June 13, 2023

Six Takeaways from the Augmented World Expo for a Future with Mixed Reality and Metaverse

By Ernest Chrappah

Industry Expert

Earlier this month, I participated in the Augmented World Expo 2023 in Santa Clara as a speaker and attendee. The conference and expo is a three-day affair where thousands of enthusiasts come to connect and learn, and hundreds of companies showcase Extended Reality (XR) technological advances. 

My panel discussed new technologies for civic engagement and what tech companies can do for cities instead of the other way around. An example is how the inCitu app enables any citizen with a smartphone to scan a QR code to visualize, in augmented reality (AR), what a new building will look like on a construction site in select cities. 

After the panel discussion, I visited several exhibition booths for demos, networking with fellow attendees, and exploring the future of mixed reality (MR)  in cities and the built environment, an industry not exactly known as early adopters of technological advances. Below are my takeaways from the conference and expo and the possibilities that lie ahead.


1. A Plethora of Hardware Options:

The  AR, virtual reality (VR), MR, and artificial intelligence (AI) space has witnessed remarkable progress from 2013 when the Google smart glass was introduced for around $1500, leading to an extensive range of hardware options for professionals and consumers. Today for about $400, you can get a TCL RayNeo AR smart glasses that can translate foreign languages in real-time. These technologies have become more affordable, enabling broader adoption and investment in the metaverse ecosystem. Lower price points, combined with increased accessibility, present a wealth of opportunities for any industry to leverage MR in innovative ways.


2. Hardware Matters: 

The ubiquity of hardware providers was more robust than I expected. While there were headsets from Meta, Pico, and Microsoft for an immersive experience, there were eyewear or smart glasses applications from Magic Leap, Vuzix, Xreal, and so many other providers of smart glasses, that it seems to be the gateway or promising form factor to the extended reality world.

Some companies are pushing augmented reality tablets to replace the traditional tablet. Others, like Sightful, an Israeli startup, are making what is positioned as the world's first AR laptop called Spacetop. Essentially Spacetop is a laptop without a screen, but with special glasses, you can see a screen as big as 100 inches.


3. Addressing Real Estate Challenges:

AR, VR, MR, and AI advancements offer unique solutions to the critical challenges of the real estate sector. From optimizing housing designs and providing immersive property walkthroughs to enhancing training programs for building inspectors and improving emergency response protocols, these technologies can potentially transform the industry. With lower costs associated with implementing MR solutions, real estate professionals can maximize efficiency and deliver enhanced value to clients. Imagine a real estate developer using location-based art to ignite conversations about the future of neighborhoods or location-based entertainment to attract foot traffic for long-term or popup retailers leasing the ground floor of downtown office buildings.  


4. Enhanced Experience with Meta Quest 3:

Imagine stepping into a property and being able to visualize it as if it were fully furnished, despite being empty. The upcoming Meta Quest 3 headset promises a lighter and more comfortable experience, allowing potential buyers to explore virtual properties easily. This advancement in MR technology will revolutionize how customers engage with properties, enabling immersive experiences beyond traditional mediums.


5. Apple Vision Pro: A Game-Changer for the Metaverse:

The recent Apple Vision Pro headset announcement has sparked excitement and anticipation within the industry. This cutting-edge mixed reality device is expected to propel the metaverse ecosystem forward, presenting many opportunities for content developers, hardware suppliers, and manufacturers in China and beyond. 


6. Evolution of the Metaverse:

Like a cat's nine lives, the metaverse ecosystem continues evolving and growing. The AWE conference and expo showcased diverse headsets, software, and networking opportunities within the metaverse community. However, amidst the impressive technologies and companies, the people attending the event and the resultant interactions made a significant difference. Collaboration, dialogue, and celebrating remarkable work are essential for the continued progress of the metaverse.


Overall, the XR industry has a promising future, and MR offers real-life benefits and applications that will shape how we perceive and interact with the built environment. By embracing the extended reality, built environment professionals can unlock new avenues for growth and create value for shareholders in a tech-driven landscape. The future of the built environment in cities is here, and it's waiting for exploration in mixed reality.


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