Bose is carving out $50 million for startups using its new audio-focused AR tech

The high-end audio technology company Bose is getting into the augmented reality game with a new product and a $50 million money devoted to startups that will develop services for its new platform.

While most of the industry is focused on a visually augmented experience, Bose is most concerned with the intersection of sound and vision.

The Bose AR prototype, which was unveiled at South by Southwest in Austin this year, will use visual info captured by the glasses and add contextually relevant audio information to its wearer.

Bose’s AR kit is a “wafer-thin” acoustics package that the company hopes can be added to headphones, eyewear, helmets and other wearables to give a new spin on reality “augmentation.” The company said the new technology can be controlled with voice commands, head gestures and simple touch gestures.

The new product is a clever spin on augmented reality and a product that plays into Bose’s strength. “It places audio in your surroundings , not digital images, so you can focus on the amazing world around you — rather than a tiny showing, ” said John Gordon, vice president of the Consumer Electronics Division at Bose, in a statement posted. “It knows which way you’re facing, and can instantly connect that place and hour with endless the chances of traveling, learn, music and more. And it can be added to products and apps we already use and love, removing some of the big obstacles that have maintained AR on the sidelines.”

The first prototype glasses are Bluetooth compatible for bellows or to integrate with Siri or Google Assistant. A new technology developed for the glass ensures that the audio is audible merely to the listener wearing the glasses, and the acoustic packages fit inside the arms of the glasses.

Sensors in the glasses track the orientation of a listener and integrate with an iOS or Android device to track place and motion, which is sent to the AR-enabled application in the wearables.

The company is already working with ASICS Studio, Strava, TripAdvisor, TuneIn and Yelp on cooperations that will provide content for the wearables, while MIT’s Media Lab and the NYU Future Reality Lab are also playing around with prototypes.

But Bose wants entrepreneurs and programmers to develop their own applications. They’ve made a $50 million fund to finance companies that would like to work with the new audio technology and is providing an SDK and updated glasses afterwards this summer.

Bose has invested in a number of companies already — unrelated to its new augmented reality platform — that are all based on novel wearable technologies.

The platform includes investments like Embr Labs, a wearable for governing body temperature; Qleek, a company that embeds augmented reality experiences onto custom designed wooden blocks; and Vesper, a MEMS-powered microphones.

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The tech industry needs to move towards responsible innovation in 2018

Pokmon Go creator raises $200 million ahead of Harry Potter game launch

Pokemon Go inventor Niantic has raised a new $200 million in funding, reports The Wall Street Journal. The Series B raise was led by Spark Capital, and includes participation from Founders Fund, Meritech, Javelin Venture Capital, You& Mr. Jones and NetEase, Inc. Spark partner Megan Quinn is also joining Niantic’s board as part of the new financing deal.

Niantic is known for its augmented reality games, which began with the multiplayer sci-fi spy game Ingress, created during the company’s hour as an internal startup founded within Google. In 2015, Niantic spun out as its own entity, and it launched Pokemon Go in July, 2016. The Pokemon AR game managed to attract massive interest at launching, resulting in huge real-world gatherings of players thanks to its mechanic of incentivizing players to move around in the real world to attain in-game success.

In its Series A round, Niantic raised $30 million in funding from an investor group including Alsop Loui Partners, Google, Nintendo, The Pokemon Company, Cyan and Scott Banister and others. Earlier this year, Niantic announced its first acquisition, of mobile social network developer Evertoon, and it also recently made official its intent to build a mobile AR game based on Harry Potter.

Harry Potter: Wizards Unite is due out sometime next year, and will be developed in partnership with Warner Bros. Interactive.

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AWS re:INVENT 2017

We’d heard months ago that Amazon would be using its Re: Invent AWS event to roll out some a new service related to building in mixed reality — augmented reality and virtual reality. And on the eve of the conference kicking off, it’s done merely that. Today the company announced Amazon Sumerian, a new platform for developers to build and host VR, AR and 3D apps quickly and with minimal coding, for smartphones and tablets, head-based displays, digital signage and web browsers. As with many other AWS services, Sumerian is “free” to use: you pay only for the storage for what you create.

