The state of the AR/VR Market
Big news: Facebook has promised virtual games through the Oculus Rift by the end of this year. With this move, Mark Zuckerberg has single-handedly turned the world’s collective consciousness towards Virtual Reality (VR).
This wider understanding has created an embryonic market, which is flourishing in terms of big names: Microsoft launched Hololens; and at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, where everyone anticipating Apple euphoria was playing with smartwatches, saw HTC launch Vive instead, shifting the focus back to VR.
Facebook VR games, the introduction of Hololens and Vive are just the developments launched with significant media coverage. The VR community has of course been vibrant for some time, but without the right PR, has seemed to be waiting for a champion, like Facebook, to bring the technology to the masses.
While VR is waiting for a champion to make the moves, Augmented Reality (AR) is thriving. The use of AR combined with heads-up displays is dramatically moving from “gaming stereotypes” towards application to workflow management, remote collaboration, and access to knowledge. Commercial deployment of AR can already be seen in the automotive sector, healthcare and logistics, and several pilot programs are in other areas: from precise manufacturing to tourism.
Naturally, all this movement in the realm of VR and AR has piqued the interest of our Roll R&D department. This interest is not just driven by our unstoppable curiosity for discovering new technology, but also by the need to experiment with such technologies and how they can fit into Roll Studio’s activities. Our aim is to explore technologies, create knowledge in the company, and transform this knowledge in strategic asset for our customers. Guided by this ethos, and our precious Oculus Rift, the virtual/augmented world is our oyster.
Roll’s Oculus Rift Experiments
Earlier in the year, our developers got a fantastic new VR toy: the Oculus Rift. Like kids at christmas, we tore it out of the box, and couldn’t wait to use it. We walked around it, observed it, and immediately tried to figure out which kind of application we could create first to get the most out of it. Nothing major popped up from our minds, until we were involved with the Flussi Electronic Arts Festival for which we had made a fantastic iBeacon based app for iOS and Android.
We thought about another electronic music festival installation we had created involving sound and graphics manipulation called “Interferente”, and started wondering: ‘What if we could show that as a 3D world?’ So… What if we could? The day after we started writing this new installation to work inside a browser, using WEB GL and WebAudio API.
The 3D scene was made of sound waves captured right at the music festival, generating shapes that varied between a moving tunnel and a rotating oval.
We created a scene in which you could physically move through the visual sound waves; look at and be engulfed by the oval from the inside while sitting down and from the outside when standing up. This was an amazing experience for users at the festival, who then experienced it in reverse when looking backwards when inside the
tunnel, seeing all those waves disappearing while getting further and further. It wasn’t all just ovals and tunnels. We had also placed a runaway in the middle of the scene (that allowed you to see your own sneakers!) to surprise people when moving outside of the tunnel, because of the epic falling they would experience. Free falling for hundreds of meters without dying is surprisingly pretty fun! Festival-goers using Interferente kept falling down over and over, and someone almost fell for real. Oops!
On day two of Flussi, we still weren’t quite satisfied we had gotten the most out of our shiny new toy. We added a motion leap sensor on top of the Oculus, which let people see their own hands. This addition meant introducing a way to physically interact with the 3D world, and with the waves starting to look like the sea, you could dive in, hands first and swim through the sounds.
Now the Oculus is back in the box, just waiting for a new brave adventure, made with love, made by Roll.
By Renato Formato & Saverio Romeo