Tag Archives: Virtual Reality

UPS is developing virtual reality tech to train its drivers

UPS drivers preparing to get behind the wheel will soon be using virtual reality to do so.

The company’s new VR training program will be rolling out next month at nine of the company’s training facilities, simulating some of the uncertainties and challenges of delivering packages on city streets. Trainees will interact with the content using voice commands to identify obstacles while wearing headsets.

“Virtual Reality offers a big technological leap in the realm of driver safety training,” said UPS exec Juan Perez in a statement. “VR creates a hyper-realistic streetscape that will dazzle even the youngest of our drivers whose previous exposure to the technology was through video games.”

While companies like Walmart have signed onto programs with enterprise-focused startups like Strivr Labs, UPS will be building its training materials in-house.

 

Virtual reality may be a more immersive technology but, when done poorly, training videos can be just as unbearable as more traditional instructional materials. The big issue right now is that making custom, realistic VR content able to take advantage of everything the medium has to offer really isn’t worth the effort.

Enterprise software companies could build (and some have) game engine-rendered content that allows you to move around and interact with the environment, but they often end up with dumpy PlayStation 1 graphics that wander too far from the real-world. Largely for this reason, most companies are opting for more realistic — but less interactive — 360 video.

While VR may not be as revolutionary as, say, drones to a company that ships packages across the globe, it can still be an effective tool for getting prospective employees ready before they get out on the job. It’s also important because UPS drivers are a clear candidate for utilizing AR headsets in the future to more easily keep track of shipments hands-free while preparing for drop-offs and pick-ups.

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UPS is developing virtual reality tech to train its drivers

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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/

Disney will show the sights, sounds and smells of ‘Star Wars’ in VR

Disney is teaming up with virtual reality gaming centre The Void to launch an immersive Star Wars experience at two of its sites. Star Wars: Secrets of the Empire lets you step inside the intergalactic world of the hit films through a VR headset. You’ll also be able to touch, feel, and even smell your surroundings (which may not bode well if you end up chilling with Yoda on Dagobah). Built in collaboration with Lucasfilm, the new experience hits Disneyland Resort and Walt Disney World Resort this holiday season.

 

For those not familiar with The Void, its gaming centres offer “hyper-reality” attractions. Essentially, you enter real rooms in groups, wearing the company’s headsets and haptic feedback vests that allow you to interact with the VR environments. Some of these are based on movies, like its Ghostbusters: Dimensions experience that lets you use virtual plasma packs to zap green ghouls.

 

Star Wars: Secrets of the Empire is The Void’s first partnership with the House of Mouse, since it joined its accelerator program in July. It will see the company open its gaming centres on the Disney sites — through which guests will jump into the virtual adventure.

 

The social VR experience could be the first of many immersive Star Wars-themed attractions at the parks, courtesy of the folks at Lucasfilm’s ILMxLab division. Just last month Disney revealed ambitious plans of building an entire hotel based on the franchise. And then there’s its upcoming Star Wars theme park, due to open in 2019 at both Disneyland in California and Disney World in Florida.

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Source:

https://www.engadget.com/2017/08/03/disney-star-wars-vr-the-void/

Google promises 11 Daydream VR phones by the end of the year

Google CEO and freshly appointed Alphabet board member Sundar Pichai was typically guarded during yesterday’s Alphabet earnings call, but he did disclose a nice number for us to look forward to. By the end of 2017, said Pichai, there will be 11 Android smartphones on the market that support Google’s Daydream virtual reality platform.

Daydream turns compatible smartphones into standalone VR systems: you just need one of Google’s Daydream View headsets to hold the device, together with the accompanying touch controller, and you’re away. I’ve used Daydream with a Google Pixel, and its big distinction from the larger PC-tethered alternatives like the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift is in just how light and comfortable it is. Obviously, a Daydream phone is also much more portable and versatile too, but for me the standout feature is that I can wear that headset without it feeling heavy and tiring after only a few minutes.

