There are several technology trade shows on the horizon, including IPC APEX EXPO, AltiumLive, NEPCON Japan, and SEMICON West. There are many others, but the ones coming up primarily focus on end-user technology rather than the design, components, and manufacturing processes used to make the end product.
Two of these end-product shows have been of great interest to me, and to many of our readers, for decades: the Consumer Electronics Show 2022 (CES), January 5-8 and Augmented World Expo (AWE), November 9-11.
Just a few years ago, XR was all about gaming and entertainment, but the very first XR known to man were black and white movies, with “A Trip to the Moon,” released in 1902.
Those in the audience back then were amazed with the lifelike (for the time) virtual reality. By today’s standards, it was primitive XR, to be sure, but that was 120 years ago. Imagine what will be available in the next 25 years. Today’s XR includes UHD 3D, full surround sound, artificial touch and, in some cases, smell and remote control. In other words, not only are you going there, but “there” has come to you. Think about the Star Trek Holodeck, something that was far-out science fiction when it debuted in 1974 (in the animated series), but much of the holodeck functionality is real and available today.
Are there advances in XR gaming? Of course, but I cannot wait to see the new advances in the use of XR in medical procedures, in the military, and for technical service—imagine the technician avatar appearing to stand right next to you and pointing out the adjustments to fix your misbehaving device or appliance. Consider the feeling of being on the field of a Super Bowl as the ball is passed to a player nearby.
How about training in just about any field? Learning to perform surgery, tune or adjust an electronic device, pilot a fighter jet, or control a tank or a submarine all for the first time in a virtual world will seem so real; learning this way will teach you how to do it in real life. It’s safer, easier to correct errors and redo, less expensive (flying a fighter or driving a tank is not cheap). XR is no longer just an entertainment medium, although that arena is growing as well; this is becoming a major industry.
This year I expect to see amazing advances in XR headsets, XR capability, and in everyday use of XR such as being able to “almost” physically attend a virtual event, to control your robot at home while you are away, to do all this and more using new, comfortable, lightweight wireless headsets and haptics. This technology is already being used to demonstrate simple but useful marketing.
For example, perhaps you are refurnishing a room in your house, you have seen new furnishings that you like but now you can sit in your living room, wearing you XR headset, you can see accurate, very realistic examples of your choices right in your own room and you can move them to various locations or change their color to see which looks best.
One of the XR segments I expect to see advance rapidly is Extended reality (XR), also known as immersive learning technologies, allows you to blend virtual and physical worlds using augmented reality (AR) and mixed reality (MR) in live production, training, entertainment, or even competitive sport environments to create fully immersive XR experiences.
At AWE this year, in addition to the show and the XR playground, there will be many interesting presentations. We usually know what to expect from trade shows, keynote addresses, and various technology presentations, but the demonstrations at AWE are typically a show in themselves. Of great interest to most attendees is the “Virtual Playground.”
Figure 4: AWE "playground".
This area is reserved for those trying various virtual world games, demonstrations, and other XR activities. As you can imagine, the participants are in a different world, but the simulations, the “mixed reality,” appears to be so real. Figure 4 was taken at the last AWE show almost two years ago so I’m sure we can expect some significant advances in capability and hardware in that period of time.
Just a few years ago, to maximize your experience you had to use a heavy, somewhat cumbersome and uncomfortable headset wired to a powerful computer. Today there are several new, easier to use, and more capable devices at lower prices. Two of the newer ones are the Oculus Quest 2 and the HTC Vive. With the speed of improvement possible with today’s electronic components I would expect to see more advanced devices at this year’s AWE.
As we attend these shows, we expect to see which advances have transpired in the past two years; and it starts with the AWE keynote on November 9, continuing at CES in January.
Scams in Late 2021
Now, just a quick update on the scam world. As mentioned in my last column, the online and phone scams seem to have reached an all-time high. Apparently, the number of complaints about scammers claiming to represent government agencies reached 406,578 so far this year. I can attest to this, as the number of such calls that I receive in one day to my main business line has caused me to take the ultimate action: I dropped the line altogether. I have picked up hours of productive time since doing so. Just remember: Government agencies will not call you and ask for social security numbers, bank info, credit card numbers or even your name and address. Please just hang up and/or do what I did.
Another growing category of scams is based on cryptocurrencies. You know: Bitcoin, the most popular lottery ticket in 2021. Many people worry about missing out on their chance to get rich. The scams take different forms and usually involve investment opportunities as well as prizes, cash or otherwise. The scammers may impersonate celebrities or popular crypto currencies and will try to get you to send money or share personal information. This can be done by email, text or phone.
Remember, be skeptical and stay tuned for more scam updates in future columns.
Dan Feinberg is an I-Connect007 technical editor and founder of Fein-Line Associates.