philip lelyveld The world of entertainment technology


Sony to Debut Smart Glass Clip-on

SonyGlassSony is making glasses smart. The technology giant announced the development of “an attachable single-lens display module that can turn eyewear of varying designs into smart devices.” Sony said it will show a concept version at CES and expects to start mass production of the device within the coming year.

The module sports an organic light-emitting diode microdisplay for high-res colors, a micro-optical unit for image quality and a “miniaturized control board with arithmetic processing capabilities on par with smartphones that was made possible by high-density packaging technology.”

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Virtual and Augmented Reality to Have Major Presence at CES

December 18, 2014

Virtual and augmented reality tools have been around for at least 40 years. In 2014 the next generation of VR and AR hardware was being energetically developed, beta tested, and discussed by the niche VR community. It was also used to create small-scale experiences as part of the marketing campaigns for other entertainment assets. Expect 2015 to be the year when hardware, software, and content companies work towards consumer adoption of VR and AR resources and experiences.

Oculus, with its Rift HMD (head-mounted display) technology, held the attention of the press and public for most of the year. Oculus was acquired by Facebook, and partnered with Samsung to develop a phone-based HMD, the Gear VR. Motion tracking hardware vendor Leap Motion developed a mount that added hand gesture recognition capabilities to the headset.

The Oculus Connect 2-day gathering in late September at Hollywood and Highland captured the attention of both the developer and the Hollywood community, and gave the Oculus senior management team a platform for building excitement among the developer community.

Not to be outdone, Google invested in Magic Leap, a company with an extensive portfolio of patents related to augmented reality. Magic Leap is still in stealth mode, but its prototype demos are rumored to be amazing.

Beyond those headline-grabbing companies, many other startups and established companies spent the year developing new self-contained HMDs (examples: Sony Morpheus, CastAR, Avegant Glyph, AntVR, VRelia, Fove), HMD frames into which you insert mobile devices (examples: Google Cardboard, Seebright, FOV2GO, Durovis), and related controllers and peripheral devices (examples: Sixense, Virtuix Omni, Control VR).


As for content, a number of VR experiences have been created for marketing purposes, including properties for the films “Into the Storm,” “How to Train Your Dragon 2,” and “The Hobbit.” Jaunt, Vevo, and others have produced short films (“The Mission,” “Black Mass”) and concert experiences (Beck, Paul McCartney, Austin City Limits) to demonstrate the media’s potential for live action experiences.

Looking globally, many individuals and groups have developed interesting VR experiences; such as Seattle’s The Nightmare Machine, “the world’s first VR haunted house.” And many videogames have been adapted for use with VR headsets.

A challenge going forward is developing the language of VR. What audio and visual creation and editing techniques work, and how should they be used? How does VR storytelling differ from cinema and gaming? What are the strengths of live-action VR versus computer-generated VR? How do you bring other senses into play? The ETC is planning an event in early 2015 during which these questions and others will be discussed.

Where to find Virtual and Augmented Reality at CES:

Game Zone at the front end of South Hall 2
Oculus (#26002) — Crescent Bay HMD, Samsung Gear VR. Watch for the “Wild – The Experience” VR short with Reese Witherspoon.
ImmersiON-VRelia (#25212) — Wide field of view VR and AR glasses.
Virtuix Omni (#26008) — Omnidirectional treadmill.
3D Head (#25808) — Full body tracking and gameplay.
AntVR (#26311) — VR/AR HMD startup.
Occipital (#25405) — iPad-based object and room scanner for AR games.

Central Hall
Sony (#14200) — Expected to once again show its Morpheus HMD.
Samsung (#11906) — Samsung Gear VR with the Galaxy Note 4.

