Mar 26, 2020
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As our world changes around us these days, our reliance on technologies for staying connected and remote collaboration is more important than ever.
While tools for activities like online collaboration and virtual meetings have come along way, we’re now seeing the convergence of technologies such as mobile devices, smart glasses, and augmented reality (AR) allowing developers to take collaboration solutions to new levels.
One such company is Delta Cygni Labs and their POINTR software. POINTR is an application that delivers the next level of online collaboration with real-time AR annotations, live video streaming, and voice chat, an area of technology often called “assisted reality”. This not only allows participants in remote places to collaborate, but also adds AR capabilities for what-you-see, remote support/mentoring, and other collaborative use cases.
We recently had a chance to catch up with Delta Cygni Labs’ COO, Ilmo Lounasmaa, to learn more about their company and their solution.
About Delta Cygni Labs
Delta Cygni Labs was founded in 2013 as a spinoff from the VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland. Their first customer project involved developing an AR remote assistance solution for the International Space station. After the success of the project, the company saw a bigger opportunity here on earth for collaborative solutions, and pivoted to implementing software technologies for smartphone platforms and smart glasses.
POINTR is a relatively easy-to-understand system. It’s essentially an application with platform-specific versions that run on mobile (Android, and iOS) and desktop (Windows, and Mac) devices that can allow up to five users to collaborate at one time. All versions let users swap between the cameras available on their device, capture their audio stream (i.e., microphone), and interact in augmented reality. Users running the desktop version also have the ability to share documents, such as drawings and schematics. Most importantly though is POINTR’s AR functionality, through which users can place AR objects such as markers and checkboxes that can be seen by other users on the call.
Delta Cygni works hard to ensure their software functions on the hardware platforms their customers are using. One area where POINTR really shines is on hands-free devices like the RealWear HMT-1 powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 mobile platform. For example, with the HMT-1 running POINTR, technicians out in the field can project their view from the onboard camera to a remote support expert running the desktop version, for a “what-you-see” experience. Both users can then see an AR view overlaid on top of the incoming camera feed. The remote support person can then provide real-time support by annotating the scene with AR objects, or sharing technical support documents also overlaid with AR objects.
Devices like the HMT-1 running POINTR are proving particularly effective for hands-on work like that performed by technicians in challenging environments. For example, this setup is allowing technicians to remain hands free through its support for voice commands to control POINTR’S user interface. POINTR also supports text-based chats which can be useful in noisy environments and users with this setup can also benefit from Qualcomm cVc noise cancellation technology.
While POINTR is commonly used for industrial use cases such as field maintenance, the company says that POINTR is proving useful in other ways such as providing:
- technical advice to maintenance crews on ships when steering or power is lost
- remote medical support to restricted places such as quarantined ships where access is restricted
- remote technical support to hospital staff members for equipment maintenance, especially where simple inquiries can be addressed without the need to send out a support person
- guidance to locals trapped in war zones or in dangerous environments (e.g., to help locals repair or restart power generators).
While there are a number of collaboration tools on the market, Delta Cygni Labs set out to solve a number of key challenges with POINTR.
One of the first was to provide reliable communications in remote, hard-to-reach places such as within ships crossing the ocean. The team behind POINTR spent considerable effort developing their own telecommunications protocol to optimize the available bandwidth and to provide an extremely high level of image quality. This meant that their solution had to work reliably on terrestrial mobile (e.g., 3G, 4G, etc.), Wi-Fi and other networks, and via satellite communications. Their article: VSAT video call – enabling remote support for maritime, provides information about their findings in this area. They’ve also developed a presence in the marine and shipping industry, delivering remote maintenance of sea faring ships.
Delta Cygni Labs also wanted to ensure that POINTR was easy to install and get up and running with “zero configuration”, especially for cases where the application is urgently needed. This meant ensuring that a communication’s channel can be established by POINTR without the need for any sort of portal access or to open ports in firewalls. They also made it super easy to obtain the necessary executable for installation from their downloads page. This includes direct downloads of APK’s for specific Android devices, should users find themselves in a location where the Google Play store is unavailable.
The future of remote collaboration
Delta Cygni Labs sees a bright future for remote collaboration applications and the hardware that powers them. Just as the 3D video processors evolved to meet the demand for better graphics (e.g., video games), Delta Cygni Labs sees AR being integrated into all video conferencing tools as demand continues to grow, perhaps even finding its way into consumer products.
Here at Qualcomm Developer Network we couldn’t agree with this prediction more. We’re seeing numerous developers taking advantage of solutions like our Snapdragon mobile platforms to create exciting and innovative tools. And with current events pushing the need for remote and virtual communications more than ever before, solutions such as POINTR couldn’t be timelier.