Building an MR Headset for Fun and Profit

The boss hates us bringing up stories about Alt Reality devices (his words for it, not mine). It makes it hard because I want to cover some of the products in the market but I can also see his point, the products ain’t right.

So, I thought about the best way to show some respect to the boss, and keep my job, and still write something that addresses the issue of why he is so down on these products. And what I came up with below.

Here’s the interesting part: everything after the following sub-heading is going to sound right but is going to have zero resonance in the Alt Reality market. At least from the perspective of why Display Daily doesn’t drink the Kool Aid of this niche industry. The problem is not the technology but the product itself. It’s not designed to solve any problem or deliver any business value. If I am right, everything below is crap. It’s not crap in a real sense. The ideas behind product thinking and product-market fit are pretty standard. It should be easily understandable to anyone with the most rudimentary knowledge of the subject matter, but read between the lines, and you won’t come up with any comparable examples in the actual Alt Reality world.

The Alt Reality industry is built on sand and the boss is going to love me for saying that. I will live to write another day.

Finding Product-Market Fit in MR Headsets

When it comes to creating a successful mixed reality (MR) headset, the concept of product thinking is paramount. Product thinking, often referred to as product sense, is the art of building products that not only captivate users but also drive business growth. At its core, it involves a deep understanding of user pain points and needs, ensuring that the MR headset addresses genuine problems and enhances user experiences in meaningful ways.

Finding the perfect product–market fit is essential for any company looking to scale. For an MR headset, this means meeting the specific needs of target users, whether they are gamers, professionals, or educators. The goal is to create a device that seamlessly bridges the gap between user demands and business objectives, ensuring the product is both user-centric and profitable.

To sharpen product sense, it’s crucial to obsess over user problems rather than jumping straight to solutions. Regular engagement with users to understand their experiences can reveal critical insights into what they truly need from an MR headset. This involves developing and testing hypotheses about user interactions, such as whether improved battery life or a wider field of view significantly enhances satisfaction. Lightweight testing methods, like prototypes or beta versions, are invaluable for validating ideas before committing to full-scale production. These methods allow for refining features and functionality based on real user feedback.

Customer discovery and feedback synthesis play a vital role in this process. By systematically collecting and analyzing user feedback, companies can avoid biases and gather genuine insights into user needs and pain points. Identifying these needs through customer discovery helps uncover essential aspects like comfort during extended use, intuitive user interfaces, or seamless integration with other devices. Prioritizing these pain points based on their importance to users and potential business value ensures that the most impactful problems are addressed first.

Ranking pain points by how frequently they occur and the potential for the MR headset to solve them uniquely can provide significant business value. Prioritizing solutions that align with strategic goals, such as increasing user adoption or driving higher engagement, is crucial. Using specific metrics to quantify the business value of different features, like user retention, engagement time, and sales conversion rates, can help in making informed decisions.

The landscape of product thinking has evolved significantly with modern tools and methods. Leveraging technologies such as A/B testing, user analytics, and integrated design processes can enhance the development of the MR headset. Developing a compelling product narrative that illustrates how target users will interact with the headset over time creates excitement and a clear vision of the product’s role in users’ lives.

Innovation is accelerated by maintaining small, cross-functional teams that take ownership of different aspects of the MR headset, ensuring cohesive and rapid development. Continuous learning is fostered through weekly reports tracking goals, learnings, and next steps, encouraging a culture of perpetual improvement.

Testing innovative ideas can be approached through methods like gathering user reactions and refining the product accordingly.

For new companies entering the MR headset market, it’s wise to avoid the pitfall of overdesigning for scale too early. Starting with a simple, functional version and iterating based on user feedback can lead to more effective product development. Running multiple experiments each quarter to test new ideas and gather data allows for flexibility and responsiveness to new opportunities. Maintaining a curious and open-minded approach, engaging with a wide range of stakeholders, and continuously seeking new insights and innovations are essential for creating a successful MR headset that resonates with users and drives business growth.

So Much Crap, So Little Time

I have to admit that the product-market fit approach is much simpler applied to software development than hardware. That does not mean that the focus on aligning the needs of a user, finding those paint points, and business objectives shouldn’t align.

How does $40 billion plus in Reality Labs losses at Meta align business objectives with user needs? How about the fact that Apple’s Vision Pro still leaves a mark, even at four or five times the cost of its nearest competitor?

Then there is the issue of pain points that Alt Reality product makers are looking to soothe. What is the pain point that wants people to put on a headset and block out the world in favor of a nauseating virtual experience?

My younger brother’s generation has known nothing about what communications were like before smartphones. I still find his accidental complicated addition to our family annoying and I get even more amped up when I have to sit at the table with him on his phone the whole time while I’m left all alone to talk to mom and dad. Sure, maybe I would like everyone to wear a headset to even things out for me, but no, I would like it even more if I could smash the kid’s phone into the ground and get him to eat without spraying food around a three feet radius of his mouth.

Maybe the Alt Reality makers think they are going to save us from ourselves or something like that. Who knows. They don’t seem to be talking to real users or have any real product-market fit processes. How else do you explain products that only an isolationist nerd could love?

No product- market fit, no product. There may be fun in building Alt Reality products, but there doesn’t seem to be much hope for profit.