Mozilla Unveils Firefox Reality Browser for AR and VR

Mozilla now offers an alternative browser for Firefox, one that supports AR and VR headsets.

In a blog post on Tuesday, Mozilla announced a new version of its Firefox web browser. This browser, dubbed Firefox Reality, is specifically designed to be used with virtual and augmented reality headsets.

According to Mozilla, the new mixed reality browser has been built to tackle “new opportunities and challenges of browsing the immersive Web.” It is meant to be cross-platform, privacy-friendly and open source.

With the use of emerging mixed reality web standards, Firefox Reality allows consumers to use it without installing additional apps. And unlike others, the new browser will work on various devices and platforms.

Senior Vice President of Emerging Technologies Sean White explains the product in detail. “The future of mixed reality is about delivering experiences, not about building applications. There shouldn’t be friction moving from one experience to another.”

As with their desktop browser, the VR-friendly browser is open source. The company has already released its source code and developer builds for different platforms on GitHub.

There is no news yet as to when the browser will be available to the public. What we do know for certain is that it will be available with HTC Vive Focus and other headsets supported by HTC’s Vive Wave VR platform at launch.

Mozilla will be releasing more updates for Firefox Reality in the coming weeks so stay tuned!

 

AI, VR and IoT: Retail’s Best Friends for Survival

Retail, the way your parents knew it, is so archaic compared to what digital natives have grown accustomed to. Lightyears away from how JC Penney, the fallen retail titan used to operate, today’s shops need to meet expectations from increasingly sophisticated buyer personas and cope with the onslaught of competition from online and other brick-and-mortar stores. AI (Artificial Intelligence), IoT (Internet of Things) and Virtual Reality have encroached throughout the buying cycle – from advertising to point-of-sale and delivery; all intended to make the process faster, more efficient, and more profitable.

AI giants like (Intel, Amazon, and even Salesforce) promise unlimited possibilities and they may be right! According to Intel, “Younger people love in-store shopping, but they’ll look elsewhere if the experience isn’t tailored to their digital needs.” With the help of analytics and AI, retailers are now able to tailor-fit their products and services to make the in-store buying experience personalized, faster, and more convenient for consumers. The battle between online and in-store sales is an ongoing one and current buyers prefer more interaction prior to culminating the transaction. The ultimate goal is of course to get the best deals and this they do as they navigate store aisles while surreptitiously checking their smartphones for the best buy. Online stores are setting the bar for discounted items and even offer fast, reliable, and sometimes free delivery.

“Physical retail spaces need to focus on facilitating experiences that can’t be replicated in an online setting.” —

Shepherd Laughlin (J. Walter Thompson)

According to Intel, the crux of the matter is to change the way in-store retailers do business so they can cater to the “new breed of buyers accustomed to online shopping.” Aside from providing a “smart store” they also need to create or re-create experiences unique to the physical store. For instance, eye-tracking and brainwave tracking technology are used to arrange merchandise so that buyers are one step closer to buying. This technology leverages on the emotional response to colors, patterns, and images to predict preferences. Tactile and other sensory experiences can’t be replicated online and remain as a distinct advantage, especially for buyers who are wary of online reviews and want to make sure that “what you see is what you get”.

Even store layout is now VR assisted to make merchandise more attractive to potential buyers. But prior to even stepping into the store, websites educate, push branding, and engage. Physical stores and warehouses have a system that combines AI, IoT, VR and robotics to make product selection faster with electronic shelves, inventory tracking sensors and the like. In fact, automated carts at Amazon Go takes the headache out of checking-out by automatically tracking purchases.

“allowing rapid prototyping (through VR) means that retailers can drive the bottomline with faster, better decisions” – Mark Hardy, CEO intext solutions

Over $28B has been invested in AI recently with a huge chunk spent on efforts to prevent flagship stores, retailer chains, and major brands from going bankrupt.

 

Investors have poured over $28B into AI over the past 3 years. On the other hand, dozens of brick-and-mortar retail chains have gone bankrupt, and leading retailers have closed thousands of stores. Injection of AI into operations have affected many aspects of physical retail in an attempt to make services more customized – we see AI in machine analysis of customer behavior, chat support bots on store websites, predictive inventory, machine vision for identifying buyers, automated checkouts, shopper analytics and more. AI will enable stores to interpret big data to solve problems like theft prevention and supply chain management, facilitate conversions arising from visual search, and improve the way of doing business online and offline in every aspect of the product and service cycle. The possibilities are indeed endless.

Video Credits: Intel and Monimedia

Pre-orders For HTC’s $799 Vive Pro Headset-Only Opens Today

Yes, you read that right.

HTC just started taking pre-orders for the Vive Pro virtual reality (VR) Headset and it starts at a whopping $799. Please take note that yes, it is only for the headset.

