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CES 2019: Virtual reality is not the star this year

An attendee uses a virtual reality headset to experience automotive safety at the Panasonic booth at CES 2019 at the Las Vegas Convention Center on January 8, 2019 in Las Vegas, Nevada. David Becker/Getty Images

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CES is here. Tech heads from around the world have landed in Las Vegas for the largest big-gadget, media and entertainment tech show, and our own Molly Wood is on the ground. You can check out the third part of her Marketplace Tech dispatch below.

One trend this year is not virtual reality.

Both the Associated Press and CNET ran stories this week about how VR just doesn’t have any buzz this year.

And it’s true.

While a lot of booths have some kind of headset and VR experience, it’s almost like background noise, and that’s validation for those of us who always thought the promise seemed a lot farther away than the use case.

That said, I do plan to get producer Eve hooked up to a VR rig. (Make sure to check out my Instagram  for photos or videos!)

But it seems like — as predicted in previous episodes of Marketplace Tech — augmented reality is what’s pulling ahead in the short term. That’s because you can use AR for useful things right now, like seeing how furniture or art looks in your living room using your phone’s built-in camera. Augmented reality is also better technology for integrating into heads-up displays in cars. You could see maps or traffic obstacles right on the windshield.

Companies like NReal are showing off mixed-reality glasses that combine the real world with digital images overlaid on your vision. You could eventually use those for shopping and designing a room, playing games or watching a movie on a plane — without the complete isolation and inability to move safely.

To catch up on all things CES 2019, you can check out part 1 and part 2 of Molly Wood’s dispatches from Las Vegas.

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