Robotics Manufacturer Kawasaki Joins Microsoft’s “Industrial Metaverse”

The “metaverse” is a buzzword being dropped next to all sorts of industries but for the most part, they’ve been promoted as social/gaming spaces. Microsoft held its annual Build conference this week with CEO Satya Nadella discussing its far different vision, an “industrial metaverse” that’s welcomed Kawasaki into the fold.

Microsoft Kawasaki

Now, unlike most other metaverse platforms where you get to run around virtual environments, hanging up your avatar’s clothing every five minutes and enjoying social banter, Microsoft’s industrial metaverse is actually very different. This is essentially Kawasaki floor workers donning HoloLens 2 devices to see holographic representations of real robotics so they can solve any issues that arise with minimal downtime.

This process is called digital twinning, creating digital versions of real-world items and processes to aid learning or in the case of heavy industry; speeding up repairs, increasing production or starting a new manufacturing line. There are plenty of possibilities, so much so that Kawasaki now joins Heinz and Boeing as Microsoft industrial metaverse partners.

“That’s why I think you’re seeing a lot of energy in that space,” Jessica Hawk, Microsoft’s corporate vice president of mixed reality, told CNBC. “These are real world problems that these companies are dealing with … so having a technology solution that can help unblock the supply chain challenge, for example, is incredibly impactful.”

Microsoft Kawasaki

Microsoft isn’t purely interested in the industrial applications for connecting people using XR technology. Apart from owning Minecraft and AltspaceVR, Microsoft’s metaverse ambitions stretch across a range of products with Teams and Mesh highlighted during the conference.

“With the latest AI and Teams Rooms experiences, we’re dissolving the walls between digital and physical participation so people can present a PowerPoint together as though they were in the same location, even when they’re apart,” says Nadella. Mesh, on the other hand, is all about creation: “You can build your metaverse experiences on Mesh that are accessible from anywhere on any device, whether it’s HoloLens, VR headsets, phones, tablets or PCs.”

As Microsoft continues to explore metaverse possibilities, gmw3 will keep you updated.

Grab an AR Bargain Magic Leap 1 for Only $549

Back before it ever had a product, the very well backed Magic Leap was the talk of the XR town thanks to its secrecy, occasional celeb tech demos and plenty of outlandish spin. All of that eventually produced the Magic Leap One which didn’t exactly set the world on fire, especially as the device cost in excess of $2000 USD when it launched in 2018. If you wanted one but couldn’t afford it then now’s the chance, Magic Leap seems to be selling them off cheap.

NSC Creative

There’s a listing on Amazon-owned marketplace Woot for the first generation Magic Leap 1 – which was a slight improvement over the original Magic Leap One Creators Edition. It seems as though Magic Leap is selling off its old stock as the augmented reality (AR) headset still comes with a 1-year warranty and you can buy up to three at once!

But it’s the price that’s most surprising, you can pick up a brand new Magic Leap 1 for only $549 USD, that’s a massive 76% saving off the listed $2,295.00. That’s the biggest saving gmw3 has seen on hardware, even if it has been superseded by the newer Magic Leap 2.

Magic Leap 1 might have been a more enterprise-oriented headset – it wasn’t until a little later that Magic Leap announced it would fully focus on enterprise – but at the time it did court developers from across the XR industry. Studios like Resolution Games created exclusive titles like Glimt: The Vanishing at the Grand Starlight Hotel although, for the most part, those looking to tinker in AR will get the most use out of this deal.

Magic Leap

The Magic Leap 1 is comprised of the headset and its array of sensors, an external puck that houses the battery and CPU, plus an additional remote control. The holographic display has a field of view (FoV) of 50-degrees and there’s full 6DoF tracking support. Other features include a 120Hz refresh rate, 8GB RAM, 128GB storage, and 3.5 hours of battery life.

The $549 Magic Leap 1 deal will end in 8 days or sooner if the stock does run out before then. For continued updates on the latest XR deals, keep reading gmw3.

