Different Realities at Mobile World Congress 2018

Want to see what VR was at MWC this year?

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It was my first time attending Mobile World Congress in Barcelona this year and I was excited to see all things virtual reality related.  I didn’t know what to expect when there nor did I anticipate the sheer size of the conference!  It was massive!  There were 8 halls in total and I didn’t make it around all of them.  You would need to go there for several days to really soak it all up so that’s a friendly tip if you are thinking of going there.

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The scale of the place never left you as there were groups of people following signs everywhere.  I took some snaps from escalators to show you what it is like from the inside to help you get a feel for the place – and experience the energy that was in there too:

 

Ok, enough with first impressions… Let’s get right into it – what Alternative Realities (VR/AR/MR) tech did I see there!

Mirage Solo VR collage

Mirage Solo Standalone VR Headset and Mirage Solo Camera – brought to us by Lenovo and Google Daydream.  This sleek VR headset is the world’s first standalone headset – meaning that you can still enjoy complete immersive experiences without the need for a high-end computer or compatible mobile phone.  The Mirage Solo uses the Daydream platform so you can enjoy the choice of 1000s of VR apps and 360° videos when using this device.  Lenovo are accepting pre-orders for this headset now and it will be available from the 11th May 2018.  I’m so impressed by this headset and will dedicate a blog post purely to the Mirage Solo soon.  Not one to be missed!  The Mirage Solo camera is sure to rival the Samsung Gear and Gear360 partnership and add more of consumer choice to the market.  Great for content creators or for personal use.  I would have liked the opportunity to test the 2 out for myself, however, I was able to view a Mirage Solo photo in the Mirage Solo VR headset and the quality was clear with a great sense of depth perception which is exactly what you are looking for from a still photo in VR.  I look forward to testing the duo out and publishing the results – or if you get there first, please report back your thoughts.

The Mirage Solo headset will retail just under €400 and as mentioned an available date of 11th May (in stores) – pre-orders expected to be for 5th May release date (source: theverge.com).

Lenovo Explorer

Lenovo Explorer – Microsoft partnership: Windows Mixed Reality enables you to transform your everyday laptop or PC into something more memorable and fun!  It has over 20,000 Microsoft apps.  I tried it out and even though I am a seasoned user of VR headsets, I was unprepared for the scale of height in this as I was on top of a wind turbine in the countryside.  It was breath-taking.  If you look in the picture above left you will see a picture of the wind turbine and training exercise.

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Disney/Lenovo Jedi Challenges – how could I not stop by and pay this some attention!  As a massive Star Wars fan and virtual reality lover this product makes me giddy!  Ok, ok, yes I know it’s not virtual reality but come on – look at it!  That’s Luke Skywalker’s replica lightsaber, see the detail?!  That’s just the presentation on the outside wait until you see what’s on the inside… I’ll show you all soon 🙂

Moving on from Lenovo’s impressive exhibition I was on a quest to find HTC Vive in a galaxy far, far away.  Hall!  A distant hall far, far, FAR away – why couldn’t all the VR/AR/MR tech be bunched together?  Anyway, it wasn’t too bad actually as I discovered a lot of weird and wonderful things along the way – let’s check them out together.

 

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Samsung VR – Actual spacesuit (#awesome) and VR experience of being on the moon (Huawei apparently had something along these lines too but I didn’t come across it), Space Wheel, 4D VR Theatre rollercoaster experience, snowboarding and even a flight on a dinosaur experience!
Robotics VR – This seemed to be using a AR/MR headset to control the robot, I’m not 100% sure about the details.  I’m not even sure what company this was.  If you have further information then let me know.  It seemed pretty cool but there seemed to be a lag between robot movement and user – or it took the user a while to adjust to how to operate before the robot moved.  One of the two.
Sony 3D images – 3D avatars that can be used on Facebook but I was obviously pondering how quick and easy their process would be for creating a lifelike VR avatar!  Very cool!
EDAG – Driverless Car “Soulmate” and VR experiences – not sure what the VR side of this was but the presentation of the exhibit looked pretty sweet with the car, the Pepper robot keeping us entertained and the big screen to view the road.
SimforHealth – Virtual surgery simulator in VR.
Huawei & Telefonica VR demonstrating a television of the future and the photo in the slideshow is the user being in a football stadium whilst watching the match in VR.  It has the added realism as they had to catch a ball at one point in VR and you caught an actual ball in real world too.
SAP – Create your own trainers VR – I was turned away from checking this out as it was closing time.  There was a booth full of approx 8 people each with VR headsets on presumably selecting trainers and checking them out on their feet as everyone’s head was hung – either that or it made everybody really sad… I wouldn’t know #closing

(Samsung Gear 4D Experience)

At last I had reached Hall 7 (initiate Darth Maul epic battle music in head) – destination HTC Vive and Vive Port!  Soooo much to show and tell you!!!

