Alice Bonasio VR MR Tom Atkinson Tech Trends Review AR Mixed Virtual Reality Augmented IOT XR health live planet tile oculus quest pet tag feeder 360 camera
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Black Friday Product Reviews

 

Get stuck into our bumper Black Friday product reviews!

Oculus Quest

If there is one gadget to pick up this Black Friday it is the awesome Oculus Quest. I know this review of the Quest is very late to the party but we have taken our time and here are our thoughts. When we reviewed the Go back in June 2018 I summed by saying:

The lack of friction for the user feels so good after years of faffing and fiddling and popping phones in and out and trailing headphone cables around that it felt like real progress. The Oculus Go is not breaking any new technical ground but it cuts the cord and shows us the way forward.

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This liberation from accessories and cables is still its most compelling feature and makes it truly portable just like the Go. The Quest, however, does break new ground and feels like a serious upgrade. It’s not just one simple thing, it’s a combination of advances in different areas that make this nifty stand-alone HMD our new go-to headset.

The Oculus Quest does break new ground and feels like a serious upgrade Click To Tweet The 1,440x1,600-pixel LCD is a small but pleasing update and the Quest uses fixed foveated rendering to go easy on the Snapdragon 835 Click To Tweet

The 1,440×1,600-pixel LCD is a small but pleasing update and the Quest uses fixed foveated rendering to go easy on the Snapdragon 835 while the grainy black and white Passthrough camera is a functional, if not glamorous, feature. It does feel like you are walking through a 1990’s video game but it is a useful and practical update from Oculus.

 

Alice Bonasio VR MR Tom Atkinson Tech Trends Review AR Mixed Virtual Reality Augmented IOT XR health live planet tile oculus quest pet tag feeder 360 camera

I feel the real game-changer is ‘Oculus Insight’, their take on inside-out tracking. This is the introduction of two Oculus Touch hand controllers that work with the Quest’s new on-board sensors to track and map the movement of the user and the space and objects around them.

The foundation of Oculus Insight’s inside-out tracking is simultaneous localization and mapping, or SLAM, which uses computer vision CV algorithms to essentially fuse incoming data from multiple sensors in order to fix the position of an object within a constantly updated digital map. (Source: Facebook)

You can dive deeper into the creation of this amazing technology here on Facebook’s Tech site but suffice to say that packing an advanced SLAM sytem into the Quest where is had to run off a mobile chip and a small low-power battery was no mean feat, but boy does it work!

The real game-changer is ‘Oculus Insight’, their take on inside-out tracking Click To Tweet
Animo Alice Bonasio VR MR Tom Atkinson Tech Trends Review AR Mixed Virtual Reality Augmented IOT XR health live planet tile oculus quest pet tag feeder 360 camera

Overall, Oculus Insight just makes the whole proposition of playing and working in VR without, or at least with much fewer, perceptual artifacts like swimminess (the disorienting sensation you get when your physical and virtual positions and movements don’t line up) and judder (visual strobing and smearing between frames), a reality. Facebook acknowledge that there is a long way to go but this initial accomplishment is a huge part of what makes the Quest so comfortable to use for longer periods of time and makes it feel, well, just right.

Oculus Insight marks the first time that fully untethered six-degree-of-freedom (6DoF) headset and controller tracking has shipped in a consumer AR/VR device. Built from the ground up, the Insight stack leverages state-of-the-art computer vision (CV) systems and visual-inertial simultaneous localization and mapping, or SLAM. (Source: Facebook)

The Quest features externally mounted speakers, so you can listen in VR and still interact with sounds around you Click To Tweet

Like the Go, the Quest features externally mounted speakers, so you can listen in VR and still interact with sounds around you, in addition to two headphone jacks, one on either side of the headset, that let the user seal themselves off completely from the real world. It might have annoyed my colleagues but I stuck to using the speakers so I could keep chatting with them while in VR.