Tech West (Sands Convention Center)
Avegant (#74547) — Micromirror-based video headset.
Fove (#71374) — HMD with built-in eye-tracking.
Giroptic (#72070) — Consumer market 360 camera.
Panono GmbH (#74273) — Toss the spherical camera into air, and it takes a full sphere photo at highest point.
Remote Reality Corp. (#75621) — High resolution 360 camera for military use.
3DRudder ( #75667) — Feet-controlled 3D navigation and motion controller.
EyeTech Digital Systems (#72034) — Licensable eye tracking on a chip.
The Eye Tribe (#72040) — Eye-tracking software for camera-enabled CE devices.
Tobii (#71837) — Eye-tracking software for camera-enabled CE devices.
Ultrahaptics (#75619) — Ultrasound mid-air tactile feedback.
Seebright (#72474) —Phone-based AR HMD tech startup.

Westgate Hospitality Suites
Leap Motion (Suite 1265) —Hand-tracking motion-capture bar mounts onto the front of the Oculus Rift.
Novasentis (Suite 1965) — Manufacturer of thin flexible haptic actuators and sensors.
Lumus (Suite 335) — Israeli developer of VR and AR glasses.

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Virtual Reality ‘Wild’ Trek, With Reese Witherspoon

 wild-articleLarge-v2It is a three-minute, 360-degree, virtual reality encounter with Ms. Witherspoon in character as Ms. Strayed, as she lugs her backpack through the trees and plunks down next to the viewer.

She is skinny, scruffy and almost eerily present.

Soon, Ms. Witherspoon turns to look at the viewer. Or, more properly, through the viewer. Turn right, and it is clear she is staring at the memory of her mother, played by Laura Dern, who appears where seconds earlier there was only a rock.

They trade words. Ms. Witherspoon ambles down the trail, now behind the viewer, who can turn and watch her go.

“For us, it was about the intimacy,” said Félix Lajeunesse, a Montreal-based virtual reality artist. He and his business partner, Paul Raphael, directed the sequence, which uses no computer-generated effects.

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Latest in Professional VR Shown at I/ITSEC 2014 Conference

2481215488Deep inside the inlands of Florida, a technology conference was held that brought together a collection of virtual reality headsets and simulations that focused primarily on military applications. The event was called I/ITSEC(Interservice/Industry Training, Simulation and Education Conference) and was touted as the “world’s largest modeling, simulation, and training conference”.

The technological thread that strung all the demos together had to do with the preparing people for particular real life events through the use of virtual reality. That included medical training, battle simulations, parachute challenges, and many others.

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Oculus VR acquires Nimble VR and 13th Lab

We went to see Nimble VR's hand-tracking tech back in November and we were impressed...

Oculus also announced the acquisitions of 13th Lab, "focused on developing an efficient and accurate real-time 3D reconstruction framework," and that motion captures expert Chris Bregler would be joining Oculus VR as head of a vision research team for Oculus Research.

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Virtual Reality in Spotlight at Investor Conference


VR movies, virtual video conferencing and other experiences are likely to come into focus "down the road," said Drew Oetting from technology investment firm Formation 8. For now, most activity will concentrate "around small, contained experiences," he argued.

VR movies, virtual video conferencing and other experiences are likely to come into focus "down the road," said Drew Oetting from technology investment firm Formation 8. For now, most activity will concentrate "around small, contained experiences," he argued.

Asked about the production process, he said VR is about finding "the perfect vantage point and then getting the hell out of the way."

Asked if VR would cannibalize live games and other events, Marsilio said "you can't smell the popcorn" or feel the vibration of the seats in VR or fully sense the electricity of the crowd. "VR is going to drive ticket sales," he said. "It will advertise how amazing that in-arena experience is."

The panel was also asked for predictions for VR in 2015. "I think we're going to see China as a big, big adopter of virtual reality," Allen said. And Romo predicted that big online and media companies would have "some story" around VR in the new year.

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Virtual Paul McCartney app is mind-blowingly cool

I can use my existing smartphone, pay $10, and have a pretty incredible experience.

Jaunt VR is not actually in the consumer virtual reality business. It sells hardware and software to create immersive virtually reality experiences for commercial clients. Of course, what better way to sell your wares than to get consumers excited about virtually meeting a Beatle — and clamoring for more 360-degree VR content?

