augmented reality

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Why walking around in public with Vision Pro makes no sense

  • A close-up look at the Vision Pro from the front.

    Samuel Axon

  • The Apple Vision Pro with AirPods Pro, Magic Keyboard, Magic Trackpad, and an Xbox Series X|S controller.

    Samuel Axon

  • You can see the front-facing cameras that handle passthrough video just above the downward-facing cameras that read your hand gestures here.

    Samuel Axon

  • There are two buttons for Vision Pro, both on the top.

    Samuel Axon

  • This is the infamous battery pack. It’s about the size of an iPhone (but a little thicker) and has a USB-C port for external power sources.

    Samuel Axon

  • There are two displays inside the Vision Pro, one for each eye. Each offers just under 4K resolution.

    Samuel Axon

  • Apple offers several variations of the light seal to fit different face shapes.

    Samuel Axon

If you’ve spent any time in the tech-enthusiast corners of Instagram of TikTok over the past few weeks, you’ve seen the videos: so-called tech bros strolling through public spaces with confidence, donning Apple’s $3,500 Vision Pro headset on their faces while gesturing into the air.

Dive into the comments on those videos and you’ll see a consistent ratio: about 20 percent of the commenters herald this as the future, and the other 80 mock it with vehement derision. “I’ve never had as much desire to disconnect from reality as this guy does,” one reads.

Over the next few weeks, I’m going all-in on trying the Vision Pro in all sorts of situations to see which ones it suits. Last week, I talked about replacing a home theater system with it—at least when traveling away from home. Today, I’m going over my experience trying to find a use for it out on the streets of Chicago.

I’m setting out to answer a few questions here: Does it feel weird wearing it in public spaces? Will people judge you or react negatively when you wear it—and if so, will that become less common over time? Does it truly disconnect you from reality, and has Apple succeeded in solving virtual reality’s isolationist tendencies? Does it provide enough value to be worth wearing?

As it turns out, all these questions are closely related.

The potential of AR in the wild

I was excited about the Vision Pro in the lead-up to its launch. I was impressed by the demo I saw at WWDC 2023, even though I was aware that it was offered in an ideal setting: a private, well-lit room with lots of space to move around.

Part of my excitement was about things I didn’t see in that demo but that I’ve seen augmented reality developers explore in smartphone augmented reality (AR) and niche platforms like HoloLens and Xreal. Some smart folks have already produced a wide variety of neat tech demos showing what you can do with a good consumer AR headset, and many of the most exciting ideas work outside the home or office.

I’ve seen demonstrations of real-time directions provided with markers along the street while you walk around town, virtual assistant avatars guiding you through the airport, menus and Yelp reviews overlaid on the doors of every restaurant on a city strip, public art projects pieced together by multiple participants who each get to add an element to a virtual statue, and much more.

Of course, all those ideas—and most others for AR—make a lot more sense for unintrusive glasses than they do for something that is essentially a VR headset with passthrough. Nonetheless, I was hoping to get a glimpse at that eventuality with the Vision Pro.

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Challenges Behind Applying Real-World Laws to XR Spaces and Ensuring User Safety

Immersive technologies bridging the gap between the physical and digital worlds can create new business opportunities. However, it also gives rise to new challenges in regulation and applying real-world laws to XR spaces. According to a World Economic Forum report, we are relatively slow in innovating new legal frameworks for emerging technologies like AR and VR.

Common Challenges of Applying Laws to AR and VR

XR technologies like AR and VR are already considered beneficial and are used in industries like medicine and education. However, XR still harbors risks to human rights, according to an Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) article.

Issues like data harvesting and online harassment pose real threats to users, and self-regulation when it comes to data protection and ethical guidelines is insufficient in mitigating such risks. Some common challenges that crop up when applying real-world laws to AR and VR include intellectual property, virtual privacy and security, and product liability.

There’s also the need for a new framework tailored to fit emerging technologies, but legislative attempts at regulation may face several hurdles. It’s also worth noting that while regulation can help keep users safe, it may also potentially hamper the development of such technologies, according to Digikonn co-founder Chirag Prajapati.

Can Real-World Laws Be Applied to XR Spaces?

In an interview with IEEE Spectrum in 2018, Robyn Chatwood, an intellectual property and information technology partner at Dentons Australia, gave an example of an incident that occurred in a VR space where a user experienced sexual assault. Unfortunately, Chatwood remarked that there are no laws saying that sexual assault in VR is the same as in the real world. When asked when she thinks these issues will be addressed, Chatwood remarked that, in several years, another incident could draw more widespread attention to the problems in XR spaces. It’s also possible that, through increased adoption, society will begin to recognize the need to develop regulations for XR spaces.

On a more positive note, the trend toward regulations for XR spaces has been changing recently. For instance, Meta has rolled out a minimum distance between avatars in Horizon Worlds, its VR social media platform. This boundary prevents other avatars from getting into your avatar’s personal space. This system works by halting a user’s forward movement as they get closer to the said boundary.

There are also new laws being drafted to protect users in online spaces. In particular, the UK’s Online Safety Bill, which had its second reading in the House of Commons in April 2022, aims to protect users by ensuring that online platforms have safety measures in place against harmful and illegal content and covers four new criminal offenses.

In the paper, The Law and Ethics of Virtual Assault, author John Danaher proposes a broader definition of virtual sexual assault, which allows for what he calls the different “sub-types of virtual sexual assault.” Danaher also provides suggestions on when virtual acts should be criminalized and how virtual sexual assault can be criminalized. The paper also touches on topics like consent and criminal responsibility for such crimes.

There’s even a short film that brings to light pressing metaverse concerns. Privacy Lost aims to educate policymakers about the potential dangers, such as manipulation, that come with emerging technologies.

While many legal issues in the virtual world are resolved through criminal courts and tort systems, according to Gamma Law’s David B. Hoppe, these approaches lack the necessary nuance and context to resolve such legal disputes. Hoppe remarks that real-world laws may not have the specificity that will allow them to tackle new privacy issues in XR spaces and shares that there is a need for a more nuanced legal strategy and tailored legal documents to help protect users in XR spaces.

Issues with Existing Cyber Laws

The novelty of AR and VR technologies makes it challenging to implement legislation. However, for users to maximize the benefits of such technologies, their needs should be considered by developers, policymakers, and organizations that implement them. While cyber laws are in place, persistent issues still need to be tackled, such as challenges in executing sanctions for offenders and the lack of adequate responses.

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) also cites several obstacles to cybercrime investigations, such as user anonymity from technologies, attribution, which determines who or what is responsible for the crime, and traceback, which can be time-consuming. The UNODC also notes that the lack of coordinated national cybercrime laws and international standards for evidence can hamper cybercrime investigations.

Creating Safer XR Spaces for Users

Based on guidelines provided by the World Economic Forum, there are several key considerations that legislators should consider. These include how laws and regulations apply to XR conduct governed by private platforms and how rules can potentially apply when an XR user’s activities have direct, real-world effects.

The XR Association (XRA) has also provided guidelines to help create safe and inclusive immersive spaces. Its conduct policy tips to address abuse include creating tailored policies that align with a business’ product and community and including notifications of possible violations. Moreover, the XRA has been proactive in rolling out measures for the responsible development and adoption of XR. For instance, it has held discussions on user privacy and safety in mixed reality spaces, zeroing in on how developers, policymakers, and organizations can better promote privacy, safety, and inclusion, as well as tackle issues that are unique to XR spaces. It also works with XRA member companies to create guidelines for age-appropriate use of XR technology, helping develop safer virtual spaces for younger users.

