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So recently Tim Cook has spoken a lot about augmented reality and that Apple is heavily investing in it. Based on their new iPhone and some of the technology I have some ideas of how they potentially may approach AR.
What if Apples approach is not a fully encompassed device like Microsoft HoloLens but rather just a visor with sensors that talks to your iPhone as the central compute. How you say? Well they did launch a new wireless chip they designed.
It may be feasible that they have some new secret sauce that would allow you to carry a light weight visor to experience augmented reality. I for one would love to have a light weight headset. One of the challenges with adding compute power to the headset like the Microsoft Hololens is that you are limited by battery as far as how long it can last as well as size. I think it might be feasible to have a light weight device that only does sensor input and display. This paired with your iPhone as the compute may be a very interesting combination.
What about power on the go?
What if the visor had a case that charged the visors when you put them away like the Apple Airpods?
Again interesting concept. Maybe everything that is being done now is just steps to a AR visor from Apple.
I hope that some of my thoughts are true. I really want to see Augmented Reality mainstream.
P.S. Apple if you are looking for a developer to test out your AR let me know
As some of you know I’m focusing a lot of my personal time on Augmented and Virtual Reality. To create experiences in these platforms that are truly engaging you have to add 3D and animation or movement to your applications. In this blog post I will walk you through using Blender a free utility to create some 3D assets with a basic animation and import it into Unity. I will also show how to wire up the animation in Unity. In the end I will show what our creation looks like through the HoloLens.
To get started I first must cover some basics of how to navigate Blender. Interactions in blender utilize a three button mouse. The Right Mouse button is primarily used for selection while the left mouse button is for confirming things like scaling or rotation. The Middle mouse button is used for rotation, zoom and such.
Now open Blender. We are first going to delete Items in Blender to start fresh. Select the Lamp, Camera, and Cube and delete them by pressing the Delete key on the keyboard and then clicking Delete in the dialog that appears.
Add a UV Sphere
Next I switch to front view by pressing the #1 key on the number pad (Not the #1 above your qwerty section of your keyboard. I also ensure I’m in Ortho mode by pressing the #5 key on the number pad.
Next we will add a UV Sphere. There are a number of ways to do this. One is to click the Add menu below the view port and select Mesh -> UV Sphere. A shorter way to achieve this is to press Shift+A and a menu will appear in your view port.
Next we will duplicate the UV Sphere to create the head of our BB8. To do this we can use the Object Menu or just press Shift+D. This will create a duplicate move your mouse and you will see the object that is created. To place you left click. Next we will Scale this to make it smaller and place it to be the head of BB8.
Once you scale and position the head we will then add a cylinder for it robotic eye. This is done by pressing Shift+A and selecting Mesh->Cylinder. We will need to scale it by pressing “S” and making it the appropriate size. We also need to rotate it by pressing “R”. To rotate on a specific axis you can then press X, Y, or Z. In the end we should have something that looks like this.
Next to make our lives a bit easier we will parent our objects. First we will parent the Cylinder to the Head. To do this first make sure you have nothing selected. Then select the Cylinder by right clicking. The holding the shift key right click on the head. To parent you then press Control+P and select Object from the dialog. This will ensure that any manipulation to the head object will affect the robotic eye we have created. We now can parent the head to the body following the same process.
We are now ready for some animation.
The first animation we are going to do is just an Idle state where the head rotates back and forth. To do this we need to create some key frames. In my case I’m setting my view to Front (#1 on Number pad) I also rotated the cylinder to the left by pressing “R” and then typing 180 degrees. At this point it is time to add Key frames. To do that what you do is open the object menu on the right side of blender like below.
To insert a key frame on location, rotation, and scale you hover over the area in the menu and press “I”. If you successfully added a key frame you should have something like this.
The yellow tells you the value is key framed. Next we select a frame in the future like frame 20.
We now rotate the head by pressing “R” on the keyboard followed by “Z” this will rotate on only the Z-Axis. We position where we like and we will see the transform menu is now Green meaning the values have changed but are not key framed yet.
Again we hover over each value and press “I” to Key Frame them. Next we will move the head back and add one more key frame. In the video below I will show an alternative way to add the last point by using the Dope Sheet and copy pasting information.
Import into Unity
To import into Unity is very simple. By default you can just drag the Blender file into Unity’s Asset folder. This will automatically use the FBX Export from Blender. Once this is done you can now drag the asset into your scene.
