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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.

 

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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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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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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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: Matchmakers: AR/VR and Fintech

In Finance, time is money. Real-time is real money – therefore offering real-time user experiences (UX) creates new market dynamics.

Both Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality are technologies, at the cusp of explosive take-off for wider engagement and adoption. This creates the possibilities for reactive frameworks, streaming, standard data format – catering even for differentials; the trends will only accelerate.

The main opportunity for AR/VR in fintech will be with data visualization. One of the key ways fintech companies differentiate from their traditional financial services competition is by focusing on enhancing customer engagement and user experience (UX). While much of finance and trading is controlled by algorithms and automatic processes, as more data is consumed by computers, it has made it harder for humans to analyze what is going on. As a result, data visualization products aided by Augmented Reality appear as an inevitable opportunity.

The challenge lies within an enterprise to re-imagine how functions and processes should and could operate based on today’s realities, not yesterday’s constraints. How is digitization eliminating physical location constraints in your business? What if complex analysis could be deployed across all of your organization’s data in an instant? Where are business ecosystems blurring or obliterating lines between competitors, partners, and customers? Approaches may range from wholesale transformational efforts to incremental improvements tacked on to traditional budgets and projects.

Creating a 360 degree view of data on customers, products, the chart of accounts, and social behaviors imply integration. This translates to transactions and other business data being available as APIs to systems outside of the core platform and potentially to partners, independent software vendors, or customers for usage outside an organization.

Innovation within Financial Institutions can be accomplished through these additional new interfaces to drive digital solutions, improve the reach of cloud investments, and simplify the ongoing care and maintenance of core systems. Is your enterprise ready for the ride?

 

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