DroneBase unveils augmented reality platform for UAV pilots

AirCraft dronebase AR platform

The DroneBase AirCraft platform allows pilots to build structures in the sky with GPS-based augmented reality. It’s expected to be used for pilot training, among other things. 

The ability to overlay a virtual image onto our view of the real world has enormous potential. At least that’s what industry reports relating to the insurance, logistics and retail sectors have stated – but plenty of businesses are still uncertain over the commercial future of augmented reality (AR). Finding a practical use for such a specific technology isn’t easy.

California startup DroneBase is a leading platform connecting drone pilots with work and potential clients. It has an active community of professional pilots, including plenty who are looking to make the transition from being a hobbyist into paid missions. As such, DroneBase is in an ideal position to test out new technologies and experiment with AR.

Read more: Why manufacturers should welcome the age of augmented reality

Potential AirCraft applications

The AirCraft platform adds a new element to the standard DroneBase application. With it, pilots are able to build three-dimensional structures in the sky using colored blocks.

Any building platform transforming the sky into an open canvas has plenty of creative potential,  particularly when AirCraft allows for more than one pilot to collaborate on the same project.

Applications range from aerial works of art to virtual race tracks and pilot training. The latter may be of most interest to enterprises and individuals. It’s easy to see how practising on virtual courses could help pilots improve their skills and a low-risk environment.

The flexibility of the platform could also allow for specific designs to aid pilot training, from (admittedly crude) oil rigs to telecoms towers or houses. All are commonly inspected with drones, so pilots looking to improve the speed and efficiency of operations could benefit from running through the flight with AR beforehand.

But just as important is getting pilots flying. Plenty of hobbyists buy a drone only to forget about it as it gathers dust in the garage. “AirCraft gives pilots of all skill levels new reasons to fly their drones,” said Dan Burton, Founder and CEO, DroneBase.

“We believe AirCraft allows your drone to evolve from a camera in the sky to your cursor in the sky. Pilots can use our AR technology to create giant works of art or a drone racecourse or more practical commercial applications like rendering a CAD model at a construction site or evaluating a post-disaster insurance claim.”

Read more: Upskill’s augmented reality tech makes impact at GE

DroneBase hands over the controls

Although there are obvious commercial applications, the DroneBase team has been careful not to limit its AR platform to any single use case. As you might expect from a first-of-its-kind technology, AirCraft is somewhat experimental.

DroneBase’s Burton expects the platform to be the catalyst for plenty of creativity and for community-driven use cases to emerge over time.

“Since the possibilities are endless, we’re looking to our community of pilots to see what they will build, how they will use this technology, and what they want next”.

Read more: DJI launches FlightHub for drone fleet management

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Take me out to the (augmented) ball game

eyeq demo

Disclaimer: Parle Innovation and the eyeQ were part of ReadWrite Labs, ReadWrite’s IoT accelerator. I also act as an informal adviser for the company.

Since the first sporting events were broadcast on radio in 1921, technology has continually changed the way fans experience games. Now, a personal smartphone accessory may significantly enhance the viewing of live events in stadiums, athletic fields and even at the local park.

Augmented reality becomes reality

Most sports fans have no idea what augmented reality (AR) is – but they have been experiencing AR as they watch football and other live sports on TV for over a decade.  Similar to the “green screen” used on the weather channel, PVI’s (Princeton Video Image) introduced L-VIS (Live Video Insertion System) to display advertising on “virtual signage” during live sports broadcasts in 1995.

Then, in 1998 both PVI and SportVision introduced virtual first down lines to pro football, with PVI’s “Yellow Down Line” and SportVision’s “1st and Ten” line.  Since then AR has come to baseball and hockey with SportVision’s “Virtual Strike Zone” and their “FoxTrax” puck tracker.  Obviously, AR has now become a standard feature in TV broadcasting of pro sports, including football, baseball, basketball, hockey, soccer and motorsports.

Now imagine that baseball and other sports fans can see the game at the stadium with the same types of AR viewing.  Some of the features of live broadcast data have already been demonstrated to fans in the stands.  In September, Apple’s ARKit was promoted at a San Francisco Giants baseball game with the introduction of MLB’s At Bat App, allowing fans to gain up to the minute stats on players taking the field.

