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Extended Reality and the Convergence of AR and VR

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Pandemics and economic downturns are always times of innovation as we try to navigate our way forward through difficulties. We have had the benefit of technology to help us get through this unprecedented time in history, and that has salvaged much of our daily lives that could have been destroyed. Here is extended reality and the convergence of AR and VR.

The internet kept us connected to work, each other, and school, preventing even more devastating future issues.

Can you even imagine what this pandemic would actually look like right now if, Globally, we had been shut completely down with ZERO technology helping us? The devastation is unimaginable to us at this point in time. No school, no phone, no doctors, –no Netflix binging? Yes, the internet has kept us connected to work, each other, able to buy necessities online, and able to conduct our schools.

Throughout this COVID pandemic — new ways of using established technologies have emerged, paving the way to the future past the pandemic and economic recovery.

Working from home.

Working from home has been one of the catalysts for progress. As companies chose between shutting down and trusting employees to work from home, people began to experiment with VR meetings, virtual conferences, and more.

Virtual reality and augmented reality have been a lifeline for people who want to get out of their environment and experience something “normal� for a change. Now, these technologies are starting to converge with artificial intelligence and other technologies to create extended reality or XR technology.

What is XR?

Extended reality technology mixes virtual reality, augmented reality, mixed reality, and artificial intelligence technologies to create an immersive experience that adapts to user inputs. The technology uses biomechanical modeling to both input and model human movement in a more natural way. It uses motion tracking to reduce the need for too many sensors to detect player movements.

The adaptability to machine learning presents gameplay to a player’s abilities in order to provide a stimulating and challenging environment. With all that is involved in the tech of XR — the student need not be alone in their learning challenges. And these types of tech will stick with children, where the parents and teachers don’t have the time or patience.

Interacting with XR includes a lightweight headset that blends the surrounding environment with the virtual one. Programs monitor and record movements of the human player as well as any equipment they are using in gameplay. A physics engine monitors inputs and simulates real-world reactions to every action.

Practical Everyday Uses for XR Technology

For work, many of us are tiring of video conferences, and in fact, there’s even an emerging phenomenon known as “Zoom Fatigue.�

Extended reality technologies give us a new way to experience meetings and conduct business that feels more like an in-person meeting, thanks to the ability to appear in different scenes. The enhanced technology is also proving useful for virtual conferences and continuing education applications.

What about your personal life?

When it comes to our personal lives, many of us have given up on traveling for the duration of the pandemic. But this doesn’t mean we can’t experience new places. Thanks to extended reality technology, we can travel to far off destinations and even ancient locations.

History lessons.

Oculus Quest has been a popular interface for teaching history as well as to travel to faraway locations throughout the pandemic.

You can visit everywhere from Machu Picchu to the ancient ruins of the City of Petra to modern-day locations like Portugal and Switzerland. You can even go virtual scuba diving or climb virtual mountains when you just need to get away from the reality of social distancing.

You are provided with more physical activity than you thought.

Physical activity is another area where extended reality is innovating. On Oculus Quest, games like Beat Saber and The Climb allow you to get physical activity in a virtual formal.

Beat Saber involves “cutting� blocks to the beat of dance music and can be set to different difficulty levels depending on your physical prowess.

The Climb allows you to experience a virtual outdoor rock climbing adventure from the safety of your own home while getting you up off the couch to participate.

XR and COVID-19

These technologies have been invaluable throughout the pandemic, giving people new opportunities to experience remote work, remote play, and remote exercise.

The WHO has recommended that people get daily physical activity, which has proven difficult. When we have been expected to remain indoors for the duration of the pandemic — it’s tough on body and soul.

Scientists say this winter could be brutal again — can we stand it? To be quarantined and only leave to walk or run in our neighborhoods or to get necessary supplies?

XR has allowed us to stay fit and connected to one another despite the COVID-19 outbreak, preventing pandemic couch potatoes. For a few of us building up our COVID-19 ten pounds, it’s time to get it off now and keep it off with an inplace system.

XR Meets AI and Sports

One of the experiences people have been missing during the pandemic is competitive sports. For most sports, it hasn’t been safe to play in person with others. Some sports have opened up — but for how long?

