There is one common theme in the conversations I have with those I corner and force to listen as I spout endlessly about augmented and virtual reality: the general public has connected these future technologies almost exclusively with gaming and entertainment.
The reasoning behind this widespread connection is easy to see, and there can hardly be an argument against such a valid perception. However, since the connection has already been made, it will be slightly more difficult for emerging companies to move potential consumers away from their existing biases.
If the potential for AR/VR tech is so great in the areas surrounding lifestyle and functionality, why do the existing companies allow or perpetuate this misconception of strictly AR/VR gaming? At this point, they need to. That is largely because expensive functional devices aren’t terribly sexy. Would you pay $500 for an augmented reality gadget if its only purpose is to show you what your living room would look like if redesigned in a tiki motif? No. I wouldn’t either.
Before we’ll see AR/VR fully infiltrate all corners of our lives, we first need to research, fund, and further develop the future technology.
We’ve Seen All This Before
Take a moment to think back to some other past technological innovations mocked and disregarded by the public.
I remember the first time I watched a commercial advertising cameras on phones. I couldn’t get over its ridiculousness, and thought it was a frivolous, useless thing. Literally everyone I spoke to about it thought the same. Now, however, it has evolved into entire social media platforms and phone manufacturers compete over who has the best or most cameras installed on a device.
I remember first getting a computer as a kid. The purchase was so lavish, it (just the one) was the entire family’s Christmas gift that year. My sisters and I all got games along with the bulky contraption. The computer’s abilities, at the time, were limited to very few functional applications, such as writing. Our family, as many others surely did, purchased one primarily for entertainment purposes. Today, while computers can still be used for gaming, they primarily serve a vital role in our work and personal lives.
Giving a new technology strong footholds in gaming and entertainment makes it easier for early users to find value in products, provides a fun platform in which to learn operations, and eases consumers into future features.
AR/VR Gaming – The Test Group
As is the case with nearly every product available to consumers, there is only so much product testing that can be done prior to the launch of an item. For example, Tide (yes, the laundry detergent) might release three new scents on which they’ve done extensive lab testing.
We’ll never truly know how scents such as “Pumpernickel,” “Not-Quite-Like-A-New-Car,” and “Summer Bonfire” got through product testing, but there they are. As the consumers pick the scents from the shelves, Tide is able to gather data in order to see which of the scents do well and which to pull from production.
When it comes to AR/VR, though, the test groups and product feedback must come from a smaller, more select group. As we already decided above, none of us are paying $500 to preview our living room tiki-style, so product testing on early, yet functional, lifestyle AR/VR is difficult.
Instead, as we’ve been shown time and time again, AR/VR gaming and entertainment enters as an easier sell. Since people seem more eager to spend their “fun money” on something, well, fun, the early adopters of many technologies are those who find value in spending cash on gaming.
Via the entertainment industry, AR/VR gaming products are then evaluated. Are the VR headsets fitting well and in a comfortable manner? Do the handsets function as fluidly as intended? What kinds of glitches are prominent? What is the right price point?
This invaluable data from AR/VR gaming products is being used to constantly revise devices and functions so that once AR/VR infiltrates our daily lives, the transition becomes nearly invisible and the products function in ways the public will embrace.
In the Meantime, the Infrastructure is Being Built
Let’s, once again, go back to those early days of the computer and internet. Even if Wi-Fi were available from the onset, it still wouldn’t have mattered one lick to advertise a DOS computer with such capabilities. Since homes were not equipped with Wi-Fi technology and the basic infrastructure required to produce strong connections had not yet been built, the feature would have gone unused.
The same is true for AR/VR.
Pretend everyone who has a smartphone suddenly downloads a new app. This shopping app allows us to take a photo of ourselves (stored to the app) and try on different clothes. All you do is walk into a store, and find a garment you like, scan the tag, and it’ll show you how the shirt will look, bypassing the always-dreaded fitting rooms.
However, this only works when all stores, all clothing, and all tags have been activated, uploaded and included. Since this can’t happen overnight, the app is pointless, and no one finds it useful.
Instead, these things happen slowly over time. One store might adopt this technology and promote it to their customers, while another store may watch to see consumer reactions. If positive feedback is evident, more and more stores will implement the technology until it becomes commonplace.
Functional AR/VR is Already Here
While augmented and virtual reality have not yet infiltrated our lives in the ways we’ll likely see in the near and extended future, non-entertainment/gaming uses are already present.
If you look for examples of this, you’ll find they’re endless. Cases of AR/VR use can be seen in the medical sector, the military, education, manufacturing, elderly care, mental health, the news, retail, and more. As these uses continue to evolve and grow, the points in which they touch our lives will increase exponentially.