For decades, the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), has been a huge event in which tech companies introduce their biggest upcoming services and devices.
XR technology — a blanket term for augmented, virtual, and mixed reality — has been a pretty big topic in tech for the last couple of years. This goes with a pretty big buzz around CES. CES ended on January 11 and, now that the dust is settled, we can take a look at some of the XR technology that was announced at and around this year’s event.
Vive was a huge presenter at this year’s CES. Their game-changing XR technology was already drawing attention even before they came out with a whole bunch of new updates, services, and tech at and around CES.
One of Vive’s biggest announcements was the introduction of Viveport Infinity. Viveport’s current subscription service gives subscribers the ability to access five titles each month. Viveport Infinity, when it launches on April 15, will give subscribers unlimited access to all of the more than 500 titles available on Viveport. Potentially more exciting is that Viveport Infinity will run on all Wave-compatible platforms, including Oculus. So, you don’t even need Vive Hardware to access the service. The only bad news? The cost of Viveport Infinity has yet to be released but we can expect it will be pretty steep.
Vive Pro Eye
Viveport Infinity was far from the only thing that the XR technology giant had to present at this year’s CES. The day before they announced Viveport Infinity they started raising awareness for their new eye-tracking system, Vive Pro Eye.
Vive Pro Eye uses a series of sensors on the inside of the Vive Pro headset to detect where the user is looking. That kind of basic technology has actually been around for quite a while. It has mainly been used in marketing and usability to determine where people’s attention is drawn or where they look for solutions. Pro Eye can do those things but it can also do much more.
By knowing where your eye is looking, Pro Eye can adjust focus to different areas of a simulation to more realistically mimic the ways that our eyes work in the real world. Also, because your eyes can direct more for themselves, you won’t need to use the controllers as much to do things like look around a room or aim a weapon, leading to a more immersive experience. Finally, the things that your eyes are doing can now be conveyed by your VR avatar that can look where you look and blink when you blink.
As was the case with Viveport Infinity, there’s a bit of bad news. For one thing, Pro Eye only works with the Vive Pro. The full Vive Pro Kit is only available in Europe right now where it rings up at around €1,400 or just over US$1,600. The rest of the bad news? Pro Eye only works with compatible titles and, because it just came out, that’s not a lot.
Last week, Vive also announced a new headset, the Vive Cosmos. With a new design including a flip-up visor and a “crown” style headband, the Cosmos is another wireless headset that comes with all new controllers.
The Cosmos looks pretty slick but there’s still a lot that we don’t know about it. For example, what exactly it will be capable of, when we can expect it to hit the market, and how much we will have to pay for it. However, a guess is it will probably be somewhere between the original Vive headset and the Pro headset.
Vive Reality Systems
Not all of the things that Vive announced were things that we have to wait for or pay more for. In a January 7th tweet accompanied by a 39-second video, Vive announced Vive Reality Systems. It is a “re-imagination of Vive core software to bring more custom and meaningful VR experiences to our audience.”
Unfortunately, everything that we know about the software upgrade comes from the video. The video doesn’t actually give away a great deal, though it does look pretty exciting. We also don’t know whether the upgrade will be made available for current Vive owners or whether it will only be included in newer model Vive hardware.
Open Houses and Easier Streaming from Oculus
Of course, Vive wasn’t the only XR technology company showing us new and exciting things at and around CES. It wasn’t a part of CES, but a blog post by the Oculus Rift team introduced new updates coming to the platform in January.
The first of these is the option to make your Oculus house public, allowing others to see your home away from home. The move makes sense considering how much time some people spend personalizing their digital spaces, especially with the new decorations that Oculus announced in last month’s update. For those who aren’t fond of the feature, Oculus has promised they will be able to turn it off.
Oculus also announced that many features will now be easier to stream on Facebook Live via a simple menu. Probably the most exciting thing to have come out of Facebook’s purchase of the XR technology company, streaming to Facebook live will make it easier for gamers to share walkthroughs and more with their friends on social media. The post did point out, however, that app developers are able to decide whether or not they want the integration. So, it’s not likely that all games and apps will allow it.
XR Sound from Sennheiser Ambeo
Not all of the presenters at XR technology companies at CES were big names. There were some rising names as well. Sennheiser Ambeo was there demonstrating the ability of their AR ONE, special earphones for XR experiences.
The AR ONE is meant to work with Magic Leap glasses and they feature a number of tools for experiencing and creating in XR, including a setting that lets users select how much of the sound they hear comes from the program and how much comes from their actual environment. Users can also use the noise cancelling feature for a more immersive experience.
The AR ONE can also be used with the Magic Leap app “Augmented Audio Lab” to create unique audio-visual experiences. Sennheiser may not be a household name in XR technology yet. But, if they keep up the collaborations with companies like Magic Leap, it won’t be long before they become.
XR Eyeglasses from LetinAR
Another lesser-known XR technology company presenting at CES was LetinAR, a South Korean startup making AR glasses. The models look similar to Google Glass, the original AR glasses that were briefly popular a number of years ago before disappearing.
Letin premiered at last year’s CES and raised an impressive US$5.4 Million in the meantime.
“[LetinAR PinMR™ AR Optical Solution] boasts much more superior performance than competitors,” the company told ARPost just prior to CES. “LetinAR PinMR™ Lens offers small form factor, wide Field of View (FoV), simple manufacturing process, and accurate color expression.”
Jaehyeok Kim, LetinAR CEO, was also a presenter at CES this year.
New Self-Contained Headsets from Pico and Ximerse
Pico, another XR technology company that is under the radar for many people, was also at CES presenting the G2 4K. Those who are familiar with Pico likely know it through the Pico Goblin, one of the first self-contained VR headsets. The Goblin was a great venture into self-contained VR headsets but had a few issues including limited memory. The G2 4K has better memory, updated hardware, and more customization options.
Pico wasn’t the only company presenting self-contained XR technology. There was also Ximmerse. Products by this company, including their AR headset, the Visor X, work with “invisible marker tracking”. This technology allows the tracking of moving objects as well as cheaper and more customizable applications. The company also showed demos of their MagicBall, Controller and IR Board.
VR in Healthcare
Not all of the XR technology presenters at CES were for fun and games. VRHealth was there showcasing a new app for telehealth, made in partnership with the American Association of Retired Persons.
Telehealth is of growing interest in the health, communications, and now XR technology industries. The idea is to help people in rural areas, or who have difficulty leaving their home, to have access to medical professionals.
VRHealth helps clinicians better manage their patients’ care via specialized VR technology solutions and data analysis. The company partnered with AARP to launch the first telehealth-VR medical platform. The platform includes apps specifically designed for consumers to use at home. As part of the collaboration, VRhealth has a residency in AARP Innovation Lab, and its product is accessible in Alcove VR. Aside from that, VRHealth apps can be downloaded from the Oculus store.
As expected, this year’s CES brought a lot to look forward to in the XR technology world. From new hardware, to software updates, to games, and practical solutions, all brought about through a new year of ingenuity.