This will not automatically animate our character at this time. Let’s first select our bb8 model and in the Inspector go to the Animations tab. Here we will see our animation but it has way to many frames. We need to trip it by changing the end time to match our last movement of our animation. We can also change the name here to Idle. We will use this name in the future as well. You also will want to check the loop time checkbox.
We now need to add an Animator Controller to our Assets by clicking Assets->Create->Animator Controller. You can also do this by Right Clicking in the Assets window and selecting Create->Animator Controller. Now you can double click on the Animator controller it created. This will open the Animator pane.
In the Project Asset folder click the right arror on our model. You should see something like this.
You should now see the Idle Animation. Click and drag it to our Animator pane. It will automatically attach to Entry.
Now we need to apply the Animator to our Model in the Scene to do this you can drag the animator from our Project folder to either the object in the scene or to the Inspector spot for the animator. Now if you hit play our animation should be playing.
Congratulations you have now created your first animation. In a future post I will make it so we can control another animation from code.
Here is a full video tutorial of this but with additional steps like adding basic materials to our model.
I have been back and forth between operating systems many times before. I typically look at myself as technology agnostic. I love all technology. I’ve been living in the Apple ecosystem for quite a while. I actually had purged my house of all of my Windows PCs and laptops. The only non-Apple devices I had in my house were Chrome Books for my kids and a few Roku devices.
As of late I’ve been diving back into Windows due to my passion for Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality. I picked up a Surface Book and even got a Microsoft HoloLens. I then needed a system to run my Oculus Rift CV1 so I ordered a barebones Zotac Magnus EN970.
This little machine has served me very well for most demos of Virtual Reality. There are a few things that push it beyond it’s capabilities since it only has a NVidia GTX 960 in it. So I decided it was time to build a new machine. This comes on the heels of NVidia announcing the GTX 1080. Since they are not fully available other then Founder addition I decided to do the first build with the GTX 970. I’ll pick up a GTX 1080 after people stop price gouging them.
I can’t believe how much fun it was to build a PC component by component again. It was like a nostalgic moment for me. I even brought my oldest daughter in to explain all of the components. This is an experience you do not get in the Apple World. Pretty much what you get is what you get. There is something to be said for just purchasing a machine to do a job but for someone who wants to push hardware you are stuck. Unless you purchase the extremely expensive Mac Pro that is running on outdated hardware still. It was fun when everything lit up for me and I was able to Install Windows 10.
It will still be a bit before I stop hitting the Alt key trying to open the start menu though since muscle memory is still stuck on Apple Command key. I’ll even occasionally jump back to my MacBook 12” I have. So far I’ve been pretty impressed with the migration back. The OS actually feels a bit more modern then Apple’s OS which is aging. Hopefully there will be some big news in a week or so for Apple. If they don’t start innovating again soon I’m worried they will just be an iPhone/iPad company. I don’t even feel they are fulfilling the needs of the creative industry like they used to. My Windows machine I built blows the doors off all my Apple gear I had before as far as rendering Videos and the like.
Here is to the journey back into Microsoft land.
To me it is clear that VR (Virtual Reality) is here to stay and AR (Augmented Reality)/MR (Mixed Reality) is just around the corner. More and more companies are jumping into the mix. GoPro is releasing a rig and software to support sperical video content. Adobe is releasing capabilities to support VR editing and production. It seems every day I’m seeing some new article about either content or technology to support VR/AR/MR.
Magic Leap has also shown new content although no person has seen any form of hardware from them at this point they at least show promise for AR/VR similar to Microsoft’s HoloLens. It is only a matter of time until we better understand where VR/AR/MR truly will go. Many new companies are forming around this space as you read this. I myself am looking into the potential and can’t wait to get a HoloLens to play around with some of my ideas. It is a new era for content consumption as well as interactions. I can’t wait to see where this goes.
So this evening I got to experience the HoloLens for the first time. My first thought before putting it on is there is no way this is as good as they have showed. I have to say I’ve been surprised completely. So much so that I literally want to drop $3,000.00 on a dev kit for myself to get on this bandwagon.
I was able to play with some of the examples it has. The way it scans a room and remembers where I put 3D objects is amazing. I even took it to a bar and used it in low light and it worked great. I see potential in this for sure. Being an owner of the Oculus Rift and now trying this. The fact that there are no wires is impressive. I do see real world uses for this kind of device and would love to be at the forefront of their creation.
See you all in HoloSpace if I get one…
Thanks Lance for letting me take it for a spin.
