19 Jun 2024 | Sam Sprigg
AWE USA 2024: Day 2 Recap
XR Hall of Fame AWE USA 2024

Day 2 at AWE USA 2024 has come to a close, and what an amazing second day of the event it has been. With the good vibes from last night’s Welcome Party sponsored by Zappar continuing on through today, everyone seemed fresh-faced and energized for another day of complete immersion into all things spatial.

There simply isn’t enough space in these blog posts to go over all of the amazing things that have been going on throughout the course of the event, and today certainly was a busy one, with a LOT of action taking place. So we’ve try to provide a more concise roundup of some of the key day 2 highlights below.

Main Stage Sessions

Spatial Computing Needs a New Map

Kicking things off on the Main Stage this morning was Brian Bam McClendon and Erik Murphy-Chutorian from Niantic, who explored how Niantic is setting the foundation for immersive real-world experiences by providing the necessary services and creation tools to make the real world “spatial.” McClendon demonstrated how Niantic's tools can now offer symmetrical shared experiences, where two users can simultaneously experience a shared spatial experience at the same time, from either an AR or VR device. He also reminded the audience of the company's news from yesterday that its new Niantic Studio visual interface is now available for free.

We Need a Super Cockpit for the Mind (History Talk)

Later on the Main Stage, XR Hall of Famer, Founder & Chairman of the Virtual World Society, and the Grandfather of VR himself, Tom Furness provided an update on the work of the Virtual World Society, and recounted some of his history in developing the Super Cockpit for the USAF in the 70s-80s.

One particular quote that we loved from Tom Furness was: "Presence is like writing on the brain with permanent ink"

Reanimating Programmer Ada Lovelace with the Magic of AI

After lunch, Marco Tempest of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, who also won an Auggie Award (more on those later) for his standout talk in 2022, brought some magic to AWE once again. This time, through the magic of AI, Tempest wowed the audience with his fresh take on the story of 19th century mathematician and writer Ada Lovelace, who was brought to life through the lens of real-time AI storytelling, all rendered a laptop using a webcam.

Visionaries: Palmer Luckey and Darshan Shankar

Later in the afternoon, a talk that has been on everyone’s minds, especially thanks to a recent viral post on X, sort of gave people an answer to a question they have been asking – what is this new HMD that Oculus VR founder Palmer Luckey is working on? Well, Luckey simply confirmed that he is in fact working on a headset, and added that this is driven by military requirements.

Luckey shared the stage with Bigscreen VR CEO & Founder Darshan Shankar, with the discussion moderated by Stephanie Riggs, Founder of Ink & Paint. The talk was absolutely JAM PACKED, and the audience was eager to hear what had to be said. The talk is definitely worth a watch if you weren’t one of the hundreds of people in attendance. But a couple of our favorite quotes included:

“When people think things aren’t moving, it’s because they see if from the outside. VR has actually come a really long way, it’s just people’s expectations of what success is – they really inflate it” – Palmer Luckey. “We had a philosophy called ‘every gram matters’ - and that’s a policy that we adhered to very strictly, and that is why our device is 127 grams“ – Darshan Shankar.

Other Notable Talks and Panel Discussions

XR Women Awards – AWE is proud to celebrate the 4th annual XR Women Award winners who were annouced today at the Expo Stage. The 2024 winners included: Sonya Haskins, AWE Head of Program - Impact, Dr. Muhsinah Morris, Morehouse College - Trailblazer, Amy Hedrick, Cleanbox - Innovation.


The Fusion of Physical and Digital Marketing –
On the Enterprise Track a panel discussing what it takes to make innovation like #xr, happen for large consumer brands, 'The Fusion of Physical and Digital Marketing' featured global brands The Hershey Company and Nestle-Purina and media strategy consultant Brian Selzer - BlueSe7en Media. Facilitated by metaverse advisor Marcie Jastrow the panel agreed that "When it comes to selling executives on new tech, XR is a show, don't tell exercise," noting "Get them into a headset as fast as possible, as that's where the magic happens."

Creative Resilience: Trusting Your Artistic Voice in a Rapidly-Changing Industry – Featuring creators Estella Tse, Kevin Ang, & Lafiya Watson-Ramierez, this panel discussed the challenges they’ve experienced in the careers as XR creators and the resilience tactics they use to stay focussed and productive as digital artists in a tumultuous industry. 

