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Is VR Dead or is it just getting started?

My Response to: https://loupventures.com/is-vr-dead-or-just-getting-starting/


Is VR Dead or is it just getting started?

I think the answer is that VR is misunderstood. Over the years, the technology industry has been using words and acronyms like VR (Virtual Reality),  XR (Mixed Reality) and AR (Augmented Reality) to distinguish between different types of hardware.

In actuality, VR really just means a "Virtual Reality," and it does not need to be limited to a Headset only experience. In my opinion, Virtual Reality should not be defined by the device type we use to connect to it with. Instead, Virtual Reality is that seemingly magical electrical dimension that we are building and connecting to in ever-evolving ways. Ultimately, the MetaVerse is "Virtual Reality" while a headset is just a method of seeing into it.

With that in mind, I believe the "Killer App" is general computing in VR.  It's the ability to send emails, write documents, manage files, work on spreadsheets, manage projects, manage people, browse the web, and all the other things you do today on your computer in order to "get work done". If you package up the capabilities of a "computer" as an application, that becomes the Killer App.


So with this in mind, the question becomes, "Are VR Headsets dead or are they just getting started?"


To date, VR headset developer have mostly published entertainment content in the form of Games, 360 videos, interactive pieces, and some social experiences. Similarly, 3DTVs were focused on TV shows, games, and movies. It's nearly 2019 and the 3DTV market is dead. I believe VR headsets are headed in that direction because the entire market is focused on creating "Entertainment" content rather than "Productivity" tools.

Computers and phones took off because they created a significant increase in productivity worldwide. Yes early PCs included games like Minesweeper, Solitaire and Doom, but Word Documents, Spreadsheets, Email, and print capability is what turned a PC into a Utility in every house in America. A PC is really just a better typewriter.


If you could connect a computer to a 3D TV and get your work done in a better way, then 3D Screens would be in every house in America right now... But, the industry focused on entertainment first, and now manufacturers don't even bother turning on the 3D feature on TVs that already have the technology built in.


In the computer industry documentary, "The Triumph of the Nerds", they talk about the fact that when VisiCalc came out on the early Macintosh, accountants could get 10 days worth of work done in 1 day. They lined up to buy Macs with VisiCalc and said: "Take my Money!".  

In my opinion, "Increased Productivity" is how you get the world to line-up for VR Headsets and say "Take my money".  If you can get 10 days worth of work done in 1 day by switching from 2D Computing experience (which everyone uses today), to a 3-Dimensional computing experience, which provides a more magical interaction with limitless real estate and 3D objects, then it stands to reason that yes indeed, the average user should be able to 10x their productivity by opening up the 3rd dimension in their every day computing.

The Next key to success in the Headset industry is to provide a more natural transition from "GUI" computing using Mac, Windows and Android to "3DUI" computing using a MetaVerse style operating System.


Steve Jobs had the iPad ready before the iPhone, but he needed to release the iPhone 1st because people already used phones and it was easier to give them touch screens on something they already use, rather than trying to get them to use larger tablets which was not a category that every user was already purchasing. If Steve Jobs released the iPad without first training people how to use a touchscreen on their phones, it would have been a major failure. And this is the problem VR Headsets are having right now.


So, how do we roll out Virtual Reality to the masses? and How do we ensure that VR Headsets are a worthy long-term investment?  

IMG_20181023_143342.jpg

Jacki Morie who has been working in the VR industry for 10s of years recently posted the attached photograph on her Facebook page. In it, you can see her testing out a VR wand at a regular computer without having to wear a VR Headset. This is the secret to Virtual Reality that the industry seems to be missing. You do not need to wear glasses in order to use with Virtual Reality. Just as Jacki had to first test her VR wand on a desktop computer, I believe everyday computer users will need to first use 3D Interfaces on their existing device types before they will be ready to put on a headset on a daily basis.   


In-order to get every-day people to buy VR Headsets, they 1st need to enter Virtual Reality using Laptops, Desktops, Phones, and Televisions. Only after they've adopted Virtual Reality on existing hardware categories will they be ready for new types of hardware like VR and AR Headsets.    


We must train users to interact with 3D applications on their existing devices, by giving them 3D versions of key app categories like Email, Word Documents, spreadsheets, Project Management, CRM, Web Browsing, and more. And we need to arrange those applications (on Laptops, Desktops, and Phones), not as windows on a flat desktop, but instead as 3D modeled tools arranged and animated in a spatial environment (just like playing a 3D video game on your laptop, desktop, phone or TV).

Thanks major gaming companies like Nintendo, Sony, Sega, and Microsoft, billions of people have been trained on how to navigate 3D in a game environment. Now we simply need to allow them to navigate their everyday computing in a similar 3D environment. And from there, we can also start to teach non-gamers how to utilize 3D controllers, or move around a 3D world with keyboard and mouse simply because they will be able to get more work done.