As things stand today, there are only four Daydream-compatible models to choose from: Google’s own Pixel handsets, Motorola’s Moto Z, Huawei’s Mate 9 Pro and Porsche Design Mate 9, and ZTE’s Axon 7. Samsung famously announced Daydream support will be coming to its flagship Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus, and that’s just started rolling out as a software update. With Pichai’s disclosure this week, we can expect at least a couple of as-yet-unannounced Daydream devices beyond the predictable refresh of the Pixel lineup in the fall.

Source:

https://www.theverge.com/circuitbreaker/2017/7/25/16024582/google-daydream-vr-smartphones-2017-sundar-pichai-earnings-quote

Disney Is Using VR To Help Film The Lion King Remake

The live-action remake of the Lion King isn’t expected to hit theaters until 2019, but Disney got the anticipation started early with a preview of what fans can expect from the Jon Favreau-directed project. A peek of the film’s “Circle of Life” opening sequence debuted to a room of thousands during the D23 Expo in Anaheim, California on Saturday (July 15).

Though Disney also screened previews of upcoming releases like The Nutcracker and the Four Realms and the live-action adaptation of Dumbo, it’s obvious that the Lion Kingstole the show.

According to the Hollywood Reporter:

Exclusively screened for attendees and not simultaneously released online, the footage featured jaw-dropping photoreal shots of African landscapes, many types of animals (including elephants and, of course, lions), and ended with the iconic moment in which Rafiki introduces an adorable young Simba on Pride Rock, as Circle of Life played.

“We love this movie and we are working hard,” said director Jon Favreau, fresh off directing The Jungle Book. He’s making Lion King (scheduled for a July 19, 2019 release) in Los Angeles, again using virtual production techniques by reteaming with Jungle Book’s Oscar winning VFX supervisor Rob Legato and lead VFX house MPC.

This time, however, they are incorporating virtual reality tools and techniques. “We are going to use a lot of virtual reality tools so it feels akin to what you are looking at [if you were on a real set],” explained Legato during a keynote that he gave at NAB in April. “You can walk around the set like a cameraman. You can make a ton of mistakes and no one has to see them. [Wearing VR headsets] the actors can now walk into a scene and see the other actors and trees … and because you are in 3D, you get a realistic sense [of the environment].”

It’s unclear when Disney plans to release a trailer to the ‘net, but the teaser got overwhelmingly positive reviews on Twitter.

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The upcoming Lion King reboot stars Donald Glover as Simba, with Hugh Jackman will voice Scar, and James Earl Jones returns to the franchise as Mufasa.

Check below for more reactions to the teaser.

Source:

https://www.vibe.com/2017/07/disney-debuts-opening-sequence-from-live-action-lion-king-remake/

Marvel is bringing its superheroes to VR with a new Oculus-exclusive game

The Incredible Hulk and some of his other box office money-grabbing super pals will be coming to the world of virtual reality.

Marvel Powers United VR, announced at Disney’s D23 event on Saturday, will allow players a chance to step into the shoes of some familiar heroes as they destroy lots of stuff in VR.

Powers United VR, an Oculus-exclusive, looks pretty similar to existing VR wave shooters like Robo Recall, though its multiplayer could spice things up a bit. The main highlight will obviously be having IP from Marvel; players will be able to choose from 12 different Marvel characters as they exact righteous mayhem.

The title is being developed by Sanzaru Games, which has already done a couple VR titles for the Rift, including VR Sports Challenge and Ripcoil.

Facebook and Oculus have devoted $500 million to funding made-for-VR content. Oculus has been doing so largely with the hopes of attracting exclusives and interest from top AAA game publishers who have been reticent to invest significant cash into a space with so few users relative to console and PC audiences.

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With Marvel, Oculus has found a partnership that allows it another big name exclusive to show off its highest-end Rift and Touch controller hardware, which it has heavily discounted in recent months as Facebook looks to sell units and keep up with competition in the niche VR space.

