AI experts turn soccer videos into ‘holograms’

Computer scientists have trained a neural network to transform the action from pre-recorded videos of soccer games into immersive augmented-reality “holograms” you can shrink down onto a tabletop.

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U.S. military takes HoloLens to the next level

Marine Commandant tests HoloLens
Marine Corps Commandant Robert Neller uses a HoloLens augmented-reality system to manipulate virtual objects during a demonstration at Camp Foster on Okinawa in April. (U.S. Marine Photo / Tayler P. Schwamb)

Microsoft’s HoloLens augmented-reality system is scoring victories with the U.S. military, which means the goggle-eyed headsets are more likely to pop up at a wargame near you.

Last November, the HoloLens system was incorporated into a platform known as the Augmented Immersive Team Trainer, which lets Marines plan missions and conduct “what-if” simulations while looking at a real or virtual terrain.

The experiment, conducted during training exercises at Camp Lejeune, N.C., worked so well that the Marines are now distributing HoloLens kits to 24 infantry battalions around the country.

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Next-gen HoloLens is perfect for Clark Kent

HoloLens prototype
This augmented-reality display prototype takes advantage of a miniaturized holographic projector. (Microsoft Research via YouTube)

Today, Microsoft’s HoloLens augmented-reality headset has a geeky RoboCop vibe, but someday it could become more like a pair of eyeglasses suitable for Superman’s mild-mannered alter ego.

At least that’s the impression you’re likely to get from a Microsoft Research study on HoloLens technology, due to be presented in July at SIGGRAPH 2017 in Los Angeles.

The study delves into the possibilities of creating a display system that looks more like sunglasses than the bulky, goggle-like systems that are currently favored for virtual reality and mixed reality. The system could also build in a vision-correcting algorithm.

“If we ultimately wish to make a display the size of eyeglasses, we must build the functionality of eyeglasses into the display,” the research team writes in a blog item about the technology.

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Microsoft’s HoloLens joins the military

Marine with HoloLens
Marines test a HoloLens headset during a training exercise meant to strengthen small-unit decision making at Camp Lejeune, N.C. (USMC Photo / Sgt. Kaitlyn V. Klein)

Microsoft’s HoloLens augmented-reality headsets have been used to fight video-game aliens in space, but now they’ve been enlisted for wargames on Earth as well.

The HoloLens system was incorporated into a platform known as the Augmented Immersive Team Trainer that lets Marines plan missions and conduct “what-if” simulations while looking at a real-world terrain.

The wargaming software, which is called Interactive Tactical Decision Game, or I-TDG, can overlay a view of the environment with virtual objects ranging from ground vehicles and aircraft to explosions and other battlefield effects.

The system was used in November during a training exercise at Camp Lejeune, N.C., conducted by the 2nd Battalion, 6th Marlnes – 2/6, also known as “the Spartans.”

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How augmented reality can find your keys

Image: AR headset
This cartoon shows a user wearing a headset that’s part of a system to keep track of items such as keys (102). The headset display could highlight the location of the keys even if they end up hidden under a sheaf of papers or lost between the cushions of a couch. (Microsoft Illustration via USPTO)

Microsoft expects its HoloLens augmented-reality headset to guide you through complicated tasks in the workplace, but someday you could also use it around the house to find misplaced items, play games – and even watch movies on a virtual big screen.

The possibilities for augmented reality, or AR, are laid out in a series of patents and patent applications published over the past month or so.

Augmented reality is a cousin of virtual reality. VR creates a complete computer-generated environment, viewed through headsets ranging from the high-end Oculus Rift and HTC Vive to the smartphone-based Google Daydream and Samsung Gear systems. AR systems like Microsoft’s HoloLens goes one step further, blending computer-generated imagery with the real-life scene that’s in front of you.

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Microsoft adds George Takei to HoloLens menu

Image: George Takei as Actiongram
George Takei, in the orange sweater, appears as an Actiongram character in a video recorded with HoloLens mixed-reality capture. (Credit: Microsoft)

Want to put a little George Takei in your living room? Microsoft can make it so, thanks to the Actiongram app for its HoloLens mixed-reality headset.

Takei, who played Mr. Sulu in the “Star Trek” original series 50 years ago, makes his debut as an Actiongram character just in time for today’s release of an open beta version of the app for developers.

Like Actiongram’s other characters, Takei’s 3-D projected image can be inserted into the HoloLens view of a real-world environment. You can record the video of the resulting interactions, and share it with your friends and the rest of the world.

