2011 was the last time I attended CES. The trends focused on the size of your TV, along with new-fangled technology for your car, and different ways to connect to the Internet. Fast forward to 2018, and the Internet is at the core of almost every product, along with the focus on ecosystems. On day one of the conference, the LiquidHub team divided and conquered the CES show floor. I visited the VR/AR marketplace and paid particular attention to Augmented Reality (AR), Virtual Reality (VR), and Artificial Intelligence (AI).
To truly get a sense of what will be happening with AR and VR, it is important to look at companies like Samsung, Intel, LG, and a few other big consumer electronic (CE) brands. These brands treat AR and VR as an extension of marketing, a channel that integrates into the ecosystem they presented in their booths. They were showcasing how to use AR to buy items for the refrigerator, VR to play a game on their TV, or even to learn how to drive in the safety of your bedroom. But the consistent theme from the CEs is that AR and VR are part and parcel of a holistic offering.
The dedicated AR, VR, and AI “marketplace” featured dozens of companies. But unlike the CE companies (located in the main marketplace), these companies were solely showcasing products, not experiences. For the most part, walking amongst the various vendors felt like a trip to an Ancient Middle Eastern Bazaar. Many hardware and software products with little distinction among each purveyor, where you could haggle for a price to secure a deal right on the show floor. That being said, a couple of companies deserve a shout out.
The size of a company’s AR and VR equipment matters, but in reverse to the TVs six years ago. Take Lumus, an Israeli-based AR company leveraging military technology for a commercial application. What makes their offering unique is two-fold. First, the glasses are compact, both in terms of weight and thickness, yet have a field of view greater than that offered by HoloLens. Second, Lumus has technology baked into the lenses themselves that give AR developers a unique platform to create experiences.
Another company of interest was Sigma Integrale. The Silicon Valley based company featured something that looked like a truck simulator, but in reality, is much more. They believe trucks will become driverless, but trucking companies will still require drivers to be available remotely to control them. Their concept is that a truck can run continuously, without breaks, with a team of remote operators. Think of them as working the same truck in shifts until the truck arrives at the final destination. The truck may be thousands of miles away, but the truck “pauses” only during shift changes. So, the truck goes further, faster, and more safely than if one or even two drivers were in the cab.
From an AI standpoint, I found Continental extremely interesting. Yes, the tire company based in Germany. They are creating “smart” tires, with the ability to sense temperature, punctures, and tread wear. With the roll-out of driverless cars, they anticipate car usage will actually go up because cars will be driven almost continuously. (This is the same bet Sigma Integrale is making with trucks.) As a result, they expect tire sales to increase, even if total car sales decrease. By selling smart tires to fleets of operators, they can now gather analytics on tires and further improve the tire, allocate different production runs of tires specific to a region of the country, etc. They can also gather and leverage data about traffic, popular routes and destinations and a myriad of other valuable analytics.
Although my overall experience in the AR/VR Marketplace was underwhelming in some ways, these three companies stood out to me as innovators in the space. I am looking forward to seeing how they progress over the next few years.
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