In my biased opinion, this is the secret to getting Virtual Reality as widely adopted as the PC and Smart Phone.  Once you can do all your everyday work in 3D using a 3D Operating System and 3D apps, then VR Headsets become a piece of the "Virtual Reality" EcoSystem.


And finally, The EcoSystem is the Key to success. In my opinion, companies like Oculus and Magic Leap are going to have a very hard time because they are building experiences designed for headsets only. But when you take off the headset, you can no-longer user their 3D Operating System or their 3D Apps. In my opinion, this is the biggest risk to the industry.


In order for the Virtual Reality industry to hit its goals, users MUST be able to interact with the 3D Virtual World from all their devices, with the VR headset just being one way to connect into Virtual Reality. When you take off your headset, you MUST be able to go into that same 3D world on your pocketable phone... and when you switch to a laptop or desktop, guess what, you're still connecting into the same Virtual Reality, and all your VR apps are responsive to the device and controls you're using to connect.

Platform makers like Oculus, Microsoft, Magic Leap, and Valve are becoming increasingly dependant on their developer ecosystem. This is a big and scary risk for these multi-billion and even trillion dollar companies. Even the founders of Magic Leap have mentioned something along the lines of their fate being in the hands of the developer community.


As we enter the year 2019, software development is easier than ever. And all the back-end logic of the most important app categories in the world are openly accessible via API or are easy to replicate using frameworks and code libraries that make programming as easy as drag and drop.  Over the next few years, replicating the features of top performing apps will be easier than ever, and this means that a company who has the knowledge and expertise to build a 3D Platform, should also have the ability to draw up 3D Versions of existing app categories, and quickly develop working versions in a 3D world.   


To prove this point, all you need is some storyboard artists, 3D modelers, animators, and unity programmers to make a 3D email application that ties into IMAP and Pop3 Email servers like Gmail.   This means that in 3 to 6 months, with a few resources, a 3D email application can be released with free access to all the major features that come from Gmail or Outlook email servers. And, best of all, those integrations are free to integrate.


This process can easily be duplicated via an "in-house" assembly line, where the job of the assembly line is to look at existing app categories and make better (3D) versions of the top performing apps for use in Virtual Reality. This is how a new or existing platform could ultimately secure their place in the entire market, and not be as reliant on developers to make the key apps for them.


In 2008, Apple released the Mobile App store, and new developers shifted the industry by creating mobile versions of the most popular desktop apps. From there, developers started making apps that were responsive to Mobile, Tablet and Desktops, and again, new players were able to take the lead in the hottest app categories.


Today, the opportunity is even bigger as today 2D GUI computing is the industry standard and sometime in the near future, 3D computing is clearly destined to take over.


There is a huge barrier to entry, as platform makers MUST provide an ecosystem of Hardware, Apps, Content, and Services in order to be a viable option for mass adoption. However, the biggest players in VR are focused on headset only experiences, and there are only 3 major Operating System Providers, (Apple, Microsoft, and Google), each of which are extremely similar to one another, and are rooted in older 2D interface designs. Furthermore, Consumers are getting sick of having to choose between Windows of MacOS,  or Android and iOS. Frustrations are rising, and there is plenty of opportunity for a new option. It's time for a 4th Operating System from a 4th major ecosystem... But that's only viable if the company making it is able to strategically transition users from 2D Computing to 3D computing across a variety of devices with animated 3D apps that blow away the experience of working on a traditional Mac, Windows, Android and iOS, flat experience.


Finally, compatibility is key. The ability to run a platform and all the apps within it on existing devices like Mac, PC, Android, means that the "Platform" itself is no longer limited by hardware constraints. This is why Google was able to compete directly with Apple and Microsoft, and why so many manufacturers pay microsoft to distribute products with Windows OS installed.

Further, compatibility was the key to Compaq's ability to successfully compete with IBM by making an IBM Compatible product.  


Apple does not distribute their OS to other manufacturers, but it doesnt really matter since the majority of file formats Apple uses are compatible on PC and Android as well. and Google and Microsoft both make their software compatible with Apple devices.


Google Chrome has done the best job of being its own OS or being installed as an app ontop of Mac and Windows. And just like Google Chrome, a Virtual Reality OS should be able to run ontop of any existing platform in-order to ensure mass adoption and compatibility.


An OS that can install like an app on top of Mac, Windows, Android, Magic Leap, Oculus, etc. or can be run through any web browser with a high-speed internet connection is the answer.


Enabling 3D Computing on any device with a screen and internet connection is the key to making Virtual Reality a Reality.

And thus, these are my thoughts on how VR will become mainsteam :)


Justin Massion

10/23/18