Virtual and augmented reality: even Apple comes into play

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    Apple Faceshift cover

    MetaioFacebook, Alphabet (the holding company that controls Google), Sony, Microsoft: the list of global giants of the web and to consumer electronics that have started betting on virtual reality or augmented reality so far lacked a name, that of Apple.

    Apple so far made only a first, timid step having bought last May Metaio, a German company founded in 2003 as a spin off of a Volkswagen‘s project which produce software that combines images from the real world with graphic elements added digitally, usually to produce videos for companies around the world (for exemples Ikea, which uses them to create virtual showrooms, rather than Ferrari, which uses them to provide virtual guide test tours of its cars to potential buyers).

    Nick Thompson hired for AR

    A further indication that in Cupertino want to get serious seems to have been the hiring of Nick Thompson, one of the leading audio engineers engaged with the Hololens project of Microsoft, a move that Piper Jaffray commented: “Based on recent acquisitions of augmented reality companies, hiring of a key Microsoft Hololens employee, and conversations with industry contacts within the virtual and augmented reality spaces, we believe Apple has a team exploring the AR space”.

    This was confirmed in recent days: Apple bought Faceshift, a Swiss startup that deals with “motion capture” (i.e. how to record human movements and then apply them to avatars in virtual reality).

    Apple bought Faceshift

    FaceshiftIt was Faceshift, for examples, that made the avatars in Star Wars – The Force Awakens, using RealSense technology developed by Intel to give life to the faces of the virtual characters animated by a mimic almost identical to the human.

    So why Apple bought Faceshift? First of all to avoid getting further behind its competitors, and to improve the quality of its gaming platform or improve security in accessing its digital devices. More generally, many years later from exhaustion media hype around virtual worlds like Second Life, it now seems clear that the technology is mature (and perhaps the market), to witness a new explosion of software, hardware and virtual/augmented reality platforms.

    This time without any claim to be an “alternative” life to the real one, but to offer features and services that integrate and improve the real life in a variety of aspects, from recreational to professional, from arts to education.

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