AR Try-On: The Why and How for Fashion and Beauty

If you’re the sort of person that watches makeup tutorials on YouTube or checks out beauty products on Pinterest, you may have noticed a recent uptick in AR try-on applications popping up around the web. And if you’re not that sort of person, pay attention — try-on AR is one of the most powerful and ubiquitous forms of augmented reality, and it’s only gaining traction.

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Augmented Reality Art You Can View Right Now, at Home

Two time-limited exhibitions are upending the usual location-specific viewing conditions of AR art, allowing viewers to experience artworks from their homes. Most augmented reality artwork, like traditional physical art pieces, are site-specific — anchored to specific locations in the real world. Now, the Met Unframed eliminates the need to travel to a museum by making physical artworks accessible using XR tools, while Acute Art’s Unreal City at Home, removes the location restriction from an AR exhibition. Though these experiences have substituted one limitation (time) for another (place), until mid-February, both exhibits allow viewers to experience artworks using their phone or tablet, for free.

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Top XR Annoucements from CES 2021 to Check Out

CES, the largest electronics product showcase of the year, ran in virtual form this week. CES usually takes over Las Vegas for a week each January, and reliably creates at least a few surprising headlines. This year’s event seemed subdued, and also rather removed from the current reality, even though many of the announcements related to clean-tech or other responses to the pandemic. The XR news was similarly subdued, though this is partly because of other trends at work in the XR space. Yet there were a few exciting announcements that XR creators should keep in mind, as well as indicators of wider trends.

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It’s a Great Time to Explore Making Virtual Tours

As the pandemic drags on into 2021, limiting in-person visits to local historic and cultural institutions, I’ve been thinking more about the potential for virtual tours to help organizations better connect to their audiences. I’ll admit I wasn’t previously as attentive to the possibilities of virtual tours as I should have been — I thought mostly of their usefulness for real estate. In reality, virtual tours have an amazing potential to serve marketing needs across many industries, and particularly benefit cultural institutions.

So last month, I rented a 360 camera and arranged to work with three organizations — a house-museum, an historic church, and a school — to produce sample tours. Since my usual work involves volumetric VR and mobile AR development using a game engine, this was an interesting departure for me. Camera-based VR is an important tool for XR developers to be familiar with, even if it doesn’t become a major part of their process.

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Adobe Aero is an Artist’s Augmented Reality Playground

The recent Adobe MAX conference demonstrated that Adobe is making a serious commitment to XR creation tools — in fact, the company has slowly collected a suite of 3D tools via acquisitions that make it a major player in XR. Using Adobe tools, you can create 3D models and sculptures in VR using Medium, create materials and textures using the Substance suite, leverage 3D character models and animations from Mixamo, and create renderings of 3D environments using Dimension. 

In addition to these, Adobe moved into the AR space with the iOS-only launch of Aero at last year’s Adobe MAX. This year, the Windows and MacOS versions of Aero came out of private beta, so now every Creative Cloud user can jump into AR creation from their desktop.

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Start Your (Game) Engine — Unity vs Unreal for XR Development

For many forms of virtual and augmented reality content, a game engine is a key tool for app creation. Game engines are software that provides a pre-made solution to many interactive 3D tasks — rendering graphics to the hardware, handling audio, physics and input, for example. The game engine also provides an Editor environment that allows you to design your XR experience and implement custom behaviors.

There are forms of VR content that don’t rely too heavily on 3D engines — linear 360 videos fall into this category — but in most cases, XR creators will eventually need to gain at least some experience with a game engine.

So which engine is best for XR creators? There are many options, but two really rise to the top: Unity, and Unreal. Both provide tools for creating both AR and VR experiences as well as a large community of creators and learning resources. So, which should you choose?

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Exploring VR Experiences at the Festival du Nouveau Cinéma

Over the last few months, I’ve set the intention of spending at least a few minutes each day in VR, ideally with a new experience. Trying out a variety of XR applications and films is the best way to really understand the scope of what is possible in the medium and also avenues for branching out in new directions with your own work. 

So, I was excited to see that Viveport has partnered with the Montréal, QC Canada based Festival du Nouveau Cinéma to release a number of the festival’s VR offerings online. As difficult as it may be for festivals to adapt to Covid-era restrictions, the pandemic has opened up festival offerings to larger audiences as organizations adapt and put more offerings online. For those of us who can’t usually travel to onsite festivals, this is a great way to experience new VR pieces which might never otherwise be accessible due to VR’s distribution problems.

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Unity’s Successful IPO — What Does it Mean for XR Developers?

Unity debuted on the New York Stock Exchange (ticker ‘U’) last Friday Sept. 18, with a closing price of $68.35, a strong finish of 31.44% over the offer price. There was so much interest in the stock, that the IPO price was raised to $52, up from a previous target range of $34-$42 per share. During the day, the stock traded as high as $76.79, temporarily pushing the company’s value over $20 billion.

By Friday, Sept. 25, a week later, Unity closed at $89.85 for a market cap of 23.66B – a strong first week.

That’s good for Unity and its existing investors, but what does it mean — if anything — for XR developers?

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The Virtuality Spectrum — Understanding AR, MR, VR and XR

For those new to the immersive technology space, a first question is often about all the abbreviations used to describe the various technologies — VR, AR, MR and XR. For aspiring developers, having a good sense of the technological landscape will give you a better idea of how to start on your creation journey.

Reality-virtuality continuum infographic with examples: real environment, augmented reality, augmented virtuality and virtual reality
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These Top VR Art Apps will Transform your 3D Creation Workflow

Update: Oct 21, 2020

The most exciting VR applications to me are the many creative 3D drawing, sculpture, prototyping and animation tools available for high-end headsets. These tools let you create models and scenes for VR from within VR, giving an accurate sense as you sculpt about how the final piece is working out. Let’s get into the ups and downs (and compatibility) for the top creativity apps.

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