Mario Kart: Live Multiplayer Now Works Splitscreen With A Single Switch

A new update for Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit brings splitscreen mulitplayer functionality, allowing players to use two physical karts with one Nintendo Switch console.

Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit released last year and brings the famous arcade racing franchise to your home, using a camera-equipped toy kart to turn your home into an AR Mario Kart course on your Switch.

Using a Nintendo Switch console, players can connect to the kart and control it using the Switch, mapping out an AR-powered course around your home using cardboard gates that can be placed around you on the ground.

One Home Circuit kit comes with the game, the kart and the required gates to map the course. Multiplayer was supported at launch, but only with multiple Switch consoles — each player would have to use their own Switch along with their own physical kart.

Now, with a free update, splitscreen multiplayer is supported, allowing two physical karts to compete against each other using just one Switch system. This means that a family with just one console can purchase two karts and play on the same system. In addition, the base Home Circuit kit is now discounted for Black Friday at multiple retailers, bringing the price of one kit down to $59.99 from $99.99.

There’s also some other additions in the 2.0 update, including a new Relay Race multiplayer mode, which allows 2-4 players to use one kart, taking turns controlling the kart via mid-race switches.

There’s a new Luigi Cup added to the Grand Prix as well, along with some new cosmetics and customization unlocks.

Check out our full review of Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit from last year.

Quest 2 Can Now Label Keyboards With AR In Passthrough

An update to Horizon Workrooms on Oculus Quest 2 adds the ability to overlay AR labels onto your tracked keyboard when using passthrough mode.

The feature is one of a few added in the Workrooms 1.1 update. As previously reported, the update includes support for M1 Mac models, but also introduces the AR keyboard labels, quicker connection to your computer via Oculus Remote Desktop, and “more intuitive whiteboard design” that lets you use your hands more.

quest ar keyboard label

You can see some photos of the AR keyboard labels spread throughout the article — on a flat 2D photo, they look hard to distinguish from the normal light-up keys on the MacBook Pro. However, the depth perception in VR makes the labels look just slightly elevated from the keys themselves.

quest ar keyboard label

This only applies to tracked keyboards (which currently only includes the Logitech K830 and Apple Magic Keyboards and laptop keyboard) when using the desk passthrough cut-out. If you’re just using the standard tracked keyboard in Workrooms without passthrough there’s no need for the AR labels — a 1:1 digital model represents and displays your keyboard in VR, matched to the position of your physical keyboard.

It’s only when using the passthrough desk cut-out feature that the AR labels come to life. This makes the passthrough cut-out feature much more useable, as you retain full visibility of your keyboard keys while also being able to see other desk accessories such as your mouse, drinks etc.

In a future update, Workrooms will get support for Zoom conference call integration and room customization.

Facebook Hosting XR Hackathon Through November 22

Facebook (aka Meta) is hosting an XR Hackathon ending on November 22 with a 1st place prize in one of four categories winning $55,000.

You can find more information on the website for the hackathon and in the official rules.

Entries will be judged on a scale of 1-5 points in each of three sections covering the originality of the idea, the potential for strategic impact on a given product category, and overall implementation. Entrants will need to submit a two minute video with a screencast of the application working and, in the case of those entering work with the “Presence Platform”, there will also need to be a github link and a readme file with instructions alongside an APK to download and test.

According to the rules, applications developed for the hackathon cannot be “derived from software that was or is developed, with the direct or indirect aid of financial or preferential support (including but is not limited to development under or with any contract, commercial license or other funding, investment, or support)” from Meta.

Meta, which rebranded from Facebook last week, is planning to offer prizes ranging from $10,000 up to $55,000 in categories for group AR effects using the company’s Spark AR platform as well as “Mixed Reality, Voice and Hand VR Experiences.”

There’s a total of $700,000 up for grabs in the hackathon and the “Entrant will retain ownership of and all intellectual and industrial property rights to their entry and all Content thereof,” the rules state, with an exception granting Facebook the ability to distribute the software for the purposes of administering the Hackathon itself, as well as “for internal research and development purposes, and for any marketing or promotional purposes.”

Niantic Launches Pikmin Bloom, Harry Potter: Wizards Unite To Shut Down

Over the last week or so, AR mobile game developer Niantic has opened one door and closed another – Pikmin Bloom is now available, but 2019’s Harry Potter: Wizards Unite will be shut down in 2022.

Back in March, Niantic announced it was working on a Pikmin mobile AR title in partnership with Nintendo. As of last week, Pikmin Bloom began rolling out to several countries — it’s now available in almost all major markets, including Europe, Asia Pacific, Africa, Middle East, the US, Canada.

Like many other mobile AR games, Pikmin Bloom follows the rough framework and precedent set by Pokemon Go, Niantic’s first and most successful mobile AR title. However, Bloom takes a slightly different approach to the concept — Bloom is more idle, focused more on simply walking around than actively visiting locations or searching for something. The more you walk, the more pikmin you’ll obtain.

