Immersive Tech Briefing: New AR tech 'makes it rain'
The weather may have broken across the UK but it's not the only thing that’s making it rain.
For several years now augmented reality has been giving us flower crowns, cute dog ears and letting us catch our favourite Pokémon on the Go.
While I look fabulous with a flower crown, what it wasn't so great at is working with 3D objects, like humans, as opposed to flat objects like road surfaces.
AR video company Octi is looking to change that after bagging $7.5m of funding to let us get up close and even more personal to the virtual plane.
The company's tech can recognise people and apply effects to them, like putting a glowing silhouette around your body, or "making it rain" so dollar bills flying out of your hands when you do the sliding gesture on your palm.
The company has also partnered with the NFL Players Association, which will let users create videos where they can interact with around 2,000 NFL player avatars.
It may seem like a relatively small thing but the company is using some pretty awesome machine learning tech, and shows that AR is definitely making it rain funding for the company's developing it.
The motion for Immotion
The firm specialises in 'out-of-home' virtual reality experiences and makes VR cinema pods that combine sight, sound and motion for an immersive experience.
It’s raised proceeds of £5.75 million through the placing of 57.5 million new shares at 10p per share. Upon admission, it had a market capitalisation of £19.54 million.
The Manchester-based company will use the funds to become "a leading participant" in the 'out of home' VR experience market by creating and publishing high quality content and combining it with its VR motion platforms.
Again, exciting times to be working in VR – and I can’t wait to try these cinema pods either.
→ READ MORE: VR group joins stock exchange with £20m float
Join the race to test-drive Mario Kart VR
I have a confession. I had never played Mario Kart before this year. At 30, that’s pretty embarrassing, but not as embarrassing as how badly I played for the first few months.
Less than a year in though, it’s going pretty well. I’m not slipping on my own banana skins any more, but I’m also no longer staying up until 3am after playing for six hours straight. I’ve found what I would call, although many health professionals may disagree, a perfect balance.
It looks like I might’ve gotten into Mario at just the right time too, because a virtual reality version of the game is launching in London next month and I can’t lie, I’m pretty excited.
After dropping in Tokyo a year ago, the new multi-player-only game Mario Kart VR has been a huge success, to the point where they’re bringing it over here too.
Fans can sign up to a waiting list to try the game from August 3rd at Hollywood Bowl in London’s O2 Arena and guaranteed it’ll sell out quick so get in there.
If you’re north of the wall or don’t make the cut then despair not, there are plans to bring the game to other parts of the country, including Tunbridge Wells and Leeds, later on.
The song that’s virtually a hit already
Thanks to my dependence on Spotify, a music video really has to be something special for me to watch it these days – but I have a feeling Brandon Howard’s upcoming single might make the cut, even though I’ve never actually heard of the guy before.
As well as winning me over as a fan, the multi-platinum singer, songwriter and producer can now add ‘tech innovator’ to his list of accomplishments after announcing his next music video will be beamed to us in interactive virtual reality.
Howard is collaborating with VR company Fibrum to make the video, who says that the project is going to be so much more than a 360-degree video.
Sporting high-quality CGI, users can interact with characters in the video and have an active hand in what happens during it – similar, I’d imagine, to the ‘Give Yourself Goosebumps’ books, if anyone else remembers that.
The next generation in music video should be coming within the next month or two so keep your ear to the ground and your beady little eyes on a VR headset.
App hunts down treasure following administration fears
Everyone loves a good treasure hunt – including, it seems, the new backers of augmented reality 'treasure hunt' app Snatch.
Originally backed by LastMinute.com founder Brent Hoberman, Silicon Valley Bank and Unilever Ventures, the company found itself with ‘cash flow problems, it told us and teetered on the brink of administration. Luckily it managed to find a new supporter.
Snatch is an evolution of brand marketing wrapped up in an AR treasure hunt and has been dubbed the 'Pokémon Go for brands'.
The smartphone app uses a player's location paired with augmented reality to transform their immediate surroundings into an interactive playground.
In the game, players travel around through a real map to find parcels. If they can hold onto a parcel for long enough without it being stolen, it can be opened to claim real prizes from one of the app's partners.
The business and its assets have now been sold in a pre-pack deal to an unnamed buyer. The terms of the transaction were undisclosed but administrators said the sale had secured jobs at the company.
→ READ MORE: AR treatsure hunt app saved from administration
Times Square immerses itself in climate change
Apart from a few extreme sceptics, most of us are well aware of the dangers of climate change – just ask anyone in the UK after the scorching last few weeks (yes I’m aware that’s not really how climate change works).
But one artist that’s making the issue a lot more vivid is Mel Chin, who translated it into a mixed reality display in Times Square this week.
Thanks to rising temperatures and therefore, rising seas, in a few hundred years from now, a fair part of Manhattan could be in a watery grave.
Chin has created an experience that means you can stand in Times Square and watch boats float overhead, as if you were already underwater.
Anyone who wants to check it out can do so via a smartphone AR app or a Microsoft HoloLens headset, to watch the six-minute Unmoored experience to really immerse themselves in the realness of the situation.
Unfortunately, due to the crazy heat at the moment, it sounds like users have been having issues actually viewing the displays in the sun and headsets have been kept under ice packs in a slightly less futuristic cooling system.
Visit the 3,000-year-old VIP room
One of the things I love about tech is that it’s a great leveller, making things that are often too expensive or impossible for most people more accessible.
This is definitely true of the original VIP room – the 3,000-year-old tomb of the Egyptian queen, Nefertari.
The tomb is so delicate that until now only those who could pay a princessly sum could take a look inside the final resting place of Ramses II’s favourite wife.
But a new VR experience ‘Nefertari: Journey to Eternity’ means anyone can now visit the Valley of the Queens for free.
The tomb is known as ‘the Sistine Chapel of Ancient Egypt’ and is meant to be a stunner, with the VR tour showcasing the incredible paintings, hieroglyphs and ancient gods as the ‘original artists and architects created’.
You’ll need an HTC Vive for the full experience, which obviously costs – but probably not as much as a trip to Egypt.