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Virtual reality products were on full display at the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas last week, and while VR continues to go mainstream, there are a lot of questions that still must be answered.
VR adoption should increase in 2015, as companies tweak their hardware and software offerings, though should remain most common in the gaming sector. However, VR will still be a niche technology, until several major roadblocks are accurately addressed.
"It will stay relatively niche because it still has several technological hurdles to overcome," said Piers Harding-Rolls, HIS analyst, in a statement to BBC. "A lot of people that have tested the current headsets, a good proportion of them have not enjoyed the experience. It can make them feel woozy and sick, and the manufacturers really have to overcome that."
The virtual reality market is growing, and seems to have drawn the most attention by the gaming community, but still isn't ready for mainstream adoption. However, it's possible that the movie industry has the most to gain from virtual reality, with consumers interested in embracing the unique viewing experience.
"We've said from the beginning we're big gamers, and we started Oculus to deliver consumer VR and revolutionize games," said Nate Mitchell, VP for product at Oculus, in an interview with the Los Angeles Times. "But it may well end up being that VR is more about film than games - [but] it's possible. We don't know what the killer app is."
Oculus is working with developers in the video game and movie industries, and it's possible Oculus VR headsets could also find their way into military simulation trainings. There is a tremendous amount of opportunities for virtual reality in the future, but consumers appear more interested in what can be done sooner rather than later.
CES 2015 - 3D printing specialist MakerBot is attending CES 2015 to help promote its MakerBot 3D Ecosystem, designed to drive interest and innovation in the booming 3D market.
The company is promoting new MakerBot PLA composite filaments, MakerBot 3D Professional Services, a new mobile true remote printing and monitoring service, and the MakerBot Kit for MODO 801. Its PLA composite filaments will be available in late 2015, the company noted.
"We know there is a lot of hype around 3D printing," noted Jenny Lawton, CEO of MakerBot. "We also know that 3D printing is not plug-and-play. It can be challenging and that is why a major emphasis is on creating a MakerBot 3D Ecosystem that helps make 3D printing easier and more accessible. At CES, we want to ground the hype and showcase how educators, businesses and real users have incorporated MakerBot 3D printing into their daily work and lives."
Private defense contractors are chomping at the bit for their opportunity to explore 3D printing technology, hoping it can revolutionize modern warfare. The ability to use 3D printers in combat would provide a unique opportunity for soldiers to design and print things out while stationed at a forward operating base overseas, for example.
The US military is investing time and financial resources into 3D printing efforts geared towards military apparel, synthetic skin for wounded veterans, and food for soldiers, according to analysts. It goes significantly further than that, however, as companies are pushing the boundaries with tests of 3D printed materials in fighter jets, tanks, and helicopters. BAE Systems tested a 3D-printed metal part that was installed into a Tornado jet fighter in 2014.
"It's long term, but it's certainly our end goal to manufacture an aerial vehicle in its entirety using 3D printing technology," said Matt Stevens, 3D printing division head, in a statement to AFP.
SoftKinetic, a maker of 3D vision technology, is showcasing its new product for augmented reality mobile platforms during CES.
The SoftKinetic DepthSense 3D Time of Flight (ToF) camera - powered by the Qualcomm Vuforia mobile vision platform - makes it possible for users to interact in 3D with devices in various environments. The live demonstration uses depth sensing technology to create a room-sized environment so testers are able to carry out natural AR experiences, such as arranging items in the virtual room - and tinkering with items using AR.
"Augmented Reality and Robotics are such exciting arenas, with more and more technologies coming to market that support truly sophisticated capabilities for users to engage with the world around them in fun and beneficial ways," said Michel Tombroff, CEO of SoftKinetic, in a press statement. Qualcomm's Vuforia is a perfect example of a platform that allows our DepthSense technology to deliver at its fullest capacity, creating the most robust mobile AR experience available to anyone, anywhere."
CES 2015 - Green Project-owned GP3D will show off its $549 Sprout 3D printer during the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show (CES), as the company tries to gain interest via Kickstarter.
Sprout is 11.7" x 8.7" x 15.9" and is designed to be ideal for a compact desktop printing environment - using PLA plastic filament, able to print at 0.18mm resolution. The printer unit will be ready to ship "in a few months," with additional details released during CES.
"Our focus is to make an affordable and high-quality 3D printer for everyone," said Joseph Wu, president of Green Project.
Tech company KOOM VR has announced pre-orders are now being accepted for the company's NOON virtual reality headset, a device being promoted as the first high-quality headset. The unit is compatible with most smartphones and virtual reality apps, and is optimized for the KOOM app, able to utilize your smartphone's sensors, on-screen display and computing power. The NOON VR headset will be available for just $79 - and pre-orders begin on Dec. 1.
The NOON VR has large, wide-angle lenses that offer 95-degree field of view, and head movements can be used to help navigate custom interfaces.
"We have set out to facilitate the creation and sharing of immersive video and making virtual reality content accessible and affordable to more people," said Kwang-Jin Choi, KOOM VR Chief Technology Officer. "Virtual reality can give us a new way of communication experiences, without any abstraction or interpretation. NOON VR and the ability to share content through the KOOM VR app will allow anyone to be completely submerged in a new reality."
Astronaut Barry Wilmore installed the Made in Space 3D printer inside of the Microgravity Science Glovebox (MSG) located on the International Space Station. A commercial printer manufactured by Made in Space will fly to the ISS sometime in 2015.
This is a major milestone for Made in Space - and 3D printing as an industry - as the crew aboard the ISS will test 3D printing in zero gravity, with 3D-printed items in space eventually returned to Earth for comparison testing.
"This is a very exciting day for me and the rest of the team," said Mike Snyder, Made in Space lead engineer. "We had to conquer many technical challenges to get the 3D printer to this stage."
Facebook-owned Oculus VR doesn't plan to release a consumer headset until motion sickness-related issues are resolved, according to company officials. Some users said they suffer from motion sickness while wearing the headset and playing video games or watching movies.
"We're really looking forward to this as an industry that takes off... A number of companies will come in, even companies we haven't heard of yet two or three or five years down the road," said Brendan Iribe, Oculus VR CEO. "At the same time we're a little worried about some of the bigger companies putting out product that isn't quite ready. That elephant in the room is disorientation and motion sickness. We're encouraging other companies, particularly the big consumer companies, to not put out a product until they've solved that problem."
Without naming Sony directly, it would appear Iribe is speaking of the Japanese electronics giant - which unveiled Project Morpheus earlier this year. Virtual reality isn't necessarily a new technology, but only recently became a realistic goal, as hardware and software makers look to the budding market.
3D printers have shown great potential, and will reach 217,350 units shipped in 2015, rising drastically from 108,151 in 2014, according to the Gartner research group. Gartner said the 3D printer industry is currently at an inflection point, and will see a drastic increase in shipments starting in early 2015.
"This trend will accelerate as the market consisting primarily of early adopters who grew up with an open-source approach without lock-ins evolves into a market in which average consumers dominate," said Pete Basiliere, Gartner research vice president, in a press statement. "While the early adopters will rage at the perversion of the 3D printer open-source ethos, the vast majority of mainstream consumers will demand the simple and consistent operation that 'plug and print' can provide them."
The 3D printer market will be led by increased material extrusion, as consumers and companies both begin to adopt an increasing number of products. The overall price tag of new 3D printers are still relatively high, but tech breakthroughs are helping drive the price down.