The third day of AWE 2020 may go down in history as the most wholesome day in the history of XR technology. The day included a discussion on how to create a virtual world society from Tom Furness, a discussion on ethical responsibility in the immersive tech industry from Professor Donna Davis, a panel on women in XR, and more.
There were also huge announcements from Unity, HP, Microsoft, and others. Let’s jump in.
Ethics and Inclusion in XR Technology
An early presentation in the day saw the University of Oregon professor Donna Davis presenting “Immersion and Ethical Responsibility.” We’ve seen people stressing the importance of including ethnic minorities and women in XR technology development, but Davis focused on those with disabilities. For example, how does someone with Parkinson’s navigate gesture controls?
“When you think about someone’s body and their abilities or disabilities, think about design,” said Davis. “As you think about the ethics of design, I always encourage people to think about universal design.”
That talk was followed later in the day by the second annual “6DoFemale: Who Run Da New World?” – a panel discussion focusing on prominent women in XR technology. During the event, Leen Segers of LucidWeb and Women in Immersive Technology, reported that WiiT found its first partner in Facebook.
One of the more anticipated discussions of the day came from Tom Furness. Introduced as “The Godfather of VR,” after his talk he should be called “The Grandfather of VR.”
Tom Furness started working in XR technology decades ago and started the first iteration of the Virtual World Society in the hopes of defending the tech from a misunderstanding culture. However, Furness may be more aware than anyone about the possible dangers of VR. He discussed these in his talk “Virtual World Society: A Manifesto for Virtual Reality.”
“We have proven over and over again in education and medicine that VR can uplift us. But it can also be dangerous,” said Furness. “(…) One of the biggest things that concerns me and that has over the last many years is that we can’t put people into a place where they’re killing people.”
Shortly after his call to “shun all violence in VR”, Furness announced a new partnership between the Virtual World Society and Educators in VR.
The Virtual World Society and WiiT weren’t the only ones to make the big announcements at the XR technology conference.
Andrew Maneri and Jono Forbes announced “MARS,” the platform’s new authoring tool. This is on the heels of announcing an update to their burst compiler the day before.
Later in the day, NVIDIA’s Senior Manager of XR Greg Jones announced the NVIDIA CloudXR SDK, which was released after an early-access period. The platform for streaming XR experiences from the cloud was presented to work even on advanced smartphones.
“We want the best of both worlds: the power of high-end graphics cards, and the ease and mobility of all-in-one devices,” said Jones. “CloudXR can support just about any device as long as someone is willing to write the APK.”
HP and Microsoft
Meanwhile, Joanna Popper and John Ludwig of HP, and Mark Bolas of Microsoft announced the HP Reverb Gen 2, which was developed in collaboration with Valve.
While the first-generation of the headset was targeted mainly at industry, partnership with Valve means that this headset is targeted at serious gamers as well.
The headset takes a conspicuous amount of XR technology from the Valve Index, including its audio and head straps. Designers also brought in two extra side-facing cameras to increase the range of gesture controls – a trick borrowed from Microsoft’s HoloLens.
The headset also features a flip-up HMD, manually adjusted interocular distance, and enhanced resolution and contrast.
Later in the day, Popper and Ludwig were joined in Altspace by Spike Huang of HP and Alex Kipman of Microsoft. The event was HP’s first VR launch of a VR product, according to Popper.
“We’ve got a lot of emojis going, so it is great to be here with you all. This is our first VR product launch in VR,” said Popper. “We’re tapping into the power of VR to bring us together when we have to be apart.”
Keep an Eye Out
We’ll be back tomorrow with more highlights and headlines from AWE. Friday marks the much anticipated Auggie Awards. We were the first to reveal the finalists and we’ll try to be one of the first to reveal the winners of the prestigious XR technology award.