The importance of Easter eggs

Introduction

The process of adding Easter eggs inside projects is about creating informal inside jokes very well hidden, which aren’t usually revealed to clients or users. Most often, those do find about them by themselves after doing unexpected actions on the application, such as going through fake walls, series of key presses, opening the application at a specific location and/or time, etc.

Many companies, even the biggest ones out there, have been implementing Easter eggs in their products. One of the latest examples of this is Google’s Easter egg at the release of the Marvel Studio’s Avengers: End Game. Upon searching for Thanos and clicking on the glove, a script will run and automate the destruction of most of the web page, as shown on the video below.

Why are they so important?

Even before getting released, those have a clear impact on development. Towards the end of development, employees are usually feeling burned out, in need of both sleep and laughter. Easter eggs easily help brightening the mood of the office, since those are often created out of jokes or silly ideas which grew out of proportion.

After release, they usually are a fun way to tease your users and clients, depending on the type of person you have in front of you. Telling them “there’s an Easter egg in the app, have you found it yet?” make them curious and most often will get them to search the application and use it a lot more often. Additionally, asking your client to add an Easter egg themselves is something we would recommend. For instance, on a project we’ve worked in the past had put their initials on their main 3D model on the production build. Later, they could ask their users whether they’ve found it or not and have it as a joke.

Lastly, years after developing the project, rediscovering them is one of the best feeling. Easter eggs usually creates a lot of memories and good times, and often are associated with the core of the project while being a very discrete and pointless feature.

Example of Easter eggs

One of our developers really likes secrets and Easter eggs in general, and secretly stuffs every project with those without telling the rest of the team. While a lot of trust must be involved in this process, depending on the culture of your work environment, those can be well received.

One example of something they did, was to add one of their character inside a secret room in one of our demos and removed the collider on the wall so you can walk right past through it. That kind of harmless detail can easily make somebody’s day.

Another example is adding additional needless information in the repository commits descriptions. It’s important to ensure that all the commit information is self-explanatory and accurate but adding a little weird sentence here and there can’t do any harm (unless the repository is meant to be transferred to the client).

Sample from one of our repositories commit list.

A very common type of in-company Easter egg is the misuse of code comments. While most of the comments are either formal and useful, some may include screams of agony or just plain weird content. Those are usually picked up during project review or project de-dusting, and often catches developers off- guard. A silly example of this type is this type of comment.

One of our developer hates series of clothing curvy brackets.

Conclusion

In short, based on the type of culture present in your company and the context of the current project, there is no reason why you shouldn’t add Easter eggs here and there. Do keep in mind that those should remain harmless for the sake of staying a joke rather than becoming a source of problem or arguments.

Have a wonderful day!

My Search for Last Stars

In 2011, a few days after I bought my first and only DSLR, I was quickly running out of subjects to shoot. I had shot the garbage filled lake behind my house and the few birds that come to visit it. I had shot the trees and the crows that inhabit so many times that I had lost count. Lying down stewing in the oppressive humidity that only Chennai’s summer could offer I was rummaging through my head, trying to find a new subject to test the new camera’s capabilities. Then it struck me. What grander model can I get to pose for my camera than the night sky itself? And with that thought I took my camera and the tripod that came with it to shoot the night sky.

What comes to your mind when you think of the night sky? The full moon in all its glory? Vincent Van Gogh’s The Starry night? A starlit sky? When was the last time you went out and looked at the night sky?

After multiple shots at varying exposures, and with every photo growing frustrated with what I was getting on my camera. I set the camera to the maximum exposure setting it had, 30 seconds and clicked the shutter button. The camera opened its shutter, the screen went dark and the sensor started capturing all the photons of light that came its way for the next thirty seconds. This is the image that I was staring at after the camera closed it shutter and finished processing what it had captured for the last thirty seconds.

It was only then did I look up and see the sky instead of giving it just a cursory glance.

Two questions popped in my mind with what I was seeing. Firstly, “Why is the sky orange?”. Secondly “Where are all the stars?”. The first question got answered when I turned around and saw the streetlights lining the road. Shining bright and orange, the sodium vapour lamps seemed to be everywhere, and were painting the sky a garish shade of orange.

Dejected at not getting the shots I thought I’d have; I went back in and did some research and found out that the stars’ light were overpowered by the very sodium vapor lamps that were painting the sky orange. On further research I found a site which gave a visual representation of the amount of light radiated into the sky across the globe. And this is what I found.

The map is of South India and any place which isn’t black has some amount of light radiating into the sky, with red being the places with the most light. The areas marked green, had some light pollution but was still a problem to get a good shot from.

A few months later in 2012, I was at my grandma’s place for a family occasion, and as is the norm during these get togethers, me and my cousins were lying down outside the house at night, as there were way too many people to be accommodated inside. Tamil Nadu was going through a severe power crisis during that time and power cuts were an everyday occurrence. While the power cuts were scheduled in the urban centres, they were very frequent and unscheduled in the rural areas. And luckily one of these unscheduled power cuts happened during that night, and the power cut brought an instant change in the sky we were looking at in the cold January night. I was for the first time in my life, taking in the sight of an unpolluted(almost) night sky.