Other Key Players in XR Safety

Aside from the XRA, other organizations are also taking steps to create safer XR spaces. X Reality Safety Intelligence (XRSI), formerly known as X Reality Safety Initiative, is one of the world’s leading organizations focused on providing intelligence and advisory services to promote the safety and well-being of ecosystems for emerging technologies.

It has created a number of programs that help tackle critical issues and risks in the metaverse focusing on aspects like diversity and inclusion, trustworthy journalism, and child safety. For instance, the organization has shown support for the Kids PRIVACY Act, a legislation that aims to implement more robust measures to protect younger users online.

XRSI has also published research and shared guidelines to create standards for XR spaces. It has partnered with Standards Australia to create the first-ever Metaverse Standards whitepaper, which serves as a guide for standards in the metaverse to protect users against risks unique to the metaverse. These are categorized as Human Risks, Regulatory Risks, Financial Risks, and Legal Risks, among other metaverse-unique risks.

The whitepaper is a collaborative effort that brings together cybersecurity experts, VR and AR pioneers, strategists, and AI and metaverse specialists. One of its authors, Dr. Catriona Wallace, is the founder of the social enterprise The Responsible Metaverse Alliance. Cybersecurity professional Kavya Pearlman, the founder and CEO of XRSI, is also one of its authors. Pearlman works with various organizations and governments, advising on policymaking and cybersecurity to help keep users safe in emerging technology ecosystems.

One such issue that’s being highlighted by the XRSI is the risks that come with XR data collection in three areas: medical XR and healthcare, learning and education, and employment and work. The report highlights how emerging technologies create new privacy and safety concerns, risks such as the lack of inclusivity, the lack of equality in education, and the lack of experience in using data collected in XR spaces are cropping up.

In light of these issues, the XRSI has created goals and guidelines to help address these risks. Some of the goals include establishing a standards-based workflow to manage XR-collected data and adopting a new approach to classifying such data.

The EU is also taking steps to ensure data protection in emerging technologies, with new EU laws aiming to complement the GDPR’s requirements for XR technologies and services. Moreover, the EU data protection law applies to most XR technologies, particularly for commercial applications. It’s possible that a user’s explicit consent may be required to make data processing operations legitimate.

According to the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation (ITIF), policymakers need to mitigate so-called regulatory uncertainty by making it clear how and when laws apply to AR and VR technologies. The same ITIF report stresses that they need to collaborate with stakeholder communities and industry leaders to create and implement comprehensive guidelines and clear standards for AR and VR use.

However, while creating safer XR spaces is of utmost importance, the ITIF also highlights the risks of over-regulation, which can stifle the development of new technologies. To mitigate this risk, policymakers can instead focus on developing regulations that help promote innovation in the field, such as creating best practices for law enforcement agencies to tackle cybercrime and focusing on funding for user safety research.

Moreover, the ITIF also provides some guidelines regarding privacy concerns from AR in public spaces, as well as what steps leaders and policymakers could take to mitigate the risks and challenges that come with the use of immersive technologies.

The EFF also shares that governments need to execute or update data protection legislation to protect users and their data.

There is still a long way to go when applying real-world laws to XR spaces. However, many organizations, policymakers, and stakeholders are already taking steps to help make such spaces safer for users.

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Alien Invasion AR FPS Review

What better place to play a game about an alien invasion in your backyard than in your backyard? When a game studio offered to stage an alien invasion right here in my neck of the woods, I shelved my concerns about violent video games and picked up my mobile phone to see what Alien Invasion AR FPS is all about.

Resisting an Alien Invasion in Augmented Reality

Set in the not-too-distant future, Alien Invasion AR FPS by Stary, tells the story of an insidious and subtle alien foe. The aliens, nicknamed “Jackers” came in peace and even brought gifts. However, the gifts were sabotaged and the aliens quickly showed their true colors and effectively took over the planet.

Alien Invasion AR FPS ipad

In Alien Invasion AR FPS, you play the part of a resistance fighter in this sort of Sci-Fi “Red Dawn” situation. Use limited resources and unlimited resourcefulness to take back your home from the Jackers. But, how does it all play out?

Narrative and Gameplay

Alien Invasion AR FPS unlocks level-by-level in an unfolding linear narrative starring you and your “commanding officer” in the resistance. The introductory video as well as your mission brief at the beginning of each stage involves some compelling art but some humdrum voicework.

As you are a resistance fighter, most of the early missions involve tasks like planting explosives or setting up defensive positions. The mission brief at the beginning of each mission starts out by explaining how the success of the previous mission shifted the balance of the overarching conflict, which helps to give a sense of purpose to the gameplay, which can feel repetitive.

As the game progresses, your victories unlock more resources for the resistance, including new weapons. The beginning of many of the early levels has a brief tutorial on how to use any new equipment that you have unlocked. You have unlimited ammunition, but health and grenades are limited and need to be sourced from throughout the levels.

The game currently consists of four levels of four stages each plus the intro video. I haven’t beaten the whole game yet, but the names of the levels and material provided by the game’s publisher suggest that the resistance does eventually succeed in driving the Jackers from Earth.

Playing Alien Invasion AR FPS

Alien Invasion AR FPS is a free app download for iOS 12 and newer, and for Android 8.0 and newer, and it’s surprisingly agile. The app is still in its early days – maybe one day it will have a marketplace for buying extra supplies, or maybe it will use the AR ad formats Niantic is exploring. But for now, it’s really just free.

From the technical perspective, the game plays out in a series of digital sets that you place in your physical environment. The game recommends a play area of almost 50 square feet, so it recommends playing outside. Even outside, I don’t think that I ever played in an area that big, but my backyard was big enough.

Once your mobile device recognizes that you’re in a large enough space, you tap the ground to place the virtual elements. Getting the angle exactly right is tricky and if you don’t figure it out pretty well, those virtual elements can be too high or too low, which kind of ruins the effect and impacts playability.

Once the stage is set, you navigate through the space by physically moving through your environment. If the area isn’t large enough, you can pause the game, move to a new position, and resume the game. Typically, you perform some initial task, move to cover, and confirm that you’re in place. Then, the wave of Jackers comes for you.

Buttons on the screen manage your various healing kits, your weapons and firing, and additional equipment that you gradually unlock and use, like hand grenades.

Letdowns and Triumphs

Unfortunately, what the stage looks like doesn’t change based on your physical environment. My backyard has a shed and some stone retaining walls, so it would have been cool if the game had recognized these and incorporated them into the stage design – but I understand that that’s a huge ask for a free mobile app.

AR game Alien Invasion AR FPS

Ducking and moving from cover to cover is effective and feels right. You also have to explore each stage a little if you want to collect resources like health kits. And your health kits don’t replenish at the beginning of each stage, so at least taking a good look around before the first wave comes is highly recommended.

My general strategy was to hunker down wherever I started the level and fight in place. Although, at one point, the last Jacker in a stage refused to leave his cover, so I got up and charged through the map firing my SMG. There was definitely a moment of thinking “This is exactly the way that an AR FPS is supposed to feel.”

Speaking of “feel,” Alien Invasion AR FPS doesn’t have haptic support – the phone doesn’t vibrate when I fire a gun or get shot. This feels like a huge missed opportunity, but it can’t just be something that the developers never thought of, so I’m confident that it will come in an update at some point.

Compromises Paid Off Overall

We’ve already seen one area where the choice to make the AR FPS affordable and accessible might have meant going without some potentially more immersive features. There’s one more big thing about this app that I didn’t mention that likely fits in the same camp: it doesn’t require data or Wi-Fi. At least, not yet. The game’s roadmap includes multiplayer that probably will.

