Evolution and Entertainment: Access to Virtual Reality is Empowering and Entertaining the Public

Evolution and Enterainment | Ben SheehyVirtual reality, much like artificial intelligence, machine learning, and the internet of things is one of those techy terms that the average person has probably heard about but not bothered to learn about beyond a superficial understanding. You may think that virtual reality seems cool in theory but is altogether superfluous and unnecessary- much like hoverboards, 3D televisions, or the Apple Watch. An interesting idea, but not worth the expensive price tag.

If your understanding of virtual reality stops at video games and exploring the world from your couch through a bulky headset, then you might want to change your way of thinking. The virtual reality you think you know is not the one that will shape the future. Virtual reality is evolving beyond its application in gaming and changing the way we shop, the way we are entertained, and the way we experience life. Here are some of the ways that virtual reality both empowers and entertains, explaining why it is such a revolutionary technology.

Empowerment

Twenty years ago, ordering an item online was virtually unheard of. Amazon was founded as an online book distributor in 1994 but didn’t take off until the implementation of high-speed internet. If you wanted to purchase something outside of a store, you found it in a catalog and dialed a number to speak with a sales representative.

Virtual reality takes the instant gratification of e-commerce one step further and puts more power into the hands of the buyer by allowing them greater control over their purchases. Through simulation of ownership, consumers can fully understand a product before making a purchase. For example, GPS technology allows home buyers to check out the property before viewing it with a realtor or tourists to scope out an area before committing to a trip. Consumers can get an idea of the size, condition, and uses of the product before buying it – think of it as a test drive. Spatially referenced shopping allows online shoppers to navigate through a brick-and-mortar store virtually, the advantages being better memory retention and the possibility of stumbling upon something unexpected.

Advances in virtual reality are even helping veterans overcome PTSD. With virtual reality, veterans can enter a virtual war zone where they relive the horrors of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in a controlled environment through a form of treatment known as exposure therapy. The idea behind this therapy is that through habituation, traumatic memories will be robbed of their power over time. When between 11 and 20 percent of soldiers who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan between 2001 and 2010 experience PTSD in a given year and nearly half do not seek treatment, this unconventional method could be a groundbreaking new treatment option.

Entertainment

Remember when Wii Sports came out and you got to feel like skilled athletes just by waving some nunchucks around? Virtual reality takes sports simulation to the next level by allowing people to step into the shoes of their favorite athletes, as 13-year-old Nicholas Montes experienced with the Esurance Behind the Plate with Buster Posey VR Experience at the All-Star FanFest in Miami Beach, Florida. This virtual reality simulator allows baseball fans to “catch” balls traveling at velocities of 86-93 mph from a generic pitcher. A sensitized glove even simulates the sensation of catching the ball.

Gaming may be the most obvious application for virtual reality, but it is important to remember that virtual reality is, first and foremost, an agent for storytelling. It has a variety of practical applications, particularly for the entertainment industry and business start-ups. The film industry is already capitalizing on the potential of VR as an innovative and immersive storytelling experience, while businesses such as Icelandic start-up Mure VR are using virtual reality to promote workplace wellness.

Virtual reality may still be in its early stage as a practical and readily accepted form of technology; however, these examples serve as a reminder that nothing is inherently useless. It all comes down to how you use it. Need even more evidence of VR’s staying power? It is no longer a privilege reserved for the wealthy, as the Oculus Rift headset just went down in price, from $599 to $399, to make VR headsets “a part of daily life for billions of people,” as Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced in 2014.

VR Update: Google’s Daydream View Vows To Be The Best Mobile Headset Ever

Google DayDream View

Described as cutting-edge and an incredible piece of the VR puzzle, Google’s Daydream View is eager to surpass the mixed-reality efforts of others.

Daydream View is a virtual reality headset that’s made available on Google’s Daydream virtual reality platform, powered by any Daydream-ready phone (Pixel, Moto Z, Mate 9 Pro, Axon 7, Galaxy S8, and ZenFone AR). The easy-to-sport headset is partnered with a sleek controller that’s designed with both gamers and non-gamers in mind.

