"Six XR Innovations at MWC That ARE NOT Hololens 2"
The Hololens 2 dominated the immersive tech headlines from MWC 2019 – but what else was lurking across both the main show and the buzzing startup space 4YFN? We pick six that caught our eye…
NReal Mixed Reality Glasses
The key word here is glasses. Usually mixed reality means you would use the word headset or goggles, but NReal is very different. They may have a name like an early ‘90s rave act, but they are very serious about bringing us closer to consumer MR. After Draw & Code tried them at their reveal at CES, we came across them at MWC in a fetching shade of bright orange – a bold look for a bold concept. Why were NReal at the show? They’ve just secured a sweet $16m investment and a partnership with Qualcomm who will be supplying some of the hardware needed to make the dream of some very smart glasses a reality.
2. Niantic Codename Neon
A joint project between Niantic, Samsung, Deutsche Telecom and MobileEdgeX saw four players using Samsung S10 smartphones as controllers in a multiplayer battle game. A demo for the time being, this 5G-enabled experience brought a realtime, shared AR experience to the MWC showfloor – the first mobile AR game to use edge computing in this way. It reminded the Draw & Code team of our Companion collaborative XR demo from way back in 2014 that saw players in VR, AR and flat-screens able to see each other and interact in a 3D world – a long time before 5G! It was a pleasure to try a demo that tallied so closely with our own ideas of the future of play.
3. BroomX MK 360 Projector
Draw & Code have been working on projection mapping since before we were Draw & Code – and the BroomX MK 360 looks set to fill the gap between the bijou Lightform solution and the high-end super-expensive end of the market. While BroomX’s offering has been around for a year or two, it was the first time we got to try it for ourselves. With just about everything you need to create a spectacular shared projection environment in a single device, it was a revelation to us. As with so much immersive technology, to truly appreciate it, you have to see it in action – and after our demo we were smitten.
A UK startup of brilliant boffins, Vivid Q were situated right by our own SwapBots stand. A prototype headset helped to show their vision – a truly holographic platform. The headset was initially developed as there was nothing else able to display their holograms as intended. Where the real expertise lies is in the processing of point-cloud data to create lightfield-ready imagery. The software underpinning all this could find itself a key component in the advanced 3D headsets that will inevitably appear over the coming years.
5. Letin AR
The Letin AR PinMR lens is an off-the-shelf solution for smart-glasses optics. Using the magic of mirrors, tiny reflected images are layered onto the glasses. With recent investment, Letin AR could become part of the building blocks of smart glasses – or even full AR headsets – of the future. The demo was crisp, bright, offered 120 degrees field of view – all thanks to pin-hole camera-inspired technology with imbedded mirrors reflecting light back into the viewer’s eyes.
6. Microsoft Azure Kinect DK
OK, we may have said that this roundup isn’t about Microsoft, but we have to mention the Azure Kinect. Announced at the Hololens 2 reveal, it was easy to miss this sophisticated piece of kit in the ensuing excitement. However, we have been craving a comeback for the Kinect after we hacked the previous version to use as a spatial camera for a radical take on the music video and the documentary. Featuring cloud-based AI interpretation of the sensors and their outputs – that includes voice, depth camera, body tracking and more, this has so many possibilities for open-minded developers.