SANTA CLARA, CALIF. - Now my second AWE in a row, there is plenty to be amazed at this one-of-a-kind augmented reality (AR) conference set in the midst of Silicon Valley.
As the AR industry evolves away from a niche to being a concept more and more consumers are exposed to and understand, so does AWE evolve from an enthusiast's playground to a showcase for multimillion dollar businesses and opportunities.
You know things are a-changing when companies like Bosch join the expo floor and when more than one exhibitor brings along a connected car to showroom cool tech with. To boot, AWE has almost doubled in size from last year and this maturity was also clear from the visitors to the event (and the questions they ask). While last year I got a fair amount of "How do I use your tech" type questions, this year is more along the lines of "QR codes are not right for my business, what do I need to do to use your image recognition and augmented reality software instead".
Yes, businesses are now more comfortable with technology that enhances their physical products and links these to digital content. In fact, many brands understand today that unless their brand is connected somehow to their Facebook page, mobile apps, m-commerce store etc, some other brand will and so steal their market share. Consumers are overwhelmingly digital today and image recognition is a great way to connect the real world to the digital one (in fact, add an image to an ad and let users interact with it and you can expect 40x greater engagement than without it -that's ROI for you!).
AWE also marked a shift away from the Google Glass "geek-factor" to a point where Glass is cooler (though privacy still remains a concern). So much cooler, that Glass is no longer alone, and Epson want to give Google a run-for-their money with the BT-200 Moverio. These are clearly not commodity products yet, but we're a lot closer to this happening.
At last year's AWE, the audience loved actual case studies of consumer brands using AR -this year, it was more about wearables and how different industries can use AR to become more efficient.
It was great to see Robert Scoble on stage and his message of contextual awareness (as endorsed by Google at Le Web in 2010) is still relevant today and in fact, as AWE proved, we are one step closer to seeing that vision come true.