Recapping the top stories covered on the VRScout Report, a weekly podcast discussing the best in VR, hosted by Malia Probst. Apple finally talks about VR while taking a (very solid) swing at AR, Walmart will use virtual reality to train employees, you can grow better weed with AR + AI, and Q1 VR headset sales…
APPLE ACTUALLY TALKS ABOUT VR
To many eager iOS users out there (myself included), Apple’s refusal to release or even discuss anything VR-related has been frustrating. Now Apple has thrown us a bone, and during their World Wide Developer Conference last week gave us Apple silo folk some good news. The new 27-inch iMac and iMac Pro are VR Ready right out of the box (which stops our PC friends from making fun of us… sort of), and the company also announced a developer kit for external graphics support for the adventurous. Also noteworthy: Final Cut Pro X will be able to support 360 video editing, Unity and Unreal now have VR support for Macs, and SteamVR is coming to Mac… and although there was a sweet on-stage mixed reality demo using Star Wars assets and an HTC Vive, there was no mention of support for Oculus.
APPLE TAKES A (VERY SOLID) SWING AT AUGMENTED REALITY
Apple, humble as always, announced that their ARKit made iOS the largest AR platform in the world…overnight. Although it did feel like their WWDC last week was playing catch-up to announcements Google made two years ago, Apple’s AR offerings felt more polished. They even brought in the cinematic genius of Peter Jackson, Lord of the Rings director, to show off a demo from his new company Wingnut AR: a tabletop 3D AR scene of a “remote outpost on a desolate world” attacked by space airships. ARKit supports iOS 11 (coming this fall) and Unity, Unreal, Scenekit, and if you have an iPhone 5s or higher—you can get in on the action (plus a public beta is coming in June). However… we’re still waiting for those apple AR glasses.
WALMART PARTNERS WITH STRIVR LABS FOR VR TRAINING
America’s largest employer recently spent $2.7B on an internal training program called Walmart Academy—and it turns out that virtual reality will play a part. Walmart has partnered with STRIVR Labs, known for sports training simulations and formed out of Stanford’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab. The conglomerate will use immersive training with an emphasis on customer service roles, as well as for situations that would be inconvenient to recreate—from cleaning up spills to training for the madness of Black Friday.
BETTER WEED WITH AUGMENTED REALITY
In a use case that I hadn’t yet seen, augmented reality is being combined with AI to help farmers…and cannabis growers. A company called Huxley is developing what they call “plant vision”—which they claim can save 5-10% of crops and reduce labor time by 30-40%. Not only do horticulturists have ability to see data like temperature and humidity overlaid on the real world via AR glasses, but image recognition and AI to help spot (and predict/avoid) diseased plants. By focusing on agriculture, this combination of AR and AI could help more people become effective and efficient farmers—as well as create the smart, self-contained growhouses of the future.
LET’S SPECULATE ON Q1 HEADSET SALES
According to a recent report from International Data Corporation, there were a total of 2.3M VR headset units shipped in the first quarter of 2017. IDC says that Samsung is the current leader with over 20% market share, and shipping almost a quarter of a million of their Gear VR devices in Q1 of this year (and the new Gear VR has a handy-dandy controller, too). The lone console representative thus far in the industry, Sony, is the runner-up in this hardware sales race with almost 430K units (the PSVR requires a PS4 or PS4+ to power). Out of the Big 2 of PC-powered, top-tier VR hardware…the HTC Vive won over the Oculus Rift, with the Vive doubling the Rifts’ sales at 200K units. The report did not include Google Cardboard or Daydream, BUT…wait for it…told us that #5 in HMD sales was the Alcatel VR headset. I must confess that I had to look up the Alcatel headset (turns out it is similar to the Gear VR but has handcuffed content distribution and is compatible with a phone I’ve never seen).
Image Credit: Walmart / WWDC