13/07/2016No Comments

You’ve Been Tango’d! Google Tango that is! Google’s Augmented Reality

Google Tango Augmented Reality is another leap for new tech, and it's pretty exciting!

I love this industry, and Google's new augmented reality (AR) makes us very excited! Why though? Augmented reality is when a virtual image, text data, etc is overlaid into the real world. The easiest way to do this is to point your smart phone at a tracker (a unique image), and your phone recognises this tracker and overlays the virtual image into the real world on the screen of your phone. Ikea did this very sucessfully with their app, check it out here http://www.gizmag.com/ikea-augmented-reality-catalog-app/28703/

The only problem with this method of AR is that the camera on your device needs to see a tracking image (like the Ikea catalogue). Google Tango doesn't! Now that's impressive!

How it does it is probably something very technical, and I assume it uses some kind of 3D scanning to gauge depth and distance, but developing hardware isn't our thing, so I'm only guessing. What I do know is that this is a real game changer for AR. By removing the need for tracking images means we could, in theory, overlay virtual worlds into the real world much much easier. It's also interesting to read that Tango can also measure. Imagine if we take the Ikea concept, but say develop a feature where a user holds their Tango device at a room, and the app then selects tables which would fit in the space. There'd be no need for that tedious process of measuring a space, reading the dimensions in a catalogue, and then hoping it all fits OK!

Google Tango AR Augmented Reality 3D CGI

Augmented reality has huge potential in education and marketing. The need to engage and excite people is very important and AR can help. It can make seemingly dull experiences very exciting. Take kids to a museum and they'll probably look forward to their pack lunch and gift shop, but if you make the experience exciting and engaging they'll probably forget all about their cheese sandwiches! In Google's promo video the kids visit a museum, and use Google Tango AR to see a T-Rex come to life, and also display further info for them to read and learn. This may not engage or excite a group of OAPs, but the beauty of digital content is that each AR experience can be tailored different users.

Google Tango AR Augmented Reality 3D CGI

If we look at the area we primarily work in, marketing architecture and products, augmented reality could really be a great tool to use. Imagine walking around a house or residential development with a Google Tango style app. Whilst the parents are using it to learn about the boring stuff like energy efficiency, crime rates, or even the choice of carpet colours, and the kids could see where their new school could be, learn about local clubs and groups, or how high the new swing goes in the near by park!

Google Tango is a very interesting development, and we'll be watching it very closely. There's only one device at the moment that's Tango enabled, and that's the Lenovo Phab 2 Pro, but I'm sure more will follow very soon. Imagine the Samsung GearVR with Google Tango, my mind's already blown!

Dean

08/01/2016No Comments

Virtual Reality Aids Nasa Training

It's of no real surprise that massive organisations such as NASA are using virtual reality to help test, train and develop their environments and users, in fact you'd expect them to be the leaders in new tech, and demoing things which we hadn't even heard of.

So when I saw this short video, showing a user controlling a robotic arm to simulate lag in a zero gravity environment, I was a little surprised to see them using an off-the-shelf Sony VR headset (Project Morpheus), which will be available to buy in 2016, presumably to be primarily used with the Playstation 4.

For myself, this is quite a big deal, the virtual reality headset will probably be priced at around £500, and to consumers who only want to play games this may seem high and hard to justify, but if you think about it, the price is much lower than a new TV, and will likely give you a much more immersive experience than a TV or monitor.

Playing games is one thing, and ultimately gaming has really driven this technology to this level, but what about the other possibilities for this kind of hardware?

Of course we can look to use the headsets for interactive architectural walk-through, or to visualise new products in full 3D, and I'm sure we'll see an increase in demand for these types of projects. Selling a housing development "off-plan" may be replaced by selling "off-VR", allowing potential buyers to walk around their future neighbourhood, and explore their future home.

 vr_head_set_nasa_training_virtual_reality_02The VR headset and controllers in action.

However I also see a massive use for VR in development, simulation, testing and training, which is what the video explores. Again architecture and product design may find virtual reality useful to develop and preview architecture and prototypes, uncovering potential design flaws, or perhaps even for user testing and focus groups, which could potentially mean architects and designers could trial several designs in a much more cost effective manor.