According to Google, The inspiration for the wearable design is casual wear. Dressed in breathable fabric, the headset is meant to convey effortless style and comfort. In its many colors (slate, snow, and crimson), the visual set is lightweight, breathable, and the face pad is hand-washable. The device also fits over most eyeglasses.

The controller paired with the headset is imbued with functionality and intuitiveness. It’s been described as a “magic wand, and it aids with seamless interaction in the virtual world, with the same ease one might interact with tangible items in the real world. There are numerous smart sensors installed in the remote, which allows it to track motion and movements. Volume control also sits at the user’s’ fingertips, helping them to experience more at their own measurement.

Google Daydream 2.0 Euphrates, a revision to the standard, allows for users to share what they’re viewing with others, which is made possible by Google’s Chromecast technology. Chromecast or Cast-enabled television can capture and showcase the virtual experience, which can typically be a lonely one. Socializing the virtual experience allows spectators to react to breathtaking graphics and immersive images. HTC Vive and Oculus Rift, headsets that are far more expensive, permit this type of sharing with the use of cords connecting to televisions. However, the Google device doesn’t ask that you use cords.

The virtual platform, which is “baked” into a number of recently fashioned Androids, supports the remarkable headset, which is functionally different from Samsung’s Gear VR, thanks to its comfortable frame and its remote/touch pad. It’s these additional features that promise uninterrupted navigation. Daydream View normally costs $79 and it began shipping in early November 2016. Google Daydream 2.0 Euphrates was announced in early 2017.

Google recently acquired Owlchemy Labs, the creator of numerous virtual reality apps, namely Tiltbrush, Google Earth and Job Simulator. While these apps don’t presently work with the Daydream device, they do work with HTC Vive and Oculus Rift, this will likely change in the near future.

Google Drives Better Than You

ben sheehy denver colorado google cars drive better than youI recently blogged about Google’s efforts to seek suppliers for their new self-driving cars, which you can find here. Six years since beginning to test their self-driving cars, Google happily claims that they are indeed better drivers than your average human motorist. In those six years, Google’s fleet of 20+ self-driving vehicles have had 11 accidents, all of which Google says were caused by nothing more than human error and not the autonomous vehicles.

Chris Urmson, the director of Google’s self-driving car program, calls the 11 accidents minor, involving a few dents and scratches and notes that not once during any of those collisions was a Google car responsible. Instead, many of the accidents were caused by other nearby drivers who have crashed into Google’s cars from behind at traffic lights, side-swiped or hit some of the cars by not following the rules of the road. Most of the accidents occurred on city streets rather than freeways, which should come as a relief and a surprise to people who feared how an autonomous car would perform in fast-moving traffic.

So what makes Google’s autonomous car algorithm a better driver than the rest of us? According to Urmson, it all comes down to how much attention we put on the road versus how much attention a machine puts on the road and everything else around it. Humans are easily and often distracted; Urmson cites statistics that indicate that at any given moment, there are 660,000 people distracted behind the wheel either by checking their devices or other distractions. Currently, Google’s self-driving cars have a safety-driver, a human that is present in case anything does go wrong on the part of the car, and those drivers have witnessed other drivers doing rather strange and very distracting things while on the road. Reading books is a common one, but so is playing a trumpet apparently.

Google’s cars will not be reading books or playing trumpets while rolling down a city street. Instead, the latest sensors on Google’s cars come with 360 degree visibility and 100% attention on the road in all directions at all times. They can also track vehicles, pedestrians and cyclist from a distance of close to two football fields. Looks like they have us humans beat there.

The Next Version of Google Glass

ben sheehy google glass servicenow tech blogGoogle Glass has not taken off like other products and services provided by Google, but that doesn’t mean they are done with it. We still see the occasional person wearing the Google Glass, but what is next?

