Key News and Events in the AR and VR World – October 2018

We started this October with the hope that there will be exciting developments to talk about in this roundup article. And we were not disappointed. First of all, a major AR and VR technology event saw its third anniversary on European territory.

Second, important changes took place in one of the leading companies in the AR/VR world. And they promise to have long term consequences. While some of these changes will disappoint a part of the company’s customers, others promise to enhance the way users experience AR/VR apps and games.

The adoption rate of augmented and virtual reality technology speeds up in many industries. This month brought forth an important announcement in this respect from a major university.

Moving on to the world of gaming, one of the most popular AR games on the market got a significant improvement. We are also talking of improvements in one of the best sold headset brands on the market.

Let’s now go into detail with the top news and events in the AR/VR world for October 2018.

AWE EU 2018 – the Third Edition

The State of VR in the Early 2000s. After so many capable devices on the market and so many let downs that didn’t truly capture the audience they deserved, virtual reality didn’t see much development in the early 2000s. Virtual Reality was at the background in the development of new technology. It took a step back, letting personal devices, such as computers, laptops, iPods, smartphones and tablets take over, which may very well have been the right step. With the development of new technologies, a new door was opened for virtual reality, because now head-tracking and capable displays were cheaper than ever before. However, it wasn’t before one start-up company mentioned the idea, that Virtual Reality truly took off on the consumer’s market.

The third European edition of AWE took place in Munich, Germany, on October 18-19. This year’s edition had 100 featured speakers and 100 exhibitors. The key topic of the event was the current and potential uses of AR in various industries, with practical examples from Boeing and Bosch.

Some of the most prominent speakers were:

  • Jurgen Lumera – Automotive Services Solutions, AR Product Management and Innovation at Bosch;
  • Leif Oppermann – Head of Mixed & Augmented Reality, Fraunhofer FIT;
  • Bjorn Bliese – Digital Transformation Engineer, Daimler AG;
  • Dr. Fadi Chehimi – Digital Innovations Consultant IBM;
  • Elise Xu – Product Manager of Augmented Reality Publishing, Facebook.

The EU Auggie Awards were also granted during the conference for innovative AR/VR experiences. The winners were:

  • Virtual Reality Vision Therapy VERVE developed by OculoMotor Technologies – for the category Most Innovative Breakthrough;
  • Virtual Reality Flight Simulator for Surgery developed by a consortium of universities and FundamentalVR – for Most Impactful Breakthrough ;
  • Dr. Tara Alvarez, head of the VERVE project – for the category Women XR Laureate;
  • XMReality – for Best in AR Show;
  • Koliseum Soccer VR – for Best in VR Show;
  • Vuzix – for the category Best in Show Overall.

Oculus Shuts Down Video on Demand Feature

Oculus Rift

Oculus Rift owners won’t be able to rent or purchase VR videos in the Oculus store anymore. The Facebook subsidiary has decided to shut down the Video on Demand feature. They will, however, reimburse all users who have already made purchases.

The company sent an email to its clients stating :

“Over the years, we’ve seen how people use VR for everything from gaming to movies, and it’s become clear that while people love to stream immersive media on other devices, Rift is used primarily for gaming. These insights inform how we support new and existing features and apps across the platform.”

Tell you something interesting, U.S. government is in love with the VR Technology. NASA makes use of technology to connect engineers with the devices they send into space. Using Oculus and Xbox One gaming console, NASA engineers are developing ways to control a robotic arm with gestures made by operator on Earth.

Oculus users can still access their purchased videos until November 20. After this date, no video titles will be available in the Oculus store any longer.

This decision comes amid significant changes at top management level. The CEO of Oculus, Brendan Iribe, has left the company. At the same time, there are rumors that the plans for developing the second generation of Oculus Rift headset are canceled.

Queen’s University in Canada Will Open a 100% VR Training Center for Medical Students

Queen’s University in Canada has formed a partnership with SimforHealth and HTC to develop a virtual reality training center for medical students. SimforHealth is a European company specializing in developing VR software and will create a full range of training programs for future doctors.