While staring awestruck at the sky, I noticed a small streak of silver running across the sky, which I happened to dismiss as a jet stream at first, and then it struck me. What I was looking at wasn’t a jet stream, but I was in fact looking at our galaxy, The Milky Way. While researching about the night sky in search of the perfect photo I had also stumbled upon the information that the Milky Way is visible from earth to the naked eye if the sky is clear, there is no moon in the sky and you are in a dark enough place. That was my first and till this date remains, sadly, my only live sighting of our galaxy.

Fast forward a year and a half in 2013, during my second year of college, where I was studying Game Development, I had somehow been made one of the two administrators of the college photography club called “Shooterz”, which was the seed for a Photography department to be launched in the college a couple of years later. Through that club I was enrolled into a competition called “International Photocross”, as part of a team of three people, which was a competition held across a few countries by a Russian college. We were given ten topics and two days to get a photo for each of the topic. One receiving the topics, we split the topics amongst ourselves and went to get out photos. One of the topics for that year was “Space Near Us”, and I knew exactly what I wanted to shoot for that topic.

I packed my kit, and went to my grandma’s place, a drive of around 200 kilometres. I arrived there in the evening and waited for night to fall and another unscheduled power cut to occur. Although night fell, the power cut never arrived. A few hours of waiting, and I needed to get back to Chennai for the next day. So, I went to the darkest spot I could find turned my camera at the sky and started clicking one uninspiring photo after another. Lady luck was not kind that night, I couldn’t land a single picture where I could even see a glimmer of the Milky Way on the display of the camera. Giving up hope I pointed the camera in the general direction of my grandma’s house, which was a few kilometres away from where I was shooting and started shooting photos.

Out of sheer luck the angle I was making placed the town of Neyveli in my shot. Neyveli for those who don’t know is the location of a state-owned thermal power generation station. And while it was busy generating electricity, the premises were lit up for the night shift to work, and it happened to be glowing against the night sky. While it was partially responsible for hiding most of the stars and the milky way from sight that night, the shot I had captured, with a few stars rising above the orange glow of a busy town, with streaks of light at the bottom provided by vehicles travelling along a highway, proved enough to be adjudged best in category.

I have barely touched my camera after finishing college, hardly finding time for it, this photo has remained the best photo of a night sky I have taken. My search for a place from which I can click a picture of the stars lighting up the sky with the milky way in the backdrop continues to remain in my bucket list.

Designing Intitutive UX for AR

Introduction

The AR (Augmented Reality) technology is constantly improving with a host of new technologies like big data, machine-learning, IOT, Artificial intelligence, etc. The digital experience has been radically transformed by coalescing the physical and digital worlds, where the user interface has extended beyond the screen with a flexible immersion level.

Jared Spool famously wrote “Good design, when it’s done well, becomes invisible. It’s only when it’s done

poorly that we notice it.”

Applications based on Augmented Reality adopt a series of well-defined user experience design principles that are generally consistent, although there are scenarios where there is a need to make design decisions according to the associated industry, style and objective of the application.

Environment

One of the biggest challenges of the UX design in an AR application is determining the environment in which the application intends to run. Some applications are built to interact with the user’s entire body, such as a retail application that allows the user to virtually try on clothes. Similarly, there are many AR applications which are meant to be used in public spaces.

The key is to keep the environment familiar and intuitive. AR provides users, experiences that traditional applications cannot. A new axis is introduced to our digital experiences — we are integrating the physical world through cameras of the various devices. Digital and physical interaction provides an opportunity to explore a dimension where the boundaries are blurred.

As such, user testing is critical in order to predict how different environmental factors will enhance or inhibit the positive user experience. Environmental factors which are pivotal for a positive user experience are the user’s vantage point, colors, sizes of objects, lighting and shadows, moving objects, living beings, and walls.

Interactions

The interaction of the user with the objects, media, and the UI is in the social sphere by default. When considering how to interact with the environment, it is important to primarily consider what hardware the users will be engaging with. The interactions through mobile are different than HoloLens interactions. The interactions should always be designed to align with the goal of the immersive application’s experience.

Developing empathy for the users enables the designer to preemptively address the limitations that certain users might encounter during their experience. By virtue of taking the time to envision the user’s needs, the designer can make the interactions holistically accessible and useful for all the users.

Presence of cues

Cues play an important part in developing a strong UX experience, as they offer direction for users. Simultaneously, cues are designed to hide or reveal certain features dependent on gestures made by users. Visual cues present the users with off-screen elements such as buttons, which the user can hover over for additional features. Cues are simple clues that inform the user what elements of the UI are designed to be interacted with, and how to interact with them.

Audio cues are useful as well, allowing users to command the application to do something just by speaking. Similarly, an application could be created to recognize certain sounds which can trigger it display hidden features.