So I do have to say I have floated away from Microsoft over the years. Last week was Microsoft’s //build/ conference. What I saw watching their keynotes and some of their sessions is a very different Microsoft. I figured I would highlight my thoughts.
Microsoft has seriously started to make the leap from a OS based company to cloud first. Almost every demo they showed was ran on multiple platforms instead of only Windows. It was very clear that Microsoft’s development goal is to get developers on their cloud platform Azure.
Azure has came a long way since it’s early days and now has many different options for every developer. They have worked extensively on cross-platform support as well. I believe Microsoft has came to the realization that they are not the only device in user hands and their only way to compete is to join them with their cloud services and productivity apps.
One of the announcements at //build/ was the launch of cognitive services. The cognitive services range from vision APIs that determine objects, faces, emotions, and even video content. Another group of APIs is around speech. These services range from custom recognition, speaker recognition, and speech in general. The third group of APIs covers Language, while the final ones cover Knowledge, and search.
With all of these services it is just a matter of time till independent and large companies create completely new ways for users to interact with their applications. I even see applications learning and knowing when to interact on their own with the users.
Conversation as a Service
A lot of the content during the keynotes seemed to be around their bot platform and creating conversations as a service. One example they showed was ordering a pizza through messages. The technology behind this called Microsoft Bot Framework. The framework allows you to create intelligent bots that interact with users through txt/sms, Skype, Slack, you name it. It appears that it does not take much to create your own and even improve them once they are live.
Microsoft finished their acquisition of Xamarin a week or so ago and they have decided to give it away with Visual Studio as well as a Mac version for free. This is a huge move. These tools typically cost $1500 per platform. This change may sway more developers to the Xamarin now Microsoft mobile platform. This seems to be a clear way to potentially bring a lot more developers into developing their mobile applications on C#.
Bash on Windows
One of the weirdest items that came out last week was the fact that Windows 10 would have bash. The way this is being incorporated is an embedded Ubuntu into Windows. The way this is working is that it is running as a subsystem on Windows. You even will be able to use apt-get to install packages. The goal here is to make Windows more friendly to other open source framework developers.
This one has me intrigued. I may actually want to take this for a spin.
Of course Microsoft continued to show off their HoloLens platform. This has promise but until the price is right and apps are in market for it we won’t know how well the platform will be adopted. It definitely has promise and not just for gaming.
I have to say I like the new Microsoft. I feel they are making some major advancements in their development platform as well as their cloud offering that make me want to potentially jump ship from my Mac. This will probably come as a shock to a lot of folks as I’ve been pretty happy on my Mac platforms for the last few years. I’m not saying I would abandon my other toys (iPads, iPhones, etc). It just means I feel their platform is becoming more and more developer friendly and not just for Microsoft development tools.
Apparently Apple filed a patent back in 2011 for a device very similar to the Microsoft Surface. The Busines Insider recently ran an article about it. It doesn’t mean that they are building a device but let’s speculate on if they did.
What would I like to see
The device I would like to see is a combination of an iPad Pro and a Macbook. What do I mean. Think about having a device that literally is two. The iPad Pro would mount into the lower chasis. In the lower chasis you would have the guts of a Macbook Pro. That would include CPU, GPU, SSD, RAM, etc. The iPad Pro would operate as just a display when mounted. The newest version of iOS would have new App Extensions that would allow your files to magically be synced with the iOS and your native OS X apps. When you disconnected the iPad your files would just be there. The experience you would have would be iOS an OS that is really built for mobile.
The reason I would love a device like this is that I want the best of both worlds without compromises. I feel that still today Windows 10 is a compromise. You don’t get the best of both worlds. You have to suffer somewhere. With technology getting smaller and smaller it wouldn’t be hard to see a new device that actually is two. For that matter I really hope a new accessory that gives me a Macbook keyboard for my iPad display happens. I’ve been using my iPad Pro for almost a week. I really do like the device. It currently is still tethered to my Logitech keyboard and does feel somewhat like a laptop.
Please Apple make the device of my dreams now. Or better yet the two devices of my dreams. I want that headless Macbook for my iPad Pro.
So I’ve added an iPad Pro to my portfolio of mobile devices. I decided to get the 128 GB LTE model since I really feel I need internet everywhere I am. I haven’t ever had an iPad without cellular data of some kind.
My first impression when opening up the iPad Pro box was “DAMN this thing is HUGE”. It is a really large device. I really started to fear I made the wrong decision by buying it without using it first. That first impression washed away in a matter of a couple hours. It definitely is a different device. I have an iPad Air 2 as well I have used iPad Minis. They all seem to have their own place.
