iTRA Spatial Mapping Tags

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June 19, 2019

Place persistent AR markers in the real environment and share them across devices for collaboration. No ugly QR or AR stickers needed. The app recognises your environment and loads previously created tags from cloud.

Applications made with this technology connect the physical world with digital assets and will change how we live and work. The possibilities are endless, tags can show real-time data from SCADA or IoT systems too.

Watch this space, more videos coming.





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Benefits of Converting Flash to HTML5

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June 12, 2019

Benefits of converting Flash to HTML5

It is true that Flash will be making a swift exit in 2020. It means, if you have not already started converting content, it is time to do so. Don’t worry this process will not be as difficult as you might be thinking. It is important to plan the conversion process well to reap the full rewards this conversion can give. Check out our previous Flash article for more information about how to tackle the conversion.

It is now essential to convert courses to HTML5, so knowing this work needs to be done, why not make the most of it?

Below are some key benefits this conversion will bring to your business:

Get to a bigger audience with HTML5

Organizations will be able to connect with a wider audience with HTML5. These days not many mobile devices are able to use Flash due to the lack of support for it. This means you are preventing a lot of your potential audience from being able to view your courses. Some Flash-based courses will not even run on browsers like Firefox or Internet Explorer, as the Flash plugin needs to be downloaded. HTML5 does not require you to download a plugin, which means it’s compatible with all modern browsers.

eLearning on any device

HTML5 is much more efficient as it has significant optimizations over Flash. In the past, Learners have needed to use a desktop or laptop for more graphics intensive courses. Courses that have been converted to HTML5 will not only run faster but will work on mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets. Best of all, HTML5 guarantees the courses will look just the same on any device.

Learn on the go

The world is becoming a busier place with technology coming out of the wazoo. It's important learners have the opportunity to view courses anywhere at any time and HTML5 provides this. It consumes less bandwidth than the Flash-based courses, and also uses less power which makes it perfect for mobile devices.

HTML5 Offers offline learning

Sometimes Employees need to be away from their normal work stations. They could be on the move with sales work or working in remote areas such as oil rigs, not to mention areas without good internet coverage. This is where offline learning really has its place. eLearners need the ability to be able to download their courses enabling use at a later date.

Increasing your ROI

The conversion from Flash to HTML5 makes good business sense. Its an opportunity to refocus content, revamp existing content or remove irrelevant content. Using outdated courses means a lot of online resources are going unused due to lack of browser support for Flash format. Flash to HTML5 will also affect ROI in a positive way. This is because existing content can now be made mobile-learning compliant and overall content will be enhanced.

Improving the learning culture

Because HTML5 is accessible on multiple devices, eLearners now have the ability to learn wherever and whenever they want. No longer does training have to take place on a certain day or time (business hours). Learners can now take their eLearning material home even without a desktop or laptop computer. Just a tablet or smartphone will be sufficient. This aids in developing a great learning culture within an organization.

eLearning for the future

The period of conversion from Flash to HTML5 offers the perfect time to update all eLearning content. Whether you are reusing existing content or completely rebuilding a course from scratch, finding the right tool will help make the conversion process a lot easier. With popular choices such as Adobe Captivate, Trivantis Lectora and Articulate Storyline, eLearners will be happy they will no longer have to download plugins for each different device they use with HTML5. By converting from Flash to HTML5 you are not only improving the experience for eLearners, but are also future-proofing the eLearning content.

In summary, no matter the state of your content, It is possible for it to be converted, or completely rebuilt in HTML5. The quicker you make a strategy and start this conversion, the sooner you will reap the rewards this process will give your business.

Connect with iTRA to discuss your next project.

Porting to the Oculus Quest – Part 1

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June 4, 2019

Since Oculus announced the shipping date of the Quest in April, I have been eagerly awaiting the arrival of our headset. It’s inside-out approach to tracking is intriguing and with the prospect of no more umbilical cord attached to my head, there is a lot to be excited about.

Everyone who has tried Virtual Reality with us has been really excited by what the technology is capable of, not only now, but what it has the potential to become. A huge draw back thus far has been the cost of the device, coupled with the need for a beefy gaming computer to run the software. This is why the Quest has got everyone, including myself, so excited. Without the need to do the computing externally the barrier to entry is dramatically reduced.

The plan is to port all of our existing applications to the Quest, without giving up too much of the quality and complexity in our scenes. Given that we are essentially porting to a mobile processor, this is going to be a big challenge.

I have been working with the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive for the past 3 years using the Unity Engine. It has been great having the performance of a desktop computer powering the headset, but sometimes it is still a struggle to get certain experiences to run smoothly on these devices. I am going to need to double down on optimization, both for the models and code if I want to get these applications running smoothly on the Quest.

