Tag Archives: augmented reality

How AI, AR, and VR are making travel more convenient

From 50 ways to leave your lover, as the song goes, to 750 types of shampoos, we live in an endless sea of choices. And although I haven’t been in the market for hair products in a while, I understand the appeal of picking a product that’s just right for you, even if the decision-making is often agonizing. This quandary (the “Goldilocks Syndrome”, of finding the option that is “just right”) has now made its way to the travel industry, as the race is on to deliver highly personalized and contextual offers for your next flight, hotel room or car rental.

Technology, of course, is both a key driver and enabler of this brave new world of merchandising in the travel business. But this is not your garden variety relational-databases-and-object-oriented-systems tech. What is allowing airlines, hotels and other travel companies to behave more like modern-day retailers is the clever use of self-learning systems, heuristics trained by massive data sets and haptic-enabled video hardware. Machine learning (ML), artificial intelligence (AI), augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) are starting to dramatically shape the way we will seek and select our travel experiences.

Let every recommendation be right

AI is already starting to change how we search for and book travel. Recent innovation and investment has poured into front-end technologies that leverage machine learning to fine tune search results based on your explicit and implicit preferences. These range from algorithms that are constantly refining how options are ranked on your favorite travel website, to apps on your mobile phone that consider past trips, expressed sentiment (think thumbs up, likes/dislikes, reviews) and volunteered information like frequent traveler numbers.

Business travel, as well, is positioned for the application of AI techniques, even if not all advances are visible to the naked eye. You can take photos of a stack of receipts on your smartphone; optical character recognition software codifies expense amounts and currencies, while machine learning algorithms pick out nuances like categories and spending patterns.

AI is also improving efficiencies in many operational systems that form the backbone of travel. Machine learning is already starting to replace a lot of rule-based probabilistic models in airport systems to optimize flight landing paths to meet noise abatement guidelines, or change gate/ramp sequencing patterns to maximize fuel efficiency.

Making decisions based on reality

VR and AR are still changing and evolving rapidly, with many consumer technology giants publicly announcing products this year we can expect to see rapid early adoption and mainstreaming of these technologies. Just as music, photos, videos and messaging became ubiquitous thanks to embedded capabilities in our phones, future AR and VR applications are likely to become commonplace.

VR offers a rich, immersive experience for travel inspiration, and it is easy to imagine destination content being developed for a VR environment. But VR can also be applied to travel search and shopping. My company, Amadeus, recently demonstrated a seamless flight booking experience that includes seat selection and payment. Virtually “walking” onto an airplane and looking a specific seat you are about to purchase makes it easier for consumers to make informed decisions, while allowing airlines to clearly differentiate their premium offerings.

TechCrunch Disrupt SF 2015 - Day 1

AR will probably have a more immediate impact than VR, however, in part due to the presence of advanced camera, location and sensor technology already available today on higher-end smartphones. Airports are experimenting with beacon technology where an AR overlay would be able to easily and quickly guide you to your tight connection for an onward flight, or a tailored shopping or dining experience if you have a longer layover.

“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic,” goes Arthur C. Clarke’s famously quoted third law. But as we expect more authentic experiences: precise search results, an informed booking or an immersive travel adventure, we can count on increasingly magical technology from systems that learn to deliver us our “perfect bowl of porridge.”

Source:

https://venturebeat.com/2017/08/03/how-tech-is-making-travels-inconveniences-much-more-convenient/

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Merge Cube augmented reality toy debuts at Walmart

Merge is announcing that the Merge Cube is debuting exclusively this week at Walmart stores across the U.S.

The Merge Cube is a holographic toy that allows users to physically hold and interact with 3D objects using augmented reality (AR) technology. The Merge Cube costs only $15, and it is compatible with iOS and Android devices. It features dozens of games and experiences built for it.

The launch of the Merge Cube in Walmart stores follows the earlier launch of the company’s Merge VR/AR Goggles, which are $60 devices that are available in 5,000 stores worldwide. While the goggles are aimed at those ages 10 and up, the Merge Cube is targeted at kids. The Merge Cube will expand into other major retailers soon.

“We’re excited to bring the Merge Cube to Walmart stores and physically put this technology into people’s hands. With this first-of-its-kind product, people can experience the wonder and amazement of interacting with holographic, 3D content in a natural and intuitive way,” said Merge founder Franklin Lyons, in a statement​. “Our Merge Cube and Goggles allow users to interact with more than just a screen — now, they can build worlds, explore the human brain, visit foreign lands, and more through the power of VR/AR.”

