Google announces its plans for virtual reality at I/O 2015

Google has unveiled some big virtual reality plans at I/O 2015. Not only did the company announce an updated version of its low-cost Cardboard headset, but it also unveiled a new feature designed to allow teachers to take their students on virtual field trips, and a new project that allows users to create their own 360-degree virtual reality experiences.

You’ll likely remember Google’s Cardboard VR headset from last year’s I/O press conference. The headset, which true to its name is actually made of cardboard, offered a low-cost entry point to VR, and was pitched as a great way for developers to easily get their claws into making virtual reality experiences.

The company is back with a brand new model this year, adding support for larger phones (up to 6 inches), replacing the magnetic switch with a cardboard one that will work with any smartphone, and providing a streamlined setup process, with assembly in just three steps. Google is also opening up the platform, with the Cardboard SDK set to support both Android and iOS.

An updated Cardboard headset isn’t the only new thing that Mountain View had in store when it comes virtual reality. It also announced a new feature called Expeditions, that’s designed to bring VR to the classroom. Schools can apply for packs which include numerous Cardboard headsets that can be linked together, with the teacher guiding students through virtual tours of supported locations such as the Great Wall of China and Venice.

Lastly, Google announced a new project called Jump, designed to allow people to create and share virtual reality experiences. The company has partnered with GoPro on the project, with the actioncam maker producing the first Jump-ready 360-degree array, comprised of 16 individual cameras.

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The project includes software that compensates for the depth of different objects, cutting together the footage from the different cameras to produce a seamless VR experience. YouTube will start supporting Jump VR content this summer, viewable through – you guessed it – Cardboard VR headsets.

Source: Google

Improved GPS could untether VR and revolutionize geolocation

By Eric Mack

A team from the University of Texas wants to create virtual reality and augmented reality systems that can better integrate with the real world. Along the way, they just might revolutionize the geolocation systems we all use on our mobile devices.

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Two years later, Glass is on hiatus, and Humphreys’ group has a new software-based system that could improve the accuracy of the GPS enough to open up a wide array of new uses for mobile devices, virtual reality headsets, automotive navigation and perhaps even the next generation of Google Glass.

For years now, the team members have been working on harnessing what’s called carrier-phase differential GPS (CDGPS), which can be accurate down to a centimeter. Previous prototypes like the one we saw in person required a big, clunky, expensive antenna to achieve this, but now they claim to have a breakthrough software-defined GPS receiver that can attain the same level of accuracy using the cheaper antennas currently found in mobile devices.

Humphreys envisions using this technology to enable drones to deliver packages to a hyper-specific spot and to improve automotive collision systems, but his team is especially interested in merging real-time geolocation data with virtual reality headsets like the Oculus Rift, which currently does not use GPS (and is tethered to a PC), limiting it to indoor use and accuracy within only about two-to-three feet (roughly .75 meters).

“Imagine games where, rather than sit in front of a monitor and play, you are in your backyard actually running around with other players,” he says.

Humphreys and his team are now working on a specialized receiver called GRID, that extracts centimeter-level accuracy from mobile device antennas. The receiver currently operates outside the phone, but is expected to eventually run on a smartphone’s internal processor. The team has recently spun off a startup called Radiosense that is working with Samsung to develop a snap-on accessory that will provide more accurate location information for devices, including VR headsets.

Watch the demonstration video below to see the technology in action.

Sources: University of Texas, GPS World