InsideAR, conducted earlier this week in Munich, was an outstandingly well-balanced event. It was also a sizable “AR industry insiders” gathering produced without a professional event organization. We were nearly 500 participants for two jamb-packed days. Thanks to metaio for producing this exceptional human experience!

What made it different and sufficiently exceptional for me to be thinking about it for days, even to the point of inspiring me to dedicate this post to the event? First, the people. There were people from every continent and segment of the ecosystem. For example, I had the pleasure of being introduced to Ennovva, an experience design and AR development company from Bogota, Columbia. There was a smattering of American companies that don’t frequently make it to European AR industry events: Second Site, Vuzix, and Autodesk. Of course, the European community of AR developers was well represented, and there were many loyal metaio customers who have been using AR with highly quantifiable results, such as Lego, Volkswagen and IKEA. Smaller companies were also in good standing. There were Asian partners and customers in attendance. There were newbies seeking to be introduced to AR as well as founders of the industry, such as Daniel Wagner and Ron Azuma.

metaio's announcements were also important and impressive. Junaio is coming along nicely but so are Creator and metaio Engineer.

Representing the technologies for AR, many of metaio's large partners were there—ARM, NVIDIA, ST Ericsson among them. And, notably, the hosts even welcomed their competitors. I chatted with representatives from Qualcomm, Wikitude, MOB Labs, however, didn’t see any Layar folks in attendance (Martin Adam, of mCRUMBS, was showing Layar-based experiences).

The presentations were (with only one exception) outstanding. Each day there were several sessions featuring metaio products. Watch the keynote here. On stage, the balance between live demonstrations and slideware was admirable, making the new product announcements compelling and strategies easy to understand. Clearly, engineering at metaio has been very busy over the past year, but so have those who operate the company’s communications systems. The company even launched a new industry magazine!

Audience attention was still high before lunch on Tuesday when I shared the community's vision for open and interoperable AR and how this group of dedicated people is working together to approach the diverse challenges. See slides here and video of the Open AR talk here. I expect to see some of the new faces who came up to me after the talk at future community meetings.

In the exhibition space, metaio and its partners showcased AR through many fantastic demonstrations, permitting visitors to touch and use AR in specific use cases and domains, such as automotive, games and packaging. The Augmented City, one of my favorite domains for AR to bring value to citizens and managers of urban settlements, was highly featured in sessions and in the demonstration area.

I thoroughly enjoyed watching, speaking and catching up with the whole metaio team—from the co-founders to the very newest employees (wave to Anton Fedosov and congratulation for the smooth landing!). They all moved together like a well-oiled team and event production machine, from the front desk to the staff meeting areas in the loft and made us feel like part of their family. It was also an opportunity to put faces to names I recognized. Irina Gusakova, who was an invaluable resource by e-mail prior to InsideAR2012, made me feel like we were long lost friends.

Finally, it seems trivial to some but in my experience it is important to fuel the body as well as the mind. Beverages were always plentiful and the food was authentic and available when needed. A visit to Munich would not be complete without Octoberfest and metaio saw to it that we finished in style under a tent in the center of the city’s annual festivities. This event is definitely on my calendar for 2013!