For me, this is a huge win – and it makes a lot of sense for a game that was designed to be played outdoors. As someone who’s seen too many Pokèmon trainers throwing balls into their bathtubs because they didn’t have connections outside of their homes, an AR game that doesn’t require connectivity feels like a breath of fresh air.

Again, that’s with the understanding that other AR games can do things that this one can’t. As a technical showpiece for AR, this game might not blow picky critics out of the water. But, as an artistic showcase for AR, this game elevates an enjoyable and well-executed first-person shooter onto a new level of play.

But How Did it Make Me Feel?

I mentioned at the top of this piece that I’m historically not a fan of violence in video games – particularly XR video games. It was something that I struggled with as I approached Peaky Blinders: The King’s Ransom. In my playthrough, I found that that game managed graphic content in such a way that it was able to be a part of the story without overwhelming the player.

I feel similarly about AR use in Alien Invasion AR FPS. It also helps that in Alien Invasion I’m killing aliens instead of Englishmen – that sits better with me. But, the aliens aren’t rendered in such quality that I have to intimately consider their death – they don’t even bleed like the gang members and political agitators that I virtually shot down in London and Birmingham.

Returning to Alien Invasion’s use of AR as an artistic medium rather than strictly as a game development tool, there’s a lot to be said for the way that AR tells this story about, well, an alien invasion.

Early in the game, I load an anti-aircraft gun that shoots down an alien ship – and it happens over my backyard. As I watched the airship go down behind my laundry line, I imagined it crashing down the road from my house and blocking traffic. It was another one of those moments that felt like a win for the development studio: this is what an AR FPS can do.

It’s Free

Are there things that I would like to see in updates to Alien Invasion AR FPS? Yes. Are there things that I can complain about from the game? Not really. As a lightweight, connection-optional mobile-based AR FPS that you can download and play for free, I really can’t think of any reason not to recommend that you at least give the game a try.

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Highlighting the Top 3 XR Trends of 2023 [Insights From This Year’s AWE USA]

The 2023 edition of AWE USA not only lived up to its reputation but also reached new heights, reportedly marking its largest event to date. From cutting-edge hardware to new, groundbreaking technology and software solutions, this year had it all.

3 Trends That Will Shape the Future of XR

Let’s dive in and explore the main three trends that stood out and are bound to shape the narrative for the future of XR.

Main Focus on AR

There was a lot of discussion this year about artificial intelligence and how it will enable XR rather than replace it. Just like with the metaverse last year, AI became a new hot topic, but in terms of hardware, the spotlight was clearly on AR.

There were, of course, some notable VR-first devices presented: Lenovo announced their new ThinkReality VRX headset, which is now available for purchase ($1,299). I had a chance to give it a try and was impressed with its large sweet spot, visual clarity, and a high degree of comfort. The headset includes a cooling system that takes the heat away from your face and makes the inside feel almost air-conditioned.

ThinkReality VRX
ThinkReality VRX

HTC presented their modular HTC Vive XR Elite ($1,099) for which they had won a “Best Headworn Device” award. It can be worn both like a traditional headset with a head strap or akin to glasses with an external power source instead of the battery in the back. In detached form, the Vive XR Elite weighs only 270 grams.

These devices were more of an exception rather than the rule, however, and pale in comparison to the amount of AR devices showcased this year. Just on the main floor, we had Vuzix promoting their Ultralite turnkey AR solution, Sightful with a screenless Spacetop AR laptop, XREAL presenting XREAL Air glasses, and Magic Leap returning with Magic Leap 2. Right next to those was C-Real with their unique light field display and Tilt Five. In the lobby, Zappar was demonstrating its $75 Cardboard-inspired device.

And that’s just the hardware, the list doesn’t include smartphone-based solutions like Snapchat’s SnapAR and Snap Lenses or Ffface.me digital clothing. Many software providers were experimenting with AR as well. Whether it was enterprise and training applications or entertainment like a laser-tag-inspired Laser Limbo, the focus on augmented reality was prevalent.

Laser-tag-inspired Laser Limbo
Laser-tag-inspired Laser Limbo

Subjectively, I found the XREAL and Tilt Five glasses to be the most promising choices in terms of their usefulness and affordability. Tilt Five ($359) offers six degrees of freedom and a wide 110° field of view, plus a whole range of tabletop applications and games. It also comes with a tracked controller.

Tilt Five
Tilt Five

The XREAL Air ($488 with XReal Beam) might only have three degrees of freedom and a smaller FOV of 46°, but makes up for it with its versatility. It weighs only 79 grams and is compatible with phones, consoles, and laptops. Almost any device with a screen can be beamed into the glasses. For those looking to start experimenting with AR, both offer a good and inexpensive entry point.

The Renaissance of Haptics

It was hard to ignore the sheer volume of haptic-related products at AWE. There was a surge of novel startups and original concepts along with many industry veterans returning to show off their latest progress.

I did not expect haptics to have such a strong showing and was positively taken aback. Bhaptics were busy presenting their new TactGlove and Contact CI came out with a new product called Maestro. The most established player in the space, HaptX, was there as well.

Among newer entrants, SenseGlove was celebrating their €3.25M Series A funding with a newly updated Nova 2 haptic glove. Weart demoed their TouchDIVER glove capable of not only feedback but also temperature variations, while OWO showed off their latest haptic vest that uses electrical impulses to simulate sensations. Fluid Reality stole the show with its electroosmotic device that uses an electric field to create feedback.

Fluid Reality
Fluid Reality

There were too many to list but even this short rundown underscores how noticeable haptics were this year. Most of these products target industrial and business markets, with the notable exceptions being the OWO vest ($499) and Bhaptics (also $499). Both devices have their strengths and weaknesses, though I have to give extra points to OWO for taking a bold, unique approach and allowing users to configure the vest so that it can simulate discomfort as well as other unpleasant feedback. This can result in a significantly more visceral experience and a heightened feeling of presence that’s hard to replicate using other methods.

OWO Haptic Vest
OWO Haptic Vest

Seeing all the new and creative ways to model and recreate tactile data left me impressed with what’s to come, but at the same time, underwhelmed with the more conventional approaches.

Full resistance feedback, which restricts your movement, felt detached and did not properly mirror what I was seeing inside the headset. That was the case for both SenseGlove Nova and the high-end HaptX.

Their feedback, while indeed powerful, felt very mechanical and arbitrary. There are two paradigms here at play, one is trying to nail the fidelity but approximate the sensation, while the other one is trying to provide the exact, realistic sensation at the cost of fidelity.

New Optics Solutions Are Coming

There were a number of booths dealing with optics and display solutions this year. It’s possible the latest push into AR helped supercharge this progress in optics. Many booths had some kind of developer kit or proof-of-concept ready. Visitors would come and literally peer into the future through these stationary prototypes.

One example was Ant Reality demonstrating their mixed waveguide solution called Crossfire. While the displays (ranging in field of view from 56° to 120°) were impressive, what made them unique was their ability to do both AR and VR. At a press of a button, the surroundings would go completely dark, turning the augmented overlay into an immersive experience. Magic Leap 2 is known for offering what is called segmented dimming, but in the case of the Crossfire, the glasses would become completely opaque despite the AWE show floor being exceptionally bright.