Color and text

Vuforia Chalk app

The science of Color theory works the same way in AR, just like how it influences us in print, mobile, web, and the other elements of our life. Consider the environmental context, the culture of the users, and the psychological effects of certain colors while selecting the theme of the application. Lighting is an integral characteristic which defines the effectiveness of the immersive experience to the user, if the users are enjoying the experience or leaving them unconvinced. Projection of shadows from the objects enhance the visual effects and brings them to life. For text, it is important to ensure it is relatively large and easy to read, but not overpowering. Choosing a font that works well with the color scheme and environment is important.

Blissful Bir

“I wondered why it was that places are so much lovelier when one is alone.” Daphne Du Maurier

 

Going to Himachal Pradesh, India for a trip is like a treat to yourself. You’re sure to make memories that’ll be forever. Sometimes it is necessary to clear out the mundane things to fill it with nature and positive energy. And there’s no better place than Himachal to fulfil this need. And the best way to do that is to go to Himachal on a lone trip.

Bir Billing

Bir-Billing is in Himachal Pradesh and is known as the second highest take-off spot for Paragliding in the world.

Travelling overnight from Delhi, I finally reached Bir on Saturday morning where the bus stopped at the Tibetan Colony. As I stepped out of the bus, my soul immediately began to create a connection with a beautiful place.

We reached our hostel after a 10-minute walk. I started exploring the place once I was done with the check-in formalities, as the place really fascinated me with Its amazing sitting area outside. While I was having breakfast, the sight of colourful parachutes soaring high in the sky caught my attention and I started feeling butterflies in my stomach wondering- there I am going to be too in the next few hours.

After a while, we drove straight to the take-off site. The moment to glide over the snow- capped peaks of the Himalayas arrived. While my pilot was setting up the parachute, I rested there for a while being a bit nervous, scared and sceptical. But above all, I was ready for another level of adventure. My pilot was ready and so was I. This was the time when I wasn’t feeling nervous anymore but the thought of being airborne for the next 30 minutes got me super excited.

Up Up Up in the air!

From a scenic Billing, I jumped off the cliff. With not a very smooth take off, I was in the air in no time. It is another world from the top.

The ride was about 15-30 minutes long, and it was more thrilling than I had expected, as I got to fly up high above the beautiful mountains, soaring through the cool wind, making my way freely like a bird. Bir-Billing was the perfect place for me to experience the joys of paragliding, and it is no surprise that it is among the top ten paragliding spots in the world.

Trek to Billing

 

After the glide, I came back to our hostel, I joined other two travellers who were heading on a trek to Billing

It’s amazing how the weather switches when you are in the mountains, in the blink of an eye. Suddenly, I felt the cold air welcoming me as we got down and prepped to begin the trek.

It’s just going to be 7 km,’ said our captain beaming a smile and trying his best not to intimidate us with the distance or the terrain. And we walked through the trail that hung to the mountains, with the valley that began getting steep on one side.

We made it to billing in 4 hours just as the sun was calling it a day, setting behind the gorgeous snow-capped mountains. I was able to get a glimpse of the trail sprinkled with snow. Not just that, it was a landscape dotted with powdery snow. The mountains topped with sheets of snow towered over the valley that stretched for miles. The clouds above these peaks tried to kiss adieu for the day with their colours changing by vibrant rays of the setting sun.

The serene valley witnessed the riot of colours in the sky. The backdrop changed like a slideshow from a bright yellow that turned pinkish, then becoming red and slightly purple, before turning grey and blending perfectly with the night sky.

The Sky Village – Camping site (Billing)

We were offered Maggi and Chai as soon as we arrived at our campsite– the best things to cherish after a hike! We sat by the bonfire as the passing night became colder. A delicious and wholesome meal was followed soon. The night sky was embedded with as many stars as you can imagine.

The next day I woke up to some amazing views of the valley and went for a short walk in the quiet woods nearby. We all joined for a scrumptious breakfast that included hot paranthas and Masala Chai. Later in the day, we took a cab back to our hostel.

The trek was truly an escape into the wilderness. It was especially the best experience for a traveller like me, who got a chance to meet amazing people and enjoy the experience without having to be concerned about safety or doubts about escaping to the wild!

Monastery

The other best thing about visiting Bir is its sprawling peaceful and welcoming monasteries. The monasteries are so welcoming that with your camera they barely deny you access to any place or click anything. They even allowed visitors to be part of their prayers and let them sit next to the monks. If you’re in luck, you might be able to share a cup of hot Tibetan tea or some of the snacks they make.

Local Market

Your visit to Bir Billing is not accomplished fully until you visit & shop from the famous Bir road. Its local stalls have traditional clothing and ethnic food is someplace you will surely appreciate.

It was a short trip, but I came back with so much

When you travel solo but find ‘friends’ to drop you to the bus to bid you goodbye: you had an excellent trip!

