Let's Get Started! Hardware Development Kit and Software Tools

Intel delivered us a few very interesting devices to support us in this challenge, and in this post we are going to describe them and talk about the software tools that we will use to implement in our project. But, first of all, let’s start from the devices Intel made available for us.

Do you wanna know how to make a designer happy? Gift her with pen and paper.Do you wanna know how to make a digital designer happy? Gift her with a capacitive stylus and a new Wacom* tablet.

Wacom Intuos Pro Paper

The Wacom* Intuos Pro Paper is a fabulous tablet which allows the user to directly draw on its surface or on a piece of paper (a technology similar to the one featured on Lenovo* Yoga Book notebooks). The feeling and feedback when drawing is just amazing and, depending on the needs or habits, the ability to work on paper or screen allows for a great experience and enhances productivity.

Now that the team designer is happy, let’s focus on something that made us developers very pleased. The devkit we received is composed by two items: a new Intel® NUC 8i7VR and a Mixed Reality headset produced by HP*.

Intel NUC VR

The new Intel NUC8i7 HVK is the top end of the stack and features an unlocked 8th generation Intel® Core™ i7-8809G processor, which sports a 100W TDP and can reach a 4.2GHz Turbo frequency at stock settings. The Radeon* RX Vega M GH graphics inside the -8809G is VR-capable and reaches a peak clock rate of 1,190MHz, but it also features an unlocked core clock and can be given a performance boost (if the thermals allow it). This Intel NUC features two SODIMM memory slots that support up to 32GB (2 x 16GB) of DDR4-2400 SODIMM memory running at 1.2V. For storage, users can equip the Intel NUC8i7 with up to two M.2 2880 SSDs (SATA or PCIe). Additional storage and peripherals can be connected via three USB 3.1 (Gen 2) Type-C ports (two of which support Thunderbolt™ 3 connectivity), a USB 3.1 (Gen 2) Type-A port, and five USB 3.0 ports (four rear, one front). There’s also an SDXC card reader.

In addition to the power and specs of this technology gem, what really impressed us was the small size (221 x 142 x 39 mm)and the aggressive look that woke up our gamer souls.

We are now going to talk about Mixed Reality. To me, this is a super fun and exciting session because I grew up dreaming of living in a world with mixed reality. Watching movies like Terminator with the Heads-up display, or Minority Report, with virtual, endless desktops that you could navigate with your gaze and your hands. Those scenarios are now possible. We are still early, we might not use them in every day life, but MR is already disrupting industries for instance:

  • Creation and design – the ability to see and manipulate 3D designs in real time, in a real-world setting, at true size and scale.
  • Assembly and manufacturing – the ability to synthesize complex data sets and provide visual displays that aid in navigation and operations.
  • Training and development – the ability to explain complex scenarios visually, with movement and in three dimensions.
  • Communication and understanding – the ability to provide remote expert assistance. Seeing through the eyes of a remote user and provide annotations that appear as holographic content through HoloLens.
  • Entertainment and engagement – the ability to experience entertainment content in more personal and immersive ways

Last year, Microsoft* took the award winning Inside Out tracking for Hololens and licensed it to OEMS, and now we have also occluded (or virtual reality headsets) one of this is the HP VR 1000.

HP MR device

Talking about HP VR 1000, it belongs to the first generation Mixed Reality devices presented last year together with the Win 10 September Update, which brought MR on every Windows 10 powered PC.Like all the other MR devices of its family, the HP headset is really easy to setup, and in a few minutes we are ready to dive in the Mixed Reality world. Unlikely Oculus* and Vive*, this headset does not need external sensors (the column shaped ones) nor cameras for tracking, since the embedded cameras handle this task already with the addition of the lights of the touch controllers (which are very nicely shaped).

As we mentioned, the HP device features almost the same technical specifications of its competitors, but we must admit that after trying each one of them, the HP headset stands out for the quality of production materials as well as the head support which results in a much better and more comfortable experience. Regarding the look, the headset sends back in time to the ‘80s with a Robocop style, which we do appreciate.

On a more pressing matter, the display quality and resolution is good even though a keen eye can easily spot pixels on the screen. But this a common problem to every single first generation MR device, so we cannot say it is a specific problem of this headset, and we can guarantee that after a few minutes of usage, this effect is almost not visible to the eye.

Software Tools

For our application, we are going to use Unity and Visual Studio to build our Mixed Reality app. Unity is the most popular 3d engine for Virtual and Augmented reality, so we can maximize the reuse of code also for other platforms like SteamVR*, or Oculus* Rift.

Mixed Reality Toolkit

Our app will span across the Mixed Reality continuum. We will start with Virtual Reality on this headset and then move to Augmented reality with Hololens. It is all one code base, with multiple scene. We will used the Mixed Reality toolkit to accelerate our development and because that maximizes reuse with Hololens. To write any Mixed Reality apps there is a core set of building blocks at our disposal and in this project we are going to use many of these core building blocks.

In order to start the development of a new Mixed Reality App, it's important to decide the correct "Space Type". There are two different types of space types across VR apps: Roomscale or Stationary. On Roomscale, the origin is the center of the room, and you can’t change that or recenter the scene.

MR Space Types

With stationary (also known as seated), the origin is the place that the headset is at, when the user last re-centered (or when scene is launched since that is first recenter). So, with stationary. 0,0,0 is right here, at eye level. Where in the physical world, even if I was standing on the center of the room, my Y would be 1.5 meters or so. Therefore, there is an extension to stationary, we refer to as standing. In this project we use stationary but offset our floor.

I look forward to the next post where we will start talking about development.

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