The Vive Pro was first announced earlier this year at the CES and is touted to address the problems of their original Vive released two years ago.

Some of the notable improvements made to this headset includes a change in the design of the headstrap. They have made it lighter and easier to adjust by replacing the velcro with a sizing dial installed. HTC has also addressed the problem of users having to plug-in their earphones (and have the annoying cables dangling all over) by adding built-in earphones on the device.

HTC opens pre-orders for the Vive Pro VR Headset (Credit: HTC)

Another improvement done on the virtual reality headset is a higher resolution of the dual-OLED displays from the former 2160 x 1200 pixels to 2880 x 1600 pixels (or 1400x 1600 per eye). This will greatly improve the overall graphics and provides better text rendering.

Lastly, HTC has also added dual microphones and dual front-facing cameras. These new physical additions make the Vive Pro even more distinct to its predecessor.

HTC opens pre-orders for Vive Pro VR Headset (Credit: HTC)

The first headsets will start shipping in April 5th of this year and is designed to be used with the older Vive’s controllers and tracking beacons.

Not interested in upgrading? You’re still in luck. With the release of the Vive Pro, HTC has dropped the price of the current Vive system to $499 – taking off a $100 from its current price. The company confirmed that the Vive will continue to be sold at this price this year providing a cheaper alternative while giving users an option for a better quality headset.

For those who don’t own the current Vive however, your only option is to purchase the Vive system and the Vive Pro headset. Otherwise, you’d might have to wait for HTC to release a Pro bundle, something that they will be hopefully doing soon enough.

Winter Olympics Training Using Virtual Reality

Winter Olympics 2018 happening in South Korea; Athletes uses VR for training

The 2018 Winter Olympics will take place in PyeongChang, South Korea this month. To our surprise, the US women’s ski team uses virtual reality (VR) for the upcoming Olympics. Instead of being 5,500 miles away in PyeongChang, there’s this VR demo room at the Menlo Park, California, offices of VR startup STRIVR.

Laurenne Ross, a US alpine skier regularly trains using VR. It’s been almost a year since Ross wasn’t in the game. It was due to her injuries that tore her ACL and meniscus in her right knee. 18 months have passed, the athlete wasn’t in the limelight. But she had undergone an amusingly techy training that includes hundreds of VR sessions. After that, she made it back to the slopes in nine months.

With the use of technology, the US alpine ski team is having an edge in the advancement of training. Virtual reality or VR lets you transport to a digital world through a special kind of headset. Using a VR, skiers can react to different conditions and deviously designed Olympic courses at 80 miles per hour.

“They hopefully will be much more prepared, and not so distracted and caught up in the moment,” said Brian Meek, STRIVR’s chief technology officer. “Playing sports is intense. We replicate the intensity.”

Ross said VR keeps you mentally sharp and focused. She said in an email, “It’s so easy to forget some of the tiny details about preparing for a race that can really make a difference. VR has been a big part of keeping me focused and ready to return.”

The US ski team is the first ever Olympic squad in the world that uses VR as part of their training. Now, more than 20 members of the ski team now use VR that includes stars Lindsey Vonn and Mikaela Shiffrin.

Nintendo VR? It Won’t Happen Yet, A Company Exec Says

Virtual Reality headsets have really changed the gaming landscape. In fact, some of the companies have already disclosed details on their VR plans. Among these companies, back in 2016, was Nintendo which publicly announced that it would be looking into VR in the coming years.

 

Is Nintendo serious of its VR plans?

 

As early as 2016, Nintendo President Tatsumi Kimishima announced at an investors’ briefing that Nintendo was considering VR as part of the company’s strategy to lure more gamers in using their consoles. On the same year, a VR headset patent surfaced that time, amplifying speculations that the Japan-based company was serious of plan into the virtual space.

 

Fast forward today, Nintendo seems to abandon their original plan of looking into VR. This comes after Nintendo France General Manager Philippe Lavoué, in an interview with Les Numeriques, a French publication, expressed doubt that VR would really appeal to the mainstream.

 

“If you look at VR headsets, I doubt they can appeal to the mainstream,” Lavoué said as quoted saying in Ars Technica. “Consumers are not patient with entertainment if you’re not able to deliver an all-inclusive package.”

 

One problem cited by Lavoué was the TV display technology which he claimed to have not been adopted by the majority. He also downplayed the proposal, saying it is still premature for Nintendo to invest a hardware such as VR that has the capacity to have full 4K images.

 

“And what novelty would we bring compared to our competitors?” he said. “If we do the exact same thing as everyone else, we’re bound to die because we are smaller than them. With the Switch, we offer different uses, adapted to players’ pace of life. Its advantage is being able to fit into your daily life.”

