A New Era in Augmented Reality
August 6, 2018
We’re living in an era where the terms augmented reality (AR), mixed reality (MR) and virtual reality (VR) are now part of our day-to-day lives. The augmented world has quickly evolved from the early AR system created by Louis Rosenberg for the USAF in 1992 to now, where you can buy a mobile head mounted display for $20 at the local drug store.
Let’s take a couple of steps back before jumping into this “new” world. What’s the difference between VR, AR and MR?
Paul Milgram came up with the concept of Virtuality continuum. Basically it defines the possible variations and compositions of real and virtual objects.
Paul Milgram – 1994
This concept could be interpreted as this:
“The best technologies make the invisible, visible”.
The term virtual reality refers to a technology that simulates the physical presence of a user in an artificially generated software environment. This virtual reality creates an environment with which the user can interact mainly auditory or visually.
If we explore the gaming industry, we can affirm that a huge amount of immersive video games has appeared in arcades in the past year resulting in a boom of virtual reality development. Some types of video games lend themselves perfectly to virtual reality.
For instance, horror games become particularly scary in a VR immersion. Shooting games in the first person, especially in collaborative mode, provides an enormous feeling of realism. Adventure games are also particularly adapted to virtual reality. Also, from the beginning, virtual reality sports games have made great strides in the development of advanced interactive simulators.
Tilt Brush, by Google
Among the most played experience in virtual reality on this first quarter of 2018 is Tilt Brush by Google. Tilt Brush lets you paint in 3D space with virtual reality. Your room is your canvas. Your palette is your imagination. The possibilities are endless.
The games I Expect You To Die or Rick and Morty: Virtual Rick-Ality also made a big splash in 2018. I Expect You To Die is a virtual reality puzzle game that places you in the well-polished shoes of an elite secret agent. You must attempt to survive deadly situations in immersive and dangerous locales. Complete each operation using problem-solving skills and wits, and the power of telekinesis and whatever resources you can find to escape each situation,or die trying!
Rick and Morty: Virtual Rick-ality smashes together the absolute VR chaos of the award-winning Job Simulator VR game with the ridiculous, take-no-prisoners comedy of the Rick and Morty TV show. Here, Rick and Morty have teleported into your living room for a cutting-edge VR adventure. Play as a Morty clone as you explore Rick’s garage, the Smith household, and alien worlds.
Arizona Sunshine, one of the best games in virtual reality at the moment, is available on Oculus Rift, HTC Vive and PSVR. This first-person shooter game developed by Vertigo Games offers players to face hordes of zombies in Campaign or Survival mode. Up to four players can cooperate to overcome hordes of undead.
Superhot VR is also among the best games in virtual reality. In this atypical FPS already available on Oculus Rift, HTC Vive and PSVR, the time only takes place when the player moves. The result is a mix of thought and action that is very pleasant.
In summary, virtual reality is a computer-generated interactive experience that takes place in a simulated environment, which primarily incorporates types of sensory feedback, such as hearing and visual. As we’ve seen with the examples above, this immersive environment can be similar to the real world or it can be purely fantastic.
Augmented reality is the superposition of reality and elements (sounds, 2D images, 3D, videos, etc.) calculated by a computer system in real time. It often refers to the different methods that can realistically embed virtual objects in a sequence of images. It applies as well to visual perception (superposition of virtual images over real images) as to proprioceptive perceptions such as tactile or auditory perceptions.
Augmented reality games are becoming deeply implemented in all spheres of our lives. In particular, it was Niantic’s Pokemon GO that really brought augmented reality games to the mainstream.
As you probably know, the Pokemon GO game uses your geolocation to create a virtual battlefield in a real physical environment, such as your neighborhood. The main goal of the game is to catch and train new Pokemons and then battle other players.
Let’s have a look on another title called Parallel Kingdom. This augmented reality game also uses your GPS location to place you in a virtual world on top of the real world.
Parallel Kingdom is a massively multiplayer game which uses territorial RPG elements allowing the player to claim territories based on their current location. In the game, you encounter fierce monsters to conquer and wild territory to claim. You’ll become a mighty master of the wilderness, slaying monstrous beasts. From your real-life location you can claim territory in your own backyard or travel anywhere in the entire world.
As you use your mobile device to discover monsters, you’ll also build resources and structures in your conquered territory using Google Maps GPS technology. Whether you seek to claim your own backyard or Machu Picchu, you’ll be able to build, protect and expand your land. With each flag you build, you’ll bring civilization to a wild frontier, hunting and gathering resources or building a city in the Amazon. It doesn’t end there, create a network of friends to construct a city or kingdom and wage war upon your enemies.
