April 1, 2019 infiniteretina

SPATIAL COMPUTING CATALYST: APRIL 2019

Our team at Infinite Retina has been meeting with dozens of companies and scouring social media for interesting news about the industry. We retweet the best on our Twitter account at https://twitter.com/infiniteretina, but every month we’ll bring you a newsletter with the top things we are seeing in the industry.

PRODUCT EYE

Microsoft’s unknown weapon in battle for enterprise customers: the Azure Kinect DK camera

While most of the industry goes nuts over new VR headsets coming from Oculus or Valve, we’ve seen dozens of enterprise companies choose to develop for Microsoft’s HoloLens not just because of the new HoloLens 2 headset, but because of its unsung partner: a new 3D sensor.

“It’s a big deal,” Dirk Schart, President at Re’flekt America Inc., told us about the new Microsoft Azure Kinect DK camera. His company builds many augmented reality apps for companies like Audi, Daimler, and others.  

Microsoft’s Jesse McCulloch, program manager on its mixed reality team (think HoloLens), gave Robert Scoble, Infinite Retina’s Chief Strategy Officer, a look at the new Microsoft Azure Kinect DK camera.

This product has had an effect on enterprise customers, Schart told us, even before it has arrived, because it makes possible a new kind of enterprise application that simply wouldn’t be possible with only head-worn displays. For instance, McCulloch told Scoble about a supply chain warehouse that’s using the camera aimed at the backs of trucks that are being loaded by robots. The camera sees the truck being loaded in 3D, and its AI capabilities categorize each package being loaded. A cloud-based app then ensures that the truck is being loaded properly, and tells robots how to place new packages in.

This camera has about twice as many data points as the 3D sensor in a new iPhone and it sees in 3D up to eight meters away, far further than the iPhone sensor can see. It also enables new kinds of computer vision-based applications. When McCulloch gave us a demo we saw various objects it saw were different colors and had different tags on them. All automatically added in real time.

Schart said he’s looking at it like a new kind of “eye” on a factory floor. Another company we are working with is building a surgical-assistant system. They will use such a camera over a person going through surgery. It ensures a constant data field that is stably located as doctors and nurses move around the room.

“It is a game changer in every way,” Steve Kiene, in a video on the website for the Kinect camera, says. He’s CEO of Ocuvera, which is building a fall-detection and patient monitoring system.

We agree.

INFINITE RETINA VIEWPOINT

The “drought” is almost over. That’s what IDC just reported: https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20190328005623/en/Augmented-Reality-Virtual-Reality-Headsets-Poised-Significant#.XJ0J_NXGKB0.twitter

As we meet with companies in the Spatial Computing space (which is really a big tent which includes everything from augmented reality to virtual reality to artificial intelligence and other technologies that run autonomous cars and smart cities; we think of it as all the software and hardware that allows you to compute and move through a 3D world). It’s clear that some are struggling to make revenues grow and profits are even harder to attain, while most have not even reached the revenue stage. Lots of companies are looking to fix that later this year when new headsets and supporting apps arrive that most expect will be popular with both enterprises and end consumers. The idea of Oculus Quest has brought the energy back to industry parties at conferences like GDC, which we recently attended. Add in Microsoft HoloLens 2 and Magic Leap and you can see excitement about the future of this industry is well justified.

That said, so few companies, particularly the startups we track, have found ways to monetize and find a substantial number of users. Here’s a list of more than 4,000 companies we are tracking in the market: https://twitter.com/Scobleizer/lists/all-orgs-in-spatial/members

Part of that is users just aren’t that interested in buying the headsets that are currently on the market. Congrats to Sony on selling more than four million, but, really, to be considered mainstream we have to see sales in many tens of millions and until a headset gets to ten million sold making business models work will remain extremely difficult. Another more important aspect than hardware issues is the fact that distribution for experiences, especially for VR, has not been figured out on an efficient and massive scale. Fragmentation and lack of information still rule.

We are just like everyone else, trying to hold back our excitement. We’ve been burned so much before. Our muted expectation does not keep us from pitching journalists on new stories, from expecting sales to close, and from building relationships with VCs that might really matter next year as this industry starts to see exponential growth again.

It’s time to not just get excited, but to pour on the gas and spend a lot more time showing Spatial Computing to people who haven’t seen it yet.

INNOVATOR SPOTLIGHT

Recently we attended the first VR/AR Association meeting in Silicon Valley and heard about WebAR. The video of that meeting is up here: https://youtu.be/j9hdVqLZot0

But what we saw is not just about how important WebAR is. Think about it, if you walk into a store, do you want to load an app just to look at some 3D scans of products in that store? No, you would just want to hit a Web page and have them pop up on either your phone, or, in the future, on your Spatial Computing glasses.

We also heard that Amazon is betting big on WebAR and its Sumerian tool is key to helping merchants, and other users who need lightweight “instant on” augmented reality experiences.

Developers should pay attention to this tool for that reason, and, therefore, should pay attention to General Manager who runs the Sumerian team: Kyle Roche.

Here’s a video with Kyle from earlier this year on the Amazon Web Services YouTube channel: https://youtu.be/d2H5AmZaoCQ

He was the cofounder and CEO of 2lemetry, an Internet of Things startup, before joining Amazon when it acquired that company back in 2015.

Try Sumerian yourself at https://aws.amazon.com/sumerian/ and check out some projects from Sumerian Contest Winners, which were announced a few weeks ago: https://www.thevrara.com/blog2/2019/3/13/congratulations-to-amazon-sumerian-challenge-winners.