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.