We’ve been waiting for some time for virtual reality and augmented reality technologies to reach the point where they’re no longer just a clumsy novelty but where they’ll actually be smart, useful, and something you’d want to invest your hard-earned cash in. We always knew it’ll happen and the VR and AR tech showcased at CES 2018 certainly make it clear that we’re finally moving toward that tipping point. We take a look at some of the best virtual reality and augmented reality technologies and trends seen at the biggest tech event on the calendar.

Related: Top tech and gadgets from CES 2018 - so far

HTC’s Vive Pro makes wireless virtual reality a thing

HTC Vive Pro virtual realityIt’s been almost two years since the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift made their official retail debuts. That’s a long time in the technology sector. And, while we’ve certainly come a long way since Nintendo’s Virtual Boy back in the 90s, it’s about time someone got things moving again. Vive is doing just that in the form of the Vive Pro with a Vive wireless adapter which they announced at CES 2018.

The Vive Pro is an upgrade of the original Vive, with the headset sporting a 78% increase in pixel count, coming in at a proper high-res of 2,880 x 1,600. This should definitely result in a less obtrusive “screen door” effect that’s caused by lower-res screens. It also includes built-in headphones with their own dedicated amplifier, dual mics, and the strap has been redesigned to make the headset more comfortable for people with glasses. Vive is even adding an additional front-facing camera to the Vive Pro so that developers can better integrate AR features. Sounds good, right?

HTC Vive Pro virtual realityBut, yup! There’s more! Vive certainly stole the virtual reality show with the new wireless adapter that works over Intel’s 60GHz WiGig standard and is backward compatible with the original Vive, finally making wireless virtual reality experiences possible. No more clunky cables or cords to trip over and fumble through – this is true VR freedom. With untethered VR beyond 360˚, this definitely is one to watch out for.

HTC is yet to announce pricing and a release date for the Vive Pro but has indicated that we could see the wireless adapter released as early as Q3 2018.

Augmented reality lets you learn everything about the moon without blasting off

Astroreality augmented reality to learn about the moonThe best news for augmented reality at CES 2018, is that we’re finally moving on from running around like crazed loonies trying to catch Pokémon. Instead, Astroreality is putting AR to work as a learning tool.

Astroreality has used super detailed topographical data which has been captured and digitized by NASA’s Lunar Orbiter team to create a perfect replica of the moon, recreating every last feature in incredible detail. The surface is 3D-printed allowing you to feel each and every crater and is created using dense polyresin so that it doesn’t feel like you’re holding a kid’s bouncy ball.

It’s the accompanying iOS and Android augmented reality app that really makes this little marvel special though – you’ll be able to explore every little spot on the moon and it includes an endless list of landmarks as well as locations of all the moon landings we’ve made.

You just point your camera at the mini moon and you get to see all the added details and descriptions on your screen. Moving around delights any space, lunar, or astronomy enthusiast by popping up labels, photos, videos, and all sorts of factoids about the moon, in real-time.

Astroreality is spot on when they say that their Lunar augmented reality app, “weaves together an unparalleled way to experience the moon, in your hands, and through your smartphone.” From now on, “every mission to the moon that you make is a unique voyage you control with your smartphone.” Off we go then, into infinity and beyond!

Looxid releases all-in-one mobile VR headset with eye and brain tracking sensors

LooxidVR virtual reality that tracks the eyes and brain activityYes, you read that right. LooxidVR is the first virtual reality headset to provide an interface for both the eyes and the brain.

Two optical tracking sensors and six sensors for tracking brain waves make it possible to provide information about where users have looked and how their brains are activated while immersed in VR. That’s pretty damn cool! This type of analytical research will allow endless numbers of industries interested in virtual reality to effectively capture user reactions and improve and further develop their VR offerings in future.

As users explore a VR environment, the headset tracks both your eye and brain activity. It’ll be able to tell what you’ve paid attention to AND recognize emotions and reactions to what you’re looking at. The fact that brain activity is thrown into the mix surely means we’re facing a new age that’ll make even today’s most impressive web analytics seem prehistoric. Pre-orders open on the 1st of Feb but there’s no detail on pricing just yet.

The Teslasuit takes virtual reality gaming to a whole new level

Teslasuit - a full body virtual reality suit for really immersive VR experiencesGaming is the one space where virtual reality really can provide a super immersive environment and the Teslasuit is taking it to a whole new level. It’s a full-body, haptic environment with 46 haptic points that can provide different feedback to the wearer, including weight simulation, climate control and personalization in the form of an avatar.

The suit also sports TENS (Transcutaneous Electrical Neural, or Nerve, Stimulation) and EMS (Electrical Muscle Stimulation) support as well as 14 motion capture sensors that are able to provide feedback to gaming software. This really means that features that you could previously only access via your controller are now built-in. For those looking for full-body VR immersion, the Teslasuit is one ‘skin’ you’re definitely going to want to be in.

My Special Aflac Duck – augmented reality for kids fighting cancer

My Special Aflac Duck - augmented reality to help kids with cancerEach year, more than 15,000 kids are diagnosed with cancer in the US alone. The average length of treatment is over 3 years. Combining the benefits of learning through play, and the latest technologies, Aflac in partnership with Sproutel, have released the My Special Aflac Duck to both educate and comfort children through their harrowing and daunting treatment regimes. This little duck leaves CES 2018 with the Best of CES 2018 Award for Best Unexpected Product.

The little quacker has 5 touch sensors along its cheek, back, and under its wings. Children can pet and snuggle and the duck will respond to their interactions. Emoji discs can be tapped to the duck’s chest to help kids express how they’re feeling that day and goes a long way to help them feel they’re not alone in the process.

My Special Aflac duck helps comfort children fighting cancer

It includes an IV set for kids to mimic administering chemo meds which helps the kids feel less afraid and also helps them feel like caretakers rather than patients. There’s also a rocket ship that pairs with an app via Bluetooth. The app allows kids to pick a ‘happy place’ and virtually transports them out of their hospital rooms. There may be no games to play on it, no camera or voice assistant, but this is one smart little duck that does the job of comforting children in an unimaginably difficult time.

My Special Aflac duck won’t be availabel commercially – Aflac intends to provide the duck for free to kids who’ve been diagnosed with cancer across the US. Starting with patients at its Atlanta-based cancer treatment center, the goal is to partner with cancer support programs and hospitals to distribute the duck to thousands of families by the end of the year.

 

For more on what’s been happening at CES 2018, have a look at our article outlining some of the tops trends and gadgets to come out of this year’s show.

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