January 22nd, 2017

The Weekly Archive: Virtual Reality And The Trough Of Disillusionment

Growth is not always linear.

In technology, this is a reminder that must be stated from time to time. Over the last 20 years, people have focused on the stunning success stories in the technological realm. The Web, Facebook, Google, Amazon, the iPhone and Android, Snapchat, YouTube and Instagram. Mobile adoption grew like a rocket to Titan for almost a decade before slowing down.

The growth of mobile spoiled us. Now, if something doesn’t immediately take off, we label it a disappointment. We loudly proclaim that this thing that yesterday we said was definitely the future is now the worst idea ever.

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Smart people recognize that the truth is never stated in black and white. Life, by definition, lives in shades of grey. It’s why the Gartner Hype Cycle is not a straight line pointing towards the heavens, but a curved line where the apex represents a lie.

With this in mind, we can address the progression of the virtual reality market.

It’s January 2017. The start of what ARC may call “Year 1 of Virtual Reality.” We labeled 2016 as “Year Zero” for virtual reality because it was the year where popular technology began hitting the market real and tangible ways. We are at the beginning of this journey.

And yet, the prognosticators are already calling virtual reality a failed niche market.

Yes, it is true that adoption of virtual reality did not meet expectations in 2016. The HTC Vive, Playstation VR, Google Daydream, Oculus et al. did not meet projections. But the projections of virtual reality taking over were never based in reality.

Virtual reality is a funky technology that requires a distinct change in behavior in how people consume media. It was never, all of a sudden, going to be how everybody games and watches movies. The best virtual reality experiences are expensive and the content is lacking.

Instead of comparing virtual reality to mobile (boom) or smartwatches (bust), the better correlation is probably 4K TV. Ultra High Definition televisions (and related technologies) came out with a lot of hype from the media and manufacturers a few years ago. And yet, they were expensive and the content was lacking. 4K TV was a curiosity that had unreasonable expectations of being the next big thing now.

In reality, 4K television was always going to take several years to integrate into the consumer landscape. The prices of 4K sets have begun to come down. More content available in 4K than when I recommended that people not buy 4K “smart” TVs a couple of years ago. In a few more years you will see a lot more 4K sets in people’s living rooms.

The same type of progression will happen with virtual reality. Billions of dollars are being invested in virtual reality content from some of the smartest media entrepreneurs in the world. Unlike smartwatch apps, people are actually putting money into building a virtual content ecosystem. It may take a decade, but virtual reality experiences will eventually be commonplace.

Weekly Archive Links Of The Week

RETAILERS … are failing the in-store mobile experience. The digital-physical convergence of tech is a second-order effect that is a much bigger story than people realize.

$1.1 TRILLION … yes, that is trillion with a T … assets were impacted by software bugs, fails and hacks in 2016.

SMART HOMES … are the first category of the Internet of Things to reach a moderate level of maturity.

MOBILE … is still growing. App publishers made $35 billion in 2016, according to App Annie.

SMART CITIES … are fast becoming a reality.

SEAMLESS … retail is a nuanced concept. Amazon gets it.

AI … that can build its own AI. I wrote about this years ago as something of a nightmare scenario. And now it is coming true.

A CHINESE … company just bought IDC/IDG. Best of luck to all my friends at those publications and the research firm. Acquisitions can be tricky.

TWITTER … is phasing out the “Buy” button. This is a company that never quite figured out that notion of seamless commerce.

GOOGLE … bought Fabric, Twitter’s developer platform that had its roots in Boston-based Crashlytics.

SECURITY … researchers are in an uproar over an erroneous story from The Guardian claiming that WhatsApp encryption has a backdoor.

Take deeper breaths, think bigger thoughts.

Dan Rowinski
ARC – The Application Resource Center