Before I begin this daunting task, I want to play around with a 3rd party application, VRidge Riftcat, which I’ve been following ever since I got my first Google Cardboard. The software essentially renders the game on your desktop computer and streams it over WIFI to another device, be it a phone in Google Cardboard or a Gear VR. This is a great solution for having high performance experiences in cheap, portable headsets.

After playing around with Riftcat I am quite impressed. They managed to include full Steam VR compatibility, including their room scale guardian system with 6 DOF controllers. This must not have been an easy accomplishment. Unfortunately, this is clearly still a beta. The tracking was flawless (apart from a little latency, but I can forgive them for that) but the quality of the visual stream was a bit lackluster. It suffered from numerous dropped frames and image compression if the WIFI signal degraded even a little. I am going to keep an eye on the project in hopes that they overcome these shortcomings, but for now, I can’t recommend this to clients as a solution.

It looks like I better open Unity and get porting!

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Flash is Dead: Upgrading To HTML5 Isn’t As Hard As You Think

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May 28, 2019

It's time to have a good think about converting all your legacy Flash courses to HTML 5. Adobe now has your back against a wall regarding conversion. Until now you have been able to use your Flash courses by temporarily unblocking Flash Player, but it’s imperative to update your courses to keep up with a tech fueled, ever-changing world. See our Flash End Of Life post for more details. This may seem quite daunting at first, but it will give your courses a more modern look and feel, not to mention improving efficiency. This will give your business an edge in this crowded landscape.

It may seem like an impossible task to convert all your content to HTML 5. But with the right plan, not only can you retain all your courses, but also evaluate any gaps that are existing in your e-Learning content, which refreshes the experience that your content deliverers.

Categorize your courses

Converting courses does not always mean you have to recreate them from scratch. First of all, you can prioritize all your courses into the following categories:

  1. Courses that meet the learning objectives desired by your business, which only need a technology update.
  2. Courses that mostly meet the learning aspirations your business desires but can do with some small visual enhancement.
  3. Courses that need to be totally reworked with an updated instructional and visual approach.

While your legacy courses need to be converted, they are not superfluous. They become the foundation on which your new courses will be constructed. Putting your courses into these categories will help you understand just how to attempt the conversion program ahead.

Ask the Correct Questions

After you have given the above some thought, you now need to ask yourself a few questions:

  1. Can you do this work internally, or will you need to outsource some of this work?
  2. Do you have a budget in place for this plan?
  3. Do you have a plan to reintroduce the upgraded courses?

Choosing Partners

Once you have chosen the correct strategies for your business it is important to keep in mind the needs of your learning content. The conversion of a high volume of content can be tedious and take a lot of time. This is where you need to consider the capability of your team. If extra manpower or technological skill are needed, there are professional e-Learning vendors that have helped accomplish this task many times before. Outsourcing some or all of this work will help your business move forward with this migration in an efficient and timely manner. Choosing a good partner to complement your business through this migration period is key to succeeding in a smooth transition.

The benefit of outsourcing is that you will work with a committed team of professionals. These are people who specialize in Visual Design, Programmers, Solution Architects, Industrial designers as well as Quality Assurance personnel and End-to-end product management. With these professionals, you can make a customized plan to suit your business needs.

Create focus groups to delegate workload effectively

Using the three categories spoken about earlier, it is possible to create focus groups to tackle the different courses that need a particular treatment. It is a good idea to have good communication among these different focus groups, to ensure the overall quality and completion of the project in the time frame required.

Which technology is right for your business?

As you will be upgrading and enhancing your courses, it is important not to lose the main objective of your courses, make sure not to lose the initial purpose of the e-Learning courses during the conversion. With the right team and authoring tools working on this project, you can ensure you do not lose sight of your goals.

Often, the conversion of your legacy courses can be as easy as upgrading which tool you are using to build your courses. Asking professionals in this field can help you quickly identify the new tools you need moving forward.

Some examples of tools being used today are:

  1. Adobe Captivate
  2. iSpring
  3. Articulate Storyline
  4. Lectora

Start with a prototype

Another important part of this process is starting with a prototype. This will help decide the look and feel you desire for your course updates. Having a prototype stage, really does help you find potential problems as early as possible, crucial when dealing with a high volume of courses. The prototype will become the groundwork that all your courses will follow. This aids with the overall flow of work to be done and helps reduce delays in the roll out of your courses.

Test everything

When dealing with a high volume conversion project, it is imperative that you test all courses. Check for things like the visual design and functionalities of each converted course to ensure nothing has been overlooked.

Keep in mind your systems may need to be upgraded as well. Check that your current infrastructure has the ability to support the new courses. If your infrastructure does not support HTML 5, it will need to be upgraded. We reported on Microsoft's recommendations for which technology to use last week. Once again professionals in this field will be helpful in assisting with this process.

