Daily Archives: March 2, 2016

Mixed Reality

If you were to stand near the person in the video above you would just see a man punching the air in an empty green room. Dylan Fitterer is in VR though and he’s basically dancing.

He’s bouncing back and forth to the beat of the music he hears — a song called Vortal Combat from Valve’s Half-Life series. He wields a pair of colorful shields and is deflecting sounds with each carefully timed punch. The sounds are arching toward him through space like flaming blue and red fireballs and his shields — his “audioshields” — are his only defense.

This gap between what a person experiences while in VR and what a person sees from the outside is a very big problem. It’s why I think so many people found themselves at least a little bit alarmed by this image of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg strolling by unsuspecting journalists immersed in Gear VR.

The problem is bigger than simply photos that bring to mind George Orwell’s 1984. It’s the simple fact that, to the unaided eye, it’s impossible for others to see what a person in VR sees. This inability to communicate virtual experiences opens up VR early adopters to ridicule, as is evidenced by some of the negative reactions to the Zuckerberg photo.

More importantly, this inability to communicate VR experiences is a barrier to adoption. People all over the world interested in this technology cannot fully comprehend what they will be buying. That is, until the developers of Fantastic Contraption started working on their mixed reality streaming with the HTC Vive. A visual effects expert is taking the technology to the next level, using it to pioneer a way to make game trailers that truly show what a VR game feels like to a person playing it. Essentially, they use a camera and a green screen to sandwich a virtual foreground and background around a person’s real-world movements.

Now Fitterer, the developer of Audioshield, becomes the second HTC Vive developer to use this approach to present his game. It’s only going to continue from here as more developers figure out how to do this and, for the first time, people curious about VR will finally be able to see the effect a person’s actions in the real world have on their virtual environment.

This mixed reality capture holds enormous potential to spread understanding about VR and, with it, make it more likely people will make the leap and invest in hardware and software to have these experiences in their own homes. The more I’ve seen of this technology the more I suspect the way people use sites like YouTube and Twitch is poised for a complete transformation. These videos are only the beginning. In a couple months enthusiasts and developers will be flooding the Internet with mixed reality videos.

Lastly, as these videos start to proliferate, I  wonder if they will aid adoption of the HTC Vive over the next six months more than the Oculus Rift. Oculus is shipping Rift with only an Xbox One controller for input and its [...]

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Mixed Reality Videos Could Accelerate VR Adoption

Meta2 Augmented Reality Glasses

I’m standing in a dark room looking at a holographic browser window displaying an Amazon listing for a pair of Nike shoes. The window is slightly translucent and locked in space in front of me. I lean around it and see it is a completely flat, 2D object in 3D space – the flattest screen possible.

Instinctively, I reach out to interact with the page, tapping at the picture of the shoes to get a better look. Instead of getting a zoomed in version of the flat image, a 3D model of the shoes appears. Reaching out and grabbing it, I was able to bring it closer to my face and examine the details.

Using both hands, I pull the 3D model in opposite directions, sizing it up to about the same size as my foot. Then I place it over my own shoe and slipped into the future… a future for AR begins now.

Today Meta, an augmented reality company based in California, announced their second development kit, the Meta 2. The much improved kit is currently available for preorder on Meta’s website for $949 and is slated to ship in Q3 of this year.

Last week I had a chance to stop by Meta’s offices with Robert Scoble and got a tried the device which impressed everyone at TED out for myself, and what I saw was AR growing beyond its infancy.


Meta 2 has a 90 degree diagonal field of view, offering a much more immersive experience than Microsoft’s HoloLens which has an FOV currently less than half of 90 degrees. In addition to a large FOV, Meta’s 2560 x 1440 display allows you to see details in the holograms. Perhaps the most important display factor, for a device whose initial function likely will be at an enterprise level, is that text appears crisp and legible even from a distance.

You can see Meta 2’s screen above my brow.

One thing I did notice was my eyes had a bit of trouble converging on images at a super close range. This might be a pitfall of Meta’s stereoscopic display technique.

Meta 2’s display works by mirroring a standard display positioned above your brow onto the glass in front of your eyes. It produces a 3D image the same way the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive do, by rendering a scene for each eye. This approach greatly differs from, Meta’s extremely well-funded competitor, Magic Leap’s light field display.


Beyond the display, Meta’s tethered system also uses a set of cameras and sensors for tracking hand/finger movements and positional tracking.

During my time at Meta’s offices, I had a chance to experience the device in two stages: one built on top of the previous platform, and one that represents where the technology is today. The main difference is that the current technology no longer uses a peripheral camera based tracking system. However, the Meta 2’s inside out tracking still leaves a bit to be desired, but it was effective enough in our short use cases. Out of the multiple areas to compare [...]

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Meta’s New AR Glasses Help Bring the Future into Focus, ...