Anyone tracking emerging virtual/augmented reality technologies last week may have seen this category’s first real Simpsons “D’Oh“ moment when a senior Microsoft HoloLens marketing maven admitted that in the rush to push sexy entertainment titles and other content opportunities the world’s most well-known PC software supplier may have been initially blinded to the value of the commercial market for VR software.
Microsoft’s observation points out one of the most glaring errors in the VR market: although entertainment software and content libraries may be sexy, they don’t pay the bills like commercial software does.
There is and has always been a bifurcation in the design philosophies that shape entertainment and commercial software. The former most often taxes the capabilities of hardware, whereas the latter is designed to run on industry standard hardware configurations.
Since the advent of Window 3.1, Microsoft has pushed the boundaries of existing hardware, going so far at one point to introduce and support a hardware accelerator card that improved the performance of 8086-based desktops.
There are two other companies whose past strategies can be used to examine how to launch new technologies such as virtual reality. The most important of these is Apple Computer, which pundits believe is still a long way away from a VR announcement. The other company is Sony which is using its PlayStation platform and a new headset to leap into VR/AR.
Both companies have been able to separate past and current products through the use of intensely loyal brand advocates.
My major criticisms of VR and AR is this: its advocates aren’t getting down in the weeds and talking about the increased costs of accessing and implementing the technologies, and the actual market for VR and AR content could be adversely effected by the cost of hardware.
It’s for these reasons I think we’re about to see hardware makers announce, launch and actively market hardware aimed specifically at VR and AR; and headset makers will be forced to bundle content to gain traction. Of the two technologies, VR may have the lowest entry price and could see the first major wins with commercial software running in real estate “viewing centers” where prospective home buyers can use VR to “walk through” multiple properties.
Although there’s no shortage of commercial and educational applications where VR will be in wide spread use, there is a catch in the recipe for success. The catch : there may be more opportunity than there is specialized talent needed to edit and code new content.
I never ever thought I’d write this but now may be the perfect time to be a film school or animation student. Oh Dear! –Jim Forbes 9 March, 2016.
The coming stampede towards virtual and augmented reality applications will be a greater rush than the previous tectonic shift from character-based to graphics based applications. But unlike that earlier shift which mixed innovation and remediation, the move to VR is going to force content providers to look far and wide for new talent, including recent graduates of learn by doing film schools nationwide.
It would be easy to look back at the computer games market as an isolated, similar model. But that doesn’t scale here.
There’s likely to be as much demand for VR and AR educational and training applications as there are entertainment apps. But the economics of those two segments eclipse entertainment content, plus therer is an implied refresher revenue stream that’s absent in the entertainment model. And smart investors are much more likely to put their money into companies and technologies that play in a large markets.
But where will the talent needed to develop applications and content come from?
The answer is obvious: film schools nationwide plus lower level educational institutions that already teach the basics need to produce VR and AR content. Obviously students who understand the mechanics of developing stories and the basics of filmmaking are likely to be at the breaking curl of the first wave of professionals who will be hired to develop VR and AR content.
PBS and cable television stations that produce original content such as WGBH, KCET, KPBS and KTEH, Nat Geo TV, and the Discovery networks are also potential reservoirs VR and AR talent.
I’ve lived through enough revolutions to understand that new technology often needs pushing and that corporate product evangelists can supply that force. Apple’s original Mac marketing manager, Mike Murray, gets kudos for pushing hardware into the hands of developers in an effort to foster innovative applications for the Macs graphical interface.
I sincerely hope that companies like Facebook Samsung, HTC, and most of all Microsoft, seed not only developers but also four year universities and community colleges. There’s a lot coming and I can’t wait to see what’s on the horizon.—Jim Forbes on 13 March, 2016
Chinese personal electronics maker HTC this week began taking orders for its $799 Vive virtual Reality headset, booking orders for more than 15,000 units in less than 10 minutes.
HTC’s VIVE’s orders brought in more than $11 million in revenue, according to published reports.
