My Takeaways from AWE (Augmented World Expo)

Two weeks ago, I spent two days at Augmented World Expo(AWE) held at the Santa Clara Convention Center just across from Levi’s Stadium. As I sat through many sessions and walked the show floor, I observed a lot of hype along with some really cool demos.
The AV and AR crowd at this show is very bullish on AR and VR as they should be. These technologies represent the eventual way will interact and immerse ourselves in data, information, and entertainment and how we learn in the future. Here is a link to AWE CEO Ori Inbar’s keynote and his optimistic view of VR and AR

My own view is that the AR/VR crowd is a bit too optimistic on the adoption cycles of this technology at all levels and while VR and even AR goggles glasses are making good progress in terms of function and size, I just don’t see people outside of enterprise vertical markets adopting them in 5 years as this crowd thinks it will happen.

My first takeaway is that with VR, the only real market for this technology outside of gaming and very high-end theatrical entertainment will be enterprise. I talked with many individuals at the show who were there to take a serious look at VR solutions for use in specialized training programs and other enterprise applications and they very much want to find VR products to meet their current needs now. I am not sure if they found their solution at this show but major enterprise buyers showed up to see what was available and you can tell that they are in their due diligence phase now.

Although many products at the show had either a VR or AR dedicated focus, the real big message of this year’s AWE is that eventually mixed reality products and solutions will more likely power these technologies and drive them to a broader audience.

Microsoft’s booth that demoed HoloLens was always packed as some people stood in line for as much as 90 minutes to get a chance to experience HoloLens. Lorraine Bardeen, GM Windows and Hololens Experience at Microsoft did the opening keynote and showed a great example of mixed reality. However, its focus was really on a business enterprise example suggesting that Microsoft sees Hololens being adopted by the enterprise well before consumers jump in to use the Hololens technology. Here is the video she showed in her keynote.

My second takeaway is that for VR and AR to gain any ground in the future it needs a lot of tools and creativity based solutions both in hardware and software. The good news is that at AWE there were a lot of these types of tools and specialized 3D and creative SDK’s shown that will become important building blocks for the future of VR and AR.

As for goggles and glasses that show promise, Kopin showed a new and much smaller, brighter video screen for glasses and goggles that could bring AR to new head-mounted displays in the future.

And OBG’s new AR glasses is one to watch and even though it is very expensive now. Its design may be the closest to something that might be acceptable to enterprise users now and consumers eventually.

Also, Meta’s glasses are noticeable as they won the best of show award and while I am not sure how consumer friendly their design is, their approach to a mixed reality solution is one to follow.

I also see the potential for Intel’s Project Alloy, a product I got to test a few weeks back and they too have a solid mixed reality solution in the works.

However, I still maintain that goggle’s or glasses based VR and even mixed reality as they are designed today will mostly be interesting to the enterprise and vertical markets for the foreseeable future. But I do understand their bias. This group understands the groundbreaking immersive experience one gets from AR and VR viewed through goggles or glasses and wants to try and get that experience to a broad audience as soon as possible. But cost, complexity of setup and ease of use at this time is why its greatest interest will be in vertical markets initially. I have not seen anything in this area that even remotely could be taken to a broad consumer audience given current pricing and no killer app for consumers.

What surprised me a bit is that nobody in this crowd discussed the idea of delivering AR via a smartphone. Even with the success of Pokemon Go, this crowd almost exclusively favors AR and VR solutions delivering apps and programs mainly by some sort of goggles or glasses.

They avoided what would be the elephant in the room of the potential of Apple doing an AR product around the iPhone 8 or whatever they will call the new iPhone and its impact on mixed reality. I sincerely doubt Apple has any goggle’s or glasses based products ready for prime time anytime soon and instead if they enter the AR field will do it on a smartphone platform first.

What is important here is that while AWE and the goggles and glasses crowd have such a hard focus on goggle’s based AR and VR that Apple could actually use the iPhone to bring AR to the masses and cement its role as a leader in AR and influence the direction that all AR and VR goes in the future. I do believe that Apple will eventually have some goggle’s or glasses of their own but this would come as an evolution of any AR platform that becomes more of a mixed reality platform as it evolves over time and the technology needed to advance this platform becomes more available.

I find AWE to be an important show since each year I go to it I see how this kind of progress in the area of AR and VR has evolved and get a sense of where we are in the adoption cycle for this new technology. But like last year, I still came away with the belief that AR and VR using goggles and glasses for enterprise, gaming, and high-end entertainment will be the first audience for these products and consumer versions will still be well into the future. I am just not convinced we are anywhere close to having the technology to create the types of AR or VR glasses that could pass muster with consumers any time soon that would not make them look like geeks or are really usable in day to day activities unless they are focused on specialized interests, which is why AR and VR goggles will stay in niche markets for at least 5 years and perhaps even more.

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Tim Bajarin

Tim Bajarin is the President of Creative Strategies, Inc. He is recognized as one of the leading industry consultants, analysts and futurists covering the field of personal computers and consumer technology. Mr. Bajarin has been with Creative Strategies since 1981 and has served as a consultant to most of the leading hardware and software vendors in the industry including IBM, Apple, Xerox, Compaq, Dell, AT&T, Microsoft, Polaroid, Lotus, Epson, Toshiba and numerous others.

One thought on “My Takeaways from AWE (Augmented World Expo)”

  1. Your style is really unique compared to other people I have read stuff from.
    Thanks for posting when you have the opportunity, Guess I’ll just book mark this site.

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