HoloLens 2 Powers Experiential Art Exhibit Arcadia Earth

For many, when it comes to augmented reality (AR) most will have only experienced the technology through their phones rather than specialist hardware. Especially not Microsoft’s enterprise-focused HoloLens 2. In a public first for the device, an environmental art exhibit called Arcadia Earth will utilise HoloLens 2 to give guests the ability to interact with holograms as they walk through the show.

Arcadia Earth
Image credit: Arcadia Earth

Developed in partnership with Enklu, HoloLens 2 gives life to this art exhibit, enhancing guests’ visit by making ecosystems interactive, animating animals and unlocking hidden gems along the way. Teaching visitors about the plight of the environment, they can enjoy captivating experiential art whilst learning about issues such single-use plastic waste and overfishing.

One area is dedicated to coral reefs, home to over a quarter of the oceans’ marine life. Attendees will be surrounded by fish and other aquatic life, all within easy reach. Reefs are in danger of bleaching, a process that participants can now view in holographic form. They’ll then be offered advice, such as which sunscreen is far more environmentally friendly, thus protecting the reefs. This information can then be sent to their phones at the touch of a button.

As Arcade Earth is a multisensory exhibit it is also filled with physical installations and proximity-triggered audio, all aided by a friendly orb that guides guests around.

Arcadia Earth
Image credit: Arcadia Earth

One of the benefits of an exhibition like Arcadia Earth using AR is its adaptability. New experiences can be created, holograms updated as required, or new information added as discoveries are made. Thus encouraging return trips to educate guests on the natural world.

Arcadia Earth has a number of locations around the world including New York, Las Vegas and Saudi Arabia. However, the HoloLens powered experience will be based at the New York City location, rolling out later this month. General admission tickets are $39 USD peak and $33 off-peak, with the HoloLens tour price coming in at $59. Proceeds from ticket sales go towards planting mangrove trees, found to be great at absorbing carbon from the atmosphere.

For continued updates, keep reading gmw3.

Qualcomm Unveils its First Wireless XR2-Powered Smart Glasses

Qualcomm Technologies has become one of the biggest proponents for XR smart glasses thanks to the constant revision of its reference design for OEMs. These are all tethered devices but today, Qualcomm has revealed its first step toward a wireless future for these immersive glasses with its new Wireless AR Smart Viewer Reference Design.

Qualcomm Wireless XR2
Image credit: Qualcomm Technologies

Most smart glasses (or smart viewers as Qualcomm likes to call them) cable to an external device, be it a phone or small processing unit to supply power and handle the heavy software lifting. This means they can stay fairly lightweight whilst maintaining a slim form factor. Somehow, using its technical wizardry, Qualcomm’s wireless reference design is not only slimmer in places but also looks better than its tethered kin.

Sporting a 650mAh battery – in a press briefing, Qualcomm’s GM of XR Hugo Swart wouldn’t say how long that could last – the Wireless AR Smart Viewer uses Wifi 6 in conjunction with the Qualcomm FastConnect 6900 System to pair to a device, providing “virtually lag-free AR experiences” the company claims. Utilising Qualcomm’s latest Snapdragon XR2 platform to power the glasses, it has a dual micro-OLED binocular display with a resolution of 1920×1080 per eye at a 90Hz frame rate.

FastConnect is paired with a split processing system so that the smart glasses send across all the 6Dof, hand and eye-tracking data, the smartphone processes all of that in conjunction with the XR app before sending it all back to the glasses. All of this achieved with a <3ms latency.

Qualcomm Wireless XR2
Image credit: Qualcomm Technologies

As for what you could be watching on these wireless smart viewers, look no further than Snapdragon Spaces, Qualcomm’s developer platform for AR experiences. It has created a $100 million fund to encourage content creators as well as partnering with Square Enix and T-Mobile to help build immersive titles.

Like all of Qualcomm’s reference designs, the Wireless AR Smart Viewer has been created for other companies to build upon, so Qualcomm won’t release this as its own product. Much in the same way, Lenovo made the ThinkReality A3 smart glasses from the XR1 AR Smart Viewer Reference Design.

So there’s no telling quite yet when these wireless XR glasses will come to market. As these details come to light, gmw3 will keep you updated.

