Earlier this month, the Mobile World Congress (MWC) – the world’s largest and most influential event for the connectivity industry – took place in Barcelona. Futuresource newbie, Market Analyst, Nikolaos Tzoumerkas, was in attendance, and upon his return, sat down with Vicki from the marketing team, to provide his insights on the event.
Looking at the event from a purely personal perspective, MWC was great! It was my first event with Futuresource, as you know, and I was grateful for the opportunity to travel and meet so many people working across both the wearables and XR industries.
It was great to witness demonstrations of new technologies, such as a pair of AR glasses for people in the deaf community, to practical metaverse working spaces. Interestingly, XRAI, who recently partnered with Qualcomm, produces software for AR glasses that enable blind people to actually see conversations.
I had the opportunity to try these glasses, and they are able to translate the text they hear. During my demonstration, I had the unique opportunity to see an accurate translation of what the person was saying, in the language of my preference. Aside from the obvious and transformative impact it will have on affected communities, on a more general level, technology like this almost makes language barriers at events like MWC a thing of the past.
The show floor at this year’s MWC was awash with the same two buzzwords we’re seeing and hearing across headlines right now: artificial intelligence and metaverse. However, interestingly, when I was chatting to people about the metaverse, in stark contrast to some of the headlines you’ve probably seen, the opinions around the practical adoption of the metaverse aren’t all positive.
Many companies are – perhaps understandably – cautious and believe that the interest in the metaverse stems purely from the company, Meta, directly. Whereas wider industry focus seems to lie with enterprise solutions, which are starting to be seen and were certainly on display at MWC.
Design visualisation of products in virtual reality (VR) is becoming bigger, and is one of the most valuable use cases we’ve seen. VR is currently being used to train people who work in factories; teaching them how to assemble complex parts without causing any damage to themselves or to the parts.
Retail was the main use case for virtual reality that was mentioned at the event, because it creates cost-effective ways to train employees. However, immersive training will soon become widely used in the oil industry, and in healthcare too.
One problem, or drawback, of this is that while the price points for enterprise are good, industries cannot easily onboard these devices without manual configuration from IT teams – this is time consuming. According to leaders in the field, in 2023 we can start to expect easier onboarding, which in turn, will lead to quicker adaptation.
4YFN – which stands for four years from now – was definitely one of the most unique parts of the show. 4YFN was where you could find young entrepreneurs and futuristic ideas that could give us great insight as to what the future looks like for both XR and wearables.
I was very lucky to meet with a company utilising AR for real world applications, with an ambitious project that create an “app-less AR experience” for product marketing. According to the company’s spokesperson, this can support sales and help enterprises engage more effectively with customers.
Interestingly, the consensus right now is that VR will continue to see more adoption than AR, because of the latter’s higher price point. With lower costs, industry leaders believe that AR will take over – it’s interesting to see how these companies emerge in the near future.
You travelled to MWC to discover more about the wearables and XR industries. Tell me more about that.
While my main goal at MWC was to create more meaningful connections in the XR space, I was excited to see the large presence of wearable products. Generally, while development continues at a steady pace, innovation in the sector is somewhat lacking. There were no announcements for new products from some of the larger companies in the market, for example. In fact, some of these companies didn’t bring their products to the show floor.
However, following the Nowatch announcement at CES 2023, at MWC we saw another screenless smartwatch, but with a different purpose. Nowatch alerts a user when they are stressed, while at MWC we saw the TraqBeat, which can be used both as a watch and as a chest patch to provide accurate and meaningful data to healthcare professionals. The TraqBeat wearable device lacks an interactive screen. This is namely because the product will be utilised by doctors and hospital staff, but also because when a medical device tracks key health indicators, patients tend to become anxious, distorting key indicators unintentionally.
Xiaomi announced a new pair of wireless AR smart glasses, which is the most promising product in the segment. While it is being advertised as ‘light’ it can’t compete with Oppo and ZTE’s respective AR glasses, which are much lighter. However, the latency is low (50ms), which means no perceivable lag, enabling users to watch videos without interruptions. Furthermore, through the glasses, users can create a virtual desktop by opening many tabs and personalising them. Also, depending on the use case, users can turn the lens black – if they want to watch a movie, for example – or keep them transparent if they want to enjoy the AR experience. During my talks with Xiaomi, they kept referring to the glasses as a prototype, when in reality, it feels like a product ready for launch.
ZTE announced their new Nubia AR glasses, which are promoted as having a “light luxury sunglasses design”. They weigh only 79g and offer a great immersive live experience, thanks to their cyclonic sound bins and dual stereo full-range speakers. It also comes with replaceable multi-colour glow lenses, proving that design is becoming increasingly important. ZTE said that these AR glasses offer users a unique experience by being easy to connect with tablets, mobile phones, PS5 consoles and also UAVs! Similar to Xiaomi, ZTE’s AR glasses can be used to create an office environment, for gaming, and also as a personal mobile cinema.
Oppo was another player to advertise AR glasses, but ones that are on a new level in terms of design and weight. Oppo Air Glasses 2 are the lightest and most elegant AR glasses in the market right now. They weigh only 38g and they look like traditional glasses, with a slightly thicker lens. While they are still in their concept stage, Oppo’s AR glasses offer an exciting opportunity to users to read books and browse the web more easily in a hands-free experience – imagine reading your book hands-free on the tube!
The final takeaway from MWC 2023 is that Qualcomm are partnering with seven global telecommunications companies to collaborate on XR projects.
Overall, attending the Mobile World Congress was an exhilarating experience, filled with opportunities for networking and the chance to explore cutting-edge technology. Throughout the event, I had the chance to connect with professionals from across the XR industry and discuss the latest trends and innovations. I’m looking forward to continuing those conversations now I’m home – and I look forward to MWC 2024!
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