According to TechCrunch, Google is currently working on their next version of Glass. The new version is reported to have replaced Texas Instruments for Intel. The first version of Glass had a few things that could be improved on such as longer battery life and a less bulky case. Additionally, the first device looked incredibly, as some would say, “nerdy,” or like something from the future. It is possible they would be more popular if the style were more current, or if it looked like an everyday device.

The first update since the creation of Google Glass was to make the system compatible with prescription lenses and the second update doubled the amount of RAM. While we do not know much about other updates, we do know that Glass is reported to be powered by an unknown Intel chipset. This is the first significant update to the product since 2012.

Intel has recently made moves to join the wearable, mobile chipset market, which it had been resisting previously. At last year’s International CES, Intel revealed their mobile goals and showed some wearable computing devices as demos. Later they announced the MICA, a refined, niche wearable computer. The idea of the MICA is that it is a non-computer looking computer. MICA stands for My Intelligent Communications Accessory. You can find more about this computer bracelet here. If Intel is creating the mobile chip that powers the next Google Glass, that would be a huge win for Intel, improving their reputation.

Gaming Industry Helps US Economy

ben sheehy servicenow gaming industry blogIf you have been following updates on the economy here in the United States, then it should come as no surprise that there is reason to be optimistic. Unemployment is down to 5.8 percent, which translates to hundreds and thousands of new jobs according to monthly job reports. Attribute these numbers to a political party if you must, but the fact of the matter is the video game industry is partially responsible for creating jobs.

In a report released this week by the Entertainment Software Association, business grew by more than 9 percent annually from 2009 to 2012. With the economy hit as badly as it was in 2009, it is hard to imagine any businesses were able to grow at that rate. In fact, during these years, the US economy was only growing at around 2% annually. High-paying manufacturing jobs were disappearing while some of the creative industries were continuing to generate growth. The gaming industry was responsible for contributing approximately $6 billion to the US economy in 2012.

The study also found that the gaming industry can claim approximately 42,000 employees working throughout 36 states. Estimates put employment as a direct and indirect result of the gaming industry at around 146,000 individuals. With an average salary lying between $90,000 and $100,000 it is easy to see how playing video games for all those years is actually paying off. These numbers may help parents sleep at night when they wonder how to get their kids active and away from the gaming consoles.

According to the Chief Executive Officer Michael Gallagher of the Entertainment Software Association, “The high-energy, high-tech video game industry is rapidly producing some of the most valuable jobs in the U.S. economy.” He also added, “Our industry is one of the nation’s fastest growing economic sectors and represents tens of thousands of high-paying, well-educated professionals, artists, and creators.” A consistent 9 percent economic growth allowed publishers and developers to reinvest in their companies, resulting in increased employment.

As gaming becomes more accessible and technology continues to advance, one has to believe that these numbers will remain consistent for some time.

NASA Partners with Boeing and SpaceX

ben sheehy servicenow blog nasa boeing spacexAs we have witnessed the consistent efforts by congress to slash and cut the NASA budget, many have wondered what may lie ahead for our beloved space program.  Budget cuts present a real threat to the goals and ambitions of the NASA program.  Bill Nye, head of the Planetary Society, and well-known figure in today’s science, has expressed these shared concerns in a letter to President Obama.  Despite cuts, the Obama administration has not completely neglected NASA programs, repeatedly insisting the U.S. should not rely on foreign nations to get into space.  One might suggest that recent heated relations with Russia have provided quite the catalyst.

In the wake of proposed budget cuts and uncertainty of these NASA programs, the private industry has taken the lead.  Companies from all over the aerospace industry have submitted proposals to NASA, exposing a light at the end of the tunnel – a very bright light.  NASA announced earlier this month that it will be partnering with American companies Boeing and SpaceX with the hopes of returning space launches to American soil.  Both have already submitted designs to transport astronauts to the International Space Station, which could be operational within a few years.

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Over the last 2 years, SpaceX and Orbital Sciences have initiated the pathway for US-launched missions by transporting cargo to the International Space Station.  With the help of Boeing and SpaceX, NASA is closer to taxiing astronauts to and from space.  Not only will we end our reliance on Russia, but we will bring human spaceflight launches back to American soil.

