Super Reality

Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) Industry News and Technology Updates

USENS and #GDC17

As five days in sunny San Francisco came to a close, it was clear that virtual reality was all the buzz throughout the duration of Game Developers Conference, especially with the first two days of the conference being completely dedicated to VR. VRDC brought VR tutorials, VR boot camps and industry relevant speakers into an immersive AR/VR experience at the Moscone Center. This was VRDC’s second year and featured two different tracks for attendees to participate in: VR and AR for game development and VR and AR for other forms of entertainment–from CG movies to filmed experiences and beyond. It’s clear that VRDC’s presence for the second year at arguably the largest gaming conference in the world, means that virtual, augmented and mixed reality is the future and the most important steps in developing games for users and progressing the industry forward. The following three days opened the exhibition floor to companies and organizations to display their relevance to the gaming industry and how their technologies and products can progress technological advances to the next level. Oculus brought a full array of systems and demos to GDC sending an army of employees donning distinctive indigo shirts to recruit attendees to use their system with Oculus Touch controllers. PlayStation and its deep lineup of games allowed GDC-goers to sample everything from Grand Turismo Sport in a sit-in pod with a PS4 Pro to bringing back the infamous Crash Bandicoot of the early PlayStation days, and showcasing its wide variety of PSVR games as well. However, while controllers in VR and gaming in general still play a prevalent part in those fields, hand tracking sparked the interest of industry professionals and the thousands at GDC. USENS INC was a trending topic of conversation over the three days on the exhibition floor of the South Hall at the Moscone Center. We demonstrated our hand tracking capabilities with demos to show to the attendees of GDC. With several FINGO demos set-up, thousands of people in attendance flocked to the uSens booth (which happened to be close to the primary restrooms of the hall for maximum foot traffic – very strategic 😉). Throughout GDC, USENS interacted in-person and over all social media channels with tech, AR/VR and gaming influencers, journalists and industry professionals — all raving about USENS and FINGO. Here are just a couple examples: @DennisScimeca: Seriously: If you’ve never tried hand tracking in VR and have time, stop by the @usensinc booth. Tech works exactly as advertised. #gdc17. @Alexis_Macklin: Enjoyed testing out @usensinc at #gdc17. From verified Twitter users who promoted uSens to their thousands of followers to the individuals on social media who post with just a passion about their interests, USENS and our FINGO were trending topics coming out of GDC. USENS INC was featured in an article by Gao Yun of CGTN featuring FINGO and our tracking capabilities: San Jose, California-based uSens – founded by two Chinese developers – created a technology that utilizes a camera to recognize all the individual bones inside the hand, and then relays that information to the application. “Right now, people cannot interact directly in VR, but holding a controller is unnatural,” said Fei Yue, co-founder and CTO of uSens, adding that they are now letting people do whatever they want to do in real world.  As VR moves further into mainstream society, technologists agree that the experience needs to become more natural, and ironically, more like everything in the real world.  

Dr. Eunseok Park Joins uSens as General Manager of Augmented and Virtual Reality Tracking Company

uSens, Inc., a pioneer in hand-and-head tracking technologies for Augmented and Virtual Reality, has appointed Dr. Eunseok Park to the new position of U.S. general manager. A collaborator on nearly 200 world patents, Dr. Park was most recently the U.S. regional director for Samsung Advanced Institute of Technology (SAIT), where he managed research and development in emerging technologies across all four U.S. sites. In his new role with uSens, Dr. Park will tap into the deep business relationships he has established with the world’s leading academic and corporate research entities. “We are so proud to have a leader with the pedigree of Eunseok Park join the uSens team,” said Anli He, CEO and co-founder of uSens. “He brings incomparable expertise in administration and management of engineering projects and in nurturing teams. uSens will benefit from his broad connections to attract the highest caliber of research and engineering talent and to build industry partnerships that will grow uSens’ footprint in the ARVR industry.” “I couldn’t be more excited at the opportunity to join uSens at this stage of the company’s growth. I look forward to experiencing the startup world from the inside and to apply my management and operational skills to take uSens to the next level of maturity,” said Dr. Park. “During my tenure with SAIT, I established deep relationships with the top research sites across the U.S. and Europe. I’m excited to mine those connections to bring more world-class research talent into uSens, and to help uSens in the commercialization of its AR and VR tracking solutions.” A Visionary Leader Dr. Eunseok Park has spent the last 11 years with the Samsung Advanced Institute of Technology (SAIT), the main research and development center for Samsung Electronics and other businesses within the Samsung Group. Beginning his career at SAIT as a senior researcher, Dr. Park eventually became regional director for Europe, where he identified and developed new areas of research in emerging technologies including mobile health. He also oversaw strategic IP for licensing or purchasing, and supported collaborations with leading European research institutes and business partners. As regional director for the U.S., Dr. Park managed R&D and operations across four sites and more than 100 employees, coordinated joint research projects with leading U.S. academic entities, and identified startups for angel and early-round investments. Dr. Park received his MS degree and PhD in electrical engineering from Syracuse University in New York, and an MBA from Sogang University in Seoul, South Korea. In addition to his extensive patent portfolio, Dr. Park is the author of many articles published for IEEE symposiums.

