SIGGRAPH 2016 is all packed up and out of Dodge (Anaheim), and what was perhaps the most striking note about this year’s show was how much presence immersive technologies had; VR, AR (collectively known as “mixed reality”, or MR) and ancillary related tech were nearly everywhere you turned.
The show even featured an “experiential pavilion” that took up an entire hall, including a special area called the VR Village, which showcased some of the best titles in VR today, including Google’s renowned Pearl. Below are some of the standout highlights of last week’s event, direct from the main show floor.
Ximmerse, which exhibited with an entire corner booth, had made significant improvements to its tech since we first saw them earlier this year at CES. Its system adds motion tracking and hand controllers to mobile VR experiences (as an add-on to a GearVR smartphone + HMD setup, for example) and Emma Chen, Marketing Director for Ximmerse, explained the system offers 6 DOF immersion. The Ximmerse system is comprised of their X-Hawk stereo camera that attaches to the front of the HMD pointing outward and two X-Cobra hand controllers. Motion tracking is achieved through the camera tracking lights on the top of the controllers, which the Ximmerse team claims is unaffected in bright light, including daylight. Chen explained the system will be priced between $100 and $150 USD, but did not specify exactly when or how to purchase at this time.
Ximmerse’s Emma Chen demos the X-Hawk and X-Cobra products at SIGGRAPH. Note the lights on both the HMD and hand controllers; this is how motion tracking is achieved.
The Google Tango-enabled Lenovo Phab 2 Pro smartphone. Mobile AR will get a major boost come this September, with the arrival of the Phab 2 Pro smartphone by Lenovo. The Phab 2 Pro is the first consumer-ready smartphone featuring Tango, Google’s long-awaited augmented reality platform. Priced at $499 USD, the device will be available for direct purchase online at Lenovo.com and in Lowe’s US stores. Tango apps will be available for download in the Google Play store and a few were on exhibition at SIGGRAPH, including Lowe’s Home Improvement (allowing users to find, view and place items like furniture or appliances anywhere in a real-world room at scale) and Dinosaurs Among Us (a collaboration with the American History Museum enabling users to overlay a variety of digital dinosaurs and other prehistoric creatures over the real world).
Qualcomm‘s structured light 3D reconstruction scanning powered by Snapdragon 820. It’s always admirable to see big companies flexing entrepreneurial chops and sharing the latest strides in R&D. At SIGGRAPH, Qualcomm did just that by exhibiting structured light 3D reconstruction scanning powered by Snapdragon 820, Qualcomm’s top-line mobile chip processor. According to marketing manager Laura O’Connor, the chip offers superior power load balancing because it supports several components at the same time, including a mobile device’s CPU, GPU, audio, video and LTE. Several attendees volunteered to be scanned right there in the Qualcomm booth (including me); I was impressed with its capture of fine details like hair even if not with 100% accuracy.
Qualcomm’s structured light 3D scanning and reconstruction picked up most of my curly hair…not bad.
InstaVR stood out as one of the few companies at SIGGRAPH that didn’t require a ton of technical expertise to understand. InstaVR’s value proposition is simple: it’s a SaaS for businesses with real-world venues to allow for consumers to view 360˚ videos of the venue. With clear application for real estate, retail and hospitality businesses, InstaVR allows companies to brand an app, populate it with 360 ˚ videos and manage user analytics like heat mapping on the backend.
In terms of the best-looking content I saw, Legend VR (a division of acclaimed VFX house Legend 3D) showed some of the most visually captivating experiences I’ve seen on the medium yet; what compounded my appreciation was that the demo was on a simple, mid-market GearVR. On the Vive, Otoy demonstrated its impressive Octane production renderer which delivered the highest frame rate VR rendering I’ve ever seen. But, as Otoy’s technical project manager Jacky Wong explained, VR is only a small part of Otoy’s vision; the company is moving toward full holographic AR rendering as a main goal.
You can view our AR/VR video recap of SIGGRAPH 2016 below: