Facebook is using their updated AR to make movie promotions a little more futuristic. In a recent announcement, they explained their use of augmented reality with posters for the films Ready Player One and A Wrinkle in Time.
According to their detailed post, all of the posters for the recent films work in conjunction with Facebook’s new augmented reality target tracking. They describe being able to simply open the Facebook camera, point your phone at one of the posters, and then see a specifically designed AR experience. The camera will be able to recognize certain images, including, Facebook says, things like logos and pictures.
They’re calling their new target tracking feature “persistent AR,” meaning the augmented reality experience is specifically connected to something in actual reality. They’ve also worked to make the AR particularly stable, designing it to keep working even if the image is blocked from view by the camera briefly—so someone getting in the way while you’re looking at one of the posters wouldn’t interrupt the AR experience. And the augmented reality experience can also be enabled through the use of things like QR codes, not just by pointing Facebook’s camera at the image.
According to Facebook, this new augmented reality feature is in closed beta right now. Ready Player One and A Wrinkle in Time are part of the closed beta. But their plan is to make this AR feature enjoyable and useful for everyone on both ends—companies and viewers alike. They believe companies can gain a lot from this different type of promotion. And the AR experiences will, they say, end up being able to be used by a lot of different phones, not just brand new pricey models. In fact, they say they’ve been focusing on making it workable with “older, lower end phones” so fewer people are left out of the fun.
Facebook says the developer toolkit for this feature will become available “later this spring.”
Over the past several years, it’s unlikely that you’ve missed all the buzz over virtual reality headsets. Virtual reality (VR) headsets became highly sought after and hugely popular. Over time, some headsets became affordable for more people, while more VR content was released.
In recent months, a lot of the fuss over VR has died down. It seems as though people simply aren’t talking about it as much as they once were. It feels a bit like the novelty has worn off for some.
But even if VR isn’t hyped as often as it was not too long ago, it’s still making advancements, and it has a lot to offer. Less than a week ago, Qualcomm announced their newest VR headset. And near the end of last year, Oculus Go was announced, a different kind of headset that could be coming very soon.
Since we’re still early in the new year, now is a good time to take a look at what you can find in the world of VR in 2018. Read on for some basics, some tech options, and plenty of fun suggestions!
What is VR?
When I talk about VR in this article, I’m talking about the current VR technology accessed through the use of a VR headset. While wearing a headset, wearers are given the impression they are in another world. Users can turn around and see content in every direction, including above and below them.
Some people find the difference between VR (virtual reality) and AR (augmented reality) a little confusing. With virtual reality, you’re immersed in a completely separate world. You interact with content that is not connected to your own real-world visuals.
With augmented reality, on the other hand, objects are placed in your actual surroundings. You can look at something that is actually right in front of you, and augmented reality will work within those visuals to add content into what you’re really seeing. (Pokemon Go is an example of AR—when you used your camera to capture what you were really seeing while catching Pokemon, you were using AR.)
Since virtual reality doesn’t include visuals from your real surroundings, it offers something much more clearly separated from your real life.
VR headsets let wearers enter a different world. After placing a device in the headset (or plugging a tethered headset into a computer or gaming console), the headset is worn to fill a person’s vision with whatever content they choose.
Many headsets were very expensive when VR was first popular. They were sometimes fairly basic, as well. Over time, more headsets came out that were inexpensive, and other headsets added more features.
Keep in mind that if you buy a cheaper headset, you’re likely not getting as nice of features as you might with a pricier option. Cheaper options also might not be as comfortable or durable.
Here are just a few of the headsets you can consider when deciding whether to enjoy VR.
Popular (pricier) headsets:
- Samsung Gear VR with Controller ($72.98)
- PlayStation VR (price varies)
- HTC VIVE Virtual Reality System ($599)
- Oculus Rift + Touch Virtual Reality System ($399)
What can VR be used for?
VR isn’t just for playing games (though VR gaming is great)! VR can be fun in a lot of different ways. Here are some ways to use VR, including for education and entertainment (and yes, that includes gaming).