Snap Inc. Spectacles: A Spectacle to be Worn

Over the last several weeks, Snap Inc. jumped head first into the fashion industry when they introduced the first pair of sunglasses to the public. Coming out of a vending machine near the Snap Inc. HQ in Venice Beach, CA, Spectacles drew customers from Southern California and beyond wanting to get fresh, new, smart pair of eyewear from the social media giant. After the initial release of the glasses in Venice Beach, a Spectacle pop-up vending machine appeared up the coast of California, in Loma Point, CA (near Big Sur), allowing interested Northern California customers to hop on the Spectacle-train. The “Snapbots” have now been showing up throughout the U.S. (including Tallahassee (FL), Catoosa (OK), Catalina Island (CA), Honolulu (HI), and several other cities as well). Snap Inc. are selling the sunglasses for $129.99 at resale but according to TechCrunch, “Snapchat staff on location are apparently telling people in line the vending machine in Big Sur won’t be restocked once it sells out. The long lines from Friday, along with high selling prices on eBay that are hitting 20x the original Spectacles selling price.” Twenty times the original selling price…the question is: are the new Snapchat sunglasses even worth the initial price as a high-end, fashionable eyewear accessory, are they just a toy or are they the future of augmented reality? As far as high-tech glasses go, immediate thoughts go to the Google Glass. While starting at a mere $1,500 for the public, Google Glass prided itself on being virtually a hands-free smartphone. Many critics dubbed Google’s foray into wearable tech a flop. The massive price-tag, the marketing strategies setting an unrealistic expectation, amongst other variables deemed the Google Glass not worth the time or the money to the public. Google Glass prided itself on features and the potential of endless possibilities and that ultimately proved to be a massive letdown. Snap Inc.’s Spectacles seems to pride itself on only have three primary uses: record 10-second videos, protection from the sun and fun. While it’s 2016 debut is made for entertainment, this could be Snap Inc.’s first step into the AR and VR realm. Snapchat recently purchased Israeli augmented reality startup Cimagine for an estimated $30 – 40 million. Cimagine has developed augmented reality technology that allows its users to seen on the screen of their mobile devices how appliances and furniture look in their respective homes. In an article spotlighting Snapchat and Spectacles, Anita Balakrishnan of CNBC wrote: Already ‘the social media platform of our time,’ Snapchat could now own the means of both producing and distributing its content, said Julia Sourikoff, who heads VR and 360 for Tool of North America, an award winning commercial production company that has a rapidly growing virtual reality division. For brands, that could mean a not-too-distant future where consumers could head out to stores to meet holograms of the trendy influencers who are already avid Snapchat users. Spectacles aren’t trying to completely revolutionize the high-tech, smart technology game right away. They are simply establishing that they are becoming a player in the wearable tech and the AR/VR space. Snapchat is clearly going to be the premise for which all of Snap Inc.’s future products will be built on.

uSens Inc. Featured in USA Today

uSens Inc. was featured in USA Today on Wednesday, after a successful showing at CES Unveiled in Las Vegas. In “CES 2017: The coolest tech you have to see”, USA Today wrote that: An attendee demonstrated Fingo, a device added to virtual reality goggles to incorporate hand gestures.  Check out the article and visit uSens Inc. at CES 2017 this week!

uSens Inc. Featured in Variety

After CES Unveiled in Las Vegas on Tuesday night Janko Roettgers, senior Silicon Valley correspondent for Variety, featured uSens Inc. Roettgers tweeted out that: The Fingo VR hand tracking module is one of the cooler things I got to see at CES Unveiled. Check out the article and visit uSens Inc. at CES 2017 this week!

uSens Developer Challenge!

