philip lelyveld The world of entertainment technology


NBA’s New Chinese Broadcast Deal With Migu Will Include Virtual Reality

SHANGHAI, CHINA - OCTOBER 08: Jimmy Butler #23 of the Minnesota Timberwolves in action against Stephen Curry #30 of the Golden State Warriors during the game between the Minnesota Timberwolves and the Golden State Warriors as part of 2017 NBA Global Games China at Mercedes-Benz Arena on October 8, 2017 in Shanghai, China. (Photo by Zhong Zhi/Getty Images)

SHANGHAI, CHINA - OCTOBER 08: Jimmy Butler #23 of the Minnesota Timberwolves in action against Stephen Curry #30 of the Golden State Warriors during the game between the Minnesota Timberwolves and the Golden State Warriors as part of 2017 NBA Global Games China at Mercedes-Benz Arena on October 8, 2017 in Shanghai, China. (Photo by Zhong Zhi/Getty Images)

The NBA announced a multi-platform broadcast and marketing partnership with Migu, an entertainment subsidiary of the state-owned China Mobile Communications Corporation. The multi-year agreement will deliver NBA content across mainland China, Hong Kong, and Macau via Migu and China Mobile’s family of media brands.

The deal marks Migu’s first official partnership with a North American sports league. Migu will provide fans in mainland China with daily NBA game highlights, behind-the-scenes videos, original programming content, and classic NBA games. Migu and the NBA will also collaborate to integrate 4K resolution and virtual reality into the fan viewing experience as part of the partnership.

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Gartner: Immersive Augmented Reality is Coming to the Enterprise

tom-bittman-gartner“Within three years, enterprises will be doing mixed media,” said Bittman. “These immersive technologies are lighting a fire of generational change. There’s a very real consumerization of IT. It’s starting in the home, but we believe these investments will grow into enterprise environments.”

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Tesla Files Patent for AR Manufacturing Tool, Elon Musk Talks Factory Innovation, Weed, & SEC Fine on ’60 Minutes’

According to the patent documentation, which was originally submitted on May 31, 2018 and was surfaced by Forbes earlier this month, the technology uses computer vision to recognize objects based on the hues of the object appearing in the camera view and the location of the device. It compares the recognized image to a corresponding model from a library of 3D models, and overlays digital data on top of it.

When paired with other tracking methods, such as QR codes or radio frequency tags, the technology has the potential to improve assembly and quality control processes. For instance, when a car part is identified, the AR system could overlay data about welding, paint coat thickness, or other specifications to the user.

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CES: The Next Wave of Immersive Media Tech and Markets

Since the widespread consumer adoption of VR that many analysts forecast a few years ago has not occurred, we are seeing many VR companies pivot into business applications. Businesses can afford the expense of high-end VR equipment and specialized applications, and they can determine an ROI for the experiences.

We also expect to see VR growth in eSports — not just in VR game play, but in immersive experiences for eSports immersive eStadiums where the Twitch crowd will be able to see multiple statistics and point-of-view screens while watching the players or they will be able to watch professional teams play from inside the game world.

As the prices for untethered, consumer VR headsets continue to decline, and as their features improve (inside-out tracking, spatial audio — for example: Oculus Go), we expect consumers to begin to view them as acceptably priced, limited-use devices that will deliver a specific experience or two, just like any specialized computer/game console peripheral device.

Most of the growth in mass market awareness will come from location-based entertainment in the next year. LBE gives consumers the chance to have an experience without the cost of buying and the hassle of setting up the equipment. The LBE global build-out is currently exploding for VR; with everything from VR installations within existing LBE sites (Dave & Buster’s), to arcades of off-the-shelf experiences (“mom-and-pop” operations), to unique and creative LBEs that incorporate social media, food services, and other elements (Two Bit Circus), to dedicated walk-around mixed reality experience spaces (The VOID, Spaces, Dreamscape, Zero Latency, VRcade).

Lessons learned in these installations will filter down to consumer VR products in the future. Those lessons may also help drive the technical standards and interoperability that will support mass market adoption.

We expect augmented reality to emphasize innovation in the next year. North-brand AR glasses, for example, have a very limited feature set, but are important because they demonstrate that AR glasses could look like normal glasses (pictured above). Expect to see more glasses like the North models to come out. They will have less than the full AR feature set of Hololens or Magic Leap, but they will meet enough consumer expectations and have enough fashion cache to be interesting to early adopters.

