Step Into the Future of Immersive Training

Posted on | November 27, 2014 | No Comments

From defending nations to fending away diseases and making learning interactive, virtual reality technology has been offering impressive training tools to the defense, healthcare and education industries. Working in simulated environments has been helping these professionals improvise and strategize better in a real-life situation. In the third of our five part series on augmented reality our bloggers take you on a tour or training simulators that are bettering medical and defense facilities.

This is a story of a highly successful professional with an Achilles heel. Acrophobia.

Every time she needed to board a flight, she downed over the counter anti-anxiety medicines. But over time they began to fail her too. That was when she turned to a psychologist. And what did he do? He put her in an aeroplane… a virtual one though. So this successful professional sits in a vibrating chair, dons a helmet with a video screen in it and there she is – safe in the doctor’s chamber but experiencing a real-like flying experience. Mapping her cognitive behavior, the doctor starts treating her and in a matter of few sessions she begins enjoying her flying experience.

Virtual reality technology has gone way beyond being an instrument of absolute entertainment. Today, augmented reality is being integrated into the fields of healthcare, science , military and even education to enhance their offerings. VR technology has brought about a revolution in the healthcare industry allowing easier and more effective treatment, enabling minimal invasive surgeries through better visualization and also equipping the medical fraternity to conduct surgeries remotely using augmented reality technology. Today, virtual reality has powered the medical fraternity to prepare themselves for a variety of exigencies much ahead of time. Simulators can recreate a variety of trauma situations, including accidents and epidemics, allowing paramedics to find the best techniques and solutions to tackle them – all without posing any risk to their well being.

AR invades operation theatres

Performing surgeries couldn’t have gotten easier for surgeons. Virtual reality technologies have offered them two invincible instruments that have made surgical technology all the more interesting and minimally invasive. Robotic arms today are gaining much popularity thanks to its precision, smaller incisions and in turn resulting in lesser blood loss in the patient. The surgeon handles the robotic arm viewing the constant 3D image of the affected area, thus quickening the procedure.

On the other hand is that AR tool that has surgeons brimming with ideas – a surgical simulation platform (SEP). Surgeons can now do away with lab test animals and human testing to better their surgical techniques. All they need is an SEP of the likes of SimSurgery and VirtaMed that provides them a virtual ‘patient’ on whom they can operate, try new techniques and refresh their knowledge. While the flexible and intuitive SimSurgery platform has been extremely useful for doctors training in laparoscopic surgeries, VirtaMed allows surgeons to use original instruments to train in a safe virtual environment before performing a surgery in real. Patent WO 2003007272 A1 is an interesting technology that enables a user to view a 3-D illustration of a surgical procedure and then follow it through an interactive training session using an instrument manipulator device. This system is highly beneficial in facilitating training for procedures that depend on manual dexterity and knowledge of various actions that need to be performed.

And for a comprehensive surgical experience in the virtual world before making it real there is the Surgical Navigation Advanced Platform (SNAP). SNAP comes with advanced 3D capabilities and situational awareness replicating an operation theatre using an intra-operative navigation system. The system imports the 3D plan based in SRP (craniotomy, head position, approach) to establish multiple views, rotate and interact with the navigation image, thus allowing surgeons to see behind pathological and vital structures. The system also offers transparent images of tumors, vessels and tissues, offering improved visualization and allowing surgeons to perform pseudo real surgeries on potential scenarios before making the real incision.

A surgical navigation advanced platform Source:

A surgical navigation advanced platform


Making manufacturing plants safer

Companies involved in mining, oil rigging and in various continuous production plants are beginning to inch closer to creating a nearly safe environment even before kickstarting operations. All they need is an illusion of the real world to walk through and look for possible problem areas that need to be plugged. All that these companies need is a software tool such as Siemens COSMOS Walkinside and take a virtual tour of the plant, navigating easily through complex environments and detecting flaws with ease. What’s more, this tool can also be deployed to train employees on on-site operations for innovative and effective production.

Mapping space as it is

When Google’s Advanced Technology and Projects group (ATAP) announced its smartphone and tablet offering called Project Tango, little did we know that it would grab NASA’s attention. Still under development, Project tango promises to provide users a human-scale understanding of space and movement. So if you need to pick up home décor that matches your furniture, simply click a 3D picture of the location on your phone, head to the store and superimpose the photograph of your pick to see how it looks in real time.

And while that’s for the world around us, NASA’s SPHERES project handlers find Project Tango as the perfect fit for this experimental satellite program. The 3D sensors in Project Tango allow it to track and map practically everything around it. And this was a capability NASA was looking for when it wanted something that could handle risky duties outside the spherical satellite.

