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Finance sector embraces VR to make remote working more interesting

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(Reuters) — Once the preserve of gamers, virtual reality (VR) has been seized on by the financial sector as a way of enlivening home working for lonely traders or isolated executives and replicating real-world sales, networking, or training events.

With 90% of employees at some of the world’s biggest financial firms now working at home due to a resurgence in coronavirus infections, more and more companies are experimenting with VR.

Some practices could stick beyond the pandemic, particularly as home working becomes more widespread.

At investment manager Fidelity International, executives experimented with a VR auditorium, taking questions from colleagues and even walking up and down the aisles.

“Working from home has massively accelerated the interest in virtual/online spaces,” according to Stuart Warner, head of technology at Fidelity International, which manages $3.3 trillion in assets.

Having internally explored VR and augmented reality (AR) technology — which unlike VR is not fully immersive and involves computer-generated elements being visible through a smartphone screen, for example — Fidelity now aims to trial VR for its sales teams’ interactions with clients.

“It brings it to life a bit,” Warner said.

For London-based Ed Greig, chief disruptor at Deloitte Digital, VR has sparked conversations with potential clients and colleagues in far-flung cities in office get-togethers.

“The other day, I was finishing a VR meeting with somebody, and as I was walking out of their office, I bumped into a person who was coming in for another meeting. And that interaction for a couple of minutes turned into a proper business conversation later,” Greig said.

VR can be useful not just for scheduled meetings but also for helping ease feelings of isolation and giving some workers the office buzz they crave and thrive in.

Swiss bank UBS has experimented with issuing its London-based traders Microsoft HoloLens smart glasses, which it says allows staff to recreate the trading floor experience at home.

Zoom fatigue

VR headsets allow users to see and interact with others in the same digital room, and movements like turning their head correspond with how the person’s avatar moves in the space.

Recreating the feeling of human interaction is what has provided impetus for the VR push.

Executives say they are combating so-called Zoom fatigue — exhaustion brought on by a daily barrage of video conferences, meetings, and messaging via tools such as Zoom or Microsoft Teams, which have replaced face-to-face interaction.

The hope is that virtual reality spaces will resuscitate team spirit, especially when bringing in new employees.

Marc Bena, who leads the digital audit business unit at PricewaterhouseCoopers UK, said:

“In a virtual environment, you can hear multiple people talking at the same time, which is different in a Zoom meeting … when you wear these headsets, you are transported into a giant room with a whiteboard and office furniture, and you join your other colleagues in brainstorming ideas.”

“You can look around you and interact as if you were in an office. That recreates the sensation of being together.”

After a virtual session, he and colleagues had virtual drinks in another zone and were able to move from table to table.

“You could recreate exactly the same environment as if you were in the cocktail parties with your avatar. The only downside to this is that it can get pretty intense after a couple of hours,” he said.

A PwC study in June found participants in a virtual reality workshop were 3 times more confident about what they had learned than those learning via traditional classrooms or even via e-learning courses.

The cost to train 13,000 executives in a classroom at the firm is 8 times more expensive than via a virtual reality course for the same number of people, the study found.

PwC and American Express use VRtuoso, a virtual reality presentation platform that utilizes headsets made by Pico Interactive for training and boosting sales.

So far, most of VR’s real-world business applications are in medicine and retail, including training department stores salespeople to deal with difficult customers.

Julie Ask, vice president and principal analyst at Forrester, a U.S.-based market consultant, says more widespread adoption is inevitable.

“I think VR technology adoption is going to continue to grow over time,” she said.

Cost is the reality

The immersive work experience carries a hefty price tag – Microsoft’s HoloLens 2 headsets cost $3,500 apiece.

But the financial industry is gearing up to spend. Fidelity says tech spending is up “100% to 200%” this year versus 2019, and it will keep that level of spending for the next year or two.

David Ripert, chapter president of the U.K. branch of the global VR/AR Association, said that growth in demand for VR was a “silver lining” of the pandemic, as people used the technology to recreate canceled physical events and conferences.