One drawback is that the app platform is not shared with the Go so you can’t get all the same apps, but Cnet has a good list of available games here. The Quest will be around for a while and with talk of the upcoming Oculus Link expanding its capabilities once tethered to a PC I’m sure that Oculus will be adding more ambitious apps and games as time passes and there are plenty there already to keep you busy. Having messed around with demos, video content, games and other VR whatnots I can say that the content is pretty good and will only get better.

Alice Bonasio VR MR Tom Atkinson Tech Trends Review AR Mixed Virtual Reality Augmented IOT XR health live planet tile oculus quest pet tag feeder 360 camera
At the moment the Quest is our recommended go-to HMD for consumer VR media or gaming and I'm betting it will remain our favorite cable-free VR experience for a good while yet Click To Tweet

Battery life was about 2 hours, sometimes a little more, which I think is fine for a device like this. The speed and fluidity of the VR interface was noticeably faster and smoother than the Go and browsing for content was easy and fun. The HMD felt generally more comfortable than the Go and the included glasses spacer really helped but did allow light to leach in around my nose, nothing that caused an issue, but worth noting.

At the moment the Quest is our recommended go-to HMD for consumer VR media or gaming and I’m betting it will remain our favorite cable-free VR experience for a good while yet. With Link technology and real-time hand tracking on the way in 2020 the Quest promises to become even more compelling.

Watch out for Black Friday deals but you can pick up a basic 64GB version here for $399

Animo Activity Tracker & Behavior Monitor for Dogs by Sure Petcare

I have three very active dogs so I was very keen to try the Animo from Sure Petcare. It’s basically supposed to be a Fitbit for dogs! I don’t really care how many calories they have burned but knowing that they get a good 1 hour plus of exercise a day reassures me about their health and, to be honest, mine as I get pretty much the same exercise as they do, following them around and picking up after.

Animo learns and interprets the unique activity and behavior patterns of your dog Click To Tweet
Animo Alice Bonasio VR MR Tom Atkinson Tech Trends Review AR Mixed Virtual Reality Augmented IOT XR health live planet tile oculus quest pet tag feeder 360 camera

 

Animo learns and interprets the unique activity and behavior patterns of your dog. It’s with them 24 hours a day, giving you a greater understanding of their lives. Morning walks, sleeping under the table, barking at the postman; your dog’s days are action packed and now you get to know about it all.
I hooked up the Animos to my dogs’ collars, got the app hooked up via Bluetooth and we all went on with our daily routines. Now this is the main issue I have with tech like this. It is not designed for your daily ‘real-life’ routines and behaviour and I am sorry to say the Animo was a total disappointment. I refuse to adapt my life to the tech that is supposed to help me, other that checking the apps, considering the data they provide and maybe, just maybe changing the way I do something.

 

Animo uses an adaptive algorithm that learns, interprets and gives you facts that are specific to your dog. This changes throughout your dog’s life, so you can understand more about your pet as they get older.
Animo Alice Bonasio VR MR Tom Atkinson Tech Trends Review AR Mixed Virtual Reality Augmented IOT XR health live planet tile oculus quest pet tag feeder 360 camera
The way we run our days and the way we exercise our dogs just didn’t fit the Animo way of doing things and as I say, not unreasonably, tech is supposed to work for us not the other way around, this meant that within a matter of days the app was out of synch with the collars and apart from annoying notifications on my phone that the collars had not synched with the app recently I got no valuable data out of the devices.
It is not up to me to synch a $90 device with an app so that it can tell me something! It should just work and synch when in range or whatever. We should not have to ‘help’ expensive technology help us. I was promised data on activity, calories, sleep, behaviour and rest, but the way we live resulted in little or no data of any use or interest.

 

Animo sends alerts if your dog begins to show significant changes in behavior including barking, scratching and shaking. You can also discover long term changes in your dog’s sleep, where a decrease in quality may be a sign of arthritis or other environmental factor which is disturbing your dog at night.
Animo Alice Bonasio VR MR Tom Atkinson Tech Trends Review AR Mixed Virtual Reality Augmented IOT XR health live planet tile oculus quest pet tag feeder 360 camera
This was a classic example of a cunning and interesting gadget that promised a lot gave me nothing I needed because it didn’t ‘just work’. Approaching 2020 things need to start ‘just working’ for us, the days of allowances and working with new systems is gone. If it doesn’t work for you, bin it, which is what I did with the Animo. However, if you really want a lot of data on your pets, are a detail-obsessed, tech-savvy and data-hungry person with little or no work or life distractions this might work for you.

