All posts in “Mixed Reality”

Upskill launches support for Microsoft HoloLens

Upskill has been working on a platform to support augmented and mixed reality for almost as long as most people have been aware of the concept. It began developing an agnostic AR/MR platform way back in 2010. Google Glass didn’t even appear until two years later. Today, the company announced the early release of Skylight for Microsoft HoloLens.

Upskill has been developing Skylight as an operating platform to work across all devices, regardless of the manufacturer, but company co-founder and CEO Brian Ballard sees something special with HoloLens. “What HoloLens does for certain types of experiences, is it actually opens up a lot more real estate to display information in a way that users can take advantage of,” Ballard explained.

He believes the Microsoft device fits well within the broader approach his company has been taking over the last several years to support the range of hardware on the market while developing solutions for hands-free and connected workforce concepts.

“This is about extending Skylight into the spatial computing environment making sure that the workflows, the collaboration, the connectivity is seamless across all of these different devices,” he told TechCrunch.

Microsoft itself just announced some new HoloLens use cases for its Dynamics 365 platform around remote assistance and 3D layout, use cases which play to the HoloLens strengths, but Ballard says his company is a partner with Microsoft, offering an enhanced, full-stack solution on top of what Microsoft is giving customers out of the box.

That is certainly something Microsoft’s Terry Farrell, director of product marketing for mixed reality at Microsoft recognizes and acknowledges. “As adoption of Microsoft HoloLens continues to rapidly increase in industrial settings, Skylight offers a software platform that is flexible and can scale to meet any number of applications well suited for mixed reality experiences,” he said in a statement.

That involves features like spatial content placement, which allows employees to work with digital content in HoloLens, while keeping their hands free to work in the real world. They enhance this with the ability to see multiple reference materials across multiple windows at the same time, something we are used to doing with a desktop computer, but not with a device on our faces like HoloLens. Finally, workers can use hand gestures and simple gazes to navigate in virtual space, directing applications or moving windows, as we are used to doing with keyboard or mouse.

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Upskill also builds on the Windows 10 capabilities in HoloLens with its broad experience securely connecting to back-end systems to pull the information into the mixed reality setting wherever it lives in the enterprise.

The company is based outside of Washington, D.C. in Herndon, Virginia. It has raised over $45 million, according to Crunchbase. Ballard says the company currently has 70 employees. Customers using Skylight include Boeing, GE, Coca-Cola, Telestra and Accenture.

Magic Leap’s ultra-hyped AR headset is finally available

After many years of hype around a product that was unseen, Magic Leap opened the curtain to unveil the Magic Leap One last month.

Today, the Magic Leap One Creator Edition goes on sale for $2,295. But this is still far from a consumer release — the pricey kit is aimed at developers who want to make content for the new platform.

The system includes the company’s Lightwear augmented-reality headset, a tiny Lightpack computer, and a controller. While anyone can order one, the price will likely limit it to early adopters, and it’s only available to ship to certain cities, since the deal includes a hand delivery and a personal setup.

Right now the apps for it are limited and aren’t on the same par as a giant whale jumping out of a gym floor (an early graphical tease from the company). There are only a few games currently out, though more should come as developers get their hands on the system. Magic Leap has a big vision for the future of spatial computing (AKA mixed reality).

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While developers can get one now, the bigger question is: When will the consumer version launch, and how much will it cost? 

That’s still unclear, but it will likely have a similar design with a headset that looks like high-tech swimming googles. It is impressive that the computer can fit in such a compact puck, which you clip onto your bag or jacket. From the look of it, Magic Leap’s untethered experience doesn’t seem half bad, but I’m still skeptical of the quality as I haven’t had the chance to try it yet.

The Magic Leap One Creator Edition includes the headset, computer, and controller.

The Magic Leap One Creator Edition includes the headset, computer, and controller.

Image: Magic Leap

The promise of Magic Leap heavily depends on developers who can grow the platform and release more apps and content for it. It will likely be an uphill battle with heavy competition from Microsoft’s HoloLens. At the same time, Apple and Google are pushing their own AR experiences with SDKs and hardware features like the iPhone X’s TrueDepth camera. That said, Magic Leap has plenty of capital behind it, and in July AT&T signed up to be the exclusive retailer of the headset.

We look forward to seeing what developers and early adopters make for the Magic Leap.

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Magic Leap One AR headset for devs costs more than 2x the iPhone X

It’s been a long and trip-filled wait but mixed reality headgear maker Magic Leap will finally, finally be shipping its first piece of hardware this summer.

We were still waiting on the price-tag — but it’s just been officially revealed: The developer-focused Magic Leap One ‘creator edition’ headset will set you back at least $2,295. So a considerable chunk of change — albeit this bit of kit is not intended as a mass market consumer device but is an AR headset for developers to create content that could excite future consumers.

The augmented reality startup, which has raised at least $2.3 billion, according to Crunchbase, attracting a string of high profile investors including Google, Alibaba, Andreessen Horowitz and others, is only offering its first piece of reality bending eyewear to “creators in cities across the contiguous U.S.”.

Potential buyers are asked to input their zip code via its website to check if it will agree to take their money but it adds that “the list is growing daily”.

We tried the TC SF office zip and — unsurprisingly — got an affirmative of delivery there. But any folks in, for example, Hawaii wanting to spend big to space out are out of luck for now…

Magic Leap specifies it will “hand deliver” the package to buyers — and “personally get you set up”.

So evidently it wants to try to make sure its first flush of expensive hardware doesn’t get sucked down the toilet of dashed developer expectations.

It describes the computing paradigm it’s seeking to shift, with the help of enthused developers and content creators, as “spatial computing” — but it really needs a whole crowd of technical and creative people to step with it if it’s going to successfully deliver that.

HoloLens 2 will reportedly address the biggest criticism of the first model

Image: RAYMOND WONG/MASHABLE

Back in 2016 Microsoft entered the augmented-reality game with HoloLens, a headset that delivered a true mixed reality, combining the real world with virtual images on a transparent display.

Developers and early adopters quickly realized that, while HoloLens was promising, it was being held back by its small field of view. However, this will reportedly change with the second generation of the hardware.

The Verge reports Microsoft is planning to unveil HoloLens 2 by the end of the year. Codenamed Sydney (a name first revealed by Thurrott), the new model will apparently address the biggest criticism of the current HoloLens: its limited field of view. HoloLens 2 will improve things, the report says, but it’s unclear by how much. 

HoloLens 2 should have the latest Kinect sensor onboard as well as a proprietary artificial intelligence chip. Both of these should improve the visuals and latency, creating a more immersive mixed-reality experience.

While details are still scarce, the second-generation headset will be built around an ARM-based processor (the current model uses a discontinued Intel chip), which could bring better battery life, allowing users to be in the mixed reality for a longer period of time. 

There will likely be a larger focus on consumers with the new model. So far HoloLens has mostly been a developer and enterprise play, and it carries a high price tag ($3,000 for the developer edition, $5,000 for the commercial “suite”). Hopefully the second generation will be more affordable, bringing the tech to a new class of customers.

Microsoft is expected to unveil HoloLens 2 by the end of the year, but don’t expect to your hands on one until 2019.

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