The service — announced at AWS’s “Midnight Madness” pre-show event — is available in preview from today. Initially, the service is browser-based and works in any browser that supports WebGL or WebVR graphics rendering, such as Daydream, HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, and iOS mobile devices.

Amazon says different is available in Sumerian in preview include the ability to design in AR, VR and 3D immersive environments using libraries of pre-built objects; the ability to create animated characters( use its Lex speech recognition and Polly for natural language understanding ); and then shipping the apps to various hardware.

It’s also integrating with third-party developers for certain features — these include Mapbox for location services.

AWS naming the service Sumerian — the language spoken by Sumer people of Mesopotamia — is an interesting option and fits with Amazon’s concept behind the service.

Sumerian( its language) was one of the world’s first written tongues and is considered to be the basis of many languages that followed. Amazon’s guessing behind Sumerian( the AWS product) is that it is trying to bring AR, VR and 3D into the mainstream by constructing situate of tools to make it much easier to use.

“Customers across industries consider the health risks of VR and AR technologies for a wide range of uses, from training and training employees to creating new customer experiences, ” said Marco Argenti, Vice President, Technology, AWS, in a statement. “But, clients are daunted and overwhelmed by the up-front investment in specialized skills and tools required to even get started constructing a VR or AR application. With Amazon Sumerian, it is now possible for any developer to create a realistic, interactive VR or AR application in a few hours.”

It does this by way of many pre-configured building block to build creating apps quickly and with less coding to cover the basics like inanimate objects and the basics of a human form.

Niantics follow-up to Pokmon Go will be a Harry Potter AR game launching in 2018

Niantic Labs had tremendous success with Pokemon Go, which paired their expertise in building location-based augmented reality mobile experiences with a top-flight IP with a ravenous fan base. So, it stands to reason that we should expect a similar fan response to Harry Potter: Wizards Unite, an AR title set to launch in 2018, co-developed by Warner Bros. Interactive and its new sub brand Portkey Games.

Niantic building a Harry Potter game similar to Pokemon Go was rumoured last year, where the business noted that it had acquired the rights to the app. But the rumour was subsequently debunked, oddly enough, with the original article containing the information pulled from the web.

The app is now officer, but the details are still scarce, with the launch timeframe of just sometime next year, but it sounds like there will be significant influence from the Niantic game Ingress, which permits players to roam the real world collecting power-ups, defending locations and investigating their environment.

The mechanics of Ingress would actually translate pretty well to the fictional Harry Potter cosmo, and seems almost ready-made for a fantasy spell casting coat of paint to replace its science-fiction special forces veneer. Also, like Pokemon Go, it could benefit from the place database built up by Ingress originally( and expanded by the Pokemon title) to incorporate real-world locatings into the in-game experience.

Update : Here’s a link to the official proclamation for Harry Potter: Wizards Unite .

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Microsoft expands HoloLens headsets to 29 new markets, now up to 39

Nearly three years on from Microsoft unveiling its HoloLens augmented reality headsets, the company today announced a major expansion of its availability: 29 more marketplaces in Europe, nearly tripling the total number of countries where you can buy the device up to 39.

The news shows that while we don’t have a firm number of how many divisions have been sold, we do know that Microsoft is banking on the device, a non-immersive experience that lets you interact with visual digital images while still being able to see a room as you would normally, as a core piece of its future hardware and software efforts in a bid to compete against the likes of Apple and Google.

“This is where we believe calculating is going, ” said Lorraine Bardeen, general manager of Microsoft HoloLens and Windows experiences, who announced he expansion today at Microsoft’s Future Decoded event in London. “We can bring all your apps and programs right into your world, but you are able to assure all the things in your world that matter to you.”

No details so far on when devices in the expansion and list will ship, or what local costs is likely to be( we are asking and will update as we learn more ). Currently, Microsoft sells a “Development Edition” of the device for $3,000 and a “Commercial Suite” with added enterprise features for $5,000.