Appearition Enterprise Jam #1

Introduction

Last month, we had decided to start an enterprise App/Game Jam internally. The concept behind a jam is to run a 48h straight event with the objective to create a prototype by the end of it, allowing as much freedom as possible to a given team while they respond to a given theme.

This jam’s theme was “Rewards“.

Why though?

To begin with, the main goal of this jam was to reunite the developers and designers at Appearition together and have them work in a single team. While we had worked together on various occasions and projects, we never had experienced a single project with all of us working towards a single outcome at once.

Although, each of us knew what others do, a jam (along with the pressure it provides) offered us the best way to bond further and learn more about out various skill sets, especially secondary skills and things we prefer doing in a project. During this jam, some of us found out that one of us had artistic skills, another with a preference for developing UI rather than code, and another with a strong desire to learn game programming. Participating in this type of event helped learning about each other’s strengths and weaknesses, as well as working as a team to achieve the single outcome.

While most projects we do are on an individual scale or a bigger scale, this was a great opportunity to test how we would come up with solutions for different time zones and remote work for a project with a tight deadline and heavy pressure.

Lastly, this was a great opportunity to change from what we usually do, which is more along the lines of R&D, enterprise application development, proof of concept, etc. Quite a few of us had never worked on a game before, or not for a long time. Being able to develop a prototype for a different type of use and audience was a challenge to us, as well as being refreshing.

Doing the jam

We started the jam with 6 of us:

  • 2 Programmers (1 lead and 1 mechanic developer, both actual developers)
  • 1 Game Artist (R&D developer but could do game art)
  • 2 UI Designers (one pure UI Designer, one who prefers UI design over development)
  • 1 Project Manager

We used Slack as our main communication tool and ZOOM and Skype for group calls. We started the jam all in a call, were briefed about the theme, then decided to individually explore the theme and return as a group to discuss our findings. Once on the call, we proposed several ideas, projects, talked about them and expanded them. After making sure each of us had something to work on, we started working. The team was divided in two locations: two people
in one house in Australia, and the rest of the team would meet at the office or at somebody’s place.

We agreed to work on an Appearition Simulator, which would be a game inspired from Game Dev Tycoon (2012, developed and published by Greenheart Games), where the player starts as our CEO, takes on projects, expands the team and builds the whole company from scratch. Part of this idea also helped explaining what the origin of Appearition was, and how it became what it is today.

The prototype of the game was meant to be a 2D horizontal management game, where the player controls several employees by selecting them one by one and giving them orders individually. Our CEO would receive calls about a client wanting a project, along with requirements and modules.

Client project panel. Gives some background on the project and client, including salary, time and tasks. The client stats affect the flow of the project, change of requirements, etc; and are meant to improve as we educate them.

Once accepted, all those requirements would appear on a blackboard as tasks (like a Kanban workflow, to-do, QA, done, etc) of different field of practice. Each of those tasks could be assigned to employees, who would have skills and preference in said field.

Task board, where employees select tasks. Here, there is a lvl5 R&D task, lvl0 UI Design and lvl0 Q&A. Those values aren’t meant to be absolutely accurate.

Upon project completion, each team member would receive skill proficiency, happiness if they worked on skills they liked, and food. The company would also get the money from the commission, and the client would gain trust in our company. If the project was not finished in time, the company would not earn a cent and every employee would lose happiness.

Our CEO currently working on a task. No time for sitting animations!

The outcome

Unfortunately, we did not have sufficient time to push the project to a prototype level within the 48 given hours, mainly due to the way we worked as a group and had seek an extension in order to complete it.

However, the primary objectives were more along the lines of team-bonding and having a good time with colleagues by doing something different, and we did great on that. Additionally, most of us learned a lot from working on a non-enterprise project, since this isn’t what we’re used to.

Through most of the jam, we were using Slack to post work in progress of what we were each doing in order to keep the team informed. Once any of us had any struggle or was done with their task, we would get in a call together and keep ourselves updated. On the last day, we had a nearly constant group call ongoing to ensure that we were going to deliver properly and go through the problems we had.

Overall, we were happy with this opportunity given to us. On presenting this project to the entire company, we agreed on expanding this project as an introduction to Appearition, as well as a way to learn more about our colleagues.

Why content is key for AR platforms

Content in the context of Augmented Reality (AR), is defined as the presentation of existing information in a format applicable to the current world-view. This takes the form of visual and/or audio but can also take on other sensory formats such as touch or even smell.

This distinction between content and information is important to understand when considering the functional applications of AR platforms. In simple terms, an AR platform will not create information but rather consume it from existing sources and create, package and deliver it as AR content.

AR platforms such as Appearition’s Experience Management System (EMS), rely on the availability of information to create and deliver contextually relevant content to connected clients. AR platforms should, therefore, be regarded as mediums for connecting to existing data stores and aggregating and formatting that information based upon the context of the intended audience.

There are several challenges facing AR platforms today. At the outset, any effective platform must provide an intuitive user interface that is accessible and available to non-technical users. More often, it will be business staff who will be interacting with the platform to manage and create information and content.

