Walsh Believes In Internet For All

By Internet, Projects, Walsh
Always net neutral

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We believe in innovation and fostering the creative spirit at Walsh. We’ll always strive to provide opportunities to learn and grow, to give our residents the platforms they need to be the best they can.

When we decided to provide our residents with the fastest internet ever in a residential community, we did so because we wanted to see what was possible; what they would do without the limitations of bandwidth and high cost service. We believe that Internet is a utility that helps kids discover the world around them and helps people achieve their goals, whether it be continuing their education, growing their small business, or one of the many other accomplishments made possible by access to the internet.


By Music, Sonos
System Overview

What is Sonos?

Sonos is the wireless Home Sound System that fills as many rooms as you want with great-sounding music, movies and TV. Stream via WiFi. Play whatever you’re craving. And amp up every moment with intense, pulse-pounding sound.

The best-sounding smart speaker you can buy


The Best Voice-Activated Speaker Ever Made


Alexa has never sounded better

The Verge

Connected, whole-home sound

Play Spotify in the kitchen, a podcast in the bathroom, or the same thing everywhere. The Sonos Home Sound System fills as many rooms as you want with sound. And every Sonos speaker is built to deliver crystal clear sound with zero distortion, at any volume.

Single App does it all

The Sonos App has everything you need to playing control your music around your home, effortlessly.

Sonos vs Bluetooth

Each has its advantages, but if you want fill your home with music, chose Sonos

See Our Story

Explore Sonos Solutions

Learn more about the different ways Sonos can fill your home with sound.

Cutting the cord? Let us help you find the best streaming TV service

By Internet, Uncategorized

Digital Trends -By Brendan Hesse

For those fed up with their cable or satellite TV company, there has never been a better time to cut the cord. Streaming video services are giving traditional pay TV stiff competition by delivering live sports and prime-time programming online, often for a drop in price, while premium channels like HBO and Showtime are available as separate streaming services or add-on bundles. In addition, there are no hidden charges with live-streaming TV, and if you ever decide to cancel, it’s easy and painless — a refreshing change from the hassle of dealing with cable and satellite call centers.

PlayStation Vue, Sling TV, DirecTV Now, YouTube TV, and Hulu with Live TV are emerging as major competition to traditional pay TV. Offering both live and on-demand programming and — in some cases — cloud-based DVRs, the services are more-than-capable cable alternatives. But which is the best live-streaming service for you? In order to help you sift through the chaos, we’ve put together this handy guide detailing each service’s features and content offerings so you can size them up directly against their rivals, and decide which is the best streaming TV service to help you dump cable.

PlayStation Vue Sling TV DirecTV Now YouTube TV Hulu with Live TV
Pricing Access/Access Slim: $40/$30 per month for 45+ channels*
Core/Core Slim: $45/$35 per month for 60+ channels*
Elite/Elite Slim: $55/$45 per month for 90+ channels*
Ultra/Ultra Slim: $75/$65 per month for 90 channels, plus HBO and Showtime
Sling Orange:$20 per month for 30+ channels
Sling Blue:$25 per month for 40+ channels
Orange + Blue: $40 per month for 45+ channels; additional channel add-on packs from $5-$15
Live a Little: $35 for 60+ channels
Just Right:$50 for 80+ channels;
Go Big: $60 for 100+ channels
Gotta Have It: $70 for 120+ channels; add-on packs available for $5
$35 per month for 48+ channels $40 per month for 55+ channels and Hulu Premium
($15 add-ons allow for additional streams and/or additional cloud storage)
Free trial for new customers 5 days 7 days 7 days 30 days 7 days
Major Networks* ABC, NBC, FOX (Major networks live in select cities; on-demand all other locations);
CBS only available in select markets
ABC, FOX, NBC (Major networks live in select cities; on-demand all other locations) ABC, FOX, NBC, CBS (Available in select cities) ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC, CW (Major networks live in select cities; on-demand all other locations) ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC, CW (Major networks live in select cities; on-demand all other locations)
Subscription Type Monthly, no contract, cancel anytime Monthly, no contract, cancel anytime Monthly, no contract, cancel anytime Monthly, no contract, cancel anytime Monthly, no contract, cancel anytime
Cloud DVR Yes (keep titles up to 28 days) Yes, $5 add-on for most devices (up to 100 hours’ worth of content storage;), free for Roku users No (will be added in future update) Yes (keep titles up to nine months) Yes (up to 50 hours’ worth of content of content storage; 200-hour upgrade available)
Video On Demand Yes (on select channels, shows, including local channels where available*) Yes (on select channels, shows) Yes (on select channels, shows) Yes Yes (including content from Hulu Premium streaming service)
Pause, Rewind, Fast Forward All channels Only select channels VOD only All Channels Yes, but not during ads
Replay/Catch-up Select channels and shows Select channels and shows Yes (72 hours after recording) Select channels and shows  Select channels and shows
Number of streams per account 5 1 or 3 (depending on subscription) 2 3 2 (unlimited in-house streams for $15 more per month)
User profiles 5 1 1 6 6
Bandwidth limiter No Yes No TBD TBD
Audio 2-channel stereo,  5.1 for some on-demand content on supported devices 2-channel stereo  2-channel stereo, 5.1 for some on-demand content on supported devices 2-channel stereo TBD

