Sunday, July 5, 2020
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Talks and Announcements From Leading XR Companies at AWE Day 2

Zappar, Altspace, and other XR companies had a lot to say: enlightened opinions and breaking news.

 

The second day of AWE Online 2020 wrapped Wednesday evening. The packed day, despite some technical difficulties, featured more talks from XR experts and more announcements from XR companies.

Unfortunately, we couldn’t cover everything, but we tried to wrap up some of our favorite highlights. If you’re just joining us now, you can also read our day one highlights.

The Future of XR

A theme throughout AWE has been looking at the future of XR. Event founder Ori Inbar even shared a “message from the future” in his welcome address.

Since then, speakers have talked about how XR fits into the future as well as the future of XR companies, specifically during and after the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Most XR experts have presented a rather rosy outlook for XR, presenting it as a “silver lining” of everything else that has been happening. For example, people are spending less time directly communicating with each other and more time in XR. Some XR companies have even reported higher-than-normal-revenues specifically linked to shelter-in-place orders.

However, this isn’t the case for all XR companies and it may not be for long.

XR Companies in the Time of COVID-19

At the end of the day, if you have to decide between putting food on the table and paying rent or buying things online and making in-app purchases, it becomes very hard to make the decision that won’t directly help you to support yourself or your family,” Digi-Capital Managing Director, Tim Merel, said in his talk, “How could COVID-19 change AR/VR’s future?”

Merel also pointed out that, while solutions by XR companies are a boon for AR retail, that’s only the case if businesses have a shippable product. This is an area that many retailers are struggling with as supply chains are disrupted by social distancing and “essential products” get the right-of-way.

Similarly, people are rightly excited about the increased awareness of remote collaboration. However, with many people unable to get their hands on headsets, this may be more increased awareness than increased revenue for most companies – at least for now.

There is hope. It isn’t all doom-and-gloom,” said Merel. “Our view is that the next two years will be a time for the strongest startups to really focus on revenue and growth.”

One of those strong XR companies is Altspace. Not the plucky startup it was before its acquisition by Microsoft three years ago, the company remains creative and agile.

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We’ve been trying to solve a very specific need for people that already had a VR headset,” Altspace Head of Engagement Katie Kelly said in a panel discussion, “Why VR Collaboration & Shared Experiences In Virtual Environments Work.” “(…) Now, we’re trying to solve a much larger need.”

Theia Interactive co-founder and CEO Stephen Philips said in the same discussion, “There are still a lot of people who either don’t like VR as a blanket or who don’t have the hardware. (…) We’re always trying to build experiences for people [in 2D] as well.”

Announcements From XR Companies

In the same discussion, Philips announced the Optim 1.2 update to Theia for Unity Developers. It wasn’t the only big announcement that dropped on AWE’s second day.

MetaVRse CEO Alan Smithson announced that the consulting and development firm is launching its own web-based universal creative tool.

Zappar CTO Connell Gauld’s talk “Build face tracking, image tracking and instant world tracking for the web with Universal AR” introduced the Universal AR SDK with a live demo.

Zappar Universal AR SDK
Universal AR SDK

“Universal AR is our new suite of SDKs for developing AR and VR experiences,” said Gauld. “(…) You can get the SDKs straight from our site. We think it’s an important step to democratizing AR.”

Keep Watching

Those may have been the major announcements from today that we were able to cover. However, HP’s Global Head of Virtual Reality for Location Based Entertainment, Joanna Popper, made sure to tease big announcements from HP and Microsoft that will be dropping tomorrow.

To get a front-row seat of those talks and those of other XR companies, you can still get tickets (make sure to use the code ARPOST20 to get $100 off your ticket) for the remaining events on AWE’s website.

Jon Jaehnig
the authorJon Jaehnig
Jon Jaehnig is a freelance writer specializing in Technology and Health. Jon has a degree in Scientific and Technical Communication from Michigan Technological University and lives in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula with his wife and cat. If you have a story suggestion for Jon, you may contact him here.