With VR, there are opportunities for learning. There are plenty of apps that offer educational experiences. Depending on which device you’re using, you might be able to learn a wide variety of things!
Practice public speaking—VirtualSpeech lets you work on your communication skills in private. You can learn how to become a better communicator, plus you can practice by being placed in different surroundings. For instance, you can give a presentation standing on a stage in front of a virtual crowd.
Look through the human brain or look around Stonehenge—Unimersiv offers many different educational apps, including more than just a tour of the brain or Stonehenge. You can also do things like check out ancient Rome and the International Space Station.
Learn a new language—With an app like House of Languages, you can learn another language in a different way. You can learn English, German, or Spanish while actually looking at the objects that correspond to the words you’re learning and playing minigames.
Go inside the human body—The Body VR is one app that lets you learn about what goes on in the human body. You can learn about things like blood cells and viruses.
Make your way through the solar system—Titans of Space is just one app that teaches about the solar system. You can move through space, checking out planets and certain stars, all while learning facts about what you’re seeing.
Surround yourself with Discovery content—You can view VR content from Discovery, which lets you see places all across the world, check out different cultures, and experience special events.
There’s more entertainment to be found than just VR games. There are a lot of fun things to do in VR!
Watch 360-degree videos—If you access YouTube through your VR headset, you can search for tons of 360-degree videos. You can find videos that let you experience what it’s like to swim with dolphins, jump out of a plane, or follow along with a fictional story.
Binge Netflix in a quiet, stylish home—Netflix’s VR app lets you appear to watch your shows and movies on a huge screen. You’re set in a comfortable-looking home with the large TV in front of you.
Watch a movie on the big screen—Many devices offer their own apps for movie-watching. With some devices, you can use Virtual Desktop to use your own computer in VR. This means you can watch all your movies from your computer.
Surf the web—Whichever device you’re using, you can likely access a web browser. This means you can fill your vision with a browser and check out all of your usual sites. For instance, Samsung Internet is available on some devices.
Play around on Facebook—With Facebook 360, you can check out tons of VR content on Facebook.
VR has made it possible for people to travel places they might never have been able to go otherwise. With VR, people who have limited mobility or who just can’t afford to take a trip can get a sense of what some locations look like in person. Depending on which device you have, you might have different options for your virtual tourism needs. Search for VR experiences that offer high-quality video tours or look for apps that make use of Google’s Street View.
Visit some amazing places—Jaunt VR offers VR videos of some specific locations. These videos are often documentary-style, and you’re given a chance to learn and walk through some interesting places.
Go anywhere you want and walk the streets—Some apps, like Viso Places, give you a chance to go basically anywhere and look around. Viso Places uses Google Street View, so you can search for a location and magically transport yourself there. You can even use this app to go inside some museums.
(Check out my article with the 7 places you should check out as a virtual tourist!)
Though gaming isn’t all VR is good for, it is just a lot of fun in virtual reality. Here are just a few of the well-received or newer games you might try!
Chronos—An RPG that takes users on a hero’s quest to fight evil. ($39.99)
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim VR—Players can enjoy Skyrim’s huge world in virtual reality. ($41.99 to $59.99)
Fallout 4 VR—The hugely popular Fallout 4 is available in virtual reality, so you can explore the post-apocalyptic world like you’re really there. ($59.99)
Job Simulator—A popular, lighthearted game that has players “job” like humans used to do before robots took over for them. ($19.99)
KIN—A puzzle platformer set on another planet. ($9.99)
Minecraft—Everyone’s favorite sandbox game, but in virtual reality. (Free to $6.99)
The Playroom VR—This game is free for PS VR users, and it’s a fun, bright collection of multiplayer games. (Free)
Rez Infinite—A VR version of this popular game that lets users experience the fast-moving and visually appealing action game in a new way. ($24.99)
Smash Hit—Smash objects as you move through a different dimension. ($2.99)
Vacation Simulator—An upcoming game from the people who created Job Simulator!
The recent ‘super blue blood moon’ was widely talked about and watched by many people. This lunar eclipse was particularly special because of the combination of different qualities. If you happened to miss this particular lunar eclipse, though, don’t worry—there are plenty of cool astronomical events to watch out for.
