live, at your sister’s wedding or a music concert, you can be 1,000 miles away, but see exactly what you would see sitting in the audience.

My first experience was with its sibling, PhotoSphere (which are 360 still images). I was “standing” on the Antarctic beach, while physically located in my kitchen in Australia, thanks to Paul Pichugin[1].

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360 Video in Practice 

If you have not come across VideoSphere it is only a matter of time. Mainstream news organisations, tourism and sporting bodies are already using it as more than a novelty. You can even produce it yourself for family and friends.

At the entry level, you can pick up a decent camera with respectable sound capture, such as the Samsung Gear 360[2], for under US$500 (plus software such as Adobe Premiere[3] and a computer with enough grunt to run it. If you’re a serious professional and have US$45,000 handy, you can pick up Nokia Ozo, a bargain down from its original US$60,000 price tag[4]

Another factor is sound. Capturing ambient noise is not difficult. If you would like to capture directional sound and edit layers of sound (e.g. voice, action, music, and ambient) to a high quality then you may need a sound technician with a directional sound rig, editing desk, and software.

Using VideoSphere Yourself 

If you’re interested in producing your own VideoSphere, having one done professionally, or are just curious about the technology, you can read this series. I’ll cover the lessons (and mistakes to avoid) that I learnt by producing this short film aboard an old-fashioned Sailing Ship[5] for the Melbourne Fringe Festival. You can watch the video below on Youtube with a Google Cardboard headset and selecting the google_cardboard_logo symbol. 

A quick aside on the furious debate – VR or not VR

You may encounter an argument that 360 should not be referred to as VR because you can look but not touch. I.e. you can’t interact the way you can with responsive computer generated (CG) content. It’s true, but it’s like arguing that a spider is not an insect. most people just don’t care. So, for the sake of simplicity I am bundling this into the Mixed Reality family.

Next week

Tune in next week for my next article: All Goes Well, Until It Doesn’t: Putting together a production in record time with technology so new it has not yet been released in the country has its risks

Useful Links
    1. Paul Pichugin’s Antarctica: http://immersiveimages.com.au/tours/antarctica/#s=pano10
    2. Samsung Gear 360 Camera: http://www.samsung.com/global/galaxy/gear-360/
    3. Adobe Premiere video editing software: https://helpx.adobe.com/premiere-pro/system-requirements.html
    4. Nokia Ozo 360 Camera: https://ozo.nokia.com/# 
    5. Melbourne’s Tall Ship Enterprize: http://www.enterprize.org.au/

 

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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.”

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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.

Sources

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Image Sources

(1) (2) (3) (4)

 

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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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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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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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Staff blog: Difference between Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality

By now, you would have either experienced Pokemon Go or collided with someone or the other walking around trying to find a pokemon on the streets. Everyone has described this as the first mainstream implementation of Augmented Reality, and frankly speaking it took me a long time to understand exactly what that meant. As with most mysteries – a quick search on google provided the following insight;

Augmented reality (AR) is a live direct or indirect view of a physical, real-world environment whose elements are augmented (or supplemented) by computer-generated sensory input such as sound, video, graphics or GPS data. (Wikipedia)

If you share my limited degree of technology awareness, this definition blog-arvr-img1would provide nothing but more confusion. However, experience assisted in crossing this knowledge barrier when my colleague provided a simple demonstration.  Opening an app on his phone and scanning a piece of paper through the camera, the video of a dancing child popped up on the screen. Wherever he moved the camera and any angle, the girl stayed where she was as if she was standing there in reality. I started to realise that this technology is a lot more prevalent that I had originally thought.

Spurred on my newfound understanding, I revisited my trusted knowledge aide – Google – to discover the secrets of Virtual Reality

Virtual reality or virtual realities (VR), also known as immersive multimedia or computer-simulated reality, is a computer technology that replicates an environment, real or imagined, and simulates a user’s physical presence and environment to allow for user interaction. (Wikipedia)

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Given the larger context – this now made a lot more sense and Virtual Reality blew my mind, even more so that AR in fact. Once again, to fully experience the technology, I had put on the headset and watched a clip of sharks swimming around me as if I were underwater. This extraordinary experience was particularly significant as I suffer from Claustrophobia and never expected to experience an underwater dive like this. The first few moments were quite intimidating, but as I gathered my senses and got my breathing in control, I was left in awe. The other clip I would recommend was a recreation of Cirque du Soleil, an immersive experience in a live circus. That one, I enjoyed much more, because I felt as if I was standing among the performers and artists. It was even more real, given that the experience revolves around the user sitting on a chair, and not floating underwater

Both technologies have potential in the business world, for example, AR have been explored in the fashion world and furniture companies. AR can help people to see how a product would look for instance in their living room simply by using an app through their phone. And VR is being used in a variety of businesses as well, for instance Arctic Cat uses it to show their customers the new snow mobile model.

In my opinion, the biggest difference is that VR is a controlled environment, such as console gaming and experiencing things with your own eyes, whereas AR can be social and you can move around or even taking a walk with it.

I slowly started to see how the technologies also extend beyond the 319372292_725c2f0b53_bbusiness world, and into real life. As I look back on my traveling experiences back in Southeast Asia, most of the traveling involved taking a bus from town to town. One particular ride stood out in my memory, a particularly nervy bus ride from Luang Prabang to Louang Namtha in Laos. The bumpy roads of Laos take some getting used to and I felt most lucky that I don’t get car/bus nausea, being exposed to sailing from a young age. But the size of the bus and narrow roads across the hills and mountains made the ride challenging to sit properly and it went on and on for hours. I held on to the seat as my entire body tightened with every turn and bump. At one point we came to a stop, and I could barely see anything because it was night time and darkness surrounded the bus. I got up from my seat and came to the front and found out there was a tank truck that had fallen sideways on the side of the road. And at the same time there were other cars and buses tried to pass the traffic from the other side towards us. What made this whole situation difficult was the location; on the tight turn of a mountain.

