Are VR & AR Margin Technologies?

Virtual Reality launched into the stratosphere of hype in late 2015 through early 2016. Sony made much fanfare as did Facebook with its investments into the world of VR, although no one can seem to point out exactly why. Now VR is suffering some dizziness as people get ill after extended use. Augmented Reality sort of sparked and popped a few years ago…and sputtered along in the fringe of tech as a marketing wow tool. Google Glass didn’t do AR any favours either. Then along came Pokemon Go and AR had its biggest boost in years, except no one really talked about the AR that made it al possible. These two technologies have been percolating in the tech world for a few years now with occasional bursts of pundit-driven hype.

Why Does Augmented Reality Struggle?
It’s not an easy question to answer. The first push of AR technology into the real-world was Google Glass. Its adherents were promptly labelled “Glassholes” and shortly thereafter, Google Glass became marginalized. Other companies tried to jump on the AR bandwagon with glasses, all remain in that delicate life and death balance on the thin rim of bleeding edge technology. Based on my 25+ years on the front lines of technology, AR just isn’t seen by the consumer market as a “need” or really even a “want” as it doesn’t have a strong value proposition.

Is There a Market for AR?
Yes, very much so. In fact, there is some very real, very profitable opportunities for the use of AR. Most of these rest within the manufacturing, healthcare, law enforcement and similar industries. Police could use AR glasses to collect evidence and show information. Mechanics can use AR glasses to overlay instructions for machinery when working on repairs. AR is very useful, but probably not in the consumer market for sometime. It needs social acceptability which isn’t there yet.

Why Does Virtual Reality Struggle?
No one wants to walk down the high street with a massive object on their face. That’s obvious. For the most part, these devices are large, clunky and uncomfortable over long periods of time. Then there’s the whole spatial sickness thing (although that problem is being solved.) VR struggles because consumers perceive it to be only useful for video games. Because that’s who’s largely using it.

Is There a Market for VR?
Just like AR, there is some great market potential for VR. Training for police and military, surgery, emergency responders, nurses…VR can be an excellent training product. It may help in explorations as well. But broader consumer adoption that sees lower price points and massive volumes is, I think, a few years away yet.

Both AR and VR are excellent, nascent technologies. But they will remain niche applications for sometime. Consumers are only just beginning to realize the power and potential of SmartPhones and right now, that is the dominant tool to most consumers and professionals. Yes, VR can be adapted to use with SmartPhones, but it’s clunky at best. AR is inherently available through SmartPhones as well and that may be how they slowly gain acceptance.

What are your thoughts?

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