19 October 2018, issue 182

Customs, Customs, and Customs

Headline of the Week: Dubai customs using VR to train agents.
Deep Dive: Does a VR holiday help you recharge like a real one?
Hardware & Ecosystem: Pixel 3 will have augmented reality baked right in.
New Releases: Pest control in VR seems more fun than you might expect.
Worth a Thousand Words: Explore a virtual life on Mars. We love you, NASA.
The Light Side: Magic Leap's virtual assistant is weirdly realistic.

Headline of the Week

Dubai Customs to Use Virtual Reality to Find Hidden Drugs

"The virtual reality teaches them how to start their day before the inspection - all the safety tools should be ready before they go to the ports. It will teach them how to inspect hidden and illegal items, such as drugs, weapons and others. Each time the inspector finds an illegal item, he will get points. When he receives enough points, he can go on to the next level."​​

Sadly they're not using it to actually FIND drugs, just to train their workers, but it makes for a great headline! And this kind of training is absolutely perfectly suited for virtual reality.

Deep Dive

VR Gives New Meaning to 'Holidaying at Home.' But is it Really a Substitute for Travel? 

"When we're engaged in mind wandering, our brains process and appraise mental images via the same neural pathways they use to receive stimuli from the real world. So, the imagined past or future can evoke emotions and feelings similar to how we react to everyday life. VR can elicit these same feelings. Virtual worlds use sensory stimulation and vivid imagery to generate authentic experiences. Immersion in these environments can lead to a deeper understanding of a place or event than simply reading about it or looking at pictures."​

This article has some great points about what makes VR good and where its weaknesses lie, but more importantly, it has a bunch of 360 videos of gorgeous places you can't afford to travel to! 

Hardware & Ecosystem

This Phone Upgrades the Whole Android Universe

"Google is leveraging AI in ways that Apple and Samsung are not. A new Top Shot feature on the 12-MP rear camera automatically snaps a bunch of photos in succession and attempts to choose the right one. This worked well when I snapped a photo of my colleague, Adam. I just swiped up and could easily see which pics Google had picked out. "

Project Tango may be dead, but Google is determined to be THE camera phone, and that extends to making augmented reality that's really killer. These specs will help boost everyone's AR efforts.

New Releases

Wingnut AR Pest Control Shows AR can be Silly 

"Wingnut AR showed off its first augmented reality app for the Magic Leap One Creator Edition. It was a pretty wacky game, as you might expect from the creative minds at Peter Jackson’s AR studio in New Zealand. Wingnut AR Pest Control puts you in the shoes of an exterminator, and it is narrated with dark humor by a guy with a British accent."

Experience the joy of murdering hundreds of evil insects with the swip of your controller. What greater joy could there be?

Worth a Thousand Words

Is this ‘life on Mars’?

"The system uses that data to create an immersive 3D landscape of Mars that scientists can explore wearing VR headsets. A collaboration between Microsoft and Ops Lab, it aims to bring scientists closer to being in the field - without having to take a spaceship or spending decades in transit to get there. The inventive innovation has been awarded NASA's 2018 Software of the Year Award."

NASA just keeps bringing it. It can't get any better than walking on Mars, can it?

The Light Side

Magic Leap's New AI Assistant Looks Alarmingly Human

"Apple has Siri, and Amazon has Alexa. But the lifelikeness of both are dwarfed by Mica: a prototype that Magic Leap, a highly regarded augmented-reality startup, unveiled at its conference Wednesday. Mica isn't just a voice assistant. She's something you can actually see if you wear the company's augmented-reality glasses, called Magic Leap One. Mica looks and acts like a human — she makes eye contact and offers a warm smile, along with other human-like expressions."

Can we please talk about how companies need to stop making their virtual assistants women? Let's acknowledge that women are more than just your secretaries and your servants, please. Thank Google for being the only company not to go down this idiotic, sexist road.