“Using VR for these networking events is really cool because you get that sense of belonging and connection that you don’t get necessarily through flat 2D video,” he said.

Advances in immersive technology could save banks as much as $1.5 trillion by 2030, with nearly $500 billion coming from virtual reality applications alone, PwC estimates, through the use of VR training or business meetings.

Deloitte estimates that 19% of British firms have invested in VR and augmented reality in 2019 and a further 31% will invest in such technologies by 2021.

Citibank first built an experimental simulated trading environment some years ago when it looked at Microsoft’s HoloLens. At a bond conference in Munich last year, Finnish bank Nordea gave investors a virtual tour of its Copenhagen trading floor through VR headsets.

But while there is momentum in the sector, to be fully effective VR technology must overcome constraints such as limited display size, processing power, and battery life.

This is where a host of startups are trying to get in the market by offering cheaper, simpler ways to smooth remote work. Platforms such as Sococo and Gather provide virtual versions of physical spaces online, in which employees can move about and interact without headsets.

“The casual socialization aspect of work is hard to get when you’re doing everything over Google Meet or Zoom,” said Phillip Wang, who founded Gather with his university friends.

Gather has hosted everything from weddings and parties to meetings and conferences, with 30,000 people coming to the virtual spaces every day from more than 100 countries.

While startups are scaling up quickly, established leaders are launching new innovations.

Zoom Video Communications said it expects VR and AR to become a bigger part of online communication in the future.

This could include new enhancements to alter a person’s appearance to make it more work-appropriate, hiding gym clothes, for instance, and translating real-life details into the virtual space, such as the ability to shake hands.

Microsoft said it has seen increased opportunities for VR usage this year. Google declined to comment.

“I think the pandemic has changed people’s perception on what’s possible and what’s feasible,” Fidelity’s Warner said.

(Reporting by Elizabeth Howcroft and Saikat Chatterjee, editing by Alexandra Hudson.)


Best practices for a successful AI Center of Excellence: A guide for both CoEs and business units Access here


Source: https://venturebeat.com/2020/11/24/finance-sector-embraces-vr-to-make-remote-working-more-interesting/

AR/VR

US Army using Augmented Reality overlays in its research for the detection of roadside explosive hazards

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In Augmented Reality News 

January 23, 2021 – The US Army Combat Capabilities Development Command (DEVCOM), Army Research Laboratory (ARL), has recently announced that it is employing the use of augmented reality (AR) overlays in its research for the detection of roadside explosive hazards, such as improvised explosive devices (IEDs), unexploded ordnance and landmines.

Route reconnaissance in support of convoy operations remains a critical function to keep Soldiers safe from such hazards, which continue to threaten operations abroad and continually prove to be an evolving and problematic adversarial tactic. To combat this problem, ARL and other research collaborators were funded by the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, via the ‘Blood Hound Gang Program’, which focuses on a system-of-systems approach to standoff explosive hazard detection.

Kelly Sherbondy, Program Manager at the lab, said “Logically, a system-of-systems approach to standoff explosive hazard detection research is warranted going forward,” adding, “Our collaborative methodology affords implementation of state-of-the-art technology and approaches while rapidly progressing the program with seasoned subject matter experts to meet or exceed military requirements and transition points.”

The program has seven external collaborators from across the country, which include the US Military Academy, The University of Delaware Video/Image Modeling and Synthesis Laboratory, Ideal Innovations Inc., Alion Science and Technology, The Citadel, IMSAR and AUGMNTR.

In Phase I of the program, researchers took 15-months to evaluate mostly high-technology readiness level (TRL) standoff detection technologies against a variety of explosive hazard emplacements. In addition, a lower-TRL standoff detection sensor, which was focused on the detection of explosive hazard triggering devices, was developed and assessed. According to the Army, the Phase I assessment included probability of detection, false alarm rate and other important information that will ultimately lead to a down-selection of sensors based on best performance for Phase II of the program.

Researchers use various sensors on Unmanned Aerial Systems equipped with high-definition infrared cameras and navigation to enable standoff detection of explosive hazards using machine learning techniques.

