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The Race to Develop AR and VR Wearables is Heating Up with New Advances from Facebook and Google

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While social media platforms have seen big increases in usage amid the COVID-19 lockdowns, so too have virtual reality devices, with Facebook reporting that it’s been unable to keep up with demand for its Oculus Quest headsets.

The home quarantines have accelerated the take up of both AR and VR options, with people looking for ways to keep themselves entertained, in variance to going out and attending regular social events. That’s also pushed the various key players to advance the development of their AR and VR tools, and this week, we’ve seen two new announcements that could play a significant part in the next stage of digital connectivity.

First, Facebook has detailed its latest development in VR, using near-eye displays, “which combine the power of holographic optics and polarization-based optical folding” to enable the VR experience through sunglasses-like hardware.

Facebook VR glasses

As you can see here, the sunglasses-like model is significantly smaller than the current VR headsets, which could go a long way towards advancing consumer adoption, and enabling even more usage of VR in different environments.

As per Facebook:

We anticipate that such lightweight and comfortable form factors may enable extended VR sessions and new use cases, including productivity.”

The advance is the next stage, following on from Facebook’s introduction of hand-tracking technology, which enables users to interact within VR without gloves or controllers.

By making VR more readily accessible, that could eventually see people engaging in VR environments while on, say public transport, or, in a more pressing use case, in the workplace, where Facebook has been working to develop new VR tools that can facilitate more practical engagement without having to be in the same office.

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Oculus VR workplace

With more people likely to shift to work-from-home arrangements in the wake of COVID-19, this could become a key entry point for VR technology, and slimmer VR display devices could help improve the take up of the devices within the office space.

And it may also point to the next phase of AR integration, in the development of wearable AR glasses, which will enable users to interact with the world around them through digital overlays and connective tools.

On that front, it’s Google that’s taken the latest step, with the acquisition of AR glasses maker North and its fashionably designed smart glasses tech.

North AR glasses

North was on the cusp of releasing version 2.0 of its Focals product (above), which provides various digital overlays on the lens, enabling users to stay connected. 

As per Google:

North’s technical expertise will help as we continue to invest in our hardware efforts and ambient computing future.”

Google, of course, was the first company to bring AR wearables to market, with Google Glass, though that device never saw significant consumer interest. Now, Google’s looking to step back in, and with Facebook and Apple also working on AR-enabled glasses, it might not be long before we see fully functional wearables on the market, which could change the game for the digital sector.

Indeed, Facebook acquired microLED maker Plessey back in March, giving it access to a key component for its AR glasses, while Apple is reportedly eyeing a 2023 release of its own AR glasses, putting all three on a similar timeline.

And they’re not the only players in the space – Snap Inc. continues to develop its Spectacles, with a view to AR functionality, while Pokemon Go creator Niantic recently acquired augmented reality startup 6D.ai, which is not a hardware developer, as such, but will give Niantic a new platform for the development of advanced AR models.

With consumers looking for new ways to engage within digital environments, and eCommerce on the rise, AR and VR are the next logical steps, and the increased attention as a result of COVID-19 has sparked a new flurry of activity, which could see that next stage arrive sooner than many expect.

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It still feels like a long way off, but in the near future, it’s likely that AR and VR wearables will become more commonplace. And that will open up a range of new opportunities for digital marketers. Think ads in simulated environments, advanced virtual ‘try-on’ tools, location-triggered offers, etc.

The opportunity is not there yet, but the next stage is coming. Now we wait to see who takes the leap first, with the next stage of AR tech.

Socialmediatoday.com

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Expert shares advice for keeping children safe online

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The arrival of the mobile internet on the island in 2018 has revolutionized the way people express discontent and organize themselves in a one-party state known for its dislike of dissent

The arrival of the mobile internet on the island in 2018 has revolutionized the way people express discontent and organize themselves in a one-party state known for its dislike of dissent – Copyright AFP Yasuyoshi CHIBA

Keeping all electronic devices in one room is a measure that can be taken in order to protect your child online. Children have more access to screen time than ever before, in particular, access to the Internet. Hence, Internet safety has become an increasingly worrying problem amongst parents.

