If you think gym is boring and you search for something more exciting, maybe you should try Brooklyn Boulders: sure, for some it is pretty far, but who knows how many would happily travel to try their new system that turns rock climbing in a videogame. How? Through augmented reality, of course!

Some months ago Jon Cheng, member of the gym and founder of the startup Randori, had the idea of creating a game for rock climbing walls called “Time Trial“; the gym gave him the possibility to present his idea during their Community Night, and the other members liked it so much that Brooklyn Boulders decided to try the system inside their spaces.

Time Trial is a game that, superimposing augmented reality elements to the training wall, lets the athletes tpractice climbing while playing a videogame, exactly as we seen it many times on our computers’ or consoles’ screens! The system gives scores to the athlete as he goes up in height and reaches the hand holds, touching the virtual graphic elements in the while, and projects the numbers directly on the climbing wall.

The game could seem complex to work, but actually it needs just few limited tools to be activated: simply a laptop, projectors and a camera sensor.
“We use a projector and a laptop connected to our cloud based platform to play. Once that’s all setup, gym staff can login to their account, pick a bouldering wall, and start projecting any game we have in our library” explained Cheng.

Time Trial will be available to try for free during two open events held in the next months: if you are in Brooklyn don’t forget to have a look!

Apple hires a famous VR and AR researcher

It’s some time that we are waiting for the step that surely Apple will be taking in the direction of alternative realities: the last purchase was Faceshift, the company developer of a software known for analyzing the facial motions of an actor and transcribing them as 3D animation (as seen in Star Wars), but the signals in this direction are countless. Earlier there was the purchase of Metaio, the company developer of an augmented reality software, and then of the 3D outfit PrimeSense, usable with Kinect, and also the hiring of a former Microsoft employee that was working on the HoloLens project.

Now another news made the first page of the magazines, and it is again a hiring in the world of alternative realities: Apple hired Doug Bowman, a researcher and professor at Virginia Tech who is specialized in virtual and augmented reality. Bowman is not only a specialist in the research of these two types of alternative realities, but he is also an expert of 3D user interfaces and his work is mainly to develop the design of these interfaces and to study the advantages of immersing in virtual environments. The researcher has won awards for research into virtual and augmented reality, with projects such as “VR for Sports Anxiety” and the augmented reality videogame “Llamas vs. Kiwis”, and also, with a group of colleagues, a grant from Microsoft to conduct research with the company’s augmented-reality Hololens glasses.

Mr. Bowman didn’t release any comment about the news and, it seems, writing to his mail at the University an auto-responder says that he is away for sabbatical leave until August 2016; Apple, on its side, didn’t say what will be the role of Bowman inside the company, but it is easily deducible.

Sundance Film Festival and Star Wars together? It seems impossible, since we are talking about the most famous independent cinema festival and the well known mainstream space saga, but instead…this year it happened thanks to the presentation of The Holo-Cinema, a new technology that Disney is developing.

The Holo-Cinema is a new solution that joins cinema and augmented reality, and it’s in its development phase in the ILMxLAB division of Lucasfilm. For now, this technology has been studied to give the chance to the viewers to enjoy the Star Wars experience directly in their living room: simply wearing a pair of smart glasses, the user is able to explore various places of the saga, as Jakku desert, and to meet some famous characters as C-3PO and BB-8.
A Lucasfilm’s spokesperson explained The Holo-Cinema’s possibilities, including also an idea about opening some “portals” through reality that will permit the users to visit ambient and subplots that weren’t showed in the movies. “We can put more story out there”, he said.

Anyway, The Holo-Cinema is not the only news connected to alternative realities that we will see this year at the festival; another interesting project, in fact, caught the visitors’ attention: it’s called Leviathan Project and it wants to bring to the screens the Scott Westerfeld’s best-selling Leviathan trilogy of novels thanks to a mix of augmented and virtual reality. These are young-adult sci-fi books, so the theme itself is pretty good for a transposition in different kinds of reality: the story has among the main characters no less than Mary Shelley and Charles Darwin, and the period is the WWI one.
Leviathan Project is the result of a three-year collaborative effort between Alex McDowell’s 5D Global Studio, USC’s World Building Media Lab, Intel, and Unity and, thanks to the use of virtual and augmented reality headsets and also to special gloves equipped with motion sensors, it projects the viewer inside the books’ steampunk world, with the promise of letting him interacting with the objects around.

These two projects seem to be just the beginning of a revolution that, in the opinion of cinema experts and professionals, during next years will take to Sundance many projects related to new realities.

One of the most awaited mobile videogames in 2016? It’s called Pokémon Go and it will be born from a collaboration between The Pokémon Company, Nintendo and Niantic Labs. The name Niantic Labs would have to tell you already something: if the company that created the videogame Ingress is among the creators, of course there will be some augmented reality. And, in fact, Pokémon Go will let players capture Pokémon inside the real world: their smartphone will become a kind of radar and, also thanks to the help of GPS, it will make possible to see the famous little monster superimposed to the reality and to catch them.

