Mixed Reality Road Report
So what have I learned this year by being probably the only human who has been to CES, Sundance, Mobile World Congress, and SXSW this year? (Not to mention meeting VR/AR folks at all sorts of brands from Nickelodeon to Mercedes).
1. A new media business is needed to cover mixed reality. Why? It's different than the gaming-driven industry behind VR. Just was talking toDamien D Bryant about that. He's urging me to start up my blog, podcast, and newsletter again and we're thinking it through. It's really hard to be on the road and do all that. Upload VR is the leader but is going to be focused on VR this year, not mixed reality, and the two will need separate coverage, particularly for brands that are going to jump into mixed reality (er, next generation augmented reality).
2. Brands are coming but don't yet have big visions. Until Apple announces its "big bang," mixed reality will be left to a corner of a strategist's office. Luckily Apple will announce before the end of September, so the market is about to dramatically change and that's why Shel Israel and I are building a new consulting/education/strategy business focused on mixed reality for brands.
4. VR is finally getting to be good. I saw some stunning VR on the road, but it's not enough. In talking with Mark Cuban he said something deep: until we stop getting only mind-blowing demos and games it won't really go mainstream (he says someday soon we'll use it to watch boring stuff, not just the amazing games and demo reel stuff that so far has mostly shipped). I say it won't do that until phones can do six-degrees of freedom VR. Then you'll see people use it for a wide variety of things, most important being personal media viewing. I'm advising a new company,Inception VR, that is aimed at exactly what Cuban is talking about.
5. Every VRARA meeting I speak at gets bigger and bigger, so you can literally feel the momentum of the industry.
6. The VR industry still doesn't know how to sell VR to people who haven't been in it. There's a HUGE difference in tone when you talk with someone who has spent an hour in a real VR headset vs someone who hasn't. Normal people? They have no idea why they should buy VR. That won't change until Apple does VR. If it does it at all. I am working with tradeshows in Europe and the Middle East to try to answer that need. Gary Shapiro we should talk further about this at CES, too. Even I need education. I got home and a ton of new things are on the VR stores. Which one is best for me? I have no idea, so have to randomly try things out or do a lot of research.
7. Apple isn't acting like developers are needed. Yet. Most of the top VR developers have no relationship with Apple. Heck, I've been at a few huge media companies lately and only a few have a relationship with Apple (or really any headset maker). This is a huge opportunity, but it will require some creative thinking on behalf of folks who make headworn VR or AR headsets.
8. Right now there's a LOT of need for education. Both on how to do VR or mixed reality, but consumers need help figuring this out and no one really is stepping up and talking to those outside the industry. The best way? So far Owlchemy Labs is the best. I visited Cy Wise who is the marketing genius behind its #1 hit, Job Simulator, and she got word out by building relationships with YouTube stars who then played their game on air, which is how my kids heard about it. There are other channels, including other celebrities (which is why I have been talking to Damien, too, since he has lots of relationships there).
9. In talking to investors most are in a holding pattern. Helping existing investments get traction, holding off until at least this summer to do more (they know that if Apple does a great job that will get a LOT more to happen, so are holding off until more happens). One investor told me he'll revisit his "hold" decision after the summer. He wasn't alone. Marc Mordohand I are still evaluating doing a mixed reality fund, aiming at figuring it all out ASAP so we can be ready for when investors turn on the tap again.
10. Watch for car companies to start figuring out they have important pieces (brand, stores, and SLAM maps) for mixed reality glasses too. Lots of deals will happen over the next year or two on that front.
Now that I'm digging through my emails I see that someone needs to better contextualize the industry and build a database. Translation: I think I need to do one of those posters that Jeremiah Owyang does for his Crowd Companies group. I have his posters sitting in front of me and I find it helps focus my energy having a map of the industry like that.
For instance, below is a link to just one of the lists I am keeping over on Twitter with about 1,500 people in the VR/AR industry. If I find someone doing something kick ass I add them to the list.
Finally, what I'm seeing is world-wide excitement. We all know VR is too dorky, expensive, and needs more content, but we can see that within a few years all of that will get fixed and those of us who are in now are positioned well to build interesting things going forward.
I've never seen an industry shift like this. So many amazing things are coming to consumers soon because of this industry and most people have absolutely no clue just how amazing these things are.
Love to hear ideas!