Augmented Reality (AR) & Virtual Reality (VR) Tech Digest - May 2017

Air New Zealand may use Hololens to tell when you need a whisky on the rocks

Air New Zealand (ANZ) has been working with information technology provider Dimension Data to realise its vision of its cabin crew being assisted by Microsoft Hololens augmented reality headsets. The headset would display data about travellers such as meal and drinks choice, onward travel, loyalty membership and even emotional state obtained from visual and audio clues, claims ANZ. There is no mention if and when this system could be implemented. ANZ sees the benefit for the airline in being able to provide a more personalised service to customers. 

Google VR headset

At its I/O conference Google announced that it plans to release a standalone VR headset in late 2017. The headset, which will not require a smartphone or a PC, will be produced by HTC and Lenovo (both producing their own versions). The standalone headset will use Daydream controllers. It will use the WorldSense tracking system which uses front-facing cameras to locate a person within space and synchronises movements to the virtual world. It will allow for 6 virtual DoF (degrees of freedom) meaning users will be able to duck, dodge and lean and the movements will then be realised within the VR experience or game with which the user is engaged. A video released by Google shows the HUD wearer playing virtual dodgeball, ducking and diving to avoid the balls.  

NVIDIA: Eye quality VR image 20 years away

NVIDIA’s Jason Paul, general manager responsible for overall virtual reality strategy, has spoken with Upload VR about his roadmap for VR. NVIDIA’s graphics processing units (GPUs) are widely used in VR headsets such as the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift. Paul predicts that to create a GPU that can provide a resolution equivalent to that of the human eye will take 20 years to achieve. He also explained that NVIDIA is researching complementary technologies such as foveated rendering that could reduce that timeframe. Foveated rendering is the technique of mimicking natural vision – the centre of vision is sharply focused while the peripherals are less focused.  

Web searching with a camera

At its I/O conference Google announced its new Lens functionality that turns a smartphone camera into a search tool. Pointing the camera at objects will cause information about what it is seeing to appear as an overlay on the smartphone screen. In a demonstration of Lens Google showed it identifying a flower in the camera’s viewfinder. Another example was automated connection to a Wi-Fi network by taking a photo of the router’s sticker displaying password and network information. A third example was pointing the camera at a restaurant that pulls up information on the restaurant such as user reviews etc. The device can also be used to translate signs. There is no information on when it will be released. 

AR window

RealFiction is a Danish company that has developed DeepFrame, an augmented reality display. In a video demonstrating the product the augmented reality video of Asterix character Obelisk appears positioned in the real world. The device’s images are similar to holograms. In another video a man is shown interacting with a mixed reality car changing its colour and other features. The prototype device features a 64-inch curved OLED screen with a 4K resolution. RealFiction says that it can be made in larger or smaller sizes. The device is currently being sold to private buyers but not to the public at large. 

Verizon tests 5G with VR feed

Verizon, a US telecoms operator, and Ericsson, a network solutions provider, have demonstrated 5G cellular network technology in a moving car. The demonstration took place at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The live demo involved streaming a 4K video over a 5G connection. The driver driving the vehicle used only the live video stream from a camera placed on the bonnet of the moving car in order to see where the car was going. The trial achieved downlink speeds of 6Gbit/s.

Microsoft holography

At the SCIEN Workshop on Augmented and Mixed Reality researchers showed how they are tackling some problems with AR and MR devices: firstly, field of depth; secondly, the problem for wearers of sight correction glasses in using AR headsets/glasses. The solution which Microsoft has developed uses holography – using light waves from a 3D scene meeting on a flat surface and interacting to form a pattern, or hologram. The hologram can then be played back with a beam of laser light recreating the original 3D scene including depth of field. In natural vision people’s eyes judge depth of field through relative degree of blurriness or sharpness of an image. Most near eye displays present objects at uniformly same-focus. Holographic displays allow for pixel by pixel rendering, meaning the blurriness and sharpness, features of natural vision’s depth perception, can be recreated. Microsoft also claims that holograms can accommodate users with vision problems entirely in the software by pre-distorting waves so that they appear correct to the user. Both of these solutions were demonstrated using a holographic representation of a dragon. 

Oculus improving depth perception

Oculus research has revealed its proposed solution to help improve depth perception within the VR experience. The team’s focal surface display (FSD) mimics the way our eyes naturally focus at objects of varying depths. Oculus’ approach changes the way light enters the display using spatial light modulators (SLMs) that bend the headset’s focus around 3D objects. The company claims this increases image sharpness and provides a more natural viewing experience. 

Holography, IoT and beer

Finger Food, a Canadian games developer, in collaboration with OSIsoft and Microsoft has developed a holographic mixed reality (MR) Internet of Things (IoT) data analysis system for Deschutes, a craft brewer. The system uses IoT data analysis software from OSIsoft and Microsoft’s HoloLens, to provide the brewery with a holographic representation of the real-world machines involved in the brewing process and annotates them with real-time data on the system through use of the holographic display. 

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