When problems like these happen often in the roads of Southeast Asia, AR and VR could do a great deal of help to improve them. Have the exact measurements and calculating the size of the roads and buses, they can help to prevent accidents. Drivers could practice the turns and smoother rides. Infrastructure could be improved by testing new roads using the technology.

While this is just an idea of mine, I have observed in my travels that advanced technology has yet to become a mainstream in some areas, including in rural areas. But this is just an example for what kind of problems could be solved by AR and VR.  Such an advanced technology should be used to make the world a better place, more than just entertainment. Blunt as that sounds, there’s little to argue against the fact that the world could certainly be made a better place, sometimes!

 

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Staff blog: AR for people with mental challenges and disabilities

Children make up the largest proportion of the population with intellectual disability, with around one-quarter being under the age of 15 years (ABS). Around the world people with other disabilities may include up to 18% of the population (US Census). The recognition that our community needs to integrate everyone, providing opportunities and resources to include everyone in worthwhile pursuits, has forced governments to create legislation to ban biased practices that reduce opportunities for the disabled. In some cases attempts to improve access to resources that create a path to life long learning have also been framed in law (Australian Disability Discrimination Act, The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, The Equality Act 2010 and the United Nations (UN) Convention on disability rights).

blog-disabilities-imgTechnology has also advanced to the point that tools are being created to provide significant assistance with people with disabilities in areas including cognitive development; social learning and communication; physical rehabilitation and spatial/localization recognition (to list a few achievements). Exciting applications have already been implemented with greater success that was anticipated. Children with autism have happily engaged with play and social learning activities utilizing various AR applications that promote healthy social interaction (International Symposium on Mixed and Augmented Reality Conference 2012 and 2013). International studies have reported increased participant motivation, enjoyment, perceived improvement and exercise compliance leading to enhanced physical ability following the inclusion of AR and VR tools into stroke rehabilitation (Industrial research, New Zealand). Visually impaired people can look forward to using software which tracks objects and captures depth to provide auditory and haptic cues that describe a new environment (Google Project Tango). Potential workers with an intellectual disability can gain access to AR tools that engage with their environment to provide training, learning re-enforcement, and other work related information to ensure safe and efficient work practices (Spain, Augmented Reality for e-labora project).

The era of AR/Virtual Reality and AI supported systems and applications is here. Its initial usage might have been heralded mainly by AR/VR games, but the realization of a universe of possibilities now extends to enhancing the lives of people with disabilities. We have the impetus now to continue to develop systems that will greatly impact on people’s lives for the better. We must embrace the challenge with the excitement and enthusiasm it deserves.

 

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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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Staff blog: Using Augmented Reality Advertising to Drive Traffic

Written by: Andrew Erpelding

I’ve often wondered if other marketers look at a product and contemplate how they would position or drive traffic differently; as though marketing teams roam past marketing collateral and understand the way it is positioned and look for improvements. Driving an integrated marketing campaign involves so many different pieces, that marketers have to keep an eye towards new tools to elevate their advantage. The current new tool that is getting tremendous buzz is Augmented Reality advertising.

Augmented Reality is poking a sleeping giant. With a consumer base saturated with smart devices, the ability to engage with an immersive and engaging technology is at our doorstep.  Retail is one of the first markets to play this new tech is and has been changing the way marketers engage with their audience. Some of the greatest applications of AR to date occur in the B2C space. This is a logical step for retailers who have droves of printed material and are looking for an engaging way to drive consumers. Augmented Reality advertising not only captures audiences for a longer duration, but also funnels traffic to their web pages, and other campaigns. In this ecosystem, Augmented Reality advertising is bringing print to life and the applications are only growing.

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Marketing collateral is only impactful when it is viewed in a set place, and grabs a specific audience. Whether this is done in a coffee shop, mall, or any other brick & mortar, marketing campaigns are useful for only as long they as they have grabbed attention. However, with the function of Augmented Reality advertising, not only does it drive more call to actions, but it can live on a user’s smart device indefinitely in the form of app. GPS, geo-fencing and blue tooth beacons provide levels of sophistication to marketers that are still missing from more traditional forms of integrated marketing campaigns. Augmented Reality is still a shiny new tool in the eyes of most marketing teams. To be utilized effectively, consumers need to look beyond the novelty of this impression technology.  Augmented Reality is infinitely customizable and extends the shelf life of digital assets as they can have been moved from physical collateral and then tailored to Augmented Reality content.

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The real draw towards implementing Augmented Reality advertising into integrated marketing campaigns is how easy it is to implement an Augmented Reality advertising campaign. The best platforms cater to a range of clients and offer development along with an easy to use Experience Management System (EMS). A distinguishing feature is that instead of a content management system, marketers are creating a new experience for their audience. This feature is important to note as it stresses the importance of using a platform that can deliver seamless integration into an integrated marketing campaign, based on the level of the user experience. Using the EMS, content can be added, updated, or removed with a few mouse clicks. This level of flexibility allows for ease of use, non-dedicated resources, convenience, and simplicity of Augmented Reality delivery.

To see if you’re ready to explore how to utilize Augmented Reality advertising for your integrated marketing campaign, click here. Alternative, read more about how you can use augmented reality in your marketing.

 

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