T-Mobile Selects 6 Startups to Create 5G AR Experiences Using Snapdragon Spaces

Qualcomm launched its Snapdragon Spaces platform last year for developers to create augmented reality (AR) experiences for the company’s smart glasses. Bringing on collaborators like Square Enix and T-Mobile, the latter has announced its T-Mobile Accelerator and the six participating startups looking to create new 5G-enabled AR apps.

Krikey Minigolf image1
Krikey Minigolf

The participants will use the Snapdragon Spaces XR Developer Platform to develop, test and bring to market new AR products and services, aided by T-Mobile engineers and Qualcomm experts. They’ll be using the first smart glasses to support the platform; the Lenovo ThinkReality A3. The six companies to join the programme are Beem, Krikey, Mawari, Mohx-Games, Pluto, and VictoryXR.

  • Beem – Specialises in live and on-demand communication in AR.
  • Krikey – An AR gaming and social media app which launched its first title Yaatra in 2020 and then avatar NFTs in 2022.
  • Mawari – A Japanese startup providing an AR-focused streaming SDK.
  • Mohx-Games – A company focused on immersive AR gaming and entertainment experiences.
  • Pluto – Offers Pluto VR, a shared presence communication app and PlutoSphere, for streaming high-end PC VR games without a PC.
  • VictoryXR – Immersive education in VR & AR.

“Smart glasses will completely change how we connect and experience the world around us,” said John Saw, EVP of Advanced & Emerging Technologies at T-Mobile in a statement. “With T-Mobile 5G we have the capacity and performance needed to power high-bandwidth, immersive AR experiences for smart glasses, but it’s the developers and entrepreneurs that will bring these new applications to life.”

Lenovo ThinkReality A3
Lenovo’s ThinkReality A3

These won’t be the only AR startups to join the initiative, more will be added on a rolling basis. The programme is designed to help build an ecosystem of AR experiences as smart glasses become more readily available.

While Qualcomm doesn’t build its own smart glasses, the company does make reference designs like the XR1 AR Smart Viewer for OEMs to utilise as a based model. Qualcomm has also launched in recent months its $100 million USD Snapdragon Metaverse Fund to help finance new developer initiatives.

As further details regarding the T-Mobile Accelerator are released gmw3 will keep you updated.

RIFT-AR – An Augmented Metaverse

With so many metaverse platforms emerging almost daily, a project needs to truly stand out. Not only that, but it needs to feel achievable and accessible to all. This is exactly what RIFT-AR will be according to founders, Adam Wavy, Lofi Michael and Karo Kaylani. In order to be accessible, RIFT-AR will be built using the AR technology already used in your mobile phones, much like when playing games such as Pokemon Go.

When the app becomes available, it will allow users to see an augmented reality metaverse layered over our reality. Users will be able to purchase locations across the world and upload digital assets from crypto wallets. This could mean that businesses will be able to apply AR features to their store signage, creating a sci-fi world seen only through the screen of your phone, but hopefully through AR glasses in the future.

We sat down with Co-Founder Adam Wavy to explore RIFT-AR in more detail.

GMW3 – Can you tell us a little bit about how RIFT-AR came to you and why you are so passionate about integrating the metaverse with our reality?

Adam Wavy – Michael and I both grew up in small towns – we’re both curious people & our surroundings never really fulfilled our need to experience new things. There was no option to alter our surroundings at such a young age. Augmented reality is a missing link granting access to anyone with a vision to begin building a world they dream to live in.

We examined the current state of the internet and how we interact with it. The idea of building another marketplace seemed dull. We began to examine areas all the major tech companies are building and were most intrigued with VR/AR.

GMW3 – What’s the ultimate goal for RIFT-AR? Where do you start on a project like this?

Adam Wavy – Michael has experience working in an experimental technologies lab that gave him access to a lot of these tools – we both agreed VR is really cool, but it seems like a short term play. In order to participate in VR you have to wear a headset that isolates you from reality. We’d been living in isolation for two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic and humanity needs technology to support connection with one another and their communities; a seamless bond between reality and digital worlds is the ethos of RIFT, we aren’t giving up on reality – we want to enhance it digitally. 