Some people may not really be aware of how many astronomical events there are each year. Between eclipses, meteor showers, interesting planetary alignments, and all sorts of other nighttime visuals, there’s plenty to watch. Because of this, it can seem difficult to keep up with all the upcoming events. And once you know what’s coming, you might be wondering how to best watch. Thankfully, there are sites and apps ready to help! You can always go the old school route, tech-free, but you can improve your sky-watching experience with the suggestions on this list.
There are plenty of apps and sites you can use to watch for upcoming events. You can typically find the same information through all these options, so it all comes down to personal preference. Check out these sites and apps to see which you like the best!
American Almanac of Astronomy and Weather—The Almanac (for iOS) lets you check out forecasts for many different things, including astronomical events. You can see upcoming events like eclipses and meteor showers, along with astronomical data.
Sky Events—This app (for Android) lists past and future astronomical events of all sorts. You can look by category, like lunar eclipses and meteor showers, plus you can learn more about the type of event and add events to your Google Calendar, along with other features.
Nat Geo’s Starstruck—This section on the National Geographic website features detailed and highly informational articles about upcoming astronomical events to watch out for. You can learn about exciting events, including the science behind them, in many cases. And since it’s Nat Geo, you can look at some stunning photos that accompany each article.
The New York Times Calendar—This calendar from NYT shows upcoming events, like meteor showers and eclipses, plus things like space launches. It can be accessed as a website, or you can have the calendar synced to your Google or iOS calendar.
Space.com Skywatching—The Skywatching section on Space.com posts guides to upcoming astronomical events, including lunar events, planetary events, and space launches. Since it’s Space.com, you can also expect to learn more about the science of these events through their articles.
Once you know what’s coming up next, try using one of these apps to figure out exactly where to look and what to look for!
Night Sky—This app (for iOS) can help you learn more about the night sky through an AR experience. You can identify stars, planets, and other objects, so if you’re not sure where to look for a certain event, this app can help you find the way. You can also do things like take “Sky Tours” and, if you have the Premium version, experience the solar system with augmented reality.
Sky Map—This app (for Android) is one of the early apps used for sky watching. Originally called Google Sky Maps, this app is now open-source (hence the name change) and lets you point your phone to find things like planets and constellations. You can even search for objects and let the app direct you to where they are.
SkyView—This app (for Android and iOS) lets you find or identify objects in the sky, like planets and stars. You can also learn about different objects that you look at. And it has night mode filters to make sure your eyes stay adjusted while you’re watching the stars.
How you can watch
Whether you’re stepping outside to watch or too far from the event to spot it, there are a couple sites you can use to make your plans!
Astronomy clubs—Thanks to NASA, you can easily find local astronomy clubs on the web. Their website has a club search that lets you search locations for a club to join. Even if you don’t join a club, knowing which clubs to follow can keep you up-to-date on things like watch parties.
Slooh—This site has quite a few fun astronomical offerings. Perhaps most importantly, you can watch live feeds and live events. There are live feeds from a number of different telescopes that you can check out all day, plus if there’s an upcoming event—like an eclipse or comet—you can likely watch a live stream of it. You have to pay to maintain a membership, but you can start a free 30-day trial to check it out!
Good news for Android users! Now Android devices have access to augmented reality stickers through the Motion Stills app.
For those who are not yet familiar with the feature, AR stickers are moving stickers that can be recorded and photographed in front of whatever your camera is pointing at, essentially inserting them into the scene. Depending on what device you have and what apps you use, you may have seen AR stickers before. Last year, Google Pixel and Pixel 2 owners had AR stickers rolled out to them for use in their phone’s camera. And the concept is similar to what you’ve probably already spotted if you use Snapchat regularly—Snap’s augmented reality Bitmoji stickers. These stickers in the Snapchat app let you insert your animated Bitmoji character into whatever scene your camera is capturing, taking photos and videos.
