There are almost no doubts about Apple getting closer and closer to augmented reality: happenings as the purchase of the 3D sensor outfit PrimeSense or of the firm Metaio, say enough on the projects that the company is developing in secret in its head-quarters. It was only two months ago, also, when the augmented reality community got excited about the news of the company hiring a former Microsoft’s employee that was working on the HoloLens project.

This week came out another news that, seen together with the others, seems almost a confirmation of the rumors going around: Apple acquired the Swiss Faceshift, a company that developed a software known for analyzing the facial motions of an actor and transcribing them as 3D animation. Do you know the new Star Wars movie? Well, it will be where you will see Faceshift in action.

Faceshift is a Zurich-based company founded in 2012, subsidiary from the Computer Graphics and Geometry Laboratory at the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne in Switzerland, specialized in the motion capture branch. It is one of the almost 40 small and medium companies that Apple acquired during last years. As the previous times, when asked the reason for this purchase, the company answered: “Apple buys smaller technology companies from time to time, and we generally do not discuss our purpose or plans.”

Apple’s evasive comment increased even more the curiosity around the acquisition. Many tried to guess the use for this new technology: the possible range of applications includes augmented reality, biometrics/security, tracking and gaming and chat. Of course the most popular among our readers is the first one 😉

Microsoft HoloLens enters Volvo showrooms

During last times, automotive companies seems really unchained when it’s about augmented reality: during last month only, we talked about Honda’s vehicles/prototypes and Hyundai’s owner’s manual, and today we report the news of the collaboration between Volvo and Microsoft.

The two companies are working on a project that engages them both, since the objective is to insert Microsoft’s famous headset, HoloLens, inside Volvo’s showrooms.

The first demonstration with a prototype took place in Microsoft headquarters in Redmond, Washington, where Volvo presented their new S90 mid-size luxury sedan: with the help of augmented reality the automotive company was able to show a full-size three- dimensional holograms of the car itself and cross-sections of its parts, as well as a holographic test-drive demonstration of the semi-autonomous driving system and its safety features.

To do so, Microsoft converted a large room in its headquarters into a mock Volvo showroom; inside the place, the viewers were walked around by an hologram explaining the designers’ choices, while another hologram was making possible to choose among the car features and colors. The visitors were able to choose the favorite features and to view the custom car in front of their eyes. This makes possible to see the vehicle even before it is produced.

The presentation of the product and the choice of colors are just only two little pieces of what augmented reality can do: in fact, other than being a spectacular and innovative way to show the products, it is pretty useful to point out some features that would be difficult to show either way: it is an example the automatic stopping for collision avoidance, new function of the vehicle, hard to demonstrate in a real-life test drive.

After innumerable tests, most of which between the walls of the University, finally was successfully made the first surgery with the help of augmented reality.

A group of Polish cardiac surgeons, all from the Institute of Cardiology in Warsaw, successfully used an augmented reality headset to restore the blood flow in the blocked artery of a 49yo patient. The device, an headset made from a Google Glass, displayed data about the patient in front of the doctors’ eyes, among which also the tomographic images of the arteries, that drove the operation to success.

One of the main advantages of the use of devices as Google Glass in surgery is that they leave the hands free, so the doctor can operate with more autonomy. While he does so, information and images are displayed on the side of his field of view, on the glasses’ lenses, superimposed to reality: in the Warsaw’s case in front of the surgeons’ eyes were showed the 3D reconstruction of the heart.

This kind of operation is generally pretty difficult to perform, but thanks to this device the doctors were able to find the blocked artery easily and to insert in the heart also two stents: this is the demonstration that the new technologies, augmented reality in primis, can be very useful in a delicate and important field as the medical one.

Maksymilian Opolski, author of a paper on the operation in the Journal of Cardiology, said: “This case demonstrates the novel application of wearable devices for display of data sets in the catheterisation lab that can be used for better planning and guidance of interventional procedures. It also provides proof of concept that wearable devices can improve operator comfort and procedure efficiency in interventional cardiology.”

Digital owner’s manuals are pretty common these days, but how many augmented reality ones you can list? Difficult question, isn’t it? In few time the answer will be easier to give thanks to the South Korean automotive company Hyundai, that soon will be the first releasing a tool like this.

The company’s project is to release in 2015 the app Hyundai Virtual Guide, technologic version of the classic paper owner’s manual that, through a smartphone or a tablet and augmented reality, will let the drivers learn more on features, maintenance and repairs of their vehicle.

For the creation of this app, Hyundai followed the answers that their clients gave to some surveys to determine which parts and features on a vehicle were most confusing or difficult to understand and built the app around them; inside Virtual Guide there will be also 82 how-to videos, six 3D overlay images that appear once users scan areas of their vehicle like the engine bay and more than 50 informational guides.