*Each service has conditional inclusion of the major networks it carries. Some markets will have access to live network channels, including local programming, while others will be on-demand. In some select locations, one or more of the networks — or even an entire service — may not be available at all. Be sure to check the websites for PlayStation Vue, SlingTV, DirecTV Now, YouTube TV, and Hulu for availability in your area.


Channel offerings differ quite a bit between the services and the multiple packages they offer. Follow us below for a detailed breakdown.

Note: Channels are added or removed from these services often and with little warning. Availability of specific channels may differ by market. We update this article regularly, but be sure to check channel listings on each service’s website for updates in your area.

PlayStation Vue

We’ll be honest: PlayStation Vue’s pricing and packages are confusing, in part because the service’s local channel affiliate contracts are extremely complicated. Which channels you get — and even which plans are offered — will depend on your location. PlayStation Vue’s packages come in two varieties — with local channels or without. The packages that do not include local programming are noted as “slim.” So, for example, the basic package, Access, costs $40 per month in markets where local channels are included. In all other markets, however, Access Slim is $30 per month and doesn’t include live local programming (prime-time content is still available on demand, however). This is the same across all Vue packages. If you currently only have access to the Slim packages, the good news is that Sony adds new markets quite frequently, so it’s possible live channels will be available for you in the future.

With that explanation out of the way, let’s dig into the plans themselves. Access/Access Slim grants you access to 45 live channels, including ESPN, CNN, AMC, and more for $40/$30 per month respectively. Those with the Access plan will have access to live ABC, NBC, Fox, and (in select markets) CBS local affiliates, while Access Slim customers will have on-demand access to programming from those networks.

Beyond Access/Access Slim, Vue has three more subscription tiers. Core/Core Slim offers 60 channels at $45/$35 per month, and adds channels like CSN, ESPNews, and ESPNU, as well as Turner Classic Movies, to the previous tier’s list. Up next is Elite/Elite Slim, which provides 90 channels at $55/$45 per month, and adds Epix Hits, Machinima, and many others.

The top-tier package for PlayStation Vue is Ultra/Ultra Slim, which includes the full suite of 90-plus channels, plus HBO and Showtime bundled in for a grand total of $75/$65.

There aren’t many options when it comes to à la carte choices, however. Stand-alone subscriptions are available for the aforementioned Showtime and HBO, as well as Machinima, Fox Soccer Plus, and Epix Hits at varying prices. Bear in mind that most or all of these add-ons appear in the Elite and Ultra package tiers.

Recently, Vue removed Viacom-owned channels from its service — MTV, MTV2, VH1, Spike, and Comedy Central all got the ax. Conversely, several previously unavailable channels were added, including ESPN, BBC America, Vice, NBC Sports, and more. You can view PlayStation Vue’s full channel lineup on the service’s homepage.

Sling TV

Sling TV offers two different basic channel packages, Sling Orange ($20/month) and Sling Blue ($25/month), but they aren’t as straightforward as Vue’s options (which, as we noted, are already complicated enough). Instead of simply adding more channels to a base selection like Vue does, Sling’s two packages vary quite a bit from one another. With Sling Orange, you’ll get 20 channels, including several of Disney’s ESPN properties. Sling Blue ditches the Disney-owned channels — including Disney Channel, Freeform, and most importantly, ESPN — but bumps the total number of channels to over 40 for 45 more, and adds Fox Sports channels.