We also expect someone to market a soft wearable black-out hood for the glasses (for example: clip-on sunglasses meets airline sleep mask) that will turn them into VR glasses. Do not expect mass market prices for these fashionable AR glasses any time soon.

As with VR, AR is proving to be very useful and cost effective in high-end niche business and professional applications (remote expert advisor, medical surgery overlays) as well as low-end consumer experiences (phone-based AR measurement and placement of home décor — for example: the IKEA app).

User experience (UX) and user interface (UI) designers will explore new ways to be more intuitive and contextually consistent for all forms of immersive media. Beyond refining the handheld game controller, we expect advances in input and output technology and language related to all of the human senses — especially eye tracking, voice/sound, hand/body gestures, haptic feedback, and brain/computer interface.

The creative application tools and the object libraries for both VR and AR are becoming more drag-and-drop. As with media types that have come before (paint, printing press, video), this democratization of the medium’s tools means that as the technology gets out of the way of the creative process truly talented people will find new ways to make themselves and their work stand out.

We expect world-building environments to play an increasingly important role in adoption of both VR and AR. We have already seen meet-ups, live concerts, classes, eSports events, and other activities inside constructed worlds (High Fidelity).

As the technology underpinning immersive media improves (low latency, higher resolution, uncanny valley solutions), and the UX/UI becomes more natural, the technology will move into the background and the usefulness of this new media type will become apparent. Communities will migrate their social media, productivity tools, and other activities to immersive media as awareness grows.

Hanging over all of this are questions related to the ethics and social impact of this technology. Who owns the data that is collected in order to provide a personalized experience? What backchannel and user information should be collected? Should there be different guidelines if the data is processed within the consumer device versus uploaded to the cloud for processing? Do the scope of the click license and the definition of informed consent need to be re-examined? These issues will be the focus of much debate in the coming year, and will contribute to the direction of product development and business practices related to immersive media and other fields for the foreseeable future.

CES 2019 has a zone for AR/VR and Gaming (LVCC South Hall 1), hospitality suites for key players (ARIA Las Vegas), and sessions related to immersive media that we will be reporting on from the show in January.


Ctrl-labs details Ctrl-kit, which lets users control computers with their brain

Ctrl-kit leverages differential electromyography (EMG) to translate mental intent into action, specifically by measuring changes in electrical potential caused by impulses traveling from the brain to hand muscles.

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VR veterans found Artie augmented reality avatar company

artie_ar_emotionrecognitiontest_SMALL artie-3The migration of virtual reality veterans to augmented reality continues. A new AR startup dubbed Artie is coming out of stealth mode today in Los Angeles with the aim of giving you artificial intelligence companions in your own home.

Armando Kirwin and Ryan Horrigan started the company to use artificial intelligence and augmented reality to build “emotionally intelligent avatars” as virtual companions for people. Those avatars would be visible anywhere that you can take your smartphone or AR gear, Horrigan said in an interview.

The company’s software will enable content creators to bring virtual characters to life with its proprietary Wonderfriend Engine, which makes it easy to create avatar-to-consumer interactions that are lifelike and highly engaging. Kirwin said the company is working with major entertainment companies to get access to familiar characters from famous brands.

“Our ambitions is to unlock the world of intellectual property you are already familiar with,” said Kirwin, in an interview with VentureBeat. “You can bring them into your home and have compelling experiences with them.”

Horrigan said that the team has 10 people, and it is hiring people with skills in AI, AR, and computer vision. One of the goals is to create avatars who are more believable because they can be inserted in the real world in places like your own home. The team has been working for more than a year.

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Audi Has Deployed 1,000 VR Showrooms in Dealerships Worldwide

audi-4d-pipeline-process-768x432German car maker Audi was quick to see the potential of VR and has been experimenting since the early days of VR’s resurgence to see how the tech could be used to enhance the car buying experience. Having introduced VR showrooms into dealerships as early as 2016, the company now has some 1,000 VR deployments in dealerships across the globe.

But that bottleneck—of converting each year’s new lineup of vehicles—was a pain point for making the company’s VR deployments effective. Schweiger and his team sought a means of automating the process of optimizing the models until they could be rendered in real-time.

