RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK – As CES (formerly the Consumer Electronics Show) unfolds in Las Vegas with the world’s biggest tech party, Lenovo is there with a huge presence as usual – and with new cutting-edge toys. Especially important to the world’s top PC manufacturer is the emerging metaverse virtual world.
Jason McGuigan, the head of Commercial Virtual Reality at Lenovo who has been with Lenovo since 2019, talks with WRAL TechWire’s Sarah Glova about how Lenovo sees the future = and is trying to cash in.
Lenovo’s first public showing of new headset
“I’m most excited about my product that’s coming out this year, ThinkReality VRX. It’s an all-in-one VR headset that we’ve been developing for some time. It’s strictly for the enterprise. And that’s built around the idea of supporting the enterprise metaverse.
“It’s meant to go into the places that are training people at home, that are getting them to collaborate at home, that are getting them to interact with their co-workers from various different spaces. It’s focused on a hybrid workforce, and the enterprise metaverse user story that that we’re seeing come across, day after day after day.
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“It used to be very easy for you to walk into your office have a quick conversation with coworkers, or have that expectation that you’re going to travel for training or get that repeated training through in-person interactions. How do we replace that? How do we all live it? How do we support that? And that’s what we’ve built the ThinkReality VRX around.
“This is going to be our first showing of that device to specific customers and some of our partners, so we’re really excited to be sharing that with them. And that’s another big key area that we look at is, when we bring products into a space like this, it gives us immediate feedback, gives us immediate interaction, we can still impact our ability to shift and flow the products as we’re having these on-the-ground conversations and take that interaction and feedback right back to our teams.”
The product will launch in a few months.
2023 CES theme: Human security
“CES has always been a lot about the newest gadgets for people to experience life with and to have fun with. And now a lot of that conversation is going into how we make people healthier, safer, more protected. That transfers very much into our day-to-day work life, and it’s going right down to the simple fact that we’re gonna have so many people that never go back into an office ever again, that the new ways of working from home and maybe economizing on their space, or they may need to be able to interact with people across the world without having to travel.”
Why is CES so important to Lenovo?
“There’s so many crossover tech areas that can work with immersive technology, that this gives us an opportunity to really see what’s out there, see what’s up and coming and make those strong connections.”
“There’s a lot of that benefit that we look at from, as technology grows, it’s just going to gradually get more and more adopters. And we’re seeing some of that technology come out.”
“Every year when you come to CES, you see the glimmers of what’s to come. And if you spend enough time in the technology industry, you learn to create those connective lines and say, ‘Alright, I can see where that piece there and this piece there is going to create this next foundational technology.’ And sure enough, they evolve and converge with the tech that we currently have.”
“There’s so much good that comes out of, you know, various people getting involved. Of course, it’s a lot of showmanship and a lot of nonsense that goes on at events like this. It’s just too big of an attractor for customers to come in and for people to try and get their big shot of glory. But it definitely is a place that I think really does provoke some interesting conversations and the next inventions that we’ll be seeing coming out in the coming year.“
Why is CES important for your role specifically?
“Being in the immersive technology space, I lead the strategy and charge for everything we do in the VR space, focused mostly on the enterprise and how it’s being utilized for the commercial and enterprise metaverse and all the areas surrounding that. So how businesses use it, how healthcare and education use it.”
What’s Generative AI?
“I’m also very excited to see what’s going to be talked about and shown here from the artificial intelligence space, because there’s such a big push right now around things like the artists-based generative AI like DALL-E or Midjourney, as well as the chat-based stuff like ChatGPT, I think we’re gonna see so much of a convergence happen.”
“Because one of the biggest challenges that we have in the metaverse space is how you build and create content at the scale that we need it to be in order for it to be pervasive.”
“If you could automate that process and you could use artificial intelligence to create that content without actually having to pay designers, artist programmers, things of that nature, you’re going to have a much greater influx on that 3D data, of those things that you want to experience, in a much easier, much faster rate. 2023 is going to be a massive year for that. And I’m excited to see if there’s anybody playing in that space in the early days that we’re seeing right now.”
What’s new and emerging about the metaverse?
“There’s so much conversation going on about it and one of the areas that I focus on specifically is just kind of calling out the noise. There’s so much that could be possible, but there are so many things that are already being done and are already possible.
“It’s separating a little bit that kind of ethereal fiction from what can actually be utilized today.
“It drives directly back to that same story of how you make it easier for people to work and interact from wherever they feel most comfortable. That goes from training through virtual reality, could be remote collaboration spaces.
“There’s a lot of organizations that are looking into this technology and saying, ‘Alright, let’s work with people in the way that they’re more comfortable.’ And that’s how we pull in the whole enterprise metaverse story, is what are people really utilizing the information for? How can we interconnect it with the information that’s already out there? And how can you give it that digital sense on the physical world, where you’re experiencing things that you normally would have to be physically present for, but still getting a large share of that experience by doing it digitally, through virtual reality or through other virtual means?
“So there’s a lot that we’re excited to see in this space.
And the virtual reality play?
“I think we’re gonna see more technology in the space continuously grow. We’re seeing a lot of VR headsets that are being announced, a lot of AR devices that are coming out, they’re becoming smaller, better, faster. And it’s just like any other technology when it starts to grow, the better the technology becomes, the more people begin to adopt it because they see the value. They start to learn the nuances of it. They’re more comfortable with it. You know, simple things, like a VR headset that’s lighter, or easier to put on, or doesn’t mess up your hair. Things that seem like little silly nuances really do become things that people are like, ‘Hey, you know, I’m going to feel more comfortable trying this out because I’m not going to walk around like I’ve got this face mask on for hours.’”