Thursday, May 14, 2015

Augmented Reality company DAQRI Acquires AR Pioneer ARToolworks

Augmented Reality company DAQRI has acquired AR software pioneer ARToolworks, makers of the open source AR platform, ARToolKit. It has been years since I have used the platform myself but this is interesting news. 

Here is the news via Business Wire:
DAQRI, the leading augmented reality/4D company, today announced the acquisition of ARToolworks, pioneers in the field of augmented reality and creator of ARToolKit, the world’s most popular library for AR application development. DAQRI, already a leader in 4D hardware and software, will make all of the features of ARToolKit’s commercially licensed Pro version, such as the markerless, natural feature tracking libraries, iOS, Android and Unity versions, available free and open source under a LGPL v.3 License, as of today. This includes a commitment to expand ARToolKit, with DAQRI’s state-of-the-art industrial and mobile tracking technologies. 

 “My original vision for AR involved a future where this technology was part of our everyday lives, providing a layer of information over everything in the world around us. When ARToolKit was released, it inspired a whole generation of augmented reality development. For over 15 years, when people entered the space, ARToolKit was one of the first things they picked up, and it helped them learn what AR was all about,” said Brian Mullins, founder and CEO, DAQRI. “We believe that it’s important to have free and open source software at the core of an industry. We’re hoping that with this acquisition, and our commitment to developing ARToolKit in the future, we can kick off the next AR revolution and inspire a whole new generation to pick it up and make things that haven’t been imagined yet.” 

 Founded in 2001, ARToolworks was an early advocate in making cutting-edge AR technology available commercially. As the creators of ARToolKit, the company has continued to develop AR technology and expanded into a robust slate of customized software. ARToolKit is one of the most widely used AR tracking libraries, with close to one million downloads to date and is available on all major operating systems and programming languages. The ARToolworks’ team will join DAQRI, with CEO Ben Vaughan and CTO Philip Lamb leading the newly created open source division. 

 “My original vision for AR involved a future where this technology was part of our everyday lives, providing a layer of information over everything in the world around us,” said Vaughan. “Now we are on the cusp of that vision becoming a reality. ARToolKit’s existing open source partners created an array of derivative products that helped drive the early growth of the AR industry. With DAQRI, we will be offering the community a host of new features and in-depth support to encourage a second wave of development.”

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Microsoft Builds the future of Augmented Reality with HoloLens

 At its Build Developer Conference in San Francisco today, Microsoft provided some new details on its HoloLens virtual reality device it announced back in January. HoloLens is a head-mounted, holographic computer with a depth camera that provides a mixed-reality experience for a range of applications. I briefly covered the HoloLens in a previous post and was hoping Microsoft would share more about the unit today. It seems someone in Redmond was listening to my geek prayers.

Today Microsoft showed off various HoloLens applications that work with Windows 10 and even one that controls a Raspberry Pi robot. They also announced support of HoloLens by the Unity3D game engine.

The Verge has a great recap of the day's announcements and HoloLens in the video below.

Another demonstration today during the Build Conference keynote session showed the integration of HoloLens with Trimble’s SketchUp 3D modeling software and the Trimble Connect collaboration platform. While these applications are still in development, it really gets one thinking about the HoloLens use in built environment related industries. It will be exciting to see what AEC Hackathon hackers create with this device when it is made available to developers.

I will be following HoloLen's development as Microsoft has definitely made this an exciting time for augmented reality.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Farm to Table VR - Food Industry and virtual reality

 There is a lot that still needs to be done before virtual reality is a mainstream thing, but what I know will help is when I see people in non-tech related industries embracing VR to use in their own professions. One example of this is a set of experiences I discovered a friend from the food industry is doing using virtual reality for a food blog she produces content for called Nopalize. I had a chance to briefly catch up with her and ask her these questions.

Tell us a little about yourself and Nopalize.
"My name is Lauren Stokes, I'm a native Texan, nutritionist, and yogini residing in San Francisco. I am a food lover and food media producer. By day I am a yoga instructor and by night I produce videos for

Started in 2013, Nopalize is an industry-backed food media movement sharing access to growers, producers and makers in our local food community, both online and offline. Our mission is bringing people and food closer together. We are proudly sponsored by Nopa and Nopalito Restaurants in San Francisco, CA."

Why are you interested in Virtual Reality? 
"The experience of VR engages feeling and emotion as I have never experienced before through traditional media. I think VR will help people understand how things are orchestrated in the food world, giving a personal real life experience that is captivating, educational, and engaging. It will enhance the message we are trying to spread about food and food culture."

How do you feel it will enhance your story and communication?
"The advantage to VR is that it gives the individual control to create their own experience by adjusting their focus to what makes the most sense for them to absorb and process the information, whether it be watching someone's technique on how to make something or looking at their face having them explain it. While the director is still controlling what is in the shot, the viewer can personalize the experience by having control over what they want to look at in the scene."

I see you have plenty of videos and other media on Nopalize. Any VR content yet for people to experience on the site?
"Not yet on the site but we are working on a few virtual reality videos with the help of a leading VR company. This is a very exciting project so expect to see something soon. Stay tuned to our website and blog for more information!"

Check out Nopa and Nopalize restaurants in San Francisco and mad props to the Nopalize team for using virtual reality to immerse us into the story behind our food for healthier living. Truly a VR story I definitely think all can sink their teeth into.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

VR Hackathon Update: 360° and Growing

Here is a quick post to share some cool VR Hackathon news and info on upcoming events.

360° video of the Oct. 2014 event
The MindVR team was cool enough to shoot the October 2014 event in 360° video and then post it on Vrideo, an immersive video platform. I need to dive deeper into Vrideo and its features, but at a glance it seems to be a platform for hosting and viewing 360° video that is also VR enabled. Once you start the video below, left click and hold to grab the video and move your mouse to look around. This video on mobile devices requires you turn with the device to look around.

*if the above embed doesn't work here is a link to the video.

The Growing Community 
With the success of the last event here in San Francisco and the growing interest by developers and designers of immersive technologies to have a weekend of creating and building, the VR Hackathon is expanding to new locations and age groups. There are events this year planned for San Francisco, Seattle, Cameroon, South Africa, and Albania. Check out the website for more details on upcoming events.

Also, the first VR Hackathon MINI for grade school students and young adults will be held in New Jersey this May. This event, initiated by tech savvy teachers, will give students in grades 5th-8th a full day of creating virtual and mixed reality content via tools like Minecraft, PlayingMondo, and Unity3D. I may get the chance to participate in this event as a guest so I am super excited to see what the next wave of VR creators will make.

That is all to share for now but what a start to an event that kicked off just six months ago.


Sunday, March 1, 2015

REAL 2015 - Where the Sensor meets the Maker

 This past week was the REAL conference, an event organized mainly by Autodesk to explore the convergence of the professional 3D sensing, making & visualization industries.

From the website:
"REAL is both an exclusive executive summit, REAL TALK, & a world’s fair of cutting-edge 3D demos, REAL LIVE. REAL is new and different: an immersive, hands-on, high-level gathering in a historic venue with a unique program. REAL is real people, doing real-world work with reality tech. REAL is Reality Computing.

REAL is 500+ leaders and innovators — professionals from across industry, investing, research, and media. REAL brings together real work spanning disciplines from: Architecture to Art, Engineering to Entertainment, Manufacturing to Media, Heritage to Health, and Sports to Science… REAL is executives & engineers, developers & designers, inventors & investors, architects & artists, makers & meteorologists, surveyors & scientists, entrepreneurs & educators. 

 From drones to autonomous cars, industrial robots to major engineering works, and game consoles to tomorrow’s mobile phones, 3D sensors are suddenly everywhere. And several decades after first grabbing headlines, VR and 3D printing are hot again, attracting billions in investment, and moving beyond early adopters to professionals. But it is the sum total, where sensing meets making, where big change is brewing. While the ‘Internet of Things’ grabs headlines, a 3D revolution is quietly building."

Although I only was there for one day, this was quite the event and I rank it among the best I have ever attended. Yes it had cool exhibitors and great speakers, but my high marks come from it bringing together communities that normally don't mix, even though they are complementary and or share technologies. Most parts of the '3D life cycle' were present.

Autodesk pretty much owns the 3D modeling tools space, so 3D creation from that standpoint was in the house if not directly represented on the expo floor. Most, if not all, of the 3D creation was from scanning and capture technologies and companies like Leica, Matterport, Occipital, and Floored.

Companies like Arup and Autodesk showed off interactive 3D and VR applications while immersive technology companies including IrisVR and Metaio dazzled folks with virtual and augmented reality demos.


A little light on the 'Make' side, the event did showcase some digital fabrication art installations with Fathom and a few other companies demonstrating how 3D and scanned data can be used for digital fabrication (mainly 3D printing).

Topping things off on the last day, Matt Sonic and the San Francisco Virtual Reality Meetup group had their eighth meeting at the close of the REAL event that included thought provoking presentations and VR devs showing off some VR demos (unfortunately none related to the theme of the conference).

This event was a great #1 and I can't wait to participate in the whole event next year to see what 3D technologies they invite next. This is definitely an event that as it grows, the world of 3D is going to get very REAL.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

UPLOAD VR - making the SF virtual reality scene a cool one

Over the past couple years, there has been a rise in groups that focus on virtual reality here in the SF Bay area (mainly due to Oculus' success).  It used to be just the Silicon Valley and San Francisco VR Meetup groups, but now there are at least half a dozen groups, and growing, focused on some element of the VR ecosystem. Normally VR meetups are 95% men that are the usual geeks and enthusiasts. I can say this because I am one of them and attend quit a variety of VR and related events.  One such Meetup group that is doing a great job of marketing VR to a much larger audience than the usual VR developer is UPLOAD VR.

UPLOAD VR self proclamation is as, "An international VR community dedicated to accelerating the development of the virtual reality industry. We are an eclectic group of designers, developers, engineers, artists, entrepreneurs, educators, investors and innovators pioneering the future of virtual reality. We bring virtual reality to the masses through experience driven events."

I applaud the organizers Taylor, Nick, AJ, and Will for making VR cool and hip. Their events always have great demos, good music, and a diverse crowd of VR developers, content creators, and enthusiasts. Recently they have decided to take their VR event on a world tour and kicked things off last month with a UPLOAD VR Virtual Reality World Tour Kickoff held at City View on top of the Metreon.

The World Tour Kickoff was by far the best VR event I have ever attended. It easily had several hundred people there when I showed up, tons of VR demos, a DJ spinning great tunes, performance dancers, projection mapping, interactive art, and more. A majority of the hardware and software vendors big and small were present with some new VR startups showing off their wares. 

The gents are now moving the event on to other cities including New York and Austin. I highly recommend this group and its events to all that want to be cool, and not just geeky, with virtual reality. Keep uploading the VR coolness UPLOAD VR!