As the founder of New Reality Arts, I'm out on the front lines making the case for businesses that now is the time to start crafting and implementing an AR/VR strategy both for now and the future. There are hurdles to overcome, past bad experiences, lack of awareness about even what the tech is, let alone what it can do, and perhaps most tellingly, lack of conviction that immersive computing is the future and that it has relevance for them at this time. Certainly, this isn't always the case, and many forwardly thinking businesses are fully onboard with the need to begin now to explore adoption and use case; but it's a big world out there, and those gung-ho potential customers are in the small minority at this stage. While those early adopters will have a huge advantage moving forward over their more conservative peers, much like early adopters of the web and mobile strategies, I'm interested in discovering what else we might do, working together as an industry to move the ball faster. My sense is that we could be doing much more.
In response to these thoughts, I posed this question on Linkedin:
"As this year has progressed, I think it has become clearer and clearer that while those of us in augmented and virtual reality have effectively made the case to ourselves as an industry that our tech is relevant now and crucial for the future, we haven't been doing as great a job making that case to those on the outside, the businesses, and consumers which we wish to attract."
"I've been thinking about ways that we can work together to change this. In my mind, our biggest competition, at this point, isn't each other - it's adoption and distribution. I'm on the VRAR Association's marketing and advertising committees, and certainly, that is top of mind for us. I also work with IEEE, honing potential ways as an industry that we can grow a user base around the world. Those are my ideas."
"What are ways you can think of that we can work together and multiply our force in our messaging?"
Clearly, I had hit a nerve. The response was thoughtful, creative, and compelling, with many in agreeance. Experiences in sales were shared, and ideas for how to better work together abounded. With the idea of keeping this ball rolling, and potentially, as an industry, addressing issues brought up here and implementing ideas for better solutions, I've composed these individual thought leaders' responses into this blog post:
Downplay the Hype Cycles
Benjamin T. Durham
The standardization of data acquisition and engagement analytics is specific to the modality.
To us, it's all about approach and timing. We are focused on working with enterprises, so they can have access to data that can draw a line to ROI v. projects being limited to experimental marketing budgets. I think it's key decision makers that have to be educated. Within our community, we can demand more of the news platforms and how they represent the medium. We have to downplay their hype cycles and inject some realism into the conversation. There is an oversaturation of bad content and news that has come from news platforms committed to our mediums. The problem for them is that there is not as much integrity behind the journalism because they are forced into a content churn model to keep up the clicks and online traffic scores needed to get their VC money. So maybe if we stop fetishizing some of those platforms and journalists as legit sources, we can regain control of hype in our echo chambers and then push for a more responsible approach to writing about the community.
Solving Existing Pain
Building use cases and solutions relevant to strategic stakeholders will drive enterprise adoption of AR/VR. Startups need to focus on existing pain and harnessing the refinement of VR technology to enable the executive stakeholder.
To Make Our Message Relevant to the Larger World, a Solid Roadshow Would Help
We have to enable the rest of the world outside of the VR/AR community to see what we are seeing.
But first, we need to make it relevant to their context and their businesses. We need a solid, consistent message. Even though the industry is evolving, I think that there are some amazing stories and messages that we can propagate individually and collectively. The VRAR Association, SVVR, AWE, and other meetups are some of the platforms to drive this.
Second, we need to articulate this message consistently and eloquently and dispel the hype. Business leaders and consumers want to know how VR and AR will help them in their lives and business, apart from just wowing them with exciting, game-like experiences.
Third, we need to work together. It's better that way, especially when the industry is nascent and growing. A CXO that I was having dinner with last week told me about how fragmented the industry is and how people don't share information within the industry. Except for proprietary and competitive info, we should share all ideas and thought leadership openly.
A solid roadshow, supported by industry leaders and driven by people like us across cities around the world, will bring about significant momentum in a short time. The focus will have to be on the message and the impact.
