Connect with us

Gadgets

Facebook confirms it’s building augmented reality glasses – TechCrunch

Published

on

“Yeah! Well of course we’re working on it,” Facebook’s head of augmented reality Ficus Kirkpatrick told me when I asked him at TechCrunch’s AR/VR event in LA if Facebook was building AR glasses. “We are building hardware products. We’re going forward on this . . . We want to see those glasses come into reality, and I think we want to play our part in helping to bring them there.”

This is the clearest confirmation we’ve received yet from Facebook about its plans for AR glasses. The product could be Facebook’s opportunity to own a mainstream computing device on which its software could run after a decade of being beholden to smartphones built, controlled and taxed by Apple and Google.

This month, Facebook launched its first self-branded gadget out of its Building 8 lab, the Portal smart display, and now it’s revving up hardware efforts. For AR, Kirkpatrick told me, “We have no product to announce right now. But we have a lot of very talented people doing really, really compelling cutting-edge research that we hope plays a part in the future of headsets.”

There’s a war brewing here. AR startups like Magic Leap and Thalmic Labs are starting to release their first headsets and glasses. Microsoft is considered a leader thanks to its early HoloLens product, while Google Glass is still being developed for the enterprise. And Apple has acquired AR hardware developers like Akonia Holographics and Vrvana to accelerate development of its own headsets.

Mark Zuckerberg said at F8 2017 that AR glasses were 5 to 7 years away

Technological progress and competition seems to have sped up Facebook’s timetable. Back in April 2017, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said, “We all know where we want this to get eventually, we want glasses,” but explained that “we do not have the science or technology today to build the AR glasses that we want. We may in five years, or seven years.” He explained that “We can’t build the AR product that we want today, so building VR is the path to getting to those AR glasses.” The company’s Oculus division had talked extensively about the potential of AR glasses, yet similarly characterized them as far off.

But a few months later, a Facebook patent application for AR glasses was spotted by Business Insider that detailed using “waveguide display with two-dimensional scanner” to project media onto the lenses. Cheddar’s Alex Heath reports that Facebook is working on Project Sequoia that uses projectors to display AR experiences on top of physical objects like a chess board on a table or a person’s likeness on something for teleconferencing. These indicate Facebook was moving past AR research.

Facebook AR glasses patent application

Last month, The Information spotted four Facebook job listings seeking engineers with experience building custom AR computer chips to join the Facebook Reality Lab (formerly known as Oculus research). And a week later, Oculus’ Chief Scientist Michael Abrash briefly mentioned amidst a half-hour technical keynote at the company’s VR conference that “No off the shelf display technology is good enough for AR, so we had no choice but to develop a new display system. And that system also has the potential to bring VR to a different level.”

But Kirkpatrick clarified that he sees Facebook’s AR efforts not just as a mixed reality feature of VR headsets. “I don’t think we converge to one single device . . . I don’t think we’re going to end up in a Ready Player One future where everyone is just hanging out in VR all the time,” he tells me. “I think we’re still going to have the lives that we have today where you stay at home and you have maybe an escapist, immersive experience or you use VR to transport yourself somewhere else. But I think those things like the people you connect with, the things you’re doing, the state of your apps and everything needs to be carried and portable on-the-go with you as well, and I think that’s going to look more like how we think about AR.”

Oculus Chief Scientist Michael Abrash makes predictions about the future of AR and VR at the Oculus Connect 5 conference

Oculus virtual reality headsets and Facebook augmented reality glasses could share an underlying software layer, though, which might speed up engineering efforts while making the interface more familiar for users. “I think that all this stuff will converge in some way maybe at the software level,” Kirkpatrick said.

The problem for Facebook AR is that it may run into the same privacy concerns that people had about putting a Portal camera inside their homes. While VR headsets generate a fictional world, AR must collect data about your real-world surroundings. That could raise fears about Facebook surveilling not just our homes but everything we do, and using that data to power ad targeting and content recommendations. This brand tax haunts Facebook’s every move.

Startups with a cleaner slate like Magic Leap and giants with a better track record on privacy like Apple could have an easier time getting users to put a camera on their heads. Facebook would likely need a best-in-class gadget that does much that others can’t in order to convince people it deserves to augment their reality.

You can watch our full interview with Facebook’s director of camera and head of augmented reality engineering Ficus Kirkpatrick from our TechCrunch Sessions: AR/VR event in LA:

Source link

Continue Reading
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Gadgets

Despite big Marvel and Star Wars shows, Disney+ falls short of targets

Published

on

Enlarge / Meta-sitcom/adventure series WandaVision was one of Disney+’s most successful recent shows.

YouTube/Disney+

Analysts expected Disney+ to reach 109 million subscribers in Disney’s most recent financial quarter, but the streaming service fell short, landing at 103.6 million. The shortfall resulted in lower revenues than expected for the company and a small stock price stumble.

Alongside word that Netflix also saw fairly slow growth in its quarter, the news suggests that there is, in fact, a limit to the explosive growth that streaming platforms have experienced amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Still, Disney is staying the course with its current strategy of pumping out TV series in established Disney brands like Marvel and Star Wars, as well as releasing new motion pictures on the platform at the same time they premiere in theaters.

Speaking to investors, Disney CEO Bob Chapek pointed to the Star Wars TV series The Mandalorian as evidence that launching new properties on streaming services can be successful, noting that merchandise sales related to the show were “extraordinary.” (In other words, people are buying a lot of Baby Yoda plushies and the like.)

As such, live-action Disney film Cruella, Marvel movie Black Widow, and Dwayne Johnson vehicle Jungle Cruise will be released simultaneously on Disney+ and in theaters, even as most theaters in the United States have now reopened as vaccination rates in the country rise.