Now Google is giving more users the chance to use their AR stickers, instead of keeping them just for Pixel owners. However, the stickers available to everyone don’t work the same way they do on Pixel devices. The AR stickers for the Pixel use Google’s ARCore, their augmented reality tech. ARCore, according to Google, uses three main technologies for their AR: motion tracking, environmental understanding, and light estimation. This is, of course, just a basic view of ARCore—there’s a lot more that goes into its tech. But what’s most important to note is that the AR stickers on Pixel devices are perhaps higher tech and more realistically integrated than the AR stickers coming out for everyone.
The AR stickers in the Motion Stills app use some more old school tech—your phone’s gyroscope and accelerometer. You can set one of these stickers on a horizontal surface and then do things like take photos and videos, as well as make GIFs, then share them with your friends. Some of the stickers currently available to use include a dinosaur, alien, and robot. To check them out for yourself, download the Motion Stills app from the Play store!
A lot has been going on with Apple over the past week or so. Quite a bit of news has come out about Apple devices, particularly concerning the future release of iOS 11.3 later in Spring. Here are just a few of the things you may have missed recently!
New Animoji will be added
When iOS 11.3 is released, you can expect new Animoji to be released with it! A preview from Apple has announced that four more Animoji will be added, joining the currently available twelve.
As you might know, animoji are the animated emoji that have been available on iOS 11 since late last year. Using animoji, you can make certain characters move based on your own movements and facial expressions. Some of the previously available animoji include a pig, an alien, a panda, and a unicorn.
The new animoji will include two typical animals—a bear and a lion—as well as the fun-sounding skull and dragon.
Apple’s augmented reality has been upgraded
Apple’s preview also discusses their new upgrades to their augmented reality (AR) technology. ARKit 1.5, the newest version of Apple’s AR tech, has been released for developers, and with it comes some cool new updates.
Previously, ARKit could allow users to place objects on horizontal surfaces (like, say, the floor). With ARKit 1.5, users will be able to also place objects on vertical surfaces (such as walls). This is a huge upgrade, making Apple’s AR experience even more compelling. In addition, users will be able to point their phone at a flat item (like a picture on a wall), and their phone will use AR to display any available facts about the item if it’s recognized by the system. For example, if you were visiting an art gallery, you could perhaps use Apple’s AR to find more information about certain pieces you were looking at.
iPhone slowdown to become optional
You may recall hearing a lot of talk last month about how iPhones were being slowed down. People were reporting that their iPhones seemed to slow down over time. Eventually Apple confirmed the speeds of these iPhones were being throttled, says CNN Money, though it wasn’t for some nefarious reason.
According to an open letter from Apple, iPhones were being slowed in order to prevent phones from being shut off as the phones’ batteries aged. Many people were upset this slowdown hadn’t been properly communicated to them, leading to Apple offering a heavily discounted battery replacement for certain affected customers.
Now Apple is going to make things even more transparent and open by allowing users to decide whether their iPhones are slowed down. In their iOS 11.3 preview, Apple describes their upcoming performance feature settings. These settings will make it possible to see whether your phone is set to slow down (preventing your phone from shutting down unexpectedly as your battery ages). If it is set to be throttled, you’ll be able to switch off this feature.
For more about what Apple is up to, take a look at their Newsroom.
Magic Leap has released more information about their augmented reality goggles set to come out in 2018. The goggles are called the Magic Leap One and are referred to as the “Creator Edition.”
Magic Leap One is a set of futuristic-looking goggles, a Lightpack that runs the AR system, and a controller. According to Rolling Stone, there will be two sizes to choose from for the goggles, and they’ll be able to be arranged for comfort.
According to Magic Leap’s website, Magic Leap One will be different from most other AR devices. Their device will be able to recreate what wearers see, so they can place AR elements on their actual surroundings, and even “interact with” their real location. The device will then remember what it sees, building an area by remembering where everything in the room is located. This lets wearers place objects, leave them there, and come back to find them where they were left. Magic Leap gives the example of placing a virtual television on the wall and coming back to find it in the same place.
Magic Leap One will also respond to several different kinds of input, according to their website. Audio, movements, and eye tracking are all ways the AR system will keep up with what you’re doing while you wear the headset.
