Recapping the first day of the third annual AWE EU 2018: From the Main Stage
By Emily Friedman
The first day of the third annual AWE EU 2018 opened with industry veteran Ori Inbar’s traditional State of XR keynote, and ended in 2028 over drinks, classic dance hits, balloons and painted avatars at Munich’s ISARPOST. In between, there were constant hallway Magic Leap demos, product announcements and initiative launches, attendees from over 50 countries navigating the five different tracks of the program, and hundreds of new AR/VR experiences in the Expo Hall. What follows is a recap of the entire first day on the AWE EU 2018 Main Stage.
First thing in the morning, Ori established one of the major themes of the day, which is that XR is on the cusp of exploding; if you don’t go XR, you will go extinct. The evidence: XR is predicted to grow into a $200 billion market; there will be 1 billion XR users in 2019; 70% of Fortune 1000 companies see meaningful ROI in the technology; the tech giants are making big bets on the space; and there IS investor interest, with over $7 billion poured into XR in the last 12 months alone. Ori also emphasized the new open AR Cloud initiative and appealed directly to creators in the packed audience to make the world better through XR.
PTC’s Mike Campbell took the stage next to share PTC’s on-going priorities for achieving AR at scale in enterprise, especially in manufacturing and service settings where AR has the greatest value. The problems PTC is working to address with customers like AGCO and BAE Systems are the skills gap, the vast amount of information factory workers need to do their jobs today, and a culture of immediate expectations. The company is also working on providing knowledge transfer capabilities that would allow users to capture what they’re doing in situ, hoping to solve the biggest bottleneck for AR delivery in enterprise: Content authoring.
By the time Mike announced PTC’s new tech for remote service applications – Vuforia Chalk – and a new report released with Aberdeen, #AWE2018 was already trending on Twitter in Germany. Attendees continued sharing key takeaways and impressions via the AWE EU 2018 app and social media when CEO & Founder of RE’FLEKT Wolfgang Stelzle was joined on stage by Bosch’s Juergen Lumera. The two looked back to 2012, when AR wasn’t mature enough to make all the variants of a certain vehicle available in AR. For this, AR had to be more flexible and “creatable,” so Bosch and RE’FLEKT embarked on a joint journey to take a platform for delivering information to service techs from prototype to global roll-out.
In 2018, Bosch began rolling out a Training 4.0 solution aimed at solving a major challenge in automotive workshops today: Complexity. On the heels of Wolfgang and Juergen, Bosch’s Gerald Sailer and Tom Pedersen, a Bosch technical trainer, came on stage to explain this solution, which allows trainers to avoid having to take cars apart in order to train employees on complex systems (think hybrid, EV, etc.). Twitter user @ThomasVits remarked that XR-enabled training seemed to be a key area for large-scale industrial XR deployments; and indeed training in XR emerged as another major theme throughout the day.
The global industry survey that Digi-Capital recently did with AWE provides a clear view of the reality ecosystem from the top of the XR industry. Tim Merel went over the major findings from the survey, available for free to all registered attendees, including where AR/VR startups are making money, what platforms matter to the industry, who is buying XR products and services and why, and more. For instance, most startups aren’t making money outside of their own regions, missing opportunities they could seize through strategic partnerships and not necessarily in one’s own market in one’s own region. A major takeaway for the AWE EU audience was the great potential in Europe—Tim expects that XR revenue in Europe will surpass North America this year and continue to accelerate. He also shared a demo version of Digi-Capital’s leading XR analytics platform.
The AWE EU Press Conference took place on the Main Stage of the event just before lunch, with leading XR companies making major news and launch announcements. Read the list of announcements here.
Dr. Fadi Chehimi of IBM reopened the Main Stage following lunch, sharing user experience obstacles from his research and professional work in XR along with some amazing examples of XR experiences that nearly trick the user into questioning their reality, which is what we’re all really aiming to do. Dr. Chehimi‘ s final thoughts: “Let’s play the limitations of current XR systems to our benefit to create realistic user experiences. It was successfully done and so we can do it now.” Next up, Object Theory’s Michael Hoffmann went through the business challenge, Mixed Reality solution, why MR?, and potential challenges for 18 different use cases Object Theory has identified along with real-life examples from Object Theory’s customers. The use cases included product design, premium selling, space planning, four different training scenarios (soft skills training, hard skills training, education/conceptual learning, expert coaching), and more. Michael’s final thoughts? “With thoughtful experience design, diligent optimization, and smart engineering, today’s mixed reality devices deliver real business value for a wide variety of use cases.
Fan favorite M. Pell, author and envisioneer at Microsoft Garage, then provided a glimpse into the future, when “Information will be all over the place all the time, but only when you want it”—a theme Ori had introduced at the start of the event and which Charlie Fink would pick up on right after M. Pell.
