Augmented World Expo, AWE, was held in Santa Clara, CA, during the first week of June. This show has become one of the most important shows and events for those working and interested in VR-XR and AR.
While the show had many sessions for developers, they also included sessions on Retail, Enterprise, Games, and others that focused on the value of virtual and spatial technologies and how they are evolving quickly.
AWE began in 2010 with an initial emphasis on Augmented Reality. However, over the years, its focus and message have evolved. While covering all three virtual reality disciplines, this year’s show took a more balanced approach and made the term XR or extended reality its primary focus. One noticeable difference between last fall’s AWE is that it was heavy with talk and sessions on the Metaverse. At this year’s show, hardly anyone even mentioned the Metaverse.
This change reflects an evolving view in the industry that the term “Metaverse” has so many definitions and differing opinions that it has lost much of its meaning. Indeed, I recently asked Michael Dell about his view of the Metaverse, and he chuckled and said, “It is anything you want it to be.” Of course, he was being facetious. But it reflects an industry view that the term “Metaverse” is overused with no clear definition other than representing some form of VR, XR, and AR that brings us into some virtual world or environment.
Over last year, another shift at this show was a much stronger emphasis on business and enterprise and fewer discussions of XR in consumer markets. I perused many booths where vendors showed how their technology can be or is already being used in business and vertical markets.
This shift to a business focus reflects the work that I have done with ISM, a CRM consultancy out of Bethesda, Maryland, where we have created a Metaverse Resource Center. On this site, we list over 130 actual case studies of VR, XR, or AR being used today in many enterprises.
Most vendors are shifting to business markets because this is where the money is today. Most still see a consumer market for their technologies in the future but are being realistic about its use in business and enterprise applications.
My friend and analyst colleague from Moor Insights and Strategy, Anshel Sag, wrote an excellent synopsis of AWE in Forbes, and I recommend you read his report on this show as he does a great job outlining key highlights from this year’s AWE.
But one thing that I consider important that was barely mentioned at AWE was the detour from AR, that for a decade was at the center of the show. Rightfully so, the move to XR makes more sense but its shift to focus on B2B and away from B2C was highly noticeable this year.
Another shift at this year’s AWE was a lack of serious discussion about Apple in XR.
Although Apple was mentioned in a few sessions where an Apple entrance into the virtual market could impact the demand for virtual reality, very few were even willing to speculate on what Apple was doing in this space. That is to say that while many at the show do believe Apple will enter this market and be a force, there was little consensus on what they are doing and when they might even enter this market.
The week after AWE, Apple held their WWDC event in Cupertino, CA, and many expected Apple to launch perhaps what some have called the Reality OS, or a specific OS for their AR/XR glasses. However, Apple said nothing about any OS. Even more surprisingly, Apple did not emphasize AR Kit in the keynote or any publicly available videos.
Some have read this lack of AR Kit or launch of some OS for their glasses to suggest Apple’s entry into this area is not in the very near future. Indeed, speculation has been ripe with comments that Apple’s glasses are set for a 2023 introduction. But Apple’s lack of comments on AR Kit and any AR/XR OS at WWDC is very telling, and I would be stunned if we see their glasses in 2023.
While AWE did reinforce my analysis that any serious VR/XR applications today are only viable for use in business, any consumer market for XR/AR is still many years off. Our view at Creative Strategies is that the demand for XR/AR for the consumer market at the earliest will kick in after Apple launches its glasses, and it will take Apple to drive this market.
Only Apple knows when they feel they have the technology perfected enough to meet Apple’s standards. The consumer market for spatial computing will only pick up steam after Apple jumps in and drives any actual consumer demand for XR and AR.