The last month of spring did not spring up any special surprises in the virtual and augmented reality world. However, it was not a dull month, either. On the contrary, this month a top software and computer company has held its annual developers’ conference and shared some interesting updates on its mixed reality projects.
A leader in the internet world is also striving to be a top player in the market for augmented reality devices and has announced plans to launch an innovative product. Meanwhile, one of the best known parts manufacturers promises that its next release will make AR/VR devices’ batteries last longer.
Last, but not least, virtual reality developers got a brand new opportunity to find financial backing for their projects and benefit from the latest development tools available.
Now let us look at these key events one by one:
Google is Allegedly Working on a Standalone Augmented Reality Headset
At present, the most sophisticated AR headset on the market is Microsoft’s HoloLens mixed reality headset. But Google is striving to take first place in this area with an innovative standalone AR headset.
The German magazine WinFuture first shared this information and it claims to have access to documents detailing this project, with the internal code “A65”. According to the information, the device will run on Qualcomm processors, include several camera sensors and microphones and respond to voice commands.
The alleged manufacturer of the augmented reality headset will be Quanta, a Taiwan-based company which has already produced various Google devices, including the Pixel C tablet.
Microsoft Offers HoloLens “As a Service” in Europe
Speaking of Microsoft HoloLens, the computer and software giant is trying to make its flagship mixed reality device more accessible for private users. This is why the Redmond, WA-based company has partnered with UK company JTRS and its parent company Econocom to offer the HoloLens device “as a service” to European customers.
The subscription service involves signing a two-year contract with the price of £260 per device per month. This contract gives the client one HoloLens augmented reality device plus subscription to various services and apps from companies such as: VISR, Assoria, Conseil 3D, Holoforge Interactive, Immersion, Plain Concepts and Taqtile.
“The aim of this partnership between Microsoft and Econocom is to help our clients speed up their digital transformation. By offering mixed reality ‘as a service’, Econocom is establishing itself as a market leader and confirming its commitment to making mixed reality and 3D technologies accessible to any company looking to improve its productivity and ways of working,” stated the Global Head of Network Marketing and Partners for HoloLens at Microsoft, Paul Corriveau.
Facebook Reveals AR/VR Projects During F8 Event
Facebook hosted its annual two-day F8 event at the very beginning of May in San Jose, CA. This year, the main aspects the developers focused on were virtual and augmented reality experiences and products. One of the key announcements concerned the introduction of augmented reality capacities in Messenger and AR camera effects for Instagram.
Also, the Oculus Go virtual reality headset was officially released during the F8 event. The tetherless device is lightweight, made of breathable materials and has an affordable starting price – around $200. Together with the device, Facebook also launched a series of content platforms: Oculus Venues, Oculus Room and Oculus TV.
Qualcomm Will Launch a Chipset to Extend Battery Life for AR and VR Devices
Virtual reality and augmented reality experiences are so immersive and interactive, that you could spend hours in various virtual worlds without getting bored. However, the moment when you get notified that your device has low battery and needs to be recharged, just seems to happen way too early.
This may become history if Qualcomm makes good on its promise to launch a chipset that would extend battery life for VR and AR headsets. The chipset, named Snapdragon XR1, will be launched at the Augmented World Expo in Santa Clara, California (May 30–June 1).
The new chipset will be unveiled by Hugo Swart, Senior Director, Product Management at Qualcomm Technologies, during his keynote speech on May 31.
HTC Vive X Accelerator Opens Sign-up for European VR Startups
HTC Vive X is one of the most sought after accelerator programs for virtual reality developers and startups. The company has already nurtured various successful startups in Asia and the USA, and now is expanding its VR accelerator program to Europe.
The company will open new headquarters in London specifically for this program and has already set a few dates for meet-ups with developers and startups:
- June 14 in Paris, France
- June 15 in Madrid, Spain
- June 20 in Berlin, Germany
- June 21 in Amsterdam, Netherlands
European VR startups that wish to join the HTC VIVE X accelerator program have until June 30 to send their applications.
The First Images Captured by Microsoft Project Kinect for Azure Available Online
Project Kinect for Azure is developed by Microsoft to improve augmented reality experiences with the next HoloLens model. It consists of a depth-sensing camera which is also capable of offering computer vision to a multitude of IoT devices.
The project was unveiled at Build 2018, Microsoft’s annual developers conference, by Alex Kipman, technical fellow at Microsoft. Details about the Kinect depth-sensing cameras were shared in an article by Tommy Palladino on the official HoloLens website.
But now the time for speculations and guesswork is over, because the first images captured by Project Kinect for Azure have surfaced on Twitter. According to the data accompanying the animated GIFs, the depth-sensing camera has a range exceeding 6 meters and a margin of error of less than 1 centimeter at every 4 meters.
>6 meter range (with <1cm error at 4 meters), uses <1W power, and sees bouncing ping pong balls: pic.twitter.com/1zGdUCMTOS
— Tim Field (@nobbis) May 8, 2018
Microsoft is confident that Project Kinect for Azure will not only improve augmented reality experiences, but also help companies automate their operations by giving computer vision to smart robots and making them more autonomous.