More B2B Applications
Varghese Chacko, MBA
Increased focus on B2B applications may help hone usage.
Does Our Current Messaging Resonate?
Maybe lose the ridiculous "superpowers" and "empathy machines" memes.
Can We Better Help Internal Stakeholders to Make a Case?
Steven Lewis (from a large mega-retailer)
Some of us still have a hard time selling it internally, as well even in the face of demos.
A More Unified Industry Marketing Presence
It really boils down to corporations getting on board. We have been successful in bringing clients to the table and having them understand the applications. Part of the roadblock is the cost - $799 for a headset, $xxx to dev, Steam, and an expensive laptop. It boils down to perception, and we have to demonstrate the value. The ROI is there and that must be elucidated. One bit of confusion I have is, those jumping in the game who do not understand the tech and diving, then producing a subpar product that turns many off. In time, the support of the big G, the big A, and the big I will drive down gear costs. It will get there, however, we need a more powerful marketing presence and unity (no pun intended).
Standardized Platforms Will Drive Adoption
Great point. I think the lack of a clear standard for "browsers" or "AR viewers" is a real problem. We are all making our own and clients don't want to install multiple browsers (who can blame them?). I think the development of webAR (Android only) is exciting, but let's see what Apple has in store...
Maybe the Tech Just Isn't Ready for Mass Adoption?
Let the tech mature organically and the user-base will also grow organically. Pushing something that isn't ready for mass adoption is just getting everyone ready for mass disappointment.
Engage With Corporate Leadership to Train and Teach Them the Value of AR/VR
I've just spoken to some guys at Volkswagen who said their head of engineering is spending some serious time in VR, partially as it is now considered a serious tool but also to set an example to other non-believers. Having leadership show the way is a great way to ensure adoption, and so is easy access to the tech.
We Need More Break-Out Hits Focused on Utility
Adam Kyle Wilson
ARkit on iOS is really going to jump start things for AR/MR. What the industry really needs is innovative thinking around utility rather than gaming. We need to invent experiences that are 100X better than what we can do on a screen. Super hard to do things are often expensive. But it'll happen, and the lightbulb will go on collectively. But without a few of these breakout hits and "ah-ha" moments, it's hard to convince people to take this step forward.
More Customer Empathy
A lot of these comments already hit on it - the solution to increased adoption is better customer empathy. We must understand the problems AR can solve and stop promoting it as a cure-all. Misunderstanding, followed by poor execution, sets the AR adoption cycle back big time.
Think Beyond the "Nerd Space"
I think it's a case of how we make VR/AR something both the education and consumer markets will want and say "I have to have that." Example: I was showing the really cool ARkit demo video from WWDC to my wife. I thought it was cool and amazingly wonderful (though the presenter wasn't all that great). My wife, though, didn't get it. She asked a lot of questions and didn't care about the technical stuff going on to make it all happen. In other words, it wasn't important to her. And I think beyond the "nerd" space, those things have to be marketed and designed to be more than just some cool tech trick. We can't keep geeking out about this thing or that. But from an experience design perspective, how do we make it so it becomes as ubiquitous as the iPhone (or any smartphone) has become?
Move as Fast as Possible Beyond Just Gaming Interfaces, a Mental Block for Serious Other Use Cases
From our perspective, the roadblocks for anything that goes beyond the obvious marketing-type applications of this tech come in the form of a lack of relevant "tried and tested" case studies to support the business cases required for implementation. Education as to the possibilities and opportunities are important, however, when it comes to the decision of investing budget that hasn't been allocated. It's an uphill struggle. That being said, the same thing happened 15 years ago when decision-makers were being pitched "digital strategy" as an investment, and we all know how that turned out. As an immediate step forward, I think we should all collaborate and share knowledge, working together collectively. There are a number of hurdles like this (and likely always will be) in the emerging technology space. Architecting a technical solution is most often the easiest part of the equation. Cultural adoption is way more challenging. I believe "gimmicky" use cases can diminish the value of technologies. One of the many things I push back on is using gaming controllers for virtual environments. I can't tell you how many disagreements I've had with senior figures that refused to believe a geospatially accurate environment with mm accuracy was more than just a "game" and held real engineering value. They simply couldn't see it because the method in which you interacted with the environment was a gaming device. It's the "nice to have syndrome" that we all fight in emerging tech.
