Enterprise Focus Grows at CES

Enterprise Focus Grows at CES

Report Skinny

 

The year starts with a bang as the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) kicks off the first major event of the new decade and pushes Location-Based Entertainment to the forefront, as Enterprise investment is revealed across VR, AR and XR. This report offers a snapshot of the key developments impacting our sector.

Main Report
In the first big show of the new decade, Las Vegas played host to the mega 53rd Consumer Electronics Show (CES) – sprawling across not only the Las Vegas Convention Center (LVCC), but also neighbouring hotel suites and private demonstrations (with some 180,000 attendees). CES is a show that charted the new technology trends on consumer development, and also played its part in shaping the future of the Out-of-Home Entertainment arena.
The key areas of interest were broken down into three categories. The first being new immersive wearables, starting with the high-end PC VR headsets. The impact of the changing VR landscape was felt from some of the established developers in the scene. HTC made a last-minute decision not to present any new VR hardware at CES’20, and abandoned plans for their traditional VIVE Press Conference. The company has been under pressure after reports of a revenue drop in 2019, down 57-percent and following the less-than-stellar reception to their new Cosmos headset. Instead the company was linked to a move towards a new business strategy, announcing that whilst not presenting at CES, HTC will be making an announcement regarding “a new vision for VIVE” – which has now been scheduled for around Mobile World Congress in February (watch this space).
Pimax – In an unusual situation, the Chinese operation had accidently revealed their plans to launch a new version of their headset at CES. The accidental admission was mentioned in a media post in December, and management confirmed it should not have been revealed. The official big reveal of the new lineup of headsets included the low-cost (baby) of the range, with the PimaxArtisan’, an entry level system. The Artisan is a lower resolution version to the previous 8K and 5K Pimax solutions, at a low price.
But also revealed was a high refresh rate headset, the Vision 5K Super (supporting the previous Vision 5K Plus), with a 180Hz performance. This model is hoping to offer a better experience and address possible sim-sickness issues. All eyes will be on Pimax to make good on pricing and delivery dates following the announcements, revealing they had started mass production of the previously-announced Vision 8K X flagship headset. The Pimax headset was used on one automotive booth as part of an eight motion seat theater experience. It was, however, revealed at the end of CES’20 that Pimax would be undergoing some restructuring as enterprise grows as a core focus, with news that it would be moving its technical support centers back to China (more information on these moves to follow).
One of the other entrants into the high-end PC VR headset sector is VRgineers – which we have already reported on. The company used CES’20 to launch their new XTAL platform (offering 4K display per eye, 8K horizontal in total), with a performance far beyond the current needs (or price point) of the consumer owner, but with a pure enterprise focus. The company promoted their headset quality in enterprise, working with the Air Force and NASA, and showed the level of immersion with an ultra-realistic F-18 fighter flight simulator rig operational on the booth, using the headset and a high level of immersion through the motion platform – developed by 6DOFMotion.
This was not the only example of a realistic simulator combined with a movable platform rocking the CES’20 show floor. On the Razer booth, the company launched a new product line with a racing rig, a giant 128° curved projection screen and motion seat, as part of their new ‘Razer eRacing‘ simulator line; running the fastest graphics and compute performance with hyper-realistic racing. This is a platform that will also talk to the eSports racing scene. Also on the CES show floor, was the first production prototype of the YAW VR motion seat (funded through Kickstarter) – a compact motion “bowl” style seat system made for consumer VR gaming, but also with an eye on LBE deployment.
Motion simulation being used in training and simulation was another aspect readily demonstrated at CES’20. One such example was from Forum8 – a VR design studio developing real-time interactive simulation. The company promoted their work in this sector with a Chinese-made, Empower lntelligent Technology, 360° VR chair simulator running a demonstration, using the 3Glasses headset. Several automotive companies exhibited the future of their vehicles at the show with VR demonstrations (an illustration of the influence of such tech in the sector).
Another major high-end (PC) developer was HP – with information revealed that their HP Reverb, which has been focused for enterprise deployment, has seen some major new signings, including prominent deals initially with Zero Latency. Recently it was also revealed that the company had become a technology partner with Dreamscape Immersive – replacing their previously fielded Oculus Rift headsets. The first full installation with the HP headset (and their G2 backpack) platform was seen at the opening of the first Dubai location at the end of 2019. Some sources suggested that the company was also working on enhancements for the system to increase their presence in this sector.
Next came the leading new area of innovation, with standalone (all-in-one) mobileVR headsets – the influx of attention in this approach to VR had been fuelled by the Oculus Quest, but there were other developers now entering the ring. Gaining much attention was Pico, with their new model in the line called the Pico Neo 2, along with the Pico Neo 2 Eye (which incorporates eye-tracking technology, in partnership with Tobii). The system offers a more powerful processor than the competition. The system is focused more on an enterprise footing than consumer (The Stinger Report covers the opportunities from this format in detail later). Pico also demonstrated what they called ‘VR Glasses’, a brand new prototype concept using a minimalistic and stylish form factor (reminiscent of what Panasonic was showing), and offering a glimpse of the next generation in VR headsets.
 