During the years we saw many Pokémon videogames, but this is probably the most awaited of them: version after version, the japanese saga built a core of fans and enthusiasts that are following anxiously every release. This time the situation is not different, with the addition of the augmented reality twist.

We already had some anticipations about the game in 2015 , but then the fans were left without news again: no release date, few details. Now an important date is near and this brightens up the hopes again: February 27, in fact, will be the twentieth anniversary of the release of the first Pokémon videogames for Game Boy, Pokémon Red and Pokémon Green. Many are the events and the surprises programmed for this date and the hope is that among these there will be also the release of the augmented reality version.

Nevertheless, listening to the rumors, the videogame will end its beta-testing period only at half 2016, so the official launch will be at least in June.

Another revelation for the fans: it seems that there’s a possibility that this new title will feature a new character. Probably it will be no less than Zygrade, combination between Yvetal from Pokémon Y and Xerneas from Pokémon X.

HoloLens: new details and some disappointment

Microsoft HoloLens continues to be on everyone’s lips: the famous augmented reality headset is about to be launched on the market (there isn’t yet a precise date, but it seems that the developer version will be available soon) and little by little details and news are unveiled.

Some news came from the speech in Tel Aviv by Bruce Harris, Microsoft’s Technical Evangelist. Here’s the video:

In this speech, Harris revealed four important details about HoloLens, and unluckily some of them left a bit of disappointment.

The first one is about the battery: its autonomy will be around 5 hours and an half, 2 and an half in case of massive use of the headset. This is way less than what users were expecting, still anyway you can definitely recharge it between games or work sessions.

The second detail is about the field of view: augmented reality fans heard with some disappointment that the experience of wearing and using HoloLens is comparable to having a 15-inch monitor about a foot away from one’s face. This, still being impressive, is still less than expected.

The third detail, on the opposite, was largely appreciated by the future users: one of the nightmares of augmented reality headsets fans is having to wear devices that are uncomfortable and, even worse, full of wires and cables. HoloLens doesn’t need them, because it will be connected via Wi-fi and Bluetooth to the internet and to other devices.

The fourth and last detail is about Microsoft: HoloLens will natively support all Windows 10 apps, making it possible to use it as you would use a laptop.

Augmented reality helmets? F-35 fighter pilots are using them from some time now to have a look to the airplane performance without having to look down; now, thanks to the two devices presented at CES 2016 by BMW and Skully, this new technology entered also the two-wheeled world.

BMW isn’t new to experiments with augmented reality: we’ve already seen the results of their hi-tech tests when they released the smart glasses helping the driver fixing his vehicle and the famous MINI goggles, with that peculiar strange old-style look. At the Las Vegas event they wanted to surprise us again, this time making a step for taking motorcycling to the future: the company presented DigiLens, their new augmented reality helmet that helps bikers driving in a safer way. To explain easily this device, it’s enough to say they are a Google Glass for helmets, just with a wider view: DigiLens is a magnetic, colored display as thin as eyeglasses that can be clipped in front of the driver’s eye. Inside the helmet, in the biker’s field of view, DigiLens shows important information superimposed.

This technology has the potential to enhance the riding experience by making it easier to see what is behind you, as well as keeping important information in the rider’s field of view,” says Robert Richter, senior advanced technology engineer at the BMW Group Technology Office USA.

Another device related to the world of motorcycling is the augmented reality helmet AR-1 by Skully. At the moment at the end of the crowdfunding campaign, with the device available on the official site for $1499, Skully took part to CES 2016 with a demonstration of the possibilities of AR-1. Skully is an helmet that uses augmented reality to show useful information and also what is recorded with a camera placed on its back directly in the field of view of the biker. Other than this feature, the smart helmet has also an internal audio function that let the driver listen to music and follow the directions given by the navigator.

CES 2016 ended some days ago and left us speechless as usual. This year the alternative realities fans enjoyed it even more, since it’s been inaugurated the Augmented Reality Marketplace, a space entirely dedicated to this theme. And in fact we weren’t disappointed.

One of the leading news came from Google and Lenovo, that during the event announced a pretty interesting partnership that will see them producing a new smartphone, a phablet, the first with Project Tango‘s 3D mapping technology. The objective is clearly to start a new generation of smart devices that could be optimized also for the use of augmented reality and 3D indoor mapping.

The new device wasn’t showed at CES, but some details have been unveiled: since of the dimensions, a wide screen around 6 inches (15 centimeters), it will be a phablet; the cost will be reasonable, remaining under $500, and we will see it on the market probably already from mid-year.