Project Tango performing in zero gravity Source:

Project Tango performing in zero gravity

Virtual experience for real defense

Going are the days when defense forces need to spend their own weaponry to train personnel. Today, most defense forces are shifting from virtual reality technologies to augmented reality technologies that offer pseudo real situations to combat in and train better.

One of the most popular AR tools used in defense training is the high mobility multipurpose wheeled vehicle or Humvee from Amel Defense. This simulator is especially useful in troop transportation training and helps defense forces save on fuel and ammunition costs while training in a safe environment. Trainees can practice at a time driving strategies, weapon handling and force protection techniques using this 240-degree view providing simulator that allows gunners to locate and engage in simulated elevated threat visual environments such as roof tops and towers.

Training in virtual waters

The Training Ship Simulator or TSS by Amel Defense is possibly the most popular AR tool in high demand by naval forces. With full bridge and real time manoeuvring applications, defense personnel can operate ships, indulge in combat and also man submarines in the watery-virtual environment.

Battle in the skies

The advent of the Forward Air Controller Simulator has made training all the more easier for air force personnel. Forward air control teams now need to step into the console that provides a real-life experience virtually. The simulator provides an absolute view and simulated combat situation that allows trainees to engage in fire missions and simultaneously co-ordinate with the land forces’ close air support and the naval gun fire support, practically replicating a real situation.



Dismounted Soldier Training System

The US Army has placed an order for a $57 million dismounted soldier system that is set to offer a flexible virtual situation to train soldiers individually and collectively. The system can recreate battleground terrain and allow trainees to strategize in a safe environment.


Soldiers need to wear a headset-enabled helmet that plunges them into the virtual combat field. The simulated environment reverberates with cinema-quality sound that produces accurate noise of gunshots while the powerful graphics replicate facial expressions, soil imprints and disturbed ground that may indicate danger. Motion sensors are placed on strategic parts of the soldier’s body that captures 360 degree movement and provides a comprehensive augmented real experience. This means that soldiers can communicate with their counterparts, run, lie down, roll or jump on their own 10’ X 10’ mats that provide operational feedback.



Learning becomes fun in the virtual world

Ever since virtual reality made inroads into the world of education, learning has become all the more fun. While classrooms equipped with a virtual reality learning console is gaining much popularity, informal education courses such as lumbering and carpentry are becoming all the more interesting in augmented reality environments ushered in by companies such as EON Reality and Wordskills.

Enhanced learning and training modules has a lot to thank augmented reality technologies for. In the next of this series, we take you through how virtual reality has changed the face of manufacturing industries.

You may like to read about how virtual reality has changed the face of e-commerce.

Paint What You Dance, While You Dance

Posted on | November 26, 2014 | No Comments

For decades, technology has been making inroads into various facets of our lives. Of them, one of the most astounding applications has been in artistic domains like dance. Be it the primeval use of video recording by dancers or the latest use of virtual reality for “Virtual Dancing” wherein a blend of human motion and animation is created by choreographers, technology and dance have waltzed around hand in hand for quite some time now.

“E-Traces” turns a page in this book by bringing forth a new dimension to this tango. If you appreciate ballet you would agree that keeping an eye on a ballerina’s feet is no less than following a butterfly as it wings its way around flower to flower. In future, when you watch a ballerina glide across the floor you don’t have to just gawk at her nimble foot movements. You can simultaneously track those movements on a screen as the dancer whirls around and gauge how she drags her feet to trace a perfect circle or goes round and round to create loops while her body weight rests on her toes. All this is possible because of Lesia Turbat’s E-Traces wherein she has wired a pair of ballet shoes and fit them with pressure sensors that detect how the feet hit the floor. A Lilypad Arduino chip processes the data and provides calligraphic output on a screen.

Lilypad Arduino Chips fit into the ballet shoes  (Source:

Lilypad Arduino Chips fit into the ballet shoes

The Circuit wired onto the ballet shoe  (Source:

The Circuit wired onto the ballet shoe

The dancers’ movements are captured, transformed into visual sensations and replicated on a screen. The output looks like the strokes of a painter’s brush. Dancers can use this data to rectify their mistakes, if any, and viewers enjoying a dance can marvel at the finesse with which the dancers execute the steps. Application of E-Traces can extend to projecting the calligraphy obtained from ballet shoes on a screen in synchronization with the dance. Don’t be surprised if this becomes a medium of painting while dancing in times to come.

