There’s a sense around the Primacy office that awareness regarding virtual and augmented reality is now relatively pervasive. That is to say that we feel most folks (at least in the digital space) have some understanding with regard to what it is and how it works, even if they’ve not yet had a chance to experience every flavor on a personal level. A recent trip to VRTO 2017 simultaneously confirmed and refuted that notion!
Over the past couple years we’ve been inundated with post after post proclaiming VR and AR to be game changers. In fact – I’ve written a few myself. As a developer I’m very aware of what’s happening in AR/VR with regard to development, but let’s take a step back and look at the current state of the industry from a different lens for a minute – through the eyes of an amateur investor.
Any investor can tell you that a well-timed press release can alter the fortune of a company, or even an entire industry. These posts are often the catalyst that help spread awareness many times by capitalizing on a phenomena known as “FOMO” (fear of missing out) and can result in an influx of investment dollars and excitement. The initial excitement is then often followed by a sharp selloff as investors who have trampled each other to get their piece of the pie suddenly realize they’ve been a bit premature in their assessment. Then comes the extended period of consolidation where most of us aren’t sure which way it will go. This period can last anywhere from several weeks to several years! What happens next (if the company’s fundamentals are sound) is that the investment will inevitably rebound and begin growing at a more sustainable pace. Interestingly – this series of events also plays out consistently with the introduction of new technologies! Gartner created the Emerging Technologies Hype Cycle that illustrates the concept well.
This chart was published one year ago today so we can safely assume these technologies are all a bit further along in their maturation process. Fast forward one year and I’d argue that the VR of 2017 is actually not even into the “Slope of Englightenment” quite yet due mainly to a lack of quality content. A look at Google trends illustrates more of the same.
The sheer size of the hype train coupled with an incredibly rapid pace of change often makes it difficult to objectively assess opportunities within the space. Important questions I often hear: How does it scale? How are companies actually using it? When is the right time to begin planning our XR (VR/AR/MR) strategy? These get lost among the excitement and novelty of trying something completely new for the first time.
Perhaps equally as interesting is the notion that this confusion leads to tremendous opportunities for forward thinking organizations who are ambitious enough to embrace these technologies and capitalize on the first mover advantage along with the proven utility in scenarios that range from training/education to entertainment and everything in between. There is the immediate ROI, or “buzz” factor that can have an effect on an organization that’s difficult to quantify directly but can be measured indirectly by tracking social media and word of mouth. Of course, more quantifiable measures of effectiveness can be collected by analyzing the applications analytics and user feedback once it’s live. Nonetheless, show me a company that isn’t working to integrate solutions that help consumers see them as cutting edge, forward thinking, or innovative, and I’ll show you a company that’s not in business anymore.
Our trip to the VRTO conference (Virtual Reality Toronto), a best of breed VR/AR expo, afforded us the opportunity to talk to a wide range of professionals, students, and passersby. Among all the chatter there seemed to be two common themes. The first is a general lack of awareness regarding these technologies. In other words what the hardware/software options are, and how to acquire them. The second is a strong affinity and curiosity towards any application outside of gaming. We all know VR/AR (collectively XR) is great for gamers, but we also know it can be amazingly beneficial for so much more. Consumers that aren’t necessarily gamers are ready for that “so much more” piece to really prove itself out.
Many of the exhibitors at VRTO are leading that charge by introducing VR solutions in areas like behavioral therapy (eg. combatting phobias), 3D modeling/sculpting, and live streaming just to name a few. At Primacy we’re capitalizing on the empathy generating nature of VR as the driving force behind GivLuv. That said, a perceived lack of quality content outside of gaming is not surprisingly the number one factor holding VR back at this point in time. A quick google search of “when will VR be mainstream” often points back to this obstacle. Marketers and strategists are in search of evidence that will help justify an investment in a VR solution. In fairness the evidence is all around us, albeit scattered and drowned out by the hype train roaring through unicorn station.
There is a consensus among industry insiders that we are now beginning to see the consumer “enlightenment” occur but the reality is that we may still be years away from mass consumer adoption. Accessibility is at an all-time high as leading browsers continue building out support for WebVR (providing developers the ability to create VR experiences that run seamlessly on the web) and the cost of consumer grade headsets continues to shrink. Samsung recently announced a standalone/self-contained headset that will enable those without a Samsung Galaxy phone to experience quality mobile VR content. For some just the mention of the word “headset” is a deal-breaker, but for the rest of us content creators, marketers, and developers, more must be done to continue educating individual consumers and organizations about the benefits of utilizing VR in the proper scenarios. It’s time to break through the hype and start talking seriously about how this technology can be used today to impact our lives and demonstrate positive business outcomes.
If you are a marketer or business professional looking for opportunities to integrate virtual or augmented reality solutions into your existing business processes please give us a call and let us help you take the first step on the amazing journey that is “What’s Next”!