Also launching today is Merge Miniverse, a portal for virtual and augmented worlds. Merge makes both physical products and apps, and it also curates a library of family-friendly experiences like 360-degree videos, virtual and augmented reality apps, and games.

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The Merge Miniverse allows AR and VR explorers to choose from hundreds of apps and experiences to use with the Merge VR/AR Goggles and Merge Cube, as well as with other AR/VR devices.

Some of the Merge Cube apps currently available on the Miniverse (with more coming soon) include:

  • Th!ngs:​ ​A collection of holographic minigames where users can hatch and play with their very own Octopet, battle alien forces, and hold a campfire in the palm of their hands.
  • Mr. Body:​ ​A hands-on holographic anatomy lesson that gives a close-up view of the vital organs and their functions.
  • Galactic Explorer​: ​An educational game that lets users hold and interact with the solar system. They can watch as planets orbit the Sun, explore the texture and color of each planet’s surface, and discover interesting facts while navigating the universe.
  • Dig!​: ​A world-building game that lets users build and mine to create holographic 3D worlds they can hold in the palm of their hand, save their creations, share with friends, and download and build off others’ pre-built worlds.

Merge is inviting developers from around the world to join them in shaping the future of play. In June, the company announced its Merge AR/VR Developer Fund, a $1 million fund to support the developer community building apps for Merge products.

Source:

https://venturebeat.com/2017/08/01/merge-cube-augmented-reality-toy-debuts-at-walmart/

5 Startup Ideas For Jumping Into Virtual Reality

While companies like Magic Leap and Oculus Rift are spending millions of dollars to develop their new Virtual Reality products and VR startups are raising enormous amounts of money from venture capitalists and angel investors, many people may wonder, “How can I get in the game? Are there any small-business VR ideas with no or very little startup cost?”

Yes, there are a few ways you can start a new business in virtual reality with very little investment. Here are a few ideas for starting a virtual reality business now.

 

1. Rent out virtual reality headsets.

Virtual reality headsets are pretty pricey right now. Oculus Rift units cost $600, and the HTC Vive goes as high as $800, plus the powerful computer you’ll need to use either one. That means that virtual reality headsets are more of a luxury item than an everyday device.

2. Create theater or arcade experiences.

Virtual reality theaters and pop-ups are opening worldwide right now, attracting both attention and customers. This option will require a bit more of investment — you will need to find a venue as well as buy equipment. But once you find a space, you can create a pop-up movie theater where people sit with VR headsets and enjoy 360 degree videos, virtual reality photo galleries with 360 degree pictures from great photographers, or try-out studios where they can come to experience Oculus Rift or HTC vive. With new VR products coming online all the time, charging for them as entertainment can be profitable.

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3. Sell cardboard-like VR headsets.

Google cardboard is one of the most popular VR viewers because it’s very cheap compared to other, more advanced headsets. It has a lot of liabilities, however. It’s not very convenient to wear, requires an additional strap and if you use it often enough, at some point you will need to buy a new one. After all, it’s cardboard. A lot of companies, especially in China started producing their own version of popular viewers. With a little startup capital, you can buy those headsets wholesale and sell them retail via Amazon or at a retail location.

4. Build a VR community.

Create and host local meet-up events, conferences, lectures, fairs and other social events related to VR. Once you have a brand and a decent audience, you can sell access to advertisers and companies who make VR products — there are already a ton of them, and there will be more.

5. Create VR related content.

In VR, people are craving interesting content. As a startup, you can create a professional YouTube channel or blog reviewing the latest available technology, observing conferences, exhibitions, games and movies. Winning a sizeable audience can allow you to monetize it — and your influence — later.

Source:

https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/281710

Apple’s AR is closer to reality than Google’s

Apple has often been accused of acting like it invented things that others have been doing for years. That complaint is not without merit, however Apple can lay claim to transforming existing things into mainstream successes, which takes no small amount of invention in its own right. Fingerprint authentication and contactless payments are just two recent examples, having both existed in Japan and on niche devices for over a decade before Apple raised them to global prominence with the iPhone.

 

Next up on Apple’s agenda is augmented reality, the act of superimposing digital data and visuals atop a live video feed of your surroundings — something that Google, Microsoft, and many others have been experimenting with for a long time. Apple is far from being able to claim it invented AR, but its new ARKit in iOS 11 is already showing signs to suggest that Apple will help bring AR into the mainstream faster and better than anyone else.