  1. Access to information

A key concern of AR platforms is access to information. This demands connection and integration to various types of data stores. It comes with adherence to security and authentication protocols, data privacy laws and compliance and the support of various types of data formats such as CSV, XML and JSON.

With this concern comes the fundamental need of having a scalable, robust and highly responsive infrastructure for reliable functional performance.

  1. Contextualising information

Once information is available to the AR platform, it is important to be able to classify and group it. This will become an integral step in content creation as it will be important to link the context of the audience with the context of the information.

Meta-data is a common concept used in IT systems to help with classification. You can apply meta-data to existing information and then filter and query that when creating content.

  1. Delivering a good user experience (UX)

A well delivered UX has these two common properties: relevance to what we are doing and is quick to load. The former is something we have already touched on above. The latter is about network latency and is best understood when we think about today’s websites. According to studies, more than 40% of users bounce from websites that take more than 3 seconds to load. This is directly related to internet connectivity speeds and the amount of content being delivered to the browser. The same principle applies to AR experiences, however, instead of the latency concerns of HTML, AR is concerned about the speed of recognition, the stability of tracking and the download and rendering of immersive content such as 3D models or 360-degree videos.

A critical factor for AR is a reliable and fast wireless network connection. Whilst the current 4G technology does enable us to watch videos and images seamlessly, when it comes to immersive AR experiences, content is much bigger and heavier than standard website content. As such, we eagerly look forward to 5G which aims to revolutionise our world again with quick access to immersive content.

Whilst the promise of 5G is very much a future aspiration, there are strategies today that can be considered when designing and building AR solutions with latency in mind. Can you anticipate and pre-download AR content before the user has asked for it? Can you place content closer to the user to minimise too many hops around the world? Can you break up the content into smaller chunks and stagger how and when it’s presented?

Conclusion

In many respects, we are exposed to information all the time and in different ways. Since the dawn of humanity, we have exchanged information by communicating and interacting with each other. We then became exposed to printed information in the form of books, newspapers and magazines. In more recent times information has emerged in the form of TV and radio. Finally, the invention of the internet and social media has exploded our access to information at our fingertips. We use information all the time to make important decisions at work, school, home and in social settings. Filtering and deciphering this information in a way that is relevant to what we are doing now, has always been and will continue to be a struggle.

AR content is the means to access and view contextually relevant information in our world.

Simon Galanakis is a passionate advocate of effective AR experiences and is currently Appearition’s Platform Architect and Senior Solution Designer.

Using Machine Learning to leverage the power of Augmented Reality

Augmented Reality (AR) in its current definition is the overlay of digital information on a real-world view. In practical terms, it is the process of recognising specific physical objects in a device’s camera and superimposing digital content such as video, audio or 3D models.

Visual recognition is one aspect of AR which encompasses image, object, scene and facial recognition. Computer vision technology is used to identify shapes and patterns through a complicated set of mathematical models. These models and processes are all facets of Machine Learning (ML) that drive Artificial Intelligence (AI).

ML is the science of “teaching” the system to look for commonalities and patterns and assessing the probability that a match is found. Effectively, with a set of mathematical models in place, the system is fed a collection of information that represents a positive match. For instance, if we want to teach the system to identify a cat, we provide thousands of images of cats and let the system process and find common visual patterns across all the images.

This is known as deep learning where the outcome is a system that can recognise and track almost any pattern. With this capability, we can inject a virtual projection into the area that is being recognised and tracked to deliver, what is called, an augmented reality experience.

The power of AI and ML is being able to make decisions based on the real-world scenario. Let’s consider its application in a security surveillance system. A machine that has been trained to detect weapons, such as knives and guns, can be used to observe CCTV security vision. In real-time, it can look for patterns in the scene that resemble its definition of a weapon. If identified, a notification alarm could be raised for someone to act.

Pattern recognition is not limited to visual only. Auditory, gesture and other data patterns can also be “taught” using ML. Continuing with our security surveillance example, a trained machine could be used to listen to sounds in the environment and detect patterns of shouting or offensive language being used.

The challenges

One of the hurdles in training a machine to identify patterns is sourcing enough material that is deemed a “positive match”. In these cases, systems are designed with feedback loops to allow machines to “learn by experience”. If for some reason the machine fails to detect what it is supposed to, it can be taught what was missing in the initial dataset and be trained to act on it the next time it occurs. All this is supported by an aspect of ML called “convolutional neural networks”. Different nodes that perform specific mathematical functions on the dataset are interconnected to achieve the specified outcome.

The opportunities

In a time when vast amounts of information is available at our fingertips, being able to recognise the world around us and decipher what is relevant will become critical. Whether at work, at home or in a social setting, successful real-world augmentation will rely on AI and ML observing and recognising our environment and adapting information to match our situation.

As hardware technology improves and wearable, handsfree devices become a reality, ML and AR will become an integral, yet ambient part of our lives.

Simon Galanakis is a passionate advocate of effective AR experiences and is currently Appearition’s Platform Architect and Senior Solution Designer.

