Get Started Making Robots with Google Blocks

Anna Zhilyaeva, a mixed reality artist who goes by @AnnaDreamBrush on Twitter, has a great walkthrough of using Google Blocks to build robots:

This is part of the #BotsWithBlocks challenge, highlighting how you can use prefab kits to make objects and scenes in Blocks that can be used in other VR/AR development.

Anna’s social media channels have a ton of cool VR and mixed reality art, by the way. Check out her Instagram and YouTube pages.

Study Confirms Young People Get VR, Old Folks Don’t

Clickbait headline much? Anyway … A new study about VR use in America leads me to an inference that’s entirely unsubstantiated but probably true, anyway. (Trigger warning, Sarcasm ahead, Also a kernel of truth)

Rebecca Hills-Duty, VRFocus:

The VR/AR Insights Consortium, a group that comprises representatives from the likes of Turner, Warner Bros, and the VR Society have released a report in conjunction with Magid the sheds light on consumer use of VR and its various applications. The study was based on results gathered from 2,000 U.S-based consumers. Its headline statistic showed that 22% of VR users have used Netflix VR at some point, compared with the next most popular app, Minecraft VR at 20%.

My eight year-old son plays Minecraft. His grandfather had never heard of it until a few weeks ago, and even then didn’t put the name “Minecraft” together with the game he’s watched his grandson play. Ergo, my sweeping generalization:

Minecraft is probably popular on VR because it’s very popular, period, kids are interested in new tech like VR, and Minecraft is available on the major VR platforms. So when a kid straps in and sees Minecraft advertised on the welcome deck of Gear VR or Vive or what have you, she wants to check it out.

Netflix is probably popular on VR for the exact same reasons, except applied to all ages. I’ll now stretch things a little to make my argument: Kids probably don’t stick around Netflix VR for long because the experience is passive and easily replicated outside of VR. Since VR isn’t as popular as smartphones and computers just yet, most households that have a VR rig probably only have one, but have multiple other Netflix-capable devices. So kids’ available VR time is probably scarcer than other available screen time, and they know better than to waste it watching videos they can watch later on the boring old iPad.

Ergo, they do other, more VR-specific stuff. Like Minecraft, which is a little overwhelming and mind-blowing in VR (at least the first few times you try it).

But grown-ups who try VR are less adventurous and (just to wrongly generalize a little more) more easily disoriented and made nauseous. So they stick to what they know: Reruns of Frankie and Grace made new again by the excitement of googles, earphones, and their choice of digitally rendered luxe media room backdrops.

Just a theory.

 

Katy Perry’s Disembodied Head Takes to Augmented Reality for W Magazine

This week began with one of the world’s foremost fashion publications calling me to check a friend’s reference before hiring her as their first ever tech reporter. Fittingly, it’s ending with word of pop megastar Katy Perry gracing the cover of another big time fashion rag, W Magazine.

In AR.

Sam Reed, Hollywood Reporter:

Subscribers as well as readers in New York and L.A. will receive the limited-edition cover (on newsstands Aug.14), which shows the aforementioned floating head. Simply hover your device, which will become tethered to the page, over the image and tilt it this way or that way for a closer glimpse at Perry’s neck or perhaps her left or right ears (you know, whatever floats your boat), all without losing the high-gloss quality of the image.

From this default page, Perry’s face becomes the guide to the exclusive cinematographic content; readers are instructed to tap her eyes, her ears, her lips or her forehead to get a closer, exclusive view at [photographer Steven] Klein and Perry’s world. Three of the pieces of cover content are beautifully staged, gif-like moving images that play on a loop, while the fourth is a music video-esque short film.

Klein worked with NYC-based studio The Mill to create the cover. The September issue of W also some other bits of AR wizardry, and all of the issue’s digital content is also available on the magazine’s website.

“We come from a high-end visual effects world, and this level of aesthetic in AR was the challenge,” added Sallyann Houghton, executive producer at The Mill. “That’s what’s been the excitement for us — emulating print in the moving image.”

There are three other stories that take advantage of the technology throughout the September issue, including a feature on the last living working chimpanzee, which is paired with a short narrated science fiction short story; a fashion editorial by Mert and Marcus that allows models in the city-girl photographs to showcase their sassy, brusque personas; and another fashion editorial which, unlike the others, which unlock videos, simply shuffles the images around right there on the page thanks to the work of a collage artist.

