Is Magic Leap the Theranos of augmented reality?

Augmented reality startup Magic Leap was founded in 2014. It demonstrated a new kind of technology called "light field signal generation" that promised to be far superior to existing augmented reality and virtual reality technology. It received $2.6 billion in funding from investors including Andreessen Horowitz, Kleiner Perkins, and Google.

In 2018 Magic Leap released a headset called the Magic Leap One, which almost everyone was disappointed with. The problem with it, according to this Tech Crunch article is that Magic Leap pulled a bait-and-switch. It did not use light field signal generation. It used  the same kind of technology found in other augmented reality headsets released by Microsoft and others years earlier.

It appears Magic Leap was unable to sufficiently miniaturize the groundbreaking technology. From Tech Crunch:

As The Information’s Reed Albergotti revealed more than three years ago, “The Beast” was Magic Leap’s original demo box. It was everything people said. It was stunning, dreamlike, breakthrough technology. And it weighed “several hundred pounds.”

“The Beast” was followed by “The Cheesehead,” which fit on a human head, and “showed they could miniaturize the light field signal generator they’d invented” … but still weighed “tens of pounds,” obviously far too heavy for any real-world applications. (There are pictures of both in the linked CNET piece.)

“The Beast” and “The Cheesehead” help explain the multiple rounds of massive venture investment. But then — could Magic Leap miniaturize their breakthrough technology further, to anything actually releasable?

Clearly they could not, and that’s the crux of the matter, the answer to how and why Magic Leap raised $2.6

Read the rest

New York Times' 3-D simulation shows the importance of social distancing

The New York Times created a 3-D simulation of what happens to the droplets that are expelled when a person coughs or sneezes. Six feet seems to be the absolute minimum distance to stay away from someone. The droplets can travel up to 26 feet away from the source, and can remain suspended for up to 20 minutes.

The end of this article has a link to an augmented reality smart phone app you can use when you are shopping for groceries. The app shows an imaginary 6 foot radius circle around you.

Image: New York Times Read the rest

Augmented reality contact lenses get real

Back in the early Wired magazine days, we used to joke about technology that seemed to be perpetually "just around the corner" -- like storing the entire Library of Congress in a sugar cube-sized device, nanobots, and contact lens computer displays. Looks like the latter is almost ready for prime time! Just this week, startup Mojo Vision has demonstrated augmented reality in a contact lens. They've integrated a 14K pixels-per-inch display, wireless, and image and motion sensors into a wirelessly-powered device that sits in your eye. “When you close your eyes, you still see the content displayed,” Mojo Vision's Steve Sinclair says. Tekla Perry wrote about the technology, called Invisible Computing, in IEEE Spectrum:

The first application, says Steve Sinclair, senior vice president of product and marketing, will likely be for people with low vision—providing real-time edge detection and dropping crisp lines around objects. In a demonstration last week at CES 2020, I used a working prototype (albeit by squinting through the lens rather than putting it into my eyes), and the device highlighted shapes in bright green as I looked around a dimly lit room....

I also saw a demonstration of text displayed using the prototype; it was easy to read. Potential future applications, beyond those intended for people with low vision, include translating languages in real time, tagging faces, and providing emotional cues....

The path ahead is not a short one; contact lenses are considered medical devices and therefore need U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval. But the Mojo Lens has been designated as an FDA Breakthrough Device which will speed things up a little.

Read the rest

Inventor brings Mario Kart to real life with HoloLens AR technology

Ian Charnas, the inventor of those amazing windshield wipers that "dance" to your car's music, is up to yes good again (the opposite of "no good"). He's made a real-life Mario Kart video game using electric go-karts and augmented reality (!).

Ian explains:

In this augmented reality racing game demo, players zoom around a track in real-life go-karts and pick up virtual power-ups to boost their kart’s speed or slow down the competition.

The virtual power-ups are generated by a Microsoft HoloLens augmented reality headset on each player. The speed boosts (and reductions) are provided by some electronics I created that extend an existing go-kart system with this functionality.

[If you want to know more about it works, he explains it further on Hackaday.]

Ian is hoping that there's a demand for this real-life Mario Kart. He's got all the pieces, including a provisional patent, he just needs the right partner to get it off the ground in a bigger way.

Thanks, Mark! Read the rest

Finally, a useful application for augmented reality: rendering virtual kitchen roaches

Laanlabs's showreel for 6d.ai meshing technology is an augmented reality demo in which virtual cockroaches crawl all over a very real kitchen. It's the best use of augmented reality I've ever seen. (via Beyond the Beyond) Read the rest

Cat filter inadvertently applied to live feed of Pakistani politician

Applying a cat filter to a politician is an egregious act. Everyone knows politicians require clown filters.

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Augmented reality and machine empathy: another great sf story from Sarah Gailey

Sarah Gailey (who wrote a brilliant, wrenching short story about empathy and self-driving cars) has just published a new story about wearable computers in a series in The Atlantic edited by Ian Bogost (previously). Read the rest

Taiwan's "Pokemon Grandpa" has 15 phones arrayed around his bike handlebars

70 year old Taipei fengshui master Chen San-yuan is known locally as "Pokemon Grandpa," and is a viral sensation thanks to the 15 phones he's mounted on his handlebars to help him play the 2016 augmented reality game Pokemon Go; his rig cost about $4,000 and he spends another $300/month on virtual currency to help him level up in the game. He says that playing the game keeps him socially connected and delays the onset of Alzheimer's. (Image: Reuters) (via Kottke) Read the rest

I spoke with the CEO of Sennheiser about audio, virtual reality and the notion of legacy

Working as a technology journalist is a privilege that allows me to play with hardware that I could never afford to own. Last week, while I was in Montreal for the opening of Sennheiser's new Canadian office, for example, I was able to spend some quality time with the company's crazy $50,000 made-to-order HE 1 headphones. For a guy that reviews audio hardware for a living, it was a ridiculous treat.