For close contact sports, the reason is obvious – respiratory droplets spread further and more readily when people are exercising, and contact just exacerbates this issue. But even with sports where there is little physical contact, there are still balls that travel back and forth between people.

Real gameplay is important to most people who play competitive sports.

Already there are XR and VR training simulators for games like golf and tennis. In an extended reality format, people can use real golf clubs and practice their game at famous golf courses all over the world. Sensors are outfitted on the golf clubs to give players a realistic feel for the game they are playing.

Artificial intelligence plays a big part in these games.

AI learns how a player plays and adapts gameplay to be challenging and engaging. High-speed cameras, sensors, and artificial computer vision all converge to create a realistic experience. The AI also predicts whether a movement will be successful and projects that prediction into the game as a resulting reaction to a player’s action.

AI can even be used to recommend better actions and techniques, thus improving a player’s game as they would with the help of a coach.

XR Sports and Social Distancing

Realistic experiences for golf and tennis are one thing, but many people who play sports regularly are missing a key component – competition. But not just the competition — the interaction with other human beings. We all thrive on interaction with each other.

Cybersports is a portable XR sports training and entertainment simulator AI biomechanical modeling and smart balls with embedded sensors to generate online gameplay with the help of a cyber portal.

The portable XR can be used for training and recreation. Sure, artificial intelligence can provide some level of competition in such games, most serious competitive sports players will find they would rather compete with real people. But these games are providing serious relief from being stuck in the house. Yes, you know you aren’t on your regular schedule of hitting the gym — but this XR will save your sanity.

Physical venues for XR sports.

Emerging XR technology such as Sportstacular takes place in a physical venue where people can compete against others. The competition takes place in a socially distanced pod, and leaderboards track winners across multiple locations.

The physical venue sports-technology gives people a safer way to play sports during the pandemic. As with many of the innovations that have come about because of the pandemic — XR sports have been so successful, they are likely here to stay.

Is XR the Future of Sports?

Just like remote work proved to be no big deal and is likely to stick around post-pandemic, the technological advances made in extended reality technologies are equally likely to stick around.

Traveling using VR is a valuable learning tool that can be used in classrooms once in-person school returns to a baseline of normalcy.

There will always be times when going somewhere in person just isn’t feasible. The XR technology is being adopted en masse because of the pandemic, but now, people have started to figure out how useful it can be elsewhere.

There are a number of reasons why extended reality will continue to be popular after the COVID safety aspect passes. For sports — innovation in technology has always been successful — and fun.

Competitive sports are subject oftentimes to being rained out, and extended reality offers a guarantee against that downer.

It can also be difficult to find competitors on your level, and being able to compete with people in far off locales can mitigate the boredom that sets in with a serious lack of sports acumen. But, seriously, I tell my friends to level up — and they usually take the challenge.

What’s more, AI is, sometimes, the only thing that can really compete against top athletes, giving them the opportunity to become even better at their sport through the use of XR.

The Future of XR Post-Pandemic

The pandemic has shown us what technology can do, and has come out with incredibly innovative and creative ways to use it long after it stops being a necessity post-pandemic.

From education to remote work to sports, extended reality opens up a world of possibilities.

Are you ready to start playing real sports with real competition on a virtual platform?

The post Extended Reality and the Convergence of AR and VR appeared first on ReadWrite.

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How Face AR Brings Confidence to Video Conferencing

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We’re all different and we’re all human beings, individuals locked in a body. The only way we can understand each other is by communicating. If only it were that simple. It’s hard enough in real life, but even more difficult with digital communication, especially the near-ubiquitous video conferencing. Face AR technology can help us.

We struggle to work out whether we trust someone when we’ve met them a few minutes earlier on a screen. We wonder whether the person enthusiastically talking to the camera thousands of miles away is pitching an idea they know very well is utter rubbish. Whether their poor performance in a job interview is a result of nerves. Whether our view of them and what they say is clouded by our deep prejudices.

There is fear and embarrassment when we turn on video conferencing. Trust and empathy are harder to achieve. What is true; what is a lie? These contradictions make video conferencing an awkward chore rather than a useful tool to do business and hire talent. Yet video is essential to modern business when companies are spread over the globe.

