CES kicks off today. This year CES features over 350 AR and VR exhibitors. To prep for my week I took a look at the show floor to identify some of the trends I expect to see this year.
Cutting the cord: Wireless VR
This is definitely going to be a big year for VR users who are looking to freely enter the metaverse without a bunch of cords. Wireless VR is one of the trends I expect to see at CES 2018. HTC has already made its announcement of the Vive Pro and Vive Wireless Adaptor and Xiaomi, Lenovo debuted the Mirage Solo and Oculus took the Qualcomm stage to debut the Mi VR Standalone. Other companies to check out in this area include TPCAST (LVCC, South Hall 2–26435), DisplayLink (LVCC, South Hall 3–31772) and Amimon (Westgate, Hospitality — Suite 21121).
New ways to interact: Eye-tracking, gesture & more
Each wave of computing has brought with it a new way to interact and AR+VR is no different. Keep an eye out for companies that are going beyond the traditional mouse, keyboard and game controllers that use eye-tracking (Tobii — LVCC, South Hall 1–21409), hand-tracking (uSens — LVCC, South Hall 1–21723), connected gloves (Sensoryx — Sands, Hall G — 50714) and even your feet (3DRudder — LVCC, South Hall 1–21403) and mind (MindMaze — Westgate, Hospitality — Suite 1810) and InteraXon (Sands, Halls A-D — 44409).
Your own personal theme park: VR simulators
VR on a swivel chair is ok but add a simulator and its a whole different ball game. But you don’t need to go to Six Flags to make this happen. This year CES hosts a number of simulators aimed for the (larger) home including the world’s most compact and cheapest virtual reality motion simulator, YawVR (Sands, Hall G — 52871) and VR solutions that aim to keep you in shape from ICAROS (Sands, Halls A-D — 46050), Golfzon (Sands, Halls A-D — 44322) and the world’s first VR gym experience by Black Box VR (Sands, Halls A-D — 44722).
Getting all the feels: Adding Touch to the AR+VR mix
In order for AR+VR experiences to feel real, we need to add one important element: touch. Watch out for a number of organizations that are using anything from haptic feedback (Lofelt — Sands, Hall G — 51303, Tactical Haptics — Sands, Hall G — 50322 and Teslasuit — Sands, Hall G — 51916) ultrasonic waves (Ultrahaptics — Sands, Halls A-D — 42337) and even heat and wind (Whirlwind FX — Sands, Hall G — 50916) to take digital reality to the next level.
Playing around: Smartphone AR
While we will see a number of smartglasses at CES this year we are still a ways off until these devices get on everyone’s face. In the meantime, be sure to check out a number of companies that are making AR accessible to consumers using something we all have in our hands already — the smartphone. Merge (LVCC, South Hall 1–21523) and Sphero (LVCC, South Hall 1–21008) in the South Hall are great examples of how the toy world is introducing AR & VR to young consumers. While Mira Reality (Sands, Hall G — 50909) and Lenovo’s Star Wars AR experience (Palazzo Tower, Hospitality — Ven 3–730) are great examples of cost-effective headworn devices that let you put your smartphone on your face to have some fun.
Listen up: Augmented audio
While a lot of the emphasis in the AR+VR space is on sight and display, the audio space is getting much louder and we are beginning to see how audio can be used to enhance and augment our experience. Digital assistants are by far the biggest trend again at CES but this year we are seeing Alexa and Google Assistant in particular move from the speaker to our ear. For this check out Vuzix’s Blade with integrated Alexa (LVCC, Central Hall — 17147). Meanwhile startups like Nuheara (Sands, Halls A-D — 44746) are democratizing the hearing aid allowing users full control over their audio experience.
Take an augmented ride: AR & Automotive
One of the areas we can expect to interact with augmented reality first is in automotive. Swinging by the automotive marketplace is probably a smart idea if you are at the show this year as not only are there a lot of overlapping technologies with self-driving cars and AR there are also a number of applications which show how AR can improve the driving experience overall. The showroom floor will host a number of augmented vehicle experiences from connected helmets such as Skully (LVCC, South Hall 1–21531) and Livemap (Art Business — Sands, Hall G — 52857) and vehicular AR platforms from the likes of Civil Maps (LVCC, North Hall — 9317 and WayRay (LVCC, South Hall 2–26047).
Meet your digital twin: 3D Capture
The big shift in computing is a move from 2D to 3D. With AR+VR on the rise, there is a growing demand for 3D content. Expect to see a number of 3D capturing devices at this year’s CES including Bellus3D’s high-quality, and affordable 3D face scanning camera for mobile devices (Sands, Hall G — 51104), 3D cameras from HP (HP Z 3D Camera) and Orbbecc (LVCC, South Hall 1–21712) and itsme3D’s photo rig solution (Westgate — 1703). Intel also used CES this year to announce the opening of a large volumetric video studio in LA to create better AR+VR content.
Hi ho, hi ho, it’s off to work AR goes: Enterprise AR
In 2017 we learned that AR has been hard at work in the enterprise. If you are interested in learning how AR is changing work, CES will be showcasing solutions from NASA (LVCC, South Hall 1–21342), DAQRI (Renaissance, Suites — Ren 29), RealMax (LVCC, South Hall 1–21536) and Cambridge Consultants (Sands, Halls A-D — 44137).
Next generation components: Displays, chips and 5G networks
If you want to see how far away we are from AR smartglasses, make sure you catch up with some of the major component manufacturers building the displays, chips and networks necessary for AR to truly hit mainstream. Lumus (LVCC, South Hall 1–21330), Zeiss (LVCC, South Hall 1–21730) and Kopin are a must from the display side while Intel (LVCC, Central Hall — 10048), Qualcomm (LVCC, North Hall — 5616) booths will help you ramp up on the work being done in processors and networks.
Bonus: I am always pretty excited to check out what is happening in the way of projection AR and magic mirrors as IMHO these solutions could help expedite large scale adoption of AR in places like retail very quickly since it doesn’t require the user to adopt another device. If you are interested in this area check out HoloLamp (Sands, Hall G — 50908), Kino-mo (LVCC, South Hall 1–21039) and swing by Panasonic, Canon and Toshiba booths to see where this technology is at.