Emerging Tech Roundup — July 10
The Quantious team’s top picks for timely trending news in the tech world.
This week in tech: Courses on designing theme parks are available for free online, a VR-themed novel is expecting a sequel, new research explores how movement increases creativity, Magic Leap hires a new CEO, VR helps improve eyesight for the visually impaired, Google launches balloons to provide internet services, VR is helping to train police officers for tense situations.
Khan Academy’s Storytelling Unit: Imagineering in a Box
(Khan Academy, July 09)
Earlier this year, the COVID-19 disease brought the world to a standstill. Adults were no longer able to go to work, and children were forced to stay home from school. Some cities have recently begun opening back up with limited services. However, for those who don’t feel comfortable taking their family out in public just yet, Khan Academy has come up with a solution — “Imagineering in a Box.” This free course has complete lessons on how to design and develop theme park rides, attractions, storyboard concepts, and characters. It includes interviews and lessons with real Disney imagineers to help keep kids busy and entertained throughout the summer.
“Ready Player One” Book Sequel Coming November 24th
(Road to VR, July 08)
“Ready Player One” author, Ernest Cline, is getting a sequel on November 24th, which dives into the multiplayer VR world of the OASIS. The upcoming book, “Ready Player Two,” is available for pre-order on Amazon, both in Kindle and hardcover format. The first book showcased a dim vision of the year 2044, with character Wade Watts living most of his life connecting to the massive multiplayer “OASIS,” a VR escape and social hotspot. Though there’s not much information available about the upcoming sequel, we do know that the 2nd book is 384 pages and the cover shows a 1982 Pitfall-style character lunging for a diamond.
Moving — Even in Virtual Reality — Can Increase Our Creativity and Problem-Solving
(Massive Science, July 07)
Based on pre-existing research that moving while thinking boosts creativity, French and Indian researchers wanted to explore if the perception of movement in VR would have a similar effect. The study consisted of 32 participants using VR headsets to experience a VR environment of a train inside a tunnel. Half of the group experienced a still car, while the other half saw tunnel lamps passing by the train’s windows, simulating motion. Those who experienced the “moving” train car performed better at tasks involving divergent creativity than those in the still car. As a result, researchers concluded that just the perception of movement can improve creativity, idea generation, and problem-solving.
Augmented Reality Startup Magic Leap Hires Key Microsoft Exec Peggy Johnson as Its New CEO
(Geek Wire, July 07)
Microsoft executive, Peggy Johnson, was recently hired as CEO of spatial computing startup, Magic Leap. In 2018, the company released their first headset, Magic Leap 1, to developers at a cost of $2,295. They received poor reviews and sales, and in April of this year, the company announced layoffs and a shifted focus to businesses instead of consumers. The company has experienced many changes in recent years, and Johnson replacing founder and CEO, Rony Abovitz, is just another change to add to the list.
Technology Bridges the Gap to Better Sight
(NY Times, July 07)
IrisVision has invested in headset technology, which will help the 6 million Americans with vision issues that cannot be corrected by glasses or contacts to gain better vision. Their device not only improves eyesight but also is expected to diagnose patients, test conditions, and treat them over the course of two years. IrisVision’s device assists the brain in using parts of the eyes that still function properly. It uses a smartphone camera to capture an image, and then the virtual reality headset and algorithms enhance the image by providing enough information to fill in the gaps to complete the image.
A Bird? A Plane? No, It’s a Google Balloon Beaming the Internet
(NY Times, July 07)
Earlier this week, internet services were being delivered to thousands of people by a fleet of high-altitude balloons throughout Nairobi, Kenya. Project Loon, a unit from Google’s parent company, Alphabet, released 35 balloons in previous months to prepare for the launch that happened on Tuesday. The balloons were created to hover above commercial airplanes, about 12 miles up in the stratosphere, and they’ll provide 4G LTE network connections to central and western Kenya. The balloons are similar to the size of a tennis court, powered by solar panels, and are made from sheets of polyethylene.
Arizona Police Using Virtual Reality to Better Prepare Officers for Tense Situations
(12 News, July 06)
Axon, the company that makes Tasers, has created a virtual reality training tool to help police officers see what it’s like to be on the other side of a tense situation. By viewing high pressure situations from another perspective, Axon is hoping that the tool will improve officers’ de-escalation skills. Called Empathy Training, it’s designed with virtual reality scenarios focused on mental illnesses, with programs for autism, schizophrenia, and suicide. After experiencing what it’s like to be in the person’s shoes, the program flips the script so that the officers can respond to the scene.