I always ask people at the offshore technology conference in Houston what they use their flashy 3D/AR/VR/MR tools for that they are showing at their booths in practice. More than 90% of the time the response is "We only use it for marketing purposes." That's frustrating.
More Developer Collaboration
I've been going to a lot of VR/AR meet-ups over the last two years, and in regards to product, the mostly male engineers and creatives have only recently started sharing ideas. On the building an audience side, Pokémon GO was a major breakthrough in terms of buzz and introducing people to rudimentary AR, so where's the second act? You cannot create an audience with a one trick pony!
Also, note that I have recently introduced various teenagers to Google Cardboard and Littlstar. They all grabbed a headset to take to school and show their friends. And so it begins.
Effective Social VR is the Key
I believe social interaction in VR/AR/MR will be the key. Sure, that's great being able to go on Amazon and order items in 3D and walk around looking. Now add a sales person in there to answer questions or help you find something and it's a whole new experience! People would rather play games together than alone, people want to see who they are chatting with, they want to interact with their environments and meet other people in them. I can imagine one day a doctor being able to make a house call with AR and actually be in the same room as the patient. Maybe that's already possible! I believe we need to step back from tactical, day-to-day execution and take a more strategic view of where to invest and make changes so that we can work together better and multiply our force. It all begins by accepting a new perspective on what marketing needs to accomplish. It requires everyone to step up to a broader, cross-functional coordination role, armed with deep insights about the way we are or aren't working together to multiply our forces in our messaging, which will ultimately help us to work better together in the VR/AR/MR industry.
Easier and Better Ways to Create and Distribute VR Content
The only thing stopping the VR/AR industry from firmly taking hold is the lack of regular people out there experiencing the technology for themselves. Thankfully, we are progressing more from the "What's VR/AR?" days to the "I'd love to try VR/AR someday." But going back to your point, it just isn't easy for people to access VR/AR content. Coincidentally, that's exactly what our startup, Babylon VR, is working to solve, making VR content creation and distribution easier for everyone. You can check out an experience I built here to get an idea of what our tech is like, and even try building your own VR experience for yourself on our website! Would love to hear your thoughts! https://beta.babylonvr.ca/vr/vr1
And from Craig Rich, a Whole Platform of Powerful Ideas
Sponsored Demo Roadshows:
It has been a long proven principle that VR can't be explained - it has to be experienced. Consumers need to actually get their hands on the kit and, crucially, have a properly managed demo to get to experience VR with the best possible outcome. The same holds for enterprises considering investing in VR for marketing purposes or other applications. If the first experience you receive is a disappointing "faux VR" experience, such as 360 videos or a glitchy application, then they will not be convinced, and will write it off as "not market-ready."
Hardware manufacturers are helping developers with the provision of equipment (either subsidized or free), but how about seeding some major brands with the same? The idea would be to get it in front of consumers to drive demand, and additionally lower the barrier to entry for enterprises wanting to trial the technology. This could be in the form of a major household brand partnering with a major VR brand or using public spaces (or spaces with captive audiences, like an airport) to offer an amazing experience.
Extending that idea further, how about a 10 or 15 minutes "fear of flying" experience in major airports around the world, sponsored by Vive, Samsung, or Oculus, and one or more major airlines?
Next Generation Hardware:
This is currently focusing on faster, better, more. Higher resolution, lower lag, wider FOV are a priority, but the hardware really needs to take into account the cost of entry. As we all know, the $500+ HMD and the $800+ PC for a "proper" room-scale VR solution is solidly in the "luxury" and "early adopter" class of consumer. Without consumer adoption, enterprise adoption becomes hard.