Ant Display demonstrating their prototypes
Ant Display demonstrating their prototypes

Another never-before-achieved breakthrough was a light field display incorporated into an AR headset, courtesy of CREAL. Light field displays promise to solve a lot of issues, the most common one being correct focal depth. Harnessing the direction of light can produce outstanding results, but shrinking light field tech to fit into a glasses form factor still proves tricky. CREAL’s headset is an important, pioneering step in this field.

CREAL’s LFD headset
CREAL’s LFD headset

Another interesting innovation came from a company called Hypervision. Their claim to fame is their ultra-wide display capable of achieving a human vision 240° field of view. To make this happen, Hypervision used not one, not two, but four pancake lenses. Vertically, the screen has 95° so it doesn’t quite match the human eye top to bottom, but horizontally there’s full peripheral vision. While the stitching between the screens was slightly perceptible, the ability to achieve human FOV in such a small form factor is a massive step forward.

Hypervision
Hypervision

Overall, this means that the future generations of XR devices will have access to a wide variety of new, next-gen optics and display solutions, most of which are not even known to the general public. Display tech doesn’t follow Moore’s Law so it’s always difficult to make any specific predictions, but there’s clearly no stagnation in the field and some of the breakthroughs we saw this year are truly exciting.

Closing Thoughts

These are just some of the main trends and shifts we saw this year. There was a notable increase in 3D spatial display panels, such as Leia Lume Pad 2, Sony’s Spatial Display, Looking Glass, and a human-sized holographic box by ARHT.

This forms part of a larger trend of broadening the definition of spatial computing, which is sometimes expanded to include other real-world tools and technologies like visualizations, projection mapping, and 3D screens.

What also caught my eye was a noticeable reduction in locomotion solutions. Gone are the days of omnidirectional treadmills or big simulator seats. The only two exceptions were the unconventional EXIT SUIT, which suspends the wearer slightly above the ground allowing them to run in the air, sit, fly, and do a range of other motions (for which the team had won this year “AWEsome” award) and the Freeaim shoes that act like rollers, pushing the wearer backward as they walk.

This was the last AWE hosted in Santa Clara. From next year on, the event is moving to the Long Beach Convention Center. This shift to a new, bigger venue highlights the constant growth of the XR space and that’s one trend that speaks for itself.

Guest Post


About the Guest Author(s)

Mat Pawluczuk

Mat Pawluczuk

Mat Pawluczuk is an XR / VR writer and content creator.

Highlighting the Top 3 XR Trends of 2023 [Insights From This Year’s AWE USA] Read More »

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Celebrating the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup on Snapchat

The 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup is on – and celebrations aren’t limited to the physical world. A number of innovative activations on Snapchat ensure that fans everywhere can feel like a part of the action.

Snap’s 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup Lenses

While AR activations can be fun, they don’t often add much real value for people actually following the sport. Snap’s USWNT (the US Women’s National Team) Team Tracker Lens uses brand new tech and classic Snapchat style to display real-time team and player information. Another lens can be used to preview Stories augmented with content from the U.S. Soccer App.

2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup Team Tracker

Curious about other teams to follow? A lens created with FIFA’s “Fancestry” quiz helps fans follow new teams based on a brief personality survey – with a unique digital jersey representing your “Fancestry.”

FIFA Fancestry lens -  2023 fifa women's world cup

Whatever team (or teams) you choose to support during 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup, you can show your colors with the Across the Globe Lens with a different selfie lens for every team.

Global country fan lenses Snap - 2023 fifa women's world cup

Or, show your support for women’s sports in general with the TOGETHXR Lens. And, of course, all of the teams have their own stickers and bitmoji fashions to further customize your communications.

Togethxr Lens - 2023 fifa women's world cup

“Snapchat is honored to be a part of the 2023 World Cup,”  Snap’s Strategic Partnerships Sports Lead Emma Wakely said in a release. “Through immersive content coverage, creator collaborations, and new, innovative AR experiences, Snapchatters will have an unparalleled opportunity to express their football fandom like never before.”

Snapchat’s Playbook

Snap’s strategy for the package is an interesting play. For the most part, the engagements are more stylized than those employed last year for the (Mens) World Cup Snapchat celebrations. However, these interactions are more … interactive. Though, Snap’s Live Garment Transfer Technology does make a comeback for an AR jersey activation similar to the one we saw last year.

Perhaps the most in-depth lens in terms of interactivity is the USWNT Team Lens. This activation is most like a multi-player partnership through which Snap augmented the Superbowl last year – but that app was only for fans physically at the Superbowl. And what is AR for if not for expanding experiences to people who can’t be at one given physical location?

Don’t forget, the Snap team isn’t the only one making lenses. To find all lenses, including those made through partnerships or by independent creators, tap the explore tab on the Snapchat camera screen and search “Women’s World Cup” or “2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup.”

Celebrate the Big Games

This has just been a look at Snapchat’s AR integrations around the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup. There are also special Stories, Cameo content, Spotlight Challenges, Snap Map features, and more. So pick your team and go crazy.

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Looking Forward to AWE Asia 2023

If you get all of your AWE coverage from ARPost, you might be under the impression that the event is only in California – but it wouldn’t be much of a “World Expo” then, would it? In addition to frequent all-online events, AWE consists of three in-person events each year: AWE USA, AWE Europe, and AWE Asia.

AWE Asia, this year taking place in Singapore, is fast approaching, with the agenda now finalized. Attendees can look forward to hearing from over 60 speakers in over 60 sessions including keynotes, talks, and panels over the course of the two-day conference. Let’s take a look at some of the most exciting sessions.

AWE Asia Keynotes and Addresses

Day One starts off with an opening ceremony by AWE co-founder Ori Inbar, joined on-stage by AWE Asia President and Vice President, Gavin Newton-Tanzer and Ryan Hu. This session is followed by back-to-back keynotes by HTC Global Vice President of Corporate Development Alvin Graylin and University of South Australia professor Dr. Mark Billinghurst.

Day Two also starts off with keynotes. First, “Metaverse as the Next Biggest Thing: Challenges, Roadmaps, and Standardization” by IEEE president Dr. Yu Yuan. This is followed by “ifland: A Case Study on Telco Collaboration in Building a Global Metaverse Platform” presented by SK Telecom Vice President Ikhwan Cho and Deutsche Telekom Senior Director of XR and the Metaverse Terry Schussler.

Day Two then closes with remarks and awards from Inbar, Newton-Tanzer, and AWE Asia COO and Content Director David Weeks.

The keynotes and addresses are great because they often feature some of a conference’s biggest announcements and most anticipated speakers. They’re also great because nothing is scheduled at the same time as a keynote. From here, we’ll have to start making some tough calls.

Day One Sessions

Following the AWE Asia welcome address and keynotes on Day One, the crowd is sure to split. Remain near the main stage to hear NVIDIA’s Vanessa Ching discuss “Developers, Platforms, and AI.” Venture off to a substage to hear Joe Millward and Kyle Jackson of Talespin talk about “Scaling XR Content for the Enterprise With Generative AI.”

Next up. Niantic Senior VP of Engineering, Brian McClendon, explains how “Niantic is Powering AR, Everywhere, All at Once.” Having seen this talk at AWE USA, I can tell you it’s worth seeing, but I can also point out that you could watch the recording online and stretch your day a little further.

Another tough decision follows. Will it be “How AI Will Enhance the Metaverse and Education” with Meta Head of Global Education Partnerships Leticia Jauregui and Zoe Immersive CEO and co-founder Emilie Joly? Or will it be “Beyond Loudness: Spatial Chat and the Future of Virtual World Communication” with Dolby Laboratories Developer Advocate Angelik Laboy?