All of this, of course, is pretty different from what people come to expect from the typical AR headset. Wearers should be able to build their own environments and create permanent virtual additions to their surroundings, which gives users a lot of control. And they won’t just have to do everything by tapping a button or using a scroll pad—the headset will respond to much more than that.
Of course, tech-lovers have been waiting for Magic Leap to release their products for some time, so potential buyers are still a bit wary. According to The Verge, Magic Leap was supposed to send out their software development kit two years ago. These plans, though, are more specific and seem to be a bigger piece of news.
Magic Leap hasn’t set a specific release date, but their website states it will be out in 2018. You can visit their website and sign up for a mailing list to get updates about Magic Leap One. Keep an eye out next year for Magic Leap One to finally get its release.
(Featured image: Magic Leap)
Potterheads, rejoice! After months of crossed fingers and unconfirmed whispers, Pottermore has announced the upcoming Harry Potter: Wizards Unite app that will use augmented reality to immerse players in the (totally real) wizarding world.
The game will come out at some point in the future under the newly-created Portkey Games label. The game is the child of both Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment and—you probably guessed it—Niantic, the creators of Pokémon Go.
Not long after Pokémon Go burst onto the scene, the idea of a Harry Potter-style version of the AR game started spreading across social media. Some people were calling for its creation, discussing how it might work and how amazing it would be, while others began to spread rumors that the game was already being created. Some websites even began reporting the rumor as a fact. But until this past week, the rumors were still just that: rumors.
With the exciting news that an augmented reality Harry Potter game really is coming, Potter fans are understandably hyped, though it’s important to mention that there’s no suggested release date yet. Pottermore simply says there will be more information about the game in 2018. What news we have so far, though, makes the game sound pretty awesome.
Pottermore’s news release mentions that players will take part in “adventures” outside. You might run into creatures or well-known people from the wizarding world while you’re on one of these adventures. And the game will let players build a “wizarding career,” as well as cast spells (a feature that is surely a must-have for an AR app set in the world of Harry Potter) and take part in other activities.
Based on Harry Potter’s huge popularity around the world and the fact that Pokémon Go has done so well, it’s not hard to imagine Harry Potter: Wizards Unite creating another new wave of AR gaming hysteria. One reason some players dropped off from Pokémon Go was that they just felt as though the game hadn’t changed enough to keep interest. With Wizards Unite, it’ll give every player the chance to get back out and discover a new world in an exciting way. It also sounds like it will have some cool features that will keep players interested over time. You can bet I (and multitudes of other Potterheads) will be waiting impatiently for the new game.
Accio Wizards Unite!
The Amazon app is getting way better for certain Apple users with its new augmented reality shopping tool. Sometimes it can be difficult to decide which items you want to buy on Amazon, especially when it comes to items for the home. With the Amazon app, some shoppers can now actually see what the product will look like in their house.
In an announcement about their upcoming holiday plans, Amazon also explained their new AR view. This cool new AR feature is available for shoppers using the Amazon app on an iPhone 6S or later that has iOS 11 on it. The app uses Apple’s ARKit to let people place certain items on their screen and view it in whatever area the phone is pointed at. Shoppers simply click the camera button and select the AR view to try it out. Amazon’s announcement mentions that there are “thousands” of products to choose from in AR view and that you can check out the items in a 360° view with the new feature.
As The Verge mentions, other apps, like IKEA and Target, have previously begun to offer their own augmented reality shopping experiences. Also, as Tech Crunch points out, Amazon dabbled a bit in AR shopping with their (pretty unsuccessful) AR stickers. But Amazon’s new offering is exciting for a number of reasons. For one thing, there are a lot of different items to choose from—it’s not horribly limited. Also, the products look pretty real, as you can see in Amazon’s YouTube video. The video shows items being moved and rotated using one or two fingers, respectively, so it also seems easy to use. There are different categories to scroll through and choose from, as shown in the video, so again, there’s a wide array of choices.
And of course, it’s Amazon. Amazon is a giant in the world of shopping, as we all know, so having this cool new tech just makes them even more enticing. If you’ve got an iPhone 6S or later and have iOS 11 installed, see if AR view in the Amazon app has rolled out to you now.