The biggest problem with the MLB app technology was the device itself.  Fans had to point their iPads or iPhones at the field or at players.  The fans were basically watching a live baseball game through an Apple device they would hold inches from their faces.  In the bright outdoor lighting conditions of a live event, the viewing is terrible.

Tech company Parle Innovation’s eyeQ, immersive smart binoculars can take AR to a new level with sports fans. The company wants to eliminate the separation created by a digital device when watching a sporting event through an iPad or smartphone.  No more fiddling with the phone to look up stats on MLB.com or Wikipedia.  Fans can get stats, overlay graphics and more with this new smartphone enabled device that gets them into the game like never before.

What is eyeQ?

The eyeQ device takes the idea of fans gaining up to the minute information by offering an immersive augmented reality binocular, eyeQ provides sports fans with the chance to see baseball and other events thru HD lenses that enhance the display on the smartphone’s screen. One day, eyeQ immersive binoculars could be seen in sports stadiums around the globe as this cutting-edge technology creates a unique viewing experience.

eyeQ isn’t just for live professional sports, however. What makes the new tech device great, is anyone can use it for any sports activity or live event. Whether a proud dad wants to use eyeQ to stream his child’s soccer match to grandparents on the other side of the globe or a mom wants to record special moments of her family vacation, eyeQ offers a number of amazing features and possibilities for AR never experienced before on smartphone apps.

How does it work?

eyeQ is designed to be simple and users of the immersive smart binoculars can be using them in no time. Users simply download an app, sync with the eyeQ and place their smartphone into the universal mount and hold the binoculars up to the eyes for viewing.

Once the user is looking thru the eyeQ  device, they can capture videos, images and stream live video to devices elsewhere with a tap of a fingertip. The idea of streaming video will completely change the way people view live sporting events. Whether professional baseball games or amateur soccer, eyeQ users can stream what they are viewing in real time to other individuals. In the future, sports teams of all levels could use the eyeQ to further engage fans. Go into the huddle or step into the box against a big league pitcher. The future of immersive augmented reality is limitless.

Using the eyeQ

Using the eyeQ is easy and far less complicated than one might expect. The binocular’s integrated touchpad enables users to control their smartphone’s camera functions and more. There is no need to constantly remove the phone to change settings or toggle through apps. Once in the smartphone mount holder, the eyeQ instantly connects to the smartphone, wirelessly via Bluetooth. Fans and spectators can video record, snap photos and share while live streaming and seeing everything in stunning HD. The device’s eyeQ Live app for iPhones enables up to16x digital zoom capabilities and eyeQ can be used around water, since it is made to be water resistant.

AR binoculars for sports

Major League Baseball and other sports leagues around the globe are embracing augmented reality technology. “Smart” fans are all about knowing more about players and their favorite teams. Baseball is one sport that prides itself on stats, and with the time it takes to play a full nine inning game, fans can fill dead space with AR apps.

However, eyeQ  enhances AR apps. It gives fans the immersive experience they want, but delivers more than what a simple downloadable AR app can, by enabling the zoom capabilities, enhancing the viewing, video and photo capturing and live sharing of exciting moments in the game.

eyeQ is coming

On October 17, 2017, the eyeQ will be available for preorder on Kickstarter. Sports fans and others can preorder their own eyeQ device and see the world through immersive AR, rather than an iPad or device being held six inches or more from their face.   eyeQlive.com/earlybacker   Mary Shulenberger mary@parleinnovation.com  415 518-1231   @eyeQlive

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Simplifying Remote Tech Support Using ‘Augmented Reality’ | Moving Towards An AR Future!

Simplifying Remote Tech Support Using ‘Augmented Reality’ | Moving Towards An AR Future!

A new Augmented reality (AR) app holds great potential to fundamentally change the way we interact with each other and solve our daily queries. To cope up with the growing IoT market, Intel has launched a free software development kit (SDK) which helps companies provision IoT devices automatically and securely. Finally, Eurotech’s new, compact IoT gateway featuring LTE connectivity is now available for industrial and lightly rugged applications.

