01/25/2017Conference organizer John Werner and Bob Metcalfe on stage On January 17 and 18, the inaugural AR in Action conference was held at MIT Media Labs in Cambridge MA. It brought together a wide range of speakers as well as some heavy-hitters in the technical industry to discuss their thoughts on augmented reality (AR) and how it is going to change our lives in the near future. They included Bob Metcalfe, co-inventor of Ethernet, Alan Kay, a pioneer in object oriented programming and the graphical user interface, and Steve Mann, considered the father of wearable computing. The conference included 32 panel discussions (with 127 panelists), 28 stage demos, 42 floor demos, and 2 stage performances. AR in Action was focused exclusively on the topic of augmented reality. One of the goals of conference organizers is to establish the Boston-area as a hub for AR. With the plethora of colleges and universities, as well as established and start up tech companies, there is certainly no lack of brain power here. The conference drew over 1,000 attendees, not only from around the Boston area, but also from around the globe, including Canada, Europe, and Asia. Today, many people narrowly think of augmented reality as additional visual information projected in front of your face through a heads-up display. But the conference helped to expand my understanding and definition of augmented reality. As discussed and demonstrated throughout the conference, AR can involve all your senses from enhanced vision, touch, speech, hearing, and even smell. In addition, AR is being employed in a wide spectrum of industries, such as consumer products, gaming, enterprise, commercial, industrial, military, firefighting, sports, education, art, and medical. Each of these subjects was touched upon during the sessions. PTC CEO James E. Heppelmann describes AR in Action One current application for AR is in the area of training and remote diagnostics. PTC CEO James E. Heppelmann demonstrated how its ThinkWorx platform and a tablet computer are being used to help repair a blood analyzer machine by following simple animated instructions to diagnose and solve the problem, without having to call a repair technician to the site. The result is a quicker repair, less downtime, more productivity, and cost savings. MIT Professor Pattie Maes discusses many of the projects being worked on by her group at the Media Lab MIT Media Lab Professor Pattie Maes talked about embracing our cyborg selves and highlighted some of the projects that she and her students are working on, including one called Essence which involves affecting mood, sleep, and memory with a scent-based computer controlled interface.