May The Fourth, the famous Star Wars Day, is passed but the fever for one of the most loved sci-fi sagas in the world is not gone at all: today we talk about it in relation with augmented reality.
How many of you have seen Episode IV: New Hope? Out in 1977, many will remember that it featured a pretty curious game: it was a holographic chessboard with little alien creatures figures in pure sci-fi style. Well, now the creator of the game decided that the time has come to make it real, thanks to augmented reality.
Some days ago on Kickstarter appeared a new crowdfunding campaign for a game called “HoloGrid: Monster Battle”, that is no less than a version of the famous HoloChess.
The idea is from Phil Tippet, creator of the game and of the scene in the movie, the developer will be the game studio HappyGiant.
HoloGrid will use a technique known as photogrammetry to scan and create 3D renditions of physical objects: Tippet is physically creating the models to scan and insert them in the game.
For now it won’t be exactly the game we saw in the movie, but a version that could be enjoyed thanks to cards and a game board. The plan, however, is to create a version pretty close to the one we all seen.
The Kickstarter campaign will be used to fund the creation of the app for iOS and Android. For HappyGiant this is the first time in the field of AR: “This is our first step into a new world of AR gaming,” says the president Mike Levine, “and while we are launching it on mobile initially so everyone can play it, our long term vision is to bring it to emerging AR and VR platforms.”
Do you remember Project Sidekick? It ‘s the name of the collaboration between Microsoft HoloLens headset and NASA: two samples of Microsoft’s new product for augmented reality vision have been sent to ISS, the International Space Station, for testing and studying the use of alternative realities in space.
The first step, actually, was to test the headset off the coast of Florida during a NEEMO (NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations) mission, held underwater to simulate absence of gravity and extreme conditions. After this test, HoloLens reached the international team of astronauts to be tested in orbit. Sidekick Project has two modes: Remote Expert Mode and Procedure Mode; the first one lets experts on the ground see through Skype what the astronauts are doing, helping them with difficult and delicate tasks, the second helps astronauts learn how tools and machines work. All this is possible taking advantage of augmented reality.
Sam Scimemi, director for International Space Station at NASA headquarters, said about these tests that “HoloLens and other virtual and mixed reality devices are cutting edge technologies that could help drive future exploration and provide new capabilities to the men and women conducting critical science on the International Space Station.”
For sure HoloLens is pretty handy in situations in which it’s necessary to be supported by the ground base o to fix a broken machine, but this doesn’t kill the recreational side of the device; Tim Peake and Scott Kelly, part of the ISS Team, took advantage of this to have a pause from work and test augmented reality in space, but another kind than the one you could expect: in the video they play an interesting Space Invaders match in the air 😉
Augmented reality, no doubts about it, is the perfect marketing’s ally: Experenti is an example of this, and there are other countless demonstrations. One of these is the promotion of the new Angry Birds movie: Rovio, producer of the mobile videogame loved all over the world, used augmented reality as a main aspect of its marketing campaign.
The movie will be premiered in cinema soon, but if you are a fan surely already knew about this: Rovio activated a promotional campaign that was hard to miss for the players.
Based on experiential marketing, the campaign took advantage of the experience offered to the fans: for the purpose, Rovio created a brand new game, “Angry Birds Action!“, in which the famous little birds are main characters of a puzzle set in a top-down 3D world; however this is just a first step: the lines between game and real life have been blurred by the so-called “BirdCodes“, QR codes that can be found on the movie’s official merchandise and also in its credits. Scanning the codes, and only doing this, will be possible to activate some extra parts of the videogame.
Rovio announced the print of a billion codes distributed all over the world: they can be found on the official merchandise produced in collaboration with other big brands as McDonald’s, H&M, Pez and Lego. Once found the code, it will be possible to scan it with a mobile device and, through augmented reality, enjoy some exclusive content, unblocking new parts of the game. Every company will have a special branded mini-game and to play it will be necessary to scan the code every time: this is how Angry Birds will incentivize the users to physically visit the retail stores or buy the products to own the codes.
The campaign was possible thanks to the collaboration between Rovio and Zappar.
USA baseball fans suffered a serious blow in last days: the famous snack Cracker Jack, the one that appears in a lot of movies and that many Americans tried personally during baseball matches in their childhood, announced a big change that opened the discussion on the web straight away.