Feeling Confident During Your Video Calls With Face AR Technology.
Feeling Confident During Your Video Calls With Face AR Technology. Image source: pexels.com

Pressure on time, budgets and the planet mean traveling is harder to justify. That means making decisions, planning strategy, pitching for business, and hiring staff has to be done remotely. And it is not working.

That, I believe, is about to change. Augmented Reality (AR) may well provide the answers. But beware. In the future, you will probably get hired through AR. You can also get fired by it.

Never ready for our close-up

With all the pressure described above, it’s hardly surprising that the seemingly innocuous sentence, “So shall we switch video conferencing on?� makes even the most hard-bitten executives wince.

For all of us, bar the least self-aware and the most annoyingly attractive, audio-only seems the sensible solution for long-distance conferencing.

But why are we coy about video calls? The answer is a bitter experience. First, the cameras present us in harsh, bright light, at unusual angles, blown up on a PC screen.

Second, people can see the background — not good if you haven’t tidied your desk/home office/spare bedroom. Not to mention children, cats and dogs stumbling into view.

We might have chuckled at the plight of Professor Robert Kelly, whose BBC interview was famously interrupted by an inquisitive toddler, but what made it car-crash viewing was knowing how easily a similar calamity could happen to us.

Concerns about how we present ourselves make us so nervous that we don’t articulate our thoughts as fluently and accurately as we might. It’s hard enough if you have a job with the company. What if this is your job interview? Multinationals hire around the world and applicants can expect to be interviewed by people in multiple international locations.

Looking good for the 9 am thanks to Face AR

Banuba labs, the company of which I am a Managing Director, has devoted much research to solving these problems. And they are eminently fixable. For most people, the key issue is controlled. If they can present themselves digitally in the way they want to be perceived, rather than be a slave to the idiosyncrasies of the camera, they will be relaxed and engaging.

Looking_good_in_front_of_the_camera
Looking good in front of the camera. Image source: pexels.com

Here is where Face AR, an augmented-reality technology that enables its users to finesse their image via a camera, can prove to be a lifesaver. Video Face Beautification technology can tweak video-conference participants’ images in sophisticated ways.

On a basic level, this can be by adjusting the lighting and slight face enhancements. It is useful for everyone. From people who need to make video calls but don’t have the time to apply make-up, to those of us who just want a shinier, smarter version of ourselves.

As for the background of your room – by using video background changer technology you can now easily hide it for privacy purposes or change it for entertainment.

Make it avatar to avatar with Face AR

If you are still not convinced, then how about replicating yourself in an avatar? You can talk to an avatar (who is a real person) and be an avatar yourself, and feel both comfortable and human.

What about the customary handshakes that open and close all business conversations or interviews? AR representations of people’s tracked hands could act as a personal way to make first impressions or end on a high after a lengthy discussion. Even if the technology isn’t quite there to feel someone’s touch via this type of software, it will surely function as a good icebreaker before commencing a conversation.

Creating your own avatar with Face AR.
Creating your avatar with Face AR. Image source: banuba.com

Pity the poor job applicant

The fear and awkwardness engendered by the current generation of video conferencing are bad enough for staff, but it is much worse for job applicants. Even the greatest technology companies admit they have hiring problems.

Google has made huge efforts to change its staff demographics, but the numbers remain steadfastly in favor of Caucasian men, with nearly 70 percent male and 53 percent white, according to its 2018 diversity report. One Google staffer notoriously claimed in an internal memo that the lack of female engineers was down to biological differences rather than discrimination.

Google is not alone. If we are honest, we would all admit that we tend to hire in our image. We find it easier to empathize with people like us. We also tend to hire people who are outgoing, confident and speak well. Clever introverts miss out.

Again, Face AR has a solution. And it is one that is not possible with face-to-face interviews. Face AR can remove or disguise all background information. That could include race, age, gender, voice, general facial expression and nervous ticks. It would truly be a blind interview.

Only then would it be possible to hire purely based on talent, imagination, intelligence and character. It might sound an extreme approach, but it is clear that diversity policies are failing to change the demographics of our great companies.

If brands are to be truly representative of their global audiences, then they must start again. Technology makes that possible.

So you really can be hired by augmented reality. But get it wrong and you could be fired by augmented reality, too.

The post How Face AR Brings Confidence to Video Conferencing appeared first on ReadWrite.