GMW3 – It seems like AR is a natural evolution from QR codes…

Adam Wavy – I used to work with large brands producing experiential activations – we began plugging QR codes into our events and saw a large attraction to exclusive experience through technology – as we build RIFT, leveraging your phone’s capabilities to access augmented reality – I’m reminded of the early stages of onboarding people to using their camera to scan QR codes.

GMW3 – As RIFT-AR isn’t publicly available as yet, can you tell us a little of what to expect?

Adam Wavy – Our beta is an augmented reality app that allows you to view, purchase & build a digital layer over reality through the lens of your phone a lot like Pokémon Go. Our platform will be using Polygon’s blockchain to transact and store information. 

We wanted to create an even playing field and pondered ways to make this platform as accessible as possible – high price points seem to be holding Gen Z back from participating in web3 and metaverse projects. Utilizing Polygon’s low transaction fees and leveraging capabilities your phone already possesses is our approach to making the metaverse accessible for new and younger generations. 

RIFT will serve more as a foundation for the Metaverse, opening opportunities for collaboration – more so than a pre-constructed world for you to play in. We want builders, artists, dreamers etc, to focus on creating their “big idea”- they can plug their vision into the world. Notion being, creators stay creating – RIFT can handle the technology part.

GMW3 – Have there been any major challenges or pitfalls within development?

Adam Wavy – The biggest piece of the puzzle that’s taken the most time for development is how to map the world accurately in a decentralized manner. Our CTO Lofi Michael found the perfect solution- we are using “geohashes”- a public spatial data structure that assigns land coordinates and ranges, a unique code.

Utilizing geohashes allows for RIFT’s persistent land reference to be extremely accurate when mapping the world, while leveraging a developed system that doesn’t rely on mutable data (like street names).

Another note, we are very early and building in public – which opened the door to grow our founding team with Karo Kaylani. She helped organically boost our discord and sell out of our whitelist within 24 hours. It’s tricky seeing larger projects use influencers to boast big numbers while we remain in a lane to build organically and slow for the long term play. 

GMW3 – Can you depict how you see this metaverse developing? How will the aesthetic be created?

Adam Wavy – Initially, we were taking a lot of inspiration from the early 80s graffiti movement in New York – thinking artists can display their art all over cities and be competitive about “coming up” with cool art placements in their city in a legal manner. 

However, we found real estate developers were flocking to our project quicker than artists. We are opening the entire world up to be sold at a low price point and built on. We will put lots of effort in connecting creators with developers to begin construction of a beautiful digital layer not dominated by advertising. 

As an example, we’re launching our  “Creative Hubs Program” across the world partnering with creatives to build community spaces to inspire connection & creativity. We are modelling a lot of the Creative Hubs Program similar to the early stages of Wynwood Miami’s development.

GMW3 – Do you feel the public will be more attracted by augmented reality, as opposed to virtual reality?

Adam Wavy – AR is the long term play for sure. It is imperative we build the Metaverse with direct relationship to our surroundings. With the rapid decline in climate change, it seems a VR Metaverse is humanity throwing in the towel on our planet. We are building RIFT leveraging AR to help improve the way we build cities and support meaningful interaction with communities as well as being a platform that plugs into the new devices that will be coming out in the next 2-5 years.

GMW3 – How does RIFT-AR stand out among the many other metaverse projects coming soon?

Adam Wavy – There are some beautiful metaverse projects that currently exist, some of which I’ll be personally investing in. Competition is natural and helps the entire movement progress. We’re the only project I’ve seen sharing a vision of digital expansion being seamless with city development. Which is the most important bit of building in this space, in my opinion. The first skyscraper was built in Chicago in 1855 which forever changed the landscape of how we build cities and improve citizen interaction with our cities. We are building RIFT-AR with the same ethos.

RIFT-AR, even in these early stages, seems very promising. Many companies, including Niantic Labs, creators of Pokemon Go, believe AR is the way to go. It’s much more affordable for consumers, as they’ve mostly got a smartphone already and businesses have begun exploring unique ways to capture the attention of users through AR games. This metaverse concept may be more appealing to the larger society due to its limited impact on everyday life plus the lack of a potentially bulky VR headset.

