Tag: augmented reality

Microsoft teams up with Volvo

Microsoft campusVolvo and Microsoft have formed a partnership that will allow people test drive motor cars using augmented reality.

Volvo said it will introduce Microsoft HoloLens to its sales outlets in 2016 to show off its cars and to even test drive systems.

The HoloLens will let people see safety features incorporated into Volvo cars.

Microsoft is pushing HoloLens for all it’s worth and is set to introduce $3,000 software development kits (SDKs) in early 2016.

It wants to capture more corporate customers as it seeks to expand its business beyond operating systems and other software.

While Volvo’s current system lets people look at the vehicle full size using the HoloLens, Volvo plans to develop tools to let people sit in a real car and take an augmented reality test drive.

Augmented reality market grows

vaulted-glass-ceiling-of-the-shopping-arcade-galleria-vittorio-emanuele-ii-sami-sarkisWhile virtual reality is considered to be a sector with big growth now and in the future, market research company ABI Research said augmented reality (AR) products will be a bigger market in the future.

ABI said that the market will be worth around $100 billion by 2020.

AR includes products like so-called “smart glassses”, and analysts believe 21 million units will ship in 2020, showing a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 78 percent between this year and 2020.

Revenues will come from different vertical markets including education, gaming, healthcare, industrial and retail.

Virtual reality revenues will also grow at a similar rate but occupy a much smaller market.

ABI believes that mobilee devices will account for software and content revenues.

But high end verticals including healthcare and various industrial sectors will buy high end devices, and so bring in bigger revenues.

Virtual reality hyped up again

Virtual RealityVirtual Reality (VR) has been around for decades now but failed to catch on with many people, who found it gave them headaches.

But, according to a report from ABI Research, that’s going to change over the next few years with Google, Samsung, Microsoft and Facebook joining the push.

ABI estimates that there will be shipments of 43 million units in 2020, representing an average compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 107 percent.

People are going to take more interest in devices such as the Samsung Gear VR, Google Cardboard, Oculus Rift and Sony Morpheus, according to ABI Research analyst Eric Abbruzzese.

He said there’s a market for vertical sales in the education and industrial sectors, but augmented reality (AR) devices such as smart glasses will lead the way, accord to Abbruzzese.

He said that VR will be focused on entertainment and gaming and video will take the lead in pushing sales, but devices in industrial and automotive markets will also see some usage of devices.

Apple confirms its bought German firm

Apple blossom, Mike MageeAn Apple representative has confirmed that it has snapped up a German augmented reality company as part of its acquisition strategy.

Metaio’s speciality is technology that lets people wearing special glasses transform what they see into a kind of touch screen.

Its technology has both business and consumer applications.

A notice on its website – metaio.com – said its products and subscriptions aren’t available to buy any more, but it will continue its support until June 30th and will honour downloads of previous buys until December 15th this year.

The company offered a number of products and subscriptions including a software developer kit, an “authoring” tool, and a cloud environment.

Apple reputedly wants to use Metaio tech in its own devices. No financial details of the transaction are available.

Scientists working on smart contact lenses

Although Google Glass has yet to hit retail and flop, scientists are already working on next generation wearable devices and they include smart contact lenses.

One of the main problems facing Google Glass is its sheer bulk. The device is still pretty big, yet despite its size it doesn’t offer a lot of battery life. Scientists in Korea and Switzerland believe smart contact lenses, built using a new generation of nanomaterials, are the way to go.

A team led by Jang-Ung Park at the Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology managed to mount a light emitting diode on an off the shelf contact lens. The team came up with a special material of their own to make it possible – a stretchy mix of graphene and silver nanowires, reports Technology Review

They tested their contraption on rabbits. The fluffy test subjects didn’t seem to mind, and did not rub their eyes. 

Meanwhile a Swiss team at Sensimed is working on a smart lens for 24-hour monitoring of eye pressure in glaucoma patients. Like the bunnies, they don’t seem to mind, either. University of Washington professor and Google Glass project founder Babak Parviz has also dabbled in contact-lens displays, but they were built using rigid, non-transparent materials.  

LCD display fitted onto wearable contact lenses

Scientists have offered a vision of the future of augmented reality with a contact lens featuring an LCD display.

