For at least the past decade, Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) have been touted several times as hot, emerging technologies on the cusp of mainstream. They should become part of our everyday life and an integral part of our entertainment consumption. Except that somehow they never crossed this magical threshold to become “must have” experiences.
But now at last, massive advances in headsets / glasses in terms of weight and design, as well as the introduction of LIDAR as standard on some top-end phones, could be groundbreaking. LIDAR is a method of determining distance by aiming a laser at an object and measuring the time it takes for the reflected light to return to the receiver. Lidar can also be used to create 3D digital representations of objects. In addition, thanks to artificial intelligence (AI), which is replacing classic computer processing, breathtaking speeds are driving the rendering of virtual worlds and the objects they contain, and all of this makes these previously snubbed technologies considerably more desirable.
Do you remember Google Glass? Probably not. (Google wishes you would forget about them, too.) It came and went without creating a wave. The promise of relatively harmless glasses that act as an interface – as opposed to a large and inescapably / inevitably immersive VR headset – has since hovered over virtual technologies.
Just before summer, the news that Snap had been developing new AR glasses was spoiled a bit by the fact that they weren’t actually for sale. What a joke. Your new AR glasses project virtual images into the world right in front of the wearer, but at least for now they are only available to developers at Snaps Lenses, the software that creates these virtual images.
If it seems crazy not wanting to sell the glasses, it’s all about the content in the end. Snap understandably doesn’t want their glasses to take the path of 3D television, which died in part due to a lack of content that would lead you to sit in glasses for hours. Snap’s intent, some would say desperation, is to find developers who can create compelling and visually stunning lenses that will sell the technology to the public. That being said, and strictly technically, Snap has been ahead of the curve for some time thanks to its range of AR-controlled filters on the platform we all use.
Cortney Harding, founder of Friends With Holograms, a maker of award-winning, groundbreaking custom AR and VR experiences, believes we need to separate the two technologies.
“An important point here is that AR and VR expand differently. AR is much more consumer-friendly because most of us have smartphones, while VR is more relevant to the corporate sector and gaming, ”says Harding. “In addition to Snap, both Facebook and Apple are developing AR glasses, but we won’t be wearing them anytime soon – in the case of Apple, maybe in 18 months to two years. And despite the growing presence of these big players, I assume that the acceptance curve will remain quite slow. This is a marathon, not a sprint, and both technologies need people who know what they are doing. If you’ve ever seen a badly shot VR video, you will know exactly what I’m talking about. They can make you feel physically ill. “
Of course, we can’t mention AR without talking about NFTs, the blockchain-based, AR-powered phenomenon that exploded earlier this year and was championed by artists such as 3Lau, Richie Hawtin, DeadMau5, Don Diablo, and many others. While some are pondering the importance of buying something that only exists virtually, Hawtin understands its appeal.
“Part of being a fan is that you want exclusive things from the acts you love, and NFTs do just that. To compare it to something in the offline world, people joined fan clubs over at Groups to get access to things that were not available to non-members, ”he said while appearing on the Amsterdam Dance Event’s“ In Conversation ”series on Vodcasts. “NFTs open up a variety of possible interactions and relationships between artists and their fans.”
Ashley Crowder, co-founder and CEO of AR specialist VNTANA, also sees telephones as the key to wider use of AR. The user base is 100 times larger. “
Crowder’s company makes 3D e-commerce quick and easy on a large scale, which has been shown to double conversion rates and increase shopping cart size by 60%. Their patented optimization algorithms allow brands like Hugo Boss, Deckers Brands, and Diesel to use their existing 3D designs to instantly create high-resolution, fast-loading 3D assets that are automatically ready for use on the web, social media, and advertising to be optimized in games. Engines and more. Just as Vimeo and YouTube made video sharing and embedding easy, VNTANA makes it easy for brands in fashion, shoes, furniture, tools, and more to share and embed 3D and AR for sales and marketing purposes.
“We also work with various game companies, including Fortnite owner Epic, because product placement should be natural in games, just as it has been in movies for many years,” says Crowder. “This is happening, but it has to be even more scalable and easier to add than it is now. However, the fact that the iPhone 12 Pro and iPad Pro both have LIDAR also means that users will be able to scan anything they want in 3D and apply it to their avatars. And while the quality is inferior to a scan by a professional company, it will only increase given the time we spend online. “
LIDAR and 3D scans also have a big impact on NFTs. Says Crowder, “NFTs are only available in 2D right now, so we’re developing a system to create sellable 3D assets, and it’s not hard to imagine how much more salable and attractive a 3D file is compared to its 2D cousins Is.
“The idea of owning a 3D file is a whole different level than we are now. For example, they could be used as skins in video games. “
The same 3D NFTs could also be used to dress up for a virtual party. Sam Distaso, VP Business Development for Sansar VR at Wookey Technologies, has understandably been very, very busy since the lockdown sparked a surge in demand for something that resembles parties like it used to be. The company has a deal with concert giant Live Nation, which has spawned a virtual version of the Splendor In The Grass festival. They also have a contract with the Steam gaming platform and have hosted thousands of shows over the past 18 months.
“But these are mainly external parties who use our platform and our facilities,” says Distaso. “We put on almost 100 events that we would call real shows or festivals with several acts. In fact, the demand currently exceeds our capacities. As a short term solution, we outsource 80% of the design needed to run an event to small studios, but are working towards a situation where we offer a self-service interface. That said, anyone who wants to organize an event can choose an event template and just start designing the environment. Ultimately, we want to get out of the way and let people keep going. We aim to achieve all of this by the end of the year, but that may be a bit optimistic. “
The irony of this is that platforms like Minecraft or Roblox could do anything Sansar does, but the breadth and flexibility of the Sansar offering, plus the fact that the platform was built by music fans who love to attend events, wins the day.
“The huge investments in game engines mean they render amazing graphics, but events require a dedicated engine and serious flexibility to work with ticket sellers and merchandising companies, as well as the ability to organize meet and greet artists; even panels and round table discussions for business-oriented events. The thing that has become apparent from the pandemic is that real events are limited by the geography and capacity of the venue, but if you can get around these restrictions and then also offer events that actually work and have a high engagement factor You respect and repeat business, and that’s where Sansar is now, ”adds Distaso.
The fact that many of Facebook’s recent acquisitions – including BigBox VR, Downpour Interactive, and Unit 2, makers of the collaborative game-making platform Crayta – are all in the gaming sector is significant. Mainly because they’re driven by the belief that games are the biggest entry-level industry for VR, but as usual, uptake and development is slower than expected.
“Saying decisively ‘THAT’S THE YEAR’ is just not relevant to these technologies,” says Harding. “Incrementalism is the way forward until people finally feel like it’s always been there. Looking at my own company, we doubled our sales in 2019-2020. We get more work, we have more credibility, and more people and companies are interested in virtual technologies. Really good VR headsets from companies like PICO and Oculus are now very cheap at around $ 250, which means that creating inclusive VR content is becoming increasingly important.
“While there is still a widespread and erroneous assumption that headsets are cumbersome, it is not. It was the first time I put headsets on thousands of people and very few really didn’t really like it. To be honest, we’ve now reached the stage where we’ve put every barrier to entry in the industry, so this is really not the time to drop the ball. “