International Mining & Machinery Exhibition 2018

Appearition’s Ravi and Aswin attended the International Mining & Machinery Exhibition (IMME), a 4-day International exhibition organised by Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) in Kolkata at Ecopark, Rajarghat. The is the 14th edition organized by CII. The exhibition had 400+ exhibitors from all over the world, especially, Australia, China, Canada, Czech Republic, UK, the USA among others. Mining in India contributes to about 2% of India’s GDP and about 10% – 11% of the industrial sector GDP [1]. A variety of stalls were set up ranging from machinery, spares and software companies.

Key topics of discussion:

Internet of Things which is becoming a part of our daily life has also set its foothold in the mining sector with many innovative solutions and systems providing a testimonial for the same. IoT is being used in a drilling system that uses IoT to share and analyse the condition of bearings and other parts.

Immersive Technology like Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) are helping workers in this high-risk field with their simulation and virtual training capabilities. In machinery training instead of the need to train on real machines where mistakes might cost the business millions, a simulator would be much more cost efficient. Also, in the field of safety training, a VR based solution gives workers a chance to train in the virtual world as opposed to the real world, where the risk of injury is higher. A VR solution due to its inherent nature has more involvement from the users and is better suited.

The Mining industry is all set to embrace more frontier technology. This would continue to grow in the next couple of years with more corporates and verticals adopting the latest in terms of technology and solution.

Mining network:

The conference was the place to be to network with people creating the latest gadgets, developing the software and working with disruptive technology in the mining sector. It gave us a chance to experience the latest technology and understand the future of work in that sector.

 

[1] As of 2010

Gartner Symposium Australia – 2018

Appearition’s Rod Smith attended the 2018 Gartner Symposium in Gold Coast. With over 2000 attendees across the 2-day event, Rod shares his experience from the trip and on the emerging technologies that Gartner spoke about:

The Continuous Next

This year’s Symposium revolved around the theme ‘Continuous Next.’ Gartner sees the future in terms of continuous change at an increasing pace. A key vision for the future was the “Digital Twin” concept where organisation processes could be twinned for training and operational purposes. This could be of significant impact in augmented reality terms, particularly in asset digital twins. One of the more contentious statements was the expectation that companies should move from a project focus to a product focus. Culture also featured strongly, and the change management strategy required for implementing any new technology.

Keynote Address:

One of the highlights of the symposium was a presentation by Garry Kasparov (pictured below), the former world chess champion, and author. He provided a fascinating tale of his competition with the IBM Deep Blue chess program, which he claimed became a turning point in the artificial intelligence (AI) roadmap for chess. Kasparov centred his talk about AI and what it means to us, humans.

Disruptive technologies

The symposium had a big focus on disruptive technologies such as blockchain, digital twins, Augmented Reality (AR). Particularly, AR is at the point of starting on “the slope of enlightenment” section of the Gartner hype cycle. Digital twins was widely spoken about and heavily emphasised. This creates significant opportunities for AR companies which can model equipment assets and model processes. The payback for companies will be better utilisation of resources, efficiency and cost savings.

Gartner’s ITXPO

The ITXPO was held at the convention centre and accompanied the symposium. The XPO witnessed the likes of several large groups of vendors. Several tech enthusiasts celebrated the spirit of Halloween as the event drew close:

 

For all those in the business of technology, Gartner Symposium 2018 was the place to be!

IAMAI – Augmented and Virtual Reality committee

The Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) recently formed an industrial expert committee to develop and promote immersive technologies – Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) ecosystem in India.

‘The committee was formed to identify opportunities and challenges to help India’s AR/VR ecosystem, in partnership with government, industry and startups,’ says Kalyan Biswas, Associate Vice President, IAMAI.

This initiative will help to promote the fast-growing technology to drive economic growth, jobs and skill development in the country.

The committee is chaired by Namrita Mahindro, Senior General Manager, – Digital Transformation, Mahindra Group and co-chaired by Satyajeet Singh, Head –Strategic Product Partnership, India & South Asia, Facebook.

Committee’s agenda:

While speaking to Appearition about the committee’s plans, Biswas said they aim to:

–    nurture India’s AR/VR technology and talent ecosystem, particularly, skill development

–    engage with business, industry and government to evangelise acceptance of the technology

–    help drive training workshops, to familiarise potential users with technology and build use cases in key sectors

‘Currently, we have formed two sub-groups of 4-5 members each. The sub-groups would help in planning and guide IAMAI in executing the plan as agreed by the committee, building Ecosystem and help in the interaction with Government,’ explains Biswas.

The Indian AR-VR market is set to grow at a compound annual rate of 76% in the next five years. [1] With immersive technologies redefining the future of the workplace, such a committee with an agenda to drive the adoption is a welcome move.

Source: [1] https://bit.ly/2OZdrTj

 

 

 

Register your Interest for our Unity SDK Beta Test Program

Appearition invites users to join closed beta testing group for Enterprise SDK – here’s how to sign up.