Microsoft’s aim is to give HoloLens users the ability to wield computer-generated video effects as adroitly as a bare-chested Sulu wielded a rapier in “The Naked Time.” As Takei would say: Oh myyyyy!

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Pokémon Go on HoloLens? Make it so!

Charizard on HoloLens
A mixed-reality view through a Microsoft HoloLens headset shows a Charizard taunting a Pokemon Go player. (Credit: Koder via YouTube)

Millions of Pokémon Go players are peering into smartphones to look for animated characters in an augmented-reality world, but what if they could look for them wearing Microsoft’s HoloLens headset instead?

That’s not commercially available at this point, but a couple of coding teams thought it would be cool to work up prototypes for a Pokeman/HoloLens mash-up – and now they’re sharing their results.

California-based Koder developed one such prototype. “My colleague [Paul Nguyen] and I built it over a 2-day period and made a video to show the experience,” Elmer Morales, Koder’s founder and CEO, told GeekWire in an email.

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NASA uses HoloLens to build virtual Mars rover

Image: Virtual rover
Engineers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory check the design of a rover assembly using Microsoft’s HoloLens augmented-reality system. (Credit: NASA)

We’ve already seen how Microsoft’s HoloLens mixed-reality headset is helping folksfight off aliens on the International Space Station and take a virtual walk on Mars. Now check out how it’s being used to tweak the design for NASA’s next Mars rover.

Last week, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory showed off its ProtoSpace application, which superimposes a computer-generated version of space hardware over your field of view in the headset.

The application lets JPL’s engineers size up how components fit together in the design of the 2020 Mars rover, which is currently under development at the lab in Pasadena, Calif. They can also take real-world hardware and compare it against the ghostly design that’s floating before their eyes.

The beauty of the system is that they can push through the virtual parts on the outside and get into the guts of the rover, in what appears to be real physical space.

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Scott Kelly brings space into Microsoft spotlight

Image: Scott Kelly and Satya Nadella
Astronaut Scott Kelly recounts his space experience at the Microsoft Envision conference while Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella looks on. (GeekWire photo by Kevin Lisota)

Just days after retiring from NASA, astronaut Scott Kelly gave HoloLens mixed-reality technology a boost today at the Microsoft Envision conference in New Orleans – and promised to get the International Space Station upgraded to Windows 10.

It’s been a busy time for Kelly: Last month, he finished up a nearly yearlong stint on the station, which was aimed at learning what will be required for long-duration missions to Mars and other deep-space destinations. Soon afterward, he announced he was retiring from NASA on April 1.

Today, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella brought Kelly on stage to help inspire hundreds of developers attending this week’s Envision conference. “It’s the stories like Captain Kelly and NASA that inspire us in everything we do at Microsoft,” Nadella said. “Our mission is to empower every person and organization on the planet to achieve more.”

Kelly recalled that when he went over from the U.S. Navy to join NASA’s astronaut corps in 1996, the space shuttle program relied on the 486 computer processing chip and on-paper checklists. “The Internet was something new that I didn’t have a whole lot of experience with,” he said.

“Fast forward 20 years … and the space station is basically operated with a bunch of laptop computers using different types of software. Some of them use Microsoft Windows 7, actually. We’re a little behind there,” Kelly said.

“We’ve got to get the Windows 10 upgrade going into space,” Nadella joked.

“I’m going to call NASA right when we get out of here,” Kelly replied.

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Microsoft, NASA create HoloLens Mars tour

Image: Mars tour
Erisa Hines, a driver for the Mars Curiosity rover, talks to participants during the “Destination: Mars” mixed-reality tour. (Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech / Microsoft)

Microsoft and NASA are bringing HoloLens to the masses – and bringing the masses to Mars – with a mixed-reality experience that will make its debut this summer.

“Destination: Mars,” an exhibit opening at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida this summer, takes regular folks on a virtual guided tour to sites visited by the Curiosity rover on the Red Planet.

Apollo 11 moonwalker Buzz Aldrin serves as one of the “holographic tour guides,” along with Curiosity rover driver Erisa Hines of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

“The experience lets the public explore Mars in an entirely new way,” JPL visualization producer Doug Ellison said March 30 in a news release. “To walk through the exact landscape that Curiosity is roving across puts its achievements and discoveries into beautiful context.”

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