The new countries — Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and Turkey — come one year after Microsoft first took the HoloLens outside of the U.S ., when it launched it in Australia, France, Germany, Ireland, New Zealand and the United Kingdom. It has since then also expanded it to its first Asian country, Japan. A reported launch in China earlier this year seems not to have materialised yet.

There has been some debate about Microsoft’s strategy of being an early mover in AR — specifically whether banking it chiefly around hardware rather than software for readily-available devices( as Apple and Google have done respectively with ARKit and ARCore) has been the wisest move for the company. For now, it seems that it’s the route that Microsoft will continue to take.

If the first wave of international rollouts helped Microsoft hit all Europe’s largest markets, today’s news underscores how Microsoft is now entering a wider, scaling phase for its mixed-reality hardware, and points to the company’s intention to keep it at the center of its future hardware plays, particularly as Microsoft continues to push into enterprise tools and services.

“At Microsoft we are on a mission to empower every person and organization on the planet to achieve more, ” said Bardeen. “Mixed reality has the potential to help customers and business across the globe do things that, until now, have never been possible. Mixed reality experiences will help businesses and their employees complete crucial chores faster, safer, more efficiently, and make new ways to is attached to customers and partners.”

As of March 2017, Microsoft said that there were 150 apps built to work on HoloLens, and the expansion will potentially see that number growing. Microsoft has also been working on HoloLens hardware: a second generation of the device( which has yet to be released) is slated to feature its own AI chip, which will move some of the computing power off the cloud and localise it on the device .

The HoloLens is built to run with Windows 10, which natively supports holographic interfaces at the API level. This lets developers program actions through gaze, gesture, voice and “environmental understanding”( that is, making sure that an object doesn’t pass across a wall, but bumps against it ); and also more easily translate Windows 10 apps into apps that can work on the HoloLens.

While the majority of the world has yet to sign on to using and embracing augmented and virtual reality applications, these are important steps in making mixed-reality applications and devices less awkward and part of the more seamless continuum of customer electronics and computing.

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Magic Leap confirms $502 million Series D round

Mixed reality slash augmented reality startup Magic Leap announced today that it created a $502 million Series D round led by Temasek with participation from EDBI, Grupo Globo, Janus Henderson, Alibaba Group, Fidelity Management and others. Just last week, a Delaware filing confirmed that Magic Leap approved up to$ 1 billion in new shares.

“We’re aroused to welcome Temasek and the other new investors in this round to the Magic Leap family, ” Magic Leap founder and chairman Rony Abovitz said in a release. “We also greatly appreciate the strong supporting and partnership from our existing shareholders.”

It’s still not totally clear what Magic Leap is doing, but it sure has raised a ton of fund( more than $1.9 billion) in order to do whatever it is that it’s doing. To date, we’ve been able to gather that the company may be launching a device called “Magic Leap One.” And last month, Bloomberg indicated Magic Leap is a possibility gearing up to ship that device to a “small group of users” in the next six months or so.

Escher Reality is building the backend for cross-platform mobile AR

The potential of mobile augmented reality is clear. Last summer Pokemon Go gave a glimpse of just how big this craze could be, as thousands of aroused humans converged on parks, bus stops and other locations around the world to chase virtual ogres through the lens of their smartphones.

Apple was also watching. And the summer months the company signaled its own conviction in the technology by announcing ARKit: a developer toolkit to support iOS developers to build augmented reality apps. CEO Tim Cook said iOS will become the worlds biggest augmented reality platform once iOS 11 hits consumers devices in fall underlining Cupertinos expectation that big things are coming down the mobile AR pipe.

Y Combinator-backed, MIT spin-out Escher Realitys notion in the social power of mobile AR predates both sets of trigger phases. Its constructing a cross-platform toolkit and custom backend for mobile AR developers, aiming to lower the barrier to entry to building compelling experiences, as the co-founders set it.

Keep in mind this was before Pokemon Go, says CEO Ross Finman, discussing how he and CTO Diana Hu founded the company approximately one year and a half ago, initially as a bit of a side project before going all in full hour last November. Everyone thought we were crazy at that time, and now this summer its the summer for mobile augmented reality ARKit has been the best thing ever for us.

