Fein-Lines: Virtual Reality is About to Get a Lot More Real—and Fun

While two very interesting technology shows in the past month each had their own focus, I came away from both with the feeling that not only will these industries collide, but we are on the precipice of an explosion in extended reality.

Additionally, these shows were just a preview of what we can expect from CES 2023 as developers from around the world demonstrate the next generation of technology. Here are my key takeaways, what’s coming next, and suggestions to see the “reality” for yourselves.

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Figure 1: The Tilt Five holographic gaming system won an Auggie in the category of "Best Game/Toy."

The show: AWE (Augmented World Expo), June 1-3, Santa Clara, California

Some background: I frequently hear that augmented reality (AR) devices are making a comeback; no longer on the back of the stage, they are now front and center. While extended reality (XR) devices aren’t exactly replacing smartphones any time soon, phones will soon start to include XR, as the glasses, haptics, and headsets necessary to use XR are now much more common. Hardware development and software advances seem to be moving in a parallel motion at an increasing rate.

Remember that at the turn of this century you used your computer mostly for running various programs, such as Word, Excel, or games. Maybe you started venturing onto the internet. But when lightweight, portable, easy-to-use smartphones arrived (and replaced those bricks we used to carry or mount in our cars), we all started using them to communicate as well as address the web. Then tablets arrived to show us we could have a mid-size, portable option between a desktop and a phone. Developers began creating multiple versions of websites to optimize the different sizes, thus responsive web design was introduced. Now we must deal with the same issues when we start to introduce XR to portable phone-like devices.

The questions: How will we connect in social XR environments? How will you use XR on a Teams or Zoom meeting with either your computer or your smartphone? Will it be possible to share virtual objects, take part in virtual concerts, sporting events, or even have a virtually-enhanced call with friends or loved ones? Will we be able to interact with others using desktops, tablets, AR glasses, and VR headsets simultaneously?

What I learned: Today the use of XR is where smartphones and the internet were 20 years ago, but this time we have a path to follow, so I expect things to move more rapidly.

Take a look at just a few of the more impressive new devices that could include XR in everyday life. The key is that the headset device needs to be comfortable and completely portable. When talking about an XR headset, we expect far more than stereo sound; we expect high resolution 3D video, perhaps even eye tracking. When I tried the first virtual reality headsets a few years ago, I was amazed. However, it didn’t take long to realize the headset was heavy, and I was wired to a computer, so I was limited in where I could go with it. Screen resolution wasn’t great either. Now, those limitations have been eliminated or greatly reduced.

See for yourself: The headset in Figure 1 by Tilt Five (tiltfive.com) is my choice for the best advance in XR hardware so far this year. Watch a video that demonstrates what you can expect from this headset. But we’ll see what happens at CES, as I’m sure more advanced XR headsets are on the way.

Bonus: It’s not just “what you see is what you get,” but it’s also what you can “move,” as I’m seeing significant advancements in hand tracking. Until now, we have been using manual devices like touchscreens and a mouse as good examples. Hand tracking in VR allows you to interact without needing VR controllers. Sensors capture data on the position, orientation, and velocity of your hands. Hand tracking software then uses this data to create a real-time virtual embodiment of them. As you move your hands, you are then “moving” things in the virtual world, all without touching a physical object. In the XR world, you will see be able to use virtual hands. 

These virtual hands are integrated into XR applications, allowing you to see and use your virtual hands in a seemingly natural way. The trick is that while the end-user experience of hand tracking in VR feels natural, it’s actually relying on quite sophisticated technology.


The show: NAMM (National Association of Music Merchants), June 3-5, Anaheim, California.

Some background: The NAMM show typically focuses on musical instruments—everything from classic violins to the latest electric guitars. For the past half-century, electronics has played an increasingly important role in today’s music. We have gone from basic vacuum tube amplifiers to high-power lightweight, solid-state amps; and from vinyl recordings to mega high-quality music files on a memory stick or SSD.

Side note: I know that many still prefer vacuum tubes and vinyl, but each technology has its advantages and disadvantages. 

The questions: Will synthesized sounds continue to gain traction through the use of technology? How far will it go? How will today’s technology regarding music connect with the advancements in XR technology?

feinberg_orba.jpgWhat I learned: While most music is still made using standard musical instruments played by real musicians, there are many significant enhancements. Modern delivery modes are very dependent on technology. Therefore, music—as well as many other areas of art, construction, medicine, sports and just about anything—is now greatly enhanced using modern technology. When you visit a major tech-focused event, it is obvious how much modern science and technology drive advances and capability in what we all now hear, see, and use every day. Technological advances in one segment of our lives can eventually affect every area of our lives, and at an ever-increasing speed.