Training and simulation could also be a great use for virtual reality. As the video shows, the software can be programmed to different scenarios for any environment. A factory could be tested before it's built, and any design flaws could be rectified before actual construction of the building, saving companies a huge amount of money and time.

vr_head_set_nasa_training_virtual_reality_01Virtual robotic arms.

Staff could also be trained to use new machinery, even before it's physically there. This could cut down on training time, and also allow users to familiarise them selves with the machines in a very safe way.

Simulations can also be run, perhaps allowing users to experience an emergency situation. The software could be programmed to record and feed back on the users decisions, speed and alertness. The information could then be analysed, reviewed and acted upon, perhaps making the training more valuable and useful for both trainers and trainees.

The technology behind the VR headset is of course cutting edge. We haven't really seen any consumer based VR head sets before, OK there's the Samsung Gear, Google Cardboard and arguably the Oculus Rift, but with 2016 looking like it will be a bumper year for virtual reality and headset hardware we could see the use of VR rocket and become almost mainstream.

For sure, a VR headset is on our wish list for 2016 and there's quite a choice of headsets too. There's the Sony VR headset, HTC Vive and the full release of the Oculus Rift, all of which look impressive, and should in theory be around the same price range, so the choice looks like it will be down to software compatibility and personal preference.

The future of VR is looking strong, and we can't wait to become a part of it, pushing and playing with new technology whilst creating new virtual worlds and environments! We simply can't wait to get our hands on a headset, and see where we end up!

Dean

 

11/11/2015No Comments

360 Degree Video Test – 3D Interior Apartment

Earlier this year YouTube made it possible to upload 360 degree videos! If you don't know what they are, 360 videos enable the viewer to look around the space, as if they were there, whilst the video is playing!

I wanted to see what the possibilities could be for CGI and 3D rendered environments, I'm always interested in new tech, and different ways of doing things, so it made sense to spend some time investigating, testing and developing.

The video below is the test video I produced. It's a very simple interior room set, with a basic camera movement forwards and backwards, but that's all I need for this test. When you play the video it will play just like a normal YouTube video, however if you click and drag (if you're on a PC browser) on the video you'll be able to look around the 3D environment! Give it a go....

The video can also be viewed on Youtube here.

If however you are viewing the video on the YouTube app on your smart phone (I have a HTC One M8), then hold the camera as if taking a picture of a wall, and move the phone to look around! It really is quite amazing!!

However the fun doesn't stop there, whilst in the YouTube app, you'll possibly see the Google Cardboard logo, and if you have a Google Cardboard (if you don't, jump on Amazon and order one for around £15!), click the Cardboard logo, and now you can view the video in the Google Cardboard head set!

Google Cardboard VR Headset Interactive

The Google Cardboard.

So what does this all this mean? Creating demos like this are always extremely valuable to do, they allow me to test, experiment, fail and play with something new and exciting, and that's half of the reason why I love the industry I work in!

But does it have any practical future applications? I'm sure when it comes to presenting content to users, more immersive and engaging content is going to be a massive plus to any project. I don't see why an architect couldn't use a 360 degree video to present their new building, or instructors aid their students with more engaging training, or even being able to watch a theatre performance as if stood in the centre of the stage!

The possibilities are endless! Of course there has to be a purpose to using 360 videos, in some applications it just wouldn't add anything, but in many situations I see the potential use of 360 videos to push video and user engagement to the next level!

08/05/2015No Comments

3D Interactive Furniture Demo 02

In-between projects I continue to tinker and play with new tech, software, and areas of interest. Usually these side-projects are different from the typical 9-5 projects, but allow myself to look, play and develop new technology and ideas.

Anyway, following on from 3D interactive test 01, this latest revision shows some changes, mainly the inclusion of drop-down menus, and a new way of rotating around the object (the user now clicks and holds down the left mouse button, then moves the mouse) is much nicer to use.

At this stage of development, the main purpose of these demos is to build functionality, hence the very standard looking menus, but once the functions and workings of the app are working, adding the finer detail and visual elements is the easier part (in theory!).

