Hands-On with Canon at CES 2023
No other company talked about the future of work more than Canon at CES 2023. I covered their press conference here. On Saturday I spent time visiting and experiencing each of the technologies. Here are my thoughts.
Hands-On with Canon at CES 2023: Free Viewpoint
I started with a clip from A Knock at the Cabin, directed by M. Night Shyamalan. The Canon team sat me down in an Adirondack chair on the porch of a reproduction of the Cabin in question. They handed me a pair of disinfected JBL Bluetooth® headphones and a tablet loaded with the clip.
Unlike most movie clips, this one moved around a bit more, flitting from perspective to perspective. Shyamalan shot this clip using Canon’s Free Viewpoint technology, the same one used currently by the NBA. Multiple cameras focused on the action. Shyamalan directed the cameras from a console that showed all the shots available and allowed him to manipulate each camera.
The result is a clip that can be viewed from four different perspectives. Sabrina and Andrew represent aggressor and victim perspectives. Shyamalan augmented those perspectives with the point of view of a grasshopper and a crow.
Of course, with enough money, any production can rent cameras to shoot simultaneously from different perspectives, and they often do. But they don’t have a system for doing that. What Canon introduces with Free Viewpoint is a camera system.
A system like Free Viewpoint changes the work experience for those shooting films, but the system could also be used for a variety of enterprise applications such as construction, manufacturing, customer service and other areas that would benefit perhaps not by just telling their story, but by capturing lessons learned in new ways—looking at the quality of work by capturing different perspectives.
Imagine in a store that cameras record customer service experiences and that training becomes a review of video from the perspective of the customer service representative, the customer, and customers in line behind and beside the person currently being serviced. I think a lot could be learned from watching back a customer service experience from those perspectives.
Hands-On with Canon at CES 2023: Kokomo
Canon’s vision of interpersonal calls seeks to create immersive experiences using VR. People communicate with other people, with a full-body view in a virtual space. For now, Kokomo requires calibration to start. An app captures the user’s head in neutral, happy and sad affects. It then captures a few seconds of audio.
And then the heavy and awkward Quest 2 headset comes into play. Select a location, and the call begins.
I eventually visited a trailer in Malibu and met a Canon staffer located in Irvine, CA. She and I started as a pair of sunglasses floating above a pair of hands. As the data caught up, I could see the call recipient, most of the time with her face visible, and her hands capturing natural motions.
There is more to Kokomo than I experienced. Moving my hand around, and flexing it, I discovered menus that were not explained to me.
My biggest issues with Kokomo were the heft of meta’s headset and the low quality of the video, that was riff with “running ant” syndrome as the LEDs tried, and failed, to render a seamless environment. This is likely not Canon’s issue, but one that reflects the still basic capabilities of consumer headsets.
Hands-On with Canon at CES 2023: AMLOS
AMLOS is hard to demonstrate in a video because it exists in multiple planes in multiple places. There is no there there with AMLOS.
For each location, the AMLOS system breaks up a single stream of incoming video from one of Canon’s CR-N500 or CR-N300 cameras, keeping an eye on parts of the video, such as a whiteboard, or two, without the camera moving. Participants define what the system watches, not the system.
In situations when, for instance, a whiteboard sits askew to the camera, outlining the whiteboard identifies it to AMLOS, which transforms it into a square, readable area, adjusting the angle for those not in the room with that whiteboard.
One of the coolest AMLOS features arrives with ghosting, which masks out a person standing in front of a whiteboard. The ghosting features makes the person standing before a workspace appear as a ghost, keeping the entire whiteboard visible even as they work on it…a feature that certainly isn’t available in real life! This is a demonstration of how software can augment experiences without making them weird.
Of course, with the rise of work-from-home, tools like Miro have changed expectations and Canon understands that, supporting shared screens as part of the collaboration narrative.
While Canon doesn’t use that term, I think collaboration narratives describe what AMLOS facilitates. Unlike a face-to-face only situation, where the room usually isn’t very smart, AMLOS turns the room into a participant. All those things you fail to capture during a work session remains within the purview of the AMLOS’s memory.
Hands-On with Canon at CES 2023: mReel
First, I like the lightweight mReel AR headset. The software, however, wasn’t as impressive. Well, perhaps I should say it was impressive but not as polished as the headset. I was asked to put a component into a bonding machine. I opened a door, then placed a physical object that was in my hand on a virtual platform. I saw the part placed with the same precision that was taking place in the real world. I was then asked to push the start button. The door opened and the button push both showed me and my virtual hands floating into view without the need for controllers.
My main criticism at this point for mReel was the jerkiness of the simulation. I cannot imagine a person working in an environment like this for any appreciable amount of time. The framerate and tracking were slow, always attempting to keep up with my movements.
As with many AR systems, I also found the lack of boundary understanding a problem with my virtual hand easily pushing through the door handle and the button I was asked to manipulate.
Despite those issues, the headset was a pleasure to wear compared to meta’s heavy VR headset.
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