NASA is launching a new and ambitious chapter of the iconic American program.  SpaceX founder and Tesla Motors CEO, Elon Musk, remains enthusiastic as he publicly expresses his vision for the future of space travel.  The dreamers at SpaceX and Boeing possess the vision and knowhow to accomplish these goals.  Today, we are a step closer to launching our astronauts into space from U.S. soil on American-made spacecraft.  Tomorrow may find us closer to putting humans on Mars.  The future is bright.

Google, Amazon Facing Obstacles With Drone Development

This Thursday, Google revealed its newest experiment – Project Wing – which is an experimental program that features a drone delivery service. And Google revealed the project in its typical dramatic fashion, releasing a video that featured an unmanned drone delivering dog treats in Australia.

The drone, which looked like a mixture of a plane and a helicopter, is part of Google’s long-term projects division called Google X.

A major obstacle, however, still exists for Google and Amazon – the FAA does not allow drones to be used for commercial reasons. On top of that, the governing body has passed laws specifically targeting unmanned drone delivery service. That’s why Google and Amazon have taken their testing overseas.

Google ran its test runs in Australia while Amazon worked out the kinks over in India. Amazon’s program is known as Amazon Prime Air.

Outside of the laws, Google and Amazon face other challenges. For starters, could this type of service even be profitable? Current drones do not have the capacity to carry large or heavy objects. And would consumers trust a drone to deliver a $500 iPhone? On top of that, these aircrafts have not been tested in highly-populated areas.

Also, what type of air-traffic control is in place for these drones? Currently, there is none. This is something that researchers at NASA are working on at Moffett Field, located (conveniently) only four miles from Google’s headquarters in Mountain View, California. This program would not only monitor traffic but also weather and wind; since drones are so light, wind affects them greatly.

But this system would have to go even further than that. Due to the low altitudes that drones are flown at, they would have to be alert of buildings, power lines, low-flying helicopters, etc. And it would get rid of people altogether, using computers and algorithms to calculate each drones’ next move.

While a drone delivery services seems a long ways away from becoming a viable service, many experts are predicting that drones will soon have an impact in a variety of other areas. Drones are already being used for crop dusting — soon, drones will expand further into agriculture. Dr. Parimal H. Kopardekar, a NASA principal investigator, said that he expects drones to soon monitor assets such as crops or even oil pipelines.

The Federal Aviation Administration, however, is still the largest obstacle for these companies to overcome. One spokesman from the FAA said that it is expecting to publish a rule for small, unmanned aircrafts later this year.

The FAA has always allowed hobbyists to fly the unmanned aircrafts – given that they are not endangering other people, aircrafts or property.

Another thing to consider is whether people will generally accept the idea of drones delivering goods to them. Will people feel safe around them? Will people vandalize them?

But Google plans on moving forward with its drone development; in the next year, Google wants to continue improving its navigation abilities. Google has been working on a “detect and avoid” system using a system of sensors. The company said that within the next decade it expects the technology to be realistic.

What is ServiceNow?

ServiceNow is a platform-as-a-service provider that automates enterprise IT operations. It helps to centralize all of the IT processes within your organization while also providing you with a record for all these processes. It works as a productivity tool; ServiceNow is not to be used by one particular type of business user but a wide-variety of users.

Built on the IT nfrastructure Library v3 platform, ServiceNow is designed to offer you flexibility when building an IT solution. Operating as a cloud service, the Service Desk is accessible through any web browser.

One way that ServiceNow is different than other IT support systems is that it has become a form of social IT. It has made your IT solutions live, allowing you to chat with your support team instantaneously. This not only makes your employees more productive but it also lowers your support costs.

The Service Desk is a simple, efficient way for your employees to request help on their IT needs. It was modeled to be similar to the way that you make purchases online (and we’ve all bought at least something online).

ServiceNow also provides the user and the support team with feedback, showing them how well services are performing. For more information about ServiceNow, check out its website.