A Sneak Peek of Some of the Must-See Sessions at AWE USA 2021

The AWE USA schedule is out and it is impossibly dense.


The annual Augmented World Expo (AWE) USA is still over a month away, but the full agenda is live. Here, we’ll take a look at some of the speakers and talks that we’re most excited about at ARPost, but we’ll also tell you why we’re so excited about them and why you should be too.

AWE Is Back In-Person

We’re excited about the whole event.

There’s a lot of buzz around this year because, while AWE never took a break, the conference went online last year and this time it’s live and in-person in Santa Clara California. Because people are still wary of travel and because the virtual AWE conferences had such high attendance, this year is going to be a hybrid event.

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The virtual conference was great, but was also a little flat. Some events broke out into VR platforms like AltspaceVR, but for the most part, events were simply streamed in 2D. This year, AWE is partnering with Rooom for a much more immersive virtual AWE.

Ori Inbar’s Keynote and the Auggies

Every year that we’ve been covering AWE, Ori Inbar has had an opening keynote. This is when he shares his enthusiasm for the space, as well as his insights and experience. Inbar is the founder of AWE, but he’s also the founder of Super Ventures, an early-stage fund for augmented reality companies.

There is no “closing keynote” – instead, there are the Auggies, a paneled selection from public submissions across the XR metaverse. Everything from hardware to experiences to people, the XR world is recognized, and Inbar is the master of ceremonies. The Auggies submissions are currently in the voting stage, which will last until October 7.

Company Insights and Info

Following Inbar’s opening keynote on day one, Niantic’s John Hanke will present “Building a Real World Metaverse for Everyone.” Niantic has been shaping expectations of consumer AR experiences since before they were Niantic. The company has since teased hardware and a collaboration with Microsoft Mesh, so their AWE appearance could mean anything.

Also on day one is Qualcomm’s keynote presented by VP and GM of XR, Hugo Swart. Qualcomm works inside of XR devices powering both AR experiences on our mobile phones and VR experiences in headsets. This makes Qualcomm one of the most significant players in XR.

Joe Michaels of HaptX will also present “Drop the Controller: How Realistic Touch Feedback Increases Your Effectiveness in Enterprise VR.” How “immersive” immersive media really is has been up for debate as most of these experiences have failed to replicate fine motor use. HaptX is one of the companies working on changing that.

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Snap also has a panel, “Building the Future With Snap AR”, featuring Carolina Arguelles, Sophia Dominguez, and Kimberlee Archer. If you still think of Snap as “just” a social media platform, you aren’t looking closely enough. Between cross-platform deals, ecommerce infrastructure, and hardware that might hit the market one day, Snap moves things.

Day two of the conference opens with Unity’s keynote. Unity is “just a game engine” like XR is “just a game.” This real-time rendering platform is the backbone of many of our digital experiences, as well as many of our immersive experiences. Anything that they have to say is worth hearing.

Each day also includes “talks” from major XR companies, including Adobe, Facebook, Niantic, Qualcomm, Meta Materials Inc, and Dispelix.

Expert Commentary

Inbar isn’t the only transcendent industry expert speaking at AWE.

On the morning of day one, Tish Shute will present “A Web of Perception and Shared Context” representing Futurewei. Futurewei is an organization that promotes open source and open standards in tech. That includes XR, the cloud, and autonomous networks. If the name sounds familiar, it might be because they sponsored the recent WebXR Business Summit.

On the morning of day two, Charlie Fink will present “What Makes a Metaverse?”. Fink is a Forbes columnist, podcast host, lecturer, and speaker on VR, with decades of experience in media.

Later that day, Avi Bar-Zeev will present “What Makes AR Special?”. Bar-Zeev is currently in consulting and advising but has done work for the likes of Apple, HoloLens, Second Life, Google Earth, and more.

On the morning of day three, Kent Bye will present “An XR Ethics Framework.” Bye is best known in the space for his long-running Voices of VR Podcast, which recently recorded its 1000th episode. However, Bye is heavily involved in exploring and shaping what the ethics of XR does look like, and what it should look like.

Panel Discussions

What’s better than an expert talking about what they know best? How about a group of experts talking about what they know best? Each day has at least one dedicated panel discussion.

On day one, Sophia Moshasha, Nonny De la Peña, Linda Ricci, Joachim Scholz, and Keith Soljacich discuss “The Coming Experience Wars: How Brands Can Survive and Thrive in the Future of XR.”

On day two, The Polys – WebXR Awards founder Ben Erwin, Deutsche Telekom’s Terry Schussler, Alina Kadlubsky of the Open AR Cloud Association, and MetaVRse and XR Women Co-Founder Julie Smithson discuss “Stereoscopic AR in WebXR.” While all of these are insightful and impactful speakers, Erwin tends to work behind the scenes and his name is particularly exciting to see.

On day three, Kevaid Co-Founder Aidan Wolf and multimedia artists Estella Tse, Leighton McDonald (also known as LateFX), and Lafiya Watson Ramirez discuss “The Future of Art and Creation: Interactive Arts and Games in AR.” Kevaid is a studio that makes AR games playable within Snapchat.

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Overlapping on the schedule is the panel discussion “Metaverse Privacy, Security & Safety in the Era of Constant Reality Capture,” featuring XRSI founder Kavya Pearlman, and Dennis Bonilla of upskilling platform Baltu Studios.

So Much. So Much

It is literally impossible to watch all of AWE USA as it happens, it is such a huge event. A common ARPost disclaimer is that we can’t cover everything, and indeed this article doesn’t even list all of the events, talks, and sessions that we want to cover.

To see the full schedule and make your own itinerary, visit the AWE USA 2021 agenda online.

Jon Jaehnig
the authorJon Jaehnig
Jon Jaehnig is a freelance journalist with special interest in emerging technologies. Jon has a degree in Scientific and Technical Communication from Michigan Technological University and lives in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. If you have a story suggestion for Jon, you may contact him here.