Tech Quarterly

Essential VR/AR/XR insights from Q1 21

In this AR/VR Tech Quarterly

CES 2021 took place without the usual fanfare because of pandemic restrictions but the show went on and featured a wealth of AR and VR innovations. Meanwhile, AR and VR continue to offer new avenues in both education and enterprise and VR headset sales soar during lockdown. In other news, Aardman Animation has some cracking AR news.

5 minute read

Aled Herbert

Content Director

March 2, 2021 4:20 pm

1. In-car AR display projects 3D obstacles in 4K resolution

Panasonic has shown off a futuristic augmented reality head-up display (HUD) at the 2021 Consumer Electronics Show (CES 2021). The AR HUD uses artificial intelligence to detect and highlight potential hazards and project information for the driver, including 3D objects, in 4K resolution.

2. Vuzix launches microLED smart glasses with dual projectors

Wearable tech firm Vuzix took the wraps off the latest pair of AR glasses at CES 2021. Ever since the debut of Google Glass, the challenge for AR glasses innovators has been to find the right balance of form and function. In other words: a feature-rich AR experience that doesn’t make you look, well, weird. The new Vuzix prescription-ready glasses move closer to that goal, with strong technical specs and a design that makes them look more like regular glasses.

3. Panasonic offers a new perspective on VR headsets

Another CES 2021 first was Panasonic’s new take on VR headsets – or VR glasses. Eschewing the traditional ‘ski mask’ look, the company’s new take looks more like a set of steampunk goggles that use high-resolution micro OLED panels supporting full HDR. The device also uses Panasonic’s own Technics driver tech in the earbuds.

4. Futuristic haptic glove improves touch feedback in VR

CES 2021 also brought the latest reveal from haptic feedback company SenseGlove, which showed off the new addition to its force-feedback exoskeleton technology. The SenseGlove Nova can simulate shapes and impact, as well as stiffness, softness and resistance, in VR environments through haptic feedback. The ‘glove’ has been created for professional training purposes, such as operating complex industrial tools or handling hazardous waste.

5. Light-field prototypes promise more realistic visuals

Swiss AR/VR company Creal has demoed the first AR and VR prototype headsets using its innovative light-field display. The tech behind the prototypes generates an image that more accurately represents how we process light from the real world, resulting in more realistic and comfortable visuals. The company has no plans to develop its own headset, instead it is focussed on developing the technology for others to license.

6. AR/VR making education more accessible

AR/VR is one of the three technologies that will help make education more accessible, according to a World Economic Forum report. The report states that an engaging method of interacting with learning materials combined with gaming elements can help neurodiverse students move beyond traditional textbooks.

7. Enterprise AR all set for steady growth in 2021

Venturebeat has been making its predictions for enterprise AR in 2021. First, growing the enterprise, including the leadership, will become increasingly conversant with AR technology. Second, we’ll see an accelerated digitisation of physical assets for AR. Finally, enterprise AR hardware will become increasingly sophisticated, thanks to technological leaps that were taking only baby steps in 2020.

8. VR headset sales surge 350% during lockdown

Virtual reality proved a welcome escape for many from the drudgery of lockdown in 2020. Sales of VR headsets have rocketed as people turned to games, as well as virtual museum tours and exercise classes, to escape the pandemic. UK retailers Currys PC World and John Lewis both reported to The Times that headset sales in the last 12 months had surged by 350% or even higher.

9. Sir David Attenborough turns to AR to explore hidden plant world

Renowned naturalist Sir David Attenborough is to front a UK government-funded AR app. The app will allow users to explore “meticulously detailed graphics of exotic plants and animals” on their smartphones. The app will be released alongside a forthcoming BBC series, “The Green Planet”, and is being funded by the government to help showcase 5G technology.

10. Wallace and Gromit and the grand augmented reality escapade

Claymation superstars Wallace and Gromit are to appear in an AR game. Since solving the curse of the Wererabbit in 2005, the Aardman Animation duo have kept a relatively low profile but are returning in an interactive AR app called ‘Wallace and Gromit: The Big Fix Up’. The team behind the app plans to use non-linear storytelling to help the animated pair start a new business to fix their hometown of Bristol, UK.

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