Lenovo’s Jedi Challenge is the closest we’ll ever get to having a true Jedi lightsaber battle. In partnership with Disney, this mixed reality game uses a special helmet to propel you in the Star Wars universe. Experience what it feels like to wield a lightsaber for the first time! Face-off against enemies right in your own living room and feel your opponents’ attacks with force feedback. The Lenovo Mirage AR headset is ergonomically designed for maximum game immersion. The game also provides a beacon ensuring accurate tracking of your location, while expanding and filling in the environment around you with an immersive augmented reality universe. Play with your friends in intense 1-on-1 local multiplayer battles to see who will become the ultimate lightsaber duelist.
In summary, augmented reality is the superposition of reality and various computer-generated elements which are calculated in real time. It often refers to the different methods that can realistically embed virtual objects in a sequence of images.
Augmented reality has multiple applications aside from gaming, and affects more and more areas, such education by play, virtual treasure hunts, cinema and more.
Mixed reality is a term for 3D content visualization devices through a dedicated headset. By definition, this term is a mix between augmented reality and virtual reality. Although closer to augmented reality, it remains different by the technology it embeds.
The main difference between augmented reality and mixed reality is the ability of the headset to take into account real space, thanks to the sensors built into the helmet. The position of the user is also calculated in real time. This results in an improved version of augmented reality. Moreover, the set allows you to interact physically with the elements in 3D through a series of gestures to perform. It can also simply be a layer of virtual elements accurately layered over real terrain.
The limitations of mixed reality has reached new heights thanks to a demo of the HoloLens technology by Microsoft. It shows a player building something in Minecraft with very realistic interactions with the real world around him. Thanks to Microsoft’s augmented reality glasses, this user was able to give the illusion that virtual worlds were actually mixed with the real world since the HoloLens were simply projecting the images onto a table. In the demo, the user could interact with the map, items, and characters displayed in front of him.
Hero Vision: Iron Man AR Experience, by Hasbro and BKOM Studios
Hero Vision is a new tech which puts kids in a world where they are the hero. With the Hero Vision gear, kids get to experience a gameplay inspired by Avengers: Infinity War. Are you ready to suit up like Iron Man? Using special symbols on the Iron Man glove and their Hero Vision Iron Man AR goggles, players can fight enemies from their own living room.
In summary, mixed reality is the fusion of the real world and a virtual world. This mix produces a new environment and visualizations where the real-world and digital physical objects of the virtual world coexist and can interact in real time. Thanks to an immersive technology, a new world mixing the real and the virtual is created.
At BKOM Studios
BKOM Studios has been playing around with Augmented Reality since the early stages of Vuforia, a visual detection software used in augmented reality. Since then, we have experimented with other technologies (SDKs) mostly based on fiducial markers while adding our own innovations along the way by trying different combinations.
Here are some example of our expertise:
AR / VR Interactive Table Prototype (Toy Fair 2017)
This imposing table combines mixed reality technologies as well as tokens and RFID playing cards to create a unique gaming experience! Move your tokens on table and see your virtual characters move and fight each other. Use magic cards to cast spells at your opponent or heal your character. This prototype certainly attracts public attention whenever it is displayed!
BKOM Mixed Reality Castle Siege prototype (Toy Fair 2018)
Using a digital tablet, you can see a 3D virtual castle appear around a plastic tower on a surface. You can then use the tablet to shoot characters around the castle to destroy their walls, while archers try to defend the castle. By switching figure in a plastic barrel, the player can change characters in the game, according to his strategy.
The real game changer came with ARKIT, from Apple, & ARCore, from Google. With these technologies, visible markers became obsolete and were replaced by new hardware allowing visual inertial odometry and scene understanding. As ARKIT is available with all new iPhones and iPads, and ARCore comes with most recent Android devices, penetration rate is less an issue since most people will get the newest phones rather than buying a full VR headset. Augmented reality content is now more accessible than ever and feels more integrated in the real world.
So where do we go from here? How do we continue to minimize the gap between Virtual and Real? In our opinion, a combination of ARKit/ARCore and machine learning is a great recipe to make the invisible, visible.
With machine learning, we can create experiences that not only understand the scene’s geometry, but also understand what the real world consists of. Experiences that can not only do speech to text, but can also interpret emotions and sentiments. Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology like IBM Watson are great tools to leverage.
With all these great technologies, developers can create and innovate constantly by trying different combinations. We’re living in a very exciting era and we’re particularly lucky to be part of the BKOM team to work on cutting-edge technology such as these!