Johnny Lee, leader of Project Tango, in a speech also explained some possible uses for the new device: from helping consumers find their way in a large hotel or mall to taking precise measurements of a room before shopping for furnishings, all this related to the fact that Project Tango’s technology, on the opposite of the GPS one, works also in indoor spaces. Lee told us more: Project Tango “transforms the smartphone into a magical window on the world” and uses depth sensing and motion tracking to create on-screen 3D experiences.

As a whole, this is a pretty important step both for Lenovo, Chinese tech giant, that with this project officially enters the USA market, and for Google, that finally will be able to give a brand new device to the developers for his pretty ambitious Tango technology.

Videogames lovers, this news is for you: imagine you can take you favorite shooter to your work desk and being able to play it between your coffee cup and the computer screen. It is possible thanks to Unreal Engine 4, and a video published by the developer Ádám Horváth demonstrates it:

Unreal Engine is a graphic engine for videogames created by Epic Games and known for the videogame Unreal and its famous follow-up Unreal Tournament; its code is open to the developers, so they can create applications and develop entire videogames using it as a base.

The actual version is Unreal Engine 4, presented in 2013 and released in 2014, and it is the one we can see in action in the incredible video by Horváth: the developer himself shoot with his phone a video in which we can see some character with very good graphic fight one with each other among common use objects placed on the desk. We can’t stop looking at the fighters, but actually the true main character of the scene is augmented reality. It is thanks to the Augmented Reality plugin for Unreal Engine 4 that developers can use the engine to create AR experiences.

There’s more than the highly detailed characters’ graphic: for sure two things standing out are the perfect and real-time shadows and some kind of collision detection, as one thug hits a mug and slumps to the floor.

It seems that the future of videogames is already here: if not in our hands right now, for sure it is just around the corner.

Do you know CES (Consumer Electronics Show)? It is a tradeshow that takes place every year in January in Las Vegas, Nevada, and it’s one of the most important and awaited events dedicated to global consumer electronic and consumer technology.

Technology fans from all over the world gathered yesterday, as the gates of Las Vegas Convention Center opened for the inauguration of CES 2016 edition; the event will be held until January 9th.

This 2016 edition seems pretty full of news for augmented and virtual reality fans: already from the first announcements there have been no doubts about the hot topics of this year, first of all with the opening of the Augmented Reality Marketplace, a space completely dedicated to augmented reality, in which more than 40 exhibitors will showcase immersive multimedia for alternative realities systems and environments. A big guest will be Oculus Rift for virtual reality, while returning to AR there are two important nominations, respectively for Innovation and as Top Product of the mobile section, to the Vuzix headsets and to the ODG R-7 smart glasses by Osterhout.

Since we already followed the event’s opening day, we know that the first news related to augmented reality has already been revealed: yesterday, in fact, Intel presented its new AR headset. It’s called Daqri and, on the opposite of the other similar devices as HoloLens and Google Glass, it’s oriented to the industrial and professional market: it will help the wearer to receive more information, such as diagrams, schematics and problem areas that need fixing, directly in the field of vision while he works. Of course, being Intel, it’s meant to be pretty powerful.

Daqri headset is only one of the many news expected to be unveiled during this CES edition: we can’t wait to discover them all.

Do you remember Google’s Project Tango? It is the project of a platform working on the Android operative system that joins augmented reality, 3D technology and mobile. Google calls it “mixed reality“. Created some time ago, in 2014 it was opened to the developers so they could have the chance to create projects and products fully capitalizing on its possibilities; with it, Google created two devices for the tests, the Peanut Phone and the Yellowstone 7-inch tablet.

Let’s take this base of information and actualize it to this last period, in full Star Wars mania: what could possibly coming from it? Of course nothing less than a perfect union of augmented reality and the movie characters!
A group of developers, going under the name of Trixi Studios, released a video showing Project Tango in action…with a bit of Star Wars! Here it is:

In the video we can see the digital version of the famous BB-8 drone and also some Stormtroopers and Boba Fett: a user goes around some indoor and outdoor ambient of a place that seems a mall, and in the while he fights groups of enemies on his tablet. The scene is recorded in a video taken directly with Google’s mobile device: we can see different real locations all around the characters, completely immersed inside them; the various scenes of the videogame come to life directly inside the real space, with pretty amazing effects, as the Stormtrooper coming out of the portal.

Star Wars fans, don’t be mislead: the video is not a teaser for a product we will see on the market, but just a simple demonstration; as we can read in the message at the start of it: “This video does not demonstrate an actual product in development; it is just to show possibilities of available Mixed Reality Technology. No copyrights is claimed in content. We are just huge fans of Star Wars!
All footage is captured live, and recorded directly on the tablet device (which resulted in some framerate loss). No post editing was done to the video imagery.”