The 5 coolest things at Augmented World Expo 2016

augmented world expo 2016 coolest gadgets bt 300
Christian de Looper / Digital Trends

Augmented World Expo has swelled and transformed over the years, boasting a cool 4,000 attendees in 2016, up from around 3,000 last year. The conference, which ran June 1-2 in Santa Clara, California, is home to great new products rooted in augmented reality — and some even beyond that.

So what were the highlights of AWE2016? Here are some of the coolest things we saw over two days at the conference.

Augmented Reality Glasses

bt-300
Christian de Looper / Digital Trends
Christian de Looper / Digital Trends

Epson showed off its Moverio BT-300 AR headset for the first time in North America. The BT-300 is the company’s smallest and lightest headset to date, but it improves on the BT-200 in a number of ways beyond the design refresh.

One key example: The display has been switched from LED to OLED screen technology, offering more natural looking colors, the company claims, and we assume a greater battery life. The device also runs Android 5.0, so many smartphone apps will be playable on the headset through the device’s controller, assuming those apps work in horizontal mode.

Virtual Reality biking

vr-bike
Christian de Looper / Digital Trends
Christian de Looper / Digital Trends

Virtual Reality is one of 2016’s biggest trends, and the quest to create a sense of immersion is ongoing. Accessories can help you feel as though you’re actually in the virtual world, and stationary bikes that do so are one of the more interesting examples we’ve seen.

VirZoom demoed a number of cool games you can play while you’re on a modified exercise bike. These games are controlled through the speed at which you pedal, the direction in which you lean, and two triggers located on the handlebars. Games include chasing an outlaw on a horse through an Old West town, flying a helicopter, and so on.

Another company, called the Augmented Reality Alliance, is taking bike-riding a little more literally. The company has come up with a game that simply involves riding a bike through a virtual countryside; you steer and ride it as you would a normal bike. While currently you can only ride through the rolling hills, the ARA is also working on a city-based version.

Why not simply take a bike outside and actually ride? Some people like to ride in different locations, and sometimes that’s just not possible — not only does it take time and money to travel, but the weather has to be good, the tires inflated, the helmet located and strapped on. For the average person who simply wants to exercise more, virtual reality based systems may prove more accessible.

Gesture Control

leap-motion
Christian de Looper / Digital Trends
Christian de Looper / Digital Trends

Augmented reality headsets are great, but the tech needed to control them just isn’t there yet. Or is it? A number of companies had new gesture control systems at Augmented World Expo this year, which allow you to control augmented and virtual reality headsets with just your hands.

Perhaps the most interesting of these gesture tech companies was Leap Motion, which has an attachment for the Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive and is working on one for Google Cardboard systems, too. This device detects the motion of your hands so you can interact with games and apps without controllers.

Another company working on gesture control is uSense, which is mainly working on a system for the smartphone — in fact, the system works on a range of smartphones and phone-based VR headsets. The company was even showing off demos with the Samsung Galaxy S5, to prove that it isn’t limited to new phones.

Drones

exo360
Christian de Looper / Digital Trends
Christian de Looper / Digital Trends

Drones weren’t super prominent at AWE2016, but one in particular stood out. Built by a company called Queen B Robotics, it combines drones with virtual reality. How? Thanks to a total of five cameras, the Exo360 drone can capture 360-degree video and stitch it all together. Sure, the drone doesn’t have stellar specs in other regards (it can fly for only 18 minutes), but the fact that it can film 360-degree video is pretty interesting — using it we’ll be able to fly over different places in virtual reality in stunning 4K.

The drone is currently undergoing an Indiegogo campaign, and costs between $1,000 and $1,500. The more expensive Exo360 captures footage in 4K, while a cheaper model steps film quality down to 1080p.

Wearable Tech

myant
Christian de Looper / Digital Trends

In order to truly experience augmented reality, we’re going to need more than just headsets. Also on show at Augmented World Expo were smart textiles and clothing designed to track our health and fitness, and feed that information into an app or service.