Those who wish to have the broader channel offerings of both packages can get both Sling Orange and Sling Blue for $40 per month.

From there, Sling offers a number of add-on channel packages at varying prices, including broadcast networks like ABC, favorites like MTV and Spike, or premium cable options like HBO or Showtime. Depending on your base package, though, some channels may not be available. For a detailed breakdown of Sling TV’s numerous offerings, add-ons, and limitations (especially important when it comes to sports packages), check out our Sling TV guide. A major new inclusion with Sling TV is regional sports channels. If you have been hesitant to ditch cable because you don’t want to miss your team playing on a local sports channel, you can now cut the cord without feeling you’ll be missing out.

DirecTV Now

DirecTV Now’s packages are more straightforward. There are four packages, each building upon the previous one. The cheapest is Live a Little, which provides 60 plus channels for just $35. This tier offers most of the obvious choices, including broadcast networks ABC, Fox, CBS, and NBC, and plenty of favorites like Cartoon Network, ESPN, and FX. The package also has Viacom channels — MTV, Comedy Central, Spike, etc. — which currently aren’t available on PlayStation Vue.

Next is the Just Right plan, which bumps up the channel count to over 80 for $50 per month, followed by Go Big, which boasts 100 channels for $60 per month. The real bummer is that — before January 1, 2017 — the service was offering the package for just $35 for as long as you subscribed. Alas, that deal is now past. (Note: While DirecTV seems to offer promotional deals regularly, these often expire quickly, so be sure to check DirecTV Now‘s site directly to see what’s still available.)

The final package tier is called Gotta Have It, which brings the channel count to over 120 for $70 per month.

DirecTV Now also offers HBO and Cinemax for just $5 each, which is a fraction of the price charged by Sling or Vue, and well below the stand-alone cost.

We do feel it’s necessary to point out that, at a certain point, the high prices and glut of unnecessary channels you’ll get with either DirecTV Now or PlayStation Vue are exactly the reasons most people quit cable in the first place. Add on a streaming service or two, and you’re right back to the high prices of cable. However, it’s hard to argue with DirecTV Now’s generous promotions as the service aggressively seeks new subscribers. And the best part is you can always cancel quickly and easily.

YouTube TV

YouTube TV’s sole package costs $35 per month for 45 channels. That makes it a bit more expensive than the basic offerings from Sling TV and PS Vue, and equal to DirecTV’s entry package. The only service it beats in the number of included channels is Sling TV. That might raise questions about its value, but a closer look reveals a few notable perks. It includes ABC, NBC, Fox, CBS, and CW at a reasonable price. Its local affiliate programming has also expanded, and is now reportedly available to nearly 50 percent of customers.

YouTube TV also has the widest number of sports channels for the money, including ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN3, ESPNU, ESPN News, SEC Network, CBS Sports Network, CSN, NBC Sports Network, Fox Sports, BTN, FS1, and FS2. You’d have to subscribe to one of the higher-tier packages from PS Vue or Sling TV to get all that elsewhere. Like the other services discussed here, YouTube TV will also likely be adding channels as time goes on. YouTube TV also carries all original video content from YouTube’s other premium service, YouTube Red. Finally, you can get a 30-day trial and, for a limited time, a free Chromecast when you sign up.

The service added some new channels in May 2017 including AMC, BBC America, Sundance TV, IFC, and Telemundo, but there are some niche gaps like MTV2 and Nick Jr., and the only two add-on channels currently available are Showtime and Fox Soccer Plus. Sure, you can get HBO as a separate streaming service at $15 per month, but if you’re looking to combine all your internet TV into one package, you’ll want to think twice about this one for now.

Overall, YouTube TV is an impressive package for the money, especially for sports fans and those who want all the major networks. We like the idea of a single price point that delivers a respectable number of desirable channels (though we’re curious to see if Google opts for more packages once it has made more deals). We also like the simplicity of a single package, which makes it much easier to know what you’re getting. Speaking of single packages…

Hulu with live TV

Hulu’s single $40 per month plan (called simply Hulu with Live TV) gives subscribers 55-plus live channels (the exact number will be dependent on your market). You’ll get ABC, NBC, CBS, and Fox, either live or on-demand depending on your location, plus dozens of popular channels like CW, CNN, A&E, The Disney Channel, Fox News, and FX. The inclusion of all four networks avoids the pitfalls of CBS’ conditional inclusion for PS Vue customers, and the package-dependent offering of Sling TV’s ABC add-on. Otherwise, Hulu has similar market-based restrictions for live coverage of these channels to every other service.

