The world of augmented reality and virtual reality keeps changing and we can never be sure which direction it will take. March 2018 was a month when we saw a stronger move towards the adoption of VR as a teaching tool in schools. Also, a strategic move made by Google indicates the company’s dedication to becoming a leader in the AR/VR world. The same company made an important decision towards the creation of better augmented reality location based games. There is also good news for developers who want to try their hand at the latest AR platform promised by Magic Leap. Last, but not least, the GDC 2018 conference was the preferred place and time for Oculus to offer public tryouts for its latest virtual reality headset.
Now let’s move on to a detailed presentation of the most significant developments in the virtual and augmented reality world.
Google Attracts Several Employees of Lytro, Holder of Various AR/VR Patents
After the launch of ARCore, its own open source augmented reality SDK, Google is rumored to make a new, bold move in the field of AR/VR technology. Originally, it was expected that Google would be purchasing Lytro soon, a company specialized in light-field technology. Lytro is also the holder of 59 patents related to virtual reality.
Lytro’s claim to fame lies in its camera, which can optically capture an image with infinite depth of field, the so-called “shoot now focus later” technology. This technology may be instrumental in developing more advanced augmented reality and virtual reality experiences, because people constantly change the visual focus as they interact with holographic objects.
Instead, Lytro has announced that it is winding down, while a part of its employees have migrated to Google, as well as a part of Lytro’s assets. It is not yet clear what happens to the 59 patents.
Council in Scotland Equips All its Schools with Virtual Reality Glasses
Students and teachers in East Renfrewshire district in Scotland have a good reason to be happy. The local council has invested £250,000 (around $350,000) for the purchase of 900+ virtual reality headsets to be used during classes.
The device selected by the Scottish Council is called ClassVR and it was created by Avantis Systems. The headset is equipped with a Quad-Core ARM Cortex-A17 chipset, has 2GB RAM and a 25660 x 1440 pixel display. Though not a top of the line VR headset, ClassVR is quite adequate for teaching and allows students to experience virtual reality to a satisfactory degree, which promotes easy learning.
The VR headset is already equipped with school-related resources, designed to fit the UK educational curriculum. The devices were already distributed to the 30 schools located in the East Renfrewshire district. The reason for selecting ClassVR is the fact that it is a standalone headset, which can be connected to a PC to load content and then operate independently.
Google Opens Maps API for Augmented Reality Game Developers
Location based AR games will soon become more precise and realistic than ever. This will be possible because Google has decided to make its Maps API available to game developers. Thus, developers will have access to real time updates to maps and rich location data to choose the best and most interesting locations for their games.
This decision means that developers will gain access to:
- over 100 million 3D building models.
- a detailed network of roads.
- famous historical and natural landmarks from 200 countries across the globe.
Google has also released a new SDK which interfaces with the popular game engine Unity, and will allow developers to import real-life buildings as 3D objects into their games.
The first augmented reality games to benefit from the new Google Maps API are Jurassic World Alive, Ghostbusters World and The Walking Dead: Our World.
Oculus Go: A Virtual Reality Headset Created for Convenience and Affordability
The GDC 2018 conference saw the official launch of Oculus Go, the first affordable VR device with pro-level performance. Priced at $199, Oculus Go delivers superior VR immersion experience than smartphone-based headsets and was designed with a focus on convenience and ease of use. The new Fresnel lenses offer a sharper image than the Rift, but the lower capacity chipset prevents the new device from running highly detailed, computer-class graphics.
If top performance is not its selling point, Oculus Go wins more kudos by its design and feel. The rounded controller is more comfortable than the counterpart available for Gear VR, for instance. And the entire build of the headset reflects the care taken to ensure a convenient, comfortable wear for the user, especially in the double strap designed to offer an ergonomic support by hugging the head, and the speakers integrated in the stiff struts of the head strap.
With these specifications and the affordable price, Oculus Go promises to become a bestseller among people who want to enjoy the virtual reality experience casually, without committing to large investments in devices and content.
Magic Leap Releases Augmented Reality SDK
Developers’ patient waiting was finally rewarded by Magic Leap, the secretive augmented reality company: it has officially released its own software development kit.
The launch was announced on the company’s blog in which it is stated that: “These tools and resources will be the first opportunity for creators to dive into the world of spatial computing and explore the building blocks of this next generation of human-computer interaction on Magic Leap.”
The Magic Leap SDK was built to work partly on the company’s proprietary operating system, Lumin OS. This OS was created by combining open source and Linux components and is compatible with Unity and Unreal game engines.
At the moment of the launch, Magic Leap had only one tutorial ready for its SDK, which helps developers set up the positionally tracked controller. As the community grows around the SDK, it is very likely that there will be more tutorials available, some of them user generated.