CES: Ario and All the Goliaths

Our thoughts on the industrial workforce, tech, SaaS, augmented reality and startup culture.

To kick off 2020, the Ario team attended CES in Las Vegas. This opportunity was the second time Ario exhibited in Eureka Park, the startup arena where companies across the globe showcase innovative tech products. Splashy booths were packed in the Sands Expo’s largest exhibition hall and enthusiastic attendees stood shoulder to shoulder migrating through aisles. Gazing around the floor, our creative director remarked, “This is what I’d consider the modern World’s Fair,” and as we shielded our eyes against the glitz and glam of new tech on display, the rest of us at Ario agreed.

In Europe, World’s Fairs popped up in the mid-1800s where international vendors showcased manufactured products. The exhibitions naturally gravitated towards innovations in technology where ostentatious displays of engineering and scientific feats reigned. Think Eiffel Tower at the 1889 World’s Fair during the Industrial Revolution and Jetpacks at the 1964 World’s Fair during the Space Race. To triumph over competition, makers resorted to the flashy to garner public attention and establish a lead in technological invention. Does flashy equate to sales? The Eiffel Tower remains a tourist attraction and Jetpacks remain in Sci-Fi fantasy. 

Image of the Paris World Fair w/ Eiffel Tower. (From Huff Post)

Flashy typically comes with a price tag and impracticality which means those products don’t often find their way into consumers’ homes and businesses. Flashy does however inspire copycats. There are more than a dozen Eiffel Tower replicas in the world, one of which stands in Las Vegas, home of CES, the world’s largest annual trade show.

 Joseph Pine, author of The Experience Economy and management advisor to both Fortune 500 companies and start-ups, coined Vegas as the “Experience Capital of the World.” An apropos location for CES considering new technology’s heavy focus on the experience (virtual reality, augmented reality, artificial intelligence and robotics). Inside CES 2020, one could find the expected autonomous vehicles and the unexpected artificial humans, CGI avatars developed not to replace humans but to add a “complementary species.” And lets not forget the bizarre such as the robotic headless kittens for cat lovers with feline allergies. Outside of CES on the Vegas strip, the outrageous exploded into digital billboards with high-resolution, animation and LED lighting on every architectural surface that brought you oversized images of Boyz II Men and Guy Fieri and Diana Ross--digital invitations to draw the consumer into the experience just on the other side of the door.

We are not here to dazzle you, we are here to solve your problems. Have you ever worked with glitter? Glitter catches the eye, but it’s a nuisance to work with. It is impossible to clean up the infinite pieces, it never stays exactly where placed, and it will overnight turn from trendy to tacky. At Ario, we will never work with glitter and will always place an emphasis on function then form.

So how did Ario compare in Vegas at CES with its fresh, clean and simple AR (Augmented Reality) platform to provoke industry change? Just as underdogs intend. Startups lean on the word underdog to give their brand an edge and place themselves in the running against competitive giants, but at Ario, we are self-aware that as underdogs we actually pose a greater threat to giants and the industry status quo because our platform empowers the workforce. Paper-based systems are methods of the past, and we provide a means to digitize procedures, manuals, training, and more. At CES, we aimed to show manufacturers and energy companies of all sizes how we can help them harness that power with our “tool.”

Members of Ario prep our CES exhibit: Raj, Chris, Jacob, Brett & Michelle (left to right)

“Giants are not what they think they are. The same qualities that appear to give them strength are often the sources of great weakness.”--Malcolm Gladwell, David & Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants. In the legend of David and Goliath, Goliath was a heavy infantry man afflicted with acromegaly (giantism), and his outfit was flashly to say the least. His armor weighed more than 300 pounds, and he had three massive weapons all meant for close combat: javelin, sword, and short-range spear. David, on the other hand, carried a hunter’s weapon, the sling. Gladwell goes on to explain in his book that although the sling is modest and small, the stone slung out of the contraption has the stopping power of a .45 caliber pistol. What’s Gladwell’s point? Startups, underdogs, and Davids have the advantage. Speed, adaptability, agility, perspective that comes with distance, and a single, critical, high-functioning tool can unravel industry Goliaths cushioned by strength, resources, and scale.

