Fein-Lines: XR—the Future is Near

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.

If you remember, one of the first hardware devices, Google Glass, was introduced about 10 years ago. It was somewhat limited in what it offered and wasn’t very successful. However, it still got some attention and introduced the initial virtual reality (VR)/augmented reality (AR) hardware to the public.

Google Glass was followed by rapid advances, including full 3-D headsets and immersive sound. VR use was introduced to a variety of professional fields, including medicine, business, technical services, military simulations, and training—basically where lifelike simulations would be of use or of interest.

While so many of us were forced to stay at home during the pandemic, we had to find more immersive ways to communicate and collaborate in the digital world. In the meantime, developers were advancing technology and processes that made our homestays more productive. Government, business, medical, entertainment, and other types of communication allowed for full remote access across the globe. We learned what was possible with XR, so much so that many of us plan to incorporate it into our lives.

Connecting Through AWE
That’s what makes the upcoming Augmented World Expo (AWE) in Santa Clara, California, so exciting. The conference is scheduled from June 1–3, and features XR professionals—end-users and solution providers; investors and startups; creators, developers, and brands; job seekers and recruiters. I’ll be covering the event, which I hear will focus on spatial computing. This includes augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), mixed reality (MR), and extended reality (XR), as well as showing new enabling technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), bio-interfaces (such as haptics), streaming, and more.

DanF_May_Fig1.jpgInterestingly, I-Connect007 began covering virtual reality during the CES shows in the early years, and we were invited to attend AWE. When it started 10 years ago, it attracted just a few hundred attendees and a handful of interesting exhibits and presentations. This year, I expect to see thousands of attendees and hundreds of exhibitors. With the rapidly increasing rate of advancements in technology and the ever-broadening XR universe, it’s going to be awe-inspiring. (By the way, AWE started lumping all the “reality” categories into one, calling it XR.)

With the XR revolution already underway, it’s easy to envision a future in which the lines between the real world and the virtual world become even more blurred than they are today. New advanced computing, headsets, and haptics will ensure this happens.

Impact on Fab and Assembly
So, what does the true start of the XR (meta) universe mean for electronics fab and assembly? The obvious areas are designing and building lighter, smaller, and more comfortable headsets; there’s even the introduction and use of e-contact lenses.

feinberg_metaverse_hero.jpg
Figure 2: Companies such as Facebook are now jumping into the metaverse.

I’m noticing a trend toward more wireless, cable-free connections between devices that are needed to bring as many human senses as possible into the XR universe. For example, think about the very first XR, which was black-and-white silent movies. They were low resolution images projected on a screen, but still amazing to experience. For the past 50 years, we have continuously been introduced to new and better images—full color, improving resolution, sight, and sound. Now we are seeing that develop into true 3-D personal visions and two-way communication. We also have touch and control of virtual objects using haptics, which is the science of feeling through touch: manipulating and controlling by using your hands. It’s funny, but even keyboards and mice are considered primitive haptics.

There is a major difference between perceiving objects through haptics and the other four primary senses. Proprioception, for example, includes the sense of movement and position of our muscles in our arms and legs. It enables a person to touch their finger to their ears, nose, and belly button accurately—even with their eyes closed. They can walk and climb without looking at each step. People with poor proprioception abilities may be clumsy and uncoordinated. The other senses (hearing, smelling, tasting, and seeing) can only sense objects, while touch can feel and manipulate.

The way XR incorporates these senses, such as taste and smell, is remarkable and I see that we’re headed for a full XR world with very little perceived difference between real and virtual.

What does this look like beyond gaming? In the medical field, a top surgeon can effectively practice and successfully perform a surgery halfway around the world. When it comes to military or other training, you can learn how to operate and/or repair an unlimited list of devices. For entertainment, there’s sports, concerts, and shopping. For example, log in, put on your XR headset or glasses, look at new furniture, then virtually pace it in your living room. XR lets you confront your fears by experiencing something virtually, so the possibilities are “virtually” limitless.

What Do You Want to Try?
One of the biggest issues facing mainstream adoption of VR headsets has been their form factor. Anyone familiar with this type of tech has the image of a bulky binocular, somewhat uncomfortable headset. So, keep in mind that XR headsets have become much smaller and more comfortable. They incorporate greatly improved optics and audio, are mostly wireless, and are much more affordable.

If you are considering moving into the future of computing/entertainment, here are some new and upcoming examples of hardware.

One of the highest-rated and perhaps best-value VR headsets right now is the Oculus Quest 2. It has an excellent high-resolution display with 50% more pixels than the Quest 1. It includes redesigned touch controllers and is capable of full 360-degree sound, making it fantastic for virtual concerts. It’s easy to set up, but you must have a Facebook account to use it. Meta says it will release four new headsets over the next two years.

Another excellent choice is the HTC Vive Cosmos Elate. This is an excellent device with very high-quality graphics. It’s loaded with features and widely compatible. Biggest negative: It’s not cheap.

Mojo Vision announced this month that is has created a prototype of its Mojo Lens augmented reality contact lens.

DanF_May_Fig3.jpg

The company believes this smart contact lens will bring “invisible computing” to life. At the heart of Mojo Lens is its new 14,000 pixels-per-inch micro-LED display. Measuring less than 0.5 mm in diameter with a pixel-pitch of 1.8 microns, it is the world’s smallest and densest display ever created for dynamic content. To me, it looks like a wireless e-contact lens.

The Mojo Lens started production in 2017 as a single LED product, but now the display contains a wealth of features, including a hi-res micro-LED display, fast wireless data, battery power, eye-tracking, and eye-controlled user experience (UX). Currently, the Mojo Lens remains in the prototype stage, but it is a good example of what’s coming our way.

Addressing the Challenges
One of the core enabling technologies driving XR (among others) is 5G, with 6G on the horizon. As XR experiences become more demanding, they will require more computing and processing power. This stresses the hardware devices as there is a limit to how much a device can handle. This limit is ultimately determined by the physical size of the device components.

As XR experiences increase in complexity, they become more demanding of a device’s resources. As demand of hardware increases, so does the capability of the GPU, which will then also require a larger battery, more on-device memory, as well as better cooling. These challenges as well as others are being addressed by new design and manufacturing processes (such as 3-D printing) and I expect will be solved. VR is certainly an area that will have a significant effect on many areas of life in the coming decade.

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

 

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2022

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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