Friday was the last day of AWE. While that means the Auggie winners were finally announced, there was also other great content, including a lot of discussion around the future of XR technology.
The Future of XR Technology
Many of the talks and panel discussions at AWE’s final day appropriately looked to the future of XR technology and experience.
Cloud Streaming for XR Content
A panel discussion titled “Delivering Gaming and XR from the Cloud” discussed a topic near and dear to industry and gamers alike. The discussion naturally relied on streaming video as a familiar analogy although streaming XR content is much more complicated.
“If you end up with a significantly latent [VR] experience, it stops being a bad experience and starts being nauseating,” said NVIDIA Senior Manager of Global XR Greg Jones.
On day three of AWE, Jones had announced the new NVIDIA CloudXR content streaming platform. In this talk, NVIDIA Senior Product Manager Andrew Fear explains that the platform originated as an in-house solution.
“About ten years ago at NVIDIA, we looked at cloud streaming as solving a problem because we had engineers who wanted to test drivers but didn’t want to come to the lab,” said Fear.
The panel, which also included Arianne Hinds of Tencent, and Dijam Panigrahi of GridRaster also focused on “packaging” so that some content can be handled by a cloud while other content is handled on the device. This could optimize game performance but also solve security concerns in industry.
5G and Edge Computing
5G and edge computing are some of the biggest buzzwords in XR right now. A talk titled “5G and Edge Computing for Advanced Content Creation and Next-Gen Experiences” given by Joshua Ness of Verizon 5G Labs explored these terms.
“We know that 5G is coming and, in some cases, it’s already here,” said Ness. “It is starting to bring some of these new experiences and new capabilities.”
These capabilities include higher bandwidth for lower latencies, and real-time volumetric capture and rendering.
The AR Cloud
The AR cloud is the complex idea of a digital world that maps to our physical world, allowing advanced spatial computing. Building the AR cloud is an ongoing project and there is much disagreement as to who will bring it about and how.
“Every major AR platform has gone in on this idea of the AR cloud,” said Matt Miesnieks now of Niantic, formerly of 6D.ai. Much of the talk discussed the decision to sell 6D.ai to Niantic earlier this year. “To own the market, we needed to get to scale and we realized that a VC-backed go-to-market approach wasn’t going to get us to scale soon enough.”
Niantic users are participating in a crowd-sourced mapping of the world for the AR cloud. The next step is going to be building a “semantic understanding” of that cloud. That, according to Miesnieks, is the thing to watch in the next few years.
Of course, no AWE recap article would be complete without mentioning the exciting announcements made during the various talks.
The Unreal Engine General Manager Marc Petit announced new tools on the Epic Online Services platform to help developers create scaling multiplayer experiences.
Amar Dhaliwal of Atheer announced “the next generation of Atheer” launching June 30. The no-code necessary update will “bring all of our tools together into what we call a complete front-line operating system.”
Among other tools, the new platform will be able to turn support calls into remote-assist real-time AR videos that can be recorded and replayed.
“We’re excited to share this experience first with the people here at AWE today,” said Dhaliwal.
The highlight of the day – and perhaps for all of AWE – was the Auggie Awards. The awards honor the best and most exciting XR technology projects, people, and organizations. Hundreds were nominated by people around the world and the winners were announced to the public on Friday.
“AWE wouldn’t be complete without recognizing the best in AR and VR,” said AWE founder Ori Inbar. In addition to serving as host of the event, Inbar presented a number of the awards. Out of a record 283 nominations, judges narrowed it down to 74 finalists in 15 categories.
Best Art or Film
The Auggie Award for Best Art or Film was presented by Jesse Damiani to Lucid Dreams for their VR adventure “The Key.”
Best Consumer App
Alice Bonasio of TechTrends presented the Auggie Award for Best Consumer App to SBB AR.
Best Creator and Authoring Tool
XR writer Charlie Fink presented the Auggie Award for Best Creator & Authoring Tool to Grib3D, a tool that turns 2D drawings into 3D models.
Best Developer Tool
Patrick O’Shaughnessy presented the Auggie for Best Developer Tool to Unity, a cross-platform tool that hosts many XR experiences.
Best Enterprise Solution
Inbar presented the award for Best Enterprise Solution to remote collaboration platform Spatial.
Best Game or Toy
Inbar also presented the Auggie for Best Game or Toy to Otherworld Heroes, the worlds largest location-based MMORPG game.
Best Headworn Device
Patrick Johnson presented the Award for Best Headworn Device to Nreal Light, a candidate for the lightest AR/MR glasses on the market.
Best Healthcare and Wellness Solution
Inbar returned to AWE’s virtual stage to present the Auggie for Best Healthcare and Wellness Solution to the MediView surgical navigation tool.
Best Location-Based Entertainment
Best Indie Creator
Emily Olman presented the Auggie Award for Best Indie Creator to Greg Madison for his work on hand tracking on flat surfaces – Tangible UI.
Best Input & Output Hardware
Dave Lorenzini presented the award for Best Input & Output Hardware to Looking Glass 8K Immersive Display – marking the second consecutive year that the company took home an Auggie.
Best Interaction Software
Mark Billinghurst presented the award for Best Interaction Software Tool to The Lion King Virtual Production by Magnopus, the platform that allowed the creation of the groundbreaking film.
Best Social Impact
Next, Nonny De La Peña presented the Auggie for Best Social Impact to Soundshirt, a wearable that transforms audio into tactile stimulus.
Best Use of AI
The Best Use of AI was presented by Justin Hendrix to Eve, a virtual assistant for navigating complex tech.
Startup to Watch
Finally, the Auggie Award for Startup to Watch was presented by HP’s Angelo Del Priore to animation and prototyping platform Tvori.
The Nextant Awards are separate from the Auggies and are presented by the Virtual World Society at AWE. The term is a combination of “next” and “sextant” – an early navigational tool – according to VWS founder Tom Furness.
“The ‘Nextant’ is a word to describe a new way to navigate into our future,” said Furness.
Three Nextant awards were given, two Rising Star Awards for people between the ages of 19 and 35, and the Legacy Award.
The Rising Star Awards
The first Rising Star Award was presented to Dr. Jackie Lee, the founder of ScienceVR.
“I feel honored to receive this prize,” said Lee, who explained that he was inspired to create the educational content by his son. “I cannot stop anywhere, I have to keep going.”
The second Rising Star Award was presented to Sophia Batchelor, a cognition expert pursuing a doctorate at the University of Leeds.
“I am incredibly humbled to be recognized – to have been considered. I have always considered myself a scientist first,” said Batchelor. “I first tried a headset on many years ago now and since then I have not looked back.”
The Legacy Award
The Nextant Legacy Award was presented to Dr. Richard Satava, who has promoted the use of VR for surgical training and helped to develop the first VR simulator for surgery.
“As the old folks hand over the reigns to the new generation, I have the confidence and the trust in their enthusiasm and their creativity as well as their experience,” said Dr. Satava.
See You Next Year
That’s it for this year’s AWE. We’ll see you next year for another exciting Augmented World Expo.