Much like PS Vue and YouTube TV, the only major omissions from Hulu’s package are Viacom-owned channels like Comedy Central and MTV.

Hulu With Live TV provides YouTube TV some stiff competition when it comes to sports, providing 12 different sports channels, including ESPN, CSN, and Fox Sports 1, which nearly matches YouTube TV’s 13. On top of this, Hulu with Live TV will let users follow their favorite sports teams from the NFL, NCAA, NBA, MLS, MLB, and NHL, and will record their games, provided they’re available.

Hulu with Live TV subscribers will also be granted full access to all of Hulu’s on-demand streaming library and Hulu original content, essentially coupling a basic Hulu subscription (normally $8 per month) with 50-plus channels of TV. This could give Hulu’s new service a serious edge for some customers, in that it consolidates a live -treaming TV service and a Hulu sub into a single monthly bill.

Finally, Hulu with Live TV has the lowest number of add-on channels available right now compared to the others, only offering Showtime for $9 per month, which is the same offer and price you get with a basic or premium Hulu subscription.

So who wins? When it comes to the top choice, DirecTV Now takes the trophy, thanks to its glut of channels at a low starting price.

Winner: DirecTV Now

Supported devices

sign up for a month of sling tv and receive free roku streaming stick dtdeals

There are are some major differences between the devices supported by each of the three services. The chart below breaks it down.

Device PlayStation Vue Sling TV DirecTV Now YouTube TV Hulu with Live TV
Amazon Fire TV X X X X
Amazon Fire TV Stick X X X X
Amazon Fire Tablets X X
Android Phones/Tablets X X X X X
Android TV Devices X X X
Apple AirPlay X
Apple TV (4th Gen) X X X  X X
Chromecast, Chromecast Ultra X X X X X
Channel Master DVR+ X
iOS Devices X X X X  X
Mac X X X X
Nintendo Switch X
Nvidia Shield X X X
PlayStation 3 X
PlayStation 4 and PS4 Pro X
Select LG Smart TVs X
Roku players X X X X (Select Models)
Roku TV models X X X X (Select models)
Select Samsung Smart TVs & Blu-ray players X (Select models)  (coming soon)
Web browsers X  X (Chrome) X (Chrome, Safari) X (Chrome) X
Windows app (7, 8, 8.1, 10) X X
Xbox One consoles X (Coming Soon)  X X
Xiaomi Mi Box X

The number of supported devices for these services is updated and expanded regularly. Be sure to double-check device support on each service’s website.

A quick glance at the above chart makes it clear that the longest-running service, Sling TV, supports more devices — but it’s not a landslide victory. We expect all five services will continue to expand device support as time goes by.

YouTube TV lags behind the others, but in October 2017, the service began expanding support to new platforms, including Android TV, Nvidia Shield, and all Xbox One Consoles (Xbox One, Xbox One S, and Xbox One X).

At launch, Hulu with Live TV only featured a few devices, but now beats out YouTube TV and DirecTV Now, but still lags behind PS Vue and Sling TV overall. That said, it is the only of the services currently supported by Nintendo’s latest handheld-home console hybrid, the Switch.

We’ll add the caveat that PlayStation 3 or PS4 owners with a PlayStation Plus subscription may want to consider Vue more seriously, as there are certain stand-alone channels only available to PS Plus members.

SlingTV, DirecTV Now, YouTube TV, and Hulu with Live TV give users access to the same content across all platforms. In fact, Hulu with Live TV will use the basic Hulu apps that subscribers already use.

In contrast, using PlayStation Vue on a TV or set-top device is a very different experience than using it on a mobile device, as some channels will be inaccessible on the go due to licensing restrictions. Further, you can’t access any of your recorded content on a mobile device.

While Sling TV supports a wider swath of devices and doesn’t have any mobile restrictions, it does have tighter restrictions on the number of streams an account can run at a given time. The standard Orange subscription allows only one simultaneous stream per account, while the pricier Sling Blue and combined packages will allow up to three users to stream at once. PlayStation Vue will allow up to five simultaneous streams on separate devices per account, while DirecTV allows for two. YouTube TV will allow for up to three. As for profiles, Vue allows users to make five different profiles per account, but Sling TV and DirecTV Now only support one profile per account. YouTube TV allows for six at launch.

