We recently developed an interactive power plant computer application for one of our clients. They are using it to educate their customers and employees on where and how one of their products works. Above is a video walkthrough of the application.
We recently completed a virtual reality tour for a beautiful home designed by Magnolia Homes. The real beauty of the project is in the fact that we were able to create the entire home in 3D using only blueprints. When we started the project, the home had never been built in the real world. Magnolia Homes wanted a way to show off their new floor plan before they were able to begin construction.
As virtual reality technology moves from being pure theory from a futuristic world to being used to improve daily work and play, some fields stand to benefit in particular. Oculus Rift is a headset offering a 360 degree view of an interactive virtual world. The Virtuix Omni takes it one step forward and lets the user move body parts with what they are seeing. Microsoft HoloLens allows augmentation of images in addition to new options for viewing workspaces remotely in a variety of ways in conjunction with the forthcoming Windows 10. While it is true that this is not yet part of daily business, new ways of getting the job done and playing games are right around the corner.
Design and Home Building
One of the ways Microsoft HoloLens facilitates better working conditions is by allowing, for example, participants in an online conversation to view what the others are working on, from their perspective. They can collaborate on design and easily follow what the other means while looking at virtual blueprints for building projects together.
Technology Connected with Oculus Rift Facilitates Better Building
Arch Virtual builds three dimensional virtual reality simulation of architectural projects, including for home building, in conjunction with Oculus Rift Virtual Reality lens.
What this implies for home building:
- Buyers can better visualize their future homes using three dimensional simulation
- Buyers can take virtual tours of their potential homes.
- Investors can tour proposed housing building projects and make suggestions for improvements based on what they see.
- Facilitates architect/buyer relationships by allowing customers to experience more realistically what they are paying for, by letting them see blueprints on terms more appropriate for non-architects.
- Customers can create drafts for their “dream homes”, thus having the ability to have more personally “customized” homes.
The Potential for Self-Designed Homes
The market for building houses could become more lucrative and a lot more fun with the new technology. Architects can put together choices displayed visually and digitally for customers to look at and choose between. Features were always something customers could pick out, but this way it could become a lot more comprehensive and simple. Virtual reality can make things that were previously difficult to understand more accessible by providing three-dimensional models that non-architects can tour.
Communication is Facilitated
Communication between builders and planners can also be made simpler. Planners can create models, make them three-dimensional and then communicate this via 3d tours on a virtual reality lens and corresponding software. Materials and costs can also be tracked more accurately this way, with less waste. This is great news for investors, buyers and contractors alike. Resource allocation and budget planning can be made more stream-lined in the future, allowing optimized projects and planning.
The Future is 3D
As new technology like Oculus Rift become common use, more and more uses will reveal themselves. Now is the time for investors and professionals to educate themselves on the features of new products and software to put into practice for building, planning, and more.
I'd like to start out by saying that this post was written and scheduled to post BEFORE Valve's latest announcement (the new SteamVR hardware). There will be another post talking about that exciting new technology soon! I just need a little time to clean up the drool puddles around here that were caused by the mention of a new Portal game demoed with it... (GLADOS is my hero)
Now that that's out of the way...
"Input is really important for virtual reality, and our approach is that anything that's important, we need to be working on," said Oculus Rift creator, Palmer Luckey.
The goal of virtual reality input methods are to achieve the look and feel of natural settings as realistically as possible. The various products, hardware and software, available to this point achieve this to varying degrees.
Here are just a few of the technologies that we're really excited about when it comes to developing training applications.
Kinect and Leap Motion Controller (on the market now)
- Includes physical hardware
- Motion sensing infrared
- Input using the hands and voice
- Has depth sensing
- Allows the creation of specific hand gestures to affect responses
- Interactive applications
- Stable product created by a stable company and has been on the market for several years
- Single piece of hardware
- lacks clear haptic feedback
- somewhat limited when it comes accurately capturing more intricate motions
- Doesn’t replace the mouse and keyboard, but works in conjunction with them
- Connects via USB
- Motion sensor that can read the slightest motions
- Can sense all 10 fingers at once
- Takes up little space on desktop
- Single piece of hardware
- Doesn't replace the mouse and keyboard, but works in conjunction with them (pro/con depending on perspective)
- Doesn’t have many applications to interact with up to now
- Takes up little space on the desktop
- Limits user to a much smaller space (compared with other technologies), and therefore limited in possible applications
Razer Hydra is a Thing of the Past
The now unavailable Razer Hydra was more suitable for gaming, but not for a comprehensive virtual reality experience. It was more of a controller in a traditional sense, similar to Nintendo’s Wii. Bulky and space intensive, it is now sought by gamers looking for a certain type of controller but will not be a model for future virtual reality input methods. It was a really cool idea though.