Internet expert Allison Troutner from VPNOverview.com tells Digital Journal about the best ways to keep your child safe online.

Consider a family ‘tech agreement’

Troutner  advises: “One way to set ground rules with your child is to create a Family Tech Agreement. A family tech agreement answers as many questions as possible about internet and device use so boundaries are clear to all family members. It’s a good way for the whole family to talk about safe and responsible online behaviours.”

To create a family agreement, discuss topics like:

•           What apps, games, or sites does the family use most?

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•           What rules do we want to include in our agreement?

•           How long should we spend on our devices?

•           What information is safe to share (or not)?

•           What do we do if we see something inappropriate?

•           What email address do we use to sign up for accounts?

•           Do we know how to use in-app safety features like blocking and reporting?

•           Who can we talk to if we feel uncomfortable with something online?

•           Who is safe to talk to?

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•           What happens when someone breaks the agreement?

•           When might parents be forced to break the agreement for safety?

Troutner advises: “This is a starting point: your family may discuss more topics on Internet safety for kids depending on the ages of your child or teens and what devices you use.”

Report any harmful content that you see

Troutner  recommends: “Flag or report all harmful content or contact you or your child experiences using social media apps using in-app reporting features. For cybercrimes, cyberbullying, or harmful content, use in-app features like Twitter’s safe mode to report it. Most social media companies have their own safety and privacy policies and will investigate and block content or users. Apps geared towards kids, like Facebook Messenger Kids, have clear guidelines and safety features so that users can block content or contacts and have a safer experience in the app.”

Balance safety with independence

Troutner cautions: “Technical controls can be a useful way to protect your children online but they can’t solve all your problems. Children need a certain amount of freedom and privacy to develop healthily. They need their own free space to learn by trial and error what works and what doesn’t. So keep balancing, it’s part of it. Having open and honest conversations with your children can be the best way to balance this safety.”

Keep the computer in a common space

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Troutner states: “If possible, keep computers and devices in a common space so you can keep an eye on activity. It prevents children from doing things that might be risky. Also, if harmful or inappropriate content appears through messages, you can address it with your child straight away.”

Password-protect all accounts and devices

According to Troutner: “From phones to computers to apps, put a password on it. That way, no one without the password can access you or your child’s device. Keep track of passwords by using a password manager.”

Update your operating systems regularly

As a protective measure, Troutner advises: “All of your devices from mobile phones or tablets to computers and smartwatches receive important updates in response to security issues on a regular basis. Be sure to install them regularly so you have the most up-to-date security fixes and remain safe online. Our recommendation is to set updates to install automatically so your device is less vulnerable to known attacks. Usually, you can find this feature in Settings, then select Automatic Updates, but it varies between devices.”

Install security or antivirus software programs and a VPN on your computer

Troutner puts forward: “Additionally, cybersecurity or antivirus software programs prevent spyware or viruses that may harm your computer if your child visits a malicious site. Using these programs, parents can also set up regular virus checks and deep system scans to make sure there is no harmful activity happening under your nose.”

He adds: “A VPN hides users’ internet activity from snoops and spoofs your location. This protects your kids by making sure hackers or predators can’t detect their actual location. You can install a VPN on your router so that the location is spoofed on all connected devices.”

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Set parental controls

Troutner  states: “It may seem obvious, but parental controls are crucial to your child’s safety online. Parent controls are built-in features included on devices and apps. With these features, parents customise their child’s online experience. What parental controls are available on each device or app varies, but in general, they limit screen time, restrict content, and enhance user privacy.”

Features of parental controls include:

•           Limit screen time.

•           Turn off in-app purchasing.

•           Prevent inappropriate or mature content.

•           Limit website access.

•           Play, message, or send/receive content with approved contacts only.

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•           Monitor device location through GPS.

Troutner  concludes, emphasising: “Take time to look at what parental controls are available on your child’s commonly used apps. Then, set them to reflect the type of experience you think is best for your child or teen’s online safety.”

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