The chronic problem with augmented reality has always been one of practicality. You could have the most basic forms of AR on your regular phone, as provided by apps like Layar, which has been around since 2009, but those have never been particularly compelling. Or you could have more sophisticated and appealing augmentations, as presented by Google’s Tango project, but you’d need a big fat phablet to lug around to make them happen. Apple’s difference is to combine the convenience of your daily phone with the appeal of advanced AR.

Looking at this distance-measuring app, it seems so simple and obvious. Of course your super-powered, multi-core phone should be smart enough to measure out basic distances, and there have indeed been many wonky apps trying to do that in the past. But measuring with AR, as already shown off by Google Tango phones, allows you a much more intuitive method for doing it. Having the phone actually aware of the three-dimensional space in its view allows for precise measurements, which can be represented with a neat hologram of a measuring tape. Apple’s advantage in the contest for doing this best is simple: while Google Tango demands special hardware, ARKit requires only that you have a recent iOS device. At WWDC earlier this month, Craig Federighi described ARKit as “the largest AR platform in the world,” and he was right.

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Apple’s AR will immediately reach millions of people who already have the requisite hardware. And while it looks to be functionally as flexible and capable as Google’s Tango (check out some early examples of fanciful experiments with ARKit), its broader audience makes it much more enticing for serious developers to invest their time and money into. Google’s Tango is about the future whereas Apple’s ARKit is about the present.

Considering how little time it took to develop two convincingly accurate AR measuring apps with the iOS 11 beta, and reading the comments from their makers, Apple also appears to have an advantage in the ease of development with ARKit. It’s exciting to think that there are still three months before the release of the next iPhone and the accompanying finalization of iOS 11, by which time Apple’s big-budget app developer partners are likely to have a deluge of AR-enabled apps for people to play with. That’s how stuff goes mainstream: as a big wave of change that touches everyone from casual Pokémon Go players to serious home DIY geeks figuring out how to arrange their living room furniture.

For the people who don’t care about incremental changes in phone specs or design, the differentiator between devices has always been in the unique things that each one can do — or, failing that, the convenience and ease of use of common features. Apple’s iPhone is more convenient than Google’s Project Tango devices and with iOS 11 it’ll have much better AR capabilities than its nearest premium Android rivals. So if we’re looking for the AR innovator that will take the technology into the mainstream, Apple once again looks like the likeliest suspect.

Source:

https://www.theverge.com/2017/6/26/15872332/apple-arkit-ios-11-augmented-reality-developer-excitement

Apple may eventually launch ‘iGlass’ smart glasses for augmented reality

Apple may leverage augmented reality on the iPhone to help pave the way for a future smart glasses product, UBS said in a note to investors Tuesday.

Apple recently launched its ARKit developer tools, which will allow its partners to build new augmented reality applications for millions of iPhones already in the hands of consumers. It will give Apple an overnight leg up on companies like Google that are participating in the space on a much smaller scale.

Apple hasn’t participated in the smart glasses space yet, but the idea is that a user will be able to wear a special pair of glasses that overlays computer images over the real world. You might learn more about a restaurant, perhaps view its menu, by standing in front of it, for example.

 

Right now, companies like Apple and Google would be forced to create bulky glasses that wouldn’t be feasible or comfortable to wear. UBS believes Apple could use AR-ready iPhones to power the experience.

“Advanced sensors and camera capabilities will enhance the iPhone; eventually there could be independent hardware offerings, perhaps iGlass,” UBS analyst Steven Milunovich said. “We can imagine a pair of glasses with quintessential Apple design (iGlass), which enable a Hololens-type experience,” the company said, referring to Microsoft’s bulky alternative.

feature_AR_glasses

“However, the amount of compute power and sensors required likely pose a serious design challenge. If Apple could find a way to send massive amounts of data from the eyeglasses to the iPhone where the bulk of the compute would occur, the eyewear could have a more attractive design. The issue then becomes how to transfer massive amounts of complex data between devices quickly.”

Milunovich laid out 10 AR use cases ranging from games and entertainment to home improvement and health care/medical diagnostics. It said AR will help Apple retain iPhone users.

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Source:

http://www.cnbc.com/2017/06/20/apple-smart-glasses-for-augmented-reality-could-leverage-iphone-power-ubs-says.html

Apple’s advances in augmented reality highlight its real advantage over Google

For the multiple times Apple executives mentioned “machine learning” at the company’s developers conference Monday, they also emphasized an older theme that could be more important: Unified software.