Ballerina's movements on the floor are replicated on a Screen (source:

Ballerina’s movements on the floor are replicated on a Screen

Cool as the idea may sound, it might take some time to be commercially viable and universally acceptable. E-Traces is Turbat’s final year project at ELISAVA design school in Barcelona. She believes that E-Traces could very soon find application in other dance forms as well. However, iHoweverHwt might be a while before professional ballet dancers and teachers adopt ballet shoes customized by Turbat. Ballet is an archetypal dance form and its connoisseurs boast of its heritage. It will be interesting to see if they agree to adopt E-Traces as a minor tweak in the presentation of ballet or a major modification to grab more eyeballs.


Posted on | November 21, 2014 | No Comments

Gone are the days when people jostled for seats in the front rows of sports stadiums. Gone are also those days when shoppers carried a bundle of clothes into trial rooms of garment stores to find the best fit. Today, virtual reality technology has brought the stadium to the sports fan, permanently deleting the signboard of ‘Sold Out’. In the second of our five-part series on Virtual Reality technology, we take you on a tour of how e-commerce has donned a new look with Augmented Reality. 

Planning a vacation doesn’t stop at just skimming through an online gallery. Global hotelier Mariott is “teleporting” its guests to exotic locations virtually allowing them to decide on a vacation spot. Strumming along is travel manager Thomas Cook which is also making use of Virtual Reality technology to showcase its tourism experience to customers in its Concept Stores in England. Not far behind is giant advertising brand Coca Cola. The company turned its entire advertising platform into an entertainment zone during the FIFA World Cup, taking people in Brazil’s Maracana Stadium right into the locker rooms and then onto the pitch, allowing them to score a goal – all without leaving their seat.

While e-retailers have been exploring Virtual Reality technologies for advertising in the public domain to a large extent, automobile giants such as Fiat and Toyota have taken it a step further offering customers and engineers an opportunity to experience “what’s different” in their brand. Fiat has been leveraging VR technology to allow customers to experience its various models in virtual mode. Its virtual reality console also gives customers the opportunity to compare its product offerings with that of its competitors. Toyota, on the other hand, has a well-equipped VR unit in its Lexus centre in Japan that allows customers to test drive in various driving conditions and enjoy a virtually real experience of a vehicle’s performance.

From advertising companies to automobile giants and e-retailers, virtual reality has changed the entire e-commerce scenario. The sector has seen a boom in recent years and virtual reality brings in a whole new experience. As e-commerce becomes more interactive with the advent of virtual reality, all real life queries and experiences can be incorporated in the virtual market.  From finding the right colors that suit your home décor to finding the perfectly matched hairstyle for an ensemble, virtual reality has given e-commerce a powerful tool to enhance customer experience and purchase decisions.


Mobile Augmented Reality Retailing

E-commerce has been experiencing unprecedented success and the next best way forward for this industry is to make shopping online all the more interactive and compelling through augmented reality. While virtual mirrors and 4D imaging of products is making that tad difference, Mobile Augmented Reality (MAR) for the retail world is practically revolutionizing e-commerce activities on mobile phone platforms. In a recent report Juniper Research said that e-retailers are set to spend $300 million just to deploy VR capabilities.

MAR technology runs on a mobile phone and depicts the social content and networks as well as product information associated with various consumer items within a visual context. By aiming a mobile phone’s camera at an item’s 2D bar code, a consumer can visualize this information as a swarm of animated 3D avatars that appear to be hovering above the item in the physical world. MAR avatars have different roles such as online reviewers, designers of the system, sales representatives, and even other consumers who have physically been in the store and have shared their opinion on a product.

IBM’s Augmented Reality Shopping Assistant (released in 2013) provides consumers with a personalized shopping experience with immediate product comparisons and special offers as they move through the store. It captures images via the built-in video camera on a user’s Smartphone or tablet and uses advanced image processing technologies to quickly and accurately identify a product or row of items. This app also allows users to see information based on their stated preferences of products and offer coupons or special discounts. The technology is based on IBMs patents US 8451266 and US 6025839. IBM is collaborating with Tesco, one of the leading retailers of the world to ensure that its in-store displays are arranged according to the plan.

Virtual Reality apps pop up extra information about products on departmental store shelves Source:

Virtual Reality apps pop up information about products on store shelves

Ads with a personal touch

E-commerce stores are augmenting VR technology to make advertisements more personalized and tailor-made to individual users. Leveraging this potential technology appropriately can help e-retailers reduce the number of clicks it takes to convert a prospect to a customer.

