Google used photogrammetry to create a detailed VR tour of Versailles

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It’s the largest photogrammetry capture ever done on the site.

Versailles palace is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the world, but fighting those crowds in person can be frustrating. Now, Google and the Château de Versailles have teamed up to take VR users on a private tour of Louis XIV’s royal residence. It’s the largest photogrammetry project ever done at the castle, with 21 rooms and 387,500 square feet of internal surfaces captured. HTC Vive and Oculus Rift users can handle and inspect over 100 sculptures, paintings and other works of art and see them with incredible close-up detail.

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Double’s new telepresence robot now drives you around like you’re a Sim

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Click to drive

When my colleague James Vincent tried out Double Robotics’ first telepresence robot in 2015, slowly wheeling around our New York office from his London home base, he described the experience as like playing Doom, but in an office. The company’s latest version of the robot, the Double 3, adds mixed reality video to let users click on the spots they want to drive to instead of having to use a control pad, making the experience closer to controlling a Sim.

The Double 3 now has an array of 3D sensors to allow for self-driving, letting the robot move around while avoiding obstacles. The new “Click-to-drive” interface shows dots on the floor for areas the robot is able to move to, and there are two 13-megapixel cameras that let users pan and zoom around the screen. The cameras can physically tilt up and down, which comes in handy for zooming in to read papers on a desk, for example. The whole interface can be controlled from a web browser or mobile app.

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Walmart is using VR to help decide who should get promotions

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Walmart, the largest private employer in the U.S. with 1.5 million workers, is using virtual reality to help find candidates for management positions in all 4,600 stores, the Wall Street Journal reported. The VR headsets and the assessment program were designed by Strivr, a Menlo Park, Calif.-based company.

Walmart’s idea for a VR assessment was rooted in seeing how its workers might respond to challenging situations and how they prioritize different tasks—things that would be hard to identify in an interview. So far, 10,000 employees have undergone the VR test as part of an initiative to identify potential high performers and cut back the overall number of managers in each store. This is part of a larger plan to change how many higher paid managers are overseeing teams and to give its frontline workers more decision-making power in their jobs, according to an earlier report in the WSJ.

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Logitech made a VR stylus you can use on a table or in the air

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Less Tilt Brush, more CAD

Logitech has announced a new VR stylus called the Logitech VR Ink Pilot Edition that’s designed to make it easier to draw and sculpt in virtual reality. Unlike existing VR controllers from the likes of HTC, you hold Logitech’s VR stylus like a traditional pen, and it can seamlessly transition between drawing in the air and drawing on a flat surface.

It’s a neat idea, but it sounds like Logitech is still going through the process of working out its reason for being. A teaser video shows the stylus being used mainly for 3D CAD work to design cars and planes, but the company also says it’s seeking industry partners and app developers to work out more use cases for the accessory. Either way, Logitech seems to be aiming this squarely at professional designers rather than part-time Tilt Brush hobbyists.

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Top 5 Predictions for VR/AR Breakthroughs

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Convergence is accelerating disruption… everywhere!

Exponential technologies are colliding into each other, reinventing products, services and industries.

In this third installment of our Convergence Catalyzer series, I’ll be synthesizing key insights from my annual entrepreneurs’ mastermind event, Abundance 360, which takes place every January in Beverly Hills. This five-blog series looks at 3D Printing, Artificial Intelligence, VR/AR, Energy & Transportation, and Blockchain.

Today, let’s dive into Virtual and Augmented Reality…

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Expert warns against forming emotional attachments with robots

 

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 Faking It

No matter how cute present-day robots are designed to look, no matter how smiley their virtual faces and chipper their beeps and boops, they will never love you back.

The stories of people mourning robots like Jibo, a smart home assistant that announced its own “death” when its servers were scheduled to get shut down last month, are heartwarming. But they also reveal a way, according to the Associated Press, that marketers could exploit the emotions of people — especially kids — by programming robots to seem more emotionally savvy than they really are.

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The U.S. Army is using virtual reality combat to train soldiers

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War Games

The virtual battlefield can simulate millions of “intelligent entities.”

The U.S. military has constructed a massive virtual reality platform to help train infantry soldiers in realistic battlefields filled with millions of artificial intelligence agents.

Futurism first reported on the Synthetic Training Environment (STE) back in April, when the U.S. Army published a whitepaper describing its ability to simulate real cities in the U.S. and North Korea.

Now software developers who contributed to the VR platform opened up about their work in an interview with Digital Trends, describing how virtual reality can help the U.S. train a more combat-ready and versatile military.

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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.

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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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Bell says latest helicopter was designed 10 times faster with VR

Bell Helicopter challenged its Innovation Team to accelerate its aircraft design process. Turning to VR as a key improvement to their design pipeline, the team created the FCX-001, the company’s first “concept aircraft,” in just six months.

Typically it takes five to seven years to design a helicopter, according to a case study published by Bell and HTC. Within that period there’s typically multiple iterations being explored between draft drawings, pilot testing, and focus groups. Thanks to VR, the FCX-001 ended up taking less than six-months to create, Bell says.

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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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