 

Apple’s mobile operating system, or iOS, works the same and runs the same on every iPhone. That’s why app developers often prefer building for Apple before they build for Google’s Android, an operating system that’s splintered across different kinds of hardware. While the latest versions of Android consistently run on higher-end phones like the Google Pixel, cheaper and older phones often only run previous versions.

Apple’s control over both its operating system and the hardware on which that software runs came up throughout the keynote. That highlights what Google really needs to worry about when competing with Apple: The fragmentation of Android. This matters even when Google has a technical advantage.

Apple’s latest announcements in augmented reality are where the company’s advantage with a unified platform showed the most.

 

The ability to quickly deploy software to devices immediately differentiates Apple’s AR from Google AR computing platform Tango, which only runs on select newer-model phones.

 Keynote Address Opens Apple Worldwide Developers Conference

“When you bring the software together with these devices, we actually have hundreds of millions of iPhones and iPads that are going to be capable of AR,” Apple’s head of software, Craig Federighi, said. “That’s going to make overnight the AR kit the largest AR platform in the world.”

In general, only a portion of Android phones tend to run the latest version of the mobile software at any given time. While Google builds its own hardware now — such as the Pixel phone — it still relies largely on third-party manufacturers and carriers to deliver Android updates to hardware that runs it.

 

Update: Google said it has made efforts to lessen the fragmentation of software across Android devices, including rolling out a program to make it easier for device makers to upgrade to newer versions of Android, and ensuring software in Google Play Services is updated frequently across devices. Google reports 93 percent of users ahave the latest version of Google Play Services.

Federighi brought up hardware and platform advantages again when he announced a new set of machine learning software tools for developers.

Developers that used Apple’s new machine learning tools would be able to execute their use with “tremendous performance on-device,” he said, and have access to “all the data privacy benefits and all of the carefully tuned compatibility with all of our platforms.”

 

What he didn’t seem to emphasize was what made the tools themselves interesting. That’s probably because Apple is known to lag behind Google, Microsoft and others in machine learning.

The iPhone didn’t publish its first artificial intelligence research paper until December. By comparison, Google had 44 papers accepted this year to the International Conference on Machine Learning while Microsoft had 33, according to a Medium post by a researcher at AI think tank OpenAI.

And Apple’s new machine learning offerings are also not all drawn from Apple technology. “Some of the pre-trained machine learning models that Apple offers are open-sourced Google code, primarily for image recognition,” noted Quartz reporter Dave Gershgorn. Google confirmed this.

Source:

https://www.recode.net/2017/6/7/15749860/apple-ar-toolkit-highlights-ios-advantages-unified-software

The Washington Post is diving into augmented reality

The Washington Post is launching an augmented-reality series today, the start of a push into AR-enhanced storytelling this year.

The first series uses AR to let people explore innovative buildings around the world, starting with the Elbphilharmonie concert hall in Hamburg, Germany, whose structure lets visitors hear and see the same thing no matter where they sit. Readers can access the story on the Post’s app on iOS devices, then point their smartphone’s camera at the ceiling of any room they’re in and tap play. The real ceiling is transformed into the concert hall ceiling while an audio narration by Post art and architecture critic Philip Kennicott plays. Users can also tap a prompt to read an accompanying article by Kennicott.

With AR’s obvious application to visual stories, Kennicott said there’s a question of whether AR will replace the need for critics like him. To him, the answer is that AR can enhance, rather than replace the experience, and hence make criticism more interesting and relevant to readers. “It’s a great way to get people a lot more than what they’re getting from a photographer or video,” Kennicott said.

The series will continue with at least two more installments through the end of the summer. The Post hopes to do around six AR series total this year and plans to expand the AR stories to Android and its Rainbow app.

The Post deliberately started small, with the first video in the series only running about 10 seconds, said Joey Marburger, the Post’s head of product. “With that quick experience, you get more out of the story,” he said. “But we didn’t want it to be the only way you can experience the story. We didn’t want to overdo it.”

Audi is sponsoring the series. Its first ad will appear as a visual, and future ads will take the form of AR branded stories in upcoming installments.

AR is still a new experience for most people and requires prompts to get people to try it. It also doesn’t make sense for every story. But the Post made it a priority this year because unlike virtual reality, it’s less expensive, doesn’t require a headset and advertiser demand is there, Marburger said. The series took six people in editorial and engineering to produce, which is comparable to the size of teams it puts on other projects.

