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)

Official Magic Leap 2 Details Released, $500m New Funding Raised

Magic Leap 2

It certainly seems to be hardware season where virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) is concerned. HTC Vive has a special event planned this week, Lynx-R1 launched a Kickstarter, Canon EOS VR was unveiled and now the first proper look at Magic Leap’s next device. Not only that, the company has managed to raise a further $500 million USD in funding.

Magic Leap 2

Magic Leap CEO Peggy Johnson initially teased the first image on Monday before an interview with CNBC. This has been followed up with further imagery of a much sleeker looking device. In a similar arrangement to the original model, the Magic Leap 2 has a pair of central cameras but this time there are two additional sensors just below them. There’s an additional lens on the corner that looks tilted outwards by around 45-degrees, presumably for a wider capture field.

Actual specifications regarding the Magic Leap 2 haven’t been released just yet, Johnson has mentioned that the: “headset boasts critical updates that make it more immersive and even more comfortable,” increasing its field of view (FoV) – as seen in the image above – vertically rather than horizontally. It’ll also come with a dimming feature that the CEO says is: “a first-to-market innovation that enables the headset to be used in brightly lit settings.”

Johnson is also keen to point out that the Magic Leap 2 aims to achieve the company’s goal of a device suitable for “all day, everyday use”. “All day” would be quite the achievement considering the Magic Leap 1 was good for 3.5 hours of continuous use. That could indicate a much larger battery, improved power consumption or hot-swappable battery for users.

Magic Leap 2

To help bring the Magic Leap 2 to market, Magic Leap has managed to raise an additional $500 million on top of the billions previously raised.

“This investment is an important step in advancing Magic Leap’s mission to transform the way we work,” said Peggy Johnson in a blog post. “With ongoing support from our existing investors, Magic Leap will have greater financial flexibility and the resources needed to continue our growth trajectory as we expand on our industry-leading AR technology.”

Magic Leap 2 is already in select enterprise customer hands via an early access program. Sales of the headset will begin at some point in 2022. For continued updates, keep reading VRFocus.

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.

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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.

First Image of Next Magic Leap Headset Revealed

Magic Leap

After much hype augmented reality (AR) reality company Magic Leap launched its first device – the Magic Leap 1 – back in 2018. It didn’t quite set the tech world on fire, with the following years seeing plenty of upheaval including new CEO Peggy Johnson appointed last year. Today, Johnson has teased the first image of what’s likely to be Magic Leap 2.

Magic Leap enterprise

Johnson shared a post on Linkedin with a very cropped image of the new device saying that she’d be sharing further details on CNBC’s PowerLunch programme today. While the singular image doesn’t reveal a great deal, the new device certainly looks smaller and more stylish than Magic Leap’s previous generation AR headset. The form factor seems to be more in line with other AR hardware manufacturers, going for a more fashionable smart glasses approach to help widen its appeal.

Whilst it might not be the Magic Leap 2, information up to this point would suggest it is the follow-up device. The Microsoft and Qualcomm veteran joined Magic Leap back in 2020, announcing earlier this year that the initial rollout of Magic Leap 2 would take place by the end of 2021. At the time she said: “we’ve made the product half the size, about 20% lighter,” which would fit with this image.

Those in Magic Leap’s early adopter program will be given first access, slated to be in Q4, with general availability taking place in Q1 2022. Hopefully, today will see the company finalise some of those details and maybe even release a price for its next device.

Magic Leap
Magic Leap 1

Don’t expect it to be coming in at a consumer price point though. Magic Leap is still firmly focused on the enterprise market, encouraging businesses to utilise AR, whether that’s for training, collaboration, design or any other use case.

Most of the news out of Magic Leap in 2021 has concerned partnerships, from integrating NVIDIA’s CloudXR tech to teaming up with AMD. Most recently, last week saw Magic Leap and VMware announce Workspace ONE XR Hub integration on Magic Leap 2. As further details arise, VRFocus will keep you updated.

Is there room in the metaverse for indie fashion labels? Australian designers hope so

As high-end fashion conglomerates rush to invest in virtual reality fashion, small players are making moves too

In the designer Denni Francisco’s new film, models wearing clothes from her label Ngali wander through a virtual landscape. Using this digital medium, it was possible to take her collection on location, despite being in lockdown and unable to travel.