Day One’s Marathon on the Main Stage

The afternoon of Day One has a lineup of promising presentations on the main stage. Starting, Immersal Chief Marketing Officer Päivi Laakso-Kuivalainen and Graviton Interactive co-founder and Managing Director Declan Dwyer talk “Revolutionizing Fan Engagement: Augmented Reality in Stadiums Powered by Visual Positioning Systems and Spatial Computing.”

This is followed by Linux Foundation General Manager Royal O’Brien talking about “Inspiring Game Development Through Open Source.” Then, keep your seat to hear Trigger XR founder and CEO Jason Yim talk about retail, advertising, and e-commerce. A little later on the same stage, Mindverse.AI co-founder and COO Kisson Lin talks about the Web3 creator economy.

Day Two Sessions Main Stage Sessions

One can’t-miss session on Day Two comes from Dispelix APAC VP of Sales and Partnerships Andy Lin, presenting “PERFECTING COMFORT – Vision Behind Dispelix Waveguide Combiners for Near-to-Eye XR Displays.”

Some of the last regular sessions on the main stage before the AWE Asia closing address look promising as well.

First, Infocomm Assistant Director of Innovation Joanne Teh, Deloitte Center for the Edge Southeast Asia Leader Michelle Khoo, Serl.io co-founder and CEO Terence Loo, and SMRT Corporation Learning Technologies Lead Benjamin Chen have a panel discussion about “The Future of Immersive Experiences: Navigating the World of XR.”

Immediately following the panel discussion, Google’s Toshihiro Ohnuma takes the stage to discuss “Connecting Both Worlds – Google Maps and AR Core.”

In between those sessions, the substages look pretty promising.

Major Side-Stage Attractions

After Lin’s talk, head over to Substage 1 for a series of promising talks. These start with Maxar Technologies Business Development Manager Andrew Steele presenting “Experience the Digital Twin Built for Connecting Your XR Content With the Real World. “ The world-scale digital twin won the Auggie for Best Use of AI at the awards ceremony in Santa Clara this spring.

Up next on the same stage, Anything World co-founder and Creative Director Sebastian Hofer explains “How AI Is Powering a Golden Age in Games Development.”

A quick break between sessions and then back to learn about “ThinkReality Solutions Powering the Enterprise Metaverse” with Lenovo Emerging Technologies Lead Martand Srivastava and Qualcomm’s Kai Ping Tee.

Lots to Take In

AWE Asia being two days instead of three certainly doesn’t solve the classic AWE problem of there being just too much amazing content to take in everything. At least, not live anyway.

To attend AWE Asia yourself, get tickets here, and use our code AW323SEB25 for 30% off the standard ticket and PAR23VSEB for 35% off the VIP ticket.

Looking Forward to AWE Asia 2023 Read More »

space-invaders-celebrates-45th-anniversary-with-a-new-ar-game

Space Invaders Celebrates 45th Anniversary With a New AR Game

Space Invaders is a shooting video game created by Tomohiro Nishikado in 1978 and manufactured and sold by TAITO. It was the first fixed shooter video game and is considered one of the most iconic arcade games ever. As Space Invaders turns 45, TAITO teams up with Google and UNIT9 to give its players an elevated AR gaming experience with Google’s ARCore Geospatial API.

TAITO and Google partnered with global production and innovation studio UNIT9 to transform Space Invaders into an immersive AR game in honor of its 45th anniversary. Players can defend their real-world neighborhoods from 3D invaders emerging from nearby buildings and landmarks.

Meet “SPACE INVADERS: World Defense” AR Game

The reimagined iconic video game is SPACE INVADERS: World Defense, a sequel to the original game. It gives players access to enhanced weapons so they can defend their neighborhoods more effectively. New music and sound effects were also added for a more exhilarating and immersive experience.

Space Invaders AR game gameplay

The most remarkable update, however, is the real-time response to location-specific patterns and nearby buildings. It means that the AR game adapts to the player’s real-life surroundings. For example, if it’s raining, the virtual environment may also show rain, and if there’s a tall building at the player’s location, there will also be a tall building in the AR realm where an Invader may emerge from.

SPACE INVADERS: World Defense Gameplay

The original game’s classic characters and high-score mechanics are preserved in the AR game SPACE INVADERS: World Defense. The difference is that players should explore their virtual neighborhoods to find Space Invaders and defeat them. They can unlock special power-ups, compete with their friends within their location, and take an AR selfie to post on social media.

AR game Space Invaders

Players can easily switch between the World Dimension and Invaders Dimension via a portal. The virtual, 3D Invader world changes in sync with the natural environment, allowing players to complete missions in both the virtual world and the natural world’s AR view.

Harnessing the Power of Google’s ARCore and Geospatial API

UNIT9 harnessed the power of Google’s ARCore and Geospatial API to develop the next-level AR gaming experience of SPACE INVADERS: World Defense. ARCore is a software development kit (SDK) developers use to create AR applications across multiple platforms, including iOS, Android, Unity, and the Web. It seamlessly merges the digital and physical worlds, allowing users to interact with virtual objects in the AR adaptation of their natural surroundings.

As one of the top AR SDKs, the other prominent capabilities of ARCore include tracking the orientation and position of the user’s device, matching the lighting of virtual objects with their surroundings, detecting the location and size of various surface types, and integrating with existing tools like Unreal and Unity.

Phone screens Space Invaders - Invader Dimension

Combined with Geospatial API, which remotely attaches content to any area Google Street View covers, ARCore integrates geometric data from Google Maps Street View into SPACE INVADERS: World Defense, displaying accurate terrain and building information within a 100-meter radius of the player’s location.

The Beginning of an Exciting New Era

According to UNIT9’s Head of Digital, Media Ridha, Google Geospatial API’s launch marks the beginning of an exciting new era for digital experiences tied to real-world locations that are not only limited to games but for any brand experience linked to a specific place. “It was an honor to work with Google and TAITO to translate one of the most famous IPs out there into the next wave of AR gaming and create an experience that fans of all ages around the world can enjoy,” Ridha said in a press release shared with ARPost.

Matthieu Lorrain, global head of creative innovation at Google Labs Partnerships, is excited to see more developers leverage their platform to push the boundaries of geolocalized experiences. “[Google’s Geospatial API] allowed us to celebrate the iconic Space Invaders game by turning the world into a global playground,” said Lorrain.

SPACE INVADERS: World Defense officially launched on July 17, 2023, and is available on iOS and Android. Players in key markets, including Europe, Japan, and the USA, can download the AR game on their mobile devices and defeat Invaders in the real world, made more immersive with augmented reality.

Space Invaders Celebrates 45th Anniversary With a New AR Game Read More »

“the-future-of-business-travel”-report-by-booking.com-gives-metaverse-predictions

“The Future of Business Travel” Report by Booking.com Gives Metaverse Predictions

The metaverse can be summed up as the augmented world. So, naturally, it has implications for travel. How and when people travel may both seriously change as spatial communication and digital twins make some kinds of travel less likely, while AR and automation reimagine the travel that we do engage in. A report by Booking.com for Business, titled “The Future of Business Travel” explores the next 30 years of travel.

AR and Space Hotels

The report begins with “A Timeline of Future Business Travel Predictions.” To the potential dismay of augmented reality enthusiasts, the report puts AR in 2027 – the same year as “space hotels”. The report acknowledges existing AR use cases including augmenting areas with contextual information. However, the authors are waiting for something better.

“Right now, AR is limited, lacking a wide field-of-view and having resolution, battery, and 3D sensing issues,” reads the report. “It’s thought that by 2027 people will have access to unconstrained, immersive AR experiences and the associated advantages for travel professionals.”

