#583: Gartner’s Brian Blau on the State of the VR & AR Industries

Brian-Blau-2017Brian Blau is the vice president of research for personal technologies at Gartner Research where he’s in the business of making predictions about the consumer adoption of virtual reality and augmented reality technologies. I last interviewed Blau in 2015 when he was saying that his predictions were a lot more conservative than other analysts who were predicting more explosive growth for VR, and Blau tells me that his more conservative estimates have more closely matched with reality where he slightly overestimated PC VR market and underestimated how fast the mobile VR HMD market would take off.


I had a chance to catch up with Blau at Google I/O on May 17th, 2017 where we talk about the state of the VR & AR industries and what some of the potential catalysts for consumer adoption might be. A big point that Blau makes is that technologies get adopted when people are not explicitly thinking about them, and that there may be more drivers of immersive technologies through other ambient computing innovations. This interview was conducted a few weeks before Apple announced ARKit on June 5th and then Google ditched the Tango brand and depth-sensor hardware requirement for their phone-based AR on August 29th when they launched ARCore. Then on September 12th, Apple announced front-facing cameras on the iPhone X for companies like Snapchat to do more sophisticated digital avatars, as well as Animojis that provide the ability to embody emojis with recorded voices messages. Apple also announced it’s now possible to make phone calls via the Apple watch + Airpods, and so this is a push towards ambient computing with conversational interfaces, and moving away from solely relying upon screens on phones.

Like Duygu Daniels told me in 2016, Snapchat is an AR company, and it’s possible that they have had more of an influence on driving Apple’s technological roadmap than virtual reality has. The consumer use of services like Snapchat and Animoji may prove to be key drivers of immersive technologies since Apple decided to put a depth sensor camera on the front of the camera rather than on the back. The front-facing camera offers more sophisticated ways to alter your identity through AR filters, which when you can see in the virtual mirror of your phone screen changes the expression of identity through the embodiment of these virtual avatars. You can see how much Apple’s Craig Federighi changed his expression of himself while recording an Animoji during the Apple keynote:


Snapchat’s Spectacle glasses received a lot of grassroots marketing from users who were recording Snaps absent a phone. Will the additional digital avatar, face-painting features of the iPhone X inspire extra demand for consumers to want to pay $999 for these types of feature that are only made available by a front-facing depth camera? But it’s clear that the technological roadmap for mobile computing has now started to include volumetric and immersive sensors. Google made a bet with Tango that adoption would be driven by a depth sensor pointed outward into the world for AR, but it looks like Snapchat could be a key app that popularizes front-facing cameras and the use of augmented and mixed filters that change how you express yourself and connect to your friends.

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Rough Transcript

[00:00:05.412] Kent Bye: The Voices of VR Podcast. Hello, my name is Kent Bye and welcome to the Voices of VR podcast. So virtual reality and augmented reality are these new immersive communications mediums. And I think the biggest question that everybody has is when is it going to go from these consumer products into mass ubiquity? What is going to be the catalyst to be able to take these new products that are available to really drive adoption and to have the type of market share that smartphones may have, for example? So Brian Blau is somebody who's been looking at this specific question and he's somebody who makes predictions about the future and he's able to talk to a lot of people who have insider information and he's able to kind of be an investigative reporter and report on the trends and make predictions about the overall state of the industry. However, a lot of his predictions are secret and you can't actually read them unless you're a member of Gartner to be able to read his analysis. So I've previously done an interview with him back in November of 2016, and at that time he was saying that he was a little bit more conservative than a lot of the other analysts that were out there making these wildly vast predictions that there was going to be this huge acceleration of the growth of these new immersive technologies. And then over time, it turns out his more conservative predictions have been more true than the widely inflated expectations of some of the analysts that are out there. So I have a chance to talk to Brian Blau on the very first day of Google I.O., and this was recorded back on May 17th, 2017. So this was a couple of weeks before Apple had announced ARKit on June 5th, which was their phone-based AR to be able to have a platform and software development kit to really catalyze phone-based AR. And then this was also before the announcements that Google made on August 29th announcing ARCore, which in some ways, the optics for me at least, was that Google was making a strategic decision to not focus so much on Tango-enabled phones, which requires a special depth sensor camera on the back and to instead focus on making what they already have developed for ARCore more generalizable without the need for the depth sensors to be able to be more on parity with ARKit. And so tomorrow, Wednesday, October 4th, Google is actually having their announcements going into more details about the capabilities of Pixel 2 as well as the latest news about their AR and VR efforts. So I figured it'd be worth to go back in time and listen to some of the predictions that Brian was making in the near future when it comes to what was happening with Apple, but also the overall VR and AR industry of where it's at now and where it's going in the future. So that's what we're covering on today's episode of the Voices of VR podcast. So this interview with Brian happened at the Google I-O conference happening in Mountain View, California on Wednesday, May 17th, 2017. So with that, let's go ahead and dive right in.