Over-all, converting all your courses in one single project can be a great achievement. By using the discussed approach, with the right partner and team of professionals, a successful outcome can be achieved. At the same time, this is the opportunity to give all your courses a face lift and bring them in line with the most modern and up-to-date courses out there.

Connect with iTRA to discuss your next project.

Microsoft Cybersecurity Expert: Please, Stop Using Internet Explorer As a Web Browser

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May 14, 2019

Internet Explorer has certainly passed its use by date. Not only does it look and feel old hat, but in 2015 Microsoft chose to discontinue it. Microsoft would like all users of Internet Explorer to refrain from using it and switch to a more up-to-date browser.

Since 12th of January 2016, Microsoft has not provided security updates, which patch vulnerabilities that can be exploited by malware, or any technical support for Internet Explorer. This means IE is unable to protect its users from new threats, so your data is not always safe. Regular security updates are needed to protect computers from malicious attacks.

Without these critical security updates, your PC does become vulnerable to harmful viruses and spyware, along with other various malicious software, which can steal your business data and information.

Chris Jackson, Microsoft's cybersecurity expert explains that Microsoft customers still ask Internet Explorer related questions regarding business. The majority of internet users in this day and age use up-to-date browsers like Google Chrome, FireFox, or Microsoft’s Edge. The problem that some businesses have is that their older web apps or websites were designed for Internet Explorer. Using Internet Explorer today is just a 'compatibility solution'.

Jackson goes on to say he doesn't even consider Internet Explorer to be a browser, at least in the modern standards-based sense. He does clarify that it's still fine to use IE where necessary, just that companies should not be using IE as its default browser. Internet Explorer is still necessary for some enterprise solutions.

“You see, Internet Explorer is a compatibility solution," wrote Jackson in the blog. "We're not supporting new web standards for it and, while many sites work fine, developers by and large just aren't testing for Internet Explorer these days. They're testing on modern browsers".

"So, if we continued our previous approach, you would end up in a scenario where, by optimizing for the things you have, you end up not being able to use new apps as they come out. As new apps are coming out with greater frequency, what we want to help you do is avoid having to miss out on a progressively larger portion of the web."

Jacksons warning is fair, but Microsoft hasn’t given businesses a great alternative. Microsoft released its Edge browser around four years ago, which was coupled with Windows 10. But Edge still continues to need Internet Explorer for the corporate intranet and you still need Internet Explorer to run older, less secure technology. Also, Edge has not been available on Windows 7 or Windows 8, which made things more complicated for IT admins.

Microsoft has tried a few different methods to help businesses improve their older web apps, but for the most part IT admins have taken the easy way out and continued using Internet Explorer, as it has various compatibility modes that they need.

When Edge released, it offered incredible performance and was a viable alternative to Chrome and FireFox. The problem was, Edge never really caught on in the same way that Chrome did when it was first released. Edge did not support legacy technologies and only offered IE 11 for enterprise solutions.

Microsoft is now making the Edge browser Chromium-powered, which basically means it's basing it on the technology Google use in their browser, Chrome. It's quite clear Microsoft acknowledges that Chromes market share makes it the standard for today, for the everyday web user to IT admins. Edge is also being decoupled from Windows 10, which means users will now be able to download and install Edge on Windows 7, Windows 8 and even Mac. In doing this, it should help businesses progressively move away from using Internet Explorer. It will still take a few years for all legacy web apps to disappear completely.

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Alpha Build of Google Maps’ Augmented Reality Mode

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March 12, 2019

Using Google Maps in the big smoke can have its issues. As you step off public transport and walk to your destination, you may realise you have been walking the wrong way. Maybe you became disorientated or it was your phone's compass playing up due to the fact you are surrounded by large metal infrastructure.

Google wants to solve this problem with its work-in-progress augmented reality mode. This will use your camera's view of the real world and will superimpose arrows and signs onto the real world, so you know exactly where to go. It uses the view of your camera and compares it to the Google Street View imagery database to figure out exactly where you are and which way you are facing. This makes up for inconsistencies from your GPS and/or compass. Currently, this app is in alpha testing stages.

It was almost a year ago that Google first announced its plans for AR walking directions at its annual I/O conference, but it has been quiet on the subject since. A lot of this time has been spent figuring out the finer points of the UI. Safety became an issue as early users tried to stand directly on top of the line when walking, even when it was not safe to do so. Google tried using floating particle effects in the air to represent paths and curves. A user commented on this and described it as if they were 'following floating trash'.

Also noted by the Google Maps team was that nobody likes to hold their phone up for a long period of time. The AR experience is designed keeping in mind that users will only need to use this in short bursts.