Canadian “innovation hub” Myant was prominent at the show; its view is that every piece of clothing should be able to do more than just act as a piece of clothing, whether that be tracking heart rate, or body temperature, or whatever. Perhaps one day information gathered from these smart clothes will be fed to an augmented reality headset, allowing us to see our vitals like Tony Stark in his Iron Man suit.

Emerging Tech

Want to know which drones are flying near you? There’s an app for that

Want to know what that mysterious drone buzzing over your head is up to? A new system developed by AirMap, Google Wing, and Kittyhawk.io could soon tell you -- via a map on your phone.
Gaming

Take a trip to a new virtual world with one of these awesome HTC Vive games

So you’re considering an HTC Vive, but don't know which games to get? Our list of 25 of the best HTC Vive games will help you out, whether you're into rhythm-based gaming, interstellar dogfights, or something else entirely.
Gaming

Immerse yourself in a new universe with these incredible PSVR games

The PSVR has surpassed expectations and along with it comes an incredible catalog of games. There's plenty of amazing experiences to be had so we've put together a list of the best PSVR games available today.
Virtual Reality

Think virtual reality is just for games? These awesome apps will change your mind

Virtual reality isn't all about gaming. Swim with turtles, paint in 3D, and immerse yourself in some unique experiences the platform has to offer with our curated list of the best VR apps.
Deals

Start your fitness journey with the best Fitbit deals available now

If you're ready to kick-start your fitness regimen (or just take your current one to the next level), we've created a quick rundown of the best, most current Fitbit deals to help you decide which one is best for you.
Product Review

Apple brought ECG tracking to consumers. Withings is making it affordable

The Apple Watch Series 4 starts at $400, and the highlight function is the electrocardiogram, which has the potential to save lives. Withings’ new Move ECG has the same capability but at a fraction of the cost.
Deals

Walmart slashes prices on the Fitbit Versa smartwatch and Charge 3

We are officially halfway through January, and for a lot of us, that means the struggle to stick to our New Year's resolutions is in full force. Walmart is offering some great discounts on Fitbits to help you stay on track.
Wearables

How to switch TicHealth to Google Fit on the Mobvoi TicWatch C2 and TicWatch Pro

The Mobvoi TicWatch C2 and TicWatch Pro are both much-loved and feature-packed watches, and they offer excellent fitness tracking. Recently, Mobvoi has switched out Google Fit for TicHealth, but you can switch them back. Here's how.
Android

Mobile World Congress (MWC) 2019: Complete Coverage

There's no bigger show for mobile tech geeks than Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain: where flagship phones are born and intriguing new wearables shine. And this year, where foldable phones and 5G are likely to dominate the news. For…
Wearables

Omron HeartGuide brings blood pressure monitoring to your wrist

High blood pressure leads to heart attacks, strokes, and many other health problems, so it's important to keep an eye on. Omron's HeartGuide is a fitness tracking watch that can also monitor your blood pressure from your wrist.
Deals

REI slashes prices on Suunto, Garmin, and Fitbit Versa smartwatches

Though fitness trackers and smartwatches can get pretty pricey, REI is offering some sweet discounts on top brands. Right now, you can get a new smartwatch from Fitbit, Suunto, and Garmin for up to 35 percent off its normal price.
Wearables

Check out the four cool Swatch watches you can use for mobile payments

Swatch has announced its Swatchpay technology is now available in Switzerland, enabling mobile payments from your Swatch watch. It works in a similar way to Apple Pay and Google Pay. Here's everything about it.
Business

Google is buying mysterious smartwatch tech from The Fossil Group for $40 million

Google is about to step up its smartwatch game. The company has agreed to buy an unnamed smartwatch technology from The Fossil Group for a hefty $40 million. Considering the acquisition, it's clear Google is serious about smartwatches.