MWC is a mobile technology fair to showcase new phones, artificial intelligence and the metaverse
LONDON — The latest foldable-screen smartphones, immersive metaverse experiences, AI-powered chatbot avatars and other eye-catching technologies will dazzle visitors at the annual MWC wireless trade show, which opens Monday.
The four-day show, held in the huge Barcelona conference center, is the world’s largest and most influential meeting in the mobile technology industry. The technology on display shows how the show, also known as Mobile World Congress, has evolved from a forum for cell phone standards to a showcase for new wireless technology.
Organizers expect 80,000 visitors from more than 200 countries and territories when the event resumes in full force after several years of disruption due to the epidemic.
Here’s a look at what to expect:
There was a lot of buzz around the metaverse at last year’s MWC and other recent tech trade shows, such as last month’s CES in Las Vegas. Expect more at this event.
A slew of companies plan to show off their metaverse experiences that allow users to interact with each other, participate in remote events, or enter a fantastic new online world.
Software company Amdocs will use virtual and augmented reality to give users a ‘meta tour’ of Dubai. Other tech and telecommunications companies promise metaverse demos to help with physical rehabilitation, try on clothes virtually, or learn how to repair an airplane’s landing gear.
The popularity of the metaverse exploded after Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg promoted it as the next big thing for the internet and his company in late 2021. Recently, however, doubts have begun to creep in.
“The whole business model around the metaverse is a big question mark right now,” said John Strand, a veteran telecommunications consultant.
Artificial intelligence has caught the attention of the tech world thanks to the dramatic development of new tools like ChatGPT that can hold conversations and generate readable text. Artificial intelligence is expected to be used as an “overused buzzword” at MWC, said Ben Wood, senior analyst at CCS Insight.
The companies promise to show how they use AI to make home Wi-Fi networks more energy efficient or to spot fakes.
Microsoft press representatives hinted that they might hold a presentation about ChatGPT, but did not provide details. The company added artificial intelligence chatbot technology to its Bing search engine, but struggled to make improvements after responding to some early access users with insults or wrong answers.
Startups showcase their own AI chat technology: D-ID shows off their creepy “digital human” avatars, while Botslovers says its service promises to “free people from boring tasks.”
NOT JUST SMARTPHONES
MWC was a step forward in the previous decade, when the smartphone era was booming and device makers were competing for attention with flashy product launches. These days, smartphone innovation has reached a plateau, and companies are increasingly debuting in other ways.
The exhibition will focus on the potential uses of 5G, the next generation of ultra-fast wireless technology that promises to unleash a wave of innovation beyond smartphones, such as automated factories, driverless cars and smart cities.
“Mobile phones will continue to be a hot topic at MWC, but they have become a mature, repetitive and almost boring category,” said Wood. “The only excitement will come from the plethora of foldable designs and prototypes, but the true size of the market for these premium products remains unclear.”
Device launches will be dominated by a slew of lesser-known Chinese brands such as OnePlus, Xiaomi, ZTE and Honor, which are looking to grab market share from market leaders Apple and Samsung.
Chinese tech giant Huawei will play a major role at MWC despite being blacklisted by Western governments as part of a wider geopolitical battle between Washington and Beijing over technology and security.
According to the organizers, Huawei will have the largest presence at the exhibition among the approximately 2,000 exhibitors. This comes even after the United States encouraged its allies to block or restrict Huawei’s network equipment from their mobile phone companies over concerns that Beijing could push the company to carry out cybersnooping or sabotage critical communications infrastructure.
Huawei, which has repeatedly denied the allegations, has also been hit by Western sanctions aimed at starving it of components such as microchips.
According to analysts, one of the messages that Huawei can send with its oversized display is defiance of the West.