The students will use HTC VIVE headsets to step into the VR world where they would have to, for example, respond to emergency situations or conduct routine consultations with patients.

Dr. Dan Howes, the Director of Queen’s Faculty of Health Sciences Clinical Simulation Center said :

“There was a time when physicians performed their first procedures and did the majority of their learning on patients. Virtual reality offers exciting new opportunities for us to realistically simulate a wide range of clinical situations. We want learners to make all their beginner mistakes in the virtual environment, not on real patients.”

The VR Today. Currently Virtual Reality is growing in popularity and while companies like the Oculus Rift are losing some of their customers because of unpopular marketing practices, other devices, including the HTC Vive are taking the VR stage. Furthermore, with Google Cardboard creating the concept and other companies taking note, Smartphone Virtual Reality Goggles are letting consumers easily enjoy and experience immersive virtual and augmented reality. With huge consumer base, the multiple platforms for development, and the lack of many VR games and experiences, small start-ups as well as huge companies are investing huge amounts of money into the development of content for Virtual Reality, which might very well help VR finally achieve the world-wide recognition it didn’t manage to achieve on the market for years.

The VR training center should open in January 2019.

Pokémon GO Can Track Steps in the Background

Nianticpokemon go augmented realityis working on an innovative augmented reality cloud platform. They have already made the first step in embedding it into its products. The company will add the ability to track steps in the background to its most popular game to date, Pokémon GO.

This new feature will allow players to collect rewards and upgrade their characters without having the game actively running on their smartphones. The persistent content feature enabled by the cloud AR platform will track the users in their natural environment and collect Pokémon GO rewards whenever the user passes by them.

The new feature is called Adventure Sync and can even connect to iOS and Android fitness apps, recording the steps taken and burned calories. Niantic will also incorporate Adventure Sync into two of its upcoming AR games- Ingress Prime and Harry Potter: Wizards Unite.

Oculus Patents Wireless Relay Technology for Virtual Reality Headsets

It seems that October was a very busy month for Facebook’s virtual reality subsidiary. Apart from management and strategy changes, Oculus also filed a patent with the United States Patents and Trademark Office. The document describes a wireless relay system whose purpose is to prevent signal loss when VR headset wearers step away from the range of the primary transmitter and receiver.

Its not just about the fun and games. Other than providing action-packed, fun-filled entertainment for the entire family, VR plays a big role to help humanity as developers use it to help those in need in ways that were unimaginable 20 years ago. Some use it to cure phantom pain among amputee victims, while others rely on VR to provide therapy for soldiers suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. VR has also been proven to help children with autism by teaching them social cues and real world lessons. It is being used as a practice board for surgical students before they make the first cut. There is even a VR content targeted at young adults that simulates their physical condition when they get to their 60s, and thus encourages them to save for the future.

The relay would operate in a similar manner to a WiFi range extender, using the 60 GHz transmission frequency. However, the patent document does not seem to focus on securing the IP rights for the full system, but only for the continuous calibration process that reduces interferences.

There is no telling whether the company will actually develop this type of relay. Like other large companies, – and its VR division Oculus – also file a large number of patents for the sheer protection they can obtain over potential emerging technologies.

HTC VIVE PRO Will Feature Finger Tracking Soon

The high end model of HTC VIVE virtual reality headset will have a special bonus for users: finger tracking. This new feature will be available via the Viveport SDK to all registered developers who want to add it to their VR apps and games.

The innovative feature will be enabled by HTC VIVE Pro’s camera setup, consisting of 2 outward facing cameras. At the present time there is no teaser or video demonstration for the finger tracking ability of the device. There are still questions regarding accuracy, latency and field of view. However, this first step forward is an important one in making VR experiences more interactive and engaging.

Samsung Is Going All In. Samsung is one of the leading companies in the virtual reality space. Years of research into virtual reality are finally paying off for the company. At virtual reality conventions, Samsung's products are often regarded as one of the most popular, based on feedback from attendees. Currently, the Samsung Gear VR is the most popular virtual reality headset on the market. Things in the market might change in a few years, but for now Samsung is in the lead.