Hot Air Balloon – A hot air balloon basket rigged to a system to make the ride feel like you were realistically blowing in the wind above the Grand Canyon!  The burner controls were in sync to help make it seem more authentic especially when holding on to the edge of the VR basket in the real world too. Very cool!
Table Tennis – special HTC Vive paddle controllers used for this experience again the focus being on authenticity when playing.
Arizona Sunshine – A zombie shooting game that allows for multi-players and choice of weapons (shotgun and/or Uzi).  This was interesting to observe from a 3rd party perspective in real-time as they had set up a monitor to how you to view the multi-players in the VR world thanks to the green screen setting.
Football (soccer) game – This was unique as it included sensors in the boots and shinguards for (yet again) an accurate authentic experience.

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You can see the theme of their thought around user experience, real-time interaction and connectivity throughout this brand’s products.  The HTC Vive Pro looks smart on the outside, is lighter and graphically an upgrade to Vive as expected.  Recent news articles have stated that the HTC Vive Pro will be available for shipping on 5th April and will cost $799.

Considering Mobile World Congress 2018 was themed around 5G and connectivity there were a lot of VR, AR and Mixed Reality products and experiences to enjoy.  I wanted to share what I could with you and hope I have brought some of the conference to life in the process.

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Until next time – adios!

 

Lenovo’s Fan & Influencer Programme #Barcelenovo

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I recently had the honor of joining Lenovo in Barcelona ahead of the Mobile World Congress 2018 for an action packed agenda full of fun. I was blessed with such an experience after being notified of a competition on social media – I never win competitions!! Seriously! But this one asked the question: what excites you about tech in 2018… Well you know me and VRAR so…

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It was legit, the real deal and I was off with another lucky 11 to Barcelona! After landing I joined the masses to pick up my Mobile World Congress pass at the airport. Holding it in my fingers was like I had been given a Willy Wonka’s Golden Ticket. I was going to see the latest tech at one of Europe’s biggest conferences. First though, I was off to meet Lenovo. The ones who were making everything possible for me. My hosts and sponsors for the entire trip. On entering Hotel Vinnci Bit I was welcomed, given a Lenovo welcome pack and checked in to my room. What a stunning room! It was a proper premium pad. I had landed on my feet here, I thought. In addition to the welcome pack was a mobile phone to be used to capture pictures and videos during the trip – a Moto Z2 Force. I’ll be honest, I was surprised that Motorola were still going… I thought they had their moment and had either been overtaken or worse, just hadn’t made it through the rough financial climate. Well. I. Was. Wrong! This phone has blown me away. I’ll tell you more in a dedicated review blog post (get your questions in via the comments if you would like to know anything specific and I will be sure to include that for you).

Next, it was time to meet my fellow teammates. We had been flown across from various starting positions from across the globe. Miguel Moreno Sanchez, Ismael Pineda Palencia and Ricardo Gonzalez are locals from Spain. Miguel and Ismael are both studying, interested in technology and have strong social media presences. Ricardo works full time within e-commerce and e-servicing at an energy company. He’s also into technology and I enjoyed my chats with him whilst there. Arnaud from France with is famous hat, creative design and tech stories. Oscar Zambotti from Italy, such a cool dude! An actual lucky charm for the group – he won an additional competition during MWC and those who stroked his arm for luck also won!! I’m not joking and yes, I am slightly annoyed I didn’t enter the competitions too. Having recently been promoted and moved home this guy has good fortunes well and truly shining on him. He deserves it too. Tom was my fellow Brit over there – he’s doing extremely well with Tech For Travel brand. Tom blogs and shares cool and interesting tech gadgets that may be of use to you when travelling. He has all the professional gear and is no tech conference newbie like me having been to CES this year too. I can only imagine what that is like. Tom did try to enlighten me but it was all too overwhelming for me – I must have looked like a wide eyed enthusiastic Disney character looking back at him in awe! Thomas is a VR YouTuber from Germany and really knows his stuff. It was fascinating to see him filming his YouTube content, I hadn’t witnessed that before. Thomas made it looks so easy! Anita is a fellow social media guru with Festy in Style and her photos are spectacular! It’s not surprise that hundreds of thousands follow her brand too. Dino travelled the furthest from South Africa and had many stories to share with the group. He works at a VR startup and is having a blast. I didn’t have much interaction with the other 2 from the group so unfortunately unable to introduce them officially or share their stories.