Oculus Go: Headset Pops Up At the FCC With Two Models

The Oculus Go headset is closer to its target for the 2018 launch date. This was revealed when an FCC listing hinted that a new standalone headset would be a reality. Although we don’t have an official detail yet about the Oculus Go but certainly the recent news is interesting enough.

 

Oculus Go: Specs, Features, and Price

 

 

Based on the FCC listing which was spotted by Mobielkopen, a German tech website, there will be two models of Oculus Go. The tech site described the two models are identical to one of its key features-memory.

 

The Oculus Go’s first model under the name MH-A32 features a 32GB of memory while the other, MH-A64 will have 64GB. This means that the higher the memory, users can actually store more games and applications compared to a 32 GB memory.

It is not yet clear until now if Oculus Go will have an expandable memory with an SD card. The company has yet to confirm if the listing is true and if, it plans to launch two versions of the device. What is certain now is that the FCC listing revealed that Oculus Go would be sold to the public.

 

Regarding price, the MH-A32 model is expected to be sold for an entry price of $199 which was announced last year’s Oculus Connect. While the 64GB version will be sold at a higher price.

 

Also, one of the features of the device is its three degrees of three (3DOF) tracking. The said feature allows users to look around and tilt their head via a Virtual Reality environment. The VR environment is only possible if you wear Gear VR.

Five Exciting Ways VR Could Disrupt The Game

You probably hear a lot about big “disrupts” in the world of technology these days. It’s generally used to describe a radical change happening to a company, product or industry. Recently it’d be hard to find a better example of a technology disrupting the marketplace than with virtual reality. It’s changing the way we do things (or at least it’s trying to) in industries ranging from gaming to real estate. As a result it’s gotten a lot of attention. But as much as we’ve been talking about VR for the last 18 months or so, there are some areas that still aren’t being covered as much as they should be.

Here are some of the potential VR disruptions you probably haven’t thought (or read) about just yet.

Arcades & Theme Parks

Most of us are still thinking of VR as a revolution for in-home gaming, and there’s one area where it’s definitely having a massive impact take that form. But if you purchase one of the better headsets and the PC or console it takes to run (something that’s left out of the basic headset price tags), you’re looking at spending at least roughly $1,000. Throw in the fact that a lot of VR games are limited by the available space around you, and in-home VR doesn’t always make a ton of sense. This is why some people are suggesting that as VR gets more sophisticated, you’ll leave your house to experience it. In all likelihood the technology will pave the way for new age arcades and theme parks, where entire areas are set up for wild virtual reality experiences. Almost like a “Holodeck” from Star Trek you can pay to go visit.

Watching Sports

VR has a tons of potential when it comes to changing the ways we watch sports. So far the NBA has led the way, and the early feedback is that the experience is surprisingly good. In the near future, it may come with enough options to be legitimately mind-blowing. We may be able to watch live contests from the virtual “seats” of our choice, or even take in courtside views. Some people have suggested we could even be able to watch the action from the perspective of a player! Imagine what it might be like to get closer than ever to an NFL game, or experience what it’s like to be a quarterback facing down oncoming linebackers. Unlike the gimmick of 3D television virtual reality really has the potential to transform how we watch and experience sports.

Online Casual Gaming

It’s not a huge leap to say that there will be all kinds of casual games looking to take advantage of VR. But some that you might not have initially thought of are poker games and other casino based titles. In fact, there’s already been several casino VR games, and other platforms are trying to recreate the experience through live dealer options. These games represent the cutting edge in online casino technology by allowing players to interact with actual dealers in real-time through a video feed. And it likely won’t be long before it makes the logical leap to VR headsets. But there’s potential that VR will help take it a step further beyond the casino and will allow players to enjoy their favorite games while exploring brand new environments. After all, the point of VR is to provide an experience different from what you can do in real life, which makes atmosphere of something like a traditional poker room almost po
intless. Instead we could see robot dealers, games set in underwater environments, poker in space, and more.

Reading

There aren’t any major reading VR apps in development that we know of just yet, but this is something to look out for as we move away from gaming. We’ve already seen the idea of electronic reading transform the book industry, and Kindle-like experiences could also be on the horizon for VR headsets. We could even see virtual libraries where we could be able to select and read books in a comfortable, studious atmosphere. There’s even a possibility that we could eventually see these world’s brought to life and watch the word literally jump off the page.

Therapy

The potential of virtual reality to alter the health industry has actually been well documented. If nothing else, VR applications for treatment and surgical simulations for doctors and medical students could be invaluable tools. But not everyone is as aware of the potential for VR to help with mental health. From alleviating stress to helping with specific anxieties, there’s a lot of potential in this area, and the health and tech industries are only just scratching the surface. They’re already making great strides in using the technology to help with the treatment of PTSD and we look forward to seeing where else they might be able to use it in the future.

What are you looking forward to with VR on the horizon? Let us know in the comments!