Using AR mode feels very much like Google Maps has for any other journey. Start by entering your destination as you normally would, then tap the walking directions button. The only difference is you tap the "Start AR" button instead of the "Start" button. Your camera's view will now appear on the screen. The app will ask you to point your camera at a building or landmark, you will notice a bunch of dots appear as it recognizes landmarks and points of interest around you. After a few seconds, the dots will fade away, which are then replaced by arrows and markers to guide you on your journey. On the bottom of the screen, you will see a small cut-out showing your location on the map, which means you don't have to switch modes see your ordinary map.

Holding your phone more parallel with the ground, Google Maps shifts back to the normal 2D map view. Hold your phone up like your reading a text message and Google Maps switches back to AR mode. Google Maps AR certainly works better in some situations than it does in others. This is to do with the view your camera has to relevant buildings and landmarks from your point of view. The clearer it can see that sort of infrastructure the more accurately the app works. If you are somewhere like in the middle of a plaza, it will probably take a few more seconds to get its bearings.

After seeing other companies using AR, Google decided their AR experience is something you should only view for a few seconds at a time. Looking at the world through your phone for a long period of time can make you a victim to what's happening around you, from thieves to walking into a pole. The city is best experienced with your own eyes anyway.

One part of this app works by using your camera; it takes that image and compresses it, then sends it to google. Once the image gets to the cloud, Google then analyzes that image and picks out the unique visual features. While Google is doing that, it is already analyzing your GPS location. From this information, Google has two points of reference, the image from your camera and your GPS location. This is enough for Google to work out exactly where you are and what you are looking at.

Currently, Google is rolling out this product to the "Local Guides", which is a community-based group that gives feedback to Google. Google currently doesn't have a time frame for this product to hit the mainstream.

Connect with iTRA to discuss your next project.

Hackathon and Porsche’s dive into Virtual and Augmented Reality

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February 25, 2019

AR, VR and XR have become common place in many important industries. It is currently being used in the entertainment industry and is starting to be used in the manufacturing, healthcare, retail, military and communications industries, to name a few.

An example of this, is elevator service technicians, who are able to see technical information while analysing and repairing machines on site. Some large retail chains have virtual fitting rooms and smart mirrors that interact with the customer, enhancing their experience. In the field of medicine, there are scanners that project a map of the internal circulatory systems on the patient’s body.

There are plenty of great use cases of virtual, augmented and cross reality, which have the potential for gaining traction in future technologies in other industries.

Porsche is currently working with these new technologies in the areas of training and service, as well as customer experience, and are endeavouring to improve and develop in these areas. Virtual reality and the drone 'Alice' is helping Porsche's after-sales employees worldwide understand complex technical concepts. Alice's job is to guide the mechanics through a series of repair steps on the high-voltage battery found in the Panamera 4 E-Hybrid. While under the supervision of Alice, each step is executed in a safe manner, as it takes place in virtual reality. This is a huge advantage, as the most complex training can be done safely and more efficiently.

Virtual reality is also the ideal technology for the car enthusiast, providing a unique and exciting virtual experience. The launching of the new Porsche 911 Carrera S at LA Auto show last year, saw Porsche join forces with Slightly Mad Studios, to give an introduction to a new realistic VR experience, where visitors could test drive their latest model.

Google and Porsche have been working together and have developed the “Mission E Augmented Reality” app. Potential customers can position the "Mission E" at home in the living room or in their driveway. It includes different view modes to allow them to digitally explore Porsche's first totally electric sports car, the Taycan. Customers can even take an augmented reality test drive using the app on their smartphone for a more complete virtual experience.

Porsche have partnered with other companies to bring the very latest in ground-breaking technology. For example, in their partnership with WayRay, Porsche are bringing a holographic augmented head up display into their cars. WayRay produces augmented holographic images that are used as navigation systems. One of these navigation systems is Navion, which projects digital data onto the cars windshield, using a process called SLAM (simultaneous localisation and mapping). SLAM maps the environment constantly as you drive, while simultaneously keeping track of the car's location.

The Virtual Reality Hackathon took place earlier in the year, looking at the latest in VR, XR and AR technologies. It is the world's largest Hackathon, involving the examination of different technologies and how these can be used in generating new experiences. It involves interdisciplinary teams from a diverse range of disciplines, such as designers, engineers, artists, coders, sound designers, students, storytellers and imaginative AR/VR enthusiasts from all over the world, with each participant promoting their ideas to form teams. Around a quarter, that is 400 of the 1600 or so participants with the best ideas are selected to create original cross reality experiences and applications.

In the category "Best use of True AR SDK", the WayRay team won for its software development kit, which involves the projecting of augmented reality onto a cars windshield. The team created the Accudrive app to help people drive more accurately and safely by integrating AR and 'gamifying' the driving experience. This led to a more interesting and fun driving experience as well as increasing road knowledge and safety.

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