Welcome to RenderThat’s weekly roundup of the tech stories you need to know. This week, Google revealed game-changing new VR and AR software and hardware at Google I/O, virtual reality’s ability to spur business growth was under the spotlight at Fortune, and eBay launched the world’s first virtual department store shopping experience. Want to know more about what happened in this week’s tech news? Read on to find out.
When it comes to virtual reality, Google will be going steady with Android, rather than Apple’s iOS. At Google I/O last week, the company announced the Daydream VR platform, which is both hardware and software that’s built on Android N. It’s a worthy, more powerful sibling for Google Cardboard; the Daydream’s closest competitor being the Samsung Gear VR. Upcoming Android phones will have a VR Mode feature built into their operating systems that has optimizations for virtual reality versions of Google properties such as YouTube and Street View. Users will need both Google’s new headset and controller along with a new Android phone to use Daydream.
“Google has announced eight hardware partners that will make Daydream-ready phones, including Samsung, HTC, LG, Xiaomi, Huawei, ZTE, Asus, and Alcatel.”
At Google I/O, Google announced a competitor for Microsoft’s Hololens. Google’s VR hardware is called Tango and its most important feature is area learning: the ability to map landmarks in the physical world and the device’s position relative to them. This digital mapping capability also means Tango can create augmented reality experiences, and is not a virtual reality experience-only device. Tango’s area learning comes in handy for placing objects in AR settings that tend to shift due to errors and multiplayer gaming where players will have a single point of reference.
“In other VR systems, it’s difficult for players to interact because the system can’t place them precisely within the digital or the physical space. Tango’s area learning allows the devices to build a map of the space, and then share it between all the devices.”
In a recent report, 38 companies said they are using virtual reality as part of their business plans. Companies ranging from the New York Times to Six Flags to Facebook are finding creative ways to bring in customers using VR. These forward-thinking companies are finding ways to encourage business growth, while also lowering costs. Companies who invest in VR could create a ripple effect with consumers, who will get used to using virtual reality and just may like the VR experience enough to keep coming back for more.
“This is very early and we don’t expect VR to take off as a mainstream success right away … but eventually we believe that VR is going to be the next big computing platform and we’re making the investments necessary to lead the way there,” chief executive Mark Zuckerberg said.
Shopping has always had a distinct visual element. So it makes sense that items that catch your eye while shopping are the ones eBay is interested in learning about as it launches the first VR department store in the world along with retail partner Myer. From grocery stores to local shops, VR is already set to revolutionize shopping. With eBay Sight Search, users can browse through dozens of items in the VR store hands-free, and then choose the item they want by staring at it for “a number of seconds.” To use this feature, eBay users will have to download the eBay VR Department store app and also have either their own VR headset or get one of the “shopticals” –a headset similar to Google Cardboard–that eBay and Myer are giving away for free. The eBay app works on both IOS and Android.
“Users select areas of interest, and the experience is built around the choices. [..] If you want to take a closer look at a watch or bra, 100 of the top products are viewable in 3D, with the remaining 12,500 in 2D.”