Launch 3D Interactive Furniture Demo 02

3D_Furniture_Interactive_Test_02

The app is built with Unity 3D, which very knidly allows the app to also install and run on mobile devices as well as the web. An augmented reality version is also being developed which I will record very soon to show.

Any comments, please let me know!

Dean

27/07/2012No Comments

Augmented Reality Testing & Development

During non-project time, I like to get stuck into some to something further my skills, improve my portfolio,  or sometimes to do something different. Recently I have been pondering the use of augmented reality applications.

I have always had an interest in real-time applications, mainly architectural walk-throughs or gaming, but augmented reality feels more exciting and more engaging than walk-thoughs. The idea that you can hold something digital in your hand, or view the world around us differently to what is perceived by our eyes, is a very strange concept. It's also something very hard to explain unless you can show someone, but I guess this is the same for 99% of new technology.

The other reason why I'm taking an interest to augmented reality is the craze with "3D" TVs and films. "3D" TV isn't really 3D, it's just some added effects to try to trick our brains into adding depth to what we are seeing, and to be honest, I think it ruins good films, and is a gimmick to sell bad films.

Augmented 3D, or even 2D, is different, and allows the user to see the content how ever they wish (to an extent). This for me is 3D, and this is what makes it exciting.

This quick video shows 3 examples I have put together to simply explore the workings and possibilities of actually making something useful and deliverable. The main aims for these test was to see how well it worked on various media, how quickly an app could be made and to try to see it's limitations. All of the tests are very basic, but each explores different techniques and features.

Ard Digital | Augmented Reality Test 01 from ArdDigital on Vimeo.

Ikea's 2013 catalogue looks like it will feature some augmented elements, as well as links to videos and other content. I believe this is Ikea's way to get customers to interact on-line and through their mobile, rather than using augmented reality as a tool, which is fair enough, so long as it engages and doesn't become tedious or boring.

So the future does look slightly more augmented, but will we see much more in the coming years? The technology is here and evolving fast, but maybe it needs a games console, film, or something else to really spark it off. Sony are creating the Wonderbook, a Harry Potter augmented story telling game, using a magical book, allowing the user to interact with the game. Maybe this will be a massive hit, or maybe it will pass by as simply "another game for kids". The possibilities of augmented reality, for me, are very interesting, and I can't wait to experience some real 3D in the coming years!

Be sure to keep an eye out on my blog for more updates, and testing, as I'm sure there's more to come!

 

Deano

 

Sources -

http://www.wired.com/gadgetlab/2012/07/ikeas-augmented-reality-catalog-lets-you-peek-inside-the-malm/

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-18327724

18/05/2012No Comments

Mobile 3D Interactive Walk Through Test 001

Recently I have been exploring the use on 3D applications on mobile devices, and the first step was to build a basic scene, and test to see how well a 3D environment would work on a small mobile phone.

This is a quick video showing the test application which uses Unity3D to create an interactive first person walk-through on a basic smart phone. The phone used was the HTC Desire S.

Surprisingly, the demo runs very well, and although the HTC Desire S that I used is only a year old, it is by no means the most powerful smart phone out there. The release of the Galaxy S3 with it's more powerful dual core processor and slightly larger screen, is likely to be perfect for this type of hand held 3D application and, I'm sure pretty intensive 3D environments can be achieved as better and faster hardware is made available.

Also what was useful to learn from this demo was the navigation, which after only a few minutes of playing, I was able to quickly navigate around the environment. It also felt very comfortable and easy to use, which is very important.

This simple test gives a quick insight into the use of 3D applications on mobile devices. This demo was by no means a finished project, but a demo to show how it works, what it looks like, and how well 3D performs on an average smart phone. It was also good to try to figure out a work-flow for this type of project. Moving from 3Ds Max, to Unity3D, then to the mobile was tricky, but relatively straight forward after some testing.

If you would like to know more about this application, or would like to try it for yourself on your Android phone, please drop me an email!

As mentioned in the video, the 3D environment was created by Marko Dabrovic and can be downloaded here hdri.cgtechniques.com/~sponza/files/

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