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Colin Devroe

Reverse Engineer. Blogger.

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Observations on Oculus Go

At work we picked up an Oculus Go for research and development purposes. But of course I commandeered the device first to put it through its paces and I think I have a good enough feel for it to write up a few observations.

These are, as always, in no particular order.

  • Let’s get a few things out of the way immediately: it is lightweight (I’m an adult 6′ male, I don’t know how children would feel), the controller is remarkably accurate and fun to use, battery life is fair, the sound without headphones is better than you can imagine, and the simple fact that this is a standalone device is awesome.
  • The Go is meant to be a consumption device. While the controller is very easy to “type” with, you won’t be doing much writing within this context. That said, I can see where art apps or perhaps audio editing apps may be really interesting. Oddly though, there aren’t any.
  • Facebook touts 1,000 apps but that isn’t true (at least to my eye). Unless they count movies or video-like experiences I do not see 1,000 apps. And the vast majority of the apps that are available are not optimized for Go.
  • Finding high-resolution 360-video isn’t easy. Most video you stumble across within the apps is not nearly the resolution I would expect to see. Even from National Geographic. Even if I had to allow the Go to download a buffer, I would prefer the 360 video content to be much higher resolution. At this point, I prefer 2D video. I love that it appears to be a 40′ screen.
  • Playing games is pretty fun. But I’m not much of a gamer these days (in my early 20s I wasted way too many hours playing games so I simply don’t do it anymore). So if you’re looking for a gaming review you’ll want to ask someone else.
  • AltSpaceVR has huge potential. I’m watching that closely.
  • This version of the Go reminds me of the original iPhone. Playing with the original iPhone in June 2007 felt like the beginning of something big. It was. This does too. Standalone VR devices should be a big hit. Esp. at this price point.
  • App updates are rolling in daily, sometimes multiple times per day and most of the bug fixes seem to be for the Go.
  • The Go needs a camera on the front with a quick way to turn it on/off. I should be able to pick up my phone, coffee, or move in the space I’m in without needing to remove the goggles. I’m sure the Oculus team tried this but I can’t imagine them not adding one in the near future.
  • As I said, this is a consumption device, but I found myself wanting to use this environment for work. I want to email, write documents, chat, etc.
  • There is no concept of multitasking within the Go. You can’t even play music anywhere in the background. I hope this changes even with a software update. I’d like to have multiple browser tabs and have sound coming from Spotify.
  • I’ve written about how I think VR is going to change software UIs. I believe that even more now. The “window-like” environment in most of these apps seems out of place. The skeuomorphic living rooms and theaters also feel weird. I’ve had the Go for a week and the Netflix “house” already feels old. The innovation in this area is going to be very, very fast as we collectively figure this out. But my bet is that we ditch the 3D house renderings pretty quickly. I also think we’d pick up resources by eliminating that fluff.
  • Web sites also need to be rethought for this. Just as we rethought them for mobile devices, tablets, etc. we will need to rethink web site layout, controls, navigation, etc. for VR. I’ve been giving this some thought and I have a few ideas.
  • Mobile web sites run pretty well on Go. I use YouTube (since there is no app), Instagram, Twitter, and others this way.
  • YouTube videos on Go are amazing. Completely immersive (even if not 360). It is my preferred way to watch YouTube. Navigating YouTube’s site isn’t great though since YouTube handles this device like a tablet.
  • Only once or twice have I felt a little sick from using Go. Once on the rollercoaster ride the first time and once when a YouTube video was super super sporadic and shaky.
  • My Google Pixel 2 XL comes with several panoramic and 3D photo taking options. I use them occasionally, but if I had an Oculus-like device around I’d use those features a lot more. It really feels like you’re in the photo. Some of my “Photo Sphere” shots from Longwood Gardens last weekend are just awesome in Go.
  • You can make your “home screen” be just one of a small set of photos. Oculus calls this your “environment”. The environment options are really lacking. There should be hundreds or thousands of ways to customize your home environment. Backgrounds, animations, colors, sound, etc. I hope they update this soon with tons of options.
  • Being in VR is not like using your phone or tablet in front of your friends or family. You are far less present. So I would expect to use a device like this when A) I’m alone or, B) when the others around me also have them. In fact, I really want to try watching movies or playing games with others in the same room.
  • Getting oil from your skin onto the lenses happens a lot. Keep the cloth they give you handy. I’m not a particularly oily person and I probably wipe the lenses 3 or 4 times each use.
  • The resolution of the display is fair but I can see this getting much, much better very quickly. It will have to.
  • It would be nice if Go could connect to my Beats via Bluetooth.
  • I think Go would be perfect for a plane ride if the flight has free Wifi, or if you already had the content you need downloaded to the device or your phone.