Think about it, deal with it, do it right, don't nickel and dime it. There is a huge expectation with consumers that this expensive equipment needs to work and work well. When it doesn't work properly it leads to frustration, and in the case of VR, potentially physical problems, such as VR sickness.
Given the multi-component complexity of most solutions, the consumer may not even know who to talk to. To compound this, if the enterprise is considering this technology, it needs to work, as close to flawlessly as possible, especially with applications designed to aid professionals in their daily tasks. Consider an architect using this in a pitch to a multi-million-dollar prospect, and the HMD fails to work. Backing up the solutions with a customer experience strategy is an absolute must.
Get it into schools with education and entertainment in mind. The idea here is to target the next generation of learners and to make it second nature as a useful tool for life, not just a gimmick. This should be as ubiquitous as the mouse was at the point of introduction.
One look at Steam and you will see that there are many, many experiences being created now. A number of them are early access, sub-par, buggy embarrassments that should never be demo'd - especially with people sensitive to VR sickness. Build a list of interesting, impressive, easy-to-access, easy-to-understand examples of VR and use that library to show off their capabilities.
Clearer Demarcation, But be Careful:
We all too often explain why Pokémon GO is not AR, and why 360 video is not VR, and why it's XR and not MR, why all these phrases are wrong, and it's immersive reality, and how everyone needs to get it right or go home. As an intellectual noodling exercise, this is probably worthwhile, but as far as consumers are concerned, "I stick a headset on and I'm in Virtual Reality." While it is important to help consumers understand that linear 360 video is not necessarily a great example of the technology (try something interactive), we shouldn't expend all of our energy into trying to tell them what to call it.
There are many companies working on the locomotion problem. I am using this in the broadest context - both in-experience locomotion, but also the sheer size requirements for room-scale experiences. Most consumers do not have the luxury of a large space that can be dedicated to these technologies. There are some hardware companies working on treadmill equivalents, but these add even more to the cost. In-experience locomotion is one of the culprits that can tip people over the edge to VR sickness, and there are many versions of how to resolve this, but no real standards.
Lose the Wires, Lose the Lag:
Mobile VR has the advantage that you are not tethered to a PC, but it's a sub-par experience compared to PC (and Mac)-based powerhouse solutions. Tethered solutions have the problem of dangling cables, which at best break you out of the experience, and at worst have you stumbling for balance. There are third party wireless solutions about to hit the market, but again, these add $250+ to the already high price.
Many of the companies driving the technology, story-driven content and applications are start-ups or early-stage businesses that are not necessarily swimming in cash. Everybody is trying to swim upstream, and a lot of these initiatives require large investments. However, the market is showing huge investment potential and activity. Perhaps some of the funds that are placing their bets on these markets should be considering not only the requirement to invest in the technologies but the requirement to ensure that the market is kick-started appropriately.
Some related blogs from my website:
More Targeted Investment Toward Companies Addressing the Cultural Shift That Needs to Happen
There are many great perspectives and ideas expressed here. My addition would be I'd like to see far more investment dollars being sent to companies that are successfully convincing other industries to actually apply our tech, whether that be in marketing and advertising, e-commerce, or enterprise. From my perspective, the goal now is social and behavioral change, convincing human beings one by one and then en masse that Yes! This is the thing!
Cultural transformation takes time and consistency, thoughtful attention may not pay off financially right at the beginning, but will reward in dividends at the end.
I hope that this post inspires your own thoughts about growing the Industry, and I'm looking forward to hearing more from the rest of you.
Originally posted on New Reality Arts.
This article was published on [a]list
, and the key insight was "VR has a marketing problem." This has been my sense as well. Anyone can make their dreams come true - they just have to go for it!
Opinions expressed by the author are not necessarily those of WITI.
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