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After introductions and lunch we were whisked off for a hands-on VR AR experience where we would learn more about Lenovo’s products. I attended an exclusive products presentation presented by Lenovo’s Vice President for Global Consumer Marketing, Matt Bereda, who explained each of their Virtual, Augmented and Mixed Reality headsets in detail. I am a huge fan of all these realities and failed to recognise that Lenovo had a foot in each of these spaces. I find that immensely respectable!

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Lenovo Explorer – Microsoft partnership: Windows Mixed Reality enables you to transform your everyday laptop or PC into something more memorable and fun! It has over 20,000 Microsoft apps. I tried it out and even though I am a seasoned user of VR headsets, I was unprepared for the scale of height in this as I was on top of a wind turbine in the countryside. It was breath-taking.

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Lenovo & Disney’s Jedi Challenges: This was the thing that I was most looking forward to trying out! This uses Augmented Reality which means you can still see your surroundings but have computer generated imaging overlaying your real scenery – similar to Snapchat’s and Facebook’s selfie filters. Except this was waaaaaay cooler than that! With Jedi Challenges you are a Jedi apprentice working your way through the challenges to become a Jedi Master (yes this is a legit title that you can achieve that only approx 30 people in the world have achieved it to date and there isn’t a single one in the UK… yet…). Lenovo has recently made updates to the game so that you are now able to duel 2 Praetorian Guards and oh my goodness it is so much fun! The device includes haptics so that when you clash lightsabers you feel the vibrations in your hand through the controller. In addition you can play Star Wars chess and other bonus games. This product has a 90% consumer rating which is fantastic given that this is version 1 with plenty more promised on their roadmap! I’ll be able to tell you more about those in a future blog, including when I achieve the status of Jedi Master (lol) as Lenovo gifted a Jedi Challenges to me! I’ll be able to share a more detailed review with you soon.

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Lenovo’s Mirage Solo Standalone VR headet – Partnership with Google Daydream: This will be released in the UK in the beginning of Q2 and will retail under £400 (TBC). As a standalone it will rival Oculus’ Go and Vive’s Pro/Port headsets and includes the controller. The Mirage Solo is a virtual reality headset so you are completely immersed in the computer graphics that you can see in front of you. The detail is spectacular and uses the Daydream platform for apps and content. You honestly get a real sense of depth with this product. I tested this product by viewing a 360 degree photo which was very crisp and clear. I also tried the Bladerunner VR experience and again the graphics were spectacular, the depth perception was realistic and it encourages real body movement/interaction to get the most from it. Lenovo are also releasing a Mirage Solo camera that you will be able to livestream 4K 180 degree images and video. It’s another smart move that rivals Samsung’s existing setup with the Gear and Gear360 offerings. I currently use both the Gear VR headset and Gear360 so will be keeping a close eye on these two for my future project work. Expect to hear more from me about this over the next few months 😉

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Aside from visiting Mobile World Congress (I will share my experience and views in a future blog post) we were given the chance to soak up the tourist sights of the magnificent city of Barcelona. I was taken in by the architecture and signs of culture as we were challenged to find clues across the city for a Star Wars treasure hunt. We had the opportunity to play with a few toys along the way too! What a place for a Jedi Challenges battle!

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I had so much fun learning about the various virtual, augmented and mixed reality products from Lenovo. It is not surprise that they have won 78 awards for them already! Plus I’m certain they will add more to that list once the Mirage Solo products are released too. It was a privilege to become more acquainted with their brand, their products and their staff. I have been blown away by their generosity, their quality and the overall ambition that this organisation shows. It’s so freakin exciting and I’m eagerly awaiting to hear more about what’s next on their list!

In summary my perceptions of Lenovo has strengthened and I believe I made a positive impression there too – here I am with their CEO Yang Yuanqing (aka YY).

