14 September 2018, issue 177

Trade Wars, MRIs, and Luggage

Headline of the Week: US/Chinese trade war is hurting Silicon Valley.
Deep Dive: Seeing the terror kids face before MRIs made this doctor act.
Hardware & Ecosystem: New HoloLens will have 1 camera instead of 5.
New Releases: Measure your carry-on luggage with augmented reality.
The Breakdown: Men and women navigate differently thanks to mental maps.
The Light Side: Okay. So... science VR app about ducks' vaginas. Yup.

Headline of the Week

Trade War Is Hurting Silicon Valley

"Augmented reality startup Meta Co. was on the verge of raising funds from Chinese backers when the lead investor froze the deal at the behest of a Chinese official who cited the trade war. It’s the latest sign that U.S. tariffs on Chinese goods and a crackdown on foreign investment in U.S. tech companies is casting a chill in Silicon Valley. Small hardware makers are already suffering from rising tariffs, and now startups looking to raise money in China are feeling the effect."

Trade wars aren't good for anyone, but high tech industries are the first to suffer when it comes to fluctuating relationships with China. US companies may find themselves wanting to move offices off-shore, or diversify into other regions.

Deep Dive

MRI Scans are Horrible for Kids – so I Created a Virtual Reality App to Help

"The scanner is a noisy, claustrophobic tunnel that pins you down for up to an hour. You could liken it to a torture device, something you might see in a James Bond film. I’ve seen adults collapse in tears at the thought of going in, so for children it can be particularly traumatic. Often the only option is to put the child to sleep, a procedure that is costly, adds risk and is also quite scary."

This heart-wrenching article describes how traumatic medical procedures can be for kids. A smart hospital physicist realized a lot of the fear came from not knowing wht was going to happen. By creating a virtual simulation of the machine, he helped kids face the procedure calmly and even with excitement. 

Hardware & Ecosystem

Instead of 5 Cameras HoloLens 2.0 May Just Have One 

"In a new patent applied for in March 2017 and published today, Microsoft describes a new multi-spectral camera which may replace the 5 cameras with just one. ... A device and method use multiple light emitters with a single, multi-spectrum imaging sensor to perform multi-modal infrared light based depth sensing and visible light based Simultaneous Localization and Mapping (SLAM). The multi-modal infrared based depth sensing may include, for example, any combination of infrared-based spatial mapping, infrared based hand tracking and/or infrared based semantic labeling. The visible light based SLAM may include head tracking, for example."

Having fewer cameras means the device would be a lot lighter, and potentially could make it smaller as well. We're pretty excited for the potential of HoloLens 2.0, which can take the learnings from the first generation to make something pretty sweet.

New Releases

Now You Can Use AR to Check Your Hand Baggage Size 

"Dutch airline KLM has worked with Apple’s augmented reality technology to produce an app which lets customers make sure their bags aren’t too big for carry-on. KLM’s AR hand baggage check uses a transparent, virtual suitcase, which shows the permitted dimensions for hand baggage on board. The user’s real bag is shown next to it."

Such a useful app! What's the point of getting all the way to the airport and THEN checking the size of your carry-on?

The Breakdown

VR Research Finds Sex Difference in Navigational Efficiency

"Though Alexander Boone, Xinyi Gong and Mary Hegarty are keen not to be seen as promoting the idea that men are better navigators, a mental map approach is generally regarded as being superior, as it permits novel shortcuts (when they are possible, of course). And in this new virtual reality study, men were not only significantly more likely than women to take short cuts, but they were, on average, more efficient at finding their way to target locations."

There's no exploration into the why of the findings here (nature vs nurture, how men and women are trained to tackle problems) but for our part, the interesting part is how virtual reality allowed exploration of a situation that would otherwise have been quite difficult to test. When participants were asked about what methods they use to navigate, it turned out most of them reported wildly wrong. Sending them out into the city and timing how long it took them and how lost they got would have made for a challenging study. But creating a virtual simulation is relatively easy.

The Light Side

Take a Rollercoaster Ride Through a Duck's Vagina in VR

"There might be a bias toward weird animal dicks over equally-intriguing vaginas because “vaginas are internal structures and not bibbling around and exposed and everything,” he said. It’s a correct observation: Lots has been written about the corkscrew pig dick, the mallard duck penis, and the echidna’s four-headed penis. We gawk at these because they’re so foreign from what human sex organs look like, but what about female anatomy? Female animal genitalia is often just as bizarre as their corresponding dicks."

This app seems mostly hilarious until you observe the black and white photo of the inside of a duck's vagina. And then you learn there are things you can never unsee.