Among these, the app will be able to identify and provide information about the air filter, smart cruise control, Bluetooth phone pairing, warning indicators, clock, engine oil, brake fluid, fuse box and smart trunk.

“The Virtual Guide is aimed at educating our owners on how to use the functions and features of their vehicle,” said Frank Ferrara, executive vice president, customer satisfaction, Hyundai Motor America. “We modernized the idea of an owner’s manual to provide the highest-quality user experience for the growing population of tech savvy consumers.”

Hyundai Virtual Guide will be at first compatible with Hyundai Sonata 2015, recognizing more than 45 major features of this model, but it will cover other vehicles in the future.

Every fashion addicted’s dream is to try on dozens of articles without having to undress and dress again to wear them all: dresses, bags, bijoux, accessories…imagine you can see them on you simply choosing the ones you like from a catalogue.

This kind of solutions, thanks to augmented reality, is starting to be used more often by retail companies all around the world; today we go to India to talk about the new project by Shoppers Stop, retail company counting 74 stores in different cities all around the country and featuring also a big online presence. It’s probably thanks to its love for the web and the virtual world, that the company thought it was a good idea to make easier for clients to choose products trying them on virtually thanks to augmented reality.

The system is easy: you enter a dressing room in which there’s an augmented reality mirror, called “Magic Mirror“; through the mirror you can choose among 1500 products sold by the company and in the time of a second you can see them directly on you. You can also mix and match the products, wearing more than one at time.

For now there’s only one Magic Mirror inside a shopping mall in Mumbai, but the enthusiasm that clients showed for this device makes everyone think that soon it will be pretty common; Aanchal Kumar, a client of the mall, said about it: “Shoppers Stop’s Magic Mirror is a really fun and fascinating concept. I’ve virtually tried on about 25 dresses in a matter of seconds and without needing to use a trial room at all. How cool is that?”

If you are curious of trying augmented reality in a shopping situation, you don’t have to travel to Mumbai: you can do it right now with Experenti’s free app (Android, iOS) and our kit; one of our example tags is set inside a clothes shop and you will meet a nice virtual assistant.

We could say that augmented reality had its beginnings no less than at the dawning of ‘900: the writer L. Frank Baum, author well-known for his popular “The wizard of Oz”, in 1901 was the first one theorizing an electronic display that could add data to reality. For many, anyway, the birth of this technology dates to the beginning of the ’60s, when Morton Heilig invented his Sensorama, a machine that could augment reality with visual content, sounds, vibrations and smells.

There are then many other milestones until our days, but we think it’s reasonable to start talking about a real development of augmented reality as we know it around 2008, when for the first time this technology was mentioned inside the Gartner’s Annual Report about emerging technologies. The document predicted a development of augmented reality after at least ten years.

In 2009 were born the first realities joining augmented reality and geolocalization, based mostly on GPS coordinates: we are talking about Wikitude, Junaio and Layar.

It will be from 2010-2011, anyway, that the augmented reality field will finally start to seriously develop, thanks to the growth of the invested budgets and the development of the smartphones’ market. It will be in this period that the software will start reading always more data: starting from barcodes, QR codes and AR markers, they will soon reach image recognition and other advanced methods. These are the years during which some of the biggest player of augmented reality market are born: their names are Blippar, Zappar and Aurasma.
Also, 2010 was the year that another important AR reality was born: its name was Quest Visual and it was an app for automatic translation from a language to another thanks to augmented reality. Does this reminds something to you? That’s right: Quest Visual will be purchased by Google in 2014 and it will become one of the most famous features of Google Translate.

During these last years, the use of augmented reality and the creation of apps related to it have grown, but probably not as much as it was expected: this technology is not yet finding a space in the users’ daily life, not even of the passionate ones. Why? Probably it is because the big companies in this field focused more on the number of big brands they could get experimenting with the new marketing frontiers instead of widening the trend on the market.

Nonetheless, Gartner’s data seems to be confirmed from the previsions: between 2018 and 2019 it seems that the reach of augmented reality mobile market will be around $2.4 billion in revenues.

Every technology fan knows the problem: to have all your app always with you means to walk around carrying many devices, sometimes even big, e.g. tablets. And if we tell you that in few time you will be able to say goodbye to bags, backpacks and cases?

That’s what will happen soon: the times of busy hands could be at their end since a group of japanese researchers are working on a system that will transform the human arm into a tablet, complete of comfortable keyboard and maybe an app interface. The company is the NEC Corporation and recently announced the creation of the system “ARmKeyPad” that, using augmented reality, projects a keyboard on the arm of the user, leaving his hands free for other uses.

The ARmKeyPad is made of two elements: a pair of eyeglasses and a smart watch; the glasses display the keys on the arm and detect the finger movements, while the watch changes the keyboard visualization tracking the wearer’s motion.