Why 2027? The paper doesn’t explicitly mention powerful AR wearables, but the time frame and their insistence on “unconstrained” experiences suggest that this is what the authors are waiting for. We already have consumer AR glasses, with limited FoV, but these are almost exclusively “viewers” for virtual screens that can’t offer the real-time contextual information people want.

In a recent interview with ARPost Lumus VP of Optics David Goldman placed a consumer AR device based on Z-Lens around 2025, with 2027 seeing models with 50-degree FoV eventually getting as wide as 70 or 80 degrees. That sounds like it’s getting more in line with people’s expectations for AR travel.

More Interest in VR?

Augmented travel is one thing, but virtual travel is another. Virtual reality has higher immersion due to a heads-up interface, greater graphical fidelity, and wider field of view. Further, VR hardware is becoming increasingly accessible, affordable, and popular with consumers.

The report also included a collection of the most-searched business travel trends, which included virtual travel in the top three. A ranking of the most talked about travel trends in the media also includes “hotel metaverse” at number three and “hotel virtual events” at number eight.

The authors attribute this to virtual travel “reducing the necessary number of business trips and giving corporate travelers the chance to explore the world with VR and metaverse experience.” Specific use cases anticipated in the report include immersive tours prior to booking, virtual conferences and events, virtual site visits to digital twins, and immersive in-flight entertainment.

More to the Metaverse

Immersive technology is first in our minds and hearts here at ARPost, but the metaverse is about more than just display technologies. The report also includes predictions related to other emerging technologies including artificial intelligence and blockchain.

For example, the authors predict blockchain technology becoming standard in hotels the year before they anticipate AR kicking off. And, around the beginning of the next decade, the authors predict “guest comfort and energy efficiency will be managed and optimized by AI in most hotels.”

Other predictions, including hotel-specific crypto-driven rewards programs and robot assistants, can be found in the full report.

A Lot to Look Forward To

All predictions should be taken with a healthy dose of salt – and that’s particularly true of predictions based on when to expect a given development. Disclaimers aside, Booking.com has presented a very interesting look at trends regarding what people want out of the metaverse when it comes to travel.

“The Future of Business Travel” Report by Booking.com Gives Metaverse Predictions Read More »

how-nex-is-flipping-ar-games,-and-why-that’s-a-great-thing

How Nex Is Flipping AR Games, and Why That’s a Great Thing

Augmented reality has a lot of promise for social and active gaming applications. An AR game’s use of the individual and their actual surroundings invites a connection to others and to physical space itself that tends to be absent from other kinds of gaming – including VR gaming. However, XR games are typically either social or active. Nex thinks that games should be both.

Meet Nex

Nex is a hardware and software developer making “motion games.” That is AR games that use motion as the only input. This isn’t entirely new. For example, once the level is started, games like Beat Saber only register motion – that motion is tracked with a controller, but the controller doesn’t provide other forms of input.

Nex AR games

“Our games only require a camera and a device with sufficient processing power,” Nex CEO and co-founder David Lee said in an interview with ARPost. “Today, that processing power is reaching living room entertainment devices.”

That includes connecting compatible televisions to a mobile phone or another connected camera and compute box, but it also increasingly includes televisions with their own built-in cameras. Nex software can recognize multiple people with a single camera for AR games played together and on the same screen.

The two main offerings from Nex are a hardware camera and compute box currently in pre-production, and games created by the company’s four internal game studios and six outside partners using the “Motion Development Kit.”

Is it XR?

Something about Nex feels like it can’t be XR. That’s possibly because there’s no near-to-eye display. There’s no head-worn device – there’s not even an arm’s-length screen. However, if we think about the way that we’ve always defined XR, those aren’t things that we insist on.

We say that AR is virtual elements overlaid over a live view of the physical world. We often think of viewing that through a lens as with head-mounted AR, or through a camera as with mobile-based AR. Nex admittedly flips that standard model – but it still fits the bill. And it has its advantages over “conventional AR.”

“We flip it around so the phone sees you […] and leveraging the biggest screen that most people have,” said Lee. “You can have the effect of a bigger screen by mounting it on your head but that’s not a communal experience.”

Those who have been around the tech world for a few 24 hours may recognize this approach. Over ten years ago, PlayStation Move used a similar model, as did Xbox Kinect. If the camera-flipped AR game is the future, why is the past littered with these experiences? In part because AR isn’t the only tech involved. Nex also relies on artificial intelligence that wasn’t around in 2010.

“At the time, there was no AI, so they had to have a more complicated camera system,” said Lee. “What was missing from those previous generations of games was the NPU – the neural processing unit.”

Those games were fun – and ground-breaking at the time – but their reliance on a console limited their success and led to unsustainable upkeep burdens on the companies. Neither of those constraints is true of Nex.

A Look at Nex Games

I haven’t yet had the opportunity to play Nex games myself. I did get to watch Lee and one of his colleagues playing some of the games on a live video call.

Party Fowl is a collection of party mini-games that looks similar to JackBox. The package will be available as an annual subscription and includes a mix of AR games and what Lee called “VR-like experiences.”

In one AR game, rotating your hips flies a helicopter. In another game, players represented on screen as a chicken squat to lay eggs and fill a basket.

Nex AR games Air Racer and Party Fowl

Another game, Air Racer, is a “flight simulator” in which players pilot an airplane through an obstacle course by moving their hands. Controls include direction, speed, and elevation.

While Nex is focused on games at the moment, I might be more interested in a fitness application from the company. Lee doesn’t see them as separate experiences.

“Movement is a natural way to play. As human beings, we’ve been playing for a very long time, and most of our games involve movement,” said Lee. “These games invite you to move more and also deliver those benefits in a gamified way.”

One experience really spoke to me as a potential showcase of a whole genre of experiences. The game was an episode of the children’s show Peppa Pig, in which gamers chose characters from the show and engaged in their favorite activity – jumping up and down in muddy puddles. The game was created with partner Hasbro.

“It’s not just watching – the family can be invited to join in the fun as well,” said Lee, who described the experience as “productive, independent playtime for the kids.”

Lee further described “the highlight of his career” as when his daughter got his mother into Nex games so that they could play together.

Experiencing Nex AR Games

I hope to get the opportunity to try out Nex AR games, and it sounds like I’ll get the opportunity soon enough – one way or another.

Nex AR games including Party Fowl and Sky Racers are already shipping as pre-installed apps on the Sky Live interactive camera. In fact, most of the motion games available on the camera are by Nex. For Apple users, Nex also works with the Continuity Camera feature.

Nex Playground – a camera box for Nex games compatible with most modern smart TVs – is currently in pre-order with the first orders scheduled to ship before this year’s holiday season. But, one day, external devices won’t be necessary at all as televisions ship with cameras and more computing power onboard.

Nex playgroung

“TVs don’t have really good processing yet. The memory is still quite limited but this is the beginning of these use cases,” said Lee. “This will be in a lot of living rooms and it begins with Nex pioneering this technology and showing the world what is possible.”

“The iPhone Moment for TV”

From AR games, to fitness applications, to just using hand gestures to navigate traditional media, Lee and Nex have an exciting vision for the future of television. The whole thing does feel like AI and XR reaching back into history to pull some of entertainment’s near-misses into the future where they belong.

