The Reality Wire - 27 June 2020

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This is an immersive world. Here is a selection of the stories that you may have missed this week

Featuring in The Reality Wire: University of Portsmouth, Polystream, Zero Latency VR, Apple and HTC Vive

Public-private initiative invests in creation of new XR centre to boost local economic activity

The Reality Wire - CCIXRwill feature 12 state-of-the-art XR laboratories with specialist equipment
CCIXR will feature 12 state-of-the-art XR laboratories with specialist equipment

First up in the The Reality Wire is UK-based Solent Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), a public-private investment initiative covering a coastal economic area of approximately 600 square miles. It has awarded £3.6 million to the University of Portsmouth to develop a centre dedicated to XR.

The Centre for Creative and Immersive eXtended Reality (CCIXR), as it will be known, will focus on digital skills and technology. It will feature 12 state-of-the-art XR laboratories with specialist equipment that will be used for business engagement, technical support, applied research projects and skills training.

The investment in the CCIXR will support 800 businesses, create 200 new jobs and see 500 new learners supported through courses and workshops, according to the Solent LEP, which is pitching the new XR centre as a means to boost local economic activity following the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.

Solent LEP board director SJ Hunt said: “The situation created by Covid-19 has seen an increased currency and a new resonance around digital skills and technologies. The University of Portsmouth’s CCIXR project is extremely relevant in supporting business agility going forward.”

Professor Trevor Keeble, executive dean of creative and cultural industries at the University of Portsmouth, added: “CCIXR builds on the University’s long standing expertise in creative technologies. Our staff and students work with businesses and organisations to bring value and innovation through research and development, and our many local, national and global partnerships are key to developing the skilled workforce of the future.”

“Investment in cutting-edge creative and immersive technologies will make this region a centre for the rapidly emerging immersive and extended reality industries, and we are delighted to be working in partnership with Solent LEP to develop our plans.”

‘Cloud in a box’ technology from Polystream wins ‘triple-figure’ contract for military training

The Reality Wire - The 'highly portable' system contains Polystream’s command streaming technology
The ‘highly portable’ system contains Polystream’s command streaming technology

Elsewhere in the UK, the Defence and Security Accelerator innovation scheme has awarded a “trip-figure contract” to Intel-backed deep-tech startup Polystream to develop a prototype ‘plug and play’ synthetic training technology.

The “highly portable” system contains Polystream’s command streaming technology and can be dropped into any terrain to deliver virtual 3D interactive training to 30 army soldiers, over legacy hardware.

Polystream will deliver high-fidelity scenario-based training applications via a partnership with software company Bohemia Interactive Simulations (BISim).

Multiple learning modules take place in virtual terrains of real training areas, using the latest military kit to teach tactical and operational skills. BISim’s Virtual Battlespace 3 powers the Defence Virtual Simulation programme, which is the common virtual simulation tool that the UK Ministry of Defence uses to enable interoperable, accessible and deployable virtual simulation capabilities.

Current trials of Polystream’s ‘cloud in a box’ solution with the UK Ministry of Defence have progressed well and the final trials of the technology will be being witnessed by the UK defence community before field deployment.

Bruce Grove, chief executive officer and founder of Polystream, said: “The application opportunities for synthetic training for the UK defence sector cannot be understated. It’s been great making sure our platform works on a ruggedised rack enabling the delivery of command streaming technology in any environment, which soldiers can test and break it in. We look forward to expanding upon this project with the Ministry of Defence, potentially with operational trials for larger groups and use cases.”

Oli Arup, senior vice president of product management at BISim, said: “Polystream’s technology offers a unique approach to cloud deployment of military training simulations. Its approach provides flexibility and adaptability within military network architectures where access to public cloud resources isn’t always available.”

Zero Latency VR and Ubisoft see future for location-based entertainment

Despite location-based entertainment being hit particularly hard by the Covid-19 pandemic, Zero Latency VR is looking ahead to 2021 through a new partnership with Ubisoft to create a brand new free-roaming VR gaming experience.

Currently in development, the experience is slated for release in 2021 and will be available exclusively at Zero Latency VR venues worldwide.

No further details were revealed for The Reality Wire to share. Deborah Papiernik, vice president of new business at Ubisoft, had this to say: “We are always on the lookout to propose innovative and compelling ways for gamers and non-gamers alike to explore our worlds. We have successfully adapted several franchises to location-based VR before and are excited to work with Zero Latency VR on this new experience.”

Tim Ruse, chief executive officer of Zero Latency VR, added: “We’re excited to be partnering with Ubisoft to bring a AAA brand to the Zero Latency VR System for the first time. As gamers ourselves, it’s a brand that we’re massive fans of and we’re looking forward to showcasing our new take on it!”

Apple reveals ARKit4’s depth, location anchoring and face tracking capabilities

The Reality Wire - ARKit 4 on iPadOS introduces a brand-new Depth API
ARKit 4 on iPadOS introduces a brand-new Depth API

Apple used its virtual developer conference this week to announce the release of ARKit 4.

ARKit 4 on iPadOS introduces a brand-new Depth API, creating a way to access the detailed depth information gathered by the LiDAR Scanner on iPad Pro.

The addition of Location Anchoring leverages the higher resolution data in Apple Maps to place AR experiences at a specific point in the world in iPhone and iPad apps.

And support for face tracking extends to all devices with the Apple Neural Engine and a front-facing camera, so even more users can experience the joy of AR in photos and videos.

Vive Sync’s first major update includes non-VR participation

The Reality Wire - Vive Sync meeting members are now able to attend and participate in sessions without a VR device
Vive Sync meeting members are now able to attend and participate in sessions without a VR device

Fresh off the reveal of Vive XR Suite, HTC Vive has released the first major update to Sync, the collaboration and meeting tool that has so far been used to hold more than 1,400 meetings since the open beta launched at the end of April, The Reality Wire can report.

In response to user feedback, HTC Vive has added non-VR PC participation for Vive Sync.

With this new feature, meeting members are now able to attend and participate in sessions without a VR device. Non-VR participants can communicate via voice, take screenshots, and record all from their PC. A display board will be added to meeting rooms to show the names of non-VR participants in the session to keep everyone aware of all attendees.

Other updates include casual outfits for avatars, a network speed check and reduced loading times, and desktop login so users do not need to memorise meeting IDs and passwords when entering a meeting through their headsets.

HTC Vive has also introduced left-hand support for all meeting tools, improved voice-to-text performance on PC and avatar rotation when using joystick controllers, and automatic identification of new meeting participants for 10 seconds after entry.


Images: University of Portsmouth, Polystream, Apple and HTC Vive