A team of researchers at the European research lab Imec and Ghent University in Belgium have developed a prototype contact lense featuring liquid crystal display (LCD) technology used in screens found in tablets, laptops and TVs.

The spherical display fits onto a contact lense and can overlay images directly onto a person’s field of vision.   

This has been achieved in the past using light emitting diode (LED) technology, but the display has been limited to just a few small pixels. By using LCD-based technology, it is possible to cover the entire field of vision, opening intriguing uses in medical and consumer applications.

Currently, the technology can only display small amounts of information, with an initial prototype displaying just a dollar sign on the lens. More elaborate images could be made possible in the future, according to the researchers.

For example, it may be possible to control the light transmission reaching a patient’s retina in the case of damage.

Companies such as Google and Microsoft have already been developing augmented reality devices for eyesight, with proof of concept devices generating large amounts of interest.

Overlaying heads-up displays (HUDs) using contact lenses would also be a possibility, and the market for wearable electronics is already forecast to reach $6 billion by 2016, according to analysts.

According to the scientists, devices suitable for consumer use could be available in just a few years now that the basic technology had been proven.

The main difficulty in producing the lenses has been to create a LCD that was not only flexible, but formed into a spherical shape.

“Normally, flexible displays using liquid crystal cells are not designed to be formed into a new shape, especially not a spherical one. Thus, the main challenge was to create a very thin, spherically curved substrate with active layers that could withstand the extreme molding processes,” said Jelle De Smet, the main researcher on the project. 

He added that thin polymer films had to be engineered to enable the necessary smoothness required to display an image on the curved display.

“By using new kinds of conductive polymers and integrating them into a smooth spherical cell, we were able to fabricate a new LCD-based contact lens display,” De Smet said.

Another researcher, Professor Robert De Smet, said that the research paves the way for the development and commercialisation of the technology.

“Now that we have established the basic technology, we can start working twoards real applications, possibly available in only a few years time,” he said.

Intel chips to get gesture recognition

Intel looks set to hardwire some form of gesture recognition software into its chipsets.

According to Reuters, Total Immersion, which makes augmented reality gear is working with Intel to bring AR features, like gesture recognition, into Intel’s chipsets.

Speaking at the Reuters Global Media Summit, Total Immersion’s marketing chief Antoine Brachet said it could take two or three years before products hit the shelves, but all that depended on whether punters wanted their computer to react to the gestures they did.

AR overlays digital information – text, graphics, games – on images of the world. Chipzilla bought a stake in Total Immersion in March when its investment arm led the $5.5 million funding round.

Brachet said that his outfit was working with Intel on its chipset so there will be AR features, like gesture recognition that can be transferred from software to hardware.

This will make the hardware faster to use for consumers and could boost the technology among consumers as it would be in all devices, without the need for additional downloads.

Google, Intel and Qualcomm are all snuffling around the technology because they have worked out that something is going to happen and they want to take a potential position in that. 

Bionic lenses send text straight to your eye

Scientists have taken another step towards creating the bionic man of sci-fi lore with a wearable display mounted in a contact lens.

A team from the University of Washington and Aalto University in Finland managed to squeeze all the necessary equipment into a wearable lens that could display information right before your eyes.

This consists of an antenna which draws on power sent by an external source, as well as an integrated circuit which is able to store energy for use in a transparent sapphire chip which holds a blue LED.

Granted, the researchers are only able to produce a display of one pixel at the moment, and testing so far has only been on rabbits, but the possibilities are there.

The next step for the team is to get actual text onto the contact lens. When it’s there, the universities are considering applications like reading text messages and emails in the near future. 

A Doom-esque HUD would certainly be useful, with the researchers pointing to visual levels of glucose levels as an example. Equally we can imagine having your bank balance flickering up as you approach a pub could be handy, as well as a large hovering arrow ushering you home after six pints would be worth a shot.

It may be some time before futuristic developments like subtitles appearing in your field of vision or email alerts flashing up in your lenses are actually available from Specsavers, however.

The ‘proof of concept’ design may not have done any damage to the test bunny, but there are still plenty of hurdles in getting out of the early prototype stage.

The researchers did manage to solve the problem of how to allow information to appear unblurred, considering that a human eye has a minimum focal point of seven centimetres. This involved developing substantially thinner and flatter lenses than are typically available, allowing the image to be focused on the retina.