But if Apple has ARKit, and you can bet Google will be coming out with an Android equivalent in the not-too-distant future, where exactly does Escher Reality come in?

Think of us more as the backend for augmented reality, says Finman. What we offer is the cross-platform, multiuser and persistent experiences so those are three things that Apple and ARKit doesnt do. So if you want to do any type of shared AR experience you need to connect the two different devices together so then thats what we offer Theres a lot of computer vision problems associated with that.

Think about their own problems of what ARKit doesnt offer you, adds Hu. If youve insured a lot of the present demos outside, theyre okay-ish, you can see 3D models there, but when you start thinking longer term what does it take to create obligating AR experiences? And part of that is a lot of the tooling and a lot of the SDK are not there to provide that functionality. Because as game developers or app developers they dont want to think about all that low level stuff and theres a lot of genuinely complex techs going on that we have built.

If you think about in the future, as AR becomes a bigger movement, as the next computing platform, it will need a backend to support a lot of the networking, it will need a lot of the tools that were building in order to build compelling AR experiences.

We will be offering Android support for now, but then we imagine Google will probably come out with something like that in the future, adds Finman, couching that part of the business as the free bit in freemium and one theyre hence more than happy to hand off to Google when the time comes.

The team has put together a demo to illustrate the kinds of mobile AR gaming experiences theyre aiming to support in which two people play the same mobile AR game, each employing their own device as a paddle

What youre looking at here is very low latency, custom computer vision network protocols enabling two players to share augmented reality at the same hour, as Hu explains it.

Sketching another scenario the tech could enable, Finman tells it could support a version of Pokemon Go in which friends could battle each other at the same hour and see their Pokemons opposed in real day. Or allow players to locate a Gym at a very specific location that stimulates sense in the real-world.

In essence, the teams bet is that mobile AR especially mobile AR gaming gets a whole lot more interesting with is supportive of richly interactive and multiplayer apps that the project works cross-platform and cross device. So theyre build tools and a backend to supporting developers wanting to build apps that can connect Android users and iPhone owners in the same augmented play space.

After all, Apple especially isnt incentivized to help support AR collaboration on Android. Which leaves room for a neutral third party to help bridge platform and hardware gaps and smooth AR play for every mobile gamer.

The core tech is basically knitting different SLAM maps and network connections together in an efficient way, tells Finman, i.e. without the latency that would make a game unplayable, so that it runs in real-time and is a consistent experience. So tuning everything up for mobile processors.

We go down to , not just even the network layer, but even to the general assembly level so that we can run some of the execution instructions very efficiently and some of the image processing on the GPU for telephones, tells Hu. So on a high level it is a SLAM system, but the exact method and how we engineered it is novel for efficient mobile devices.

Consider ARKit as step one, were steps two and three, adds Finman. You can do multi-user experiences, but then you can also do persistent experiences once you turn off the app, once “youre starting” it up again, all the objects that “youve left” will be in the same location.

Consider ARKit as step one, were steps two and three .

People can collaborate in AR experiences at the same hour, adds Hu. Thats one main thing that we can really offer, that Google or Apple wouldnt provide.

Hardware wise, their system supports premium smartphones from the last three years. Although, looking ahead, they say they see no reason why they wouldnt expand to supporting additional types of hardware such as headsets when/ if those start gaining traction too.

In mobile theres a billion devices out there that can run augmented reality right now , notes Finman. Apple has one part of the market, Android has a larger part. Thats where youre go to the most adoption by developers in the short term.

Escher Reality was founded approximately one year and a half ago, spun out of MIT and initially bootstrapped in Finmans dorm room first as a bit of a side project, before they went all in full time in November. The co-founders go back a decade or so as friends, and say they had often kicked around startup ideas and been interested in augmented reality.

Finman describes the business theyve objective up co-founding as actually just a nice combination of both of our backgrounds. For me I was working on my PhD at MIT in 3D perception its the same type of technology underneath, he tells TechCrunch.

