Virtual reality, immersive experiences and drones in flight at #CES2016

Two of the most popular show areas at CES 2016 are virtual reality – be that immersive and/or augmented – and drones.

Inevitably, Oculus Rift dominated the VR space – literally, given the size of Oculus’ enormous two-level exhibition stand – and the lure of the most famous VR headset for show attendees was apparent in their willingness to queue for two and a half hours just to be able to try it for themselves.

Oculus Rift: get in line
Oculus Rift: get in line

Of course, Oculus Rift is not the only VR game in town. Other VR projects, such as Google’s Cardboard, are broadening the technology’s reach and making VR accessible to more people. One immediate result of Google’s labs VR project is the appearance of a complementary company such as I Am Cardboard.

I Am Cardboard
I Am Cardboard

I Am Cardboard has taken up Google’s VR baton and is running with it, offering a number of cardboard goggle housings that the user can then place their smartphone inside to create an instant VR headset. While the software implementation side of Cardboad still needs some refinement, there was already keen interest from buyers in I Am Cardboard’s customisation offering, whereby the company will produce the Cardboard handsets with bespoke graphics. Expect to see more of these Cardboard VR handsets in the coming year.

I Am Also Cardboard
I Am Also Cardboard

Other VR and immersive gaming products were on display from companies such as Ximmerse (which showed its X-Hawk stereo camera that attaches to a headset to provide precise positional tracking of gaming peripherals, with 180-degree view, plus hand movement and gesture detection); VRtify (which delighted crowds with its VR music headset which can place headset users right in the heart of the recording or performance space of their favourite bands); Homido (whose €15 smartphone clip-on Mini VR headset “puts the world in your pocket” for “virtual reality everywhere and for everyone” ) and Glyph (whose Avegant “personal theater” VR headset is an intriuging hybrid headphone and video viewer).

Homido Mini: dirt-cheap VR for all
Homido Mini: dirt-cheap VR for all
Glyph Avegant: try before you fly
Glyph Avegant: try before you fly

The Avegant, with its Gorilla Glass screen and million mirrors reflecting per eye, also controls a drone, effectively putting the headset wearer in the cockpit of the drone so they then see the world exactly from the perspective of the drone. Ever wondered what the world looks like from 100 feet up in the air? With the Avegant, you can feel as if you’re actively up there, as opposed to passively watching streaming video footage of the same event.

Given the explosion of interest in the technology over the last year or two, drone companies unsurprisingly have a big presence at CES this year. China’s Wingsland maintained a large stand to demonstrate its wide range of distinctive orange drone models, including the Minivet.

Wingsland Minivet drone
Wingsland Minivet drone

Zerotech, ByRobot, Walkera, ProDrone, Euler, Giroptic and Hexo+ (with its smartphone app-driven “self-flying camera”) also exhibited flying machines of one flavour or another, amongst many other drone companies and supporting technologies.

Hexo+ - born to follow
Hexo+ – born to follow

Naturally, if you’re a drone company at a technology exhibition, you have to provide a safe space in which potential buyers can test-fly your drones. Yuneek riffed on a Wild West theme, with a full Old West stage dressing which inclued the Stampede Drone Corral, featuring 20-feet-tall chicken wire walls in place to rein in the excesses or inpetitude of drone test pilots.

Yuneek's Drone Corral. Yee-haw.
Yuneek’s Drone Corral. Yee-haw.

Surprisingly for Las Vegas, that is real straw in the photo.

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