Augmented Reality

Scientists have long sought in vain after the ability to mold reality to their will, whether in the form of using alchemy to turn materials into gold or through chemistry to create new compounds out of thin air.

However, nowadays more ways than one exist for us to use illusions not only to play games but to significantly improve our standards of living with augmented reality technology.

The Beginning of Reality Literally Defined by Imagination

Historians have not reached a consensus on whether to call Ivan Sutherland’s contraption the first example of augmented reality or virtual reality, though the majority aligns with the former. In 1968, Sutherland created the Sword of Damocles at Harvard University.

This device was large, bulky, and hung from the ceiling above the user’s head, much like the Greek sword from which it draws its name. The device allowed the user to experience computerized graphics, creating the illusion of augmented reality.

Since then, countless iterations of virtual reality and augmented reality have risen up, the primary difference between the two realities being that augmented reality adds to or builds on the real world’s landscape whereas virtual reality entirely creates its own landscape.

Reality Created by Computer Processing

Current augmented reality systems use arrays of cameras in order to first capture the outside world. Then the device will process the received images and generate content to lay on top of them, giving the illusion that something additional exists at that location.

Since 2013, multiple major companies have begun incorporating augmented reality software into their user interfaces.

Volkswagen now uses AR to help buyers become more familiar with their vehicles; Google created the AR glasses, Google Glass, which was primarily an unsuccessful failure; and Microsoft has created another version of the Google Glass.

Pokémon Go and Other Games

When millenials and younger generations hear “AR,” the first thing they think of is Pokémon Go. Pokémon Go is a wildly successful app that uses your device’s camera and processor to render images of Pokémon jumping around on screen as if they were actually in the room with you.

Pokémon Go was designed by Niantic, a major app developer, with the primary purpose being to create an augmented reality Pokémon game.

After later seeing how incredibly successful (and not to mention lucrative) this game was, they decided to branch out and create another AR game entitled “Harry Potter Wizards Unite,” in which you play as a wizard who experiences magic in the real world through AR.

Conclusion

When it comes to applied augmented reality, there is plenty of room left to grow. This bustling technology is surprisingly still in its infancy, despite decades of improvements and technological innovations.

However, with the advent of games like Pokémon Go and Wizards Unite, things are starting to finally look up for real-world applications of augmented reality.

Further Reading

For a detailed history of the development and implementation of augmented reality technology, check out this link. It provides information on each major change to the technology from its inception to 2018.

360 Degree Cameras

Since the dawn of photography, cameras have been able to see a scope of about 180 degrees in front of them. As time went on and lenses became larger and wider, that scope grew, though only slightly. Essentially, most cameras are only able to capture light that moves through a single side of a sphere.

360 degree cameras have revolutionized the way we thought photos and film could be captured, as we can finally create a digital view of the world around us in a single frame. From computer and robotics mapping to amateur panoramic photography and videography, 360 degree cameras are changing the game, though just how do they do it? 

When were 360 Degree Cameras Introduced?

The idea of 360 degree imaging took off in 1787, when an English painter by the name of Robert Barker came up with the term “panorama” to describe his cylindrical-surfaced paintings. Little did he know that this idea would lead to a few centuries of panoramic innovation. 

While there were tons of innovations throughout the 19th and 20th centuries regarding 360-degree photography, it wasn’t until the 1980s that high-quality panoramic cameras began hitting the market. These cameras, including some popular models like the Alpha Roto 70, the 1985 Panoscope, and the 1988 Roundshot, were very expensive and limited in the consumer sphere.

Nowadays, there is a wide variety of 360 degree cameras on the market that are consumer-friendly in terms of price, providing photographers and videographers with a way to capture their environments with ease. Their uses span from virtual reality to cinema and beyond.

What are 360 Degree Cameras?

360 degree cameras are simply cameras that have a 360-degree field of view, allowing them to capture everything in the sphere around them. They are popular in monoscopic videography on dating sites, real estate sites, image filtering applications, and more. They give users a sense of space without depth perception. They are also widely used for stereoscopic video by creating three-dimensional renderings for virtual reality. This added depth in stereoscopic video gives virtual reality a lifelike feel. 

360 Degree Cameras in Pop Culture and Movies

360 degree cameras are slowly making their way into the movie realm. There are some amazing examples of films shot with 360 degree cameras, including The Invisible Man and Ghost In the Shell. Justin Lin, the director Star Trek Beyond, released a film back in 2016 using a variety of 360-degree cameras in downtown Los Angeles.