Blending ‘Augmented reality’ Into Real Life

Vuforia’s new Augmented reality (AR) app, dubbed ‘Chalk’, is much like a video conferencing app which helps to allow a person offer remote tech assistance to another person by connecting the cameras between their smartphones. People can use their finger or stylus to make chalk marks (e.g. circle, arrows) and point out interesting features on the own device, which appear on the screen of the recipient’s device in real-time. Chalk also includes audio, allowing people to talk and solve the problem efficiently. For instance, you can help your parents to find the correct TV remote or explain how to operate it. You can also use it to get tech help from a plumber or electrician. Vuforia Chalk currently uses Apple’s ARKit, so it’s only available for Apple phones and tablets that support ARKit and are running the latest version of iOS. Support for additional devices such as Google’s Android is planned in future. Read more.

IoT Provisioning Solution Helps Install Devices Automatically

Helping the industry solve a huge problem around provisioning IoT devices,  Intel has developed the Intel Secure Device solution. The SDK gives companies a way to provision automatically and ensure that whatever the device — a smart light bulb, a sensor on a piece of equipment or a video camera — is a sanctioned device and can be installed securely automatically without human intervention. Read more.

New IoT Gateway With LTE Connectivity

Eurotech expands its IoT gateway portfolio by introducing the new ReliaGATE 10-12 with integrated LTE connectivity. The firm has also announced two expansion modules for extended I/O capabilities and LoRa LPWAN connectivity. ReliaGATE 10-12 is based on the TI AM3352 Cortex-A8 (Sitara) processor running at 1-GHz. Application areas include: data collection telemetry, energy monitoring, embedded industrial, brownfield connectivity, remote maintenance of field devices, etc. Read more.


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Why manufacturers should welcome the age of augmented reality

Why manufacturers should welcome the age of augmented reality

In a contributed article for Internet of Business, co-authors JP Provencher of PTC and Michael Chang of Factora dig down into how augmented reality could make vital factory work faster, safer and more accurate.

Seven short years ago, the process of setting centerlines for manufacturing plant operators – defining a series of checks to verify whether equipment was running on the right settings – could be a rather clumsy business, even at Fortune 500 companies. It typically involved manual loggers, each the shape and size of a brick and each equipped with 50 or so rubbery buttons.

Today, at Factora, we now regularly see operators conduct their centerline rounds with smartphones and tablets. With access to these devices, augmented reality (AR) suddenly becomes a realistic option for operators to immediately visualize the task at hand and get it performed faster and more accurately.

How big a change is that? To get an idea of its scope, let’s start with a few facts. First, experts say our vision accounts for two-thirds of the brain’s electrical activity when our eyes are open. Second, forty percent of all nerve fibers connected to the brain are linked to the retina. And last, more of our neurons are dedicated to vision than the other four senses combined.

In other words, we humans are visually driven.

Now, you could argue that we’ve had visual information for a while. In the case above, operators could hunt down and reference a binder or workstation, in order to review what centerlines they were supposed to track. And this reference material would often contain photos of the controls and settings involved. Follow the diagram closely and – easy peasy – it could be just like assembling flat-packed Swedish furniture.

Read more: In headsets battle, augmented reality for business to dominate, says IDC

Centerlining with AR and the IoT

But today, with AR, we can enhance the efficiency of the whole process by allowing operators to instantaneously see exactly what and where they’re supposed to be making their checks. And if, connected via IoT, they can also see the real-time values they need to record, all via a mobile device.

So how does this look in practice?

Imagine an operator simply pointing their tablet at a piece of manufacturing plant floor equipment. Instantly, a 3D image of the three knobs he or she needs to check pops up on the screen, say two in front and one at the back. Perhaps a text box then appears above each knob, providing them with a place to simply enter the setting? Or perhaps by touching a virtualized knob and rotating left or right – magic! – they can enter the setting.

Read more: PTC offers free trial of ThingWorx Studio for augmented reality

Digital conversations

In a recent blog article, Neil Gupta, founder of Boston Augmented Reality, a non-profit AR accelerator, writes: “AR will be the interface for humans to take part in the digital conversation that machines are having on manufacturing floors.” 