A1710298_x750Audi worked with a company called 4D Pipeline to develop a solution which would greatly reduce the complexity of the models by combining the many individual pieces into larger pieces, there by drastically reducing GPU draw calls while keeping geometric detail in tact.

And the results are very impressive indeed. Schweiger showed a handful of screenshots and flyby videos of the optimized models—which are ready to be rendered in VR at 90 FPS—revealing a very crisp look with realistic lighting, reflections, and interactions (like opening & closing doors and turning on & off headlights), both inside and outside of the vehicles.

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The rise of esports as a spectator phenomenon

valiantIn October 1972 at Stanford University, the first known video game competition took place. A handpicked list of the best Spacewar! players at the school were invited to watch and compete, and the lucky winner would take home a subscription to Rolling Stone magazine.

Stanford was the location for the event because its Artificial Intelligence Lab was one of the few places with enough advanced hardware to run the game. According to event organizer Stewart Brand, very few people in the world even knew that they could play games on computers; the first Pong cabinet would not be installed until several weeks after the Spacewar! tournament.

For a game to become a sport, it needs three core components: competition, tournaments and spectators.

The world changed again in 1988 when Netrek, the first team-based internet game (and third internet game overall), was introduced.

Players no longer needed to track down a friend at the arcade to battle; their opponent could be on the other side of the world or in a house down the street.

Growth of esports

Three core elements are contributing to the esports industry’s rise as the next major spectator sport: streamed competitions with organized leagues, professional players that can be viewed anywhere, and live events in major offline sports venues. If you want to see how this plays out in real time, there’s no better place to go than Twitch, where people from all over the world can tune in and watch gamers, or “streamers,” play video games.

Today, Twitch has approximately 5 million active viewerswho spend 106 minutes each day watching live gaming, which ranks higher than prime time cable TV networks like CNN. Overall, the global esports audience is projected to double in the next three years from 300 million to more than 600 million viewers – and by the end of this year, 1.6 billion people will have some knowledge of esports.

Headline esports tournaments fill major stadiums and draw traveling audiences and media like any marquee offline sporting event. In 2014, Seoul’s Sangam Stadium – a venue used in the 2002 FIFA World Cup — hosted 45,000 in-person attendees to watch the League of Legends World Final. More than 27 million additional fans watched online. The 2017 League of Legends World Final in Beijing was viewed by 60 million people, up from 43 million the previous year.

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Target’s Christmas Tree Sales Aided by Augmented-Reality Feature

1400x-1Target Corp.’s augmented-reality shopping tool has Christmas trees selling at twice the normal rate, according to a company official.

The retailer is offering a new feature, dubbed “See It in Your Space,” on its shopping app. It allows smartphone-toting customers to virtually place an artificial tree, or other home decor items, in their living room, senior vice president of digital Dawn Block said in an interview.
The service is part of Target’s holiday push, which also includes expanded toy sections and free two-day delivery with no minimum purchase.

Chained mixes virtual reality and live actors to tell a dark Christmas tale

[Chained is currently sold out.]

Chained_door.0I was wearing a VR headset, standing in the middle of a dark, gothic take on A Christmas Carol. A grisly Jacob Marley asked me what I missed most about my childhood, and I told him I missed the hope and optimism of youth, when it seemed like anything was possible. When the Spirit of Christmas Past subsequently visited me, he pointed out a pair of ghostly, shadowy children chasing each other a few feet away. The spirit leaned in close. “Look at them,” he whispered, “so full of hope and potential.” It’s an easy trick, drawing a response out of an audience member and using that response to personalize their experience. But it worked — my own words coming back to haunt me drove home the sad longing in that scene and made it specific to my own thoughts.

As the experience moved toward its conclusion, I wound up in a cemetery with the Spirit of Christmas-Yet-To-Come. My brain knew that the thin, slightly pixelated figure in a shadowy cloak was just a digital character in a VR headset. But when he put his hands on my shoulders, his touch was real and weighty. And as the experience ended, he physically turned me toward a gravestone with a name I immediately recognized…

In Los Angeles, a virtual reality experience called Chained: A Victorian Nightmare is combining VR with live actors and motion-capture technology to create a new kind of hybrid show.

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