We’re super excited to announce the uSens Developer Challenge, an opportunity for AR/VR developers to use cutting-edge human-computer interaction tech to build amazing apps and compete for a total of $100,000 in cash prizes. Participants will have a chance to show off their submissions to industry leaders at conferences throughout the United States and China. Also, you could potentially be in the running for a $50,000 grand prize. Original apps made for Samsung GearVR, Google Cardboard, HTC Vive, or Oculus are eligible! The vertical does not matter;  games, educational, industrial, are all fine, the app just needs to be compatible with our SDK. (Please check out our SDK documentation here) Submissions will be evaluated based on: Application of the Fingo SDK (40%) Creativity (20%) User Experience (20%) Business Potential (10%) Polish (10%) Here’s the process in a nutshell: Submit your application on the contest page by October 15th We will review applications and announce the 10 semifinalists by November 1st Our panel of judges will review your submissions and select winners We will announce the winners at GDC 2017 during 02/27-03/03 Prizes Grand Prize: $50,000 Second Place: $25,000 Third Place: $10,000 We are thrilled to see what our applicants will come up with! More details and the application page can be found on the uSens contest page. Apply now! Follow us on Twitter for updates: https://twitter.com/usensinc

uSens Fingo SDK Release Event

Fingo is now in open beta! On August 24, 2016, we hosted a launch event in The Village Event Space in San Francisco where we announced the open beta of our software development kit (SDK) and pre-order availability for Fingo. We also launched our uDev developer network to help the developer community integrate our hand and head tracking technology with their AR/VR (augmented reality & virtual reality) projects.. The event featured over 200 attendees with the demographic ranging from VR enthusiasts to VR developers and designers. Fingo is a hand-tracking sensor module that supports mobile and tethered systems such as: Samsung Gear VR, HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, and Google Cardboard. The module can attach to the front of head mounted displays (HMDs) to provide expanded tracking capabilities while using less power consumption and processing on mobile devices. During the conference, we revealed that there will be 3 different versions of Fingo, all with different use cases. The entry-level Fingo allows for the standard hand-tracking and head position tracking to be implemented in mobile/tethered systems. The Color Fingo is very similar in design to the regular Fingo but it allows for inside-out position tracking. Being inside-out tracking capable means that Color Fingo is able to look out to the space around it and use the changing perspectives of the outside space to determine its own position in space. In addition to being inside-out, Color Fingo also has an augmented reality (AR) overlay and seamless transitions between AR and VR. The Power Fingo is the biggest and most powerful of the Fingo family, which includes the same capabilities as the Color Fingo but with its own battery and Qualcomm Snapdragon processor. With Power Fingo, AR and VR can easily be enjoyed on the broadest range of mobile devices including those found in emerging markets. uSens CTO Dr. Yue Fei and uSens engineers performed several live demos with Fingo and a HTC Vive HMD during the event. One particular demo showed Fei interacting with toys and instruments inside a virtual bedroom. Near the end of the event, we had our guest panel speak on the current and future status of AR/VR and human-computer interaction (HCI) followed by a Q/A session afterwards. The speakers included Jon Peddie, Samsung’s Christopher Perl, SVVR founder Karl Krantz, CTO of ODG John Haddock, Gestigon’s Stefan Bartschat, and uSens’ Mark Morrison. Their immense insight seemed to have a profound impact on the audience. After the panel, representatives from uSens’ backers, Fosun Capital, Fortune Capital, and IDG Ventures (China) also spoke about our partnership to the audience. With Fingo, we here at uSens Inc. aim to create a more visceral experience with AR and VR. It is apparent that AR/VR without hand-tracking is not nearly as immersive as it could be. Hand-tracking makes it possible for users to actually reach out and interact with the virtual objects that they are viewing, turning the user into an actual participant of the virtual world rather than a mere spectator. Stay tuned on our Twitter and at developers.usens.com for more Fingo related updates -Amanze Ugoh  