The massive rush to buy the $699 HTC virtual reality headset in being interpreted by some of VR’s proponents as solid proof that Virtual Reality is the next big thing,
What’s missing so far are reports and estimates of who is buying the new technology. In previous technological gold rushes, in addition to early adopters many first purchasers have been to hardware and software developers plus technical marketing and other specialists performing competitive analyses.
More VR systems will appear before the end of this summer, including Oculus Rift’s (Facebook) first product and perhaps Avegant’s Glyph personal theater. Further down the road Google is expected to introduce its second VR/personal theater product, which according to published reports that have appeared over the last several weeks, is now under development.
Microsoft is also in the mix at the high-end with its $3,000 HoloLens, which is expected to begin shipping at the end of March.
AS s products begin to appear, acquisition and system hardware overhead could become issues. Secondarily, standalone systems could become more popular than headsets and other display technologies that require a tethered cable between a headset and hardware.
I believe virtual and augmented reality devices will ignite a Gold Rush in wearable computing, but I’ve lived through enough technological revolutions to know there will be big losers and winners in the race to easily mined riches. Like the California Gold Rush in the mid-19th century, some of the real fortunes will be made by technology companies that mine the miners. And from that category I believe we’ll see huge advances in Interface, usability, gesture control and other technologies. I’m not going to be among the first purchasers of any high end VR system. I have a kid headed back to college. But eventual I’ll buy a system, and when I do, I’m hoping for immersive historical content. That will be me, huddled in my fluffy jacket in a corner of my office looking at an inside view of the Donnor Party as I snack on some Barbecue ribs in North San Diego County.—Jim Forbes on 2 March, 2016
Virtual Reality has become an important part of the personal kit of our military as thy load out their personal possessions prior to forward deployment in conflict zones.
As a veteran who deployed to a combat zone a long time ago, it’s hard not to imagine the written or memorized matrix of personal items that go overseas with ground troops:
Extra tooth brushes and rags for cleaning your assigned weapon? Check.
Nonstandard gun lube and rifle cleaning supplies? Check
Laptop computer loaded with Skype? Check.
Ear buds? Check.
Extra cans of your favorite dip or snuff (just in case the nearest PX doesn’t have it)? Check
Large screen GSM cell phone? Check.
32 GB micro SD cards loaded with entertainment content? Check.
Google cardboard head set dissembled into its flat components? Check.
VR shooter games? Check?
Leather Goddesses of Phobos on an extra SD card? Check.
Extra $10, $20 or $5 dollar bills (poker money) hidden securely in your ditty bag? Check.
All of this is to make the point that basic VR doesn’t need to be costly. And for the first time ever, enlisted war fighters are among the first group of users to adopt new computer technology. The force that’s driving adoption is Google $25 Cardboard headset and free or inexpensive VR software that can be down loaded from Google’s PlayStore.
The example above is being overlooked by most VR hardware suppliers and touts who think people will stampede to buy multi-hundred dollar VR headsets. For VR to take off it has to be inexpensive enough to conform to a wide scale, mass market model. Once a consumer becomes a true believer, they're more likely to become a buyer of multi hundred headsets, or computers configured for VR.
there are other, equally important infrastructure plays that need to appear in VR. Most importantly is software that lets any studio building VR titles, to adapt existing content for VR, has to appear.
It’s not Sandhill venture capitalists looking for a niche that will drive this. It’s Hollywood movie, music and animation studios who will make it happen. You don’t need to be an Oscar winner to understand that the studios can lock up competitive technologies now by investing in startups that play to the VR content development market.
There is a VR example of being too early to market. That demographic market is Japan, where Sony launched its VR headset more than two years ago. To date, the headset has not been widely adopted, although it is beloved by up-market gaming enthusiasts.
In VR there are some critical questions that still need to be answered:
Who is the target market for these systems?
How sensitive is the target market to pricing, and what software needs to be bundled with VR headsets to push them into the mainstream?
And finally what kind of baseline performance will be required in hardware that powers VR headsets?
