Innovation

The tech that gives us superpowers: What to expect from Augmented World Expo 2015

It's the 6th year for the AR, VR, wearables, and IoT conference. We talked with organizer Ori Inbar about the theme of bringing superpowers to the people.

Image: Augmented World Expo

Superpowers to the people. That's the theme of this year's Augmented World Expo, which covers augmented reality, virtual reality, wearables, and internet of things.

The event will take place June 8-10 at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, California.

Event organizer Ori Inbar explained that the combination of these topic areas amounts to the idea that technology is enabling people to be better at just about anything they do in their work or personal lives.

That could mean that "a nurse that can have x-ray vision using glasses that shows her the veins under your skin... or a technician that gets tons of information from manuals, step-by-step in their field of view so that they can solve any problem in the field... or athletes that can constantly improve their performance by seeing information from sensors," he said.

When tech allows people to be more efficient, faster, more productive, or more safe, people are starting to recognize those as a new form of super powers, he said.

AWE will feature panels, speakers, and workshops. Inbar expects about 3,000 people to attend event.

One highlight this year, Inbar said, is a panel called AR v. VR Debate: Will the future be augmented or virtual. It's not meant to be decisive, or even to imply it has to be one or the other.

"We're bringing together two communities which have been running in parallel for the last couple of years, and that's AR and VR... On one hand they serve different purposes, different use cases, but there's a lot of overlap in terms of skills and technologies between those two groups," Inbar said.

Panelists will include Steve Dann, CEO of Amplified Robot; Mark Billinghurst, director of of HIT Lab NZ at the University of Canterbury; and Robert Scoble, startup liaison at Rackspace.

"We're not looking for a winner here, but it's really to help educate everybody about the differences about , as well as the similarities between those two worlds and join forces, because together I think we can accelerate those two fields in a better way," he said.

This will be AWE's 6th year. Inbar said they've seen a lot of growth after initially starting out with roughly 300 people as an industry insider's event.

There's a notable progression in the technology.

SEE: Why virtual reality could finally mend its broken promise

"Initially, we were talking about the vision, about ideas, and prototypes. I think what you'll see this year is that it's actually happening today," he said, referencing myriad smart glass, applications, and implementations that are currently available and active, versus living in a lab or notebook.

Those technologies, as well as many of the sessions, cover a range of areas from healthcare and automotive, to enterprise, education, industrial use, and more.

"It's great to have a selection of proof points of where these technologies are actually impacting real work or real life," Inbar said.

A few other things to keep an eye out for:

Digital eyewear pavilion: "It's the first time you have so many of these products actually selling on the market," Inbar said.

Enterprise solutions track: "It may sound boring to have a system to run a business, but in this case I think it's something anyone can relate to," he said.

Steve Mann: Mann, from the University of Toronto, is a pioneer in the wearables field — he designed his own wearable computer in the 70s. He's giving a talk called Phenomenal Augmented Reality, and a workshop on gesture-based 3D AR.

Tom Furness: Inbar said he's the grandfather of AR and VR, having built head-mounted displays in the 60s, mostly for pilots and the military. His talk is titled BEING the Future.

Air Flow demo: A simulation that lets users feel like they're flying by moving their bodies.

Interaction panel: "Now we're not stuck to a keyboard and mouse, how do we interact with this new world?" Inbar said. The panel will include companies working on controls relating to gestures, voice, eye tracking, and wearables (like rings and bracelets) that track movements.

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About Erin Carson

Erin Carson is a Staff Reporter for CNET and a former Multimedia Editor for TechRepublic.

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