Panasonic caused a major stir in the VR section of CES’20, revealing their much-anticipated new VR eyeglasses in the form of the world’s first High-Dynamic Range (HDR) capable VR system (we will go into more detail in our coming standalone VR feature). The company has established strong roots with the attractions scene, most recently involved through their division Panasonic System Solutions Company, to supply the 4K visual technology solution for the Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance attractions, and having worked with Walt Disney for the last 20-years.

Just completing this rundown of standalone VR headsets, and The Stinger Report will be publishing a major feature in the coming days that looks at the deployment of ‘Standalone Arena Scale LBE VR’ into the sector – a major investigation into an aspect of technology which is being jumped on as the next major phase of development in the LBE sector, and which is offering some amazing new opportunities for operators and developers alike.
For a second year, VRLEOUSA (parent of LEO and partner Shanghai Lions Intelligent Technology) presented at CES. As reported on during our IAAPA’19 coverage, at CES they showed a number of their ‘LEO‘ self-service VR arcade systems, with its retractable headset and 30-second UVL cleaning system as part of the large screen mounted kiosk – running the Lenovo Win MR headset and now populated with five games developed by the company, of varying quality.
 
Another exhibitor at CES 2020 who comes from a VR arcade and consumer presence, was Germany-based ICAROS GmbH. The company used the expansive show to present their current ‘ICAROS‘ body-motion VR system, including its home configuration for fitness applications and entertainment; alongside their ‘ICAROS-R‘ ride-on system which offers network play . But the company also launched their new ‘ICAROS-Cloud‘ – a disc-shapep platform for the VR user to lie on, with their moves represented through the platform into the virtual world. Immersive content and development was represented by exhibitors such as SynthesisVR, who ran on their booth, in partnership with Vesaro, Razer and Slightly Mad Studios, an example of the future of eSport racing.
Haptic feedback and wearable suits were also presented on the Las Vegas show floor, as was seen with TESLASUIT. The company was running on their booth the ‘TESLASUIT XR‘ experience – which has been branded a “human to digital” interface, with the suit combining haptic sensory feedback and tracking. Although the system has been evaluated for LBE application, the jury is still out on this complicated platform. TESLASUIT also demonstrated their new ‘VR-Glove‘ – a completely wireless system, connecting to the suit via Wi-Fi.

One aspect of the immersive tech that received coverage back at the beginning of the latest phase of VR was “olfactory” (sometimes nicknamed “smell-o-vision”). That approach was most notably promoted with the Kickstarter project Feelreal – a multi-sensory mask attachment proposed for VR headsets, that includes not only smell, but FX effects such as heat and wind. Promoted at CES last year, in an announcement on the Kickstarter page during the beginning of the year, it was revealed that the plans to launch Feelreal had been cancelled. It was stated that the latest FDA ruling regarding vaping devices, stating that certain devices were dangerous to people, meant the FDA had forced the company to start a new line of testing to come up with a design that departs from a vaping style approach to disperse the scents. The Kickstarter stated that if they cannot get confirmation of a new method, they will close the project with no refunds available. No word if the FDA will consider the methods with which scents are distributed within the popular 4D theatre business, and whether they would also fall under this scrutiny.