Hulu with Live TV users can create up to six unique profiles on a single account, but only two simultaneous streams are allowed. Should that number prove to be restrictive, subscribers can opt for unlimited simultaneous streams for $15 per month (this can be bundled with a separate $15 DVR expansion add-on for a reduced total of $20 per month).

Though PlayStation Vue offers more available simultaneous streams, and both YouTube TV and Hulu With Live TV support more profiles on one account, Sling TV is still supported on a wider range of devices than either of its competitors and is devoid of any device-specific restrictions. That’s more than enough to land Sling TV the win for this category.

Winner: Sling TV


PlayStation Vue curates your programming guide, offering suggestions based on your watching preferences and habits. Best of all, Vue has several features that mirror cable boxes, including the ability to fast forward/rewind on all channels, and a cloud DVR — though it’s limited to 28 days. (Note that these features may be limited or absent on the mobile version of the service.)

In contrast, Sling TV uses a simple guide without any curation or recommendations, and only allows you to pause/fast forward/rewind on a select number of shows and channels. A June 2017 update enabled cloud DVR support for Xbox One consoles as a $5 add-on. The same applies to Amazon Fire TV, Android TVs and smart devices, and Apple TV. Meanwhile, Roku users get free DVR access. Further support for Windows 10, iOS devices, and AirTV players is expected sometime in 2017. Users can store up to 50 hours of content (or 100 hours for Roku users). Sling TV’s DVR features include setting an entire series to be recorded, multiple simultaneous recordings, and organizing your recorded content with folders. Unfortunately, not all channels support DVR recording on Sling TV. There is also a handy Sling TV feature, Gamefinder, that lets users search for available NCAA and NFL games in your market at sling.com/gamefinder. Finally, Sling TV is the only of these services to include a bandwidth limit, which will keep your data usage from spiking.

YouTube TV presents the most flexible cloud DVR support, allowing users to store programming up to nine months after recording, with standard pause/rewind and catchup features. If you have a Google Home device and a Chromecast, YouTube TV can be controlled with voice commands via Google Assistant. Similarly, Google Assistant can even inform you of what content is currently saved to your DVR.

While at this time, DirecTV lacks a cloud DVR, it has been reported that AT&T is currently testing and laying the groundwork for a potential rollout of such a featurein the near future, which will allow users to store up to 100 hours of content. No details or dates have been confirmed by AT&T or DirecTV, and thus it lags behind compared to the other services. It’s also worth noting that DirecTV Now has a severely limited amount of content that can be paused, fast-forwarded, or rewound compared to the others. So while it has channels, it’s currently falling short in the features department.

Finally, we have Hulu. At the base subscription, Hulu with Live TV supports cloud DVR with 50 hours of storage, but this can be upgraded to 200 hours for $15 a month (or $20 if coupled with the unlimited in-home screen add-on mentioned above). Hulu’s coolest feature is the aforementioned team tracking, which will let users enable automatic recording of games when they’re available. However, one point of annoyance is with the pause and rewind functions. While you can fast forward through a show, you won’t be able to during ads. Despite this restriction, Hulu’s features are overall the most enticing and flexible of the bunch, thanks to the feature add-ons. Hulu also has a separate beta web browser where users can try out early builds of new features that will be added to other platforms at a later date. Features like specialized guide menus, sports and news curation, and more made their first appearance there.

Winner: Hulu with Live TV

Picture quality

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All services offer passable video quality, though it often falls just short of what you get from cable, satellite, and some on-demand streaming services. You won’t get HD-quality video at times, and content is heavily compressed to reduce bandwidth consumption. Since none of these services offer standout picture performance, this one initially appears to be a draw.

There is an exception here, andit’s Hulu. While the above statements do apply to Hulu With Live TV’s live TV content, a Hulu with Live TV subscription includes access to all of Hulu’s on-demand library as well, which happens to includes 4K UHD quality movies and TV series, such as The Handmaid’s TaleThe catch here is that you need a device that supports Hulu 4K content and Hulu with Live TV, which at this time includes only Xbox One S consoles. (PlayStation 4 Pro consoles support 4K on-demand content from Hulu, too, but currently not Hulu With Live TV.) It’s a small but notable difference that, admittedly, will only be available to sparse a subsection of users, but for now we feel it’s enough to give Hulu the last-second win.

