For the people who brought you the Hololens 2, probably the most sophisticated pair of mixed reality smart glasses out there to date. Microsoft’s smart glasses are now used as an enterprise solution by many companies around the world.
Apple Inc. (AAPL)
As we previously detailed in depth, Apple has been discreetly working on a number of AR/VR products for several years now and is planning to release its own AR smart glass and AR/VR hybrid headset. Apple has acquired a number of companies in this space throughout the years, including Metaio, Flyby Media, Vrvana, Akonia Holographics, NextVR, and Camerai. It is clear that Apple working diligently to become a big player in the AR/VR space.
Apple is also the owner of ARKit, a developer tool used by iOS developers to build mobile AR apps and games for iPhones, iPads, and other Apple devices. Apple also prides itself by the fact that all its latest devices, such as the iPhone 12 Pro and iPhone 12 Pro Max are AR-compatible and incorporate a LiDAR scanner.
Facebook is the owners of Oculus Quest, the current gold standard when it comes to VR headsets. In its recent Facebook Connect event (which the echoAR team covered here) Facebook made a number announcements that cement its place as a leader in the AR/VR space. In addition to releasing Oculus Quest 2, Facebook spent $150 million on content for the device (to bring you VR games from brands like Assassin’s Creed, Splinter Cell, Star Wars, Jurassic World, and Medal of Honor). Facebook also officially reveled that they have partnered with eyewear manufacturers Ray-Ban and Luxottica to create their own apir of AR glasses. Facebook also showcased Facebook Horizons, its growing social VR world which is gaining more and more users each day.
Facebook is also the owner of Spark AR, a creator studio that allows creators to build face filters and AR experiences for Facebook and Instagram.
Alphabet Inc. (GOOGL, GOOG)
Google Glasswasn’t the consumer wearable revolution about which Google’s parent company, Alphabet, was dreaming. But it doesn’t mean that it wasn’t a big step for AR smart glasses. The Google Glass Enterprise Edition, aimed at businesses and enterprise-level clients, is now used by many manufacturing and logistics companies around the world. Last year, Google also acquired North, an AR smart glass manufactures.
Google has incorporated AR/VR technology in many of its offerings, including adding a VR mode in YouTube and an AR mode in Google Map, and has made sure that its Google Pixel smartphones are all AR-compatible and include Google Lens functionality. Google also offers ARCore, a developer tool for Android, iOS, Unreal, and Unity which help integrate AR elements into the real environment.
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Snap Inc. (SNAP)
Last year, echoAR covered a lot of exciting news that came out of the Snap Partner Summit. Snapchat is used by more than 250 million active user who engage with AR filters on a daily basis. Snap’s Lens Studio allows creators to unleash their creativity and create interactive AR experiences, while business can advertise with unique Lens Ads.
Sony Corp. (SNE)
Sony is the owner of the PlayStation console and, PlayStation VR, its accompanying VR headset. With a collection of over 200 games (many of them exclusive), a movie-watching mode and a social share-screen option, the PSVR is a market leader in the VR gaming world. The headset was sold separately in the past but today it is bundled with two PlayStation Move motion controllers, the PlayStation Camera and two games. All eyes are now on Sony’s next console, the PS5, and what it would offer in terms of gaming for the PSVR headset.
The engine behind may of the VR headsets and AR devices you know and love. Qualcomm is one of the biggest manufactures of chipsets and processing units and produces many of the key components found in VR headsets such as Facebook’s Oculus Quest 2. With 5G technologyexpected to drastically improve AR/VR experiences, Qualcomm’s hardware, such as the Snapdragon XR2 chipset platform, is destined to play a major role in the future of AR/VR.
NVIDIA Corporation (NVDA)
Another market leader in the chip development industry without whom VR won’t be what it is today. Nvidia’s graphics processing units and other hardware is an integral part of many VR headsets such as the Valve Index and the HTC Vive and Nvidia offers a plethora of software tools to help developers build VR applications.
