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

14/06/2016No Comments

Virtual Reality is here!

Virtual reality is here, and there's no hiding from it!

As we all know, the tech world doesn't stand still, new devices and innovations are constantly being brought to the market place, and it's very easy to become overwhelmed by the constant stream of new tech. However one area of technology we're very keen to get our hands dirty with is Virtual Reality!

Virtual Reality Headset VR 3D

For those who are less acquainted with the concept, virtual reality is essentially a way to immerse yourself in digital environments and content, via a wearable headset. In the past, the term "virtual reality" has been used for numerous 3D based ideas, such as interactive walk-thoughs, but it is now being commonly used in context with the headsets.

Anyway, why are we excited by it? Well firstly we love new tech! And secondly I believe this is a step towards fully 3D content for everyone. 3D TVs came and have almost gone (fantastic!), and virtual reality should be the next big thing.

There are many headsets on the market now, such as the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift, but the one we have gone for is the Gear VR. Out of those 3 we have perhaps chosen the least powerful, weaker graphics, and not quite the cheapest even, but what it does have is the ability to go anywhere, it's fully mobile, literally.

The Gear VR is essentially a Samsung smart phone (ours is the Galaxy S7), coupled together with the gear VR headset. The viewer inserts their phone into the headset, and straps on the Gear VR, and they are immersed into Virtual Reality! The HTC Vive and Oculus Rift both need to be connected to a powerful PC, for which gaming is a must, but we feel this limitation will be a huge sticking point for a lot of casual users.

Virtual Reality Headset VR 3D Samsung Gear

The Gear VR Headset.

Most people now have smart phones, and just about any modern Android phone can be turned into a virtual reality headset with either the Gear VR or Google Cardboard, and I'm sure the likes of Apple and Microsoft won't be too long in releasing their own versions.

So what can you do with a virtual reality headset? The easiest, and perhaps one of the most interesting things to do is go and watch some amazing 360 videos. Youtube, Facebook and others now host 360. There are also 100s of apps and games to play and use, from simply watching Netflix in virtual reality, to engaging, playing and meeting people in virtual social worlds; even Facebook has plans to turn their social network into a VR experience!

But what about what we plan to do with VR and the Samsung Gear? Firstly we're going to have some fun! We're going to fire up some VR apps, watch some 360 videos, and research (yes researching can be fun!), and we'll see what grabs us, and what doesn't. There's no point in diving straight in and producing content that either doesn't work, doesn't engage, or isn't useful.

After that we'll know more about the direction we want to go in. At the moment we see two paths, 360 video, and interactive environments. 360 video is become quite well established, with YouTube and Facebook both supporting 360 videos natively inside a web browser (essentially all you do is load the page, and the video will play, so no need for any software downloads). 360 videos are relatively straight forward to create, similar in a way a CGI image or animation is created, however ensuring the user is engaged, entertained and even guided by the content will be just as important as the content itself.

Interactive environments and worlds are more complex to create, and are quite comparable to computer gaming and interactive walk-thoughts. An entire environment is created, and the user can play, explore or even learn through interacting with the virtual content. How the user interacts depends purely on how the game or app is created. With some apps you can look at an object, and press the button on the side of the headset to "click" the object, and other you may need a gaming controller to move easily though the world.

Both 360 videos and interactive environments have their pros and cons, and as I've already mentioned, once we've done our research and had chance to digest what we think works and what doesn't, we'll then start to take steps to produce demos and really get our hands dirty!

For now, all I can say is we're excited and really can't wait to get stuck in and start creating brilliant VR experiences!

Dean

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