Many of my observations sound like complaints or feature requests. But I think that is normal when something is so new. The Oculus Go has left me wanting more. Much more. Better quality, more capability, more options, and to be able to use it for more tasks. I could see myself spending hours in VR doing the same things I do on my phone, iPad, or computer throughout the day. And I think this is evidence of how good Oculus Go already is.

If you are interested in VR and are looking for a completely standalone affordable solution; Oculus Go is your best buy right now.

Oculus Go mini review: Impressive spacial feeling and controls. Mostly built for passive consumption, not for input. Wish the UI was more fluid and less “windowy” and also wish there was an email / calendar app.

Ordered an Oculus Go.

Retail AR

Dent Reality, a company looking to create practical applications for augmented reality, has released a video preview of their first offering Retail AR:

Retail AR can improve the customer experience and boost sales, by surfacing product details, displaying spatial information and navigating customers to relevant areas.

Be sure to watch the video. You’ll see its practicality immediately. I think the app will be useful on a phone, but imagine it built into some glasses? I hope more companies like Dent Reality spring up and I’m positive that they will.

Firefox Reality

Mozilla:

Mozilla has always been on the frontlines of virtual and augmented reality (see our work with WebVRWebAR and A-Frame), and this is a mixed reality browser that is specifically built to tackle the new opportunities and challenges of browsing the immersive web.

Me, in April 2017:

The way information is displayed is going to dramatically change within MR applications. How should a Wikipedia page on the honey bee be shown to a child wearing MR glasses while they are touring an apiary? Certainly this new wave of information layout should not be constrained to the resizable “windows” that we see in current demos but that we will see a rich set of layout and display tools that will make mundane information that the web currently hosts to come alive.

Mozilla sees this and they are skating to where the puck will be.

We’re in phase one of Augmented Reality

Apple just published a page dedicated to Augmented Reality in the latest versions of iOS. It is a good page overviewing some of the use cases we’re already seeing with AR.

This is just the beginning.

I’ve written about AR many times, so I won’t reiterate everything today. But look at these use cases and imagine them being accomplished, not within a small hand-held rectangle, but in full view using small glasses or — dare I even say it — contacts. It will be a while yet. But this first phase will set a lot of the UI, gestures, etc. that will be implemented in whatever the next generation of hardware is.

I still stand by this post. And the timeline in this post.

Richard MacManus’s tech predictions

Richard MacManus attempts to predict some things for 2018:

We’ll finally get a killer app for AR in 2018. Maybe hope springs eternal, but I’d love to see an AR app with real utility – not just a game like Pokemon Go.

I suppose it matters how you define “killer app”. For me a killer app would be when “most” people begin to use AR somehow. And, if that is the definition then I would say AR already had multiple killer apps. Pokemon Go, Snapchat, Instagram, Google Maps, all of these are excellent uses of AR and hundreds of millions of people use them.

Mixed reality is tough to segment and define. When I talk about AR I think I’m mainly talking about moving our computing experience away from our screens and into the real world. I would love to have my workspace no longer be tied to my work office. To have any size screen I want, wherever I need it. As I’ve written, I don’t think that will happen for another 9 years. But perhaps that is a different form of AR and AR has already “made it”.

I wonder what MacManus’s definition of “killer app” is?

A technology predication time capsule

Readers of my blog will know that I occasionally attempt to predict when certain technologies that I write about will hit the mainstream. While I’m very passionate about a few technologies, I try to temper that excitement with the experiences I’ve had, the wisdom that comes with age, and other factors. Usually, things take a little longer to happen than we’d like for the things we want to see most. And sometimes, sometimes, the things we want most never materialize at all.

For the purposes of this post, mainstream doesn’t mean critical mass but rather mass market adoption. With 7B+ people on the planet reaching critical mass is far easier than reaching mass market saturation. In other words, a company, product, or technology can reach sustainability and never truly hit the mass market. Examples: Tesla can succeed, be profitable, and have happy customers without the world moving on from fossil fuels. A company focusing on AI can make great livings, do compelling and challenging work, without every family having their own personal C-3PO.

Here are some stake-in-the-ground predictions on some of the most talked about technologies of our day. We’ll see in the next few decades if I was even close.

  • Legal, fully autonomous driving with no human assistance: Mid-summer 2026 – Even 9 years out there will still only be a few select vehicles that will fit into this category. There will still be humans driving on the road. And, only the most expensive cars will have all of these features. But, it will exist, be available to anyone, and be legal in the US. And I also believe there will be small fleets running in select cities for Lyft, Uber, and I believe Tesla will have a ride-share platform by this point. Also, don’t be surprised if Apple does too.
  • Bitcoin, or some crypto-currency, being widely transacted at small retail stores in the US: 2027 – If Square, or some other platform with high market saturation, turns on crypto for retail SMBs then we can say they accept this form of tender. But, I believe it will be 10 years before we see a decent number of daily transactions by consumers. I know, “decent” is relative so I’ll give it a number: $100,000,000 US dollar equivalent in a single month. This is roughly 25% of US monthly retail revenue as of September 2017. Side note: By this time we’ll see talk of the US dollar being converted to an all digital currency and, perhaps, transacted on its own blockchain.
  • Mixed Reality experiences used in everyday work environments: 2027 – Today we share links to web sites, documents on Google Drive, and flat or animated graphics to design and develop both soft and physical products. By 2025 many of these every day things will be accessible and even better experience within MR. I believe most businesses with digital assets will have multiple pairs of “glasses” or “goggles” that will allow team members to view or collaborate on these types of data. In other words, by 2030 rather than sending a child a link to Wikipedia to learn about our Solar System I believe we’ll be sending them MR experiences that they will consume using an augmented reality experience on a device other than a flat panel display. This happens today. But no where near mass market. And this industry has a long way to go. Even further than I previously thought.
  • Wireless internet takes over all cable based internet: 2029 – Most people in the US will connect to the Internet via wireless across all devices. And there will be no limitation on bandwidth usage.
  • Fully autonomous fleets replace individual car ownership: 2037 – Today US cities are plagued by traffic jams comprised of single occupant vehicles. Mass transit softens this but doesn’t solve the issue due to the convenience of a car. Ride sharing services have softened this even more and car ownership in urban areas is on the decline. By 2037 we’ll see massive reduction in individual car ownership in cities but also in the hinterlands as fleets of fully autonomous vehicles, combined with better mass transit, can care for the majority of transportation needs. I believe, however, families with at least 2 children will still have a single family-owned vehicle of some sort. Again, I’d like to put a number on this. So I’d say 15-25% less car ownership/use for individuals and commuters nationwide.
  • Mixed Reality replacing many conventional meat space locations/activities: 2050 – By 2050 the majority of children in the US will have the option to attend school in VR ala Ready Player One. Virtual classrooms will no longer be limited by federal budgets but will be designed to appear like cathedrals of learning.
  • (Because, why not?) An off-planet human civilization: 2175 – Humans will walk on Mars in the 2020s. And, perhaps, a small moon or Mars base will exist in similar fashion to today’s ISS in the 2030s. But a civilization, where people live, work, play, have children, and die peacefully etc. won’t exist on any other planet or moon (likely the Moon will have an established civilization prior to Mars). The reason I put this far-reaching prediction on this list is because I believe the excitement around a human footprint on Mars will lead to speculation about off-planet civilizations. But, we must all remember, we put a footprint on the Moon many, many decades ago and then just never went back. I do think that we’ll be mining objects near Earth much, much sooner. Even the Moon. But we’ll do that with robots and minimal human intervention.
  • Tweet editing – Never.

Check back in a few decades to see if I was even close.

Smartify

Smartify:

Smartify is a free app that allows you to scan and identify artworks, access rich interpretation and build a personal art collection in some of the world’s best museums and galleries.

Gunseli Yalcinkaya, writing for Dezeen, calls it “a Shazam for the art world”.

This is cool. Can’t wait to try it out.

/via Dave Mark at The Loop.

Oculus announcements galore

Be sure to check out the Oculus blog as they’ve announced a slew of new things. I’m still going through them all and will be sifting through it over the coming days. But, at first glance, I’m really excited to see this category of product move forward.

Here are the highlights for me (though there is a lot more)