First the Oculus Rift, then Google Glasses and Cast, and now Mr. Wearable Computer himself is out with his own device “The Meta”, listed now on kickstarter. For $750, you get the Epson see-through display glasses and a SoftKinetic camera on your forehead, all connected through software magic to create an augmented reality see-through display.
We are integrating customized hardware components and building a robust SDK (software development kit). meta 1 is the most advanced and affordable interface for augmented reality, we want every developer to have the opportunity to create the apps of the future.
Our partnerships, investment and timing have allowed us to deliver this hardware/software kit to developers for $750 and comes ready for you to get hacking right away.
It looks a bit bulky and goofy, but it is the beginning of a totally new computer interaction paradigm. The ability to merge Virtual and Physical content into the real-world will be a huge change to computing, and I for one am ecstatic to finally see it happening.
The Oculus Rift is all the buzz in the gamer-sphere, and reviews and demos keep popping up every day. As more people dig into it, tho, people are finding all the classic VR problems that VR researchers have been digging into for the last 20 years. Fast Company has an article on some of these problems:
Those who watched the videos came to see how much VR does deliver to their favorite titles, like the aforementioned Portal series, the award-winning roleplaying game Skyrim, or the parkour action-game Mirror’s Edge. Wooden found user interfaces an issue. “You can’t have your information on the outskirts of the screen. You have to have it near the middle, where the person can actually see it. Or you have to have it someplace where the person can look on the player’s character model,” said Wooden.
The experienced developers (Michael Abrash, John Carmack,etc) know enough to dig into the IEEE and ACM literature for background, but newer developers are diving in fresh. Who will come up with the best ideas? Only time will tell.
MaxUnderground has a great review of GPU-accelerated Octane Render system, focusing on lots of the gritty details in the system. Many GPU renderers have come under fire for restrictions in textures and scene sizes (due to limitations of GPU memory), and they’ve broken down the hard limits in their review.
There’s also a limit on the number of texures that can be used, imposed by the CUDA API. This is dependent upon the card architecture you’re using. For pre-Kepler cards the limits are 64 RGBA textures, 32 greyscale textures, 4 HDR RGBA textures and 4 HDR greyscale textures. For Kepler architecture the allowances are more generous with 144 RGBA textures, 68 greyscale textures, 10 HDR RGBA textures, and 10 HDR greyscale textures permitted. Kepler GPUs also introduced the concept of bindless textures which theoretically removes these limits, though this has yet to be integrated into Octane because it would remove support for pre-Kepler cards.
NBCNews has an article on the recent tornado disasters, in the wake of yesterday’s Oklahoma touchdowns, and includes some interesting discussion with weather researchers and HPC simulations experts. In addition, they have a few nice visualizations of historical storm data.
“Tornado Alley” generally refers to the region centered in Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas and points north, where tornadoes are most frequent — but multiple studies indicate that the deadliest twisters occur to the east, in a region that’s come to be known as “Dixie Alley.” The reasons for that have to do with geography and demographics as well as meteorology in the southeastern United States: Storms tend to move faster, and they’re more likely to strike at night. There are more trees and other obstructions to raise havoc. Population densities are generally higher, and the region has many manufactured homes that lack basements in which to take shelter.
If you think the incredible picture quality, detail, color and resolution of HDTV is the pinnacle in home entertainment viewing, you’d actually be mistaken. Something even better is on the horizon: 4KTV.
Yes, 4K television is on its way, and it promises to be even better than HDTV — four times better, to be exact.
How on earth can things get better than HDTV, you might ask? Well, the quality of the 4K picture starts with the video camera. A 4K camera is able to capture far more details than an HD camera. The 4K image sensor is quite a bit larger than previous video cameras, so more digital data is captured. The end result is a more accurate, superior picture. It has been said that 4K enables the largest TV screens to look better than ever. Viewers can sit closer to the screen and have an engaged, immersed experience, like having a movie theater right in their home.
To put it in pixels, at this time HDTV has a resolution of 1080p, or 2 million pixels per frame. By comparison, 4K technology will deliver about 8.8 million pixels per frame, with resultant heightened accuracy, detail and picture quality. Its creators believe this will translate into even sharper, clearer pictures with better color and contrast than what HD currently offers.
Concerns with Content
As for concerns with this technology, the main one so far has been the fact that there’s just not yet that much content available for these TVs. At this time, about 100 movies are available in 4K, according to CNN. Only 4K content can do justice to a 4K display. It’s going to take some time for the technology to become widespread, and then content providers will step up their output.
Sony has plans to offer a 4K media player — the FMP-X1 — that will be released in 2013. It will come pre-loaded with 10 movies in 4K resolution and has a price tag of $699. The device will be internet-ready and also ready to connect with a 4K movie download service Sony will be offering, set to launch in late 2013. This content will be available for users with unlimited fiber broadband and a paid subscription. 4K Blu-ray won’t be available in 2013, which may create a higher demand for 4K streaming services.
Third parties, especially cable tv providers, will eventually start offering 4K technology as well. DirecTV recently trademarked a 4K/Ultra HD network, according to DigitalTrends.com. Streaming cost details have not yet been released, but these will likely be your best bet for 4K content if you snap up a 4K TV early in the technology’s life cycle.
The Cost of Cutting-Edge
As of this writing, the Sony company is leading the charge in 4K technology. They offer a huge 84-inch model for $25,000 as well as smaller sizes. A standard size TV these days has come to mean 50 inches or larger, as “average” for a TV size seems to continually increase. CNET got a chance to demo Sony’s offerings; here’s what they found:
Sony will offer the Bravia model in a 55-inch 4K UltraHD-TV with a price tag of $5,000. There will also be a 65-inch version for $7,000, according to Forbes. Lesser-known companies like Sharp, OEM Seiki, LG, Panasonic and Samsung will also offer their own versions of 4K TV. These offerings will likely be more affordable, but come with fewer features.
The question remains: Do you need 4K TV? The answer to that question is up to you. Visual people who love home theater entertainment will probably want the latest and greatest. However, if you’re only a moderate TV watcher, the difference may not be appreciable enough for you. Regardless, go and see the technology yourself, view it side by side with HDTV, and decide for yourself if the difference is worth the cost.
Article by Peter Henry
Pete is a freelance writer and single dad who lives in Maryland.
Another acquisition for Autodesk today, this time it’s TinkerCad. TinkerCad is a solid modeling tool popular amongst kids and hobbyists, designed for rapid design of 3D printer models. With this acquisition, Autodesk has a new toolsuite to target at the smaller markets.
I am happy to announce that we have just signed a deal where Autodesk will purchase the Tinkercad site and core technologies. This is a great day for all Tinkercad users, Autodesk is a very enthusiastic and capable steward. There are two main impacts of this deal: the site is fully operational and Autodesk has some very exciting plans for Tinkercad.
Sensopia today is reporting a nice $1.2Million round of funding that will help them push their “MagicPlan” technology to the next level. If you’re not familiar with MagicPlan:
MagicPlan lets you take a photo of your environment and generate a floor plan in minutes. The application can automatically measure, draw, and publish a floor plan by taking a photo with your iOS device. MagicPlan was released earlier this year and uses augmented reality and reality capturing technology to create a floor plan.
It’s a good use of classic SLAM-type technology, although I believe the real opportunity for monetization is in what they do with the resulting map. Just mapping the environment for it’s own sake isn’t terribly useful. That is the main thrust of this investment, so hopefully we’ll see more “Powered by MagicPlan” apps on the horizon.
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