Promising Input Controllers (still in development)
- Devices worn on chest, arms, and hands
- Promises to allow professionals and gamers to interact with virtual reality via the hands and fingers
- Reviews claim movements are accurately represented on screen
- Not confined to a camera's sensor perception
- Lots of cords to get tangled up or tangled in
- Lots of pieces to keep up with
- Devices worn on the hands, arms and legs
- Has a lot of cords
- Boasts simple use and motion detection
- 9 axis IMU
- Lots of cords to get tangled up or tangled in
- LOTS of pieces to keep up with
- Company is still starting up and working out kinks
- Claims to have natural, full body interaction
- 3 different packages offered range from 8-17 sensors
- Senses without the use of cameras
- Still starting up
- Lots of pieces to keep up with
The future will belong to input devices that can accurately transform motion to digital representations, on screen, in an immersive environment, that also can give haptic feedback (such as resistance in the arms and legs, as if the user was lifting something heavy, etc). Many devices don’t need to use cameras to translate their movements through the lens, but few seem to offer haptic feedback and this is an area that developers will likely need to focus on to improve the VR experience.
Lately I've been asked by a few clients to demonstrate and explain a lot of the new immersive technology coming out on the market. The folks we work with look into all this cool new stuff and get a little overwhelmed by all of the choices they have for advancing their training programs. In these next few posts, I am going to attempt to cover a lot of this hardware and explain their uses and benefits. That being said, let's jump right in with our first topic!
Augmented Reality (AR) vs. Virtual Reality (VR)
Two "up and coming" pieces of technology that many are just waiting to get their hands on are the Oculus Rift and Microsoft’s Hololens. While both are pretty much situated on the cutting edge, they differ in some fundamental ways—Oculus Rift is all about immersing yourself in a total and complete virtual world, while Hololens allows you to augment the world you live in—using light-generated holograms.
Showpieces of users trying out the Rift are basically blindfolded with the headset that covers the eyes. The ultimate goal is to:
- Experience games in a completely immersive way.
- Experience movies from the first person (the company Condition One made a film just for the Oculus Rift called Zero Point).
- Live out and perform in real world work conditions.
- Explore a faraway place without traveling any distance at all. Some reviewers were quoted as saying it was like a dream come true for their former child self. You get to live out a different reality—an escapist’s wish fulfilled.
Microsoft’s Hololens is all about adding to the world you live in with elements of augmented reality, or "holograms." You don’t have to worry about walking into the coffee table while using it. The headset aspect looks a bit like the Rift, but you have a transparent lens. The concept is such that you get to see the holograms on top of your “real world.” It’s a digital overlay that can enable you to, for example, see your skype partner on the lens while drinking a cup of coffee (and not having to worry about spilling it). You can look out the window without taking off the lens; have a virtual meeting with your colleagues and still see the room you’re sitting in. Hololens runs on Windows 10, connects to your computer and interacts with the applications there. You'll have the ability to use everything on your Windows 10, in connection with the accompanying headset. Presently, it isn’t available on the market, however Microsoft recently gave access to the press to view the prototype they had on hand.
Oculus Rift is more about total immersion in a fantasy world, or getting completely into the simulation of something. Hololens is an accessory for adding holograms to the “real world.” Neither of them are ready yet for consumer use, but both promise usages appropriate within the professional world, education, entertainment, and more. Where Google glass was intended to be used out and about, both the Rift and Hololens are intended for use indoors, for the living room or the workplace.
It will be fascinating to see how both devices develop as they emerge on the market for consumer and professional use. Whether virtual reality will be used as a tool for life or holograms to improve our workspace, this futuristic technology is fast approaching.
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.
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.
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.