11 Jun 2024 | Guest Writer
Lightning Round with Ori Inbar - AWE USA 2024
AWE USA 2024

By Aaron Cohen, Host of Glitch Pod

“We're standing on the shoulders of these AR and VR immersive XR pioneers in spatial computing to build the future, not just of XR, but of the world.” - Ori Inbar, Co-founder of AWE

Even though it’s my seventh year at AWE I’m apparently the perpetual AR newbie, especially considering that we’re approaching AWE’s 15th anniversary. That’s how I felt during my AWEsome chat with Ori Inbar today.

Read highlights from our conversation below and be sure to watch the full interview on YouTube!

AWE USA 2024 Sneak Peak with Ori Inbar on The Glitch Pod

Ori, in a nutshell, what's the theme for AWE USA 2024?

For us, the main theme is, “You feel special. We promise.” And, of course, it's the double entendre of spatial computing at its best. And it feels special even though you're maybe one in 6000 people!

The year started with a big bang with the Vision Pro and Meta Quest 3 getting record sales. All this amazing energy is happening right now. We described this year as a breakthrough year. It's the 15th anniversary of XR at AWE! We wanted to look back at the history of XR. It's really all about the past 50-plus years since this whole thing started. 

There will be a lot of history talks. There will be an XR Museum. The Hall of Fame of XR was announced recently and will be on display, and there will be a ceremony around it at the event. Attendees can get inspired by over 200 talks by some of the world's top XR innovators and be able to try out thousands of spatial demos. 

XR Museum

How about the coolest AR or VR experience you've ever experienced? 

Wow, that's a tough one. Probably the coolest example of an AR app that just works everywhere on a massive scale and is useful is the Google Maps Live View. And you know, so many people don't know about these features. Whether in New York City or any other city around the world, you pull it up. 

It doesn't just show you your location on the map, but also gives you directions into where to go with these cool arrows. It's just amazing that it actually can recognize the buildings anywhere you launch this app and immediately understand where you are and how to direct you. So I love that application. 

What advice do you have for AR/VR founders?

Find that unique thing within XR. Learn your XR history! Almost everything you thought of has already been done to a certain degree over the past 50 years. If you learn the history, you'll have a much better chance of succeeding.

Do you think the Metaverse hype is officially over?

The peak hype of the metaverse was in October 2021, and AWE that year was in November. I played this game show called Metaverse or Shmetta-verse because I felt there’s currently huge hype around it, but we have to take it with a grain of salt. 

If you put too much into that basket, then people will get disappointed and that's exactly what happened! 

You know, the expectations were huge and the deliverables were pretty cool, but not as great as people expected based on the hype. [The metaverse hype] died in 2023. Since then, we hear a lot less about the metaverse. I mean, I look at a lot of startup pitches and all the metaverse mentions were replaced with AI mentions! So we're now with a new hype cycle. 

So [the metaverse hype] is dead, but the metaverse is not dead. The metaverse is actually doing really well. Over 600 million metaverse active users every month, it's growing. Lots of great companies. 

So you know, it's gonna do well. Just, let's not stick to the hype at that level.Let's see how we can benefit from these technologies on a day-to-day level.

How is AI impacting XR this year or vice versa?

AI makes XR better, no doubt about it. But I think XR also makes AI more useful and human. The intersection of AR/VR and AI, especially around computer vision and spatial understanding, is what really excites me this year.

Are we going to see a Google-Samsung device this year? 

Rumors are saying it's the second half of the year. Some have said during the Olympics in Paris because Samsung is a big sponsor of the Olympics. It's coming really soon! 

It’s kind of interesting that some said it was about to launch sooner. But when the Apple Vision Pro came out, they said, ‘Hey, we gotta one up them!’ So they probably took a bit more time to improve it and perfect it. So we'll see how it goes. 

What are the current registration numbers looking like so far?

It's looking great, probably the highest number that we've ever had. It's looking amazing. There's no place like AWE on Earth. If you're into AR or VR then it's gonna be the biggest gathering of XR people anywhere. 

But the good news is it feels like a family reunion because it's a lot more friendly than you would expect at a tech conference. 

What sets AWE apart from previous year aside from the new location, so that we know what to look forward to? 

It's the new location, which is bigger! The Expo Hall is a lot bigger than we were able to get in Santa Clara. And also everything around it -- the parties, the food, the entertainment around the Convention Center-- is so much nicer than in previous years. 

But in terms of the event itself, since it’s the 15-year anniversary, you'll have a lot of early pioneers in XR there on at the event, but also giving talks about the history of XR. 

Have the judges picked the winners for the Auggie Awards? 

They're hard at work right now! We announced the finals just a few days ago and have about two weeks to go over the list. It's the longest list of finalists that we've ever had with 120. There are finalists in 19 categories. It's a lot of work! We want to make sure they spend enough time on each nomination and pick the best ones out there. 

What news might drop at AWE? 

There will be a bunch of news, as per AWE tradition. 20 announcements will be part of this year’s AWE “Press Preview” for the media. Each of the 20 announcements get 2-3 minutes to brief the media about their announcement. 

There are additional announcements planned that will be shared in the press announcements. 

The good news is AWE is happening after Google I/O and Apple WWDC. A lot of the XR news will already be in the wild. Companies and developers can benefit by using these news announcements and showing them off at AWE. 

Speaking of Google I/O, everything's all about AI right now. What innovative or interesting ways is AWE using AI for the conference? 

We're using a company called XRAI which is providing AI-based accessibility for all the talks at the event in real time. You can use it to analyze a lot of the content of the talks, find patterns, find things that stand out. 

There's also a bunch of activations that we work with- some face filters, some funny filters, some applications, a lot of them are actually using AI to generate content that is fun and relevant. 

Speaking of activations, what special events or activations are planned this year?

The XR Museum will feature over 80 vintage AR and VR prototypes and devices from the past 50 years, many on loan from several of the pioneers in the new XR Hall of Fame. There's also a Vision Pro Workshop for a full day of training on Apple's new headset.

You can read more about activities, activations, and apps at AWE USA 2024 here.

How should we all prepare for AWE 2024?

If you haven't gotten a ticket, definitely get one! There's a bunch of discount codes out there from our partners and speakers. There’s no reason not to be able to get a ticket with a wide range of ticket prices. 

Once you do so, download the mobile app for the event. That will give you a few advantages. One is to see the list of all the attendees by interest topic. You can find the people you want to meet. 

You can see all the exhibitors in the Expo Hall and then build your own agenda. With over 200 talks, it's impossible to see everything. It's worth it to just go over the list, understand what are the things you really want to go to in person in real time. 

Of course, you can watch all these videos online on YouTube post-event. I spent a couple of weeks after the [last] event just watching everything I missed. There's also a bunch of parties and activations happening around the event. 

Having it around LA gave a lot of energy to creating these parties. So that's gonna be a really cool dimension to what's happening before, after and during the event. 

About the Author

With an MFA from the prestigious Iowa Writers' Workshop, Aaron Cohen is an award-winning marketing and communications professional with a passion for all things XR and AI. In addition to serving as the host for Glitch Podcast (where he has featured Robert Scoble and Ori Inbar), he’s an avid tech and vinyl enthusiast. His writing can be found in Best 25 Writers under 25, Drum, VentureBeat among others. Most recently he was Senior Director of Marketing and Brand at RealWear where he led the company through critical growth phases. He is currently principal of Gitch Communications for AI and XR startups. Aaron is based in Portland, Oregon. 

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