This Week in VR/AR
Last week I complained that there wasn't a whole lot happening in VR and AR and wrote about robots instead. This week makes up for that, with a ton of activity that shows massive adoption rising, business uses broadening and an ecosystem burgeoning. Next week cmes some of the Apple announcements that Robert and believe will be strong on AR.
The biggest AR/VR community news came out of Silicon Valley where the seventh annual Augmented World expo (AWE) was held in Santa Clara Convention Center. Event producers told me that attendance was up 25 percent over last year to just under 5000. Seven years ago it was just over 200, and they were almost entirely geeks sharing a common vision.
This year was a very mixed crowd. Most notably was the return of suit coats and business apparel. AR and VR is now pushing into the mainstream. I wandered around with Keith Newman an old friend who is helping Robert and me in business development for Transformation Group, our new consulting firm. Keith and I have been attending tech conferences since about the time that Comdex grew out of the National Computer Conference because NCC scorned PCs as nothing but toys.
The building was bursting at the seams. Every presentation in the main hall and in breakout rooms was overfilled.
"It's happening again," Shel. We've seen it before," Keith said as we tried in vain to navigate an event that clearly was outgrowing the venue. "We saw it when the PCs came. We saw it when the phones came and we saw it again when social media exploded.
He's right of course. In a year or two, I expect AWE will be hosted at Moscone and the 5,000 attendees will have grown to 20,000 moving rapidly toward 50,000.
The evidence was not just at the show. Everywhere I looked last week there was news of AR and VR in the business front. Let's look at some of the news:
- UDC reported that in Q1 2017, 2.3 million headsets shipped, nearly all of them VR. It predicted that in 2021 nearly 100 million will ship, a number that consider to be very conservative, but we shall see.
- WalMart announced that it has begun using VR and AR to train employees in all of its 200 training centers. Eventually all 150,000 employees will use headsets to learn their jobs better. They software is from Strivr Labs, the same educational software company being used by the NFL and other pro sports teams. This confirms our contention in our book that Mixed Reality technology is a killer app for all forms of training and education.
- Likewise, Daqri, the AR helmet-making startup that is barely a year old has been going like gangbusters. Speaking at AWE this week the company stated it was taking it's popular hardhat technology from oil rigs and utility poles to biker helmets and automotive heads-up displays.
- This week we started to get a few wonderfully off-the -wall business apps. There was the first reported VR wedding, which left me wondering about just what would happen on the honeymoon. Also in the news was the announcement of AR letting women see what a boob job could do to uplift them.
- In health, another killer app, according to our book, the first announcement of using haptic technology to help diabetics like me to manage their glucose levels. A haptic glove was also introduced to let shoppers virtually feel objects for sale, something that may feel freaky in 2017, but become an everyday occurrence by 2021 or so.
- Vuforia announced a nice little step forward for AR with Project Chalk, which lets people draw pictures in the air or around real object while communicating.
- Very often VR Arcades are regarded as the purviews of hip urban Millennials, so it was nice to see Calgary steal some steam by announcing the largest VR Arcade in North America. I wonder just how long they will enjoy that title. Arcades are big in Europe and Asia, and are just starting to catch on in North America.
This is my first week-in-review column. I cannot promise that I will be able to do this each week, but I have the best of intentions right now. I expect that next week will be an even bigger week for VR/AR with the much anticipated Apple developer conference starting tomorrow.