At In The Pocket, we can’t let the Augmented World Expo escape our attention. The expo is the event of the year for everyone interested in augmented and virtual reality. We already attended AWE in Santa Clara earlier this year, but two weeks ago attended the European edition of the conference in Munich, Germany too. In Europe, the expo is a bit smaller and only lasts two days instead of three, but that doesn’t mean it is less important. Interested in what we learn or didn’t learn? Read on!
Opening AWE EU was Ori Inbar, the founding father of the conference and one of the biggest influencers in the scene. His message was more or less the same as the one he brought us in Santa Clara, but is still very relevant. More than 10 years, we have been waiting on the breakthrough of augmented reality as a technology. The very first experiments with VR even trace back to 1968. Unfortunately, the technology was not ready to be massively adopted by the crowd, so we, as a human race, made the choice to stick with 2D screens and supporting hardware like the mouse and keyboard.
Luckily for us, everything in the market is indicating that 2020 and 2021 will be very important years for AR. The rumours about AR glasses from Apple are swelling. Large enterprises are massively adopting AR in their processes, whether it is for remote support, training, order picking or many other purposes. At In The Pocket, we see the same things happening in the AR market as we did see in the mobile market a decade ago. Many of the AR experiences started off as small features. Scanning a QR code or even an image to visualize some 3D elements, for instance. Later you were able to scan whole objects, but the terrain remained mainly marketing.
The two main drivers
Nowadays - as we also saw at AWE - more and more companies start to see the real value of AR. A company like Bosch presenting its platform for the industrialization of AR in the automotive industry is a nice indication of the traction augmented reality is getting in the industry. We can distinguish two big drivers in why this evolution is now happening so fast. First, there is the hardware and infrastructure aspect of AR. At AWE, we saw several companies showing their AR glasses or gloves to use as interface in AR or VR.
Terry Schussler, director at Deutsche Telekom, gave an interesting talk about why 5G will have such a great impact on the adoption of AR. Germany is already rolling out its first 5G networks. This progression in the infrastructure field will push the boundaries of AR too.
Next to hardware and infrastructure, the software behind all this is also evolving at a very fast pace. Several companies displayed their progression on spatial awareness and capturing of the world. Thanks to this feature, we will be able to link information directly to what we see in the world, whether it is a restaurant and its menu, or a piece of art with information about its creator. After all, the future of computing is spatial, just as Ori Inbar stated in his opening keynote. Thanks to the big advancements in AI, companies like Scape Technologies can supply the base for our spatial future or VisionLib, a company focusing on detection and tracking of realtime objects which can help us with spatial aware AR training or remote support in factories.
A company worth mentioning is ViewAR. Their CEO, Markus Meixner, talked us through how they are combining a C++ engine for rendering with a HTML-based user interface and an API to shield the developer from the most complex features of AR like tracking. Their goal is to let the developer focus on content and customer needs instead of the more technical and complex parts of AR. Does it mean everybody will be easily making AR apps? No, certainly not. It still remains complex, but the idea and execution of ViewAR impressed us.
AWE showed us again that finally the time maybe there for AR to breakthrough. Our CEO Jeroen Lemaire was already talking about AR a decade ago, but now we can say with real confidence AR is the future. It’s only a matter of time. Once the tech giants throw their weight into the battle, a lot will happen.