At least on the business side of things, this subscriber tally is widely seen as a significant disappointment and a worrying trend for Disney’s goal of streaming dominance. For example, financial publication CNBC described Disney’s slowing subscriber growth as “Netflix-itis,” given that Netflix also has struggled to keep the wheels turning as fast as they used to.

Disney+’s situation is arguably more concerning, because Disney+’s monthly fee is already quite low at $7.99 per month, inclusive of UltraHD streaming—less than Netflix’s $8.99 for SD, $13.99 for HD, and $17.99 for UltraHD. That doesn’t give Disney a lot of flexibility.

Still, Disney+ is one of the most successful streaming services, and it’s a testament to that success that it is even compared directly to Netflix. Most other services like HBO Max or Paramount+ have far fewer subscribers than either Disney+ or Netflix.

Content offerings and prices are obviously the biggest factors in competition between these platforms, but tech plays a part, too. Streaming services have attempted to outdo one another in a sort of bitrate arms race. For example, HBO’s platforms used to be infamous for poor video quality compared to Netflix and others, but when HBO Max adopted 4K HDR streaming for the premiere of Wonder Woman 1984 in December, the company also significantly improved streaming quality overall.

Continue Reading

Gadgets

TSMC is considering a 3 nm foundry in Arizona

Published

on

Enlarge / In a few years, Phoenix residents will be seeing a lot more of this logo.

Reuters reports that TSMC—Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company, the chip foundry making advanced processors for Apple, AMD, and Qualcomm—is beefing up its plans to build factories in Arizona while turning away from an advanced plant in Europe.

Last year, TSMC announced that it would invest $10-$12 billion to build a new 5 nm capable foundry near Phoenix, Arizona. According to Reuters’ sources, TSMC officials are considering trebling the company’s investment by building a $25 billion second factory capable of building 3 nm chips. More tentative plans are in the works for 2 nm foundries as the Phoenix campus grows over the next 10-15 years as well.

US President Joe Biden called for $50 billion to subsidize US chip manufacturing facilities, and the US Senate may take action on the item this week. Strong domestic manufacturing capacity is seen as critical, since US chip firms such as Nvidia and Qualcomm rely on Asian manufacturing facilities. TSMC would be competing with Samsung and Intel to secure these Biden administration subsidies.

Intel and Samsung are also increasing investment in US manufacturing facilities. Intel is building two new fabs in Arizona near its existing Chandler facility, and Samsung is building a $17 billion plant in Texas.

The European Union is also courting domestic chip manufacturing facilities—its industry commissioner Thierry Breton has spoken to officials from both Intel and TSMC. The talks seem to have gone better for Intel than TSMC. Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger proposed a $10 billion deal to build a new European factory, while TSMC officials say that although European possibilities aren’t ruled out, they have no plans to build there.

TSMC’s focus on the US rather than Europe may have a lot to do with the company’s market—in Q1 2021, 67 percent of its sales were in North America, 17 percent were in Asia Pacific, and only 6 percent came from Europe and the Middle East. The majority of TSMC’s European clients are auto manufacturers who buy cheaper and less-advanced chips.

Continue Reading

Gadgets

Google Pixel 6 leak shows off distinctive new design

Published

on

The Pixel 6 promises to be a landmark device for Google, as it is expected to mark the debut of the Google-developed “Whitechapel” SoC, instead of the Qualcomm chips the search giant has shipped in all of its previous devices. To go along with the revamped insides, it appears the outside is seeing some major design changes, too—if the newest leak is to be believed.

This first look at the Pixel 6 design comes to us from YouTuber Jon Prosser. Prosser claims he was sent live, hands-on images of the device, and while he isn’t sharing the actual images, he teamed up with a render artist to depict the device based on those images.

Prosser’s track record when it comes to Google leaks is not the greatest. Just last month he claimed the Pixel 5a was “canceled,” but that assertion was publicly shot down by Google. This leak has a bit more believability to it, as it was also backed up by Android Police’s Max Weinbach, though he says the colors aren’t accurate.

The most striking thing about the design is the back, which now features a big horizontal camera bump that stretches edge to edge across the phone. It’s definitely distinctive. The renders show two sizes, which Prosser says will be called the “Pixel 6” and “Pixel 6 Pro.” Previously Google named the bigger phone “XL,” but the Pixel line, which has always been about chasing Apple, naturally had to align with Apple’s naming scheme. Prosser doesn’t have exact specs, but the Pro model has three rear cameras, and the base model has two.

Google is reportedly teaming up with Samsung to build the Pixel 6’s Whitechapel SoC, and maybe that’s why the front of the Pixel 6 looks kind of Samsung-y. The Pixel 5 had shallow corners, while the Pixel 6 has sharper display corners, making it look more like a Galaxy Note. The Pixel 5 had a hole punch off to the left side, while the Pixel 6, like a modern Samsung phone, puts it in the center. Prosser also said that “the glass curves around the edges a bit,” which would also make it more like a Samsung phone, as the Pixel 5 display was flat. Another change is an in-screen fingerprint reader; Google has previously gone with a rear capacitive reader.

Nobody knows the specs of this phone yet, and unlike most flagships, there is actually a potential for variance here, since the Pixel 5 was a mid-range phone with a Snapdragon 765G SoC. Is this still a mid-range phone? Will Google’s SoC make any noise from a performance standpoint, or is it just a play for more control over the SoC kernel and a longer window for software updates? We still have a ton of unanswered questions about this phone, but fortunately for us, Google’s hardware team is not great at keeping secrets.

Continue Reading

Trending