Improvements will need to be made to the antenna power system if the lenses are to be made usable. For example, while it was possible to power a display from one metre, this was reduced to just two centimetres when placed on the rabbit’s eye.

Still, the researchers are quite clearly excited, deciding to plump with the slightly unnerving “Terminator-style info-vision takes step towards reality” as the press release’s headline. 

Profitable mobile ads will bother us even more

Mobile advertising revenues are expected to more than double this year to $3.3 billion.

Following $1.6 billion splashed out by firms trying to ply their wares last year, analysts at Gartner are expecting that we are only just seeing the beginnings of an influx of ads.

In fact, Gartner thinks that by 2015 there will be a massive $20.6 billion spent on advertising for mobile devices, enough to posthumously wind up Bill Hicks. 

Exactly how much will be spent by companies sending text messages to tell you how to make a claim for an injury you never had is unclear.

As tablets and smartphones continue their inexorable rise in popularity, mobile ad revenues in various forms are set to mount up as companies increase budget, jumping from 0.5 percent total ad money spent to four percent in 2015.

One of the reasons for the increased expenditure is that as more consumers spend their dosh on mobile devices, the audience will increase and become easier to segment, consequently making it easier to target people more specifically.

The success of Facebook’s targeted advertising has shown it can be highly lucrative.

Advertising will take a variety of forms on mobile platforms, with mobile search incorporating map positioning and technology such as the much vaunted augmented reality expected to rake in the most cash.

Mobile display, meanwhile, will see banner format ads, as well as nonstandard rich media and interactive formats, continue to feature prominently in both mobile browsers and in apps.

Video/audio ads will be the fastest growing area up to 2015.

It’s North America and Western Europe where the mobile ad kitty will grow the most over the next few years, accounting for $5.7 billion and $5.1 billion respectively.

But it will be in the Asia/Pacific region where the most cash will be splashed overall, accounting for 49.2 percent of the total amount spent on mobile advertising this year, though this will drop to 33.6 percent by 2015.

Then again it’s hard to predict this stuff, innit? Who knows. 

Table 1
MobileAdvertising Revenue by Region, Worldwide, 2008-2015 (Millions of Dollars)





North America




Western Europe




Asia/Pacific and Japan




Rest of the World




Augmented Reality and smart advertising will depress us all

Telco analysts at Juniper Research believe that augmented reality (AR) will drive 1.4 billion downloads on mobile by 2015 – on the back of brand support.

Advertising will be what really makes AR take off. In the second part of 2010, a number of brands have been busy either creating AR apps for mobile or utilising them to experience AR in advertising campaigns. 

Carlsberg, Juniper’s report author Dr Windsor Holden says, is a company that has integrated branded AR into wider campaigns. While the scientists at the brewery may not have developed permanent beer-goggles just yet, “Initiatives are indicative of a growing desire among brands to use AR as a key tool to engage with the customer,” Hoden says.

One film public relations teams are happy to highjack is Minority Report, a science fiction film where advertising can detect the mood, sex or even the persona of someone walking past.

Software specialists at 3M are touting something called “gladvertising” which will be interactive 3D, outdoor adverts which can communicate through social networks and mobile devices to adapt to certain situations, and will be on the streets as soon as 2012. While calling them “total brand experiences,” a report suggests that the campaigns will be able to tell if you’re happy or ticked off, and adapt accordingly. 

If you’re a cheesed off London commuter, will the adverts leave well alone on the morning schlep, or try and cheer you up by offering discounted Subway meal deals? We’d be guessing on the latter.

3M also reckons that “mulitsensory adverts” will be on the way to create commercials that attack every part of you that is susceptible to manipulation. Chain bakeries already do this by piping that fresh bread smell through the front of stores, but multisensory adverts will capitalise on holographic video, sound, mood lighting and even smell to make sure there’s no escape.

3M suggests adverts will be able to adapt to personal preferences thanks to the information you willingly submit to the social media cloud, for free. Basically adverts are going to get a lot smarter, and if you’re a fatso walking past Holland & Barrett, expect to be called out on it. 

Juniper’s Mobile Augmented Reality report suggests that annual revenues generated by mobile AR applications may jump all the way from 2010’s $2 million to $1.5 billion by 2015. Meanwhile, enterprise apps with AR elements could account for the third-largest proportion of revenues by 2015, sitting behind location based search and games.