Winner: Hulu With Live TV


Sorry to say it, but for now it’s a toss-up — each service has its pros and cons, and none of them has really stepped ahead of the pack in dramatic fashion. Consider a few important distinctions before making your choice:

PlayStation Vue offers a great user experience and extra features. As mentioned above, there are also extra incentives for PlayStation console owners. However, the service does have restrictions when it comes to mobile viewing.

DirecTV Now has some impressive promotional deals and a long list of included channels that make it an enticing offer for new subscribers (for now), or those looking for a package more in line with traditional cable or satellite subscriptions. The features list is slim, however, and the lack of a cloud DVR is a serious mark against it.

Sling TV is the most versatile, the most affordable, and offers the kind of lean channel packages that many cable-cutters long for — and on more devices, to boot. But it won’t give you the robust channel offerings of its bulkier competitors, and the breakdown of the Orange and Blue tiers makes its channel selection highly confusing.

YouTube TV is simple, with just one package, one price, and a couple of add-ons. It carries all four major networks, it boasts the largest collection of sports channels up front, and its cloud DVR limits are generously flexible. However, the modest list of supported devices and a smaller number of overall channels makes it less versatile than other services when it comes to programming. Thankfully, one of its major limitations, availability, is quickly turning around and 50 percent of YouTube TV customers now have access to live local programming.

Finally, We have Hulu TV, which also offers a single-channel package at a single price, and only one add-on channel, but is the only one with upgradable feature packages. It also folds in the entire Hulu streaming library into its live channel offerings, giving users access to tons of movies and TV not available on the other services. However, the restrictive use of rewind during ads could also be annoying for some.

Now that you’ve got the tools you need to make an informed decision, all that’s left to do is make a choice and start streaming!

Update: Revised throughout to reflect new features from Hulu, as well as a number of new supported devices and channels carried by all services.

Call Your Doctor: Introducing Telehealth at Walsh

By Internet, Walsh

Walsh is now among the first communities to tap into phone or video physician visits.

When you feel a little under the weather, the thought of getting dressed, driving to a clinic and waiting hours to be seen by a doctor can be a daunting one. For the residents of Walsh, there’s a quicker, easier solution in sight—telemedicine.

Because Texas governor Greg Abbott recently signed a new Texas teleheath law, there are no longer restrictions on doctor-patient video consultations, and Walsh is at the vanguard of communities taking advantage of this program. Members of the Walsh homeowners association can speak with a Texas board-certified physician through online video or phone 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for only $8 a month.

“Curating amenities that support a small-town experience is critically important to our vision for residents’ life at Walsh,” said Tony Ruggeri, co-CEO of Republic Property Group, the development company building Walsh. “Telehealth is the modern-day house call: friendly, inexpensive and convenient.”

A telehealth appointment is ideal for non-emergency treatment on holidays, nights, weekends, or any other time an ER visit is inconvenient. Physicians available through the program work with patients to diagnose short-term or acute illnesses, recommend treatment, or even call in a prescription when medically necessary.

A dedicated HOA portal allows Walsh residents to sign up, and services are administered by New Benefits, a leading provider of non-insured benefit programs. At just $8 a month for a family membership (less than $100 a year), residents also receive health advocacy benefits to help them navigate complex healthcare and insurance systems.

Those looking for an appointment simply request a consultation from any smart phone or computer, with a call back occurring within the average time window of 10 minutes or less. With no fee per consultation and a wide network of doctors vetted and provided by Teladoc® (a national leader in telehealth services), patients can be secure that their treatment is both thorough and time-efficient.

Because Walsh is invested in the health of your entire family, developers are also pursuing a telemedicine program that would connect nurses at Aledo ISD elementary schools with pediatric doctors at Cook Children’s Medical Center in Fort Worth.

That’s enough to make anyone feel better.

Disclaimers: Teladoc does not replace the primary care physician. Teladoc does not guarantee that a prescription will be written. Teladoc operates subject to state regulation and may not be available in certain states. Teladoc does not prescribe DEA controlled substances, non-therapeutic drugs and certain other drugs which may be harmful because of their potential for abuse. Teladoc physicians reserve the right to deny care for potential misuse of services.