 

You can pick up an Animo here for $89.60 or here for £59.99

 

SureFeed Microchip Pet Feeder from Sure Petcare

Moving swiftly on to the next Sure Petcare product we are faced with the elaborate and very very niche SureFeed Microchip Pet Feeder Connect. Now there is a clear market for this in the older and tech-savvy pet owners who dote over cats with very specific diet control challenges, are often away from home for days at a time and have the cash to invest in an expensive system like this at £169.98 or $252.79.

Animo Alice Bonasio VR MR Tom Atkinson Tech Trends Review AR Mixed Virtual Reality Augmented IOT XR health live planet tile oculus quest pet tag feeder 360 camera
The one problem here is that in my experience this kind of older pet obsessed person can often be found shouting and stabbing frustrated fingers at the wrong side of an iPad or failing miserably to send an email from a smartphone rather than mastering a networked, programmable, automated pet feeder after absorbing the 28 pages of instructions the Feeder Connect comes with. Anyway…

 

It’s the ideal feeding solution for overweight cats, cats with medical conditions that require close monitoring of feeding or multi-pet homes where one pet steals another pet’s food.
Animo Alice Bonasio VR MR Tom Atkinson Tech Trends Review AR Mixed Virtual Reality Augmented IOT XR health live planet tile oculus quest pet tag feeder 360 camera
Basically the Pet Hub wirelessly connects to the Feeder and is itself hardwired to your router and connects with the app on your phone allowing you to monitor the feeding activity of your cat while controlling functions of the Feeder Connect. The Hub comes in the cute shape of a cat’s head with ears that light up to indicate network activity.

 

The Microchip Pet Feeder Connect links to the Sure Petcare app via the Hub, which is connected to your home router. Each Hub can connect up to ten devices, including our connected doors.
Animo Alice Bonasio VR MR Tom Atkinson Tech Trends Review AR Mixed Virtual Reality Augmented IOT XR health live planet tile oculus quest pet tag feeder 360 camera
You get extensive control over food weight and eating times and can add multiple pets if necessary. RFID pet tags control access to the food and a multitude of setting claims to fend off thieving feline siblings while a fascinating Training Mode introduces skittish pets gradually to the robotic automatic movements of the device.

 

Receive notifications and view the frequency, duration and times that your pet feeds within the app. Learn your pet’s normal pattern of feeding behaviour to notice changes which could be an indication of illness.
Animo Alice Bonasio VR MR Tom Atkinson Tech Trends Review AR Mixed Virtual Reality Augmented IOT XR health live planet tile oculus quest pet tag feeder 360 camera
If you need this device it looks to me that it does an exhaustively good job but the complexity of operation might turn some off or prove frustrating there is no question that this is a solution to a specific problem.
You can get your hands on the SureFeeder and Hub here for £169.98 and here for $252.79

 

Live Planet 360 VR Video Streaming Solution
Live Planet claims to be the ‘worlds first and only plug and play VR camera’ but to be fair they are more than that. They also offer a simple and flexible distribution platform called VR Studio where you can upload, publish and share your 4K 360 VR videos. Those videos don’t even have to be from their own cameras, you can use the platform to distribute 360 content from cameras by Samsung, Insta360, and Kandao among others.

 

 

As the name suggests Live Planet focuses on filming and streaming of live 360 content and both their camera and platforms are optimised for this. From in-camera or through VR Studio you can share or live stream 4K 360 video to other platforms including YouTube and Facebook Live or in stereoscopic 360 VR video directly to HMDs from Oculus, Samsung or Google. Tech Trends spoke to Fahad Manzur, Product Manager at Live Planet to find out more.