[00:03:00.890] Brian Blau: So I'm Brian Blau. I'm Research Vice President at Gartner and the Personal Technologies Group. So your question is about what's cool going on with VRAR here at Google I.O. And so today, the first day of Google I.O., they didn't really have much to say. Their keynote this morning, they made two or three interesting announcements. The least interesting was the fact that they announced a few more Daydream-compatible phones. You should expect more Daydream-compatible phones to come out from Google and their partners, and we got a few more here, so that's great. They also announced a more intriguing new device. In fact, the only new device they announced here so far was the standalone VR headset. There's no name for it yet. It'll be the Daydream standalone headset, I guess. It'll be sort of a combination of smartphone VR and something more sophisticated. like that you find on wired or desktop VR. It's great because it'll be all mobile. Hopefully the price will be reasonable in the sense that it'll be more than your smartphone VR, more than $100 a unit, but less than what it takes to get into the desktop or console VR. So I hope that they peg the price somewhere in the $300 to $600 range. And it'll be great because it'll be all mobile and it'll be a dedicated VR device. And so, I think the theory is that when it can be dedicated like that, it'll have more capabilities, more sophisticated, and the fact that it has inside-out tracking, which is sort of tracking without an external tracker, it means you can pretty much use it wherever you want, inside or outside, and it'll work. That is actually, in terms of subtle features, that inside-out tracking gives you that added head movement and visual parallax that you don't get with Gear VR and these other ones. And it really changes things. Like if you're prone to motion sickness a little bit, like I am in VR, having that head movement really makes a big difference. It gives you the perspective that you naturally see with your eyes. And that's the benefit that you get with this inside out tracking. And I'm glad that they're bringing that to the standalone VR headsets. So beyond that, I think they're saving whatever other announcements and goodies for the keynote tomorrow morning.

[00:05:20.220] Kent Bye: Yeah, and I think the last time that we had talked was way back in November 2015 at the VRX Festival in San Francisco. And I think that we talked about, at that time, a lot of your process of making predictions. And I remember what you were saying is that, at that time, your predictions were a little bit more conservative than a lot of the other analysts that were out there. And I think that the thing that I see and have been observing is that, you know, a lot of these people are making a lot of these wild predictions, and then whenever the actual cells don't meet these wild predictions, then there's like this impression that VR is not performing as people expected. Now, because you're at Gardner, and you're not necessarily publishing what your predictions are, I'm just curious if you've been privately correct or incorrect on your previous predictions, and if your conservative take before was more online, or if even you have been often making your predictions.