Tech-Savvy Walsh Community Previewed Through Augmented Reality with Pre-ARKit iOS

By Internet, Projects, VR, Walsh
(1) The community village at Walsh will include a maker space with tools for robotics and 3d printing. (2) Nine model homes are constructed so far; residents at Walsh will have access to data speeds of up to 10 gb. Images via Republic Homes Group, Republic Property Group

If that doesn’t persuade you to throw down some earnest money on a home at Walsh, perhaps the community village will. In addition to day care, a lagoon-style pool for leisure, a lap pool for fitness, and a co-working space for remote office workers, Walsh will host a maker space for tinkerers, complete with robotics kits and 3D printers.

All of this sounds great, but some things have to be seen to be believed. But, when a tech-friendly community isn’t yet built, what better way to show it off than augmented reality?

At Walsh, we recognized the need to start sharing the neighborhood’s story far before construction of model homes or community amenities would be complete. Given the demand for quality neighborhoods in excellent school districts in North Texas, we also wanted to stand out. Augmented reality presented a way to make the research and sales processes more interactive for potential residents, and helps reinforce our vision of creating a modern and tech-forward community for Fort Worth.

— Tony Ruggeri, co-CEO of Republic Property Group

So, in April, Republic opened a pop-up storefront in downtown Fort Worth, about 12 minutes east of the development site. The floor space is mostly open, save for a desk in the back. Covering much of the floor space is a vinyl map that serves as the marker for the augmented reality experience.

The map serves as the marker for augmented reality content viewed on an iPad Pro. Image via Tommy Palladino

The map displays several model homes on one end and the community village on the other. Visitors are able to walk visitors around the floor plan and, through the screen of an iPad Pro, see the homes and community center.

“The other thing that we liked about using technology to showcase the community and immerse people in what this space was going to look like physically is that it made a statement without directly pointing to a tech-heavy focus,” said Michael Voll, CEO at Frog.

Through the learning experience and discovering and learning more about the community, we leveraged the next-generation technology to showcase people the art of the possible and how technology can enhance lifestyles. So, instead of just talking the talk of saying ‘we’re delivering really fast internet and cool technology, we wanted to show people in a meaningful way and meaningful use cases how technology can make a difference.

— Michael Voll, CEO at Frog

While nine model homes have now been constructed on site (with the first household set to move in after July 4), the AR-equipped leasing center still gives Republic a strong selling tool. The project has even gained converts with the local business community, as the Fort Worth Convention Center is talking to Frog about using AR to showcase designs for an upcoming construction project.

“We definitely see a wow factor from prospective residents when they come to our pop-up sales center to learn more about Walsh and are literally able to tour the neighborhood using augmented reality and our floor maps. As community developers, we’re always looking for new and innovative ways to build a stronger connection with future residents, and I think that the people interested in Walsh are truly excited by the fact that we are trying new and forward-thinking ways to build that relationship,” said Tony Ruggeri, co-CEO at Republic Property Group.

I had the opportunity to view the experience in person. Afterward, I spoke with Voll and Anthony DeBono, principal at d3 Creative Studio, about how they pulled this experience together.

Building the Vision

During the planning phase, Frog, the technology solutions provider who will manage the fiber network and one-day open office space in Walsh, held a two-day immersive whiteboarding session with the development team and other stakeholders. It was during these sessions that the idea to use augmented reality as a means to enhance the sales experience came to light.

“What we were looking to do, specifically in the pop-up and storefront that was there, was to be able to deliver an immersive experience to potential residents or people looking to learn more about Walsh before the physical space was actually ready and built,” said Michael Voll at Frog.

After reviewing a number of AR vendors, Republic selected d3 Creative Studio, who Voll was familiar with through another project. Launched in Sept. 2015, d3 Creative already had an existing platform aimed towards the architecture, construction and real estate industries. Based on feedback from clients over the past few years, they have polished their Inspir3D app, available on iOS and Android.

“We were very happy to find Anthony and his team at d3 Creative and some of the work that they were doing because it followed the same vision of how we saw things getting implemented, and it was really implementing it flawlessly so that it integrates. The user experience is perfect is simple and intuitive, and it doesn’t feel gimmicky,” said Voll.

