Week in wearable tech: Smartwatches at Baselworld and virtual reality at GDC

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This week has seen Team Wareable split across two major annual events: Baselworld and GDC. Basel is a reliable launchpad for smartwatches and hybrids for the year head, while GDC often gives us a glimpse at what's coming in virtual reality.

Elsewhere on the site we've been testing out the Waverly Labs Pilot translation hearable, explored new techniques for combating VR nausea, put together our dream Xiaomi Mi Band 3 wishlist, and speaking to Cosinuss about launching its wearable into space with NASA.

Read this: The VR festivals you need to visit this year

Also be sure to check out the latest entry in Husain's VR diary: this week he's traveling around the world in virtual reality. As for the big news stories of the week, read on...

Baselworld's big bang

WareableWeek in wearable tech: Smartwatches at Baselworld and virtual reality at GDC

You know what's up. Baselworld has come back around, and this week the team were on the ground, searching every nook and cranny of Basel for the newest smartwatches and hybrid. Thing is, there wasn't a huge amount to see this year. We did get a lovely new smartwatch from Mondaine, another from Skagen, and some new styles from Kronaby. Alpina also showed off its AlpineX, which we've had a more extended play with. And how could we not mention the Hublot Big Bang Referee Fifa 2018 World Cup Russia, a smartwatch as ostentatious as it is difficult to say.

But we were hoping for more, especially from Fossil and Wear OS. Fossil has changed tact this year, holding out to make its big splash later in 2018. Part of this, we suspect, is to do with WearOS having just got its rebrand, and the fact we're holding out for news at Google I/O that should set the path for smartwatches through 2018 and into next year. Apple's taking new advantages; it's time for Google to step up.

Meanwhile, in the world of VR...

WareableWeek in wearable tech: Smartwatches at Baselworld and virtual reality at GDC

Over at GDC in San Francisco, big things were happening in virtual reality. The main event was the Oculus Go, which made a surprise appearance at the show. We went along to try it out, and came away with... opinions. It's an elegantly accessible way into VR and visually it impresses, however the lack of any positional tracking makes it already feel a bit dated. Granted, this keeps the price down to $200, and for a lot of people it'll be enough, but - call us spoiled - it feels a little behind. With the Vive Focus offering "world-scale" tracking (though just 3DoF hand tracking), HTC's rivaling standalone headset has Oculus beat on tech.

Read this: The best VR games of GDC 2018

And yes, speaking of the Vive Focus, the other big story from GDC was that HTC's standalone system is getting a global launch after all. It's been a bit of a will-it-won't-it story; if you remember, the headset was first announced at Google I/O last year as a standalone Daydream system, before HTC announced it was instead going to take it to China. Now it is going to bring it to the West, but on the Vive Wave platform instead of Daydream. We don't yet know exactly when or for how much, but expect it this year.

Check out the link above for the best VR games from GDC, and also be sure to check out our thoughts on ANTVR's augmented reality headset, which runs SteamVR games in AR. It's pretty intriguing.

WareableWeek in wearable tech: Smartwatches at Baselworld and virtual reality at GDC

Finally, Magic Leap has been uncharacteristically open and talkative this week, attending GDC to speak on a few panels. The biggest news was the announcement of a technical preview of both its LuminSDK and developer portal - essentially the starting pistol for devs to start building experiences.

You don't need a headset to create, but the SDK gives us a peek of the technical features we can expect from Magic Leap devices: head and eye tracking, gesture and hand tracking, room scanning and meshing, spatialized audio, microphone input, and 6 degree-of-freedom hand controller tracking


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Hugh Langley

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Now at Business Insider, Hugh originally joined Wareable from TechRadar where he’d been writing news, features, reviews and just about everything else you can think of for three years.

Hugh is now a correspondent at Business Insider.

Prior to Wareable, Hugh freelanced while studying, writing about bad indie bands and slightly better movies. He found his way into tech journalism at the beginning of the wearables boom, when everyone was talking about Google Glass and the Oculus Rift was merely a Kickstarter campaign - and has been fascinated ever since.

He’s particularly interested in VR and any fitness tech that will help him (eventually) get back into shape. Hugh has also written for T3, Wired, Total Film, Little White Lies and China Daily.


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