[00:06:10.154] Brian Blau: So I'm really glad you asked. I appreciate the fact that you pointed out that we were more conservative than others, and it turned out we were right. I was right. We haven't had to change our forecast significantly that much. I will tell you, every time we revise a forecast it changes. So that's a natural course of doing forecasting. What you're pointing out is that other analysts, not from Gartner, made forecasts around ARVR that were wildly fantastic and then they had to dial those back significantly. So we have done dialing back, but also we've done dialing up or out, if you will. So we have a sophisticated forecasting methodology. Think of it as a big black box with a bunch of dials and knobs on it, and we have to kind of turn all those. So on some things we made assumptions about, we were too conservative, and some things we were not. We were too aggressive. So for example, I was a little conservative on smartphone VR headsets, right? So we didn't think it would sell as many, and it turned out China, they love them in China, so there was quite a few more sold there, right? We were pretty much spot on with the wired VR headsets and with all the augmented reality devices. So that's the only one that I didn't, I thought was a little bit low, and actually so we had to raise it up a little bit. Did we dial back anything? I will tell you that at the end years of our forecast and the day you're right we don't publish it publicly but i'm trying to remember now so we do four years worth of forecast including plus the current year right so on the chart it looks like five years right so at the time so when we do this forecast the hardest ones are of course the very the end years right so we've had to play around with those a little bit But again, maybe a 10% change up and down. I don't even think that much, to be honest. So that was it, and that's five years out from now.

[00:08:01.934] Kent Bye: And from my impression of being within the virtual reality community, I'm not always necessarily all that concerned or interested in those forecasts, those numbers. Because I know in my heart that VR is going to, in some ways, find a niche in a home, whether it just is in the enterprise, engineering, architecture, and design, entertainment. You know, I think the big question is the point in which it tips over and becomes massive mainstream. That's sort of the $6 million question that people are asking and wondering about. For you, as we look at that, this trajectory of this, what I see is essentially like this New immersive computing platform that's not going to go away It's more of a question of at what point is going to be mass and mainstream and how long is that going to take? Do you think it's a matter of having like killer apps or content or what is it that you think is at this point really? Accelerating the adoption and if it's just a matter of as well as grassroots Marketing and having the real compelling use cases and entertainment experiences that are really driving people to adopt it

[00:09:01.705] Brian Blau: You know, that's a really, really hard question to answer. And I've thought a lot about sort of these tipping points and what's it going to take to accelerate the adoption. It's likely going to be a combination of many things versus any one. It'll likely come some years out in the future, especially if it's a headset, something you're going to wear on your face, because it is such a different form factor. For consumers, I often wonder if it'll even be a headset that brings immersive technology into people's hands. It very well could be a smartphone first, right, with 3D sensors on it. So, you know, it's hard to say what is going to be the attractiveness in the future. Oftentimes we think about AR, VR as natural technologies, natural user interfaces. And so what's the big deal about being natural? Well, not natural is everything. We have that all the time. But that's actually the power of AR, VR. And when it becomes real natural and you don't have to think about it, that's when it actually becomes the most powerful. And so the tipping point is when people start to use it and they don't think about it. And that's what I think are tipping points, right? And we're not there yet. We're still using them as entertainment devices, you know, as novelty items and things like that. We're not using them as everyday objects. So I tend to think the tipping points come when, you know, it's just that they're more common, they're more available. I saw a survey, just sort of a VR brand survey, like how many people know about VR? Not about any one product, but it's still a lot like, you know, the brand power of VR is still quite small. So even just education for people, you know, why should they be doing it, right? How do they do it? What's it like when you wear it? And then will it even be VR? Will it be AR, some type of mixed reality experience? You know, I tend to think it'll be all of the above, you know, and it won't be until, you know, there's lots of devices, the technology's easy, accessible, cloud connected. And at the end of the day, If the experiences aren't good, right, I mean the developers are not making sure that they're delivering or sort of using the devices for their inherent intrinsic value, which is the immersive quality, you know, then they're not going to succeed. I tend to think that this whole notion of watching a flat screen movie on your VR device is a bit of nonsense. Respect it for what people want to do, but it's, you know, it's more just like having a personal visor TV screen than a VR device. And I would hope that that kind of situation would change and developers think of more interesting things to do other than sort of video games and whatnot. There's lots of use cases out there. A lot of businesses want to use it. So we're well aware of the use cases. But I'm anxious for developers to embrace that and get it out to people.