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If you haven’t tried any of the Lenovo products detailed then I recommend that you give them a go to see what you think for yourself. May the force be with you!

Special thanks go out to Lenovo, Lenovo UK & Ireland, Chloe Jones, Stuart Gill, Borja Velon Lepine, Matt Bereda, Simona Stoica, Samuel Vang, Simona Menghini and YY (Yang Yuanqing).

VR Funding Event for Women in VR

On Saturday 6th January 2018 I joined the Women in XR Venture Fund team in Virtual Reality to see, hear and learn about the 8 selected Founders of their 1st WXR Cohort.

There are so many angles that make this event such a sensational moment in history, including being a tech investment event for women Founders, a pitching event in virtual reality for virtual/augmented or mixed reality companies.  An opportunity to hear more about cutting edge ventures, what they are doing, how they are doing it and how they are monetising their activities (the monetising side is something that many in the industry are struggling with currently).

The event was held within the social VR Platform, AltSpace (which was recently saved from closing down thanks to Microsoft a few months ago). The atrium was rather busy which was a supportive sign because it meant people were attending ‘in person’ in the VR setting.  It was also being live-streamed from the WXR Venture Fund’s website and via AltSpace’s YouTube channel – meaning that it was an inclusive event, you DID NOT NEED a VR Headset (HMD: Head Mounted Display) to be an audience member.  Many people don’t realise that this technology has grown so much in the last 18 months alone.  I will follow this blog post up with some interesting case studies for you to read about soon!

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Another interesting factor to the social VR event like this was that many people could come and go as they pleased including arriving late without disrupting the flow, without making noises that distract you.  Actually, it was nice to have the anonymity of it all as well for example a futuristic robot floating by didn’t seem to make you think ‘how embarrassing they’re late’ but rather ‘oh cool, another robot avatar’!  The atmosphere was incredibly relaxed and the only thing that I worried about whilst there was to make sure I didn’t accidentally hit my transport button whilst watching the presenters – otherwise I would find myself (my avatar) in the middle of the presentation space with her…  you could easily jump back somewhere without the real-life beamer (embarrassed face) though so it wouldn’t have been too bad I guess!  I once accidentally jumped out of the window you can see in the picture above during another conference whilst asking a question to the presenter, you recover quickly though… think Mario Galaxy falling off of the level, you go and you ping back again within seconds so long as you click the button to an aimed spot to transport back again.

If you are interested in watching this event yourself (or some of it to get a feel for the environment, especially if this is the 1st time you are hearing about social VR) then the video recording can be found on the WXR Fund website – www.womenxr.com.  A list of all the Founders are also detailed there including the incredible panelists, mentors and sponsors of the event.

A summary for you is as follows:

Founders of the 1st WXR Cohort:
Vivian Tan – Beast Inc
Cheryl Bayer – Living Popups
Sophia Dominguez – SVRF
Sarah Hill – StoryUp XR
Lori-Lee Emshey – FutureSight AR
Spandana Govindgari – ARAD
Morgan Mercer – Vantage Point
Julia Winter – Alchemie

Panelists:
Marco DeMiroz – founder of Venture Reality Fund
Maddie Callander – Boost VC
Jesse Draper – Halogen Ventures
Peter Rojas – betaworks ventures
Timoni West – Unity
Dessy Levinson – 645 Ventures

Host for the event was Malia Probst – Partner at VR Scout, Partner at WXR Fund and Host of the Real Virtual Show podcast.

To say I was (and still am) buzzing from the experience is and understatement!  I learned so much, my mind was awakened to how advanced some of these companies already are.  It really is impressive!  I’ve been a huge fan of VR for a number of years now and follow the progress quite closely daily on Twitter but even I experienced some ‘wow’ moments!  You have to check out Living Popups on YouTube!  I love their work.  They have recently supported Charlie Fink with his newly released Metaverse book.  A book that features some AR (Augmented Reality) that you can interact with as you read the book.  (I have just started reading Metaverse and will post a review in due course – no spoilers will be given.  You can get a copy yourself via Amazon if you can’t wait for my post).  The others you will see as you check them out through the video or doing a bit of research but there are VR Data, VR AI, VR search engines, VR pets and a load others mixed in.  Eye opening stuff indeed.  Enjoy your quest to learn more!

I’ll end with a traditional event selfie…

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