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Augmented Reality Gets to Work

LAS VEGAS -- Dell EMC World -- Virtual reality and its cousin, augmented reality, aren't just for entertainment. Daqri, an augmented reality startup based in Los Angeles, is working with Dell to put AR to work.

Dell Technologies sees VR and AR combined as a $45 billion hardware market and $35 billion software market by 2025, Chief Marketing Officer Jeremy Burton said this week. And Dell is in the act, selling VR headsets through its Alienware business unit, which specializes in high-powered PCs for gamers. Also, Dell provides high-powered workstations for virtual reality.

Gary Radburn, director of VR and AR at Dell, sees VR and AR as the "third wave" of computing. The first wave was destination computing -- a mainframe or desktop PC that you went to in order to get information. The second wave was portable and you could bring it with you to a coffee shop or the beach.

The third wave, with AR and VR, is immersive, Radburn said.

Virtual reality and AR are similar. With virtual reality units, such as the Oculus, the screens completely cover the user's eyes, giving the user the illusion of being transported to another world.

With AR, the user can see the real world around her and also see virtual reality objects overlaid on real world images.

Daqri founder and CEO Brian Mullins explains augmented reality here:

At the conference, Mullins showed a video that demonstrates AR in use in the workplace. In the video, an architect looks through an AR headset at blueprints, which appear to his eyes to be a miniature 3D model of the building, complete with landscaping and little cars gong by on the road.

Later, a construction crew uses an AR headset to view the building in progress, and can check the status of fire prevention, electrical, water and other internal systems. In the AR field of vision, ductwork is overlaid over the still-empty room, in the position where it will be when built.

Dell's Jeremy Burton (left) gets a VR demo from Daqri's Brian Mullins.
Dell's Jeremy Burton (left) gets a VR demo from Daqri's Brian Mullins.

And on a factory floor, AR guides an employee through an assembly process.

Watch the four-minute video, which is silent, here:

Another video, in partnership with Mortenson Construction and Autodesk, shows Daqri in use on a construction site. This video has audio:

In a manufacturing environment, AR can help reduce errors, improve accuracy and reduce the amount of time it takes to train a new worker, Mullins said. He cited a Boeing study from 2015, which found that in AR training, trainees learned faster and retained more information than in other types of training.

Daqri is being integrated with Dell Precision and rugged products.

And Dell has a partner program for AR and VR, providing development tools and other resources to help AR and VR succeed, Burton said.

But it wasn't all work for AR and VR at Dell EMC World this week.

Jake Zim, senior vice president of virtual reality for Sony Pictures Entertainment, described what the studio is doing with VR -- using VR to generate revenue and promote ancillary products for Sony intellectual property, including TV shows and movies.

"We're in the storytelling business and so we are looking at VR as a storytelling platform," he said.

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VR can be location-based, viewed at a theme park or a mall. Or VR can be experienced on a mobile phone. Or VR can be experienced at home -- for home VR, Sony Pictures Entertainment partners with the Sony PlayStation business unit, Zim said.

Zim showed videos of the "Walk the Walk" experience, done in conjunction with the movie "The Walk." The movie is the story of a tightrope walker who walked between the Twin Towers in New York in 1974. "Walk the Walk" simulates that experience using VR, with a rope laid on the floor to simulate the tightrope.

Zim showed a video of "Walk the Walk." I wasn't able to find a copy of Zim's video online, but here's a video of a gaming journalist doing "Walk the Walk" in Toronto:

About half the people who tried "Walk the Walk" couldn't step out onto the rope -- even though it's just a rope laid out on the ground, Zim said. "They sweat, they shake, they have to take the headset off, despite the fact that they know they're on terra firma," Zim said. "There's something inside their lizard brain, as we call it, that won't let them do it."

Another VR experience is based on the movie Goosebumps. The user experiences a simulated car chase with one of the movie characters, played by Jack Black, as they're attacked by giant monsters. I couldn't find Zim's video online but this will give you an idea:

"Goosebumps" users sit in a D-Box chair that moves in alignment with visuals from the movie, Zim said.

The final project that Zim demonstrated is a "location-based walk-around" VR, based on the movie Ghostbusters, Zim said. In "Ghostbusters Dimension," you buy a ticket with three friends, and put on a headset and a backpack with a haptic vest. The backpack contains a laptop, so you're mobile, and the headset is tethered to the backpack. You have a "proton blaster" physical prop in your hand, and you can see the other people in your virtual environment.

The environment is a 1,000-square foot physical space divided into rooms, with physical walls you can touch and objects in the VR mapped to physical counterparts, giving the player the feeling like they really are in a New York apartment, Zim said.

Ghostbusters Dimension is live in New York Now, coming to Dubai and elsewhere in North America in the next few weeks, Zim said.

