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I’m really looking forward to the upcoming 6Sight Conference at the Sainte Claire Hotel in San Jose next week (Nov. 15-17). The conference brings together interested decision makers, to participate in a discussion about the future of imaging and to form partnerships and client relationships to help catalyze the growth of imaging technology.
In fact, I’m so anxious about it that I decided to interview conference organizer Joe Byrd to get a little more insight into what he thinks is hot this year.
Here’s the interview.
SC: Hi Joe and thanks for taking my call right before your conference, must be an exciting time for you?
JB: Yes absolutely, very exciting, and it appears we are going to have a better turnout than we expected. We’ve had a lot of interesting people signing up recently, coming in out of the blue.
SC: Well does that really surprise you? I mean right now, optical engineering seems to be a very hot topic.
JB: Yeah that’s right, We’re seeing visual communications technology becoming extremely important. It kind of took the industry by surprise, the same way that putting a camera on a cell phone did back in ’02 or so. Once it was there, people began to realize that there were all sorts of neat things that you could do with it, and the technology really took off. Now it’s an important part of every mobile device. We’re seeing the same sort of trend happening in vision technology today.
SC: And then of course came the introduction of 3D TV in this last year.
JB: Right, last year we had a number of people from Hollywood in attendance because they knew this 3D technology was going to happen, and now you’re seeing a huge push of 3D technology toward consumers. This year we’ll see some things relative to the Winddows 7 platform from Microsoft, I think that will be very interesting.
This Christmas you’re going to see a lot of 3D TVs being offered, and 3D cameras from the likes of Fujitsu and Sony. And there’s going to be a lot of 3D movies in the theaters and so forth. So I think as people become inundated with that, they’re going to start making informed decisions. I think there’s also going to be a new push in that area, new developments are coming all the time and we may see some of that here.
SC: There’s been a lot of speculation about whether or not 3D technology will be a hit with consumers or not, what’s your take on that?
JB: We will have a presentation on that too from Liz Cutting of The NPD Group to present a new 3D TV study, we’ll have to see what she says about that. I think there’s going to be quite a bit of new innovation in that area this year, and it will continue to grow some more. There may also be some new developments relative to TVs that allow you to see 3D with and without glasses.
SC: 3D movies are certainly big consumer draws right now. I had the pleasure of meeting James Cameron, director of Avatar, The Titanic and many other great films, at the Churchill Club a couple of weeks ago, and was surprised to learn how committed he is to developing 3D camera technology.
JB: We actually tried to get him to our conference last year but he had another engagement overseas and couldn’t attend. But we did get a studio to come and show us the making of a 3D movie. I think we will see a lot more coming out of that group too.
SC: You’re also going to be doing presentations on augmented reality, tell us about that? It’s been my impression that Europe has taken a sizable lead in developing this area?
JB: You’re right, AR is really just starting here. And we are going to have some European companies here at the show, one from Germany, another from Portugal and one from Holland. Yes Europe is definitely leading in this area, for example we are going to have four companies from Sweden in attendance. They’ve been working on bringing imaging technology to the consumer for a long time, particularly in mobile devices.
It is an interesting question because, we have innovations like the Frankencamera, where the concept is that you put a bunch of ugly pieces together and, by getting access to the camera’s computer, you make it do whatever you want. This opens up a whole new way of doing photography.
We have innovations going on in this country as well, for example we have a speaker from Georgia Tech who is leading an AR program for Qualcomm, which is very interested in AR. So we’re going to see some very very interesting stuff from there as well.
SC: I’m of the impression that the term augmented reality is perhaps too big, that it really encompasses at least four distinct technologies that present themselves in very different ways, do you agree?
JB: That’s a good observation but I think it is maybe too early to make that call. It is a good point, though. There is the augmented reality that uses your cell phone or computer camera to read a target and create a 3D device, and another for shopping that allows you to try on a new suit…
SC: And there’s the geolocation-based AR that brings up all kinds of information when you point your camera in a certain direction from a certain spot…
JB: Right, and then of course there will be new developments as far as how you capture that information and what you can do with it when you go home. I think we’re going to see new developments as far as how you track this stuff, what was noted about the pictures you took or when you took it.
SC: There’s an opportunity to go into some very deep technology in this area, as I have blogged on previously.
JB: That’s right, this is a very new area.
SC: You mentioned Microsoft a minute ago, how much of this conference will be dedicated to talking about software and apps?
JB: Well of course AR is all about software, and Microsoft will be sharing some things from Windows 7 which I think will be the first time people will be seeing that.
Generally though, what we’re seeing is that the software is being developed by very large companies like Microsoft or very small shops like those that develop iPhone apps. We don’t have a very big group in the middle. But I think that’s just an indication of how new this area is. Most of the big companies are struggling to figure out what they want to do.
SC: So how about the hardware, the optics and computers, what will we see there?
JB: Well so there is the firmware layer of course and that’s important because, as these devices open up, become more accessible, the software will become more dominant in terms of what new developments emerge.
SC: Are we going to see new standards emerging to cover embedded vision software?
JB: That’s a good question, there is a standards body that used to co-locate with us that went into this area but they won’t be meeting again until June of next year, but that is going to be one of their topics I am sure. I think what we are finding here, as usual, is that the innovation gets ahead of the standards.
The same thing happened in mobile devices, as you know when the cell phone camera first came out there were no standards for how you save a picture and consequently there wasn’t much interoperability between cameras and printing devices. You couldn’t share pictures from one device to another. So that has to happen.
This brings up an interesting observation about why there are more 3D cameras in Europe than in the US.
SC: What’s that?
JB: Well in Europe, they have a free-ranging sort of return policy, basically if you don’t like the camera, you don’t return it. Here, you take it slow, you buy the camera and check it out and if you don’t like it you can return it to Best Buy or Target or whatever. They don’t encourage returns in Europe, so they don’t have that problem. It’s just a different mindset. But by giving people a lot of devices that they don’t want other than to toy around with, they’ve stumbled on some great innovations.
SC: Will you have institutions represented at the conference? Universities, military?
JB: Yes absolutely we will have Stanford and Georgia Tech, MIT. Universities are having a hard time spending money on conferences of course because of the economy but they are very much involved in these developments.
SC: How about from a user perspective? Will universities or the military be a big consumer of new imaging technology?
JB: Yes of course but on the whole, it is more of a consumer play.
SC: Well, thank you Joe, I don’t want to take up any more of your pre-conference time.
JB: Thank you!
The 6Sight Conference is a comprehensive three-day event features keynote speakers, panels, showcase presentations and a tech fair.
Broadly speaking, first-day topics include analyst, vendor and user perspectives on the state of the imaging industry. Day two takes a look at augmented reality, digital cameras, smart phones. Day three features new technology, 3D and video. A complete agenda is available here.
The conference looks to be a highly valuable experience for anyone in imaging technology. I’ll see you there!