Links to Related Articles

For more information about the exciting developments in 360 degree cameras, take a look here:

https://filmora.wondershare.com/virtual-reality/what-is-360-degree-camera.html

https://90seconds.com/what-is/360-camera/

Conclusion

Now that you’ve seen how amazing these devices are, you may be looking to buy one. This video helps break down the best 360 degree cameras on the market:

360 degree cameras are slowly carving out their place in the world of photography and videography, especially since newer 360 degree cameras are much more affordable than they used to be. These cameras provide camera fanatics with an entirely new approach to creativity in their chosen medium. With use in virtual reality and 360-degree Hollywood-style cinema, it begs the question, “will 360 degrees become the new standard for entertainment, or will it flop like it has before?”

Only time will tell, but for now, we can expect an easier way to capture and share the world around us.

Face++

Facial recognition is completely revolutionizing the way that people live their lives in China, and it won’t be long until the rest of the world feels those same effects, too. Introducing Face++, a mind-blowing facial recognition company and software that is seeing current integration all over the Chinese market.

Used by over 300,000 developers in a number of different countries, Face++ was made to identify not only faces, but images, government IDs, text, and more. This intense cognitive service software may just be the next big thing in terms of streamlining security and workflow, though how did it all come about? Let’s unlock this face secret.

When was Face++ First Introduced?

The idea of facial recognition dates back to the 1990s when the US Defense Department was searching for new ways to catch criminals after they crossed the border. It was first used in public during the 2001 Super Bowl game for law enforcement officials to search for terrorists in the large crowds.

The first version of Face++ was released back in 2012 and is currently the most popular facial recognition software on the market for APIs and SDKs. The software started out in the world of popular consumer apps such as Meitu and Alipay, a beauty app and a payment app, respectively. 

As the company’s popularity continued to grow, they began to make the shift from the narrow realm of face recognition technology to face searching, face comparing, human body recognition, identity verification, and more. 

What is Face++?

Face++ is a software that now combines facial recognition, body recognition, image beautifying, and image recognition. The software can detect a face in a picture and use stored data of that facial structure to bring up information about the person that it belongs to. It can utilize body recognition by detecting and analyzing key structural components of the body for the same reason.

Alipay, Ant Financial’s massive payment platform, uses Face++ to confirm identities before making purchases or setting up bank accounts. There are also a few train stations in Beijing that use Face++ to match national IDs with the faces of passengers for ticket verification. 

Face++ in Movies and Pop Culture

While the Face++ company has not specifically been mentioned in any popular films or television shows, the idea of facial recognition has been around in Hollywood sci-fi for quite some time. There are a wide variety of movies that explore the more ominous side of facial recognition.

One recent Steven Spielberg film entitled Ready Player One has a villian who uses drones equipped with facial recognition scanners to hunt down the hero of the movie.

Links to Related Articles

Here are some great resources to find out more about Face++.

https://www.technologyreview.com/s/608598/when-a-face-is-worth-a-billion-dollars/

https://www.forbes.com/sites/bernardmarr/2019/05/24/the-amazing-ways-chinese-face-recognition-company-megvii-face-uses-ai-and-machine-vision/

https://www.businessinsider.com/china-facial-recognition-tech-company-megvii-faceplusplus-2018-5

Conclusion

This video gives a rundown of this intriguing new technology:

As more and more companies begin integrating this kind of facial recognition software into their products, we will start seeing it more in the public sphere. This will come as no surprise to the millions of people who already used the popular facial recognition software that was the main selling point of the brand new iPhone X. 

Is Face++ the next best thing in security and streamlining or is it software based on the invasion of privacy to collect and sell data? It surely won’t be long until we find out.

Militarized Drones

The military has long been at the forefront of technology, so it probably comes as no surprise that militarized drones, otherwise known as Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), are slowly becoming the primary force in the United States military, especially when it comes to counterterrorism methods. 

Militarized drones get rid of the need for pilots to be onboard during a flight, encouraging safety and security in our military while carrying out non-lethal surveillance or lethal counterterrorism strikes. You’ve likely seen drones flying around by now, but what exactly are they and how did they get here? Let’s hop aboard and find out.

When were Militarized Drones First Introduced?

The idea of militarized drones came about during WWII, as France and the United States were working separately to put together an airplane that could fly automatically. France was the first to do so, naming the first drone, which could fly by itself for about 100 kilometers, the Voisin BN3 biplane.

Throughout WWII, the idea of militarized drones became even more prominent, as countries began to suffer major losses in terms of soldiers. Some of the very first observation drones were used during the Vietnam War in 1973. Nowadays, militarized drones can be found in a variety of shapes and sizes, including micro drones (below 150kg), Class II Tactical drones (150-600kg), and Class III Strategic drones (600kg or more).

What are Militarized Drones?

Drones are flight vehicles that are made used in situations deemed too risky for manned flight. They also help to provide surveillance to troops 24/7, as one aircraft is able to hover over a region for an average of 17 hours at a time.