Ive been in industry running a lot of different squads in computer vision and data science, adds Hu. So a lot of experience bringing research into production and house large scale data systems with low latency.

They now have five people working full time on the startup, and two part period. At this point the SDK is being used by a limited number of developers, with a wait-list for new sign ups. Theyre aiming to open up to all up-and-comers in fall.

Were targeting games studios to begin with, tells Finman. The technology can be used across many different industries but were going after gaming first because they are usually at the cutting edge of new technology and adoption, and then theres a whole bunch of really smart developers that are going after interesting new projects.

One of the reasons why augmented reality is considered so much bigger, the shared experiences in the real world really opens up a whole lot of new capabilities and interactions and experiences that are going to improve the current guess of augmented reality. But truly it opens up the door for so many different possibilities, he adds.

Discussing some of the compelling experiences the team see coming down the mobile AR pipe, he points to three regions he reckons the technology can especially support namely: instruction, visualization and entertainment.

When you have to look at a piece of paper and imagine whats in the real world for building anything, get direction, having distance professions, thats all going to need shared augmented reality experiences, he suggests.

Although, in the nearer word, customer entertainment( and specifically gaming) is the teams first bet for traction.

In the amusement space in the consumer side, youre go to short films so beyond just Snapchat, its kind of real time special effects, that you are able to video and set up your own various kinds of movie scene, he suggests.

Designing games in AR does also present developers with new conceptual and design challenges, of course, which in turn bring additional development challenges and the toolkit is being designed to help with those challenges.

If you think about augmented reality theres two new mechanics that you can work with; one is the position of the phone now matters , notes Finman. The second thing is the real world become content. So like the map data, the real world, can be integrated into the game. So this really is two mechanics that didnt exist in any other medium before.

From a developer standpoint, one added constraint with augmented reality is because it depends on the real world its difficult to debug so weve developed tools so that you can play back logs. So then you can actually run through videos that were in the real world and interact with it in a simulated environment.

Discussing some of the ideas and clever mechanics theyre seeing early developers playing with, he indicates color as one interesting area. Guessing about the real world as content is really fascinating, he tells. Think about color as a resource. So then you can mine color from the real world. So if you want more gold, put up more Post-It notes.

The business model for Escher Realitys SDK is usage based, entailing they will charge developers for usage on a sliding scale that reflects the success of their applications. Its also offered as a Unity plug-in so the specific objectives developers can easily integrate into current dev environments.

Its a very similar model to Unity, which encourages a very healthy indie developer ecosystem where theyre not charging any fund until you actually start making money, tells Hu. So developers can start working on it and during developing hour they dont get charged anything, even when they launch it, if they dont have that many users they dont get charged, its only when they start making money we also start making money so in that sense a lot of the incentives align pretty well.

The startup, which is graduating YC in the summer 2017 batch and now headed towards demo day, will be looking to raise funding so that they are able to amp up their bandwidth to subsistence more developers. Once theyve got additional outside investment procured the plan is to sign on and work with as many gaming studios as is practicable, tells Finman, as well as be head down on constructing the product.

The AR space is just exploding at the moment so we need to make sure we can move fast enough to keep up with it, he adds.

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Judah Vs. The Machines: The race for prowess against a toy car

In the most recent installment of Judah vs The Machines, Judah ventures down to Anki, a company combining augmented reality and artificial intelligence to entertain fans of racing games. Anki utilizes smartphone cameras and a dedicated app to recreate the imagery of racing combats happens in a real physical way in front of you.

Judah challenges three autonomous Anki automobiles to a death match complete with weapons. The race takes place in the only way a lawless, all-out automotive war could take place with all the road rage and raw emotion humans are capable of.

The nice thing about Anki automobiles is that theyre not designed to replace humans. They may actually be the future of leisureif robots wind up leaving us jobless. Ankis technology is already “re ready for” primetime; their high-tech automobiles can be found at major retailers.

See all eight episodes of Judah vs. the Machineshere.

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