AWE: AR + VR + BDYHAX
This year I attended AWE 2017 (Augmented World Expo) in Santa Clara, CA with over 5,000 other attendees. As one of the world’s largest and longest running AR+VR conferences, I was impressed with the range of companies and attendees. Ori Inbar, AWE founder, shared that everyone should be able to use AR+VR to experience reality in more meaningful ways. He talked about the thriving state of AR+VR. The growing interest was also evident in the huge increase of media attending (300 this year vs. ~30 just four years ago).
Ori talked about how AR+VR can democratize knowledge, increase economic growth, provide health to the people, increase collaboration, promote sustainability and more.
It was a room full of XR subject matter experts building the ecosystem working towards mainstream adoption. These attendees were the early adopters and the risk takers developing the products, tools, and platforms pushing the future to now. It felt very similar to the vibe and passion shared by BDYHAX attendees.
So what were some of my key takeaways from AWE?
1. The future is now and yet it’s not. What I mean by that is we still haven’t seen a killer app from a content perspective in XR. We still don’t have headset that’s at the right weight and price point (although we saw one 50% lighter than HMD on the market today). We have better GPUs, but there are still several technical limitations. I think unlike the VR of the 90s that didn’t reach mainstream adoption; I saw applications especially in AR and MR that will change the way we live and work. And much like BDYHAX, a lot of these companies and products are still relatively in their infancy.
2. We’ve got to tell the right story and we have a responsibility to create a future that’s inclusive and full of empathy. Probably one of my personal favorite aspects of AWE 2017 is that an entire track was dedicated to VR for Good. I think it’s very telling with the Grandfather of VR, Tom Furness, founded Virtual World Society focused on improving lives through AR+VR. Similar discussions and concerns come up with bodyhackers around ethics and responsibility for using tech for the betterment of society. If all we’re doing is creating more first-person shooter games (or putting magnets in our fingers) then we’re really missing our full long-term potential.
3. The WOW factor is high. When done right, full immersive experiences are magical. I’ve felt this first-hand and Lorraine Bardeen, Microsoft shared similar reaction. “I’ll never forget that moment I tried HoloLens for the first time – I saw a fish swim by me and I was in.” It reminds me of when Moon Ribas talked about her ability to feel earthquakes at BDYHAX or Amal Graafstra talked about biohacking where the magnets in his fingers responded to metal detectors entering the library. It’s this next level of human evolution. And I am personally really excited about haptics. Discussed both at AWE and BDYHAX; the ability to have the touch sensations in addition to sight and sounds transforms your experience.
4. Business/Industry use-cases are helping fund the field. Another key takeaway from AWE is that corporations and businesses are seeing direct cost savings around training, maintenance, and spatial planning. They also don’t have the same cost barriers that your average consumer faces, so can adopt more expensive hardware and products if they see the cost-benefit.
5. We can do things in XR that we simply can’t do any other way. Imagine being able to walk through your retail store without ever having to lay one brick. As Rikard Steiber, SVP Virtual Reality at HTC said “The days to look at a 2D screen to make a 3D object are over.” It’s almost hard to quantify all the different ways XR could potentially impact our lives. Probably the most thought provoking session for me came from Tish Shute where she talked about the need to actually define / redefine Augmentation more broadly as the upgrading of human beings.
As a fellow bodyhacker, I’m happy to live in such an exciting time of exponential growth. For anyone looking for more specific product announcements or detailed account of AWE, check out my twitter feed.