At Factora, we believe that the IoT and AR are natural partners, particularly in light of human capabilities: the IOT captures what is going on in the physical world, and represents it in the digital world; AR brings that insight back into the physical world.

Manufacturers are now leveraging the power of this partnership to visualize things that were previously inaccessible in the real-world environment. By placing digital overlays of instructions, sensor data and so on onto physical reality, AR can help operators do things more quickly and accurately. In other words, it’s about getting tasks right first time.

As an example, think of a typical electronics company with 50-plus SKUs [stock keeping units]: after pulling a product from the production line, the QA [quality assurance] technician can use AR to virtualize the product, viewing step-by-step instructions on how to unpack it and what to check. AR for a laptop, for example, might include displaying to them a rotating virtual laptop that indicates where each screw should be inserted.

Read more: This augmented reality smartphone app wants to control all your IoT devices

Benefits and challenges

Unquestionably, AR promises major benefits. But several challenges still block the way: a shortage of skilled resources; complexity of incorporating IoT data and AR content; inefficient re-use of existing 3D assets for authoring experience; and the difficulty in finding the right app for the right task.

So at this embryonic stage in AR’s development and adoption by manufacturing, partnerships are key. A global steel company, for example, is currently deploying ThingWorx Studio from PTC in order to integrate its different visualization and analytical tools into a single IoT platform. This makes it faster and easier for the company to extend and deploy new capabilities, maximizing the limited real estate in its control rooms that currently have multiple displays for all the different systems.

Companies like this one understand deploying AR is not a one-time event, but rather a journey – and they have a vision of how AR will make it safer for their operators to do their work.

They’re now expecting personnel to be able to see into the performance and status of vessels and rolling machines without physically having to touch them, to be able to simplify control room visualization with a single AR display, and to walk around the plant with a tablet while maintaining assets using 3D instructions in an AR tool.

To them, these benefits are a natural extension of maximizing their investments to drive increased safety and profitability.

With this technology and innovation, immersive experiences can be built in just minutes – no programming skills required – and can take advantage of existing 3D assets built with CAD tools. The operational efficiency of a smart factory is propelled to the next level.

So, how are you going to bring AR to your factory and take your own company’s operational efficiencies several big steps beyond where they stand today?

About the authors: JP Provencher is vice president of manufacturing strategy and solutions at PTC, the technology company behind ThingWorx Studio, while Michael Chang is a senior manufacturing systems consultant at Factora, a consultancy firm that helps manufacturing organizations acquire and leverage the information they need to run more efficiently.

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Internet of Business

Google launches augmented reality app ARCore for Android


Google has launched its own augmented reality kit for developers, called ARCore, a lighter version of the company’s Tango platform that does not require any specialized hardware to run.

ARCore is a light software development kit, similar to Apple’s ARkit, which is able to track motion, understand flat surfaces, and estimate where the light will be for accurate shadows.

See Also: Glass restarted after two years in the dark

The SDK is currently available on Android 7.0 Nougat and its successor Android Oreo. It will work on the Google Pixel and the Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus. Google is aiming for 100 million supported devices by the end of the year, according to The Verge.

Google has been working on Project Tango for three years now, launching specialized smartphones with Lenovo and Asus. The devices had depth perception functionality, because of the dual-cameras, creating the “six degrees of freedom” found on high-end virtual reality (VR) headsets.

Not a lot of consumer interest yet

While the project attracted developer attention, the two devices launched didn’t receive consumer interest. Google is now looking at ARCore as a possible bridge for consumers that are interested in augmented reality, but don’t want to spend $ 500 on a single purpose smartphone.

Google did not say if it plans to launch an ARCore supported Glass device in the near future.

Like Apple’s ARkit, Google’s demos have focused on animated objects appearing on surfaces and interior design. IKEA is building a new app that will show its entire catalogue in AR on iOS.

As its Google, there is an obvious ulterior motive to making AR easily accessible, visual search. In the future, a user may be able to pull out their phone and see information on businesses in the street, alongside featured stores and offers. Apple has already patented a similar idea.

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