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Vuforia just made Augmented Reality 10x more interesting with Object Recognition

While I really enjoy making AR content with Unity, I realise that its real-life applications are few and far between. This could be set to change with Vuforia beta 4.0, which introduces Object Recognition.

In short, this means we are no longer bound by flat planes with markers on them, such as business cards, posters, boxes, and menus. Vuforia now allows us to use a physical product as a marker, which is very, very exciting.

A great example is toys, and Vuforia uses an augmented toy car in their promotional video:

 

As soon as I was notified about the release, I had to take a look. Although it's beta software, it works well. My first test of the tech was with a toy car, which was a bit boring. Time for something a bit more interesting, and relevant to my interests. Since I'm obsessed with Iron Man, I thought I'd try using an Arc Reactor prop as a marker.

First of all, place the object to track on the special scanning marker, and use the scanning App to build up a model that Vuforia can track.

Then send the tracking data to yourself, and upload to the Object Tracking manager. Download the Unity package, import into your project, then just add whatever you want to it.

In this case, I had some assets that I thought might work well with it. So here we go, an Arc Reactor with Iron Man flying above it, with a few other elements. 

It works! It's remarkably robust too, considering I'm using quite a symmetrical marker. I'll see if I can capture a video of it when I have some time, as it's much more impressive than a boring static screenshot. 

In all, this took me around an hour. About half of that was waiting for the assets to download. Once again, basic AR is easy.. it's all the functionality that's added on top that take time!

I wish I had an accurate 3D model of the Arc Reactor, as it could be made a lot more interesting augmenting parts of the reactor (see the car bonnet in the Vuforia video above).

This tech could have great applications for use with physical objects, including and also far beyond toys. I'm very excited about what we can make with this, it could have huge uses in training, education, marketing, and advertising... anything that involves a physical product that doesn't deform.

One thing I'm interested in is how much they're going to charge for this. No details are released yet. It should be fine for prototypes for clients, but anything 'out in the wild' is unlikely to be completely free.

I'll post more experiments with Vuforia Object Recognition in the coming weeks.

If you want any more info on this, use the contact form and give me a shout.

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FESTIVE VR Brighton!

2014 has been an amazing year for VR. I love developing VR experiences and games, and I’m convinced that it will continue exploding in popularity over the coming months and years. We’re at an incredibly exciting point in the birth of a new form of entertainment and interaction, and we're helping define the future of a medium.

I set up VR Brighton in early 2014 to get like-minded people together to share their excitement, show off their work and to get the technology into the hands of those who don’t have it yet. 
It's been eight months since our first meet up, and Festive VR Brighton on December 8th was our largest, most popular and most successful event so far. We had 70 people in total, mainly from Brighton and London, but also from Dorset, Yorkshire, and Edinburgh! Yes - people came from another country to VR Brighton!

 

There are lot of people I need to thank! First up is Brightwave, a very forward-thinking eLearning company based in Brighton who hosted the meetup on the top floor of their gorgeous office for the evening. In particular, my thanks goes to: Colin Welch, Hayley Maisey, Laura Ward, and Rob Keery for helping out with the organisation and the invaluable assistance on the evening.

A huge thank you to everyone who bought demos along! Thank you SO MUCH. It would be really quite boring if you didn’t come along. So in no particular order..

Also, a huge thankyou to everyone who attended! If you have any feedback, positive or negative, please let me know.

Massive apologies to Peter Brophy for bringing the HOTAS & Vest, but being unable to use it as my PC couldn’t connect to the internet to authenticate Elite: Dangerous. Next time!

Kerry: Thanks for all the help. You're a star.

To everyone who didn’t come along and didn’t change your RSVP to "no" despite all the reminders.. shame on you! You’re on Santa’s naughty list now.

Finally, thanks to Lloyd Digital (oh wait, that's me) for sponsoring the drinks and mince pies. And for the two strands of tinsel.

Hope to see you at the next VR Brighton meetup! Let’s make 2015 an even more exciting year for VR.

Merry Christmas!

Iestyn

Edit: There's a video of the event here, thanks Kevin!



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Radial-G

 

Radial-G is one of the best VR games I've played, and now I'd say it's by far the best. But then I would say that, as I'm now credited as a Supporting Developer!

Admittedly it was only a small amount of work, however it was an absolute pleasure working with the team. Shame I didn't have more availability, as I love working on shiny 3D, particularly in VR.

Radial-G also won "Best Overall VR Experience Finalists Public Choice" at the Virtual Reality Awards.

Radial-G has been greenlit on Steam, and will be available on December 11th, 2014.

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Thalmic Myo and VR

I finally have a Thalmic Myo of my own. I originally ordered it 607 days ago - it's taken a while to arrive, and I did wonder a few times if it was going to be vapourware (Where's my Sixense STEM kickstarter eh?)