Global giant toy manufacturer LEGO launched the LEGO Connect App in January 2013. This app allows consumers to point their mobile to a Connect icon on a LEGO catalog anywhere and bingo! all product information, 3D assembled models, reviews and a link to purchase it is displayed right there. This app has earned much positive feedback with at least 24,000 return users spending anywhere between four to 10 minutes interacting here.


3D characters come to life on the LEGO Connect

Home improvement store Lowe’s Canada connected with digital agency Red Piston to explore AR’s potential to take customers where they had never been before. Lowe’s Canada used the mobile to deliver a unique virtual product experience within a traditional flyer using an app. When the flyer was viewed through the mobile device’s camera, appliance images popped out into the real world, inviting users to actively engage and interact with the products. They could turn on a dryer to see how it spins and open a refrigerator to check out its compartments. With hotspots of product information appearing at the right time, users could glean even more from their immersive experience.

For the Middle East market, Toyota sought forward-thinking marketing promotions to accelerate interest in the 86 while enabling consumers to enjoy the look, feel and driving experience first-hand. The carmaker embraced mobile experiential technology and launched the “Made to Thrill” advertising campaign. The Toyota 86 AR mobile app simulates test-drives to help consumers feel and experience everything the new Toyota 86 embodies. Using smartphones and tablets, consumers could activate the app from posters at shopping malls and trendy hangouts, and as the app gained online momentum, they could also print their own posters from the website. In the first 10 days following its launch, the Toyota 86 AR app reached 70,000+ downloads.

The Guinness World Records book is sold in 100 countries and offered in 25 different languages. Being a reference- and image-driven book, Guinness wanted to bridge this traditional medium with digital assets and to make them more remarkable for the readers and partnered with Appshaker to develop compelling AR enhanced visuals. One of the most popular factoids in the book features the world’s shortest man, Chandra Bahadur Dangi, from Nepal. Standing 21.5 inches tall, Dangi pops out of the pages when a device loaded with the app is pointed at an extra feature layered behind his photo. Readers can actually have their picture taken with him and send it to friends and family, a feat never before accomplished in a hybrid print/digital publication.

Guinness World Records chief editor Craig Glenday uses the VR app to see how he matches against the world's tallest man Sultan at 8'3" and the world's shortest man Dangi at 21.5" Source:

Guinness World Records chief editor Craig Glenday uses the VR app to see how he matches against the world’s tallest man Sultan at 8’3″ and the world’s shortest man Dangi at 21.5″

While VR technologies have taken entertainment to a new high and are giving consumers a wonderful shopping experience, these technologies are offering an absolute edge of precision for the armed forces and medical fraternity. The third of our series covers interesting insights into the worlds of militia and medicine, and their integration with virtual reality.


Posted on | November 18, 2014 | No Comments

Going are the days of remembering a zillion passwords for a slew of credit cards. Your heart is soon going to put your mind at ease by beating away all those passwords and becoming a code by itself.

You read that right.

Canadian start-up Bionym is testing a wearable device using near field communication (NFC) technology. This device, called the Nymi, is possibly the first biometric alternative for contactless mobile based payments in a multibank program for the common man. The pilot project is set to kick off with customers of the Royal Bank of Canada.


How does it work?

Bionym’s NYMI wristband has an NFC chip embedded in contactless credit cards that are fed inside a wristband. The device then records the wearer’s “unique heartbeat” or electrical pattern of the cardiac rhythm to verify the identity. The wristband uses an ECG sensor that will acknowledge the individual heart rhythm to authenticate and unlock. Once unlocked the wearer can leave the phone at home and the device will still be activated.



A solution to credit card thefts?

Now that’s a question to ponder.

Credit card thefts happen in two prominent ways: one, where a reader strip planted in the terminal captures credit card data when it is swiped; and second, by breaking into a merchant terminal and retrieving a card holder’s credentials.

Bionym’s patented (US 20140188770 A1) wristband technology can help prevent the first method of theft as there is no requirement to swipe a card. For the second form of theft, upgrades in NFC technology allow unique card number generations for each transaction thereby negating the other method.

A wristband that beats your credit card password  Source:

A wristband that beats your credit card password

Unlock with a wave

Nymi has been designed to support Windows, OS X, iOS and Android platforms. This will allow the bracelet to also be used to unlock devices and log into websites and apps. While this is just the beginning and the product is yet to be launched, Bionym has already begun working on developing it to the next level of gesture-recognition to operate smart appliances.

So while you place your band to make your card payments, soon enough you can switch TV channels or moderate the temperature in your thermostat with just a wave of your band.

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