While there are many different kinds of drones, many carry television cameras, infra-red imaging, targeting lasers, and image intensifiers. Some armed militarized drones carry laser-guided missiles. These types of drones usually cost upwards of a few million dollars to create. 

Drone pilots will typically rely on communications satellites and GPS satellites to track and control their drones. Pilots will sit at a ground control station equipped with a satellite antenna to do so. There are many drones that can fly autonomously, though they will eventually crash if they cannot recover contact after they have run out of fuel.

Militarized Drones in Movies and Pop Culture

There are about a hundred or more films out there that deal with militarized drones, allowing audiences to explore modern warfare and understand the consequences, both good and bad. Eye In The Sky, a 2016 film about two soldiers who are ordered to take out a group of suicide bombers in Kenya through the use of a missile strike, is a movie that thoroughly examines the protocols of drone warfare. 

From Blade Runner 2049 to Full Contact, there is a long list of movies with militarized drones that you can check out.

Links to Related Articles

To read more about militarized drones and their uses, start here:

https://www.fcnl.org/updates/understanding-drones-43

https://www.mydronelab.com/blog/types-of-military-drones.html

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-south-asia-10713898

Conclusion

This video shows the 10 best militarized drones in the world:

There are many different companies throughout the world that are now helping to develop militarized drone technology. The capabilities of drones are expected to increase tenfold in the next decade, which begs us to question the new policies and long-term effects that these drones will have on our world.

Robotic Process Automation

We live in the age of simplicity. Many of our current technological innovations in business are made to streamline digital transformation, increase service quality, and contain costs. Robotic process automation does just that, working to eliminate mundane tasks so that workers in the corporate realm can better focus on work that is more important or more valued. 

Robotic process automation can help large businesses to devote more time to customer service and reduce overall costs of business, though many experts say that this type of automation takes careful planning and design. Will Robotic Process Automation be the future of strength in business? Let’s find out. 

When was Robotic Process Automation First Introduced? 

Workflow automation dates all the way back to the early 1920s, when manufacturing and industrial companies were on the rise. It wasn’t until the late 1990s that these companies began using software that could capture data and store it into larger system databases, reducing the need for manual data entry.

The term “robotic process automation” dates back to 2000, as it was one of the first technological evolutions in the field to go beyond your standard screen scraping. One of the most prominent first users of RPA was a U.K. company called Xchanging. This company helps to provide business processing services all over the world. Their robotic “co-worker,” which they named Poppy, was so intuitive and engaging that she was actually invited to their Christmas party!

What is Robotic Process Automation?

Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is a technological application that is used to automate business processes that utilize logical inputs. A company can use RPA software for a variety of tasks, including but not limited to: digital systems communications, data manipulation, response triggering, and transaction processing. 

A company can set up RPA to send out a large mass of emails to consumers of their product or service, for example. The idea is that robots are better at handling high-volume, repetitive tasks than humans. 

Robotic Process Automation is currently used throughout the financial services realm, as companies can use RPA to smooth out business processes without having to hire anyone new or increase employee task counts. Some companies are even able to introduce RPA to cognitive technologies that already exist. In doing so, they can automate more complicated tasks that use speech recognition or language processing. This moves more into the realm of artificial intelligence.

Robotic Process Automation in Movies / Pop Culture

Most movies or RPA pop culture references feed into the idea that AI and robotic processing will go rogue. Think of movies such as Ex Machina or I, Robot. We can think of RPA as a less-involved form of AI, only helping to provide us with the labor for mundane and repetitive tasks without capturing emotion.

Links to Related Articles

There’s a lot of information about RPA out there, but here are just a few articles to start. 

https://www.cio.com/article/3236451/what-is-rpa-robotic-process-automation-explained.html

https://www.uipath.com/rpa/robotic-process-automation

https://www.aiim.org/What-is-Robotic-Process-Automation

Conclusion

Take a look at this fascinating video from Dell about the future of RPA:

Experts now believe that Robotic Process Automation will reduce the requirements of employees in service centers by about 65% in 2020. They also say that 40% of huge enterprises will have an RPA software that they utilize. Could this mean the end of mundane, manual processing? We’ll have to wait to find out.

The Internet of Things

From your toaster to your vacuum cleaner, the Internet of Things is on the rise as a way to connect just about everything to the web. Scientists believe that 50% of businesses in the world will run off of the Internet Of Things (IoT) by 2020. They believe that this will be part of a Fourth Industrial Revolution

No more will our hardware and machinery utilize old, rusty technology. Ready for the future? Here is all you need to know about the Internet of Things.

When was the Internet of Things First Introduced?

The Internet of Things was first mentioned at a 1999 Procter & Gamble conference by a man named Kevin Ashton, the co-founder of the MIT Auto-ID center. The name “Internet of Things” actually stemmed from the name of his presentation, as he was attempting to explain RFID to the senior management team of Procter & Gamble. 