M. Pell welcomed us to the dawning of the Age of Smart Information, in which artificial intelligence, XR and EQ (emotion, reinforcement learning) will come together to form smart information. Containing data, right representation (according to context/content), and action; smart information will allow anything we create or consume to tell its own story. It will be dynamic, flexible, temporal and connected, but it won’t happen by itself. Pell asked all the authors/creators in the audience to think about how they could contribute to the smart information future, how they could turn consumption into exploration using AI-powered creation tools and allowing AI to do the things people aren’t good at (like sifting through information and determining the best way to show data to us in every scenario).
Charlie Fink’s book Metaverse, according to Pell, provides a taste of smart information, as it’s not just a book; it’s an experience for the reader—a great introduction for the next speaker, Charlie Fink himself. Charlie started off by sharing three things he knows are true: 1) Technology succeeds when it makes what we are already doing better; 2) People are the killer app; and 3) Everyone overestimates the near term and underestimates the long term. While mobile AR is “white hot,” the long path we’ve embarked on isn’t one of evolving devices but rather the augmentation of mankind.
Charlie described a world “painted with data” in which every person, place and thing will be covered with an invisible layer of data that can be revealed using an XR device. This world starts with persistent, shared geolocation, facial recognition, and content filtration; and “ends” with the universal visual browser, or the visual and clickable web. Other key points made by Charlie were the differences between AR and VR (AR is a new tool for humans, while VR is humankind’s quest for immersion) and the inevitability of HMDs. Glasses, however, may not be the final form factor: Wearable, contextual computer vision all around us, the “holy grail of AR,” could be delivered to us via something as simple as a lapel pin. As for why VR is struggling to penetrate the consumer market, Charlie pointed to the fundamental problem of VR, which is that it has no readily available value proposition for the consumer. This was echoed across the AWE EU agenda.
The last presentation of the day by TeamViewer’s Kornelius Brunner and Andreas Haizmann culminated in a new product announcement: TeamViewer Pilot, “AR-powered remote support for the real world.” The solution takes TeamViewer’s technology, which has been used for everything from precision farming to telemedicine in space, beyond the screen. TeamViewer Pilot is the “digitalization of field support” that TeamViewer wants to put into everyone’s hands at home, in small businesses and in large-scale enterprises.
For the Day 1 Main Stage finale, we had two panels. The first was an Investor Panel led by Irina Gusakova (Atlantic Bridge), with Barry Downes (Sure Ventures), Paul Klee (Earlybird Venture Capital), Kim Hoffken (BASF Venture Capital), and Ryan Wang (Outpost Capital). Tim Merel made an appearance before the panel began, going over the most recent XR market statistics as background for the panel’s discussion. The group of active, long-term XR investors conversed on the market, investment opportunities and challenges face by startups. Topics covered ranged from the areas seeing strong adoption in each investor’s regional market (for ex., in the Asian market there are a bunch of successful VR arcades and VR education in public schools, while Europe sees more industrial use cases) to why investors are optimistic about the long-term but wary of investing in VR HMDs today and why M&A activity hasn’t really picked up in XR.
Last up on the Main Stage, Tom Emrich (AWE, Super Ventures) engaged Ioana Matei (Procter&Gamble), Catherine Allen (Limina Immersive), Helen Kennedy (University of Brighton), and Dr. Maria Murcia Lopez (Oculus/Facebook) in a critical conversation around the need for diversity in building new realities. We heard from the panel about the launch of the Vision for Women and Virtual Reality statement (vwvr.org) and Facebook’s efforts to detect abuse and make social VR feel open to everyone. We also read some disturbing statistics revealing that a whole set of people’s experiences and needs are not being represented in how VR is created, used and marketed; and learned of some steps in the right direction, such as the increasing exposure of diverse groups to VR through the arts.
Lack of inclusivity isn’t just an ethical problem; it’s a commercial one, too: How can VR go mainstream if half the population doesn’t use it? It took 90 years to realize we need women in film. Box-office hits like Wonder Woman and Black Panther have shown that diversity delivers financially. With VR, we don’t have 90 years to make and undo the same mistakes as the film industry; organizations have to take deliberate action now to promote diversity in the space and that includes not only hiring women but also reconsidering how VR is packaged and marketed.
The heavy conversation turned lighter as attendees spilled out of Halle 3 and the various track rooms and transitioned to Halle 4 for the Happy Hour sponsored by Atheer and then over to the AWE EU 2018 after party hosted by PTC at ISARPOST in the beautiful city of Munich.
See you tomorrow for Day 2!