Screenshot of Lego builder
Screenshot: Perceptus/Singulos Research

AR object recognition can give you superpowers

Protocol Entertainment

Hello, and welcome to Protocol Entertainment, your guide to the business of the gaming and media industries. This Thursday, we’re taking a look at some cutting-edge object recognition for AR and are taking a walk down memory lane with Aereo.

Making sense of AR, one Lego brick at a time

Singulos Research CEO and CTO Brad Quinton poured a bunch of Lego bricks onto his desk during a recent Zoom call. Then, he picked up an iPad, fired up a demo app and opened the app’s camera mode. Immediately, the app began to identify individual bricks, counting and cataloging them by shape and color, and then suggesting different animals he could build with those specific bricks.

The playful and fun demo was meant to show off the capabilities of the Perceptus Platform, an AR object-recognition technology Singulos has been building in stealth over the past three years. The platform could soon help developers build smarter AR apps and services. “It gives AR applications the visual context of what's around them,” Quinton said, and that could be key to building AR glasses people will actually want to wear.

  • Recognizing Lego bricks with mobile devices is not a completely new idea; Brickit has been offering something similar through its own app for some time.
  • However, getting this right is actually quite challenging for computer vision systems: Different bricks can look the same if you view them from just one angle — a problem Brickit appears to struggle with quite a bit, judging by its App Store reviews.
  • Perceptus accounts for this by allowing people to take a closer look at all the bricks from multiple vantage points. “You have to see multiple angles of things,” Quinton said.

Accounting for motion is equally important, especially for tech that is meant to be glasses-ready.

  • Keeping mobile phones steady is already challenging, as we all know from the many blurry pictures on our phones. Once the camera is mounted to someone’s head, it will be virtually impossible. “You just can’t ask people to hold still. They will move their heads,” Quinton said.
  • Another demo he showed me involved a game of AR chess where virtual pieces were superimposed onto a real board, similar to the way Osmo’s mixed-reality toys work.
  • The big difference: Osmo makes use of a very limited play space that gets captured by a static camera. “We've tried to resist that because we really want to be ready for [AR] glasses,” Quinton said.
  • That’s why the Perceptus Platform allows for motion, analyzing video frames in real time.
  • This analysis happens on the device, both for performance and privacy reasons. “We do all of our processing locally, don’t go to the cloud for anything,” he said.

Singulos Research isn’t in the business of building AR apps. Both demos were just that: ways to show how the company’s object recognition works. Quinton said that his company was ready to engage with third-party developers and help them build better AR apps.

  • Singulos is supporting both iOS and Android, and Quinton said that mobile AR games might be a good starting point.
  • Another interesting use case: an app that makes sure that you didn’t lose any screws or pegs before you start to assemble Ikea-like furniture.
  • The company is also working to further improve the capabilities of its platform so it can expand into other use cases: for instance, it wants to get better at treating occlusion.

AR object recognition is also poised to get better as mobile and glass-based cameras improve. One day, AR apps might even be able to recognize objects that are too far away for the human eye, turning AR into a true superpower.

— Janko Roettgers

Aereo’s anniversary party

Remember Aereo? It’s been 10 years this week since the controversial startup launched its broadcast TV streaming service. This also means that it’s been 10 years since Aereo got sued, as the major broadcasters went to court just hours after Aereo’s service went live in New York.

Aereo’s founding CEO Chet Kanojia took to Twitter Spaces this week to commemorate the occasion, and he didn’t pull any punches. “I look at the state of the [media] industry today, and I bang my head against the wall,” Kanojia said, complaining that the industry was launching far too many subscription services while spending way too little on making these services actually work well. “Nobody will sign up for [them, they] will never get scale, and the UI sucks,” he complained.

At the time, Aereo was capturing free over-the-air TV channels and streaming them to its paying customers. The company deployed thousands of tiny antennas to do this, arguing that its technology enabled personal use and didn’t require it to strike licensing agreements with broadcast TV networks. “It was an amazing piece of engineering,” Kanojia said. However, the U.S. Supreme Court wasn’t impressed, forcing Aereo to shut down two years after its launch.

You can listen to the entire Spaces recording, which includes Kanojia’s retelling of a fateful night at a bar when he told his staff that Aereo was done for, on Twitter.

In other news

AltspaceVR will require Microsoft accounts going forward. The Microsoft-owned social VR platform is also shutting down public hubs to crack down on harassment.

ViacomCBS changed its name to Paramount. That’s it, that’s the tweet.

Cinedigm launched an onboarding portal for indie filmmakers. The new site will help indies gain access to Cinedigm’s free streaming channels.

YouTube is hiring a Web3 exec. The newly created position will be in charge of a “vision, strategy, and roadmap for Web3 at YouTube,” according to the job listing. (Hat-tip to Mark Bergen.)

Meditation could be VR’s next killer app. Finding inner peace with a headset on your face may just be the next big thing.

Disney’s Mike White is now in charge of the company’s metaverse strategy. Still extremely unclear what that actually means.

How Netflix uses virtual production. A fascinating look at the tech that helped Netflix make its upcoming sci-fi drama “1899.”

Hollywood is all-in on video game adaptations. In just the past week, Paramount announced a second-season renewal of the Halo live-action show, a third Sonic movie and Knuckles TV spinoff, and Netflix and Take-Two announced a live-action BioShock adaptation.

Nintendo is shutting the door on old games. Nintendo announced a March 2023 deadline for Wii U and 3DS eShops, setting a deadline to purchase exclusive classics available on its digital stores.


New process control technologies and improved operational efficiencies will deliver the necessary quality, precision and cost-effectiveness to move next-gen therapeutics forward. This can only be achieved if the industry embraces the shift to smart manufacturing, particularly with the use of IoT and edge applications.

Learn more

A gift that keeps on giving

Speaking of taking a walk down memory lane: Remember how Al Gore invented the internet? Of course, he didn’t actually do any such thing, but a falsely reported quote became a bit of a meme two decades ago … and I’m happy to report that today’s kids still get it. Thanks, Al!

— Janko Roettgers

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