augmented reality

HoloLens and What It Means For Learning & Development

Male dentist showing a molar tooth

HoloLens coupled with Windows 10 is being pitched by Microsoft, targeted especially for businesses, including the Training Industry. HoloLens promises to change the way daily operations are performed and to provide ease in training as well as new perspectives.

Some of the ways that HoloLens can be used for training include:

  • Skype conversations using HoloLens can allow those taking part to view the same desktop workspace from the same view. This means trainers can see what trainees are doing in real time and instruct them accordingly.
  • Diagrams can be viewed in context with realistic images. Augmented images can be overlaid over real time views of office spaces, work floors, manufacturing lines, and other professional areas.
  • Trainees can tour virtual scenes from a first person perspective. This way, they can get a better feel for what awaits them when they first set foot in a new workplace.
  • Trainers can see exactly what trainees are working on from a remote location, in a much more realistic way than remote access has allowed up to now.
  • Trainers in the seminar context can view the work of participants in a direct and clear way with the participants located all over the globe.

 

Promises Ease and a New Way to Get Training Done

HoloLens is less bulky and more streamlined than Oculus rift in size and appearance. With new applications offered by Windows 10, it can add considerable resources to those previously possessed by the training industry. Better insight into the work of participants during courses, seminars, webinars, and more will mean better success rates and less frustration on the part of distance learners and employees. Online learning, if also employing this technology, could change the success rate for the better. (In the past and present, a lot of online university students complain of little feedback on the part of their instructors. This is due in part to instructors lacking insight on what participants are actually doing. Virtual reality tools such as the Lens could turn this around.)

Skype and Collaboration

Skype conversations could follow with participants seeing into each other’s surroundings and being able to edit one another’s work. For training and collaboration, this is of particular value. Working on models and designs with an interactive context saves time and spares participants of frustration. Course creators can offer trainees specific feedback and look over their work more intensively to be sure they have achieved their goals.

Savvy and Fun for Training

HoloLens has the potential to make the training industry more viable, more interesting and technologically up-to-date with savvy tools that make the process fun. Instead of having the reputation of being necessary for work opportunities and promotions, it could make seminars and training courses a sought after experience involving virtual worlds, interactive contexts, funny scenarios and direct feedback from instructors and course leaders.

New Immersive Tech Series: Displays, VR, and AR

Reality of Knowledge  

Technology is becoming more and more futuristic, including the way we view what we’re doing. Lenses, headsets and other assorted viewing devices offer total or partial immersion in virtual worlds, or at the very least: augmentation of the so-called real world.

Popular displays like the Oculus Rift, the Microsoft HoloLens, the Google Cardboard, and the Samsung GearVR are among the up and coming technology virtual reality devices have to offer.

Oculus Rift: 

  • A bulky headset that allows users to see digital worlds from a 360 degree angle based on how the user turns his or her head. It can be supplemented with the Virtuix Omni to include hands, arms and feet motion for an even more realistic experience
  • It’s impossible to see out of the headset, users are totally immersed in what they are playing—working on or viewing.

Microsoft Hololens:

  • Slightly smaller than the Rift and lighter weight. It also allows the viewer to see their work from various perspectives but is also transparent to the outside world.
  • Provides only partial immersion, depending on what applications are utilized.
  • Augmentation to the world outside instead of blocking the outside world.
  • Runs only in conjunction with Windows 10.

Google Cardboard:

  • Consists of a simple cardboard viewer.
  • Applications on the user’s mobile phone provide the view.
  • Affordable, lightweight, and simplistic.
  • The cheapest virtual reality option that works with a variety of mobile phones.

