The European edition of the Augmented World Expo AWE took place for the first time in Berlin in October 2016 to establish a meeting place for AR, VR and Wearable Technology innovators and a showcase of their actual products in these areas.
The exposition lined up a great variety of activities from established hardware manufacturers and research centers to upcoming start-ups and full-service agencies, all dedicated to expanding our daily and professional perception by means of simulation and information technologies. The congress program provided background information on the exhibits motivated for prospective future developments and discussed application scenarios for actual market situations. Both events augmented each other very effectively in the effort to relate forward-looking visions to natural-looking vision aids.
Worldview through looking-glass visions
Augmented Reality definitely has a prospective future in many application fields from communication to manufacturing, education and entertainment. However, technology continues to be associated with visionary science-fiction concepts from literature and film projections. Given their long-lasting establishment, these imaginations nowadays could be seen as traditional escort services for an application field still in the making. They usually turn up together with eye-opening data forecasts as their companions in a more logical looking disguise. All three facets reconfirm each other by their sheer persistence, resulting after some time in apparently historical dimensions.
Keynote speakers at the conference morning sessions continued to evangelize these patterns for announcing the morning glory of the next technological illumination: science-fiction meets science history meets media transformation to repeat and even supersede the present smartphone success story with eye-wear in a shiny future.
The afternoon sessions turned the morning glory into handy pocket lamps focusing on automotive design, manufacturing logistics, interaction concepts and flash-lighting business opportunities for start-up companies. A parallel developer track highlighted instructions for industrial application cases in terms of production tools, workflow organization and market approach.
Looking through glasses for a world view
You could get hands-on all sorts of eye-wear devices on the show floor, test out more or less bulky frames with image projections ranging from monochromatic data overlays to 4K space simulations. Most products were dedicated to industrial applications and business training, some were still demonstrating Hololens prototypes. But you could also find first consumer versions for simple text inserts into your view and more complex gaming scenarios dominating your field of view. Some product line-ups could already look back to a quite impressive development history for military appliances and now presented a whole range of accessories and modular sets in excellent quality for business and consumer markets.
Smart glasses and AR frameworks were dominant on the show floor. Even VR headsets were mostly connected to cameras and gesture tracking systems for augmenting realities rather than replacing them completely. Service agencies offered portfolios of first-hand experiences mostly in traditional industry fields like architecture, manufacturing, logistics and maintenance. Fraunhofer FEP presented next-generation OLED displays for eye-tracking applications and eye-wear supply. Media services for augmented marketing and visualization were still related to smartphones and tablet devices, but their neighbourhood to the booths of smart glasses and researchers made future connections between them very palpable.
AWEsome first-hand experiences
The starting edition of AWE in Berlin not only provided an excellent overview of current AR developments, but the show also established a platform for first-hand experiences with these developments in a business-focused atmosphere with lots of inspiration and motivation. Serving as a crystal ball for future outlooks, AWE is an excellent trading floor for a still visionary process with potentially heavy impact on our way to see and experience the world, at least the one being modelled behind the looking-glasses.