The sensors evaluated during Phase I included an airborne synthetic aperture radar, ground vehicular and small unmanned aerial vehicle LIDAR, high-definition electro-optical cameras, long-wave infrared cameras and a non-linear junction detection radar. Researchers carried a field test in real-world representative terrain over a 7-kilometer test track and included a total of 625 emplacements including a variety of explosive hazards, simulated clutter and calibration targets. They collected data before and after emplacement to simulate a real-world change between sensor passes.

Terabytes of data was collected across the sensor sets which was needed to adequately train artificial intelligence/machine learning (AI/ML) algorithms. The algorithms subsequently performed autonomous automatic target detection for each sensor. The Army stated that this sensor data is pixel-aligned via geo-referencing and the AI/ML techniques can be applied to some or all of the combined sensor data for a specific area. Furthermore, the detection algorithms are able to provide ‘confidence levels’ for each suspected target, which is displayed to a user as an augmented reality overlay. The detection algorithms were executed with various sensor permutations so that performance results could be aggregated and determine the best course of action moving forward into Phase II.

“The accomplishments of these efforts are significant to ensuring the safety of the warfighter in the current operation environment,” said Lt. Col. Mike Fuller, US Air Force Explosive Ordnance Disposal and DTRA Program Manager.

The Army noted that future research into the technology will enable real-time automatic target detection displayed with an augmented reality engine. The three year effort will ultimately culminate with demonstrations at multiple testing facilities to show the technology’s robustness over varying terrain.

“We have side-by-side comparisons of multiple modalities against a wide variety of realistic, relevant target threats, plus an evaluation of the fusion of those sensors’ output to determine the most effective way to maximize probability of detection and minimize false alarms,” Fuller said. “We hope that the Army and the Joint community will both benefit from the data gathered and lessons learned by all involved.”

Image credit: US Army

About the author

Sam Sprigg

Sam is the Founder and Managing Editor of Auganix. With a background in research and report writing, he covers news articles on both the AR and VR industries. He also has an interest in human augmentation technology as a whole, and does not just limit his learning specifically to the visual experience side of things.

Source: https://www.auganix.org/us-army-using-augmented-reality-overlays-in-its-research-for-the-detection-of-roadside-explosive-hazards/

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AR/VR

LIV Now Supports Full-body Avatars from ReadyPlayerMe, Making it Easy to Stream VR Without a Green Screen

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Many VR streamers use complicated mixed reality setups to show themselves from a third-person perspective inside the virtual world. LIV, a leading tool which makes this possible, now supports free, customizable, full-body avatars from ReadyPlayerMe, making it possible to stream your avatar inside of VR without the need for a green screen.

In addition to true mixed reality streaming, Liv has supported streaming with avatars for some time. However, actually finding a unique avatar for yourself was no simple task. Now, Liv has partnered with avatar maker ReadyPlayerMe to make it as simple as can be.

ReadyPlayerMe allows you to build a free full-body avatar—optionally based on a photo of yourself—in mere minutes. You can use the avatar as the character in select Liv-supported VR games, allowing stream viewers to see your movements in third-person.

Here’s an example of a ReadyPlayerMe avatar in Pistol Whip streamed via Liv:

What Sadie said! They have improved on them, they now are full body and support finger tracking and full body tracking! It’s pretty smooth! pic.twitter.com/J8rY5UwWOo

— AtomBombBody (@AtomBombBody) January 17, 2021

Avatars from ReadyPlayMe are moderately customizable, and easy enough to get something you’re happy with relatively quickly, though we hope to see more customization options in the future (like height, build, and more control over outfits).

Image courtesy ReadyPlayerMe

You can make your own ReadyPlayMe avatar to import to Liv right here. If you want to download your avatar for some other use, you can make one here and download it at the end of the process as a .GLB file for use in other applications.

Streamer Atom Bomb Body also has a detailed walkthrough for configuring Liv with your new avatar here:

The post LIV Now Supports Full-body Avatars from ReadyPlayerMe, Making it Easy to Stream VR Without a Green Screen appeared first on Road to VR.