One aspect of VR is how it has invaded the lifestyle aspect of the technology trend, from fitness and health, to even being used in the cosmetic and hygiene sector. At CES’20, toilet paper manufacturer Charmin (a division of Procter & Gamble) launched a number of “unique” approaches to their product and the latest tech (part of the ‘LifeLab‘ exhibit), including the ‘V.I.Pee‘ portable potty. Using an Oculus Rift-S headset, and a unique porta-potty configuration, the VR headset created a “premium porta potty experience“, virtually transporting the user to front row at sporting and concert events, while they used the bathroom seat.
Moving from wearables for VR and AR, and headsets continued to fight for recognition from the consumer trade. In the latest collaboration announcement, Nreal is in partnership with a brilliant eye-tracking technology company, 7invensun. Nreal had a very popular CES, with presentations of their sleek design which is now in a production prototype format, and impressing attendees over the alternative AR headgear. The system is gearing up for a Spring launch in Korea, Japan, and eventually the US around the middle of the year. Other AR hardware on the floor included the new Huawei AR glasseson the NOLO booth, hooked up with their NOLO tracking system. Meanwhile Realmax was running a multiplayer demonstration of their AR headsets, and they were one of the companies cleaning their systems with a Cleanbox system to ensure hygiene.
In a low-key presentation, Samsung revealed their new prototype AR glasses during a CES Livestream. The sleek design hints at serious competition to the other slimline designs from the likes of Nreal. The AR demonstration was in support of their Gait Enhancing & Motivating System (GEMS), for help with fitness and posture through a unique exoskeleton system which acts as a coach. This was a concept demonstration, although its true consumer availability was undecided. Samsung did not really show any other new AR or VR offerings publicly but, like many others exhibitors, they hinted that the Mobile World Congress in Spain will see some new developments.
The Korean cinema technology company, CJ 4DPLEX, unveiled the next generation of an immersive, premium, movie theater experience. The company showed their ‘4DX AR‘ platform, accessible using mobile phones and integrating computer vision technology. The system deploys Resonai‘s ‘Vera‘, an Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Augmented Reality (AR) platform, which converts a physical space into an intelligent digital environment. The concept was demonstrated at CES’20 in collaboration with Teeny Studio and FINGEREYES. Developed for large retail spaces such as cinemas, shopping mall complexes, and theme parks, the system is launched as part of a new business opportunity for the corporation. CJ 4DPLEX introduced 4DX in 2009, and 700 movies have been screened in 4DX with 723 theaters now, in operation across 65 countries.
The emergence of the first XR platforms (mixing the technologies to create a new level of technological engagement) was seen from various exhibitions. Some of the amazing projection systems on display at CES’20 showed the capability for the future of immersive entertainment. Panasonic ran a demonstration for crowds on their booth, with a virtual ping-pong table and the ball virtually represented through projection mapping and motion tracking, capturing the players’ bat moves and interacting with the virtual ball to play a realistic game. Whilst this was just a booth demonstration, it is so easily a concept that would (and should) work in LBE.
One of the new aspects of XR investment is new immersive display technology, and CES’20 had its fair share of new technology. Using a theme park style presentation, the company Hypervsn developed a three-ring theme park style experience to promote their latest holographic technology. The first part of the promotion saw puzzle games created using the holographic displays, with even a version of Tetris to play; while the second part saw the holographic representations of people’s faces; and the final part had deconstructed 3D models for the audience to marvel at. Hypervsn‘s 3D holographic visual solution is based on light emitting diodes (LEDs) placed all along each of the four rays, spinning at a set speed – and based in previous signage technology.
New consumer game development was represented with a new decade that sees a fresh video game console cycle (Ninth Generation), with the battle being joined by new streaming game consoles (Google Stadia). The consumer gaming scene was represented with the Sony Interactive Entertainment (SIE) President revealing, on a stage presentation early into CES’20, that they had achieved PSVR sales which had surpassed some 5m units. To place this into comparison, their PS4 console has achieved sales of 106m. The stage presentation was used to launch the branding for the successor console – the PS5, launching during the holidays of this year. While not launching a new PSVR, Sony confirmed that the new console will be compatible with the original VR hardware, thus leveraging their market penetration.
CES also charted some new elements of digital technology making leaps into the commercial entertainment sphere – and, for a third year, Artificial Intelligence (AI). Exhibiting at CES for the third year, OMRON showed their ‘Forpheus‘ platform – a robotic table-tennis system, that offers an AI-powered opponent against the player. This is one of the most sophisticated of the object tracking robots in production, developed in the new fifth generation configuration to compete at the highest level. This kind of AI competitor algorithm has attracted investment from the games scene, when it was revealed that Square ENIX had signed a partnership agreement with OMRON to jointly research the relationship between machine and human (creating better game dynamics).
Along with AI, there has been an explosion in Autonomous Vehicles, such as the trackless ride vehicles seen at IAAPA’19, as well as the explosion in drone deployment in the park and resort sector – ranging from security, in arial displays, and even in game systems. All this, along with a greater focus from all the major exhibitors to embrace the 5G connectivity revolution, is hoped to drive much of the deployment of these applications.
More traditional amusement style products which crashed the CES’20 show floor included that from amusement veteran UNIS,showing their new ‘Atari PONG Knock-Out‘ – a four-player physical object pong game. The company also continued its partnership with TAITO (seen in our IAAPA’19 coverage), with an example of the AirSoft-based shooting game, ‘GunArena‘. Meanwhile STERN Pinball returned to CES to promote their latest pintable, ‘Stranger Days‘. The company has developed both amusement and consumer variants of its popular systems (the ultimate man-cave accessory). The product also received a Wired mention.
One of the interesting aspects of the consumer entertainment side of the business on display at CES’20, was the latest offerings from Arcade1Up – who showed their latest innovation with a home video pinball system. The system is called the ‘Virtual Pinball‘, is developed in partnership with Zen Studios, while licensing Bally and William Pinball platforms, and creates video pinball recreations of the original. The company’s booth was once again dwarfed with a giant playable video amusement machine, this time a recreation of ‘NBA Jam’.

What This Could All Mean:
In Conclusion – One aspect of the first major trade show of the new decade, along with the tech on display, was the absence of a large portion of the Chinese contingent. The protracted US/China trade dispute saw several Chinese firms not attend the Las Vegas gathering. Along with the Washington lead trade dispute, Chinese and some foreign exhibitors found it difficult to get the correct visas to attend the USA in time for the show, also adding to the list of absentees.
Attempts by some media to claim that VR was not prominent at this year’s CES fell flat in the harsh reality of numerous main showings, but it was clear that some exhibitors were holding back on their main announcements, in part favouring the Spanish show the following month, or in part favouring keeping their powder dry as they wait to release Mixed Reality (AVR and VR) platforms later in the year. For Out-of-Home Entertainment, though, the interest in this sector seems on a continued growth.