The idea of the Internet of Things was that machine-generated data could be analyzed through the internet so that companies could make improvements without physically touching the devices. The very first appliance with this type of technology was a Carnegie Mellon University Coke machine.  

Made in the early 1980s, it was crafted so that programmers could see the machine’s status and decide whether or not there was a cold coke inside that would be sitting there if they decided to walk over to the machine. While it seems like a mundane task now, it was the beginning of a technology that would eventually spread to millions of consumer products around the world.

What Is the Internet of Things?

If we are going to get technical, the Internet of Things refers to any object that is connected to the internet. From smartphones to watches to sensors and beyond, it just means any device that can talk to another device through the use of the internet. 

The idea is that programmers can add automated systems to certain devices so that those devices can gather data and information for analytics. These devices can then learn from their own processes to better help the consumer or person using it. Simply put, the Internet of Things helps to bring devices and networks together to collect data and push innovation.

The Internet of Things in Pop Culture / Movies

The Internet of Things can be seen in an episode of Cyberwar from the hit documentary series on VICE Network. Host Ben Makuch discusses the potential of hackers thanks to the Internet of Things, as well as risks to security and privacy.

The Dark Knight shows an overzealous Batman using an echolocation technology that allows him to see through the phones of people around Gotham. He does so to find the Joker and destroy him, though he realizes near the end of the movie that the power is far too much for anyone to have, and ends up destroying the technology that he created. High-tech malware allows government officials to do this now, so we can say with confidence that Bruce Wayne was not so far off.

Links to Related Articles

To learn more about the Internet of Things, start here:

https://www.wired.co.uk/article/internet-of-things-what-is-explained-iot

https://www.forbes.com/sites/jacobmorgan/2014/05/13/simple-explanation-internet-things-that-anyone-can-understand/

https://www.ibm.com/blogs/internet-of-things/what-is-the-iot/

Conclusion

To find out more about how the Internet of Things works, check out this video:

The idea of the Internet of Things has been around for quite some time. As more and more devices enter the realm of IoT, we will begin to understand the opportunities and downfalls of this impactful technology. For now, we can do our best to understand IoT so that we can remain secure in a world of connection.

Virtual Reality

How do you define reality? If something is standing right in front of you to see, is that enough to mean its real? Virtual reality banks on the notion that the appearance of being immersed in a different reality is enough to trick your brain into feeling like it is, and the popularity of this futuristic concept recommends that notion. 

Everything Is Not What It Seems

In the simplest terms, virtual reality is an advancing technology that uses a computer-generated environment to simulate a different reality. Through the use of a headset that completely engulfs the eyes and often some sort of large joystick as well, virtual reality (VR) is able to give users the sensation of being on other planets or in other times without leaving their own living rooms.

VR works to simulate as many of the senses as possible, but its primary tools are sight and sound. In fact, humans interact more frequently with sight than with sound, so a VR simulation can’t be truly immersive if it hasn’t done extensive audio work. 

A Long Time Coming

The argument can certainly be made that the first shades of virtual reality popped up in the 19th century, with inventions like the stereoscope. This device allowed users to experience both depth and immersion with two photos posted side by side. The same technology is actually still used in low-grade VR headsets today. 

In 1929, the first flight simulator was invented and is an early example of the practical applications for virtual reality, one that is still just as relevant today. The first VR experience that slightly resembles modern ones came in the 1950s, with something called a sensorama where a large chair-like device topped with a covered screen would convey every sense to the user as they watched films. 

The first VR headset came about in 1960, but it wasn’t interactive—that development didn’t come for another 10 years or so. Of course, the term virtual reality wasn’t actually used until the founder of the visual programming lab coined it in 1987. 

Since then, the field has made rapid strides, thanks largely to the advancement of computer graphics. Now, virtual reality seems truly on the brink of a breakthrough as major tech companies throw their weight behind creating the best possible products. 

Seeing The World Differently

Virtual reality is still an important tool for simulations and training exercises, but it’s fast becoming a favorite form of entertainment as well. Oculus, Nintendo, Sony, and HTC put out some of the most popular VR headsets, with price tags that match the advancing technology. 

There are quite a few books and movies that have described a reality similar to the one it appears modern society is headed toward, where most everyone escapes their real lives by entering VR regularly. Perhaps the most famous of these is Ready Player One, a book and movie that details the trials and tribulations of young people living almost exclusively in a virtual reality. 

Humans trying to escape their norms and alter their realities is nothing new. In fact, it’s the basis of almost every recreational activity or form of entertainment. As virtual reality becomes more accessible and more advanced, it may prove the newest drug of choice for escaping (or enhancing) the human condition.