Enterprise Augmented Reality Makes a Splash at CES 2016 – Part 2

In our previous post about the event we focused on the exhibits and demonstrations of enterprise Augmented Reality found on the CES exhibition floor. But to cast CES as only an exhibition experience is shortsighted. Discussions and demonstrations of enterprise Augmented Reality during the four-day event were not limited to the vast and crowded exhibition halls.

Beyond the Exhibition Halls

Some companies, including Atheer, an AREA founding sponsor member, were demonstrating their new hands-free display technology and development kit in private suites. Such environments are more conducive to advancing business discussions with potential partners and customers.Some of those prospective new partners and customers joined AREA members and guests on the evening of January 6.

Some of those prospective new partners and customers joined AREA members and guests on the evening of January 6. Over 40 enterprise AR providers and customers gathered for casual networking during which members provided insights and shared their views on enterprise Augmented Reality trends. The international crowd included representatives from Portugal, Spain, Canada, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Germany, France and, of course, the United States.  

Augmented Reality in the CES Conference

In addition to featuring the DAQRI Smart Helmet during the Intel keynote, this year CES also featured enterprise AR during a panel discussion in which I participated on behalf of the AREA. While I shared the stage with Christopher Stapleton of Simyosis, Neil Trevett of NVIDIA and Ralph Osterhout of Osterhout Design Group (ODG), Mashable’s Tech Editor Pete Pachal moderated the “What’s Next for Augmented Reality?” session.

We began by debating the age-old question of whether it is important for customers to understand the differences between Virtual and Augmented Reality. The confusion between these two concepts lingers and increases the risk of customers thinking that Augmented Reality is “just a game” or a gimmick.  In the end, we agreed that when there is an opportunity, a first-hand demonstration quickly clarifies the differences between AR and VR. 

We explored the wide range of use cases for Augmented Reality and shared opinions about which industries or use cases would be likely to break out in 2016. Panelists also explored if and when interoperability might come and the role of emotions as part of delivering meaningful value to users.



The Future

Despite its name, CES isn’t just a consumer electronics or technology show. In my opinion, it’s currently the world’s most important event when it comes to seeing and trying on the latest (and future) enterprise Augmented Reality hardware. And, even if the environment does not lend itself to realistic demonstrations, touching new hardware is extremely important when making buying decisions. This is the appeal that motivates customers and providers to make plans to attend CES, then drives them to crawl the halls looking for those high value partners.


“The quality of the discussions at CES is far more mature than in past years,” Jay Kim, Chief Strategy Officer of APX Labs, remarked to me. “This year we’re spending very little time explaining the concept of Augmented Reality or the use cases for it, and having more meaningful discussions with new partners and customers.”

While the establishment of new contacts made at CES is a compelling benefit, converting those to customers and generating new revenue streams or highly successful enterprise AR projects remains a year-long (or longer) process.

Furthermore, CES logistics are an issue. Getting to Las Vegas for the event is fraught with problems due to congested air traffic. The accommodations are expensive; it’s also painfully difficult to navigate the large exhibition halls. There’s a lot of waiting around in long lines. While waiting or walking around it’s common to feel that there are people we should be meeting but who, due to lack of time or high congestion, we miss.

What do you think? Do so many people really need to endure this annual punishment to see the future of enterprise Augmented Reality hardware first-hand?  Did you attend CES 2016 and have observations you can share with us?

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