See for yourself: A new device by Artiphon called the Orba puts most of the capabilities of today’s synthesizers and electronic music-making devices into one small, amazingly capable device. You can find YouTube videos that show just what it can do.

Another bridge between the latest technologies is a unique and powerful synthesizer called the MotorSynth MKII. This device is built with eight actual motors which spin to create sine, saw, square, and M waveforms—with infinite results. Two separate motor voices with four oscillators each can be operated in mono, unison, or a four-note polyphonic mode. And there’s a digital third voice you can use independently or to modify the raw sound of the other motor voices. Again, you can find YouTube videos to see what I mean.

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Figure 3: MotorSynth MKII.

Here's my point: XR usage is growing, and capabilities are advancing rapidly. Much of what we will see over the next year will be driven by the amazing and growing metaverse. As we look forward to CES 2023, I’m sure XR will play a major role, but I also look forward to seeing advancements in TVs, audio equipment, smartphones, smart watches, flying cars, computer gear, and drones. And yes, I know we’ll get a taste of what’s new in the music industry too.

Dan Feinberg is an I-Connect007 technical editor and founder of Fein-Line Associates. 

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2022

Fein-Lines: Virtual Reality is About to Get a Lot More Real—and Fun

06-23-2022

While two very interesting technology shows in the past month each had their own focus, I came away from both with the feeling that not only will these industries collide, but we are on the precipice of an explosion in extended reality. Additionally, these shows were just a preview of what we can expect from CES 2023 as developers from around the world demonstrate the next generation of technology. Here are my key takeaways, what’s coming next, and suggestions to see the “reality” for yourselves.

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Fein-Lines: XR—the Future is Near

05-18-2022

When virtual reality first appeared on PCs, it was mostly used to create special effects for gaming. There has been huge progress since. What wasn’t clear, though, was how fast the overall technology would evolve and how extended reality would unfold its full potential in both entertainment and business. The upcoming AWE show seeks to highlight the latest in technology. What are you most looking forward to?

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Fein-Lines: Is Windows 11 the Greatest Operating System of All Time?

04-13-2022

I held off updating Windows 11 for several months, but finally took the plunge and it has quickly become my favorite operating system of all time. I know that’s a bold statement but let me tell you why I’ve come to this conclusion. Windows 11 was first released to the general user base in October 2021. Since then, there have been 12 previews, updates, and changes. Initially it was only available to the newest computers but is now available on most newer devices. Don’t feel pressured, however, as Windows 10 is still available and will continue to get necessary updates for the next few years.

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Fein-Lines: Time to Upgrade to Windows 11?

03-21-2022

My friends, family, and clients have asked me, “Should I upgrade to Windows 11? Is now a good time?” If you’re like most PCB designers, you are using Windows 10 for everything you do. It’s true that Windows continues to be the dominant operating global system, with all versions of Windows comprising slightly over 70% of the global market share for desktops and laptops of all types and brands. For mobile phones, however, Android dominates.

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Fein-Lines: Here’s How Technology Will Play Out in 2022

02-21-2022

Welcome to 2022, the start of the first year of a new normal where we go back to our pre-pandemic ways but with higher prices, more advanced technology, more acceptance of online meetings and communication, and some initial movement to XR in everyday life. Anyone who follows my column knows I have my favorite topics. So, with that in mind, here’s what I see coming.

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2021

Fein-Lines: Who Will Maintain Control of Global Chip Manufacturing?

12-02-2021

Will the U.S. gain back significant share of global chip manufacturing or continue to decline and become less relevant in this critical area? Back in 1990, the U.S. dominated the world in its use of chips, with about 40% of the total global production made in the United States. That number was down from its peak, but it was still significant. Much has changed in 30 years. Today the U.S. supplies approximately 12% of the global chip market, even though U.S.-based companies use a much higher percentage of the chips.

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Fein-Lines: End-User Technology Show Season Ramps Up

11-04-2021

There are several technology trade shows on the horizon, including IPC APEX EXPO, AltiumLive, NEPCON Japan, and SEMICON West. There are many others, but the ones coming up primarily focus on end-user technology rather than the design, components, and manufacturing processes used to make the end product. Two of these end-product shows have been of great interest to me, and to many of our readers, for decades: the Consumer Electronics Show 2022 (CES), January 5-8 and Augmented World Expo (AWE), November 9-11.

