Virtual Reality Applications Will Drive Adoption

In an article published by the Forbes Technology Council, Where The Hype Meets (Virtual) Reality, Tracey Wiedmeyer, Cofounder and CTO of InContext Solutions, explains how the driving force behind VR will shift away from computer gaming and focus on other applications like education and commerce. Since InContext Solutions is a provider for VR commerce applications, a certain self-motivation can be assumed. Since he is not hiding his background, there is nothing wrong with this. However we have to question if his assessments and projections are objective or driven by some self-interest?

In the article he acknowledges that, at the current time, gaming is the application of choice driving most announcements and excitement in the VR space. He sees this as being justified as the gaming community is a clearly defined group of individuals that has already proven that they are willing to invest significant amounts of money into computer hardware. A significant number of VR headsets sold to the public, is often seen as a pre-requisite for any further development of non-gaming VR applications.

He continues that education could be another driver for the adoption of VR technology in the market that allows a complete new way of teaching subjects to the students. This is not a new concept and we have reported on such topics before. The next step for him is the use in virtual commerce applications. This could bridge the gap between brick and mortar retail stores and online warehouses. He suggests that such applications will be the ultimate driver for VR in the future.

Analyst Comment

While all of his statements are very much in line with the views of many other thought leaders and analysts, the article also rubs me the wrong way. His motivation is based on the development of such commerce applications and will require other developments being completed before his business can strive. So far, nothing wrong with his statements.

Then he continues to explain that “While hardware is the hot area right now, it will ultimately become a commodity, leaving the software side to innovate new VR applications in the future”. This is surely a true statement that has been proven accurate in many new technology areas in the history of technical innovation. Once the hardware platform is good enough, the application driven companies will start to make money from their offerings. The question I want to raise is exactly this, when is the platform good enough? When we look at a flat panel TV, the sexiness of the thin TV has long given way to cost and size considerations in the buying process for the average consumer. On the other hand the first OLED TVs were not such a great buy and it took many years of additional development before they were able to make at least a little bit of an inroad into the TV market. Good enough in the eyes of the consumer is a tricky thing.

He kind of indicates that after the hardware guys have had their ’15 minutes of fame’, the app developers and service providers will drive VR. I would think that my children and grandchildren will agree with this assessment; however it may take many years before the consumer thinks VR is ready for primetime.

In my view, the key of successful VR applications is the interaction with the actual hardware capabilities. Since the existing VR hardware platforms are still limited in their capabilities, software must be careful not to use the technology beyond the hardware limitations. As simple as this sounds, I believe that this interaction between hardware and software development is one of the key ingredients that will allow VR applications to become truly successful in the future. – NH