This was particularly important for Francisco, a Wiradjuri woman, as the landscape used in the film is based on Taungurung Country, in central Victoria, where Francisco was born, and her daughter now lives. She says when she’s designing, connection to Country is at the forefront of her mind. “We’re often talking about how what we do belongs to Country, how it’s connected to Country and how it has a rightful place in Country,” she says.

The VR film will premiere not at a fashion event, but at Melbourne International Games Week. Francisco is one of seven apparel and accessories designers included in a digital fashion incubator project, an initiative of Creative Victoria, that saw independent Victorian designers collaborate with Melbourne-based AR/VR studio Ignition Immersive. Some projects, like Francisco’s, are artistic while others are more pragmatic, allowing would-be customers to virtually try accessories at home using AR filters.

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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.

Nreal’s Next AR Glasses Will be Apple and Android Compatible

Nreal Air

While Facebook’s first foray into smart glasses tech, Ray-Ban Stories, was putting a camera and speakers in sunglasses, companies like Nreal have already been outfitting their’s with augmented reality (AR) features. Nreal Light launched back in 2019, today seeing the next iteration coming to light in the form of Nreal Air.

Nreal Air

Just like its predecessor, Nreal Air is a smartphone tethered pair of AR sunglasses, enabling you to watch videos or play games on a giant virtual screen. This time, though, Nreal has managed to make the Air smaller, lighter and much more stylish than before – although the only images released so far are renders.

The company says that Nreal Air weighs in at 77g – Nreal Light was a chunkier 106g – and is capable of projecting a 130-inch virtual display at 3 meters or a whopping 201-inch display at a virtual six meters. This is thanks to a micro-OLED chip that can support a claimed 49 Pixels Per Degree (PPD) at its maximum. And to make sure the experience is nice and smooth it all runs at a 90Hz refresh rate.

That weight reduction works in conjunction with several other features to ensure the Nreal Air is comfortable to wear. An adjustable 3-Step Rake System gives you the option to adjust the viewing angle by tilting the lens, whilst the elastic temples hug the head so the glasses don’t suddenly slip.

Nreal Air

One of the most important additions in terms of compatibility and customer reach is that Neal Air will not only support most Android devices but Apple iOS products as well, beating Apple’s own AR headset plans.

“Consumers today are seeking lighter, but longer-lasting AR glasses exclusively for streaming media and working from home. For instance, in Korea we’ve found that 78% of our users use Nreal Light to watch streaming content,” said Chi Xu, Founder of Nreal in a statement. “Nreal Air builds on our Nreal Light offering and furthers our mission to spread AR globally. With Nreal Air, we’ve zeroed in on the perks of a portable movie theatre and condensed this into lightweight AR sunglasses with a zero-footprint display, while making it affordable.”

When it comes to getting hold of an Nreal Air the process is going to be similar to the Nreal Light. Nreal Air will initially launch in Japan, China and South Korea during December, available through telecom companies. The rest of the world will have to wait until 2022. No Price has been revealed although Nreal has said the new glasses: “will retail at a fraction of the price of Nreal Light,” which retailed for around $586 USD.

Depending on where you live you might be waiting quite a while to purchase an Nreal Air. Outside of its home Asian markets the Nreal Light only came to Europe via Vodafone, and that was only in Germany and Spain. As further details on these new AR sunglasses are released, VRFocus will let you know.

How NASA Astronauts Use VR & AR Aboard The International Space Station

A recent blog post from NASA detailed various ways that VR and AR technology is used aboard the International Space Station and back on Earth to prepare astronauts for take-off.

According to NASA, VR/AR tech is becoming an increasing strong staple in life aboard the ISS, often used to help astronauts complete tasks or activities in new or easier ways. There’s nine examples in the full blog post, alongside some photos showing a few VR and AR headsets you’re probably familiar with.

The most common headset pictured in the blog post is the HoloLens, Microsoft’s enterprise-only AR headset. The HoloLens has been used in projects such as Sidekick, which used high-definition holograms to help show crew members 3D schematics and diagrams while they work. It was also used for T2 AR, a project that will help guide astronauts through maintenance tasks for their space station treadmill, avoiding the need for real-time communication with ground crew back on Earth.