Highlights from the AWE Expo Floor

2024 has been the largest Expo Floor ever at an AWE event. There has been SO MUCH awesome stuff to see this year, and simply not enough time to describe it all. Some of our favorite booths (that we were able to find time to try out at least) included:

  • Ultraleap – Showcasing their Hyperion solution for hand tracking interactions, Ultraleap had a cool demo showing why they are an absolute leader in hand tracking technology.
  • XRAI Glass – Providing closed captions for our event this year, XRAI Glass is a next generation AI wearable offering subtitles in over 140+ languages to wearers along with ChatGPT integration. They are definitely worth checking out.
  • Taiwan Pavilion – Featuring 14 incredible companies, the Taiwan Pavilion has been showcasing Taiwan's latest innovations in XR, and highlighting some of the companies that have been leading the charge in the company's virtual and augmented reality technology offerings.
  • BenVision – The Binaural Experience Navigator, affectionately known as BEN, is an AR application that allows the visually impaired to navigate their surroundings, by transforming them into musical spatial audio cues. We had some great fun navigating their booth, which was set up like a standard living room, and we also learned a new word - "Sonification" - the process that translates data into sound. BenVision translates this data into sound using VPS expertly, and provided a great insight into navgation with a visual impairment.
  • Freeaim – Freeaim's VR Shoes provide a real and immersive way to experience VR that let you walk naturally across infinite distances and in any direction. We put the shoes on and made sure we were safely inside their guardrail, and then took their shoes for a spin (a stroll?). Definitely a step in the right direction for this technology for sure!
  • K-Metaverse Pavilion – Showcasing some of Korea's leading XR technology, the K-Metaverse Pavilion was packed with some incredible companies eager to demonstrate to attendees some of the country's most exciting augmented and virtual reality technology solutions.

Startup Pitch Competition

Every year AWE hosts its Startup Pitch Competition. The clue is in the name, as the competition sees startups pitch in front of a group of judges made up of industry executives and venture capitalists, to be in with a chance of winning the title of ‘Startup To Watch’ in the Auggie Awards. This year, 12 AR & VR startups took to the stage to discuss their groundbreaking ideas, including: 3lbXR, FLOW, Fungisaurs, ikkio, Magic Kids, ManoMotion, Playbook XR, Remix, Sisu VR, Treedis, VoxelSensors, and ZAUBAR

Auggie Awards Ceremony

That brings us to probably the main highlight of today, and that is of course the 2024 Auggie Awards ceremony. This year saw a record number of nominations, as well as a record number of finalists, surpassing all figures from previous years. Plus, with the addition of four new categories, it truly makes this year our biggest Auggie Awards competition ever!

Before the winners were announced though, as was mentioned in yesterday’s Day 1 Recap blog post, one of the key themes for AWE 2024 is learning from XR’s past in order to create the future. A huge part of that theme involves honoring the pioneers that laid the groundwork for today’s XR industry as we know it, and AWE this year announced the XR Hall of Fame – a new platform dedicated to honoring the pioneers whose monumental contributions have shaped and propelled the XR industry forward.

Preceding the Auggie Awards results, the inaugural group of 101 inductees were honored in a special ceremony. Several pioneers themselves have also been on site attending the event, and it has been a true honor for guests (and members of the AWE team alike) to meet these industry innovators, and learn from them in-person this week.

What's more, dozens of these pioneers were able to hand out this year's Auggie Awards to winners on the Main Stage. They all had some wisdom and insight to impart, and it was absolutely amazing to hear some of their storiesin the run up to each award's presentation. And that leads us onto the 2024 Auggie Awards themselves.

Without further ado, the winners for the 15th Annual Auggie Awards are… all available to view in this separate blog! Once again, a huge congratulations goes out to ALL of this year’s incredible finalists, and a massive thank you goes out to everyone who submitted a nomination to the competition and cast a vote. Your efforts truly do not go unnoticed, and are all part of what makes the Auggies such a special, and industry-renowned competition.

And on that note, with the Auggies ceremony wrapped up, it is time to go and celebrate. The GLOW afterparty, which is being hosted by our friends at Big Rock Creative and MIT Reality Hack, and presented by T-MobileIs taking place from 7:30pm, so make sure you RSVP if you want to go. More information can be found here.

Otherwise, we look forward to seeing you all tomorrow for the third and final day of AWE USA 2024. Friday-only passes are still available, so if you’re feeling like you’ve missed out and you’re in the area, it’s still not too late to grab a ticket and join in the fun!

Get Tickets, feel spatial 😍

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