Augmented World Expo 2024 gets under way in Long Beach

Augmented World Expo 2024 gets under way today as a show where the XR community gathers for news at a new location in Long Beach, California.

The 15th annual event has more than 300 exhibitors, 500 speakers, 150,000 square feet of expo space and as many as 6,000 attendees. I’ve often gone to the event but will miss it this year due to a plethora of travel and its move from Silicon Valley to Los Angeles. But I did get a nice preview of the event.

Speakers include Nicola Sebastiani, CCO at The Sandbox; Shelley Peterson, founder of Wizard Wells; Jasmine Roberts of Microsoft Research, and Jenna Seiden, SVP at Skydance. I’ve had a preview of a variety of the talks and exhibitors, and it’s nice to see that innovation is running strong in the XR community.

Freeaim wants to launch its VR Shoes by 2025.
Freeaim wants to launch its VR Shoes by 2025.

Among the unusual products at the show: VR Shoes from Ashley Foxcroft’s Freeaim, which raised a round of funding to make omnidirectional shoes that make you run in place in the real world but make you feel like you’re on a run in the immersive world. It may sound weird, but it’s better than a $50,000 simulator.

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“We were frustrated with the limitations of VR so we started something and our technology is all about immersion and freedom of movement,” Foxcroft said in interview with GamesBeat.

Virtual reality’s market value related to gaming is projected to grow from $16.86 billion in 2024 to $105.22 billion by 2032.

Tony Parisi is being inducted into the AWE Hall of Fame.

Ori Inbar, founder of AWE and Super Ventures, will kick off the event with a keynote. The speakers today include Mikio Iwamural of NTT QONOQ, Alex Katouzian of Qualcomm, Jamie Keane of Meta, Bobby Murphy of Snap, Yu Yuan of MASA, Karen Alexander of XR Women, Bob Fine of IVRHA, Chi Xu of Xreal, Caitlin Krause of Mindwise, Alan Smithson of Metavrse, Kerestell Smith of Gorilla Tag creator Another Axiom and Tony Parisi of Metatron Studio. Parisi, by the way, will be honored in the AWE Hall of Fame for his contributions to VRML and the early days of virtual reality.

Meanwhile, in the blended reality space, Infinite Rabbit Holes will show off its augmented reality game The Arkham Asylum Files based on the Batman franchise. Alex Lieu, CCO of Infinite Rabbit Holes, said the game is a blend of real paper files and tactile objects as well as digital that you can see with AR glasses. You scan the physical files in a cardboard Gotham City and they can unlock things in the digital world.

“What we’re really interested in is telling stories and doing immersive content in AR,” Lieu said. “There are billions of phones out there and iPhones and Android devices have robust AR capabilities that people really aren’t necessarily taking advantage of as much as we should. So we jumped on that.”

The game is broken into seven chapters involving Batman, The Joker and Harley Quinn. There’s as much as 10 hours of content and it has 100 game pieces. The company is talking to more retailers, but it’s for sale in more than 600 Sam’s Club Stores.

A Sony VR example: Working with XR design is more engaging.
Sony and Siemens teamed up to show working with XR design is more engaging.

Thaisa Yamamura, head of XR business development at Sony, is showing off one of Sony’s new XR products that it announced at CES 2024 in January: a new spatial content creation system. Sony will also show a motion capture device that allows you to do motion capture anywhere you go. And it has its glasses-free 3D visualization called a spatial reality display.

Sony has made a new head-mounted display with a resolution of 8K per eye for enterprise XR applications such as building digital twins. As part of a collaboration with Siemens, Sony is showing off a system where engineers can create and design inside VR, using unique ring-shaped controllers. It will showcase a mocap design with McAfee.

Wevr made VR experiences like TheBlu.
Wevr made VR experiences like TheBlu.

Neville Spiteri is CEO of Wevr, a longtime maker of virtual reality games and interactive experiences. His company recently raised $3.5 million for spatial computing and real-time 3D production. And it’s been doing a lot of work expanding its Virtual Studio technology and real-time 3D production capabilities.

Spiteri has been making XR applications such as TheBlu for a decade and he’s excited about the progress he community is making apart from the red ocean of the mobile and hardcore gaming market. He is one among many who believe that VR has escaped the slowdown in games because of its focus on blue ocean technologies and entertainment.

Wevr is developing spatial products on Apple Vision Pro, HTC Vive, Meta Quest and other devices and screen formats, leveraging their Virtual Studio technology, a software collaboration platform that works with Unity and Unreal and the cloud. Wevr announced Virtual Studio in 2022, and it has continued to develop the platform for game developers since then.

“We experimented with various augmented reality applications. And we really tried from the early days to work with different different parts of the media,” Spiteri said. “With the introduction of the Apple Vision Pro this year, it feels a little bit like deja vu for us. Apple is once again very much talking about a lot of the patterns which we saw 10 years ago where XR is a wedge technology that can be applied towards a whole range of applications.”

Visualization with Xreal AR glasses.
Visualization with Xreal AR glasses.

Xreal has around 600 employees and 524 patents. It has sold 350,000 pairs of glasses and is introducing its Xreal Beam Pro product today. The original Beam is purchased by 70% of those who buy Xreal AR glasses. Chi Xu, CEO of Xreal, told me Xreal is on a mission to bring its augmented reality glasses to everyone.

And now it is unveiling an Android mobile companion device called Xreal Beam Pro to make it easier to use AR glasses. The Beam Pro will bring the Google Play Store’s apps to the 3D space when viewed through Xreal AR glasses, which adds a spatial touch to the mobile internet.

As the ultimate companion device for Xreal glasses, Xreal Beam Pro gives users a simple way to access all their favorite apps, social media content, streaming entertainment, professional needs, and gaming platforms in a stunning 3D-aware AR environment, all powered by a Snapdragon platform from Qualcomm and Android 14. The Beam Pro costs about $200.


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