 

“Live streaming is the main focus at Live Planet. You can shoot and control the camera through a browser or our dedicated Android and iPhone apps through the cameras built in WiFi and if you are logged into your Live Planet Studio account just connect the camera to the internet via an ethernet cable and you can start streaming right away. You can stream to your Studio account or to YouTube or Facebook and even custom RTMPs.” he explained
Alice Bonasio VR MR Tom Atkinson Tech Trends Review AR Mixed Virtual Reality Augmented IOT XR health live planet tile oculus quest pet tag feeder 360 camera
Now, I have shot and edited HD, 4K & 8K 360 video from Insta360 and GoPro cameras for distrubution on YouTube and edited still 360 files into interactive 360 experiences and was resigned to the tedium of stitching multiple numerically numbered video files from multiple different microSD cards into a final 360 video file then exporting it to Adobe for audio synch, micro-adjustments, stabilization and colour correction before sending it off to the next application for further work and frankly, life is too short. With this system all that processing is managed during the shoot via the Live Planet app and in camera during the filming, leaving you with the stream that you broadcast live or a single MP4 on a single microSD card for sharing or just backups. Yes, Live Planet really does make it that simple.

 

“The whole idea behind Live Planet is to create a great quality 360 video stream right out of the camera, you shoudn’t need to do much, or any, touch ups in post before sharing it online. We try to give content creators as simple as possible journey to shoot and share their 360 video. You can use the in app camera controls to set up the shot and adjust the colours before you start recording then the camera handles all the stitching and audio synching as it records, outputting a great quality live stream or an easy to use MP4 that just needs publishing.” continued Manzur
Alice Bonasio VR MR Tom Atkinson Tech Trends Review AR Mixed Virtual Reality Augmented IOT XR health live planet tile oculus quest pet tag feeder 360 camera
The camera packs a lot of clever tech into a really small package. It comes safely packed in a small pelican case along with mains power connector and an ethernet cable for firmware updates and live streaming. This basic camera package now sells for $7,995 including 50GB of storage in your VR Studio online account. The camera can also run off a portable battery leaving you free to move around and record 360 footage pretty much anywhere you like. Live streaming in 4K however, requires a hard wired ethernet connection to a router due to the bandwidth requirements. This is not a deal killer but will require some advanced planning and coordination so your event venue has ready the equipment and connection you need.

 

“Our Goal is to create the first end to end VR ‘streaming’ system. We are focused on creating a user friendly experience that removes the need for third party solutions for shooting, stitching and sharing 360 VR content. For a YouTube or Twitch influencer who has an existing live stream audience Live Planet enables them to take that live stream experience to a brand new level and stream 360 VR video to their subscribers right on the same platform.” said Manzur
Live experiences are at the heart of the Live planet ecosystem so it is no surprise that live music performances have proved incredibly popular but the Studio platform supports everyone from musicians and podcasters to travel bloggers who want to share their experienes in a fresh new format. The Live Planet player is a pleasant YouTube-like experience. Click the image below to visit the player and watch KT Tunstall and others performing.
The launch of our VR Studio provides a place to upload, host and share your 360 content to all major VR headsets Click To Tweet
Animo Alice Bonasio VR MR Tom Atkinson Tech Trends Review AR Mixed Virtual Reality Augmented IOT XR health live planet tile oculus quest pet tag feeder 360 camera

 

“We want to conect with influencers and artists who are interested in pushing the boudaries of live broadcasting to capture and hold an audiences attention in VR. The launch of our VR Studio provides a place to upload, host and share your 360 content to all major VR headsets and web platforms including publishing directly from your Studio account to YouTube. What’s exciting right now is people are innovating on all fronts in VR, the whole indusry is pushing forward really fast. Headsets have taken a giant leap forward, even in the past two years. It’s an exciting time. Manzur concluded

To sum up, the Live Planet system makes broadcasting your live event to the web in 4K 360 easier and cheaper than ever before. The company is also constantly evolving the product and I have heard that in-camera still photo capture and 6K recording are on the way soon so this is a platform that should stay relevant for a long while. It is a compelling option for venues and artists who want to ride the booming trend of 360 VR video.

 

Tom Atkinson is Reviews & Dep. Editor at Tech Trends. Follow him on Twitter @techtrends_tech