If basic questions such as these are not answered, in a collapsing bubble investment environment, some players in the VR space risk suffering the fate of Momenta Inc in the earliest days of pen computing, or any of the legions of digital photo frame and USB radio startups.
I’m hopeful VR does take off. You can bet that the next smartphone I buy will be a model that’s positioned for VR. The promised technology was important enough today that it was a factor in my buying a top of the product line new Microsoft Surface Book two months ago.
And so, Mike Edelhart and Chris Shipley, we're once again on he barricades of another revolution.
But for now, Google is in the driver’s seats and some of it strongest supporters are young enlisted guys with Google cardboard headsets on their noggins, playing games and VR content in tents in and neart conflict zones. This post is for technically savvy terminal lance corporals preparing kits prior to deployment. I was once a /x\ too.—jim forbes, east of Camp Pendleton, CA on February 2,2016.
I'm sure there will be some outstanding reasons for using wearable computers that provide eyes-forward information displays someday, but intending to use any such device for use in conjunction with operating a motor vehicle in traffic today seems tantamount to accepting an invitation to be an organ donor.The number of such products is limited now, but like the Labor Day weekend reports of traffic deaths in olden times, I’m sure more eyes forward, heads-up displays are being pitched and prototyped now.
One of the most dangerous products i’ve ever seen at any technology launch pad event was shown at Demo 2013 last fall. The product was the Skully AR-1 motorcycle helmet which incorporates a heads-up GPS display, bluetooth connection and voice command support, plus a rear mounted camera that gives motorcyclists a 180-degree rear view of following traffic (all the better for seeing the traffic officer zooming up behind you with red lights shining after he’s noticed the glow of an illegal computer screen).
I was surprised that this product was shown at Demo, since a cursory look at the California Vehicle Code(CVC Section 27602) clearly shows that operating any motor vehicle in CA with an active television display,computer monitor or display in view of the driver is illegal, The exceptions to California’s rule are built are GPS systems that are either built into a car or mounted on a dashboard.
California’s Vehicle code rules out the most profitable market --California-- for aftermarket performance equipment such as the Skull helmets.
Google Glass users have come under the eagle eyes of California Highway Patrol (CHP) officers since the devices first appeared in the six SoCal counties.
The first ticket issued to a Google Glass wearer was written in October 2013 in San Diego on the I-15 freeway, after a female Temecula, CA resident was cited for a speeding violation and was observed by the patrol officer wearing Google Glass.
The offender, Cecelia Abadie,used an attoney to contest the citation, which was dismissed because the CHP officer couldn’t prove the glasses were turned on. But,, the attorney was unsuccessful in arguing for dismisal because Google Glass wasn’t specifically mentioned in CVC Section 27602.
Ms Abadie’s attorney was successful, however in getting a speeding ticket for driving 80 mph in a posted 65 mph section of I-15 dismissed because of a lack of evidence, according to published news reports
Abadie was the first driver to be ticketed in the United Stats for operating a motor vehicle while wearing Google Glass, according to the reports. The self described “interhumanist” claimed on her Facebook page that the case will allow “Cy Borg” (Google Glass) explorers to “drive happy.”
Apparently she overlooked the judge’s dismissing the citation on a technicality.Had it been documented that her Google Glasses been operating when she was stopped, the outcome of the case may have been much different, since CVC 27602 allows judges to impose additional penalties.
According to published report three other states are considering legislation similar to California’s.
Heads up displays and helmet augmented reality display technologies have a place in our society. Foremost on that list are helicopter gunship crews, attack aircraft pilots and entertainment venues.
Techologies that empower distracted drivers pose risks for drivers and innocent parties.
But wait there’s more.Sure as God made little green apples, an attorney representing a motorcycle driver injured because they were wearing a heads-up display will arrive at the inescapable conclusion that Google or the venture capitalists who backed start-ups that made the technology possible have very deep pockets and that manufacturers need to include warnings on product packaging.--Jim Forbes on 01/19/2010.
disclosure: I have been a motorcycle owner and rider since 1963.