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Source:

https://digiday.com/media/washington-post-diving-augmented-reality/

Instagram adds augmented reality face filters

Facebook’s Snapchat-style augmented reality face filters are coming to Instagram. Eight different filters will be available starting today, including a few different crowns, ones that make a person look like a koala or a rabbit, and another that sends math equations spinning around your head.

 

Instagram’s face filters will work whether you’re using the front or the back camera on your phone. You can find them by opening up the camera interface in the app and tapping the new icon in the bottom right corner. The filters can be used in any of Instagram’s shooting modes — photo, video, or even Boomerang. You can access them by downloading the new 10.21 update on the App Store or Google Play Store.

The idea of using augmented reality technology to map and apply animations to a user’s face was popularized by Snapchat, which bought Looksery — a company that pioneered the tech — back in 2015. Facebook responded by snatching up Belarusian startup MSQRD in early 2016, and the tech made its way into Facebook Stories earlier this year.

This is far from the first idea Facebook has lifted from Snap — adding Snapchat’s 24-hour Stories feature to Instagram is the real molten core of this entire drama — but augmented reality face filters were one of the last blockbuster Snapchat features that Instagram was missing. They are also just one small part of the much larger vision Facebook has for augmented reality, which the company laid out in detail at last month’s F8 conference. (Snap, of course, shares a similar vision.)

 

Instagram is also adding a few other features to the app today. Users will now be able to add hashtag “stickers” to a photo or video when posting it to their Story. Viewers will be able to tap these stickers to explore other media that’s been shared with the same hashtag, the same way you can already tag other users or apply geostickers. A new “rewind” video feature (also “inspired” by Snapchat) and an eraser have been added to the app as well.

instagram-face-filter

Source:

https://www.theverge.com/2017/5/16/15643062/instagram-face-filters-snapchat-facebook-features

Why Amazon’s use of self-driving technology would be a game changer

Self-driving vehicles have yet to hit the road in a major way, but Amazon already is exploring the technology’s potential to change how your packages are delivered.

Amazon is the nation’s largest online retailer, and its decisions not only turn heads but influence the entire retail and shipping industries, analysts say. That means any foray into the self-driving arena – whether as a developer or customer – could have a significant effect on the technology’s adoption.

Amazon has assigned a dozen employees to determine how it can use the technology as part of its business, the Wall Street Journal reported Monday. It’s unclear what shape Amazon’s efforts will take or how far along they might be, although the company has no plans to create its own vehicles, according to the report.

Nevertheless, the Amazon group offers an early indication that big companies are preparing for the technology’s impact.

Transportation experts anticipate that self-driving cars will fundamentally alter the way people get around and the way companies ship goods, changes that stand to disrupt entire industries and leave millions of professional drivers without jobs. The forthcoming shift has attracted the money and attention of the biggest names in the technology and automotive industries, including Apple, Uber, Google, Ford, General Motors and Tesla, among others.

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In particular, the technology could make long-haul shipping cheaper and faster because, unlike human drivers, machines do not command a salary or require down time. That would be important to Amazon, whose shipping costs continue to climb as the company sells more products and ships them faster, according to its annual report. Amazon even invested in its own fleet of trucks in December 2015 to give the company greater control over distribution.

If Amazon adopts self-driving technology, it may push others to do the same.

“When Amazon sneezes, everyone wakes up,” said Satish Jindel, president of SJ Consulting Group, a transportation and logistics advisory firm.

The company said it shipped more than 1 billion items during the 2016 holiday season.

 

An Amazon spokeswoman declined a request for an interview, citing a “long-standing practice of not commenting on rumors and speculation.” The company’s chief executive, Jeffrey P. Bezos, owns The Washington Post.

Amazon has become something of a pioneer in home delivery, in part by setting the standard for how quickly purchases arrive on your doorstep. The company has begun using aerial drones in an effort to deliver goods more quickly, completing its first successful flight to a customer in the United Kingdom in December. Like self-driving vehicles, drones will need to overcome regulatory hurdles before they’re widely deployed.

In its warehouses, Amazon has used thousands of robots that pull items from shelves and pack them. Last summer, Deutsche Bank analysts found the robots reduced the time to fulfill an order from more than an hour to 15 minutes, according to business news site Quartz. They also saved Amazon about $22 million per warehouse. Amazon acquired Kiva, the company that makes the robots, in 2012 for $775 million.

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Source:

http://www.denverpost.com/2017/04/26/amazon-self-driving-delivery/