Facebook can make VR Avatars look – and move – exactly like you

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Research assistant Autumn Trimble sits inside “Mugsy,” one of the capture facilities Pittsburgh’s Facebook Reality Lab uses to create “codec avatars.”

“There’s this big, ugly sucker at the door,” the young woman says, her eyes twinkling, “and he said, ‘Who do you think you are, Lena Horne?’ I said no but that I knew Miss Horne like a sister.”

It’s the beginning of a short soliloquy from Walton Jones’ play The 1940’s Radio Hour, and as she continues with the monologue it’s easy to see that the young woman knows what she’s doing. Her smile grows while she goes on to recount the doorman’s change of tune—like she’s letting you in on the joke. Her lips curl as she seizes on just the right words, playing with their cadence. Her expressions are so finely calibrated, her reading so assured, that with the dark background behind her, you’d think you were watching a black-box revival of the late-’70s Broadway play.

There’s only one problem: Her body disappears below the neck.

Yaser Sheikh reaches out and stops the video. The woman is a stunningly lifelike virtual-reality avatar, her performance generated by data gathered beforehand. But Sheikh, who heads up Facebook Reality Labs’ Pittsburgh location, has another video he considers more impressive. In it, the same woman appears wearing a VR headset, as does a young man. Their headsetted real-life selves chat on the left side of the screen; on the right side, simultaneously, their avatars carry on in perfect concert. As mundane as the conversation is—they talk about hot yoga—it’s also an unprecedented glimpse at the future.

Continue reading… “Facebook can make VR Avatars look – and move – exactly like you”

Harman just patented a futuristic system of flying robot speakers for 3D audio

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Speakers could be moved around using quadcopters or even jet propulsion

Harman, the audio company that was purchased by Samsung two years ago, has filed a patent for a sound system that uses robots to create the impression of surround sound (via Variety). The patent details how the speakers could move and hover around the user with the help of quadcopters or even “vertical gas jet based propulsion mobility platforms” in an attempt to provide better audio in a virtual environment.

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Magic Leap wants to build AR “Layers” over the entire earth

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 Augmented reality startup Magic Leap wants to merge the digital and the physical worlds.

In October, CEO Rony Abovitz first shared the idea of the “Magicverse,” a series of digital layers that would exist in AR over the physical world.

On Saturday, the company elaborated on the concept with a blog post and new interview — and its vision of the future is one in which the line between the physical and digital realms blurs until it almost disappears.

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Magical new AR demo transforms 2D photos into ‘Harry Potter’-style 3D animations

Imagine if you were able to point your smartphone, tablet or augmented reality (AR) headset at a still image, and watch it come to life before your very eyes. This is something that’s possible using the latest augmented reality technology, such as Apple’s ARKit or Google’s ARCore. However, while we have seen it done before, typically it has been limited to just one or two select images — for instance, as a tool for animating advertising billboards.

Researchers from the University of Washington and Facebook have built something that’s a whole lot more versatile. Their new “Photo Wake-Up” project will animate stationary characters in any image, resulting in them springing into action to sprint toward you out of the background. Because who has time for boring old still images as we reach the final days of 2018?

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New era in virtual reality therapy for common phobias

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This image provided by Oxford VR in July 2018 shows a virtual reality viewpoint from a simulation designed to help people with a fear of heights. Virtual reality therapy can help patients by exposing them gradually to their greatest terrors. The technology is just now reaching the mainstream after 20 years of research. (Oxford VR via AP) (Associated Press)

Dick Tracey didn’t have to visit a tall building to get over his fear of heights. He put on a virtual reality headset.

Through VR, he rode an elevator to a high-rise atrium that looked so real he fell to his knees.

Continue reading… “New era in virtual reality therapy for common phobias”

What are smart glasses?

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Google Glass made smart glasses a reality, but what are they, really?.

It wasn’t that long ago when a doctor’s prescription and one’s physical limitations were the only uses for eyewear. But now, eyeglasses have gone high tech with smart glasses: eye glasses with a mini computer inside that displays information right on the lens(es).

Eyeglass usefulness began with the need to simply read things more easily. It eventually extended to shield the eyes from the sun and, even more recently, as a simple fashion statement. But the 21st century has other plans for the wearable accessory — and they’re the most innovative yet.

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The rise of the computer-generated celebrity

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A new generation of celebrities is selling out concerts, starring in commercials, and amassing huge Instagram followings. But none of them exist—corporeally, anyway. In recent years, and starting in Japan, technology and social media have spawned a digital demimonde of computer-generated stars, ranging from fake musicians and models to company mascots who appear as holograms (like Betty Crocker, with AI). When they’re not entertaining you, they’re trying to convince you of their humanity, and even the more cartoonish among them have fleshed-out personalities. In a way, it’s the purest expression of celebrity, which has always been an elaborate illusion. CGI starlets, though, “are much easier to control,” says Ryan Detert, CEO of the branding firm Influential. Except when they misbehave.

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VR treatment, even without a therapist, helps people overcome fear of heights

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OVERCOMING ACROPHOBIA. Afraid of heights? You’re not alone. In fact, acrophobia is one of the most common fears in the world. Now, a team of European researchers has found a new way to help people overcome their fear, no need to climb on any ledges or even talk to a therapist.

The researchers enlisted 100 volunteers for their study, all of whom had a clinically diagnosed fear of heights but were not receiving treatment for their phobia. The researchers then split the volunteers into two groups. Fifty-one volunteers served as the control, undergoing no treatment, while the other 49 had the opportunity to undergo a two-week-long virtual reality (VR) treatment regimen (47 agreed to the program, and 44 completed it). The researchers published the results of their trial in the journal The Lancet Psychiatry on Wednesday.

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Watch Amazon’s VR kiosks transform the future of shopping

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Amazon’s new VR store dispenses with the trappings of a shop in favor of fun — a city full of products to explore in themed rooms.

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Earlier this week, Amazon announced that it has opened virtual reality kiosks in 10 shopping malls to promote its upcoming Prime Day shopping event. Now you can see the Amazon VR experience for yourself. Prepare to be impressed: It’s significantly more elaborate than expected, and shows how a top retailer is transforming the future of shopping.

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Inside a $1 Billion real estate company operating entirely in VR

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Born during the aftermath of the financial meltdown a decade ago, a publicly-traded real estate brokerage called eXp Realty is establishing itself as one of the brightest rising companies in its industry—and one of the most creative users of digital technology today.

By several measures, the company is experiencing a moment of true exponential growth.

Since last October, eXp Realty’s stock price has surged more than 300 percent, and this year the company announced they had doubled their number of real estate agents in just seven months. At the beginning of the year, they had roughly 6,500 brokers, but today they have over 12,000 operating in more than 300 markets across the US and Canada. This pace of growth is unprecedented for a single national brokerage and almost unthinkable for a real estate company not structured as a collection of local franchises.

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