The hardest part of using Jaunt VR’s Paul McCartney app is putting together the Google Cardboard headset, which is actually pretty easy...

The video opened and I found myself standing right next to McCartney’s piano where he was belting out Live and let Die. Wherever I turned my head, I saw more of the stage: every band member and all of the audience, which was at my feet. I could look up and see the stage lights, stage left where the keyboardist was playing or stage right where roadies were frantically moving a piano.

The only area not covered by Jaunt VR's 360 camera system was right under my virtual feet, where I saw a Jaunt VR logo. That spot is actually where the company placed the stand for Jaunt VR's impressive imaging rig.

Jaunt VR also used 3D sound-field microphones to record the concert. As a result, if I turned away from Sir Paul, his audio got a bit lower. In other words, everything sounded like it was positioned in space around me.

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With 500,000+ Units Shipped, Google Just Got Serious About Cardboard

1152769278...they’ve made a big round of updates to their entire Cardboard project and presentation today, starting with a total revamp of their official Cardboard site—and they’re hiring.

For developers, Google has launched a Cardboard SDK for Android and Unity. They say it takes care of the following items, allowing developers to get started on game and app creation rather than toiling with VR-specific necessities:

  • User head tracking
  • Side-by-side stereo rendering
  • Detecting Cardboard-only user inputs such as the magnetic trigger
  • Automatic stereo configuration for a specific Cardboard model
  • Distortion correction for Cardboard lenses
  • An alignment marker to help center the screen under the lenses
  • A settings button that links to the Cardboard app for managing headset parameters

“We’re keeping the hardware and software open to encourage community participation and compatibility with VR content available elsewhere,” the company notes on their SDK page.

Google is laying the groundwork not just for Cardboard, but for plenty of other VR smartphone adapters that are already available. It’s clear they they want Android to become the place for mobile VR. What will be interesting to see is how the relationship between Cardboard and Gear VR pans out. Both run on Android, but neither are compatible with one another.

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Virtuix Closes $2.7M Investment, Finalised Omni Design to be Revealed at CES 2015

2549153991To date, the Omni has sold 3,500 units and expects to reveal the finalised product ahead of their Q1 2015 retail push at CES in January. 

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Dolby Launches Dolby Cinema

320x180xdolby_1_3.jpg.pagespeed.ic.rV5wHDNcz7[Philip Lelyveld note: THX is a service that calibrates theatres for a quality audio experience.  Dolby is looking to raise the quality of the entire in-theatre experience from walking into the space through the A/V experience.]

The projection system will deliver high dynamic range images. This new proprietary HDR technology with enhanced color uses two newly designed high-frame-rate-capable Christie 4K laser projection heads that feature a highly customized and unique light path. Combined with Christie’s 6P modular laser light sources, this technology delivers high-contrast images and ultra-brightness, which define Dolby Cinema. ...

The Dolby Cinema will also deliver a combination of Dolby Atmos sound and Christie Vive audio speakers and Class D amplifiers, many of which were specially designed for this demanding application. 
“Dolby Cinema lets studios and exhibitors focus on what they do best, with the confidence that Dolby will deliver a premium experience that makes the most of the latest cinema technologies,” said Doug Darrow, senior vice president, cinema, Dolby Laboratories.  
The design of the cinema itself was created to set a mood and draw audiences deeper into the story. The Dolby Cinema design can be customized to the exhibitors’ needs with a select set of features including a signature entrance and a dynamic audiovisual pathway that provide a new canvas for studio creatives to begin telling their story before the show begins. Additional features may include a wall-to-wall-to-ceiling screen, atmospheric lighting, and faceted acoustic panels designed to enhance the sound quality and heighten the sense of immersion. In addition, all Dolby Cinema locations will undergo a sophisticated visual and acoustic room treatment perfectly tuned for a premium cinematic experience. 
The first Dolby Cinema sites will be located at the newly constructed JT Cinemas complex in Eindhoven, Netherlands, and the UCI/Cinesa La Maquinista complex in Barcelona, Spain. Additional exhibitor partners will be announced as installation plans are completed.
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