[00:11:35.714] Kent Bye: And I'd be curious to hear your thoughts on the larger augmented reality market. observe what's been happening with these big tech companies. I think the augmented reality plays, to me, has been some of the most surprising developments moving so quickly. So for Facebook, for example, at F8, they seem to make a pretty big pivot towards putting the camera at the center of a lot of their applications. And so we have Snapchat that has been really capturing the Z generation market and a lot of this augmented reality filters and kind of a fun, playful social media. In some ways, Facebook seems to be leaning towards maybe changing that they're gonna be putting a lot more emphasis on this phone-based AR, but kind of open-sourcing, allowing any developer to make these types of Snapchat-like filters. And then we have Google here, which, if we look at Pokemon Go back in July of 2016, with Alphabet-owned Niantic, doing location-based entertainment and gaming, and with the Tango phones that I'm seeing here, some of the most impressive phone-based tracking that I've seen so far. And then Microsoft with the HoloLens seems to be much more into the enterprise market with a lot of actually getting headsets into the enterprise, but doing the head-mounted AR rather than the phone-based. And then of course we have the Oculus as well, which I think they're also going to be eventually coming out with augmented reality. So just curious to hear your thoughts of kind of furthering with the dynamics and things that you're tracking in the space of augmented reality.

[00:12:59.086] Brian Blau: Well, I think augmented reality is as interesting as virtual reality, to be honest, as all the other immersive tech that I cover and report on. Your characterization is accurate. Most of the tech providers on augmented reality are going after an enterprise customer first. They're doing that because augmented reality, fundamentally, is pretty difficult technology to master and get right, and it's still early days. Even though the 50th anniversary of the first head-mounted display is coming up next year, been around 50 years, and it was an augmented reality display was the very first one, right? So even though it's been around 50 years, it's still quite immature. And I just tend to think it's going to take a while for the technology to be robust enough to use it in sort of mass market consumer use case. So today, businesses are generally confused about augmented reality. I have a chance to talk to a lot of regular businesses all over the world and oftentimes they don't know the difference between AR and VR and they're confused by mixed reality. They don't understand the terms or what the technology can do for them or how to use it. Oftentimes they decide that they want to bring VR into the business, but they don't, they don't know what to do with it. Rather than have like most technology decisions, you have a problem to solve. Okay. And then you choose the technology that will help you solve that problem. So VR is still hyped a lot in the community. Right. And because businesses, most of them don't, don't know how to differentiate between AR and VR. They lumped them together, whatever traits are in one, they think are they in the other and they, they get the names wrong. It's kind of a bad situation, but you know, that's why education is going to be important. So you asked an earlier question, what's a tipping point? And part of it is about education, right? Having people understand what the technology can do for them. Businesses will get it a lot quicker. Once I explain it to them, okay, it's obvious. And then they just kind of move on from there. So I think it's going to take years for businesses to adopt. Last year, you know, we tried to round up all of the sales of the augmented reality head-mounted displays. And there wasn't that many. There was, well, less than a million sold. And, you know, that's, that's nothing. There's, those are hardly any devices. And we, you know, we talk about HoloLens and we see it on the news and we see it in headlines, but there's, you know, and there's a lot of interest in, but, you know, they're not selling that many of them right now. And the people that are buying them are using them for pilot programs and experimentation. to figure out what they can do with it. There are a number of companies and businesses that traditionally have used interactive graphics as part of their business process. Those are the ones that are sort of more in tune with AR VR. Anybody using CAD or animation or visualization or things like that, they're already kind of used to interactive graphics and probably will have an easier time integrating AR VR. But most businesses don't use those tools.