"Ghostbusters Dimension" uses real-world physical sensations to augment the virtual experience. In "Ghostbusters Dimensions," when the players cross the streams to destroy the demonic Stay Puft Marshmallow Man, they smell burnt marshmallows.

Here comes the video:

— Mitch Wagner Follow me on Twitter Visit my LinkedIn profile Visit my blog Friend me on Facebook Editor, Enterprise Cloud News

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kq4ym 5/17/2017 | 5:44:22 PM
Re: AR I can see the possibilities for corporations that invest heavily in training as noted "AR can help reduce errors, improve accuracy and reduce the amount of time it takes to train a new worker," but the expense and inconvenience still of the google makes me skeptical that they'll show up in homes soon other than the use by game afficianados.
mhhfive 5/15/2017 | 4:13:15 PM
Re: AR Well, I wonder a bit how "world-altering" AR or mixed reality glasses might become. I could see some people trying to expand their vision capabilities -- perhaps wearing goggles that give you "insect vision" with a 360-degree field of view so you could have "eyes in the back of your head" in a sense.

It takes about a week or so for your brain to get used to goggles that turn the world upside down completely or show you everything as a mirror image... so if your batteries suddenly died in your AR goggles that gave you "ultra-vision" of some kind, it could hinder your vision (or your brain's interpretation of it) temporarily until you could re-adjust to normal vision....

Ariella 5/15/2017 | 3:02:14 PM
Re: AR <It's just dumb to wear glasses that don't do anything besides sit on your nose.>< @mhhf1ve It's like anything just for fashion -- it's not about function but about the look. At worst useless glasses add some weight to your face. At least, they don't cause any difficulty in walking or long term damage to feet the way some other fashion items do.
mhhfive 5/15/2017 | 2:56:04 PM
Re: AR Besides construction projects, I expect there will be a whole "how to" industry built around AR glasses to show anyone step-by-step instructions for doing all sorts of tasks. Perhaps DIY home owners will be connected to real-time plumbers or electricians to help them install new faucets or outlets.... 
mhhfive 5/15/2017 | 2:51:32 PM
Re: AR @ariella - I'm glad to hear that the "trend of glasses without corrective lenses was a fad" that died... and as a myopic person myself, I can't imagine why anyone with 20/20 vision would want to obscure their perfect vision (other than wearing sunglasses to protect normal vision). The only reason I could see for "non-corrective" and non-protective lenses might be to get *better* than 20/20 vision somehow with augmented reality. It's just dumb to wear glasses that don't do anything besides sit on your nose.

danielcawrey 5/15/2017 | 1:45:13 PM
Re: AR I think construction is a really good use case for AR. 

Surprisingly enough, the construction industry embraced tablets early on because of how it would replace paper. AR could do the same I think. 
Ariella 5/15/2017 | 12:50:27 PM
Re: AR @mhhf1ve IThe trend of glasses without corrective lenses was a fad of the past back in 2012. http://blog.aclens.com/2012/07/09/glasses-without-lenses-stupid-trend-or-fashion-forward/ Most fads don't persist for 5 years, though likely that one died even earlier. 

 As  I do wear glasses, the wearable specs wouldn't work well for me. I'd have to wear contact lenses just to be able to see clearly when wearing them.

But as for no one looking better in glasses, I'm not sure. On some faces, it lends a kind of definition that is absent without them. 
mhhfive 5/15/2017 | 12:45:40 PM
Re: AR I guess I don't think wearing glasses is very cool. With the exception of high-end sunglasses, everyone looks worse wearing glasses. Even 20-somethings who like quirky things. I suppose there could be some new trend like how some NBA players started wearing "fake nerd glasses" (glasses without prescription lenses), but I don't think that really caught on.
Ariella 5/15/2017 | 12:14:44 PM
Re: AR @mhhf1ve I looked up a couple of reviews. Some consider them weird, it's true, and I doubt people would want to keep them on if they were not functional. My perspective is very close to this view in Barrons: 

These glasses can be cool, maybe slightly goofy, with a crowd of ordinary 20-somethings in a way the geeky Google Glass never could.
mhhfive 5/15/2017 | 10:58:08 AM
Re: AR I think the Snap Spectacles are pretty dorky-looking. Sure. They're a bit better than the first Google Glasses, and at least they're sunglasses -- which makes them somewhat cooler. However, I just don't think too many people are thinking Snap's glasses are *that* fashionable that they would be worn even if the batteries were dead. 

The coolness factor is definitely why I'm more positive about augmented audio headphones -- plus, there are a ton of people who are going to be suffering from some hearing loss, and augmented audio might be able to help with that. So instead of hearing aids, I think augemented audio will be the first mainstream AR device. 
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