Niantic and Punchdrunk Partner to Develop New AR Projects

Punchdrunk, the British theater company that produced “Sleep No More,” and Niantic, developer of popular mobile games “Pokémon Go” and “Harry Potter: Wizards Unite,” are teaming up to collaborate on several projects. In “Sleep No More” — an immersive but not interactive show — audience members walked through rooms at their own pace, with actors performing hour-long loops. Punchdrunk already produced a virtual reality project for Samsung Gear VR and a mobile game with Silverpoint. The two companies haven’t released details on their first project. Continue reading Niantic and Punchdrunk Partner to Develop New AR Projects

Qualcomm Snapdragon 690 Will Enable Mid-Tier 5G Phones

Qualcomm unveiled its next step towards widespread availability of 5G-enabled smartphones. The Snapdragon 690 is a more economical mobile platform with 5G connectivity, and support for cameras with up to 192-megapixel photos and 30-frame-per-second 4K HDR videos, the latter two based on AI chip enhancements for high bitrates. Snapdragon 690 incorporates the X51 modem, which offers global 5G band and global multi-SIM support, although it’s only capable of connecting to sub-6GHz 5G networks, excluding millimeter wave. Continue reading Qualcomm Snapdragon 690 Will Enable Mid-Tier 5G Phones

Snapchat Aims to Compete With AR-Centric Digital Platform

Snap is planning to compete directly with Apple, Facebook and Google by creating a complete digital platform, with an app store, expanded games service and ability for third-party developers to build augmented reality experiences with its machine-learning models. Further, Snap is permitting other apps to integrate its camera software and include businesses and users’ friends into its maps. Snapchat has grown to 229 million daily users, versus Twitter’s 166 million, but is still smaller than Instagram and Facebook. Continue reading Snapchat Aims to Compete With AR-Centric Digital Platform

Niantic Creates Virtual Format for Two-Day Pokémon GO Fest

Rather than bringing people together in a park, Niantic‘s Pokémon GO Fest 2020 will enable gamers from around the world to join virtually from July 25 to July 26. Niantic chief executive John Hanke referenced COVID-19 when he explained his company wants to support players during the lockdown. “We want to bring the fun, and we want to make a safe adventure for people, as we have in the past year after year,” he said. He added that Niantic supports Black Lives Matter and wants to be a force for good for users and their communities. Continue reading Niantic Creates Virtual Format for Two-Day Pokémon GO Fest

Snap Expands AR Toolset, Announces Deals for New Content

Snap inked multi-year deals for custom short-form content with Disney, NBCUniversal, ViacomCBS, the National Basketball Association and the National Football League. It released plans for original content including unscripted series, docuseries, and scripted dramas and comedies. In partnership with The Washington Post, Bloomberg and ESPN, Snap will produce “Happening Now,” a breaking news feature. It also revealed that 170+ million people use its augmented-reality tools daily, moving the technology into the mainstream. Continue reading Snap Expands AR Toolset, Announces Deals for New Content

Executive Spotlight: A Talk with Albert Lao of Verizon Business

ETC continues its Executive Spotlight series, in which we interview leaders from our member companies about how they are adapting operations during the COVID-19 pandemic, with a fascinating discussion with Albert Lao of the Verizon Business Group. As the Americas leader of Verizon’s Global Presales Organization, Lao leads tech strategy, solution architecture, CPE design, pre-sales engineering and more with Verizon’s enterprise customers. We sat down with Lao who described his company’s plans for continued growth during the pandemic and after; addressing collaboration tools, security and troubleshooting remotely; and new ways to support customers as well as first responders and healthcare workers. Continue reading Executive Spotlight: A Talk with Albert Lao of Verizon Business

Niantic to Build 3D World Map via Data Collected From Users

Niantic, the developer of “Pokémon Go,” raised $470 million to evolve the mobile game into a full-featured augmented reality platform. The company, valued at $4 billion, will rely on “Pokémon Go” players to build its 3D data collection by sharing videos of real-world PokéStop and Gym locations. By crowdsourcing such assets, Niantic plans to build 3D maps with “a better understanding of the depth and the complexities of the real world.” The 3D data collection will debut in June to “Pokémon Go” players ranked above Level 40. Continue reading Niantic to Build 3D World Map via Data Collected From Users

