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Facebook Releases Blockbuster App For Remote Work – Forbes

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This morning Facebook launched Horizon Workrooms, a free cross platform XR (VR, PC) collaboration app that enables distributed teams or groups to share a private virtual room for meetings, training and education. Workrooms can accommodate up to sixteen avatars, representing sixteen people in Oculus Quest 2 VR headsets, and as many as fifty people on video, using the companion Oculus remote desktop PC app, which provides a Zoom-like interface for colleagues on PCs in the physical world. There are white boards, shared note pads, and options for multiple environments that change in size based on the number of participants in VR. The rooms are persistent and content created there can be taken back onto the PC. Users can upload documents, photos, videos, basically any file on their computer into the room. You can even screen share.

Using a combination of converging technologies like avatar animation, computer vision, and mixed reality, the London-based team led by Workrooms Lead Mike LeBeau has created something astonishing. You can see your computer through the outward facing cameras of the Quest 2 headset well enough to type notes on a real computer while in VR, as I did during yesterday’s press conference in Workrooms with LeBeau and the head of Facebook Reality Labs, Andrew “Boz” Bosworth.

“Workrooms is our first experience designed from the ground up using hands as your primary form of input instead of controllers,” began LeBeau. “Hands, as it turns out, are really great for productivity experiences. They’re more natural, more expressive, and quite good for using other tools like whiteboards and computers, making it more like a place you want to do work.”

“We think of Workrooms not just as a virtual reality experience but as a mixed reality experience, which means we’re blending some elements of the real world with the virtual world, so ideally you get the best of both worlds,” LeBeau explained. “You don’t have to leave regular tools like your computer behind, you can bring them with you and be more productive.”  

In his opening remarks, Bosworth said Horizon Workrooms has within it “a hint about the direction the metaverse is headed… [Workrooms] isn’t the metaverse itself, it’s a universe we’ve created, but it is a step in the right direction. You’ve got avatars and you’ve got identity that is continuous and you can take it with you. It works for people in 2D and in headsets.” Boz later elaborated. “Consider the experience of the person calling in on video. They’re not in VR. A metaverse describes a persistent digital place that can be accessed by all sorts of devices. It only really becomes a metaverse when it crosses platform boundaries.” 

I have written a book on Remote Collaboration, and have visited, literally, hundreds of sites, and used dozens of apps, but I have never seen anything like Workrooms. They blew my mind. I keep up with the leading state-of-the-art cross-platform virtual collaboration platforms like Spatial.io, Altspace, Engage, Glue, Arthur, and Virbela, which all seem to be growing quickly. They offer all the features Horizon Workrooms has and more. Even though Workrooms was in production since before the pandemic according to Bosworth, the incumbent platforms have some important features that Workrooms doesn’t yet have. The interface Spatial, Engage, and Altspace, with VR world-building platform Unity, don’t exist on Workrooms. 

Workrooms is formally called “Horizon Workrooms,” because they are tied to Facebook social VR app Horizon, which is still in closed beta (invitation only). Therefore, this is one of the first times people can have a good look at the new Facebook avatars, which are a breakthrough in themselves. Who else has cheek movement? It is social presence, said Bosworth, that makes the whole thing work. “It was by far the hardest part” he said, of creating Horizon (and Workrooms) avatars. 

Workrooms is clearly still in beta, but it’s a beta of one of the most amazing things I’ve seen in VR. It just doesn’t happen to be working perfectly right now. My keyboard disappeared intermittently. Sometimes the hands occluded the keyboard and confused the computer vision. People had to log in and out to activate their audio. The biggest challenge is the friction created when connecting the headset to the Workrooms app. Importantly, apps like Workrooms on company computers can be problematic for many companies. 

“We think of workrooms as a unique inflection point for VR. We’ve talked for a long time about future computing platforms. This is one of those moments when we think we’re starting to adapt the medium to that end for real, bringing together different technologies to create a new experience in VR. In doing so, we’re designing and building new interaction paradigms and foundations for what we think will be at the core of this new computing platform,” said LeBeau.

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Google CEO sought to keep Incognito mode issues out of spotlight, lawsuit alleges – Yahoo News Canada

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By Paresh Dave

(Reuters) – Google Chief Executive Sundar Pichai in 2019 was warned that describing the company’s Incognito browsing mode as “private” was problematic, yet it stayed the course because he did not want the feature “under the spotlight,” according to a new court filing.

Google spokesman José Castañeda told Reuters that the filing “mischaracterizes emails referencing unrelated second and third-hand accounts.”

The Alphabet Inc unit’s privacy disclosures have generated regulatory and legal scrutiny in recent years amid growing public concerns about online surveillance.

Users last June alleged in a lawsuit that Google unlawfully tracked their internet use when they were browsing Incognito in its Chrome browser. Google has said it makes clear that Incognito only stops data from being saved to a user’s device and is fighting the lawsuit.

