Since Upskill (formerly APX Labs) was founded, we’ve always attended Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, with the last three years exhibiting alongside our partners. MWC is the premier show for all things mobile and telecommunications and is the launching pad for new devices, solutions, and innovation. The show has been a good glimpse into Upskill’s growth, whether Skylight continuing to maintain the industry leading position or working with partners globally to expand our reach. Coming off of food coma caused by the famous late night dinners (and ok, maybe a little cava and Rioja too), here is a blog recapping Upskill’s experiences at MWC16.
Upskill & Intel
Over the last few MWC, Intel has steadily grown its presence. I’m not talking about the sheer footprint growth, but its technology coverage over the different parts of the telecommunications and wireless industries. Intel’s booth this year was partner-centric, with over 80 different demos showcasing anywhere from 5G, the internet of things, big data analytics, and of course, wearables.
The Recon Jet has many features that make it ideal for the hands-on workforce. Between its water resistance and an impact-resistance lens, it is rugged enough to withstand the typical usage in manufacturing, field service, maintenance, and material handling. Its removable battery means users can enjoy a longer untethered operation, although the tradeoff is that the battery swap requires a reboot. The overall device design is also well executed and results in a highly wearable device with swappable lens options.
Upskill and Recon, now an Intel company, used MWC 2016 as the springboard to announce our joint go to market plan, with the combined Jet and Skylight offering becoming available. This offering supports the complete set of features of Skylight R5, including streaming video and voice commands, while providing the industry leading extensibility and connectivity to enterprise back end systems that Skylight is already well known for. Dan Eisenhardt, co-founder of Recon Instruments and now the general manager of Intel’s New Devices Group, wrote up a great blog about the partnership. Over the four days of MWC, our demo kiosk never ran short of visitors, even in the waning hours of Thursday. This level of reception was only comparable to Upskill’s demo at Google I/O 2013, back when smart glasses were just starting to emerge.
Intel has been quietly assembling an impressive portfolio of design wins and technology enablers in the smart glasses and other head worn devices. Their presence in the market drives the momentum of new hardware innovation upon which software developers (like us!) can build compelling solutions. This launch has been a long time coming for Upskill and Recon, and we are excited about Skylight and Jet officially becoming available to enterprise customers and our developers. There is a lot more to be excited about, though – what this partnership will yield in the future as Recon, now as a part of Intel, pushes the market forward with increasingly more capable smart glasses devices, enabling Upskill to build even more capable and user friendly Skylight.
Walking the Floors
Epson used this year’s MWC, their first in some time as an exhibitor, to unveil the successor to the BT-200. Getting my hands on the working samples for the first time, I could finally see why Epson was so excited about switching from LCD to OLED microdisplays to power the BT-300. The dual 720p displays were crisp, bright, and showed true transparency for the pixels that are off – no more of the faint gray backlight bleed. Amongst commercially available products, their light engine and optics represent the best in terms of resolution and clarity that I had seen to date. It was great to see that Epson had not let up their product development and addressed many of the frustrations we as Moverio developers had seen, particularly in the control box, system OS, and camera.
My only quip is that the devices are not slated to be available until sometime very late this year, which has me playing the waiting game once again. Much like the original BT-100 was the springboard for Upskill’s movement into the early enterprise market, I’m eager to find out what the production BT-300 devices will mean for Upskill, some five years later.
Vuzix also had a booth around the corner from Epson. Coming off of the Upskill-Vuzix future proof announcement around the M300 at CES, it was great to see them follow up a month later with an early working sample of the M300. What’s impressive about the M300 is the industry-leading flexible mounting options, capable of above-eye, below-eye, left, right, prescription, safety eyewear, and hard hat configurations. It just about covers every mounting capabilities commonly found in industrial environments and has non-display hardware specs that are best in class today (of course, it has Intel inside).
I was impressed by what I could see of the working sample. The display module pivots in all three axes to position the display right in the wearer’s sweet spot, and the higher resolution compared to the M100 sharpens the edges of the text and makes the on-display information easier to grasp with a quick glance. The two mounts I tried – the standard lens-less frame and the helmet mount option – were significantly more stable and comfortable relative to the M100. I imagine the reduced weight and the updated industrial design were big factors here.
Slated to ship this summer (look for it at AWE), the Vuzix M300 is a long-awaited update to the M100, poised to drive scale implementations of Skylight.
Virtual reality was front and center at the show and those demos had by far the longest lines. The three major headsets shipping either now or soon – Oculus, Gear VR, and HTC Vive – were everywhere. Running in between meetings, I couldn’t find the time to spend the hour-plus waiting to get a demo. Samsung in particular had gone all out on it this year, going so far as to set up the Galaxy and Gear VR experience theater right in Plaça Catalunya, right at the center of the city.
The last two years prior to MWC16, SK Telecom served as the host to Upskill. At the Intel booth this year, it was as if we’d never left SK Telecom’s booth, as Intel and SK Telecom were showcasing their joint 5G cellular solutions, taking up at least a dozen kiosks. Coming to major industry conferences like this always makes me appreciate that we work with some of the largest technology companies in the world.
The emergence of China over the last couple of years has been impressive to see. Huawei, ZTE, and Lenovo have all moved into hall 3 – considered the heart of the show – and are prominently showcasing products that are quickly closing in on those from tier 1 device manufacturers. Whereas it was the Korean manufacturers and operators that showcased some of the most impressive products, demos, and booth layouts the previous 3 to 4 MWCs I’ve attended, China is on the verge of taking over the spotlight. I can’t wait to see what MWC17 will bring.