There are times that the privilege of doing what I do extends beyond all of the gear that I get to play with. Among the Sennheiser employees, audio nerds like me, and other folks attending the company's opening day bash was Dr. Andreas Sennheiser. Andreas, an electrical engineer by trade, has been co-CEO along with his brother Daniel of their family's 70-year-old audio company for the past five years.

Here in North America, Sennheiser is mostly known for their professional audio products -- microphones and reference headphones for the rich and musically famous, and conference-call hardware for high falootin' boardrooms. In Europe, Asia and Africa, the German company's footprint in consumer audio is massive. They’re one of the oldest names in audiophile-grade headphones and an early, much-respected maker of audio hardware designed to augment virtual and augmented reality experiences.

They make cool shit.

Once the celebration was over and the caterers had absconded with the all of leftovers, Andreas was good enough to spend a few minutes with me, talking about his company, his family and the notion of legacy. Read the rest

Augmented reality software shows where pipes and other underground structures are

Geographic information systems used to be 2-D maps, but new AR technologies are letting users see where pipes and other underground infrastructure is through augmented reality .

Brief video showcasing a few features of the vGIS Utilities system (http://www.vgis.io/). vGIS Utilities is the most advanced augmented reality solution for GIS designed specifically with utilities, municipalities and GIS service providers in mind. The system connects to Esri ArcGIS to seamlessly convert traditional 2D GIS data into powerful, accurate and stable 3D visuals.

vGIS is the only system that supports the full spectrum of technologies - augmented reality (Android and iOS), mixed reality (HoloLens) and virtual reality.

The system is deployed in at over 40 sites across the world to bring real-life benefits to municipalities, utilities, locate service providers and multiple other organizations.

The most advanced AR system for GIS - vGIS Utilities (YouTube / Meemim vGIS) Read the rest

Magic the Gathering app working on augmented reality for cards

The fine folks at MTG Manager have one of the favorite apps for fans of the game. Now they are toying around with an AR option that could display information about each card and possibly animate the images. This concept video of what it might look like live is pretty neat! Read the rest

Chinese transit cops deploy face-recognition glasses to spot indebted people, oppressed ethnic/religious minorities and criminals

Chinese transit cops are wearing glasses with heads-up displays and cameras tied into the country's facial recognition to spot criminals, people smugglers, and riders who are using high-speed trains in defiance of rules that prohibit indebted people and people from ethnic and religious minorities from traveling. Read the rest

Dynamicland: a collaborative programming environment inside a whole building that you modify by doodling on paper

Dynamicland is a new nonprofit based in Oakland, where they are building a collaborative computing space, kitted out with cameras and projectors that allow people to work together to compose computer programs by scribbling on ordinary paper, have those doodles parsed by an interpreter, and then have the programs run as projections on the flat surfaces of the rooms. Read the rest

Augmented reality project adds a little road system to your living room floor

Judith Amores Fernandez, Anna Fusté Lleixà, and Jam3 created the Invisible Highway at Google Creative Lab using Unity, Tango, and the AdaBox maker kit from Adafruit.

From the YouTube description:

Invisible Highway is an experiment in controlling physical things in the real world by drawing in Augmented Reality. Simply make a pathway along the floor on your phone and the robot car will follow that path on the actual floor in your room. A custom highway with scenery is generated along the path to make the robots a little more scenic on your phone screen. Read the rest

Introducing The After On Podcast - interviews with thinkers, founders, and scientists

Writing science fiction can get you amazing access to thinkers, founders, and scientists whose work touches on the stories you tell. It’s one of the great things about my job. Sure, writing cover stories for Wired would get my calls returned faster! But countless science and tech leaders trace their interests back to tales they read as youngsters -- which has lent me great success in requesting research interviews for my stories.

Rob Reid's After On is available from Amazon.

Setting my books in the present-ish day, I try to keep things consistent with current technology and knowledge, so I conduct lots of these interviews. And I learn troves from them. But as I get excited about a new field, I become prone to giddy tangents about how it all works, or why it matters. Giddy tangents have a place in fiction – but a limited one, and they should be used sparingly.

I conducted dozens of interviews while writing my new novel After On (which came out out on Tuesday). Focusing on the storytelling meant leaving out huge amounts of newfound learning that just didn’t fit. Which was the right decision! But it also felt like a lost opportunity. And so I’ve created eight podcast episodes that deeply explore areas that fascinated me during my research. I’ll be posting them to Boing Boing on a weekly basis, starting with Episode One, which is all about augmented reality:

A quick word on how these episodes are structured. My co-host is grizzled podcasting veteran Tom Merritt, who has been presenting tech news and culture to the world for over fifteen years. Read the rest

A-ha! This app turns your living room into a 1980's music video using augmented reality

I lived through the eighties and I approve of Trixi Studios’ "Take On Me" iOS (proof-of-concept only) app which turns your surroundings into a pencil-sketched, a-ha-style music video using augmented reality. The Chicago-based team created it with Apple's ARKit, which is a suite of developer tools launched in June that adds AR to apps.

Here's a-Ha's original music video, in case you're feeling as nostalgic as I am:

Thanks, Robert Scoble! Read the rest

Strange Beasts:short, inspiring/disturbing science fiction movie about augmented reality toys

Magali Barbé's short film Strange Beasts depicts a futuristic augmented reality product for kids and parents -- a piece of design fiction with a serious sting it its tail. (via Beyond the Beyond) Read the rest

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