Appearition is looking to recruit about 50 people to a closed, private group of beta testers to help in early builds of software for the EMS Enterprise Unity SDK. Eligible users would need to, be active in the Unity developer community, be willing to give feedback, and also sign a non-disclosure agreement.

Closed Beta program is an opportunity for us to listen to your feedback and refine or revise our product strategy based on that. It also helps us to find major bugs at an early stage and release more stable Open Beta and official builds.

The Closed Beta Group is the closest group to Appearition staff. Given the privacy aspect, you are required to sign an NDA (Non-Disclosure Agreement) with Appearition to be part of this program.

Register your interest here. Simply fill out the information required.

Augmented Reality for Retail and Marketing

Retail and Marketing sectors have reached a tipping point in 2018 for innovation with new technologies. That’s where this Info graphic can help – all the key data relating to Immersive Technologies in the Retail and Marketing sectors.

 

All about Blockchain

Blockchain technology allows digital information to be distributed but not copied. In simple terms, it is a growing list of records, called blocks, which are linked using cryptography. Outside of the widely known ‘Bitcoin’ application, Blockchain as a technology has lots to offer for several industries. Appearition’s Developers Simon Galanakis and Sujanth Sebamalaithasan talk about the technology, its application and the future:

1. Blockchain – as a technology seems scalable. What are the sectors that can adapt to it?

Blockchain as a technology is useful when you keep an open and transparent record and history of data. This is so that people can look at the history and trust it if it is true. No one can manipulate it if that is the case.

Blockchain will benefit sectors that require large data set to be stored with high-level of encryption. Some industries include:

–    Banking and Finance

–    Medical sectors – patients medical records

–    Industries using Copyrighted content or sectors like film or software where patent plays an important role.

–    Law firms where client details need to be stored securely

–    Property ownership and management

2. Blockchain and AR – do you see a plausible future? If so, how?

I think there is a future (for Blockchain and AR). There is a number of areas that we need explore where Blockchain could work with AR. If an AR is treated as an object or a commodity, for example, an AR experience in a bottle, where you scan for a promotional video, if you consider that to be one package/entity, something that people want to share or retain ownership and for that to be genuine, you can employ Blockchain. You can record the particular details (who created it, when it was created etc) that make up an AR experience in that Blockchain.

Let’s call this block an AR commodity. One might want to maintain a record or a history of that commodity and when it is being used.

3. AR and Blockchain – is it possible to keep the AR data/commodity, private/free from misuse?

Yes, yes, it is possible. Conceptually it is a block – and if the block used to play a video (An AR experience) and suddenly shows only a picture – It is a change in experience. If someone tries to tamper with the history of this block saying it was originally designed to showcase a picture – that’s a situation when Blockchain can come into the picture and vouch for what was originally planned.

I don’t think Blockchain is very useful when used privately. It will gain value when people start creating Augmented Reality (AR) products and begin to own them, share them and want to track its usage.

For instance, people create and upload videos on YouTube, which only YouTube can control and view the analytics and claim its accuracy. Whereas, if you want to de-centralise a control – it can be done by allowing every AR experience to be posted into the Blockchain record. This is potentially a way in which we can track it. The concept of Blockchain application needs to be considered here. Its power is very useful when you want to ensure that records are not tampered with; especially publicly visible record, that is available to people.

An expanding ledger

The idea of the blockchain is that it is an ever-growing ledger. Conceptually, think of it as one big file, which continues to grow as blocks. The data is out into the blocks. In the example of Bitcoins, it is close to 160 gigabytes now. It is how big the blockchain is. As more and more transactions occur, it is going to have problems as it continues to grow. So, I think it is going to become a technological issue that needs to be solved.  There are some solutions being proposed currently. Like, Hard Fork – decentralised ledgers, Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT) – digitised version of cryptocurrency rather than the crypto version.

Right now, the scalability for Blockchain with all the services around the world (for bitcoins), when a new node/server wants to come on board, they must download 160 gigabytes of data for the first code. Then on, it is going to work on just partial data received all over the internet. The rise of the internet and email system in the 90s, people could only send a few emails and can only have a few contacts or a few hundred megabytes in their inbox. Whereas these days, some people offer unlimited storage for these data. I think technology role is evolving to keep up the demands of Blockchain. And again, it needs to be seen as not really the kind of one-stop solution kind of tool. It is just another tool in the tool world that can potentially solve a particular business problem.

4. What are some things one need to be cautious about when using this technology?

If an individual or an organisation tries to build their own Blockchain, then they need to create their own node/service. Because the idea of the system or its integrity is the fact that you have more than 51% of all nodes of the network belonging to a particular chain or block is valid or correct. If you’re constructing your own blockchain, you need to manage your own nodes. Again, that kind of defeats the purpose of de-centralised responsibility. You’ll still own the blockchain, you’ll still manage the nodes, so it kind of defeats the purpose. I’d question whether it is useful. When many people acknowledge this technology and start to use this in their day to day life then Blockchain technology will become more stable.

