philip lelyveld The world of entertainment technology


AR startup Ubiquity6 lands $27M Series B to build a more user-friendly augmented reality

TCP20258Ubiquity6 is one of a handful of startups aiming to tackle the backlog of backend features currently missing from most AR experiences available today. The fast-growing company is looking to build tools that will essentially enable users to create a cloud-based AR copy of the physical world and enable persistent, dynamic multiplayer AR experiences as a result.

A big focus of the Ubiquity6’s efforts have been on building 3D mesh maps of entire public areas so the onboarding process just naturally grows to be instantaneous.

This strategy works great for museums and much less well for your living room, but Ubiquity6 is hoping that the experiences available in their app can have episodic utility that ties them closely with events at public geographic locations.

The company’s partnership with the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art was previewed earlier this month with an activation inside the Magritte exhibit.


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SFMOMA is Putting the ‘AR’ in ‘Art’ With Augmented Reality Exhibits

Magritte's work is on display at the museum with an interactive gallery by frog design that's filled with digital puzzles based on the artist's paintings. As people roam through the exhibit snapping photos with their smartphones — a practice SFMOMA actually encourages — Coerver and his staff are considering making those phones a more central part of the museum experience.

In a massive one-night play test, San Francisco-based startup Ubiquity6 — which just announced $27 million in new funding — was invited to hand out a hundred Apple iPhones in the museum's lobby, loaded with new multiplayer augmented reality software. By looking through the phones' cameras, guests were invited to explore Magritte's bizarre universe, creating apples, pipes and bowler hats for others to find as they went along.

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StarVR debuts eye-tracking VR headset for enterprise use

starvr-one-propietary-oled-and-custom-lensesTaipei-based StarVR today debuts a new virtual reality headset for the enterprise. With integrated eye-tracking and a so-called 100-percent human viewing angle, the StarVR One is a new addition to the growing field of enterprise-only head mounted displays, a hardware category that's still making a case for itself as consumer VR tech gets more impressive.

The StarVR One's 210-degree horizontal field of view corresponds to the natural human field of vision.

Enterprise-only headsets like the DAQRI and HTC's VIVE Pro are catering to that booming market. Google Glass has been reinvented and is having a tremendous second act as an enterprise-first AR headset.

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Shape-shifting Cypher sculpture by Ozel Office is controlled by motion

cypher-ozel-office-ucla-researchers-design_dezeen_2364_sqCalifornia architecture studio Ozel Office has created a blobby robotic sculpture that changes shape in the presence of people, or through the movements of those wearing a matching virtual reality headset.

Cypher is an interactive robotic sculpture that is controlled by sensors, scanners and virtual reality (VR) technology. The sculpture inflates and deflates when people or objects are in its proximity, and also based on commands given by a person wearing a connected VR helmet.

The "cyberphysical sculptural installation" was designed and developed by Ozel Office, a Los Angeles studio that explores the intersection of architecture and technology. The firm is led by architect Güvenç Özel, who is a faculty member at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). The Cypher project was largely funded by a grant from Google's Artists and Machine Intelligence Program.

 Once publicly launched, Cypher will be the first robotic sculpture that is simultaneously controlled by physical sensors and VR, according to the team. The project aims to challenge notions of what is real and virtual and to merge domains that are typically viewed as distinct.

The sculpture has a T-slotted aluminium frame with 3D-printed steel joints. Within the frame, the team placed an air compressor and a computer, which serve as the "brain" of the sculpture. These components are connected to sensors, valves, actuators and other elements that play a role in the sculpture's movement.

For the "skin", the team used flexible 3D-printed panels made of silicone and carbon fibre-infused thermoplastic. The spiky texture was influenced by the skin patterns of natural creatures, and is meant to challenge the aesthetic expectations of robots. The sculpture's dark hue also conveys a message and blurs one's reading of the object.

"The black glossy colour is used to enhance the mystique of the object further, therefore blurring the true morphological qualities of the sculpture through a play between the absence of light and variable reflection," said the team.

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Nvidia shares rise after chipmaker announces its next-generation graphics chips

"Turing is NVIDIA's most important innovation in computer graphics in more than a decade," Nvidia CEO and founder Jensen Huang said at the SIGGRAPH conference, according to a company release. "Hybrid rendering will change the industry, opening up amazing possibilities that enhance our lives with more beautiful designs, richer entertainment and more interactive experiences. The arrival of real-time ray tracing is the Holy Grail of our industry."