The snack, made of molasses-flavored caramel-coated popcorn and peanuts, a true institution in the USA, won’t let your search anymore for the famous plastic toy on the bottom of its box: the company that now owns the brand, Frito-Lay, part of PepsiCo, preferred to leave behind the vintage memories and try augmented reality.
Inside the boxes the plastic toys will be replaced soon by new stickers with a code that, once scanned, will make baseball themed augmented contents appear.
How does it works?
You will only have to own a smartphone and download the app Blippar, available for free for Android and iOS; through the app it will be possible to scan the stickers to see immediately hidden contents appear and take life. The augmented reality content, all baseball related, are four, everyone different: there are two games, Dot Race and Dance Cam, and then Get Carded and Baseball Star, two apps through which you can make yourself a baseball star in baseball cards and autographed photos that can be traded and shared with your family and friends.
“We are a brand that authentically reminds people of simpler times, childhood memories and family experiences,” said a Cracker Jack spokesperson. “With this redesign and new mobile game experience, the Cracker Jack brand embraces a modernized, young-at-heart attitude while keeping that treasured feeling of childhood wistfulness.”
The fans of the brand didn’t take good this news: the memories are really too many to let them go so easily, so the complaints started to appear on the web. Nonetheless, this is Cracker Jack’s step to survive the current change and to get closer to the youngest ones.
A platform helping agencies, brands and publishers creating their own augmented reality contents? Yes, that’s right: its name is Plattar and it is what an australian startup promises, now helped as well from a big investment by the colossus News Corp.
The news was in the magazines all over the world: News Corp Australia, australian division of one of the four USA communication giants, invested $843M in the startup to make a step inside the field of augmented reality.
Plattar is a cloud-based platform made of two parts: the first is an app builder equipped with multiple customizable templates and the second is a content management system for AR content. News Corp invested in this second one.
A trial project shows the potential of the technology directly on News Corp products: Plattar used the platform to create a “brand new customer experience” in which the users can scan News Corp publications for properties and then use augmented reality to see the 3D results inside the map.
The reasons that made News Corp Australia invest in Plattar, anyway, are far from the mere passion for avant garde technology, and decisively closer to reality; the company, in fact, needs new projects to help their business rise back: last data show a 20% less in its revenue, -3% coming from the newspaper field. Thinking about what is said about augmented and virtual reality, it’s clear why they chose to make a big investment right here: a report by DigiCapital predicts the AR market will be a US$150 billion industry by 2020.
Did you hear about Tesla Motors and their electric vehicle? The pre-orders on their Tesla 3 reached high results just few days ago, arriving to the first pages of online and offline magazines and newspapers.
Surely this happened because of the features of the vehicle, that promise to help drivers saving money and (everyone hopes, at least) to release less smog thanks to the electricity system instead of the fuel one; Tesla project, anyhow, doesn’t end here: the prototype has also automatic driving and, following some leaks, soon will also feature a HUD.
Tha last news, in fact, are about a pretty original hiring: Tesla welcomed in their team as new Software Engineer Milan Kovac, augmented reality expert coming from Skully, another brand part of the avant-garde technologies field (Skully is one of the augmented reality driving helmets presented at CES 2016). Kovac’s entrance in the Tesla team made everyone guess a possible development of an augmented reality HUD for their new car.
HUD displays are the last trends in the driving world: literally, HUD means heads-up display, a display letting the driver have all the information needed while driving right in front of his eyes, without being forced to take off the eyes from the street. During last year this kind of devices, using augmented reality features, saw an increase: from the information superimposed to the car’s front shield to those inside helmets (for motorbikes or even ski).
In the case of Tesla 3 there seem to be no doubts: the prototype presented to the public, in fact, did not show a traditional instrument panel, but an original one resembling a tablet. Will this be Tesla’s next step to the definitive model?
Reading a tweet that Elon Musk, the company’s CEO, published before the prototype presentation seems it could be, since it says: “Tomorrow is Part 1 of the Model 3 unveil. Part 2, which takes things to another level, will be closer to production.“
As it would be clear to many, especially if you follow social media news and you were among those stuck to the screen during the conference that Facebook held some days ago, The Social Network is touching every day more fields, often falling outside the purely social one.