Pokémon GOes Viral

Pokemon GO has only been out for about a week and it is already garnering massive worldwide attention. The addicting game has greatly increased Nintendo’s stock market value and it surprisingly has nearly as much active daily users as Twitter. Many longtime Pokemon fans have always dreamed of seeing and catching Pokemon in real life and they are finally able to experience this dream with the help of their smartphone. Pokemon GO is a location based augmented-reality mobile game developed by Niantic Labs. The objective of the game is to capture and train the animal-like creatures known as Pokemon. Players are meant to travel the overworld of the game, which is a Google Maps-like 2-D representation of the real world’s landscape, with their customized GPS-tracked avatars. One of the greatest aspects of the game is that players can find different types of Pokemon depending on their surroundings. For instance, water-type Pokemon usually appear near the ocean, and ghost-type pokemon normally appear near cemeteries. This incentivises players to roam around their environment and it makes playing this game extremely social. In fact, there will be a “Pokemon GO Crawl” happening in San Francisco on July 20th and an outstanding 27,000 Pokemon GO players may show up to the event. Although many have claimed that Pokemon GO has made AR mainstream, this game only exemplifies a fraction of what true AR has to offer. During encounters, players are not able to get a full 360 view of Pokemon, the Pokemon appear to be floating in mid-air most of the time, and player’s are not able to see the real relative sizes of different Pokemon. More advanced AR technology will be able to fix all of those faults to create a more believable AR experience. With that said, this version of Pokemon GO is a great start that shows a ton of opportunity and potential. Huge core elements of the established Pokemon games have yet to be added such as trading and battling Pokemon with other players. Niantic CEO, John Hanke, has confirmed that these features are coming. He has also hinted that Pokemon GO may support VR with Google Cardboard and more advanced AR with Microsoft HoloLens in the future. Many people have been taking advantage of Pokemon GO’s use of AR. For instance, some businesses only allow paying customers to catch Pokemon and capture PokeStops within their vicinities and some people have even used the game to commit robberies. Players should be sure to follow the game’s opening loading screen and be alert and aware of their surroundings to avoid harm. Despite this, the negative press has strongly helped the virality of Pokemon GO.  It will be extremely exciting to see this game evolve. Niantic seems to be working hard to provide steady, progressive updates that is sure to delight the mass market of Pokemon GO players. This game is fantastic for the future of AR software because it is giving the mainstream audience a peek at what AR can do and it provides a decent reference point. Perhaps our hand-tracking can be implemented into the game so that players can interact with their Pokemon like virtual pets (i.e. petting, feeding etc.). Judging by the continuous success of Pokemon GO, the future of AR is sure to be a lot more social and practical than VR.  -Amanze Ugoh

VR at E3 2016

This year’s Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3 2016) was virtual reality’s opportunity to make its big break within the mainstream audience. Since companies like Oculus Rift and HTC Vive have already made their mark within the VR industry, E3’s audience were mainly awaiting VR-related announcements from the 3 gaming company giants: Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo. In Sony’s conference, they finally announced the official release date for Playstation VR. PSVR will be released on October 13, 2016 and will retail for $399 USD. Sony is also partnering with Best Buy to include PSVR demos in select locations. Alongside PSVR, Sony announced many software titles that will support it. The titles include: Resident Evil VII, Final Fantasy XV, and Farpoint, which utilizes a peripheral from Sony called the PSVR Aim Controller. The special controller aims to make VR first person shooter games become more immersive. Arguably the biggest announcement of E3 2016 was Microsoft announcing that their next VR/4k compatible Xbox, codenamed Project Scorpio, will launch next year. This was a bold move considering that Microsoft also announced a slimmer version of the Xbox One called the Xbox One S. Project Scorpio’s VR capabilities may be just as good as HTC Vive or Oculus Rift with a smooth frames per second (FPS) count of 90.   Surprisingly, Nintendo did not announce any upcoming VR technology. It’s surprising because Nintendo brought motion controls to the forefront and it seems that the next step would be to also become leaders in virtual reality gaming. Nintendo did already release a VR system in 1995 but it was deemed a failure quickly after release. Obviously, it was way too early to launch a VR capable system at that time. Nintendo now plans to wait and see the virtual reality network flourish before getting involved once again. Nintendo did announce that their highly anticipated mobile augmented reality game, Pokemon GO, will be launching sometime in July. It’s refreshing to see gaming begin to shift in a different direction with the implementation of VR and AR at this year’s E3. Next year’s E3 should be a lot more impressive considering that there will be further refinement and expertise in VR/AR content and technology. -Amanze Ugoh