Source: https://vrarnews.com/details/liv-now-supports-full-body-avatars-from-readyplayerme-making-it-easy-to-stream-vr-without-a-green-screen-600b772745b9dcae3e9a590f?s=rss

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AR/VR

Pinterest’s new AR feature lets you try on virtual eyeshadow

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Shopping online is the primary way people get most of the items they want or need, but there are some downsides: you can’t try on clothes to make sure they’ll fit right and it’s not easy to determine whether a particular makeup color will look good on you. Pinterest has introduced another feature that addresses the latter problem, one that … Continue reading

Source: https://vrarnews.com/details/pinterests-new-ar-feature-lets-you-try-on-virtual-eyeshadow-600b6e18c1c62e453a615b12?s=rss

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AR/VR

Magic Leap announces partnership with Google Cloud to Spatial Computing to enterprise and Google Cloud customers

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In Augmented Reality and Mixed Reality News

January 22, 2021 – Magic Leap has today announced that it has entered into a multi-phased, multi-year strategic partnership agreement with Google Cloud to deliver spatial computing solutions to businesses and Google Cloud customers.

Through the partnership, Magic Leap will deliver its enterprise solutions on the Google Cloud Marketplace and explore potential new cloud-based, spatial computing solutions running on Google Cloud.

Magic Leap stated that as enterprises have evolved their operations over the past year to meet the needs of the changing business environment, demand for solutions that support business continuity, agility and borderless collaboration has accelerated exponentially. The partnership is therefore designed to meet those demands.

Beginning in 2021, select Magic Leap solutions that provide tools for businesses will be available in the Google Cloud Marketplace, allowing developers who create solutions on the Magic Leap platform to reach global customers via Google’s marketplace. Magic Leap’s own solutions, such as its Communication, Collaboration and Co-presence platform, will also be made available in the Google Cloud Marketplace as well.

“As we continue to build momentum for spatial computing in the enterprise market, we are very excited to partner with Google Cloud to deliver unique cloud solutions to their customers and ours,” explained Walter Delph, Chief Business Officer, Magic Leap. “Google Cloud offers best in class infrastructure for leading edge solutions designed to provide efficiencies, continuity and innovation to businesses across the globe.”

In the second phase of the partnership, the two companies will jointly explore opportunities to integrate Google Cloud capabilities in artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, and analytics into Magic Leap’s Communication, Collaboration and Co-presence platform to support co-presence in any enterprise setting globally. According to Magic Leap, potential use cases involve applying cloud capabilities to help capture data and knowledge from experienced technicians in manufacturing settings, enhancing remote-technical support and training using augmented reality (AR), or providing complex or personalized procedure support in the healthcare industry.

Magic Leap added that it is working on the development of an AR Cloud product that will help to “advance the activation of spatially-aware enterprise solutions across multiple industry verticals.” The ‘Magic Leap Augmented Reality Cloud’ will allow enterprises to build applications that are spatially-aware and collaborative. The company also stated that it will explore the optimization of its AR Cloud by working in collaboration with Google Cloud, leveraging its network, content delivery services, and evolving 5G network edge compute services.

“More than ever, organizations are looking for ways to keep teams connected and support employees with innovative solutions in the cloud,” said Joe Miles Managing Director of Healthcare and Life Sciences at Google Cloud. “We are excited that Magic Leap has selected Google Cloud to expand the availability of its solutions for productivity in the enterprise. We look forward to working together to help Magic Leap scale its cloud-based solutions globally, and to help customers deploy next-generation collaboration and productivity solutions in the workplace.”

For more information on Magic Leap and its augmented and mixed reality solutions for enterprise, please visit the company’s website.

Image credit: Magic Leap

About the author

Sam Sprigg

Sam is the Founder and Managing Editor of Auganix. With a background in research and report writing, he covers news articles on both the AR and VR industries. He also has an interest in human augmentation technology as a whole, and does not just limit his learning specifically to the visual experience side of things.

Source: https://www.auganix.org/magic-leap-announces-partnership-with-google-cloud-to-spatial-computing-to-enterprise-and-google-cloud-customers/

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