As of now, Facebook has wide plans to take internet to the countries that can’t afford it (the Free Basics project), a big one about virtual reality (the Oculus Rift headset) and, of course, 360° videos and augmented reality.
In the annual F8, the Facebook developers’ conference that was held in San Francisco some days ago, Zuckerberg himself talked about the advancements of alternative realities and the importance they will have in the future for our everyday life.
In particular, talking about virtual reality, the one on which the platform made its highest bet for now thanks to the Oculus Rift headset, Facebook’s CEO defined it as the one that “has the potential to be the most social platform” since “you just feel like you are right there with another person“.
Talking of another Facebook product, the 360° videos, Zuckerberg added the emotional side to a possible use of this technology, saying that he wants to use it to capture his daughter’s first steps, so the ones who will watch the memory in video will feel exactly ad they were in the same room. During the conference was also made clear as Facebook won’t produce the complex camera used to take these videos, but will make the project available to those wanting to build it to test and use the technology.
Last but not least, Zuckerberg, while talking about Oculus, made some considerations on the future of weareables: headsets as the Facebook one or Microsoft HoloLens for now are the best on the market, but surely in the future we will see new versions, more comfortable for the wearers, similar to normal eyeglasses in which there will be integrated both virtual and augmented reality. But, without doubts: “It will take a long time for us to make this work”, added the CEO.
Augmented reality applied to the publishing world is not new: without going to touch little projects and remaining in the circle of big names, we can have a good example from Google and its patents for books with augmented contents.
Talking about this, there are some initiatives that are not linked just only to literature, but also to the world of comics; among these, surely stands out for originality and high technological level “Faster Than Light“, saga that, right in these days, is on the first pages of every AR magazine since a tv version has been officialized.
Faster Than Light is a sci-fi comic that talks about the first, thrilling adventures of humans around the stars: mankind finds a method to travel faster than light and explore space, but not everything goes as expected. Joining adventure and fun, the stories created by Brian Haberlin and Geirrod Vandykeare are not remaining tied to the bidimensional world, using theirselves a bit of sci-fi: thanks to the augmented reality app by Anomaly, characters and settings take life in front of the reader’s eayes. The comic is published by Image Comics, Shadowline, and received awards.
Now, since of the success of the saga, soon to its 6° and 7° volume, Skydance Television put their eyes on it and decided to make it even more real, this time not through augmented reality but filming it with real actors.
“The exhilarating sci-fi universe that Brian Haberlin has created in Faster Than Light features a living, breathing narrative that we believe is very well suited for television audiences and is precisely the kind of big, bold story we love to tell at Skydance,” said Marcy Ross, President of Skydance Television.
This is an almost predicted passage for a comic so avant-garde and unique in its genre.
Before buying that fridge you love, wouldn’t you like to know how it fits in your new kitchen? Now this is possible thanks to the partnership between Lowe’s, American company leader in house furnishing, and Microsoft HoloLens.
It was announced by Scott Erickson, General Manager at HoloLens project, in a post on Microsoft’s official site: the holograms of the most famous headset on the market will help us with design and projecting better houses (for now just better kitchens), holographically visualizing them before purchasing.
“It can be difficult to conceptualize a full-scale remodel using just sample squares and paint swatches,” we read on the post. ” Now people can view, in life-like realism, large items like cabinets, appliances and countertops in size and scale with incredibly high-definition options and detailed finishes.”
In fact, as we already know from other cases, HoloLens’ holographic recreations are pretty detailed and show objects and people as they were right in front of our eyes; the images definition is so good you can actually see the differences between shiny chrome appliances versus matte brushed aluminum options.
It will be enough to wear HoloLens headset to “be able to experience a holographic representation of a completely new kitchen, adjust finishes and options instantly, and share their designs easily online”, so friends can actually help us with advice.
With this system, Lowe’s will be able to offer to its customers a new way to experience full-scale design and appliance options while maximizing precious floor space in the store.
For now, Lowe’s started the pilot test of its augmented reality kitchens at the Lynnwood Store in the greater Seattle area and it’s planning to extend it soon to Raleigh, in North Carolina.