When humanity is faced with challenges, we are resilient. We scramble and adapt. And so, over the last 20 years, our technology has evolved tremendously. The COVID-19 pandemic has played a key role in innovation; compressed disruption. Simultaneously, TVs can only get so thin, phones can only get so small, and this CES was similar to previous ones, except for one significant difference.
Missing A Pulse
When I physically attended CES 2020 last year, the event had almost tangible energy. Everyone was running around, hyped up, and excitedly asking each other, “did you see this? Did you hear this? Oh my gosh, did you talk to such and such about XYZ?”
CES was different this year. The virtual conference felt artificial, at times overwhelming, and had a digital aftertaste. Don’t get me wrong; a virtual event was necessary and excellent in terms of innovation. You’re in the comfort of your own home; you can relax and set your own pace. Despite losing the chance to attend physically, some pretty exciting announcements caught my eye. Just keep in mind that many of the products released at CES 2021 for XR were really meant for enterprise and not the average consumer (but we have to start somewhere).
Technology That Stole The Show
Panasonic VR Glasses & AR HUD
When the Panasonic VR glasses were released last year, they initially looked terrific, but they didn’t really have practicality, and the field of view was very low. This year, however, they added tracking and design updates, such as improvement in the arms. Panasonic also released their AR HUD, which provides an augmented reality window for drivers. Powered by Phiar, the AR HUD is set to be included in cars by 2022.
NOLO’s New Standalone Headset
NOLO shook things up when they announced their plan to release an all-in-one headset similar to the Oculus Quest. Recent issues with the way Facebook and the Oculus ecosystem operate has me hoping that the new NOLO headset is a possible competition for the Oculus Quest 2.
Unai Headset & Virtual World
The Unai is a dedicated experience for bringing together people in VR, with facial features, body tracking, and a focus on social presence.
CREAL’s Light-field Displays
CREAL (not to be confused with the breakfast item) is definitely a company to watch out for. They produce two types of light-field displays, one for AR and another for VR. Currently, when you use VR, your goggles don’t quite mimic the way the eye works; there really isn’t any depth or field. Light-field is a game-changer because it naturally mimics your eyes. While CREAL isn’t making headsets, they are making displays and proof of concepts for other companies. Hopefully, in the next two to three years, we’ll be seeing more headsets with light-field displays.
Vuzix AR Glasses
Vuzix’s new AR glasses, similar to Google Glass, were also released. Although not very revolutionary, you can view their release video here.
Lenovo’s Think Reality A3 Glasses
Despite not being ready for primetime and the average consumer, the AR announcement that caught my eye was Lenovo’s Think Reality A3 Glasses. They work with your laptop, with up to five displays (in the glasses).
Last year, there were talks about a new headset by Samsung called the Odyssey. While the headset literally looks like the eyes of a fly, the real news is that they are releasing updated, more modern looking controllers with a similar design to the Knuckles by Valve.
A Robot Called Reachy
Reachy, the new robot on the block, is driven by virtual reality, provides users with telepresence, and the possibilities are endless. Soon, you could have a robot go out in real life. Imagine being at home with your VR goggles and controllers and being able to control your robot through VR. I believe robotics will evolve, function as caretakers for the elderly, and offer a chance for companionship in general.
Hardware With Soul
The hardware announcements at CES 2021 were numerous, from new computers to AMD’s faster, better processors to Intel’s new CPUs to Nvidia’s 3060 chipsets. As I sat and watched, I realized that we’re entering an age of renaissance. We’re experimenting, doing cool things, and new ideas are coming to life. The truth is, you can have a multitude of hardware and technology, but if there isn’t any soul or flavor, it feels dead. Mark my words, creativity will play a vital role in the innovation of technology.
bHaptics TactSuit X40
The bHaptics TactSuit X40 was yet another exciting announcement. If you don’t know what a haptic vest is, it’s a wearable vest with sensors on specific points of the body for immersion. Let’s say you’re playing a VR zombie game like Arizona Sunshine. When a zombie bites you, you’re able to feel that (to a certain extent) in a virtual environment.
The SenseGlove Nova is another product that gives you the ability to feel in VR. For example, you can feel the weight of a coffee mug as you pick it up.
Sony Took The Spotlight
It isn’t an exaggeration to say that Sony took the spotlight at CES with its innovative products and experiences. From 360 VME to the Airpeak drone to Virtual Production LED wall tech, they blew it out of the water.
As you’ve probably seen, virtual events are happening all the time because of the pandemic. Let’s be honest, though: you can only see so many live streams before you grow tired of them. Sony is creating a different type of experience altogether. Using sensors, tracking, bodysuits, and facial capture technology, they’re making high-end VR concerts. It’s a different way to consume live events, blurs the lines of reality, and I predict that the technology will exponentially grow in the next two to three years.
Sony wasn’t the only company to showcase the plethora of possibilities that come with creating virtual beings and avatars. NEON Content Creation allows you to pick from forty realistic avatars to develop video content.
Looking Past Fear & Into The Future
With the XR technologies emerging from CES 2021, we finally see ideas come to fruition. In today’s world, people are afraid to go out and explore real life, but with VR, you can allow yourself to have experiences with friends without leaving the comfort of your home. The future is coming to you; you’re not going towards it, don’t fear it embrace it.