RIFT-AR is currently attracting investors with a view to launch very soon.

Project Cambria Has A Depth Sensor & Much Higher Resolution Cameras

Project Cambria has a depth sensor and cameras with 3 times the resolution of Quest 2’s.

Cambria is the public codename for Meta’s upcoming high end standalone headset, announced at Connect 2021 in October. It will be sold alongside Quest 2 with a price tag “significantly” higher than $800, aimed at remote workers and mixed reality enthusiasts. The headset looks to have a more balanced design than Quest 2 with a slimmer visor achieved through the use of pancake lenses instead of fresnel lenses. It also has built-in face and eye tracking to drive avatars in social experiences like Workrooms.

But Cambria’s headline new feature is high resolution color passthrough for mixed reality – Quest 2’s passthrough is grainy black & white. And today in a conversation with Jesse Schell (of Schell Games), Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg revealed some of the hardware behind this mixed reality functionality.

Zuckerberg said Quest 2’s passthrough is based on “sensors that were not designed to give you anything more than just a very rough outline of what’s going on around you”.

Cambria, on the other hand will have “a bunch of new sensors” including “high resolution color outward facing cameras” as well as a dedicated depth sensor. “Right now on Quest 2 we hack it a little bit by looking at the cameras and trying to intuit what the depth is”. Zuckerberg told Protocol that this sensor is an IR projector for active depth sensing, and also said the regular cameras have three times the resolution of Quest 2’s.

Hardware level depth sensing is also “more optimized towards hands” Zuckerberg told protocol, though Meta has dramatically improved hand tracking even on Quest 2 by leveraging recent advances in computer vision.

Project Cambria still doesn’t have a product name, specific release window, or exact price; but Zuckerberg re-iterated it will launch “later this year”.

AR Platform Overly Integrates NFT Marketplace OpenSea

Everyone might not understand them but NFTs (non-fungible tokens) are cropping up everywhere, whether that’s celebrity chefs getting in on the buzz to major social platforms like Instagram. This week, augmented reality (AR) specialist Overly has decided to do the same, integrating NFT marketplace OpenSea.io into its platform.

Overly - AR NFTs

Overly is all about do-it-yourself AR content creation, all without the need to learn any code. This new feature means that creators can now add NFTs to their AR projects quite quickly and simply by the looks of it. Head to OpenSea to find your NFT – or buy one – then copy the hyperlink and paste it into your Overly Creator project. Hit publish and then enjoy seeing the NFT in the real world.

Rather than creating its own trading platform, Overly went with OpenSea.io as the easiest solution for NFT integration. This all came from the company’s collaboration with mural artist KIWIE for Spain’s “Be Baller” festival. KIWIE’s NFTs are geo-tagged to the artists’ works around the world. Using the Overly app, fans can see a digital representation of the art pieces when visiting them.

“The market has been focused on building semi-closed communities for those wishing to create or appreciate NFT content in augmented reality. So far, people could create, purchase and view AR NFTs through a specialist provider or not at all,” said Gatis Zvejnieks, Chief Technical Officer (CTO) at Overly in a statement. “People who buy 2D content on OpenSea may purchase a 3D object the next day. Just because an NFT wasn’t minted on an AR-powered platform doesn’t mean people can’t bring it to their environment through augmented reality.” 

Overly - AR NFTs

“People can use AR to take photos with their purchases or decorate homes with digital objects. NFTs no longer have to be reserved for our virtual expeditions and games nor be completely separate from our world,” adds Zvejnieks.

Currently, Overly can support OpenSea NFTs in file formats ranging from GLTF, GLB, FBX (3D files) to JPG, PNG and MP4 (2D assets). The company plans on supporting other NFT marketplaces in the future. Overly has also revealed plans to release WebAR functionality later this year.

For continued updates, keep reading gmw3.