My planned usage is both productivity and creative. I’d like to be able to use the iPad Pro on the road for photography as well as some limited productivity like coding via SSH sessions. That being said I’m currently writing this post on the iPad Pro.
The best iOS 9 feature that seems to really excel on the iPad Pro is multi-tasking. I thought multi-tasking was great on the iPad Air 2, but man the iPad Pro screen really shows off the power.
Multi-tasking on the iPad Pro
The screenshot above is my layout with Safari, Apple Notes, and watching a podcast all at the same time. I feel like I actually have two iPads when I’m multi-tasking on the iPad Air 2. Some may ask why not just use a Macbook. Well actually I like having some constraints. I feel I open way more on my Macbook which actually doesn’t allow me to focus. Without multi-tasking though you couldn’t do research and type a document.
So I ended up ordering the Logitech Create keyboard for my iPad Pro. I also went to the Apple store to try out their Smart Keyboard. I will probably do a separate write up on the Logitech keyboard. I used the iPad Pro without a keyboard for a couple days. One of the issues right now is that not all apps are taking advantage of the new keyboard. Until all apps adopt it, you end up feeling a jarring experience. Below is an example of each keyboard.
New Keyboard Old Keyboard
I haven’t received my Apple Pencil yet but I played with one at the Apple store. I have to say that the Apple Pencil is amazing. I’ve used styluses across multiple devices like the Microsoft Surface Pro 3. I’ve even used the Surface Book. All of them have latency issues that bother me. I even have a Wacom Cintiq. The Apple Pencil seems to have zero lag. It feels really natural. I can’t wait to get more time with it. I feel it will unlock a lot of creative applications on the iPad Pro.
In summary I think this is a new classification of a device. If you are into creative or feel that you need more screen then an iPad Air 2 gives you then this might be the device for you. I’ll be back when I have some time with the Logitech Create Keyboard as well as the Apple Pencil.
iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus
First let’s talk about the iPhone. Probably the biggest change to the iPhone 6s versus the iPhone 6 is 3D Touch. 3D Touch is the ability for the iPhone to detect deep presses versus a regular press. We first got introduced to this feature on the Apple Watch under the name Force Touch. I’m guess that Apple may have been “forced” to change the name. (yes pun intended). This interaction will cause quite a bit of fragmentation for a while until the iPhone 5, 5s, and 6 models leave the market as the only device to support it will be the iPhone 6s models. The changes this brings may be time savers for all of us users. It will give you access to information and features of applications much faster. A few examples shown included getting to the “selfie camera” quickly as well as calling your favorites by doing a hard press on the phone app.
The other normal upgrades happened as well faster CPU and upgraded Camera. Some of the things done in the technology behind the camera sensor might be pretty amazing. Adding 4k brings some interesting things as well. The baffling thing though is why did we keep the storage so low on the starting models. 16GB doesn’t cut it in a 4k world. Apple did cut their cost of iCloud so that may be the play but still 16GB? The new feature also brought to us is Live Photo. Basically it takes a video 1.5 seconds before the still and 1.5 seconds after. It is pretty interesting when you watch the demo.
Although the update to the Apple TV may not look like a major update to most as it does have some of the “me too” feel to it, I feel it may be a bit of a sneak attack. Apple has one of the best App ecosystems. With an App Store now available for Apple TV we may see a large amount of both TV and games make their way over to the Apple TV. If Apple is right that Apps are the future of TV we will be in for a evolution for cord cutters that may accelerate. Time will only tell though.
The most interesting presentation last week was that of the iPad Pro. Apple truly is trying to push the post PC era. The most confusing thing for me was that Microsoft jumped on stage with Apple to show Office on the iPad Pro. This shows us a different Microsoft. It is apparent they will keep their focus on selling their services around Office 365.
The iPad Pro will need to find its market though. I feel it is targeted at the artist market which is a good spot for it. If we see more business applications coming over to the iPad we may see it as the device of choice for most executives and creatives. The desktop/laptop market will be only for engineering and higher computing needs such as video and photo editing. I expect the software for the iPad to grow quickly over the next year with the new form factor. I myself want one right off the bat. I’ll be interested if it feels like a true replacement for my 12” Macbook or not.
From all reviews the Apple Pencil is as amazing as it was made out to be. If it is as accurate as they say I’ll be pleased. As soon as I get my hands on one I will write my review. Till then the future for Apple looks bright to me.