The device is made thinking mostly of the work ambient; in fact, among the strong points that the company highlighted, there are the fact of offering more advantage over other wearable devices that are operated via voice recognition, since they can’t be used in loud environments (as factories and workshops), and also that the workers don’t have to carry around any remote.

Shin Norieda, one of the researchers at NEC, said: “I wanted to make a keyboard of the body so I created this device for people who work in maintenance or factory jobs; they can just go hands-free.”

For the moment NEC didn’t give any sure release date or price of the double device, but revealed that its team is working on it to be released during 2016.

Do you know that 75% of people get distracted while driving, and the most frequent distractions come from a mobile phone? And also that 22% of all auto accidents occur when drivers are multitasking or due to low visibility conditions on roads?

These and others are the problems to which an innovative project wants to put the word “end”: its name is Hudway Glass and it’s ending its Kickstarter campaign right in these hours, after abundantly passing the preset goal (at the moment they raised more than $571.000 on a goal of $100.000). The project wants to create and put on the market a universal vehicle accessory that turns your smartphone into a Head-Up Display (HUD); here comes into play augmented reality, since the data are projected from our smartphone directly on the windshield of our car, letting us drive in a comfortable and safer way.

The device itself is made of a simple smartphone cradle that you can put on top of your dashboard and a transparent plastic lens reflecting and enhancing key pieces of data displayed by your phone.
The user can choose among different apps using GPS and accelerometer to receive data about his position, driving speed and navigation.

The Hudway Glass project is the result of three years of study and follows the development of an app for iOS and Android that, saying it with the creators’ words, has transformed their vision on how cell phones can be used in a car. The app is visually simple and puts in the first place the usefulness: the data visualization is limited to the main ones, showing them large, and not too distracting.

In conclusion, judging also from the amount of money raised by the project, it seems that Hudway found the way for creating a device that joins usefulness and low budget.

Do you remember Toyota Camatte? It seems that Japanese are pretty ahead when we talk about vehicles and augmented reality.

Once again we are in front of experimental projects; if Camatte was an hybrid between a true car and a toy, the two vehicles we will be talking about today, Honda Wander Stand and Wander Walker, have been projected for driving on sideways and crowded ambients.

These two concept cars will be presented at the 44th Tokyo Motor Show 2015 and surely they will leave many people amazed, thanks also to the avant-garde technologies they use. Let’s see them closer:

the bigger vehicle, called Honda Wander Stand, is a two-seats mini-car with a roof and four wheels; it seems to have also sliding doors on the sides. Instead of having a steering wheel, it has a joystick; it features a touch screen with a control panel that synchronize with our smartphone, showing messages and making it possible to accept calls while driving.

The second vehicle, Honda Wander Walker, reminds a city bike, but has four wheels and the pair in front is especially equipped to turn at extreme angles, reaching 90°. It has only one seat, no roof and a frontal screen similar to the other car’s one, with smartphone synchronization included.

Among the features of these two vehicles, there is of course also augmented reality: both cars have a 3D images and data system superimposed to reality; in particular, the Wander Stand has it in the windshield.

From the first released pictures, we can see on the screens some 3D images, the message and call icons and a number beside a search icon, probably indicating the distance until reaching a place.

Today we want to talk about one of the most mysterious companies on the international high tech market: Google invested no less than $542 million and, right in the last days, another global colossus as Alibaba (for those not knowing it, it’s the leader company in the world of Chinese e-commerce) declared to be ready to write a cheque for $200 million. Did you understand who we are talking about? Of Magic Leap, of course.

All we know about this company is that they are working on a big augmented reality-related project, about which from time to time we receive some little updates that are leaving us with a true wow. During last days they released another video, shoot inside the company’s offices as the previous ones, that shows a live demonstration of the product they are working on:

Doesn’t it remind you of anything? If you already tried our demo, surely you will feel some kind of deja vu 😉

But the news related to the mysterious company are not ended! Again during last days, Magic Leap’s CEO Rony Abovitz said: “We’re actually gearing up to build millions of things; we’re not ready to announce when we’re shipping, but it gives you a signal that we’re not fa.”

The announcement adds mystery to mystery: so Magic Leap is preparing to the production of headsets? It seems the answer is yes: Abovitz gave some sporadic hint saying that it will be a little device, that people will feel comfortable to take around.

If all this was not enough already, an additional declaration left everyone surprised and curious; the company’s chief content officer, Rio Caraeff, said that the ultimate vision for Magic Leap is to create a broad-based platform for visual computing: “Anything you can do on a smartphone, you can do with Magic Leap, where the world is your screen.”

Useless to say that the world of augmented reality fans is once more pretty excited.