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Key News and Events in the Augmented and Virtual Reality Technology World – September 2018

The world of augmented and virtual reality technology is always busy and the month of September witnessed several important news and events.

There is always something going on in the augmented and virtual reality technology world. The constant growing trend and fast adoption rate encourage large companies and startups to focus on innovative ways to use AR and VR in various aspects of everyday life. From entertainment to business, from ease of communication to employee training, augmented and virtual reality technology is the key to more immersive experiences and simpler work procedures.

Here are the key news and events in the augmented and virtual reality technology world for this month:


Apple Launches iOS 12 with Several AR Features Included

iOS 12 augmented realityThe Apple event on September 12 at Steve Jobs Theater was packed with product and software launches. The company revealed three new phone models (iPhone XS, XS Max and XR) and software updates for all its product categories: laptops, smartphones, smartwatches and smart TVs.

For iOS 12, the most significant updates are several augmented reality features. The most important are:

  • AR measuring app: the Measure app included in iOS 12 will allow iPhone owners to make measurements of real-world items. The app has basic functionalities and there are no guarantees of 100% accuracy;
  • Multi-player capabilities: the new Shared Experiences feature of iOS allows multi-playing in iOS AR games. Developers can include this feature in their games;
  • Improved face tracking: AR filters in FaceTime, Messages and Snapchat will have better placement and look more realistic thanks to this new feature which monitors gestures such as winking and sticking out the tongue;
  • Four more Animoji characters: iOS 12 adds Ghost, Kuala, Tiger and T-Rex to the 12 AR Animoji characters already available. However, this feature is only available for iPhone X, XS, XS Max and XR;
  • Users can create their own Memoji: iPhone X range users will be able to create a 3D AR cartoon character of themselves and customize it with detailed facial characteristics.
  • AR objects can now be sent with Messages and Mail, then viewed in the real world.
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Walmart Expands Virtual Reality Training Program

Walmart Expands Virtual Reality Training Program

One of the largest retail chains in the US, Walmart, is about to take virtual reality technology use to new heights. Starting with a pilot VR employee training program, the company will invest in 17,000 Oculus headsets to make VR training the norm across all units.

Stores are ranged by size in terms of number of Oculus VR headsets they will receive. Thus, Supercenters will receive 4 headsets, and Neighborhood Market and Discount Stores will receive 2 headsets each.

The company has opted for the recently launched budget VR headset Oculus Go, which retails at $200. According to a Walmart blog post, “every associate – including those on the floor who interact with customers the most – will have access to the same training that their managers and department managers do at the Academies.”

Walmart started experimenting with virtual reality technology for employee training this summer, selecting 10 pilot stores. The VR training program was developed on STRIVR software, which is also used for creating virtual reality training sessions for the NHL, NBA and NFL.

Speaking of the benefits of using virtual reality technology in training, the senior director of Walmart US Academy, Andy Trainor, stated:

“We’ve also seen that VR training boosts confidence and retention while improving test scores 10 to 15 percent–even those associates who simply watched others experience the training saw the same retention boosts”.


Rovio Entertainment Launches Angry Birds AR Game on Magic Leap

Last week Rovio Entertainment announced that it will launch the AR version of its best known game – Angry Birds – on the Magic Leap One Creator Edition platform.

Titled Angry Birds FPS: First Person Slingshot, the game is developed in partnership with Resolution Games, an AR and VR game developer, and will be launched this autumn. “We’re excited to expand the Angry Birds brand and universe to new and emerging platforms like Magic Leap, delivering fans a unique way to engage with their favorite characters. Resolution Games has done an incredible job bringing Angry Birds to life in a new experience that will let players see and feel what it’s like to battle the pigs like never before,” declared the CEO of Rovio Entertainment, Kati Levoranta.

True to the name of the game, the Magic Leap handheld controller will act as a slingshot and make the game experience more interactive and exciting. The company has already launched a short teaser of the upcoming Angry Birds AR game:


Firefox Reality – Virtual Reality Browser Launched for Oculus, Viveport and Daydream

Mozilla Firefox is one of the most popular open source desktop browsers. With over 170 million users of its revamped desktop version, the company has decided to take the leap into the world of portable devices and virtual reality technology.

The Mozilla Corporation made good of its promise made earlier this year: as of September 18, Oculus, Viveport and Daydream VR headset owners can access Firefox Reality, the first VR browser.

Firefox Reality - Virtual Reality Browser Launched for Oculus, Viveport and Daydream

Speaking of the work behind this innovative product, Andre Vrignaud, the Head of Mixed Reality Strategy at Mozilla said: “We had to rethink everything, including navigation, text-input, environments, search and more.[…] The result is a browser that is built for the medium it serves. It makes a big difference, and we think you will love all of the features and details that we’ve created specifically for a MR browser.”

Firefox Reality has a simple user interface which helps user navigate between the 3D and the 2D environments with ease through voice commands. The company is committed to support this new project with frequent updates and new additions, such as enabling in-browser viewing of 360-degree videos.

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Google Is Working On 6DoF Controllers for Daydream Headset, Prototype Model Revealed

Google Experimental 6DoF controllers

Google continues to take large strides in the world of virtual reality technology. The latest announcement made by the company involves an innovative controller it is working on to be used together with their Daydream VR headset.

The device is a set of controllers which will enable 6 degrees of freedom (DoF). The controllers are part of a current experiment developed for Lenovo Mirage Solo. “Instead of using expensive external cameras and sensors that have to be carefully calibrated, our system uses machine learning and off-the-shelf parts to accurately estimate the 3D position and orientation of the controllers,” explains Jonathan Huang, Senior Product Manager, Google AR/VR, in a blog post.

6DoF tracking allows uses to move their hands more naturally in a virtual reality environment, mimicking the movements made in the real world. So far, this type of freedom of movements is available for PC-tethered VR experiences with external visual tracking.

The experimental controllers Google is working on would allow such experiences for untethered VR devices, such as the Daydream headset, and for a more affordable price compared to PC-based VR, according to the same blog post.


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