Overall, the game seems to markets itself more as a glorified pedometer with a few game elements thrown in. There’s also minimal AR content compared to other Niantic titles. In fact, the only true use of mobile AR appears to be when you send Pikmin to fight mushrooms, which can be viewed as an AR overlay similar to catching Pokemon in Pokemon Go.

In the same week, Niantic also announced that it will be shutting down its 2019 mobile AR game, Harry Potter: Wizards Unite.

Wizards Unite, the studio’s first game to follow in Pokemon Go’s footsteps, announced that it will close on January 31, 2022 in a post on the game’s website. The game will be removed from store fronts even earlier, from December 6 2021.

We weren’t huge fans of Wizards Unite, but it’s just one game of many — Niantic has announced and released a few IP-focused mobile AR titles in the wake of Pokemon Go, but so far none have managed to catch on in the same way.

Let’s hope that changes with Transformers: Heavy Metal, the next Niantic AR game set to release sometime this year.

Meta Announces AR Glasses Prototype Project Nazare

Alongside the reveal of the new Project Cambria VR headset, Meta (formerly Facebook) just gave a codename to its first pair of consumer AR glasses. Meet Project Nazare.

A demo video of Nazare showed some familiar AR experiences, like communicating with friends in virtual windows and even playing multiplayer with avatars appearing in the user’s living room. There was no actual picture of the hardware itself, but expect more information in the future.

Speaking about Project Nazare, Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg described the glasses as the company’s “first full augmented reality glasses,” but also indicated that they are still a work-in-progress:

“There’s a lot of technical work to get this form factor and experience right. We have to fit hologram displays, projectors, batteries, radios, custom silicon chips, cameras, speakers, sensors to map the world around you and more into glasses that are about 5mm thick. So we still have a ways to go with Nazare, but we are making good progress.”

A Connect blog post says the Project Nazare glasses are “are still a few years out.

To watch the full segment from today’s keynote, check out the video embedded above — if it doesn’t start in the right place automatically, skip to 1:07:40.

Last month Facebook also released a pair of glasses in partnership with Ray-Ban named Ray-Ban Stories. However, these are not real AR glasses, and don’t even feature simplistic overlays. The Ray-Ban Stories’ main feature is its built-in camera and microphone for point-of-view photo and video recording.

True AR is shaping up to be a competitive market – Microsoft and Magic Leap already have full but compromised AR devices like HoloLens, which are bulky and have limited field of view. We also know that other companies like Apple are working on AR devices as well.

RoomMapper For Quest 2 Maps Your Surroundings For Mixed Reality

Developers interested in experimenting with mixed reality on Oculus Quest 2 can now use RoomMapper with Unity to explore designs mapped to your physical surroundings.

Developer Bob Berkebile just released RoomMapper for free and Unity developers can use it with Oculus Quest 2 as a $299 standalone AR and VR development kit with software that’s given “an extremely optimized model of the room.” Berkebile recognizes Facebook will likely make the “solution obsolete with their advancements to public access of Passthrough,” but the RoomMapper solution may help people explore mixed reality concepts and get started now with AR applications on Quest 2 that incorporate more about a physical environment. Videos Berkebile posted on Twitter have been shared widely showing virtual zombies moving down a physical hallway, or seeing things in the mirror which aren’t actually there.

Berkebile shared the following walkthrough video giving an overview of how the mapping system works, and the second half of the video really shows off how it can offer a kind of mixed reality playground.

“I immediately noticed that the experimental access to the passthrough composition on Quest 2 is extremely barebones; Oculus is taking this path carefully and I appreciate that,” Berkebile wrote to UploadVR. “I wanted to accelerate the communities’ ability by brining a solution for environmental mapping to them now. The solution presents a solid UX flow that walks a user through the necessary steps to measure, map, and align an extremely optimized model of the room. From there colliders are added, materials can be swapped, and suddenly your room has physicality within the AR/MR that the passthrough solution offers.”

Facebook is due to announce updates for its AR and VR technologies on October 28 with a keynote from Mark Zuckerberg and more planned throughout the day.

Army Shifts Testing Of HoloLens-Based AR Gear To 2022

The United States Army says it recently conducted a test of its Microsoft HoloLens-based AR platform and will move further testing of the hardware to 2022.

The Integrated Visual Augmentation System or IVAS is based on Microsoft’s HoloLens AR technology and the contract to supply the United Stated military with the technology represents a major vote of confidence in Microsoft’s platform and a key testing ground for the company to develop ruggedized AR tech. A report from Janes suggested the Army is “essentially doing a reset of” the program to figure “out what is the appropriate timeline and where is the technology.”