The objective in Vegas was to show manufacturers and energy companies competing against or amongst industry Goliaths that we offer a critical and high-functioning tool, the Ario platform, that disrupts then reorganizes current industry practices to achieve higher knowledge retention, to reduce human error, and to boost confidence within the workforce. We lean on the “experience economy” by using augmented reality to place power in the hands of the user. We wield our underdog status to skip through obstacles large-scale companies can’t cross because of red-tape and sluggish momentum. And finally, we differ from the current movement emphasizing form over function by relying on function, function, then form. 

Raj presents the Ario platform to corporate visitors

We are not here to dazzle you, we are here to solve your problems. Have you ever worked with glitter? Glitter catches the eye, but it’s a nuisance to work with. It is impossible to clean up the infinite pieces, it never stays exactly where placed, and it will overnight turn from trendy to tacky. At Ario, we will never work with glitter and will always place an emphasis on function then form.

Ario Does Reviews

A few AR/VR tech product reviews from Ario team members who braved the maze of CES and returned unscathed.

Jacob Galito // Ario Creative Director

Sony Innovation Studios & Virtual Film Set

“Sony’s virtual film set really excited me because it could inspire new generations of young people to create movies, television series, or experiences on streaming services by cutting post-production costs, eliminating set-design barriers, and providing an alternative to expensive, on-location shooting. What Sony was actually showcasing at CES was their Sony 220 inch 4k crystal LED TV. While they filmed a prop (Ghostbusters ECTO-1) on a set, they used Atom View technology to fill in the landscape around the ECTO-1 and display the effect on the LED TV. Basically, what Atom View does is take the perspective of an already scanned 3D environment as it follows a camera moving around a set, calculating the camera’s local position in real life in relation to the 3D rendered environment.

Sony virtual production stage at CES 2020

"Atom View creates this seamless experience as if you’re actually filming on location. Actors and props would interact on an empty set that looks like a black box so you wouldn’t have to design and build physical sets, spend budgets on traveling to film on-location, or resort to using green screens and superimposing an environment around actors. Imagine all the movies existing in fantastical landscapes that could never make it to production because of massive costs...they could be developed now. Think about the doors that open for smaller studios and crews who could now make movies that were once far out of their budget. It’s a game changer.”

Raj Sathianarayanan // Ario Senior iOS Developer

WHYHOW Technology &  QuicMo

“So WHYHOW technology was showcasing their product QuicMo, a device that broadcasts encoded light at a high-level of precision to communicate information. At CES, they were playing this video of a woman “checking-in” at a street full of shops by opening up an app and pointing her phone at a device to begin her experience. As she moved her phone around her environment, information about each of the shops (name, category, deals, etc.) would pop up. Information was available down the entire length of the street--the demo was fairly accurate up to 500 feet. What’s practical about QuicMo is that you don’t need any special device on the user side. You just open up the app on your phone which reads light through your camera, and you instantly are able to get data, decode it, and add AR objects. It even worked at night with minimal light. Thinking bigger picture, this technology doesn’t have to be used just for AR purposes, but it’s precise positioning capabilities can be used for robots like your Roomba vacuum cleaner. Put one of these devices on your wall, and your Roomba can check in and navigate around furniture with more accuracy. All said, until we’ve really mapped out everything in the real world on the AR cloud, it’s really hard to be super precise, so having a device like QuicMo with a 500 foot range can really help place AR objects and maintain location more accurately. For now…”

Chris Jennings // Ario Art Director

Nreal Light mixed reality glasses & competing AR glasses

“I walked around all of CES, went to every exhibit I could, and tried on all of the AR glasses, even the ones that I could tell weren’t up to snuff. When I put on the Nreal glasses in a private demo, I was blown away. The tracking, the visual quality, the light contrast, and the field of view were far better than any AR glasses I’d seen before. There were a couple copycat companies that were mimicking the same design and style of Nreal like Pacific Future’s am glasses. Their tracking was decent and the visual quality was okay. Pacific Future’s am glasses were connected to a bow and arrow game where users shot an AR object (fruit) flying through the air which was entertaining. A lot of other headsets had a very limited field of view with information set at the bottom of the lens which made them feel like bifocals. These headsets forced you to constantly look up and down to get the image where it should be, whereas with Nreal, you looked right at the image. In Eureka Park, there was a headset, the ANTVR Crossfire prototype, that supposedly had a 146 field of view and 4k per eye. Unfortunately, it was heating up around my eyes and at the sides of my head. There was no clear focus making the experience dizzy. The opacity between white and black values were muddy. And, I couldn’t take in the 146 field of view because I was so disoriented by the quality of the picture. So, at CES, the Nreal glasses were definitely the highlight in terms of AR wearables, but considering the short amount of time it took for them to develop the product, it makes me feel like Apple and Google are already ahead and haven’t said anything yet. I’m assuming they are waiting to announce their product until they have built all of the ecosystem around it and developed the tools to create with it. Maybe Apple will drop something really good in about two years but who knows.”

