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iPad Pro 2020: A Modest iPad Update Holds the Key to Apple’s AR Future

This week, Apple debuted a new iPad Pro. It has a little more power than the previous model and a keyboard with a trackpad. Neat. But its most consequential upgrade is the one that will likely get the least use, at least on a tablet: a lidar scanner.

If you’ve heard of lidar it’s likely because of self-driving cars. It’s a useful technology in that context, because it can build a 3D map of the sensor’s surroundings; it uses pulses of light to gauge distances and locations in a similar way to how radar uses radio signals. In an iPad Pro, that depth-sensing will be put in the service of augmented reality. But it’s not really about the iPad Pro. Apple put a lidar scanner in a tablet to prepare, almost certainly, for when it puts one in a pair of AR glasses.

You can read more about the new iPad Pro, here (via WIRED).

Apple releases ARKit 3.5 to take advantage of iPad Pro LiDAR Scanner

Along with iOS 13.4 and iPadOS 13.4, Apple has released ARKit 3.5 to let developers take advantage of the new LiDAR Scanner in the new iPad Pro. The latest ARKit release features Scene Geometry, Instant AR, and improved Motion Capture and People Occlusion.

Apple announced the update in a post on its developer site today:

ARKit 3.5 takes advantage of the new LiDAR Scanner and depth-sensing system on iPad Pro to support a new generation of AR apps that use Scene Geometry for enhanced scene understanding and object occlusion. And now, AR experiences on iPad Pro are even better with instant AR placement, and improved Motion Capture and People Occlusion — all without the need to write any new code.

You can read more about the latest ARKit version, here (via 9to5Mac).

Swiss startup Creal is building display tech for the next generation of AR/VR headsets

After years of hype, the AR/VR space has certainly grown quieter as of late, but some investors are still coalescing behind a vision that the technologies could one day replace mobile if the technical kinks can be worked out.

Creal is a Swiss startup that’s working on some fundamental display technologies that could make VR and AR headsets more comfortable with more life-like optics.

The startup raised a $7.4 million Series A last year from Investiere and DAA Capital Partners. The company announced this week that they received grant funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program to continue working on their light-field display tech.

You can read more about Creal and their work, here (via TechCrunch)

Half-Life: Alyx: The greatest VR adventure game yet — and then some

Our epic review avoids spoilers, gets into the million-dollar question: Why VR only?

I am a huge fan of Half-Life: Alyx, the first new Half-Life game in 13 years. But before telling you why, I’d like to take the hype balloon — in this case, shaped like a headcrab that’s floating towards your face — and let out a bit of its air.

Half-Life: Alyx is not a must-own video game. It is not the PC world’s Super Mario 64 equivalent, a comparison I mention because Valve studio head Gabe Newell has heightened expectations this way multiple times over the years. HL:A does not use virtual reality to transform how we interact with games in a way that might be as universally embraced as Super Mario Bros. 1, Doom, Zelda: Ocarina of Time, or, of course, the first two Half-Life games.

Continue reading the ArsTechnica review of HL: Alyx, here.

Valve Elaborates On Early Left 4 Dead 3 Rumors, Portal VR Ideas

Rumors suggested Valve was working on Left 4 Dead 3, but devs have elaborated, saying the studio was never seriously working on a third entry for the beloved zombie series, and the leaked renders were more of a tech test while developing a new engine.

In this month’s episode of IGN Unfiltered, Ryan McCaffrey sat down with Chris Remo and Robin Walker from Valve to talk about Half-Life: Alyx, Portal VR, Left 4 Dead 3, and much more.

You can watch the interview, here (via IGN).

HP teases ‘next gen’ VR headset made with Microsoft and Valve’s help

If you didn’t rush out to buy a VR headset to play Half-Life: Alyx, your patience might be rewarded. HP is teasing a Reverb G2 headset developed in tandem with Microsoft and Valve that should be “more immersive, comfortable and compatible” than previous-generation hardware. The company is unsurprisingly shy on details, although the brief glimpse hints at a few design changes.

The first Reverb wasn’t a revolution in design, but it did stand out with a sharp 2,160 x 2,160 pixels per eye. It won’t be surprising if HP pursues bragging rights once again, especially when its Twitter teaser claims the new Reverb is the “next benchmark” in VR gear. We wouldn’t count on Valve dramatically influencing the design given that the Index remains its pride and joy, though. The new Reverb may be more gamer-friendly, but this is still likely to be aimed as much at professionals as it is enthusiasts.

Read about the new Reverb G2, here (via Engadget)

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