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Design Principles as applied to Virtual Reality

A short primer

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Haptic feedback is making VR surgery feel like the real thing

But at the headquarters of London startup FundamentalVR, I got to try out what might be the surgical training tool of the future. It uses cheap virtual reality components combined with haptic feedback to give doctors as realistic a training experience as current tech will allow. Wearing an HTC Vive headset and wielding a pair of pen-shaped 3D manipulators, I sawed off a knee bone and bored holes in the spine of an unprotesting virtual patient. And while I don’t quite feel confident enough to don scrubs and head to the nearest OR, the simulation felt to me like much more than a novelty. It felt like a learning experience.

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Hospital Introducing HoloLens Augmented Reality into the Operating Room

hololens-in-the-surgeryHoloLens technology is being paired with Microsoft’s Surface Hub, a kind of digital whiteboard. The idea is that the surgical team can gather together around a Surface Hub to review patient information, discuss the details of a procedure, and select what information should be readily accessible during surgery. During the procedure, a surgeon wearing a HoloLens would be able to review a CT or MRI scan, access other data in the electronic medical records, and to be able to manipulate these so as to get a clear picture of what is being worked on and what needs to be done.

“Imaging a patient’s heart from the inside and from the outside is absolutely essential,” said Rafael Guerrero, a cardiac surgeon at Alder Hey. “I have to visualize that 3D view in my head in order to do this operation.

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ARROUND – Utilizing Blockchain to Power a Decentralized Augmented Reality Ecosystem

arround-blockchain-augmented-reality“ARROUND’s disruptive mobile marketing solution is the world’s first decentralized advertising network based in augmented reality.”

“Because we’re building a 3D map, we can run campaigns for specific brands, and guide consumers into shops where these brands are on offer, directly to the shelf where they can receive a discount or some kind of incentive to make the purchase. This is really the first time that big data, brands and the public have been brought together in this way,” claims Neil Bryant.

The platform will release its own token, the ARR, to support all transactions within the platform. While all prices will be in fiat currencies, all transactions will be undertaken in tokens. Blockchain guarantees the intellectual property and privacy rights as well as the commercial interests of everyone involved.

[PhilNote: the pitch...] Despite a number of traditional players as well as ICO projects entering the commercial space, Bryant is confident that ARROUND stands out: “None of our competitors offers what we can. There are companies that make AR apps to order, some ad networks are looking into AR adverts, there are social networks that are playing with AR, and there are ICOs that are trying to build AR environments like Second Life did with VR, but none of them have a complete package, or have a foundation based on blockchain like ours.”

ARROUND is currently raising funds through a token sale. The company has already raised $1 million in its Pre-sale and is now well on the way to meeting its $5 million soft cap.

“A few years ago, everyone thought VR was the future. But, in fact, AR is a perfect example of technology adapting to real-world situations. Right now, the future looks very bright for AR and for ARROUND,” says Bryant.

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Why AR headsets are the true home for AI assistants

Microsoft-HoloLens-AR-headsetThe key here is that computers and smartphones have been designed for interaction through their traditional input mediums: keyboards, mice, touchscreens, buttons. Their applications have also been designed to provide better options and features when the user is directly staring at their display screens.

How many times do you use Siri on your iPhone every day? Probably very little. And even less on your MacBook. And let’s face it, listening to your email while cooking dinner doesn’t make sense, because you’ll either end up becoming distracted from your email or your cooking (the latter is worse).

In order to make their AI assistants and chatbots more relevant, companies try to broaden their features without taking into consideration the limits of deep learning and neural networks. But some of the promises that companies make are simply not achievable with current blends of AI. Consequently, those features either end up making too many mistakes and frustrating users, or the companies that develop them are forced to hire humans to make up for the shortcomings of their AI.

That’s why the role of AI assistants such as Alexa, Siri and Google Assistant is much more important in smart speakers. The more capable their artificial intelligence is, the more useful the smart speakers become.

But smart speakers are meant for specific environments, in your car, home or office. You don’t carry them around with you.

A recent report by The Information reveals that only 2 percent of the users of Amazon Echo use the smart speaker for shopping.

Here’s what I think: Trying to give AI assistants human-like appearances and characteristics is not a good idea, because it would create false impressions and expectations. Let’s not forget that we’re still in the era of narrow AI, no matter how impressive our achievements have been.

Instead of wasting energy on creating humanoid models to interact with users in emotional ways, Magic Leap should focus on creating an AI assistant that can perform distinct tasks and commands, even if it doesn’t even have a graphical appearance. This is especially crucial for augmented reality headsets, because it’s a mix of virtual elements and the real world. AI assistants should help augment our interactions with the real world, not distract us from the tasks we’re accomplishing.

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