Building a hefty library of exclusives is even more important to the company following E3, where Oculus was largely overlooked as the highly influential ZeniMax-owned Bethesda announced a number of titles from blockbuster series, including DOOM, Fallout and The Elder Scrolls, that it will be porting to competing virtual reality systems like HTC’s Vive and Sony’s Playstation VR. This comes as Facebook fights an injunction from the Oculus/ZeniMax lawsuit, for which it has already been ordered to pay up a half-billion dollars.

Marvel Powers United VR is bring slated for a 2018 release.

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Marvel is bringing its superheroes to VR with a new Oculus-exclusive game

Facebook brings Live broadcasting to its Spaces virtual reality app

In an effort to seemingly combine a couple of the top tech trends of the year, Facebook will soon be allowing users of its Oculus Rift virtual reality system to live stream themselves inside VR to their Facebook friends and followers as avatars.

The Facebook Live functionality will be arriving on the Spaces app, which is still in beta. Users will be able to go live to all their friends and can position a virtual camera to capture their experience. A lot of things will look familiar to a traditional Live broadcast for the streamer, but things like physically reaching out and grabbing a comment to show those watching are things only possible in VR.

Facebook Spaces may be just a preview of CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s 10-year vision for virtual reality at the company, but with Messenger video calls and Facebook Live broadcasts already coming to the app, it’s clear that the company isn’t shying away from building a bridge between its loftier VR bets and its central 2D service, which now boasts 2 billion users.

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It may be a while before every feature sees a VR counterpart though.

 

“There are things that aren’t going to map one-to-one, but I think in a lot of ways Facebook is sort of the 2D metaverse,” Facebook VR guru Mike Booth told TechCrunch. “It’s a huge network of people, places and things, so it’s a question of how we present those things in VR and how we let people access them and interact with them, but it’s also huge so there’re a lot of things to figure out and explore.”

To Booth, bringing Facebook Live to Spaces is just as much about “evangelism” as anything else, allowing larger groups of friends to get exposed to the app and virtual reality in general.

Whether users see the need to return to a feature like this is the real question; VR systems have some pretty obtrusive setups and don’t lend themselves to the ease of use that going Live on mobile boasts. Whether seeing avatars is fun and quirky or just gimmicky seems to be something that might be up for debate after only a couple minutes of live streaming, but for Facebook, much of their VR strategy involves a lot of trial and a lot of potential for error.

Source:

Facebook brings Live broadcasting to its Spaces virtual reality app

HOW VIRTUAL REALITY COULD CHANGE THE ART WORLD

There’s a new player on the virtual reality (VR) scene. Acute Art is marketed directly to artists and will be available in the fall. To preview the platform, the studio invited artists Marina Abramović, Olafur Eliasson, and Jeff Koons to try out some new material. The making-of video discusses the potential of a viable commercial VR.

Over the decades, VR has moved from the edges to the mainstream, always greeted with skepticism and fears that it’s just another passing fad. But we now have consumer-grade specs like the Oculus Rift and controllers like the Touch for games. Virtual reality in art has always been less sleek, more DIY, and with lots of stops and starts.

As Raymond Gozzi Jr. wrote about virtual reality’s promise and threat back in 1995, it “has caught people’s imaginations and inspired fantasies far out of proportion to what the technology can actually deliver, now or in the foreseeable future.”

To the outside observer, there is only the strange spectacle of a person wearing a bulky helmet waving a gloved hand around and moving in weird, unpredictable ways…. I am told that the graphics are rudimentary and the illusion is partial. There is a slight delay between your movement and the corresponding movement of the environment. The head-mounted display is bulky and heavy. And after a while, some users start to feel queasy and ill.

Gozzi feels the main potential of virtual reality is as a “miniaturizing metaphor,” a way to make a large and complex problem simple and digestible—though there’s a risk that making something too digestible can diminish its power and meaning. A great example is Abramović’s interactive work for Acute Art, which focuses on the theme of climate change. If you choose environmentalism, Marina lives; if you choose consumption, she drowns from rising sea levels.