Samsung GearVR

  • Only works with one Samsung mobile phone: the Samsung Galaxy Note 4
  • The headset is similar to Oculus Rift
  • Provides total immersion
  • Only costs 199 USD

Various Degrees of Virtual Reality 

Whereas Oculus Rift and Microsoft Hololens are more intensive and have the potential to be used for a lot of business related operations including training and design, the Google Cardboard and Samsung GearVR viewers are easily affordable and can provide virtual reality experiences for consumers looking to just stick a toe in the water. They are less bulky than the Rift and more transportable. Though the Samsung GearVR only runs on Galaxy Note 4, more models could be added in the future and it’s already possible to go out and buy the Google cardboard and the GearVR—unlike the Hololens that is only out there as a prototype (that not everyone can get their hands on).

The Rift and the HoloLens are less accessible to start with, but may prove to be more realistic in immersing users. Once they arrive on the market to consumers, it will be interesting to see what applications are picked up. Google Cardboard and Samsung GearVR can be tried out now, giving us a taste of what is to come.

Improve Sales Using Augmented Reality

If you want to capture people’s attention in today’s busy world, you have to feature interactive simulation of products.  It’s not enough to tell people about a product or even show them the benefits of using a specific brand or item.  You have to get them involved so they feel like part of the product.  That is the point at which you can begin to develop brand loyalty.

Heinz

A good example of how that is achieved is through the augmented reality app that Heinz developed.  It was designed to market the company’s tomato ketchup with a pop-up book featuring recipes using the ketchup as an ingredient.

Recipes would pop out when the camera was placed on top of the product.  Users could look through the recipes and download as a PDF.  They could also view the recipes as videos on the Facebook page of the product.  The goal for the company was to inspire users to try new ways of using the product while they are out rather than waiting for them to visit a website to find the recipes.

This is just one instance of how this technique can be used to draw people in.  Marketing has achieved new levels of brand awareness by incorporating new technology into their advertising campaigns.  Heinz is not the only company to focus on a mobile app to sell their product.  As more people move from traditional computers and laptops to mobile devices, mobile applications will play a stronger role in marketing.

Businesses that want to be relevant will have to move to mobile.  They can create simple apps designed to provide information about a product or company.  While that is the easiest way to begin in mobile marketing, it cannot be the only way a business gets involved.  To be effective, the mobile development must also include the user in the experience.  This ensures that they feel more connected and involved; it will also make them more likely to tell their friends about the application and convince them to try it.

Mobile marketing is the trend of the future, utilizing interactive applications and augmented reality to enhance the user’s experience.  Businesses that want to stay at the forefront of their industry must learn to compete in this arena to capture their visitors’ attention and to create a loyal following.  This will ensure that their campaigns have a high conversion rate and are more successful.

Kinecting the Dots- Imagine Cup Demos Versatility of the Kinect

The summer has delivered more that its share of geeky get-togethers. From the Google I/O to Comic-Con, there have been enough nerdy round-ups to keep even the most sophisticated of Sci-Fi aficionado happy. But one of the more impressive tech fests of the season was the Microsoft Image Cup Competition, held this year in Sydney, Australia. The five-day competition pitted teams from all over the world together to find the best new applications of Microsoft products. There were impressive entries ranging from smart phones that locate land mines to automated shopping carts that aid those in wheelchairs. But far and away the most impressive device used in this competition was the Microsoft Kinect.

The winner was the Ukrainian quadSquad, who developed Enable Talk, a glove capable of translating sign language into audible speech, and many of the devices in competition were geared towards health and education, but there were those who geared towards energy conservation as well. But the American Team Whiteboard Pirates’s entry “Duck Duck Punch” was a feature in a Popular Science write-up of the event, and an excellent example of what developers using the Kinect are capable of producing.

Duck Duck Punch was developed with the help of a physical therapist as a tool in the recovery of stroke victims. It uses the Kinect to monitor the movement of patients who play the game as a means of stimulating muscle memory. “The trick with stroke rehabilitation is that it's not really the victims' [limbs] that need rehabilitating,” Popular Science explains. “It's their brains. The muscles themselves are capable of making the movement, but the brain believes it can't. The game draws on the idea of “mirror therapy,” in which the brain, seeing an image of a moving limb, believes the body is making that motion, even if it isn't.”