The map, which measures 26 by 43 feet, is the largest marker that d3 Creative has ever worked with. Previously, the largest markers they have produced were 36 by 48 inches or the size of plotter paper.

At the Walsh storefront in downtown Fort Worth, the 1,118 square feet of the floor space is occupied by a map that serves as the marker for the augmented reality experience. Image via Tommy Palladino

“I said, ‘In theory, we should be able to do this at a larger scale,” said DeBono in an interview with Next Reality News. “Through some trial and error, we were able to get it to work at that scale.”

In addition to size, d3 Creative had to contend with a number of challenges with regards to the leasing space. Lighting was a concern, with large, open windows letting in natural light, tall surrounding buildings laying shadows during certain times of the day, and reflection of light off of various surfaces. The material for the printed map also had to be durable, as visitors would be walking over it daily.

To ensure that the experience would be friendly to visitors, d3 Creative prepared test demos printed in actual size to see how people would navigate around the models, with particular attention paid to the angles and the heights at which they would look the map.

“One of the interesting things in the implementation and thinking it through at this size and scale was the human element and the variabilities in the human element and how people walk around and navigate the space,” said Voll. “Anthony and his team did a wonderful job of really thinking through that and testing it thoroughly before users were exposed to it.”

Pre-rending content ensured a smooth experience for visitors. Image via Tommy Palladino
The interactive experience is built in Unity and Vuforia based off of architectural and engineering plans, which are enhanced digitally with vegetation and other environmental imagery. In order to display such a large area, DeBono and his team pre-rendered the models to consolidate file size into smaller packages which can be downloaded quickly from the cloud as needed.

Optimizing content was key. It’s one thing to do a piece of furniture or a single-family home, but then when you talk about doing an entire community and doing the amenities there and then adding all the vegetation and trees, and making it look good, it really pushed us. We learned a lot along the way, which we’ll implement into future projects. So, it was all good; it was a win-win for us and for RPG.

— Anthony DeBono, principal at d3 Creative Studio

Pre-rendering also reduces the processing burden on the display device, since it isn’t having to render shadows, textures or polygons. This approach also allows d3 Creative to launch multiple projects using the same app without having to issue an update to the App Store. More importantly, it also provides for a smooth experience, where visuals appear as soon as the marker is recognized by the app.

Working with Apple and ARKit

For this project, the iPad Pro was chosen to display the AR site plan because it had the biggest screen, the most memory, and best CPU of available the iPad family to enable a smooth experience on a high-quality display.

While the app is available on the App Store, Republic preferred to have customers come into the retail space, where their representatives, armed with an iPad Pro, are trained to walk through the app. Moreover, Republic and Frog preferred a mobile AR experience versus a headset to keep the experience simple and avoid intimidating prospective customers, many of whom had never seen AR content before.

(1) A screenshot of the augmented reality experience shows renderings of the community village. (2) The iPad Pro was chosen as the device for the augmented reality experience due to its display, memory, processing power, and familiar interface. Images via Republic Property Group, Tommy Palladino

“We do feel, and have plans that in the next generation of showcasing this technology and the new feature sets that we’re adding, we’re going to add more immersive experiences and things like the HoloLens, but first we wanted to get the general audience and viewers comfortable with seeing it and understanding it in an interface that is simple and intuitive. And then, once they get comfortable with that, people can start wrapping their heads around putting on a headset and viewing it that way,” said Voll.

Looking forward, d3 Creative’s preference for and experience of developing in Apple’s ecosystem is about to pay dividends with the announcement of ARKit, particularly with its ability to enable markerless AR for iOS apps. Since it will work with existing hardware in millions of iOS devices (compared to Google’s Tango platform, which requires a special array of sensors), DeBono expects to see a large spike in adoption once iOS 11 goes live.

“Fast forward a few months, we can, in theory, do the same thing for another sales center without the need to print this large scale vinyl marker on the floor,” said DeBono. “One of the issues with Tango is there aren’t a lot of devices out there, so developing for it was a challenge. Tango helped push AR forward, but Apple is opening it up to more devices.”

They are already working on migrating the Inspir3D app to ARKit in preparation for a fall release alongside iOS 11.

“It’s evolving so fast, and we’re very excited about where it’s going. It kind of breathed a little bit of new life into AR and the whole push with Apple’s announcement,” said DeBono.



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