Juha Saarinen is a tech blogger for nzherald.co.nz.

Gear Friday: IoT and VR at Computex 2016

A smart pillow at Computex 2016. Photo / Juha Saarinen
A smart pillow at Computex 2016. Photo / Juha Saarinen

You might think that electronics fairs like Taiwan's Computex are a thing of the past thanks to cloud computing and mobility, but that'd be incorrect. There's still room in the market for all manners of gadgets, most of which are aimed at the Chinese market.

For, as a friend pointed out, China is so big that it's almost a global market by itself.

This means smaller vendors from Taiwan, China, Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia don't have to bother with the rest of the world as they'll make it big in the Middle Kingdom with its enormous population that loves gadgets of all kinds.

Computex itself saw a deluge of Internet of Things devices. I took pictures of developers who put sensors into baseballs and smart pillows and smart greenhouses and cars, and just about everything imaginable, to collect data for learning, managing and perhaps because they could.

A smart greenhouse at Computex 2016. Photo / Juha Saarinen
A smart greenhouse at Computex 2016. Photo / Juha Saarinen

I'm not sure where IoT will take us, but as I've said in the past, it's certain to be a privacy, security and e-waste nightmare of epic proportions as precious little thought is going into addressing those important issues.

Virtual Reality sounds like an oxymoron, but it is happening with lots of vendors betting on people donning visors and handheld controllers for a bit of fun. Microsoft made lots of HoloLens noise at Computex, combining VR with Augmented Reality (is that VRAR or VAR?), along with Intel, graphics computing vendor Nvidia and many more companies.

Now you'll be insisting on seeing your intrepid correspondent looking silly in VR gear, so here you go:

Juha Saarinen trying out virtual reality.
Juha Saarinen trying out virtual reality.

This is actually the first proper go I've had at VR gear.

To cut to the chase, it's quite fun and yes, there is an element of realism in the games that goes well beyond ye olde 2D on a monitor. At first, it's weird to have game play all round, and not just in front of you. Once you get used to it though, VR's pretty amazing.

I'm playing Nvidia's Fun House demo in the above picture, shooting virtual flaming arrows at targets. Most of the VR stuff involved some form of violence against objects and imaginary people, including a session with Oculus Rift and the new Touch handheld controllers with the Unspoken game. Sadly, I lost that one against ZD Net Australia's Chris Duckett, who disgracefully enough cheated with the help of Nvidia staff.

A smart baseball at Computex 2016. Photo / Juha Saarinen
A smart baseball at Computex 2016. Photo / Juha Saarinen

Even though VR has a most definite wow factor, vendors have struggled to get the gear for the technology right for a long time now, and it's still not quite there.

The visors are clumsy and ugly (yes, you will look like a weirdo, don't wear one in public) and get hot and mess up your hair. There are cables to trip over too as you spin around, flailing at things.

It would be useful to be able to see the real world through the visor while you set things up as well, if only to be able to find the handheld controllers on your own without an assistant.

Some of Intel's hardware partners showed off largish backpack computers that you sling on for VR games, and at stage I'll just have to say no, that's not how VR should be done.

Also, when you're in the game, make sure there's plenty of space around you, with no people nearby, because you're effectively blind to the outside world. Duckett accidentally boxed a person who came too close while he was playing Fun House for instance.

Ultimately, I think a more Blended and less Virtual Reality (no, don't say Google Glass) is the way to go and I'm sure the gear will be more refined sooner rather than later. Then we can do things like hold office shoot-em-ups and pretend Queen Street is full of zombies, all things that humanity has been crying out for.

- NZ Herald

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Juha Saarinen is a tech blogger for nzherald.co.nz.

Juha Saarinen is a technology journalist and writer living in Auckland. Apart from contributing to the New Zealand Herald over the years, he has written for the Guardian, Wired, PC World, Computerworld and ITnews Australia, covering networking, hardware, software, enterprise IT as well as the business and social aspects of computing. A firm believer in the principle that trying stuff out makes you understand things better, he spends way too much time wondering why things just don’t work.

Read more by Juha Saarinen

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