How Nex Is Flipping AR Games, and Why That’s a Great Thing Read More »

unveiling-the-future-of-driving:-mercedes-benz-vision-one-eleven-concept-car-uses-magic-leap-2

Unveiling the Future of Driving: Mercedes-Benz Vision One-Eleven Concept Car Uses Magic Leap 2

The German luxury automaker Mercedes-Benz recently introduced its Vision One-Eleven concept car the Vision One-Eleven. On top of incorporating sustainability with its electric motor engine alongside a dynamic redesign, Vision-One Eleven uses Magic Leap 2 AR glasses for a more immersive car experience.

This approach reflects Mercedes-Benz’s commitment to creating better cars that provide the best possible driving experience to consumers while accommodating concerns about sustainable driving and introducing new tech. By partnering with Mercedes-Benz, Magic Leap also takes another step towards making AR experiences a part of everyday life.

Vision One-Eleven: A New Twist on an Old Classic

The Vision One-Eleven is a revisited concept car built on another beloved Mercedes-Benz classic, the C 111. The C 111 concept car incorporated iconic gullwing doors for a truly one-of-a-kind design in its day. Combined with its modern interiors, it proved to be an appealing concept car that influenced modern luxury vehicles.

Vision One-Eleven concept car

With the Vision One-Eleven, Mercedes-Benz further improves on the characteristics that set the C 111 apart, blending luxury interiors with intelligent design for a truly futuristic car. A sports vehicle with a lounge interior and a sleek body, the Vision One-Eleven is an exciting peek as to what the cars of the future may look like—from looks all the way to its electric motor.

The Capabilities of AR Glasses on the Road

Aside from visual and engineering overhauls, Vision One-Eleven also incorporates another rapidly growing technology: augmented reality. Since the adoption of full AR experiences has been slow in the larger market, XR companies like Magic Leap pivoted to a slower but steadier approach by bringing tech like the Magic Leap 2 into specific industries.

Drivers often have to manage a large amount of information to navigate and keep safe on the road. With the integration of technology such as built-in navigation or car sensors, drivers can rely on various tools that can help improve their driving efficiency.

This isn’t just progress for the sake of progress either: the introduction of AR technologies to drivers has plenty of benefits, from reducing the cognitive load to helping them navigate hazardous driving conditions.

While these applications have yet to be fully adopted by the market, the partnership between Mercedes-Benz and Magic Leap shows that this is an avenue both AR companies and car manufacturers can benefit from.

An Augmented and Seamless Driving Experience

Specific details about how Magic Leap 2 will integrate with Vision One-Eleven’s driving systems have yet to be released. Still, the goal is to create a configurable, immersive AR interface between the driver and their vehicle. This interface can display information about driving conditions on-demand, from the selected drive mode to information about the driver’s destination and current location.

Vision One-Eleven concept car and Magic Leap AR glasses

With Magic Leap 2, this system transforms the conventional dashboards of cars into a dynamic cockpit where drivers can fully use their field of vision to navigate the roads better. This drastically helps improve both the driving experience and car safety for car owners, passengers, and passersby—while also implementing an intelligent driving model that may potentially reinvent the way people drive.

A Partnership Built On Innovation

The Vision One-Eleven isn’t the first collaboration between Magic Leap and Mercedes-Benz: the two companies worked together in 2019 for the Mercedes Immersive Roadshow. While Magic Leap’s role in that collaboration was to enrich the viewing experience by augmenting the visual aesthetic of the exhibit, their new partnership with Vision One-Eleven shows Mercedes-Benz’s confidence in the potential of AR experiences.

Given the increasing entry rate of other competitors into the AR market, Mercedes-Benz and Magic Leap have secured themselves a lead over the competition when introducing AR into the driving experience. Whether they can hold on to this head start is something else altogether—but for now, the Vision One-Eleven holds the spotlight as a blend of technology and good car design.

What’s Next?

The Mercedes-Benz Vision One-Eleven, like most concept cars, is unlikely to be produced in its current form. However, its design, technology, and engineering innovations will undoubtedly be integrated into future Mercedes-Benz production vehicles. And it’s pretty certain that XR technology will find its place in those vehicles.

According to Mercedes-Benz, “The spatial user interface is a beacon for a Mercedes-Benz user experience that is unencumbered by technology. It is part of a wider vision that looks towards extended reality, whereby technology and hardware cease to be the focal point; instead becoming fully integrated and seamless facilitators of user needs and wishes.”

As for Magic Leap 2, the company shows no signs of slowing down with potential partnerships with established brands. Some of its latest potential forays include a partnership with Audi, as well as early talks with tech giant Meta, perhaps looking to expand towards more consumers in the AR space.

As for the future of AR driving? It’s difficult to tell, but one thing’s certain: everyone will be in for an interesting ride.

Unveiling the Future of Driving: Mercedes-Benz Vision One-Eleven Concept Car Uses Magic Leap 2 Read More »

european-council-publishes-web-4.0-strategy

European Council Publishes Web 4.0 Strategy

The European Commission is already setting out to tackle Web 4.0. There’s quite a bit to unpack here, including the EC approach, the 4-point plan that they recently published, and – of course – what they mean by Web 4.0.

What Is Web 4.0?

It’s not a typo and you’re not asleep at the wheel. While most of us haven’t gotten the hang of Web 3.0 yet, Europe is already setting the table for Web 4.0. Don’t worry, this is just a new terminology for something that’s already on your radar.

“Beyond the currently developing third generation of the internet, Web 3.0, whose main features are openness, decentralization, and user empowerment, the next generation, Web 4.0, will allow an integration between digital and real objects and environments and enhanced interactions between humans and machines,” reads the EC’s report.

So, essentially, “Web 4.0” is the metaverse. But, why not just call it that?

Webs and the Metaverse

The metaverse discussion at least started out as being largely a conversation within the world of immersive technology, with discussions of Web3 largely being topics within the blockchain and crypto spaces. (“Web3” and “Web 3.0” aren’t exactly the same concept, but both largely revolve around decentralization, so they’re more-or-less interchangeable for most levels of discussion.)

As voices from the cryptocurrency and blockchain communities promised that these technologies would be the future of a cross-platform, self-owned online future, Web3 and the metaverse were increasingly mentioned in the same breath with both being apparently convergent visions of the future.

A short-lived explosion of interest in the metaverse was so short-lived largely because – while the pieces are certainly falling into place – one connected metaverse hasn’t fully realized. While there are more-or-less realized metaverse spaces or use cases, the all-encompassing digital layer of reality isn’t here yet. Web3, while struggling with adoption, is largely functional today.

While some may groan at the introduction of yet another idealistic tech concept, “Web 4.0” does offer some clarity at least with regard to what the EC is talking about. First, it respects that the metaverse is still a thing of the (near?) future. Second, it ties in the themes of openness and decentralization that were lacking in many metaverse discussions.

Finally, it ties in “interactions between humans and machines.” While some technologists have long included this aspect in their discussions of the metaverse, recent developments in AI have led to increased interest in this field even since blockchain and the metaverse had their moments in the media over the last few years.

Bracing for Web 4.0

While it’s easy to feel like much of the world is still catching up with the previous generation of the internet, how is Europe planning to get ahead of the next generation of the internet? A lot of it has to do with knowing where current experts are and creating pathways for future builders.

To make that happen, the report outlines four “Key Strategy Pillars”:

  1. Empowering people and reinforcing skills to foster awareness, access to trustworthy information, and building a talent pool of virtual world specialists.
  2. Supporting a European Web 4.0 industrial ecosystem to scale up excellence and address fragmentation.
  3. Supporting local progress and virtual public services to leverage the opportunities virtual worlds can offer.
  4. Shaping global standards for open and interoperable virtual worlds and Web 4.0, ensuring they will not be dominated by a few big players.