Spatial VR/AR Meeting Platform Is Now Free and Open to All

Spatial lets its enterprise customers use VR or mixed reality headsets to meet in virtual spaces. The company now plans to launch support for desktop web browsers, Android and iOS — open to all and free. That support means virtual meetings can include participants who do not have a headset. According to Spatial co-founder and chief executive Anand Agarawala, “in light of COVID, we’ve actually had an intense amount of demand — about a 1,000 percent increase.” He added that, unlike Zoom, “something like VR gives you that level of presence and personification.” Continue reading Spatial VR/AR Meeting Platform Is Now Free and Open to All

Apple Acquires Virtual Reality Live Streaming Service NextVR

Apple has purchased NextVR, a virtual reality video service that offered 360-degree access to live events, including sporting events from NBA, WWE and NHL. With a VR headset, users could enjoy the feeling of “presence” in NextVR’s panoramic stereoscopic 3D scenes. The company also offered 2D smartphone access and planned to support augmented reality devices. The service never became popular, however, and a failed 2019 funding round followed by the coronavirus-related cancellation of sporting events left it struggling to survive. Continue reading Apple Acquires Virtual Reality Live Streaming Service NextVR

Apple Preps for Release of New iPhones, HomePod Speaker

Apple is readying the fall release of its new iPhone line-up, including the redesign and the addition of 5G to two high-end phones and two less expensive models to replace the iPhone 11. Sources report that among the redesign of the top-tier phones are flat stainless-steel edges and flat screens. Yesterday, the company delivered a virtual unveiling of its new iPhone SE, featuring a design similar to its older iPhone 8. Apple also plans to release a new version of its HomePod speaker that is smaller and cheaper than the original, in addition to Apple Tags for tracking keys, wallets and other objects. Continue reading Apple Preps for Release of New iPhones, HomePod Speaker

Apple Files Patent for Light Field Camera System With 6DOF

Apple just submitted an application to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for a light field panoramic camera system for next-generation iPhones, iPads and head-mounted displays (HMD). With the camera, the user will be able to capture images (as well as position and orientation information) by holding up the device. Processing the images for relative positions and depth information, the light field panorama will allow a viewer to explore 3D views of the image with 6 degrees of freedom (DOF). Continue reading Apple Files Patent for Light Field Camera System With 6DOF

Niantic Acquires 6D.ai with Plans for Large-Scale AR Projects

Niantic has acquired 6D.ai, an augmented reality company that is building a 3D map of the world via smartphone cameras. According to Niantic chief executive John Hanke, the resulting dynamic 3D world map will enable developers to create planet-scale AR experiences. On the company blog, he stated that, “this means we’re even closer to an AR platform that will unlock the ability for any developer to make content for current and future AR hardware.” Founded in 2017, 6D.ai was spun out of Oxford University’s Active Vision Lab. Continue reading Niantic Acquires 6D.ai with Plans for Large-Scale AR Projects

ETC@USC Announces Winners of Immersive Media Challenge

ETC’s Immersive Media Challenge judges selected four submissions that best meet the criteria of “a great idea, well told.” Jack Vomacka’s Audio-Visual Animation describes a blend of physical objects and projection technologies that would create more believable LBE experiences. Sam Clempson’s Mind Palace is an AR-based memory-improvement tool. Courtney Zhang’s Affa Streaming AI Experience uses mood detection to make content recommendations. And Lance Newby’s MIC (ML for In-game Content) turns non-playable characters into minor characters who participate in and can influence the action of a video game. Pitch videos and answers to challenge questions for all submissions are posted on ETC’s homepage. Continue reading ETC@USC Announces Winners of Immersive Media Challenge

Streaming Format GPEG Aims to Improve Gaming, Interactivity

Instant Interactive, a game-focused division of Primal Space Systems, is creating GPEG (Geometry Pump Engine Group), a “cousin of the MPEG format” and a different way of visualizing data. The parent company invested $8 million in the venture, aimed at game engines for more efficient streaming and interactivity for video entertainment. Primal Space Systems was co-founded by Barry Jenkins, a graphics expert; chief technology officer John Scott, formerly at Epic Games; and medical vision expert/chair Solomon Luo. Continue reading Streaming Format GPEG Aims to Improve Gaming, Interactivity

Magic Leap Is Considering a Sale, Stakeholder or Partnership

Magic Leap is exploring the possibility of a sale, according to sources. The Florida-based startup raised $2.6 billion to create augmented reality products, and now has hired an adviser to consider “strategic options” for moving forward. In addition to the potential of a sale, Magic Leap could sell a stake in the company or form a strategic partnership. The company is valued at $6 billion to $8 billion. Among the company’s largest investors are Alphabet’s Google and China’s Alibaba Group Holding. Continue reading Magic Leap Is Considering a Sale, Stakeholder or Partnership

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