5. Business IPO and Blockchain – Can you please elaborate?

Business IPO means initial public offerings, companies who need capital to expand their business, usually do the IPO and distribute the company’s shares to public likewise in Cryptocurrency environment, companies who involved in this technology use ICO (initial coin offerings) methods to collect their capital before starting the project. The public who backed these projects will get cryptocurrencies and some useful benefits if that project successfully implemented

6. How do you see Blockchain aiding Digital Transformation?

Digital transformation is driven by four main factors, Internet of Things, Big data, Business platform models and collaborations between businesses. Using blockchain technology we can easily improve the above factors, blockchain is increasing the trust between the unknown participants which can give a more collaborative environment to businesses, it helps to secure data and protect from anonymous access. Securing information is the major challenge in the digital world so Blockchain will take a major role in the digital transformation in the near future.

The changing face of a workplace

Disruptive technologies like Augmented Reality (AR), Virtual Reality (VR) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) are redefining the workplace. Several jobs’ skill sets are constantly evolving, and several others’ scope has been widening.

Appearition and its team of researchers are always working towards solving tomorrow’s problems, thereby enabling others’ success. One such area of our research includes a project on drawing on immersive games experiences to develop tools for workplace support in the digital economy.

It is a collaborative research project between Appearition Pty Ltd and the Swinburne University of Technology. The project combines AR and AI informed by decades of game design, to develop a support platform for future modes of collaboration, workplace learning, and decision making.

‘Appearition is very committed to this research partnership with Swinburne University. Research and Development is one of the three main arms of our company. All our platforms and services have been developed after years of rigorous research and testing. We are also constantly working towards upgrading them to fit evolving technology and people needs,’ shares Vivek Aiyer, Founder, CEO, Appearition.

A transdisciplinary research team from Games and Interactivity, Immersive Experiences, and Data Visualisation are working with us, and the Swinburne Smart Cities Research Institute, to develop a prototype platform for supporting future workplace models in urban environments rich in IoT technologies.

The why

As technologies reshape our workplace, it will require a new understanding of work to support these changes. Ventures such as Airtasker, Uber, and Airbnb are challenging traditional workplace models. They are predicated on fast-paced real-time interactions between employees, often geographically remote from each other. Although relatively simple, the core concepts of these new business structures can be applied within enterprises and between enterprise and external clients. Network connectivity, rapid exchange of data, and mobile display technologies are some of the well-established characteristics of smart city environments in which this work takes place. New platforms are needed to support these new work models, because they require employees to share and respond to real-time data quickly and collaboratively, in an improvisational construct.

The How

Online multiplayer and location-based AR games provide a readymade platform for investigating how to achieve new interactions between employees. Multiplayer games host complex ecosystems of thousands of players with distinctive attributes and experience levels. Location-based AR games embed information within urban environments ensuring data is ready-to-hand. ‘Our project aims to develop a prototype platform to support the needs of workers in the digital economy using proven methods from these game design platforms. Collaborative task attainment, group formation, decision support, environmental information overlays, role management, inventory and setting of goals are key features that the prototype system will benefit from in drawing on game design to enable smart citizens to respond to change in the workplace,’ explains John McCormick, Lecturer in Interactive Media, Swinburne University.

Games are familiar to a large percentage of next-generation work seekers and therefore do not pose a huge cultural shift. The innovation in this project is to integrate widely understood methods for player organisation and interaction with a new approach to integrating AR and AI. These technologies are changing the nature of smart cities to work beyond data collection and IoT networks to explore how these can be made tangible and relatable to those living and working in urban environments.

AR does this through the real-time integration of data with the user’s environment and context. AI filters and connects the rich data of the IoT environments of smart cities to manage interactions between players, non-player characters, and the urban environment. While integrating AI and AR is not in itself new, our project will address how the relationships between users within a company can be supported and facilitated within this type of platform. However, these technologies can be disruptive in the workplace. Drawing upon game design methodologies this project will generate a new approach to the management of dynamic, timely information displayed fluently in the workspace.

Watch this space to know more on Appearition’s research projects. Get in touch with us to know more on using AR for your business!

Magnify World 2018

It was a lot of fun being a part of Magnify World 2018. Team Appearition put up an exclusive stall and Mark Hillebrand, our Head of Professional Services, was part of a panel discussion on Education and Training.

We had several visitors at our stall, excited to know more about the disruptive technology – Augmented Reality.

A snapshot of our two days at Magnify World:

Pics 1, 2, 3, 4: Setup

Table – check
Demo – check
Screens – check
Gadgets- check
Scenes from our setup mode

Simon and Dhaya moments before the event started

Simon demonstrating the use of AR glasses

Busy stall day! Exciting voices who experienced AR for the first time, innovators who explored the use of AR for their business

Vivek (Brendan in the background) in conversation with stall visitors


Mark Hillebrand during his panel discussion

And, that’s a wrap! Look who spoke about our work: