The biggest VR/AR news of the year was the big reveal of Facebook’s (soon to be Meta’s) vision for the so-called metaverse. The metaverse will be a digital overlap of the real world powered by AR, VR and mixed-reality technologies. Responses to the announcement were varied, ranging from excitement to scepticism.
Engineers with skills in VR, AR and AI are now in high demand as tech companies, particularly Facebook/Meta, scramble to build out the metaverse vision. The Wall Street Journal reports that Microsoft has lost around 100 employees in the past year, with many heading to Meta Platforms. Meanwhile, The Times is reporting that Apple is offering bonuses of up to $180,000 to encourage its top engineers to not defect to rivals.
Qualcomm CEO Cristiano Amon used his CES 2022 keynote to announce a new collaboration with Microsoft. The two companies will work together to create next-generation AR glasses using a custom chipset. Software from both companies, including Microsoft’s existing Mesh platform, will be integrated into the chip platform.
Professional services firm Accenture has bought and deployed 60,000 Oculus headsets to help onboard and train new hires. Accenture CEO Julie Sweet told Fortune magazine that VR was “a great way to learn about Accenture in a more engaging fashion but have an experience with people you don’t get to be in a room with going through your new joiner training.”
A US startup has unveiled a contact lens prototype that can display real-time information and offer “tunable” AR vision. InWith showed off the device at CES 2022 and says that, while the lens can help users with sight problems like myopia, it can also provide directions and could give users greater access to virtual worlds. InWith says the device is the “ultimate” metaverse wearable.
The much-rumoured but as-yet-unannounced AR/VR headset from Apple won’t be suitable for immersing its users in the metaverse. Instead, the device will enable “bursts of gaming, communication and content consumption,” according to Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman, and will not be “an all-day device”.
Augmented reality firm Avataar has raised $45 million in funding to build its vision for AR shopping experiences for enterprise customers. The company says it will offer shoppers superior product evaluation – a key part of the shopping process. Avataar’s 3D rendering technology offers spatial depth, high levels of photorealism, immersive interactivity and personalisation for shoppers.
French company Fittingbox has developed an app that uses ‘diminished reality’. The first commercial application is to allow buyers of new spectacles to virtually try on new pairs without taking off the real pair they’re currently wearing. The tech ‘erases’ the real glasses from the image and overlays the AR version. Beyond boosting sales for opticians, the tech could let users try new clothes or hairstyles – and could help people with autism achieve better focus.
Disney has filed a patent for a virtual theme park that visitors won’t need headsets or glasses to enjoy. Instead, virtual rides would be created using a high-speed projector and a method called SLAM (simultaneous localisation and mapping) to track visitors’ moving perspective as they pass through the park.
A Turkish farmer has invested in VR headsets for his dairy cows to see if they produce more milk. The animals watch scenes of sunny meadows while they are cooped up in milking parlors. Farmer Izzet Kocak says the move is working. After giving headsets to two of his cows, he found that milk production rose from 22 litres to 27 litres a day. He plans to buy more headsets so more of the herd can plug into the Matrix.
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