Campfire brings enterprise holographic collaboration to Meta Quest 3 with planned AI assistant

Campfire 3D Inc., the maker of a holographic enterprise collaboration system for enterprise users, is bringing its capabilities to the newly launched Meta Quest 3 with a virtual tutor named Spark that paves the way for a future artificial intelligence-driven assistant to train users and help build products.

Meta Platforms Inc. today announced the launch of its Meta Quest 3 mixed reality wearable, which enables people to don the headset and use it for what is called “mixed reality,” which combines computer-generated images and what they can see in the physical world. This mixing of physical and virtual reality has opened up whole new avenues for both entertainment and industrial uses.

Campfire’s platform allows enterprise users to collaborate using high-resolution 3D models and scans of objects to view them floating in space as if they’re right in front of them using handheld devices and a headset that the company also produces. It allows teams to get together and work with models even if they’re across the world from one another as if they’re in the same room, Campfire Chief Executive Jay Wright told SiliconANGLE in an interview.

“The way we share 3D In the industrial world is just so cumbersome and not conducive to the way that people understand it,” said Wright. “The most of what we interact with is our largely rectangular applications on rectangular screens. And while these things do all kinds of magical stuff we never could have imagined, they really don’t do a great job of communicating 3D information in a way that humans can understand it.”

Wright likened the problem to LEGO models, building blocks or Ikea furniture, and that ideally people work better when they can go “hands-on” with a 3D model. Prototyping always works more fluidly when people can see and bring an object to scale, and that’s where a product such as Campfire comes in.

Not being physically present is no longer a barrier for teams working on the same project and neither is the physical quality of an object when it comes to a 3D model. It has no weight or set dimensions and can be manipulated however it needs to be for the users to understand its inner workings.

When users are collaborating with one another, they appear as ghostly face avatars around the 3D model that hover in the room and can be seen through whatever view the user is using. If the users are employing a rectangular screen instead of a headset, they appear with a square in front of their “virtual faces.” That ensures that everyone else in the collaboration session has an idea of what they’re gazing at on the model.

Wright said that view is great for training and demonstration purposes. It’s not always possible for new service technicians to be taken out to a training facility to and given access to new equipment, but 3D models of equipment, new and old, can be brought up into a mixed reality application and loaded into Campfire along with an instructor.

Although the company has produced a system that allows users to use PCs, Macs and iPads for visualization, as well as a headset, the addition of Meta Quest 3 will open it up to new audiences. It also provides a new environment for people to work in that wasn’t available before.

Spark: The virtual tutor

In particular, the company has added a virtual tutor named Spark that almost seems to have a mind of its own to teach people how to use the tool. Upon entering the app, Spark teaches users how to use the different selectors on the 3D model they have chosen, for example how to select a part and move it with the laser tool, or how to explode the model using the grenade tool. That’s not as violent as it sounds: Exploding the model simply causes the parts to move away from one another, expanding in space so that its constituents can be viewed more easily.

“Spark is brand-new on Quest,” said Wright. “And we’ve spent a lot of time on him to make Campfire very easy for somebody who’s never used a headset before.”

Although Spark has personality and can interact with the user in a limited way, it is not an AI. Spark has a voice and speaks out loud, and Wright said its voice is AI-generated, but that’s about the extent of it. However, Campfire has a broader vision for Spark to become an AI-enabled assistant that can go beyond being a chatbot so it can answer questions about 3D models, similar to AI systems such as OpenAI LP’s ChatGPT.

Wright said that from Campfire’s experiments with current AI models, there was a possibility of turning Spark into an AI assistant capable of being an instructor. That way, it could assist with education, building 3D models and understanding a company’s product line by taking training data from activities in the virtual environment.

“I think we have enough training data with the signals we have such as what people are saying, the motion of their hands, the tools that they’re using, as well as geometric and semantic knowledge of what they’re operating on,” said Wright. “Those are ideal signals and there’s no other environment or method that’s capturing those today.”

Wright explained that when the Campfire started out, he didn’t think of AI, but it slowly dawned on the team that everything done in the virtual environment could be picked up by telemetry and become training data for AI. That unique data is very valuable for AI.

“That was not the cherry on top,” he said. “That was a whole bunch of cherries on top: Take everything we plan to do with collaboration and leverage that into a company specific or proprietary AI that can be the smartest person in the company, that knows everything about your products.”

With enough training data, an AI assistant in Campfire could become an instructor capable of showing employees how to tear down and rebuild machinery in a human-compatible way, tutor in repairing defective parts and even assist in the design process in ways that have not yet been revealed. It would also provide companies practical insights into its product line based on its 3D model and other computer-aided design documents that would otherwise be difficult to unearth, such as finding similarities in past projects or comparing designs.

Wright said he expects to have something in an early form potentially next year. As for Campfire, and Spark, on the Meta Quest 3, it will become available in the Meta Quest Store on Nov. 1.

Image: Campfire

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