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Fein-Lines: New Product Review—What's in Your Wallet?

10-13-2021

With the trade show season looming and with AWE right around the corner followed by CES and then IPC APEX/EXPO just a few months out, we are starting to see announcements regarding new and updated devices.

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Fein-Lines: PCEA Presentation—Latest PCB Fab Processes

09-16-2021

As someone who started his career as a PCB fab process engineer in the early '60s I find it interesting that many of the processes for PCB interconnects are still in use today. Yes, we had eyelets then, but, hey, we did start using plated through-holes too.

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2018

Fein-Lines: Who is Your Customer?

03-13-2018

Who is your customer? The answer depends on your goal and whether you’re talking about the short term or the long term. Are you in sales or marketing and therefore looking to sell or assist in selling your company’s products? If so, then you might say that your customer is XYZ Circuits or ABC Assembly or even Ace Distribution. But are they really your key customer?

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2017

Fein-Lines: So Much Virtual Reality, So Little Time

12-11-2017

It is hard to believe that the holiday season is upon us and that means that it is almost CES time again. CES marks so many new announcements as well as the unveiling of advances for technology that is truly gaining ground, such as autonomous vehicles, drones and augmented/mixed/virtual reality or, in some cases just the opposite, flash-in-the-pan trends such as 3D TV are also evident by their sudde

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Fein-Lines: Virus, Phishing, Ransomware…Oh My!

05-25-2017

Malware, the collective name for viruses, Trojan horses and other malicious software that can infect your computer, has been in the news lately, probably more than at any time I can remember. Over the years, malware has evolved; it can affect smartphones and tablets as well as all computers.

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2016

CES: Day One

01-05-2016

CES Unveiled is the official media event for CES. It is the first official happening of what promises to be a very busy and fascinating week. At this event, members of the press get to preview a number of innovative startups as well as some new products from a few established global brands.

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2014

Fein-Lines: Computer Security Tips

11-17-2014

Many scams are perpetrated on unknowing computer users. They come in all flavors and no one--no matter what type of computer you use--is immune. This month, Columnist Dan Feinberg focuses on the "I am from Windows and I'm calling to fix your computer" scam.

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2012

Fein-Lines: Dealing with Problamatic Links in E-Mail

09-11-2012

For the last several months Dan Feinberg has had a number of students, friends, and clients ask for help with e-mail links that do not take them to the desired website. This webcast describes what he thinks may be the issue, and also provides a fix that has worked for him 100% of the time.

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2010

Fein-Lines: 32-Bit Versus 64-Bit--What's the Difference?

06-09-2010

One question Dan Feinberg often gets during his seminars is: "What is the difference between a 32-bit and a 64-bit operating system and why should I use either?" In this issue of Fein-Lines, he explains the difference and what choice you should make--and why--along with things to consider when making your choice.

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2008

Fein-Lines: Copper Dissolution Interview, Part I

06-18-2008

Dan Feinberg begins a series of interviews, with Michael Carano, Global Business Development Manager of Cleveland, Ohio-based OMG Electronic Chemicals, tackling the topic of copper dissolution with lead-free solder--an issue that is certainly not new to the industry.

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Fein-Lines: Friends and Business Do Mix

05-08-2008

Senta Wong, of WKK Trading Company Ltd., is a man considered to be one of the fathers of the PWB and electronics assembly industry in Hong Kong and China. Dan, who's known Senta since the mid 1970s, discusses how Senta successfully mixes business and friendships--a fact evidenced by his most recent gathering of close friends and associates at APEX in Las Vegas.

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Fein-Lines: Me Too

04-24-2008

In Dan Feinberg's latest audio column, he joins others in our industry in giving his opinions on the recent IPC Printed Circuits Expo, APEX and the Designers Summit 2008 and Nepcon China. Dan also fesses up about Los Angeles and vents about the growing number of regional shows--are there just too many?

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2007

New Column: Dan Feinberg

10-24-2007

Listen to Dan Feinberg's newest audio column.

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Fein-lines: An Interview with IPC President Denny McGuirk

10-10-2007

I-Connect007 Columnist Dan Feinberg and Steve Gold speak with IPC President Denny McGuirk. Their conversation addresses changes in the focus of IPC's Government Relations committee, as well as the effect of globalization on IPC's mission.

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