The Perry feature is live on W’s website.

Volvo and The Weather Channel Plan Big AR/VR Plays for Upcoming Eclipse

Volvo (in conjunction with CNN) and The Weather Channel have interesting plans to leverage AR and VR during TV coverage of “The Great American Eclipse” later this month. As AdWeek’s AJ Katz reported:

When CNN’s livestream of the eclipse enters a commercial break, CNN’s brand studio Courageous will produce live ads for Volvo in 4K virtual reality and 360-degree video across all of CNN’s digital and social platforms.

This will be the first of a larger live ads effort from CNN parent company Turner and the Courageous studio.

This particular campaign centers on a 360-degree view of the eclipse and helps celebrate the 360-degree camera feature in Volvo’s all-new 2018 XC60.

I’ll admit I was surprised by that last bit: Advertisers are so often willing to push, shall we say, less than obvious product tie-ins that the direct link between 360 video of the eclipse and Volvo’s 360-degree camera is refreshingly obvious.

On the day of the eclipse, Courageous will station four cameras in different locations around the country where they will film influencers, sharing their perspective on the significance of the eclipse as it happens.

… Each will arrive at the eclipse viewing location in a XC60. The cars will be equipped with 4K VR and 360-degree cameras to help capture the commercial.

It’ll be interesting to see what Volvo airs live during CNN’s coverage (when viewership will likely be at its highest) and what they do after the fact with the 4K VR and 360-degree video footage.

The Weather Channel’s AR/VR plans are quite a bit vaguer, at least as reported by Katz:

In addition to stationing meteorologists across the country, TWC will also deploy its augmented reality technology to take viewers into space and help those watching at home understand the science behind this extraordinary event.

“Our Total Solar Eclipse experience will span from live broadcasting across the country augmented reality technology in-studio, to sweepstakes for a once in a lifetime opportunity to experience the eclipse from 35,000 feet,” Weather Channel’s svp of live programming Nora Zimmett told Adweek.

But, hey, at least TWC has added their own brand name to the eclipse hype! Seriously, though, I hope they pull off something cool, because using AR to “take viewers into space” and help folks understand the science behind the eclipse sounds pretty awesome.

The eclipse will be viewable over parts of the United States on Monday, August 21st.

Report: AR/VR Spending Will Double Through 2021

Ry Crist, CNET:

Worldwide spending on virtual and augmented reality is expected to double each year through 2021, say the analysts at IDC, a market research firm based in Framingham, Massachusetts. According to their math, total spending will increase from $11.4 billion in 2017 to $215 billion in 2021, with a compound annual growth rate of 113.2 percent.

This absolutely echoes what I’ve been hearing. Barring a significant economic event that curtails global spending (which, frankly, is quite possible), the money that’s already flowing into AR and VR will only flow more readily over the next three to five years.

Consumer sales for things like headsets and games are currently the top driver of overall spending, followed by sales in the manufacturing and retail sectors. In the US, some of those sectors could ultimately overtake consumer sales by 2021.

Consumer interest in, and spending on, VR will climb steadily, but I don’t think headsets will be the new smartphone anytime soon. That said, expect more “consumer sales drive AR/VR growth!” headlines over the next few years as sales of AR-ready iPhones inform analysts’ reports. I’d argue that these numbers will be somewhat artificially inflated, as the percentage of consumers who buy new iPhones specifically for Augmented Reality applications will be rather low.

“Other segments like government, transportation, and education will utilize the transformative capabilities of these technologies,” said Marcus Torchia, research director of IDC Customer Insights & Analysis.

This is where the big, dull action will be. Microsoft is already building a healthy Hololens business in the enterprise. Nobody outside the enterprise talks about it because enterprise tech is “dull” and consumer tech is “sexy.” But serious money is being invested in practical innovations built on AR and XR (mixed reality) technologies, and big corporations are betting on those innovations paying dividends in the form of more efficient training, logistics, and business processes.

AR will generate lots of buzz over the next 12 months thanks to iOS 11 and ARKit. What consumers do with it after that remains to be seen. But the money will continue to flow into AR and XR for the enterprise, at least for another three to five years.