Unity Software Inc (U)
Unity is one of the most popular 3D game development platforms out there and has been used to create popular AR/VR games, such as Pokémon Go, Hearthstone, and Rimworld. The Unity game engine is A top choice for game developers, designers, and artists and is compatible with many other platforms supporting the creating of AR/VR applications, including echoAR.
echoAR (http://www.echoAR.xyz; Techstars ’19) is a cloud platform for augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) that provides tools and server-side infrastructure to help developers & companies quickly build and deploy AR/VR apps and experiences.
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Solaris: Offworld Combat is coming to PSVR this June with a physical release from Perp Games. According to a First Contact Entertainment representative, the digital version is planned to release a month earlier in May.
Perp Games on Twitter: “We’re not finished just yet. Solaris Offworld Combat is the next game to be getting a physical box release. Coming in June to global markets! Will you be buying it? https://t.co/5sphrqsh10” / Twitter
Solaris: Offworld Combat on PSVR
Originally, Solaris was coming to PSVR late last year around the same time as the Quest and PC VR version of the game but got delayed. Now, it’s slated for release in just a couple of months.
The latest VR shooter from First Contact Entertainment (creators of Firewall Zero Hour) is a sci-fi competitive VR shooter that feels a bit like Quake in VR due to its speed and intense arena levels. It’s a very breezy, fast-paced game that’s accessible and easy to quickly jump in and out of. The closest comparison is probably Hyper Dash.
Soalris is a notable release because other than Firewall Zero Hour, there really haven’t been many options for shooter fans on PSVR. Alvo is coming soon too, but the headset is on its last legs at this point.
The PS Aim Controller continues to be one of the best things about the PSVR platform, so I’m all for seeing more games support it, but it’s a shame games like this didn’t hit PSVR earlier in its life cycle. Hopefully PSVR 2 on PS5 is backwards compatible and it can give late-life cycle games like this one new life when it releases.
Solaris is coming to PSVR very soon with a planned digital release in May and physical release from Perp Games in June. For more on this game make sure and read our Solaris: Offworld Combat review and stay tuned for all the latest in VR.
The VR fitness genre is still relatively new, all things considered. Even though the space is still somewhat niche, it’s absolutely growing at a fast pace as seen by the number of games and players that continue to spring up. How did we get to this point though, you might ask?
Microsoft won a large US Army contract to supply advanced AR headsets for frontline soldiers, based on the HoloLens platform.
The US Army’s Integrated Visual Augmentation System (IVAS) program aims to equip infantry with AR helmets for situational awareness and convenient display of sensor outputs.
The contract is worth up to $21.88 billion over 5-10 years. While the order has been widely reported as 120,000 units, a US Army statement to Breaking Defence suggests that is the maximum, not a fixed quantity.
Early evaluation units based on HoloLens 2
In 2018 Microsoft won the $480 million evaluation contract for just over 2500 units, based on HoloLens 2 with some modifications and an extra sensor.
The current, ruggedized, upgraded IVAS
The evaluation found the hardware not rugged enough for military use, and identified problems with the sensors at night. Since then the hardware has been significantly upgraded. It’s more ruggedized and houses many more sensors.
The field of view has been significantly increased from roughly 40°x30° to 80°x40°. That’s significantly wider than any other see-through AR headset on the market.
Reported use cases for the headset include:
overlaying icons on friendly units, objectives, threats, and points of interest
built-in night vision & thermal view modes
live picture-in-picture feeds from drones, including the Soldier Borne Sensors (SBS) personal drone
simulated weapons & enemies for training exercises
scanning nearby people for high temperature (COVID-19)
facial recognition for hostage rescue situations
The Army is also testing integrations with vehicles, such as soldiers being able to see-through the walls of the armored vehicle carrying them. That means on dismounting they’ll be situationally aware.
Some Microsoft employees have protested providing technology for the military, but that’s unlikely to have any effect given the enormous potential value of the contract.
IVAS is still in the late testing & evaluation stage, and the scale of deployment will depend on future budgets. But if things go to plan, frontline soldiers could be equipped with these game-changing AR capabilities by the end of the decade.