“The Army is fully committed to its partnership with Microsoft to advance specific technologies to meet operational requirements and maximize warfighter impact,” a press release from the Army states. “The Army conducted an Adversarial Electronic Warfare and Cybersecurity Test in September 2021, and plans to execute testing regularly throughout FY22. This decision allows the Army and Industry team to continue to enhance the IVAS technology platform ensuring Soldiers achieve overmatch in Multi Domain Operations. The Army intends to continue developing and fielding this revolutionary, first-of-its-kind technology in FY22.”

The U.S. Army provided a project timeline with May 2022 listed as the month for an operational test and September of 2022 for the first unit equipped with the hardware. Here’s the full timeline as provided by the Army:

Project Timeline:

  • OCT / NOV 2020: Soldier Touchpoint 3 (STP 3) & Distinguished Visitor Days
  • DEC 2020: Rapid Fielding Decision
  • JAN 2021: Vehicle Integration VE2 – Stryker & Bradley
  • FEB 2021: Cold Weather Test
  • MAR 2021: Production Award
  • MAR 2021: Tropical Weather Test
  • APR 2021: Soldier Touchpoint 4 (STP 4)
  • JUL 2021: OT Entrance Criteria User Jury
  • SEP 2021: Vehicle Integration VE3 – Bradley
  • SEP 2021: Adversarial Electronic Warfare & Cybersecurity Test
  • MAY 2022: Operational Test (IOT)
  • SEP 2022: First Unit Equipped (FUE)

Magic Leap 2 Teased For 2022 With Taller Field Of View

Magic Leap teased the first images of its next generation AR headset, Magic Leap 2.

A blog post by Magic Leap CEO Peggy Johnson features an image, pictured below, comparing the field of view of the first and second generation AR headsets. While Magic Leap 2 seems to have small gains in horizontal field of view, vertically the augmentation of your vision should be far more significant with the new device. The company is said to have raised another $500 million to roll-out the second generation product focused toward business markets in 2022. “Select customers” are “already leveraging its capabilities through an early access program,” according to the company.

.

We can also see in the images of the new device that it apparently keeps its wired design. The original Magic Leap One headset shipped starting in August 2018 priced at $2,295 with a single handheld controller and wired computing puck accompanying the lightweight glasses.

magic leap 2

Here’s the first generation device for comparison:

Apple, Facebook, and Microsoft are just a few of the companies working to develop next-generation AR headsets geared toward different use cases. A new generation of VR headsets are also likely to have advanced AR passthrough modes likely to overlap with the feature sets of systems like Magic Leap 2. We’ll be curious to see, then, what price Magic Leap’s second generation system arrives at when it launches, and how it holds up against other products available at the time it ships.

“Magic Leap 2 will be the industry’s smallest and lightest device built for enterprise adoption,” Johnson wrote. “This more advanced headset boasts critical updates that make it more immersive and even more comfortable, with leading optics, the largest field of view in the industry, and dimming – a first-to-market innovation that enables the headset to be used in brightly lit settings, in addition to a significantly smaller and lighter form factor. These updated features lend themselves to achieving our goal of all day, everyday use, which is what the enterprise market has been asking for – a device that you can put on your head in the morning and wear all day long.”

Magic Leap appointed Johnson as CEO in July 2020 after former CEO Rony Abovitz stepped down, citing a need for the company to pivot to a new ‘focused’ direction.

Niantic Acquires Hoss To Build Lightship API Developer Platform

Pokemon Go developer Niantic today acquired Hoss, a start-up company that will develop a platform and set of tools that makes it easier for developers to work with Niantic’s upcoming Lightship ARDK.

Lightship is Niantic’s “planet-scale” AR platform, which provides developers with an SDK to build AR experiences on a global map — a type of game popularized by Niantic’s mega-hit Pokemon Go in 2016. The Hoss acquisition will see the team working on a solid platform portal for developers using Lightship, which is currently in private beta but will soon move to a public release.

“As we are preparing to open the Lightship platform to developers around the world, it’s critically important that we get two things right — both the tools in the ARDK to help developers build new experiences, and the developer experience as we work together to build this exciting new world of AR experiences,” said Niantic’s chief product officer Kei Kawai in a prepared statement.

Hoss were part of the Y Comibinator winter class of 2020, and have since grown the business and found success in “creating compelling developer-first experiences that combine self-service and rich community engagement,” according to Niantic.

Hoss co-founder and CEO Matt Hawkins said the acquisition was a great opportunity for the start-up. “We repeatedly found that developers are not happy with the status quo when it comes to developer experiences,” he said in a prepared statement.”The chance to build out the Lightship DX as we’re getting ready to open the platform to developers around the world is a once-in-a-career type of opportunity that we are so incredibly excited to be a part of.”

You can read more about Hoss here. In other Niantic news, Dan Morris, the former Head of Developer Relations at Facebook Reality Labs, joined the company early last month. Meanwhile, we’re still waiting on more news on the upcoming Pikman AR game from Niantic, which is being produced in partnership with Nintendo, as well as the upcoming Transformers AR game, in partnership with Hasbro.