What makes the Kinect so effective is the precision of its measurements. A team from Belgium also submitted a sign-language device that allows the friends and family of the hearing impaired to mimic the signs to various words. This is something that would be difficult for anything except a precision instrument. Popular Science also reports how various businesses have started applying this technology. One company named Ikkos Training has used a similar program to assist in the training of certain athletes—including Michael Phelps. Their gear monitors the movements of its clients and shows how they can improve their form through the same type of muscle memory triggers used by the stroke therapy patients.

What moments like these at the Imagine Cup show us are the possibilities that entertainment and digital animation technology can open up in other areas. Along with types of Augmented Reality like Google Glass and the rapid changes going on in smart phone development, devices like Duck Duck Punch demonstrate the increasing role that interactive and virtual technology will play in everyday life—and soon. And while the Kinect may help only some of us reach our Olympic dreams, the rest of us can sleep a little better knowing that our loved ones are being taken that much better care of.

Family Night 2.0- Board Games Meet Augmented Reality

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It may not come as a shock that that someone who writes for a tech blog is a board game connoisseur. Monopoly, Risk, and Avalon Hill’s Gettysburg in childhood made way for Afrika Korps, Warhammer, and Axis and Allies in my teen years. And even geekier titles came later still: Squad Leader, SPQR, and Machiavelli. I would nothing more than to turn this blog into a public forum dedicated to the discussion of which are the best board games and why.

But, as anyone who’s ever been snowed-in with their siblings knows, the fun of board games is a sharp, sharp double-edged sword. Anyone familiar with Kramer and Newman’s game of Risk knows, cheating, dice rolls, and the precise interpretation of games rules (rulebooks often seem inspired by IRS tax-code prose) can ruin a game night. How many movement points does it cost to load soldiers onto a troop transport? How many armies can one free-move at the end of their turn, and how far? Is the banker stealing from the bank? A game of Machiavelli I once participated in included an hour-long argument between two players (both lawyers) over the placement of one piece on the board. I’ll never forget them standing in the dining room, all other players cleared, while they carried on over the rulebook like they were in court.

Well, thanks to Augmented Reality all that may be over. In June, Hasbro announced the release of Monopoly Zapped, a game design that not only utilizes digital technology to clear up the rules, but also includes new features that take game-play from the table top into the cloud. The Hasbro website explains that “The iconic game board and properties you know and love are still there, but this game is also packed with fantastic app-enhanced features!” A video posted on YouTube shows a game rep explaining how Monopoly Zapped combines the game board and the smart phone, utilizing such features as a credit card system that keeps track of players’ bankrolls and side games that allow players to, among other things, break out of jail along instead of paying a fine and throwing dice.

Hasbro isn’t the only company jumping on the AR bandwagon. In January, AppGear revealed a mixed reality game for both the young and the young at heart. Foam Fighters is one of a number of games being released by this company and features collectible products that interact with a smart phone. Miniature WWII era fighter planes are purchased in packets with distinct scannable codes and a special bracket is included that allows the user to mount the tiny plane in front of the device’s camera. When the game is started, the smartphone camera uses the real image of the model and its foreground and then combines that image with the enemy fighters and cloudbanks of the game. Naturally, the player tilts the device to pitch and bank and uses the screen to fire the machine guns. It looks pretty cool. In one demonstration video, a game rep said “and now all my childhood dream can come true.”

These are both interesting moves forward for both board-gaming and Augmented Reality app development. And with the AR market growing, especially in smartphone downloads, these trends are most likely permanent. Augmented reality is already being used for a variety of purposes, from education, to shopping, to safety, but this application, combining old-fashioned board games and cutting edge technology, is a little unexpected and surprisingly effective. It causes one to wonder in what other ways AR might be used in coming years. But more importantly, with smart devices keeping track of the score, it’s heartening to think how many friendships might be saved and cheaters kept at bay on those long winter nights.