In a written update on trial preparations filed Thursday in U.S. district court, attorneys for the users said they “anticipate seeking to depose” Pichai and Google Chief Marketing Officer Lorraine Twohill.

The attorneys, citing Google documents, said Pichai “was informed in 2019 as part of a project driven by Twohill that Incognito should not be referred to as ‘private’ because that ran ‘the risk of exacerbating known misconceptions about protections Incognito mode provides.'”

The filing continued, “As part of those discussions, Pichai decided that he ‘didn’t want to put incognito under the spotlight’ and Google continued without addressing those known issues.”

Castañeda said teams “routinely discuss ways to improve the privacy controls built into our services.” Google’s attorneys said they would oppose efforts to depose Pichai and Twohill.

Last month, plaintiffs deposed Google vice president Brian Rakowski, described in the filing as “the ‘father’ of Incognito mode.” He testified that though Google states Incognito enables browsing “privately,” what users expect “may not match” up with the reality, according to the plaintiffs’ write-up.

Google’s attorneys rejected the summary, writing that Rakowski also said terms including “private,” “anonymous,” and “invisible” with proper context “can be super helpful” in explaining Incognito.

(Reporting by Paresh Dave; Editing by David Gregorio)

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Apple iPhone 13 Pro and Pro Max aren't rendering all apps in 120Hz – GSMArena.com news – GSMArena.com

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The iPhone 13 lineup officially went on sale on Friday September 24. As pre-order arrive to their customers’ doorsteps or Apple Stores in most markets, folks have noticed that the ProMotion feature isn’t working consistently.

The iPhone 13 Pro and 13 Pro Max both feature Apple’s ProMotion displays, meaning they support refresh rates of 120Hz. The feature has been on the iPad Pro since 2017, but this is the first time Apple brings the feature to the iPhone.

iOS 15 supports ProMotion across all apps while scrolling or performing full-screen transitions like switching apps or swiping Home. 9to5Mac reports that many animations are still capped at 60Hz, breaking the intended experience of the ProMotion displays.

The iPhone 13 Pro’s display is rendering most animations in 120Hz, but there are still many animations that aren’t taking full advantage of the higher refresh rate. Apple’s first-party apps have all properly implemented the smoother transitions across the board, the issue only occurs with third-party apps.

Apple has confirmed to 9to5Mac that developers need to enable their apps to support higher framerates for apps that use custom rendering such as games. This is achieved by the developer adding a new info.plist key in order to opt-in for their apps to support 120Hz. Apple will make this documentation available to developers soon and a firmware update will fix a bug that isn’t letting Core Animation drive the refresh rates higher than 60Hz.

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EU Commission proposes removing chargers from all smartphone boxes – GSMArena.com news – GSMArena.com

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In a new press release by the European Commission, legislation is being put forth by the European Commission to standardize the charging plug across all consumer devices. It also plans to “harmonize” a fast-charging standard and “unbundle the sale of chargers from the sale of electronic devices”. This proposal will apply to “smartphones, tablets, cameras, headphones, portable speakers, and handheld videogame consoles.”

The Commission officially proposes four things:

  • A harmonized charging port for electronic devices: USB-C will be the common port.
  • Harmonized fast-charging technology: will help prevent different producers unjustifiably limit the charging speed and will help ensure that charging speed is the same when using any compatible charger for a device.
  • Unbundling the sale of a charger from the sale of the electronic device: the Commission says that EU consumers already have an average of three chargers and will only use two.
  • Improved information for consumers: OEMs will need to provide information about charging speeds and whether the device supports fast charging.

According to the EU Commission, European consumers spend €2.4 billion annually on standalone chargers not included with devices. Also, an estimated 11,000 tonnes of e-waste are made up of disposed/unused chargers every year. The EU Commission hopes that the proposed legislation could potentially save consumers €250 million per year on unnecessary charger purchases.

Fast-charging standardization is an interesting one. Many Chinese phone makers all use different fast-charging standards to compete with each other, but most will support some form of USB-C Power Delivery fast-charging. So OEMs would need to provide fast-charging information so that they are informed about what charging speeds they may expect from the charger they already have at home.


iPhone 12 Pro with included Lightning to USB-C cable

The proposed legislation will affect Apple the most. They’d need to make the switch from Lightning to USB-C. It’s been rumored for years that Apple would make this switch, and even though Apple’s MacBook and iPad have already switched to USB-C, its two most popular product lines: the iPhone and AirPods, continue to use the Lightning cable. This would hurt Apple’s sales of chargers and cables, so Apple isn’t giving in without a fight.

Even so, the proposed legislation still needs to be approved by the ordinary legislative procedure (co-decision): It needs to be adopted by the EU Parliament and Council. Once (and if) the legislation is approved, a transition period of 24-months will be given to OEMs to transition to the new EU laws.

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