Take an AR Tour Through Legoland Windsor’s Magical Forest

Augmented reality (AR) is seeing greater deployment for at-home use, at an enterprise level and for out-of-home entertainment. When it comes to the latter, the UK’s Legoland Windsor Resort has unveiled its latest attraction, The Magical Forest, which utilises Zappar’s AR technology for a self-guided walk-through experience.

Legoland Windsor AR

The Magical Forest is an immersive experience for families that build upon the Lego Mythica area of the resort. As guests wander through the forest they’ll be able to use the Legoland app to scan QR codes at AR activation points, bringing all the Lego creatures to life.

This AR adventure is narrated by BOBs, the baby alicorn, brought to life and transformed from Lego to his real-life form. BOBs will guide families through The Magical Forest whilst introducing creatures such as Crystal Claw Crabs, Baby Lava Dragons, Venus Fly Traps and the Lava Dragon herself. To increase the interactive elements, the AR experience will encourage kids to help BOBs find their missing wing, take a photo with the Lava Dragon and special virtual cards to collect with stats on each creature.

“We’re hugely excited to be launching The Magical Forest which deep dives into Lego Mythica in an extraordinarily captivating way. Kids and their parents will be able to explore this enchanting walk-through experience filled with an abundance of amazing mythical creatures built out of Lego bricks,” said Helen Bull, Divisional Director at Legoland Windsor Resort in a statement. “We can’t wait to welcome families once again to this epic land which received 5-star reviews last year and is the perfect place for families to build memories together and let their imaginations run wild.”

Legoland Windsor AR

“This really is a dream project to work on with such an iconic brand, venue and new IP. The challenge was to deliver spatial storytelling that could enhance and complement the incredible physical experience that is the cornerstone of a great day out at the Legoland Windsor Resort and really immerse family and kids in this wonderful world of Lego Mythica in a special way,” adds Caspar Thykier, Co-founder and CEO at Zappar.

Legoland Windsor’s new Magical Forest AR Experience is open now and continues the UK’s deployment of immersive technologies in location-based entertainment (LBE). Earlier this year saw London play host to The Green Planet AR Experience based around the natural history show narrated by Sir David Attenborough.

For continued updates on the latest AR innovations, keep reading gmw3.

Niantic & Digital Catapult Launch Programme to Accelerate Real-World Metaverse Creation

When Pokemon GO creator Niantic Labs launched its Lightship software development kit (SDK) for augmented reality (AR) developers in 2021, the company spoke of its desire to build a “real-world metaverse” rather than a purely virtual one. Today, in the next step down that road Niantic has announced a new accelerator programme in collaboration with UK tech agency Digital Catapult, looking for UK-based startups to help build immersive AR experiences.

Niantic Metaverse

Niantic and Digital Catapult are teaming up with Cartoon Network and internationally renowned choreographer Wayne McGregor on the programme. Successful applicants will utilise the Lightship ARDK to build AR experiences for these brands, exploring the definition of a real-world metaverse, the social interactions that take place and how to bring people closer together.

Three startups will be selected for the Niantic Lightship Augmented Reality Accelerator which Digital Catapult will run under its own FutureScope accelerator programme. Each startup will be awarded up to £100,000 GBP to create a socially engaging AR demo.

“This unique collaboration with Niantic and Digital Catapult allows us to dream bigger and venture further into our evolving metaverse(s), visioning a new kind of shared creative adventure that untethers the imagination,” said McGregor in a statement. “This project provides everybody with accessible tools to tap into their innate creativity, to connect playfully with others and to explore their bodies and spaces they inhabit in surprising, limitless ways.”

Wayne McGregor
Wayne McGregor. Photo credit: Pål Hansen

“This new accelerator program with Digital Catapult will allow startups to push the boundaries of possibility with technology, creating groundbreaking new experiences for leading brands – and we are proud to unleash the potential of our Lightship Augmented Reality Developer Kit as part of this, Kate Carlyle, Senior Marketing Manager, Niantic’s Lightship Platform added.

Details regarding when the programme will begin and what sort of timeframe the startups have to build these demos haven’t been released at present. But if you’re UK-based and wish to apply then email niantic@digicatapult.org.uk.

For continued updates on the latest immersive accelerators, keep reading gmw3.