Forunately the Myo isn't vapourware - a few months ago a friend loaned me an early Myo prototype, which was a great glimpse of what would be possible with the tech one day - and hopefully with the dev kit I now have, we're part of the way there! As with all cutting edge tech, there's a lot of rough edges - but that's to be expected!

Myo

It was extremely easy to set up with Windows 8.1 - download the software, plug it in, perform a few basic gestures, and it was ready to go. My only niggle here is that detection of the "wave in" gesture was a bit flakey - all the others were remarkably robust.

Basic integration with Unity was as simple as importing the .unitypackage - there are scripts in there that make it very easy to start prototyping, and makes it pretty straightforward to listen for gestures. Great work on the Unity SDK Thalmic, this is exactly what us developers need.

While I'm interested in all applications of new technology, my current focus is on VR, and the Myo definitely has potential as an input device with Unity - my initial tests were promising. I'll be bringing this along to December's VR Brighton for people to try out.

More to follow when I get some time to play about with it.

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Learning and Virtual Reality: The next 10 years

Forget gaming, that's just a small part of VR's future. I'm more interested in everything else!

Brightwave are an eLearning company based in Brighton who I occasionally consult for. Here's a short quote of mine in Colin Welch's blog post on learning in VR:

I can’t wait to see how the Gear VR is received and would be surprised if mobile GPUs in 10 years are not vastly more powerful than today’s desktop GPUs. I’d say that the tech will be there in 10 years for lightweight HMDs or glasses that will allow both VR and AR, at which point Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality will become synonymous. When powerful tech like that is affordable (it will be one day!), then what’s to stop it proliferating like smartphones
— Iestyn Lloyd

Personally, I can't wait to see what happens over the next 10 years. Whether I'm right or wrong, it's going to be one hell of an exciting journey!

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WebGL Gunship Demo

Just testing out the Unity WebGL preview. When I get time I'll add some interactivity into these things! 

Edit: 17/12/2014: Looks like something's changed in the browsers WebGL rendering, and there's a DoF/blur on everything. Will need to fix that.

Exciting times. See my other blog post for more info.

Note that not all image effects are currently supported by the WebGL preview, and the images below have some enabled that you won't see... yet.



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Unity 5 and WebGL - Walker Diorama

All hail the new golden age of bloated WebGL skip intros for websites!

Well, maybe, but hopefully not. I will admit to making some when I was an ActionScript programmer many many years ago..

Anyway, I've been doing some personal R&D with the Unity 5 private beta and the WebGL preview. I haven't had much time to play with WebGL, but thought I'd take a quick look over a quiet weekend.

If you haven't heard much about WebGL and Unity, well Unity recently announced that they will make this a free feature for both Free and Pro users, which is fantastic news for everyone really. I'm sure this will mean more people using Unity, which can only be a good thing.

The screenshot below is with some nice image effects enabled, but WebGL doesn't yet support that. 

Personally - and the point of this quick test - I find it amazing that browsers can display this content without any plugins. It's come such a long way since I used Mosaic back in the 90's!

Updated with a few extra bits and watermark

Updated with a few extra bits and watermark

Unity 5 WebGL Walker Diorama in Editor. Note: Image effects are not yet available in WebGL.

Updated daytime version

 

If you'd like to take a look at this scene exported for WebGL:

Edit: 17/12/2014: Looks like something's changed in the browsers WebGL rendering, and there's a DoF/blur on everything. Will need to fix that.


Please note it's:

  • Not optimised! This is a whopping 150MB. There's a bunch of textures I need to optimise or strip out.
  • Doesn't do much (move camera + zoom using mousewheel)
  • Has not been tested on anything other than a GeForce 780TI
  • Is the WebGL preview and not representative of the final release
  • The fire effect goes a bit odd at times.
  • The thumbnails are misleading as they have image effects

With all the above disclaimers, I'm not quite sure why you'd check it out! But do feel free.

Any comments, please leave them below. If it doesn't work, could you note your system spec? Thanks!

Update 1: Ok, the dark scene is too dark on most monitors. Updated to a daytime version.

Update 2: Added some other bits and pieces in, including a watermark. Can you find the liquorice allsorts? 

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LeapMotion and Oculus Rift DK2

I love playing about with bleeding edge tech, so was very happy to receive the LeapMotion HMD mount for Oculus. Since LeapMotion released the SDK with the image passthrough, I'd stuck a Leap to the front of my DK2 with Blu-Tack, but it's not quite as nice as a proper mount.


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Aardman

I'm very happy to say I'm now working on a project with Aardman in Bristol! More info soon..

A busy quarter

A quick update on my activity this year. It's been hectic so far! I've had the pleasure of working with some enormously talented companies; Littleloud, Fat Pebble, Plastic Pictures, and most recently Preloaded. I can't give any more information as the work I've done is either NDA'd, or has yet to be released. I'll be sure to update when the projects are on the App Store / Google Play.

Of course, the biggest news of 2013 so far is Sweatshop HD being pulled from the App Store, which was covered by media worldwide.