It seems like there’s a crazy amount of AR (augmented reality) and VR (virtual reality) stuff happening right now. I recently posted about my experience with VR and storytelling at Sundance. But there’s a lot of other technology out there — and over the past week or so my browser has, apparently, been overflowing with tabs of related content. So, as a sort of public bookkeeping, I figured I’d quickly save and share some of the links and videos that I found…
Starting with some Augmented Reality products…
You can see the official concept/demo video below — and sample interaction concepts. This scathing review is pretty funny. But it speaks to how crazy some product/tech companies are… releasing products without any idea of why the product is interesting, or why real people would want to include it in their lives.
I had no idea this existed. And the video is a pretty awful — primarily a list of product features without talking about uses.
(For more crazyness there’s this Toshiba Smart Home video showing some pointless home automation concepts.)
A much more advanced AR system, the HoloLens looks pretty cool. But not yet released. Some of the sample applications looks genuinely useful, and give a compelling reason for the technology.
For example, this mix of real and digital is pretty interesting:
But… this next interface confuses me a little. The tool box and palette looks like a traditional app palette that’s been literally converted to 3D. And, from what I’ve seen, HoloLens doesn’t let you actually “hold” any of the virtual objects. So, will there always be a disconnect between you and any tool you select? If so, we’ll need to find new interaction metaphors.
And while we’re at it, can we ditch the UI relics? Things like the home, next and previous buttons. Actually – the more I look at this demo, the more it feels like a new interface wrapped around old legacy code. We need some deeper rethinking of what the experience should be.
Ok… moving on to Virtual Reality products…
Oculus has been around for a while and their Rift product sets the current standard for VR. And their share site is full of VR experiences to download. Want a sense of what it takes to set it up? Here’s an unboxing video:
Samsung Gear VR
Gear VR is actually an Oculus product, but designed to work with Samsung mobile devices — giving you VR on the go. Or, as they call it, mobile VR. And you can walk into BestBuy and buy it for $199. (Compared to the Oculus Rift Development Kit 2, which is $350.)
(Somebody’s got to figure out a way to make better promotional videos for these products!)
At the super-low end of the spectrum, there’s Google Cardboard. It’s open-source so you can build your own viewer or buy one from several different vendors. And it has lots of apps. It’s a great way to get started, opens VR to an audience that it might otherwise not reach, and is fun. I heart Google Cardboard.
Here’s a product summary that only a hardware designer could love. (And which is strangely similar to the Toshiba one above.)
For a bit more about what you can do with Morpheus – here’s a sample gameplay. My first thought was that I’d be terrified, but as I watched it, it felt scripted and exhausting. But perhaps that’s just a reminder that the great VR games just haven’t been created yet.
Here’s another game, Street Luge, which looks speedier. It’s limited road-based structure is a cleaver way to avoid the problem of walking around or bumping into real world objects while wearing a headset.
Valve & HTC’s Vive
Aside from some pretty impressive technical specifications — more accurate positional tracking and higher quality display — what’s interesting about Vive is its use of controllers. They enable interactivity not really possible with the other headsets. And that added level of involvement could be the thing that pushes VR to the next level of adoption.
It’s not to say that you don’t look a little crazy using the controllers. (Oh – and there are a lot of wires, there, too!)
But you can use them with Tilt Brush — a VR paint program:
Lots of mystery surrounds this “cinematic reality” company. Gizmodo has a detailed article about this company’s history and technology. Technology Review has a detailed story about the company and their technology.
And some other stuff…
Barry Joseph has an interesting post on augmented wearables and the future of museums. He proposes a useful here/there me/us framework to think about the social and immersive dimensions of these technologies. Here’s how he’s categorized several of them:
VRWiki has a great outline of the history of VR. What’s interesting is how it describes the phases that VR has gone through: 1) The stereoscope, 2) The roots, 3) In the labs, 4) Commercialization, 5) The rise, 6) The Fall, 7) The slow progress, and 8) A resurgence?
More links? Here’s a comprehensive timeline of virtual reality up to Ron Moore’s Virtuality.
And here’s a bit about one of the earliest VR experiences — the Sensorama Simulator (1962) and its history.
There’s some ridiculous stuff that makes absolutely no sense. (Really? Playing 80’s video games in VR is the future?)
It’s awkward. And geeky. It’s not very comfortable. It’s lacking diversity and outsider voices. We don’t really know what to use it for. And there’s a technology hurdle that makes it hard for outsiders to create for it. But it’s just getting started. I think I need to add some of these to my wish-list. Stay tuned for more…
For more experiments and ideas on how to use this technology, take a look at my other Augmented Reality posts.