Barry Po, Director of Product Management
Twitter: @barryp

smart-glasses

This month, NGRAIN was at CES 2015 in Las Vegas, joining over 160,000 attendees and 3,600 exhibitors to showcase our latest products and technology. We had the privilege of joining forces with Epson to showcase the world’s first optical see-through augmented reality application for manufacturing and industrial environments using the Epson Moverio BT-200 (check out some of the coverage we received from Information WeekIEEE Spectrum, while Network World called us one of the Best of CES 2015!). The energy on the show floor was tremendous — in contrast to the many tech shows I’ve attended in the past two years, there was a genuine sense of optimism among attendees and exhibitors alike that 2015 will be the year that wearables, augmented reality, and virtual reality really take off.

And it’s not just “blind” optimism. In the last year, we have seen a number of significant developments make their way to the marketplace, and these developments are fueling serious interest in AR, VR, and the connected world of the Internet of Things:

1. Wearable tech has achieved critical mass. There are literally dozens of players in the wearable smart glass arena, from industrially-focused vendors such as Vuzix to “mainstream” manufacturers such as Sony and Oculus VR. Google recently announced that the Glass program has “graduated” from being just an experiment to a full-fledged business unit led by Ivy Ross and Tony Fadell. All of this emerging choice / competition brings along with it rapid innovation — higher resolution, greater field of view, better battery life among them — and wider reach through better pricing. The Epson BT-200s are available for several hundred dollars, a far cry from the niche head mounted displays of the 90s, where such tech would have been on the order of tens of thousands of dollars.

2. Advancements in tracking techniques and sensor tech. Companies such as Metaio, with its latest SDK, Qualcomm, and Intel are investing heavily into robust tracking technologies that will enable the creation of an augmented world. Computer vision techniques now make it possible for complex objects to be tracked and rendered in real-time with minimal latency. There is still room for improvement to be sure, but the technology continues to mature at a rapid rate. New sensing technologies including depth cameras and miniature 3D scanners are contributing to this fast evolution, enabling mobile devices to “see” the world and digitally capture a surrounding environment so it can be analyzed and augmented with real-time feedback.

3. Emerging serious applications. Just a few years ago, “augmented reality” meant placing a QR code on a table and seeing a dancing coffee cup. In the same way, “virtual reality” meant a canned demo that might allow you to look around a closed room. Now, it’s possible to provide service technicians with all the information they need to know for them to do their jobs, overlaid right on top of a piece of equipment that they are working on (have a look at some of the industrial applications we offer here at NGRAIN). VR is being used for behavioural therapy today, and there are numerous businesses that are interested in using VR to familiarize workers with an environment by enabling them to walkthrough it in advance of showing up onsite.

2015 looks set to build on the optimism present at CES this month. Just a few days ago, Microsoft announced their HoloLens project — a new AR/VR wearable display that has received a lot of attention from the mainstream media. On the back of the attendee response at CES, companies are now making serious investments in AR, VR, wearables, and connected devices. At NGRAIN, we have a lot of exciting developments in store to share over the coming year. This is an amazing time to be getting into these technologies!

Interested in learning more about how augmented reality, virtual reality, and interactive 3D can help your business? Drop us a line today!