SVVR 2016

Even though it was a small venue, Silicon Valley Virtual Reality Expo’s attendees were immensely enthusiastic about the latest virtual reality technology. The 3rd annual SVVR (2016) is a VR focused expo and conference that took place on April 27-29 in the San Jose Convention Center. The goal of the event is to bring together VR supporters and build up the VR network. The audience featured everyone from developers, content creators, designers, investors, and entrepreneurs who are involved in and or interested in virtual reality. Over 100 VR companies came to San Jose to showcase their products at the event. It was a nice mix because there were several big companies like Oculus and NVIDIA, some medium sized companies including Leap Motion and OSVR, and dozens of small indies bringing tools or content to the VR landscape. The variety of VR technology exhibited at the expo included 360 video, motion & gesture control, 3D point cloud mapping, audio, controllers, and more. In addition to demoing our product to attendees at the show, uSens CTO, Dr. Yue Fei, had the opportunity to present our Inside-out tracking for mobile and tethered ARVR. Dr. Fei also discussed how uSens is working to release this technology to Unity 3D, C++, and Java developers on June 1, 2016. There was an overwhelming amount of VR tech demos to experience at the show so it was nice to try out a few of them. One of the first VR demos that I got to try out was the Pico Neo. The Pico Neo was very interesting because it had a small SNES-like controller that was attached to the Head Mounted Display. Many of the internals are actually located inside of the controller so this allowed for the HMD to be more lightweight. The game that I played was a space shooter demo that had me looking around to aim and pushing a button on the controller to shoot. It was pretty difficult to attain a steady aim with my shaky head but I got better at it the more I played. With Pico Neo supposedly releasing next month in China in June, it should be interesting to see if controller attached HMDs will catch on. SculptrVR is another exciting game that I tried out that allows users to sculpt objects in virtual reality. The aesthetic of the game was very similar to Minecraft. A unique aspect of SculptrVR was that I was able scale myself to my desired height at any time. With this scaling, it makes it very intuitive to sculpt your own detailed world. Users are also able to upload and share their worlds over Steam. VirZOOM was one of the most mesmerizing products that I tried at SVVR. The product is actually a bicycle controller that can be hooked up with PSVR, Oculus Rift, and HTC Vive HMDs. The HMD provided position tracking so that I could lean to the left or to the right when maneuvering through the virtual landscapes. The game demo that I played for this system was great. In one of the mini-games, I was riding a horse that could fly and I seriously had the sensation that I was hovering in the air. After playing for about 8 minutes I felt like I got a decent workout without even realizing it while I was in action. This product is sure to introduce VR to the fitness world at a rapid rate. VirZOOM is available for pre-order with Mobile VR support coming soon. Noitom’s Project Alice was my last demo that I tried out and it was the stand-out virtual reality experience at SVVR. Many attendees were excited about it being that people were required to set up an appointment and wait for hours just to try it. Luckily, some of the uSens team and I experienced the demo together. The demo took place in a private room but after we donned our headsets, the room became completely virtualized. We were then given Nintendo Wii Remotes that allowed us to create virtual objects and interact with them. The twist was that we were also able to interact with real world objects and their movements were simulated in real time (with little to no latency!) via the HMD. Being able to interact with virtual objects and real objects and the very same time while still being in a virtual reality experience was truly magical. Getting the chance to see and try out our VR peers’ demos inspire us greatly to continue working on our technology. We are so excited for next year! Below is a short montage video that I filmed at the show. -Amanze Ugoh