Company Retreating

While Ario spent half the week navigating the pedestrian and tech slush of CES, the team spent the remainder of the week company retreating in a modest, functional AirBnB that once belonged to Ghost Rider. For privacy’s sake, we won’t mention the movie star’s actual name, but his aliases are Benjamin Franklin Gates, H.I. McDunnough and Family Man. Yes, we are joking…the home was neither modest nor functional. In keeping with the motif of CES and Vegas in general, the AirBnb touted form over function which provided unique challenges during team building exercises.

Team retreat house // CES 2020

Said team building exercises included operating the remote controlled dishwasher, locating switches for respective lights and lamps, and identifying which incognito buttons performed which operations such as garbage disposal, flood light, garage door, front gate, all of the oven and unknown. Charms of the house included door knobs in opposite places, showers with no curtains, chandeliers that hung far too low, metallic pillows that shed sequins, and a missing 15 ball on the billiard table that was replaced with a cue ball scribbled with Sharpie. Creature comforts of the house included spontaneous central heating and air conditioning, omitted overhead lighting, mirrors across from toilets, an outdoor pool with frostbite, and couches perhaps fabricated from a stone quarry. This is not an AirBnB review, but simply a testament to the perseverance and ingenuity of the Ario team when faced with interior design confrontations. 

2019 Ario review on retreat // CES 2020
The team quickly spread out and kept things moving while on retreat
Two software developers and a product manager problem solving

A week in close quarters created the ambience of camp and provided an opportunity for coworkers to get to know one another quickly and intimately. Not only did we discuss the five love languages during a company dinner, we realized how those designations translate into work languages. Words of affirmation translate to positive feedback, quality time translates into dedication and effort on a project, and physical touch shall be omitted for all intents and purposes. 

One “real” team building exercise included a fully-immersive virtual reality experience at The Void where we dawned suits, helmets and goggles to enter the world of Jumanji to steal back the Scepter of Se’payu from the corrupt Haka’ar and return it to the temple. Here, we broke into groups of four and assumed alternate identities, Dr. Bravestone, Ruby Roundhouse, Prof. Oberon or ‘Mouse’ Finbar, whom each had unique abilities, strengths, and weaknesses. For example, Dr. Bravestone’s strengths included climbing, boomerang, and smoldering intensity, while his weakness was nothing. Interacting with coworkers bearing unrecognizable faces in fantastical landscapes with lions and crocodiles while under intense albeit fake pressure forced us to trust one another immediately and work collaboratively to survive. 

Raj, Michelle, Jacob & Adam at The Void (left to right)

Though virtual reality with its novelty and special effects was impressive, hiking through Red Rock Canyon was far mightier. The team took a break from the razzle-dazzle of the Vegas strip to stroll through the Mojave Desert and observe how millions of years can turn sand into stone. A few takeaways from outdoor learning: the canyon resided at the bottom of an ocean basin 500 million years ago, the red coloring of the rock is from iron minerals oxidizing aka rusting, and the ripples across the stone are the result of relentless shifting winds. We hiked the Moenkopi Loop and snapped a plethora of photos capturing the desert flora, ourselves, and the Wilson Cliffs behind us. Take a look at some of the impressive photos immortalizing the surreal landscape.

Taking in the golden hour
Hitting the trail
Adam, Brett and Eric (left to right)
Tomasz, CTO, putting things in perspective

By the end of CES, Ario got its fill of the real, the virtual, and what is yet to come. Some of us were lucky enough to take home souvenirs (several head and chest colds and one case of the flu). And all of us were ready to return back to work with a keener sense of purpose and objective concerning Ario within its industry landscape.

Team dinner at the Wynn buffet // CES 2020

Ario at The Venetian

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