One of the reasons that so much of the strategy has to do with ideas like “empowering people” and “leveraging opportunities” might be that much of the document was distilled from an earlier workshop of 150 randomly selected European citizens. The average person is likely feeling left behind Web 2.0 and out of the loop on Web 3.0.

The European Perspective

“Ensuring that [virtual worlds] will not be dominated by a few big players” may not be a uniquely European feeling, but it’s interesting to note. Meta, in particular, has gotten into trouble in EU member countries like Germany for the equivalent of antitrust concerns, which has opened the way for Pico to make headway in European markets free from its US political struggles.

At the most recent Augmented World Expo – just before Apple announced their first XR headset – some speakers even expressed concern that Apple will be able to throw its weight around the industry in a way that not even Meta enjoys.

Apple currently holds so much power that they could say ‘This is the way we’re going to go.’ and the Metaverse Standards Forum could stand up and say ‘No.’,” XRSI founder and CEO Kavya Pearlman said during a panel discussion at this year’s AWE.

Standards are a concern everywhere, but this is another area where the approach is somewhat different across the Atlantic. A number of standards groups have formed in the US, but all of them are independent groups rather than governmental initiatives – though some groups are calling for regulators to step into the space over concerns like privacy.

Thinking Globally About Web 4.0

“Europe is, in many ways, a first mover on metaverse policy, and it is putting forward a positive vision for the future of immersive technology,” the XRA’s VP of Public Policy Joan O’Hara said in an email to ARPost. “We very much appreciate the [European Commission’s] approach to balancing user protection and wellbeing with the desire to support innovation and adoption.”

The headquarters of Web 3.0 and Web 4.0 companies might be in one country or another, but most of them are offering international services. Unless they want to have different (and potentially incompatible) versions of those services available for different countries, it behooves those companies to have services that fit all national standards.

So, in the absence of officially codified US standards for immersive worlds, it is likely that the services offered to American audiences might fit into the shape described by groups like the European Commission. Fortunately, most of the organizations already looking at these problems are also international in nature and work with and between national governments.

“This will serve as a model going forward,” said O’Hara. “The XRA has been actively engaged with both European and British colleagues on these issues, and we believe the US interests are largely aligned with those of our friends across the Atlantic.”

Thinking Ahead

US discussions of Web 3.0 have largely spiraled around the nation’s failure to prepare for or recover from Web 2.0. The fact that Europe is already looking forward to Web 4.0 is definitely something to consider. In emerging tech, looking backward instead of forward is a dangerous strategy.

European Council Publishes Web 4.0 Strategy Read More »

“privacy-lost”:-new-short-film-shows-metaverse-concerns

“PRIVACY LOST”: New Short Film Shows Metaverse Concerns

Experts have been warning that, as exciting as AI and the metaverse are, these emerging technologies may have negative effects if used improperly. However, it seems like the promise of these technologies may be easier to convey than some of the concerns. A new short film, titled PRIVACY LOST, is a theatrical exploration of some of those concerns.

To learn more, ARPost talked with the writer of PRIVACY LOST – CEO and Chief Scientist of Unanimous AI and a long-time emerging technology engineer and commentator, Dr. Louis Rosenberg.

PRIVACY LOST

Parents and their son sit in a restaurant. The parents are wearing slim AR glasses while the child plays on a tablet.

As the parents argue with one another, their glasses display readouts of the other’s emotional state. The husband is made aware when his wife is getting angry and the wife is made aware when her husband is lying.

privacy lost movie emotions

A waiter appears and the child puts down the tablet and puts on a pair of AR glasses. The actual waiter never appears on screen but appears to the husband as a pleasant-looking tropical server, to the wife as a fit surf-bro, and to the child as an animated stuffed bear.

privacy lost movie sales

Just as the husband and wife used emotional information about one another to try to navigate their argument, the waiter uses emotional information to try to most effectively sell menu items – aided through 3D visual samples. The waiter takes drink orders and leaves. The couple resumes arguing.

privacy lost movie purchase probability

PRIVACY LOST presents what could be a fairly typical scene in the near future. But, should it be?

“It’s short and clean and simple, which is exactly what we aimed for – a quick way to take the complex concept of AI-powered manipulation and make it easily digestible by anyone,” Rosenberg says of PRIVACY LOST.

Creating the Film

“I’ve been developing VR, AR, and AI for over 30 years because I am convinced they will make computing more natural and human,” said Rosenberg. “I’m also keenly aware that these technologies can be abused in very dangerous ways.”

For as long as Rosenberg has been developing these technologies, he has been warning about their potential societal ramifications. However, for much of that career, people have viewed his concerns as largely theoretical. As first the metaverse and now AI have developed and attained their moments in the media, Rosenberg’s concerns take on a new urgency.

“ChatGPT happened and suddenly these risks no longer seemed theoretical,” said Rosenberg. “Almost immediately, I got flooded by interest from policymakers and regulators who wanted to better understand the potential for AI-powered manipulation in the metaverse.”

Rosenberg reached out to the Responsible Metaverse Alliance. With support from them, the XR Guild, and XRSI, Rosenberg wrote a script for PRIVACY LOST, which was produced with help from Minderoo Pictures and HeadQ Production & Post.

“The goal of the video, first and foremost, is to educate and motivate policymakers and regulators about the manipulative dangers that will emerge as AI technologies are unleashed in immersive environments,” said Rosenberg. “At the same time, the video aims to get the public thinking about these issues because it’s the public that motivates policymakers.”

Finding Middle Ground

While Rosenberg is far from the only person calling for regulation in emerging tech, that concept is still one that many see as problematic.

“Some people think regulation is a dirty word that will hurt the industry. I see it the opposite way,” said Rosenberg. “The one thing that would hurt the industry most of all is if the public loses trust. If regulation makes people feel safe in virtual and augmented worlds, the industry will grow.”

The idea behind PRIVACY LOST isn’t to prevent the development of any of the technologies shown in the video – most of which already exist, even though they don’t work together or to the exact ends displayed in the cautionary vignette. These technologies, like any technology, have the capacity to be useful but could also be used and abused for profit, or worse.

For example, sensors that could be used to determine emotion are already used in fitness apps to allow for more expressive avatars. If this data is communicated to other devices, it could enable the kinds of manipulative behavior shown in PRIVACY LOST. If it is stored and studied over time, it could be used at even greater scales and potentially for more dangerous uses.

“We need to allow for real-time emotional tracking, to make the metaverse more human, but ban the storage and profiling of emotional data, to protect against powerful forms of manipulation,” said Rosenberg. “It’s about finding a smart middle ground and it’s totally doable.”

The Pace of Regulation

Governments around the world respond to emerging technologies in different ways and at different paces, according to Rosenberg. However, across the board, policymakers tend to be “receptive but realistic, which generally means slow.” That’s not for lack of interest or effort – after all, the production of PRIVACY LOST was prompted by policymaker interest in these technologies.

“I’ve been impressed with the momentum in the EU and Australia to push regulation forward, and I am seeing genuine efforts in the US as well,” said Rosenberg. “I believe governments are finally taking these issues very seriously.”

The Fear of (Un)Regulated Tech

Depending on how you view the government, regulation can seem scary. In the case of technology, however, it seems to never be as scary as no regulation. PRIVACY LOST isn’t an exploration of a world where a controlling government prevents technological progress, it’s a view of a world where people are controlled by technology gone bad. And it doesn’t have to be that way.

“PRIVACY LOST”: New Short Film Shows Metaverse Concerns Read More »