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China’s smartphone giant Oppo ratchets up AR push

Tech companies around the world are still identifying the “next big thing” enabled by 5G connections. Some, such as Oppo, are betting it will be augmented reality.

The Chinese smartphone firm showcased its progress in AR at a Tuesday event swarmed by hundreds of reporters, analysts, and partners in Shenzhen. Green strobe light, the color of its brand, beamed as vice president Liu Chang unveiled the Oppo AR Glass 2021, a lightweight headset slightly chunkier than regular glasses.

Still in the concept phase, the headset comes with fisheye cameras, tracks hands in milliseconds, and can supposedly simulate the experience of watching a 90-inch screen from three meters away.

The concept product is the result of Oppo’s three-year-plan, unveiled last year, to spend 50 billion yuan ($7.62 billion) on futuristic tech including AR.

Smartphone makers from Xiaomi to Huawei are embracing AR as they design headsets that can tether to smartphones, taking advantage of the latter’s computing power. The Oppo AR Glass 2021, for instance, is designed to link to the Oppo Find X2 Pro which contains a Snapdragon 865 chipset.

It’s unclear when Oppo’s AR glasses will hit the shelf, but the firm is actively building the ecosystem needed for mass-market adoption, from working with content providers like video streaming site iQiyi to launching a developer initiative next year to make development tools widely available.

At the same event, Oppo also flaunted a concept phone with a “scrolling” OLED screen that could make an alternative to existing foldable phones. Oppo declined to disclose who the display maker is.

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HBO releases a wellness-focused AR app to promote ‘His Dark Materials’

With the second season of “His Dark Materials” premiering on HBO on November 16, the network has partnered with creative studio Framestore to create a new iOS and Apple Watch app called His Dark Materials: My Daemon.

The free app gives fans of the show (and the Philip Pullman novels the show is based on) a chance to interact with their very own “daemons” — the magical animal companions that serve as an extension of characters’ souls.

“It’s a really great opportunity to give users and fans of the show the opportunity to have a daemon companion that’s personalized to them,” said Christine Cattano, Framestore’s global head of VR. “And what better way to do that than on your phone, which is a constant companion to us all?”

Users are assigned a daemon after taking a simple quiz consisting of questions like “day or night?” and “above or below?” They can then interact with the daemon by providing basic updates on their current state (like whether they’re feeling focused or distracted). Based on those updates, the daemon will recommend tasks tied to physical and emotional wellness, like going for a walk or a run, or watching a movie.

As users perform more wellness tasks, their daemon becomes happier and healthier. The app also allows users to go on “journeys,” where they perform a series of (again, wellness-focused) tasks that are tied to the activities of characters on the show.

Image Credits: HBO/Framestore

His Dark Materials: My Daemon will learn more about your activities by integrating with Apple Health and Spotify. And it incorporates augmented reality by allowing you to watch animations where you daemon interacts with the world around you. You’ll be able to share your companion interactions on social media, as well.

HBO’s vice president of program marketing Emily Giannusa noted that the original plan was for “large, real world activations.” After all, Framestore didn’t just work on visual effects for the actual “His Dark Materials” show. It also collaborated with HBO to develop “Beyond the Wall,” a virtual reality experience tied to “Game of Thrones,” as well as Magic Leap GoT experience called “The Dead Must Die,” which were both available via installations in flagship AT&T stores. (AT&T owns HBO’s parent company WarnerMedia.)

But given the pandemic and the need for social distancing, HBO and Framestore knew they had to take a different approach, so Giannusa said they came up with something that could “delight [fans] while they’re at home” — and that should reach a much larger audience in the process.

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