For the past several years, some of the world’s largest tech companies have used the annual Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona to show off their latest smartphones and tablets, and this year’s edition is no exception: Samsung, HTC, Microsoft, Sony, and others have all unveiled devices they hope will resonate with consumers and businesses.
But this year, the MWC is a little different. In addition to smartphones and tablets, a handful of companies are pushing smartwatches. From the WebOS-powered LG Watch Urbane and Urbane LTE, which can make phone calls and mobile payments, to the Huawei Watch with its elegant styling, there’s a concerted attempt on the part of manufacturers to introduce their own wearable electronics before the Apple Watch (widely expected to become the juggernaut of the space) makes its debut next month.
Beyond smartwatches and smartphones, however, this MWC offers more evidence that manufacturers and software developers think virtual reality will truly become the next big thing. People at the show, most notably TechCrunch’s John Biggs, have been raving about the VR headset developed by HTC and Valve, the HTC Vive, which supposedly offers a higher-fidelity experience than Oculus Rift. (As suggested by the design image above, the device is also bulky; presumably the final commercial model will slim down a bit.)
HTC and Valve aren’t the only Oculus competitors, with Sony gearing up its Morpheus VR headset for launch sometime next year. Samsung, which never met a tech market it didn’t like, is prepping its Gear VR headset for release at some point in the (relatively) near future.
What does VR at the MWC mean for the developers out there? The increasing level of investment in virtual reality is no guarantee that consumers and businesses will flock to the technology. That being said, becoming familiar with the platforms and the programming languages behind it could prove vital if VR takes off in the same way as smartphones, with accompanying app ecosystems. Given the amount of hype around Oculus and the Valve headset, the chance of VR succeeding on some level seems increasingly likely.