18 January 2019, issue 195

Seven Ate Nine! See The Shocking Pictures!

Headline of the Week: Meta has gone under, a blow for the Canadian MR field.
Deep Dive: Learning empathy is one VR rig away.
Hardware & Ecosystem: Magic Leap is helping designers build in 3D.
New Releases: Haptic suit is the coolest thing you didn't ask for and don't want.
Worth a Thousand Words: Murals you have to look at through a phone... yay?
The Light Side: Your oven can now tell you things you don't care about, too.

Headline of the Week

Meta Claims Insolvency, Some Other Stuff Happens Too

"Meta is done. As we reported back in September, the company was forced to furlough the majority of its staff after failing to secure a new $20 million funding round from investors. On Wednesday, a filing with a Delaware court inadvertently revealed that Meta is insolvent, and is, for all intents and purposes, finished."

It's a disappointing end for a company that showed a lot of promise. Obviously, as fellow Canadians, we were rooting for them pretty hard. But they were also just puruing a really neat idea to blend VR and AR together using front-facing cameras to recreate the world in front of you digitally. No one else has fulfilled the promise of MR (I'm still mad that Microsoft brands their VR headsets with the MR tag, as if language has no meaning at all). RIP, Meta. You will be missed.

Deep Dive

Using Virtual Reality to Teach Empathy ​

"Heeju Kim wants people to fathom what it would be like to be incapable of reading others’ body language and to be perpetually inundated with strange, troublesome noises. The end goal is to give you insight into the sensory and motor challenges that individuals with autism spectrum disorder face, and in turn, cultivate greater empathy.​"

It's incredible how many innovators are inspired by their personal struggles. In this case, Kim has an autistic brother, and she wanted to learn how to better connect with him. She's using VR to do that, and her journey is a really interesting read. 

Hardware & Ecosystem

The First Good Reason to Buy Magic Leap Hype

"Mixed reality, which allows a user to see 3D creations in the real world all around them, makes it easier for the human brain to accurately gauge its size and scale. That’s especially important for industries like industrial design, where a 3D object will eventually be turned into a real product that people physically interact with. A designer would not only be able to visualize it in three-dimensions through the Magic Leap hardware, but they could also walk around it, and even compare it to other real-life products, or previous iterations of the same thing."

It's a no-brainer. Designing for 3D is easier IN 3D. Whether you're making train cars or shoes, being able to see the product, to walk around it, even to hold it in your hands, is a huge help. And given that the Magic Leap isn't really targeted for consumers, this is a smart move to hit the people who might actually be willing to buy one.

New Releases

Smart Suit Uses AI to Simulate Real-World Environments

"The full-body sensations of the Teslasuit seem to indicate a new level of experience for virtual reality users, but the haptic capabilities aren’t the only things making it stand out. The suit’s biometric system is designed to use machine learning to analyze heart rate, stress levels, and overall mental and emotional states to create experiences catered to the user. How this capability will be implemented is really up to game developers, though. As data is gathered from biometrics, capabilities will follow."

It's so great that so many people are working on full body haptic suit that no one is asking for, instead of focusing on the annoying little details like making it so we don't want to throw up in VR, or making the headsets comfortable to wear for more than fifteen minutes.

Worth a Thousand Words

Mural Sparks Conversation on Climate Change

"The mural uses augmented reality technology. In a few short weeks, passersby will be able to hold their phones up to any animal in the mural and see a short video using a soon-to-be-released app called the Anthropocene Extinction. There will be a video for each animal in the mural featuring music and narration that tells about the sixth mass extinction event, which some scientists say is happening right now and is mainly the result of human activity."

Climate change is a weirdly popular topic for augmented reality murals. The appeal still feels hard to put your finger on. Why not just watch a video or see an art project on your tablet? How does going to the physical location and interacting with the mural help add to what you're seeing?

The Light Side

Whirlpool Dishes out the World’s Very First AR Oven 

"Aside the regular calendar check and similar features, the screen dishes out recipe suggestions based on your personal preferences, dietary schedule, or time required to cook the meal. Also, to ease the beginner cuisine savants into its multi-function self, the Augmented Reality oven from Whirlpool is packed with detailed instructions. It goes as far as displaying the best rack position. The screen itself leaves something to be desired. Transparent as it is, we did not expect vibrant colors or crazy resolution, but we got even less. Still, it gets the meal cooked."

Who would want this? Why would we want this? We all have cell phones. I am... baffled.