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Enterprise Augmented Reality Makes a Splash at CES 2016 – Part 1

CES 2016

This year, enterprise Augmented Reality was highly visible at the CES, the tech industry’s gathering in Las Vegas.

Enterprise Augmented Reality’s first “prime time moment” of 2016 was when Brian Mullins, CEO of DAQRI, an AREA founding sponsor member, was invited by Intel CEO Brian Krzanich to the CES main stage. During the event’s pre-show keynote address, thousands of media and analysts and tens of thousands of attendees watched as an assistant wearing the shiny white helmet examined a maze of pipes. As Mullins described the DAQRI Smart Helmet’s features and benefits, video output of the helmet, including pipes with readings visible in Augmented Reality, appeared on the stage’s mega screens.

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Rising Numbers

Although it lasted less than five minutes of the nearly two-hour keynote, DAQRI’s Smart Helmet demonstration caught the attention of major media outlets and produced dozens of interviews, posts and articles. And, with this coverage, enterprise attendees at CES and tens of thousands of professionals who have watched (or will watch) the segment since its enactment can more easily understand that enterprise Augmented Reality has the potential to improve workplace performance and reduce risk.

While many new customers are only beginning to understand its potential, many of those who have done pilots and are now seeking to go to scale also attended CES 2016. Visitors from hundreds of large enterprises such as Caterpillar, Phillips 66, Pratt & Whitney, CNH Industrial and Northrup Grumman, and dozens of government agencies and smart cities, including Brussels, Amsterdam and New York, were prowling around the booths of AR technology vendors, listening carefully and asking probing questions about volume pricing and service options.

If the DAQRI Smart Helmet had been worn around the 2.47 million square feet of CES exhibition floor, it would have helped its user to find DAQRI’s demonstration which was featured in a corner of the Intel booth alongside the AR-assisted sand table provided by Design Mill, also an AREA founding sponsor member.

It could also have helped customers find other AREA members including Bosch and Huawei, and APX Labs, which had demonstrations in both the Sony and Vuzix booths. The helmet might have led its user to nearly 80 other booths where enterprise Augmented Reality-enabling technologies or systems were featured. While small in comparison with the total 3,800 CES exhibitors, 2016 brought out nearly double the number of relevant exhibitors and demonstrations we found in 2015. In 2016, most AR exhibitors at CES were showing or using transparent hands-free display technology or components with which such products are manufactured.

Its Own Marketplace

CES helps visitors focus on product segments by creating zones it refers to as “marketplaces.” At the center of the large Virtual Reality and Gaming Marketplace was a perpetual line of attendees wrapped around the giant black Oculus booth patiently waiting for their turn to sit in a theater while wearing a VR display for 10 minutes.

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Next to it was the first and significantly smaller CES Augmented Reality Marketplace, where exhibitors included Marxent, Matter & Form, Occipital, Lumus Optical, VanGogh Imaging, InfinityAR, ODG and Sony Electronics.

ODG had the Augmented Reality Marketplace’s largest footprint dedicated to enterprise AR demonstrations. Inside a closely guarded cage (a miniature “marketplace” within the CES Augmented Reality Marketplace) were members of the ODG Reticle Partner Program showing their solutions to increase workplace safety, improve productivity and streamline complex workflows. Demonstrations by Optech4D, Vital Enterprises, Augmenta, and ScopeAR featured utilities, oil and gas, aerospace, logistics and automotive industry use cases, while other parts of the booth allowed visitors to discover ODG’s R-7 and to try on the next generation device sporting a 1080p resolution and 50-degree field of view display. ODG suggests that users of the next generation smart glasses will also have the ability to control opacity, offering both optical see-through Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality experiences with the same device.

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Also within the CES Augmented Reality Marketplace:

  • Sony had a small booth in which several partners were demonstrating enterprise solutions using SmartEyeglass and a station showing the new Rochester Optical lenses.
  • InfinityAR demonstrated an Augmented Reality-assisted office using its 3D tracking based on the company’s stereoscopic camera technology combined with an InvenSense IMU.
  • Nearby, Lumus was showing its latest optics for integration into smartglasses and its new developer kit. The company announced that it has entered in partnership with InfinityAR and SUNCORPORATION, a Japanese IT and entertainment provider, to use its optics in AceReal, a new product targeting enterprise markets.

Surrounding the Augmented Reality Marketplace were many vendors showing the latest mobile 3D scanning systems that capture the real world when authoring AR experiences. Partnerships with these providers should accelerate the speed of authoring AR experiences. For example, VanGogh Imaging announced that it has integrated its advanced tracking technology with 3D capture technology provided by Orbbec3D, a newcomer to this product segment.

But the CES Augmented Reality Marketplace didn’t meet all the relevant exhibitors’ budgets or requirements, so finding other examples of enabling technology and enterprise Augmented Reality experiences involved careful research and route planning. 

Beyond the Marketplace

Augmented Reality was in many of the automotive industry booths as a feature of new “safe driving” technology packages and a future component of automated or computer-assisted driving. Although these consumer-facing solutions are quickly coming to market, the same technologies could also be made available for helping workers to navigate, operate or service their trucks, forklifts or other types of industrial vehicles.

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Elsewhere there were dozens of enterprise AR use cases illustrated. In the Dassault Systems booth, Augmented and Mixed Reality were shown as part of a creative data-driven workflow. In Vuzix’s CES booth, partners using the M100 were illustrating use cases in service, maintenance and logistics. XOEye Technologies conducted regular remote service calls with representatives at Lee Company, its customer based in Nashville, TN. The printed brochure and industrial design of M300 were available at one of the stands but, unfortunately, working models for demonstration purposes were not. The latest Vuzix VR and video streaming products for consumers occupied the other half of the booth and received considerable attention.

The latest products for enterprise Augmented Reality were also being shown in Sands Expo by:

  • Optinvent, a French provider of optics and fully integrated eyewear
  • Brilliant Service, a Japanese company, introducing mirama, eyewear targeting industrial users
  • Sharing the booth with Brilliant Service was Telepathy, which showed its new “Walker” product targeting Augmented Reality gamers
  • Ryosho, a Japanese company which is distributing the InfoLinker, manufactured by Westunities,in Japan and internationally (from its office in San Jose, CA)

In Westgate hall, the spokespeople in the expansive AltoTech booth explained that the company is preparing to launch its next generation of the Cool Glass product which, despite several differentiators, closely resembles Google Glass. AltoTech plans to release the next generation Cool Glass product internationally from its new offices in the US as well as in China later this year.

To read my observations about other CES 2016 features and highlights, please read the second post on this topic.

Were there CES announcements that you want everyone to know about? What did you find most valuable at CES 2016? Share your thoughts in comments below.