It’s not all AR though — VR is also adopted across the ISS. Some astronauts are pictured using Oculus Quests to test whether adding VR environments might improve astronauts’ exercise bike experience, while others are pictured using Oculus Rift and other headsets for a variety of tasks like operating robotic arms or piloting space vehicles.

The post also mentions The ISS Experience, a multi-episode immersive VR series by Felix & Paul Studios and TIME Studios, filmed over multiple months aboard the ISS. NASA says the series  gives people on Earth insight into life aboard the ISS, along with potentially sparking ideas and inspiration for further research and improved conditions for astronauts. The series won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Interactive Program recently, and the first two out of four planned episodes are available now through the Space Explorers app for Oculus Quest and Rift.

You can read NASA’s full blog post, detailing all the ways they use VR and AR technology aboard the ISS, here. 

Apple CEO Tim Cook: AR Is One Of ‘Very Few Profound Technologies”

In a recent interview with YouTuber iJustine, Tim Cook called himself “AR fan #1” and said he thinks it’s one of “very few profound technologies” that have the potential to permanently embed themselves in day-to-day life.

The comments on AR, prompted by a question from Justine, start around the 9:15 mark. Here’s a transcription of what he had to say (emphasis is our own):

You know, I am so excited about AR. I think AR is one of these very few profound technologies that we will look back on one day and, ‘How did we lives out without it?’ And so right now you can experience it in thousands of ways, using your iPad or your iPhone, but of course those will get better and better over time. Already, it’s a great way to shop, it’s a great way to learn, it enhances the learning process. I can’t wait for it to be even more important in collaboration and so forth. So I’m AR fan #1. I think it’s that big.

Simple things today that you can use it for, like if you’re shopping for a sofa or a chair or a lamp, in terms of experiencing it in your place… We’ve never been able to do that before until the last couple of years or so. And that’s at the early innings of AR, it will only get better

This is far from the first time Cook has been publicly bullish about AR. In April, he said it was “critically important” to Apple’s future, following on from comments two months earlier about how he thinks AR could one day attract as big of an audience as the iPhone. As far back as 2016, Tim Cook was telling Apple investors that AR will be huge but also take some time to get right.

Five years on, AR has come a long way but still has a ways to go. Facebook’s recent Ray-Ban smart glasses pave the way for that company’s public AR efforts, but Apple has yet to dip its toes into AR hardware beyond iPhone and iOS integration. It’s reported that this could change next year, with Apple rumored to launch an AR-VR headset in the second half of 2022 for anywhere between $1000-$2000 or more.

Catan: World Explorers’ Journey Ends Before it Truly Began, Closes November

Catan: World Explorers

Remember Catan: World Explorers from 2019, probably not? A project by Pokémon Go creator Niantic Labs to fuse augmented reality (AR) geolocation gaming and the renowned Catan board game together, it’s about to be closed down for go, before it even saw an official launch.

Catan: World Explorers

After the 2019 reveal, Catan: World Explorers saw an early access launch in the US and a few other select regions. Much like Niantic Lab’s other AR titles, the original plan was to roll out to more and more countries but that’s no longer happening the company recently confirmed.

Catan: World Explorers has already been removed from the App Store as well as all real-money purchases from the in-game shop. If you’ve been playing the videogame for the past year then you’ve got until 18th November 2021, 7am UTC, at which point the servers will be shut down and the title will be no more.

While there’s been no official reason as to why Catan: World Explorers is being closed down a blog post does note the difficulties in such an endeavour: “We had a vision for trading, harvesting, and building up the world in seasonal play and resetting the board each month, just like you do for each new game you play at home. But trying to adapt such a well-designed board game to a global, location-based Massively Multiplayer Online (MMO) game was a tough challenge.” Going on to add: “…we got a little too complicated and a little too far from the original CATAN game.”

Catan: World Explorers

The videogame will be going out with a bang though, with the team saying: “we have some gameplay ideas that we are planning will make the next few months of gameplay really exciting!” Also, with a couple of months to go players will be able to spend their remaining gold balance on cut-price shop items or transfer their currency to Pokémon Go.

With Niantic Labs closing Catan: World Explorers it shows the studio can’t always replicate the massive success of Pokémon Go, so it’s unclear if this will have any effect on upcoming titles like Transformers: Heavy Metal. Other franchises to get into the mobile AR gaming genre include Harry Potter and most recently The Witcher: Monster Slayer. For continued updates on AR, keep reading VRFocus.