There’s an obvious irony here; the virtual environment becomes an idealized stand-in for an imperfect (in this case, rapidly declining) reality. Any recreation of a natural landscape can be a distraction from, or a reminder of, its loss. This is encapsulated beautifully in the New Palmyra 3D scanning and printing project, where Syrian activist Bassel Khartabil created 3D models of heritage architecture under threat of destruction during war. (For his efforts, he was detained by the Syrian military in 2012 and has been missing since 2015.) 

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The more seamless a new VR platform—the farther away from bulky, heavy, and queasy—the more it risks devaluing its source material. Why travel to visit an iceberg and see its crumbling firsthand when you can virtually interact with an immaterial glacier that will never melt?

While VR was certainly more challenging to use in the 1960-2000s, its very imperfect nature—the ad-hoc assemblages of various technologies—was often what made those projects special. In 1994, Dan O’Sullivan wrote in “Choosing Tools for Virtual Environments,” about work that was “disjointed” and “full of seams,” concluding that VR environments shouldn’t strive to be perfect. A little bit of abstraction goes a long way. It commits the participants to use their own imaginations, involves them more fully in the process, and brings some of our IRL experiences into the virtual space:

Beyond producing perceptual illusions, interactive media can tap the imagination by making a partner of it. If the audience has an investment in the creation of an imaginary world, less technology is required to maintain the illusion. Less work maintaining the illusion means a greater ease of creativity. Creative work feeds back again to better capture the imagination.

Source:

https://daily.jstor.org/how-virtual-reality-could-change-the-art-world/

Virtual Reality Is the Future of Shopping

Online shopping is on the rise—it’s fast and ships directly to your doorstep, sometimes overnight. But with online shopping, you miss the experience of going into a store and picking up items. Enter virtual reality shopping, which tries to give you the convenience of online shopping and the experience of being in a store.

People are already shopping through virtual reality, but it’s still in its beginning stages. In late 2016, China’s Alibaba launched Buy+, a virtual reality experience that could be accessed with a virtual reality headset. With Buy+, people could wander around a store, look through items, and add things to a cart by staring at a product for long enough. According to Vice, 30,000 people had already tried Buy+ an hour after its launch.

 

To use virtual reality shopping, you’ll need a virtual reality headset, which could range from a $10 Google Cardboard to hundreds of dollars for an Oculus Rift. Like online shopping, there’s usually a virtual shopping cart and you can buy things by giving your credit card information upon checkout.

Big companies like Amazon are also working on adding virtual reality shopping in an attempt to increase sales. In May 2016, Ikea let users design their own kitchens with a HTC Vive. Audi also used the HTC Vive to present cars in showrooms. Later in 2016, eBay Australia teamed up with Myer to create the “first virtual reality department store,” but it simulated a web of floating objects rather than a physical store.

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Earlier this month, Ikea started using virtual reality in Australia. You can see the experience for yourself on Android, iOS, and desktop (though the desktop version doesn’t have virtual reality).

The Ikea version of virtual reality shopping feels like a more immersive version of Google Street View. You can wander around the store and in between furniture. You can select objects marked with floating blue dots, revealing the item’s description and price. Most of the furniture isn’t marked, though, so you’ll have to zoom in on the tags and remind yourself to search for it later.

Smaller companies like Gatsby, a startup that creates virtual reality stores, are also looking to create virtual reality shopping experiences.

“We’re really trying to get close to what it’s like being there, and we want it to be very intimate,” said Anastasia Cifuentes, co-founder of Gatsby. “All the little details on how you move, we’re really focusing on how to have that just right.” Gatsby has been experimenting with virtual reality for less than 6 months but hopes to launch an app in the fall.

Using Gatsby’s shopping app to buy furniture feels like playing a game. You can look around a room from a fixed point (you can’t move around the space yet). There’s a button that let you click on objects and rotate them. Once you select an object, details about the object’s length, width, height, and price appear. If you want an item, you can add it to your cart.

Source:

http://lifehacker.com/virtual-reality-is-the-future-of-shopping-1796454556

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