[00:15:53.705] Kent Bye: When we look at the virtual reality market here in the United States, there's a number of pretty clear big players with Sony and Google and HTC Vive and Valve, as well as Oculus and Facebook. But when you go over to China, it seems like HTC has a big play there, but there's a whole mix of other players that are in that. It's almost an entirely different world. So when you start to look at these different regional differences of different countries, do you see that there's United States and China? Are there other emerging markets? How do you even make sense of what's happening in China?

[00:16:28.573] Brian Blau: So, I mean, the high-level take is China is quite different than the rest of the world. So all of the technology we've been talking about are accessible in everywhere but China. And so, yeah, they're developing it a little bit differently. When I visit China, my observation is that people are not afraid of technology. They don't have legacy issues. They don't have to worry about support of old devices and things like that. And they're much more willing to try to be here and now and in the moment with whatever technology is available. I think it's a condition of their society. They've had to grow up very quickly in the past 20 years. Whereas here, there's a lot of legacy issues. They're bringing people forward just in terms of recognizing about these technologies and what they can do. And the fact that China is exclusionary in terms of their business practices. They keep out competitors and they promote Chinese companies. Now, you know, is that a bad or a good thing? That's hard to say. I mean, it's likely great for the Chinese AR VR developers because they have a very captive audience there. And I'm sure other developers, I'm sure Google and Facebook and everybody else would love to have access to the large Chinese population. Other geographies where I'm starting to see individual traits built around AR, VR, tech, I really haven't. I mean, there's always been a concentration of development in the core mature markets, that being on the West Coast in the US, you know, and in, you know, kind of London and core Europe. I mean, there's always been a concentration of development technology there in Germany. A bunch of AR technologies come out of Germany recently, past couple of years. So, but there's been no sort of separate market issues that I've seen like China is.

[00:18:09.948] Kent Bye: And I realize because you're an analyst at Gartner, you may have privileged information that you may or may not be able to share, but what can you tell me about what's happening at Apple? Because, you know, I suspect they may come out with a headset at some point, but I expect before that they may do a similar play to what these other companies are doing, which is essentially releasing an iPhone that maybe has some depth sensors to be able to do a little more sophisticated phone-based AR before they jump into a headset. But just curious to hear your insights and take on that.

[00:18:37.588] Brian Blau: So just to be clear, I'm not going to release anybody's proprietary information, and I do have a lot. So with regard to Apple, the rumors, and I hate to repeat them because I don't know if they're true, but the rumors are, if I'm just to sort of summarize it, is that they're going to include a lot of new features on the 10th anniversary iPhone, including a 3D sensor on the front and on the back. And if we can assume that's the case, and I have to say, I think we can assume 3D sensors are gonna be on smartphones at some point over the next few years, and when you buy one, it'll likely have a 3D sensor on it. Just a matter of who's gonna do it first and when they're gonna do it. I think it's really gonna change aspects of the smartphone. It could be one of the new features that people often talk about as the next wave of innovation for smartphones. And they're going to be cool features. A 3D front-facing selfie camera is going to make your selfies really awesome. Like today, they're cool. You kind of get the mask, and you get the floating thing, you know, the floating filters, and you can do a little bit of face paint. But with a 3D sensor, you can do real face paint. It'll look like your real face, and it'll be painting on your face. Or you can take your face and the shape and all your expressions and put that somewhere else and do all kind of crazy things with that. I mean, it's going to be the most awesome selfie camera ever. That's pretty cool just by itself and then on the back side 3d sensor on the back, you know Google Project Tango like the one they announced here Asus is gonna have one Lenovo already has one When those types of sensors come to more Android phones, and also with Apple too, that is going to be, I think, the next big play a la the internet. It's going to be as big as the internet because what they're going to try to do is they're going to try to take all the dumb physical objects that we have, ones that don't have any smarts, and using the camera and the screen, they can turn them into virtual ones or get some type of information about them. I think that's one of the next holy grails, that is turning the physical world digital, and I think 3D sensors on smartphones are going to enable that, probably before headsets.

[00:20:43.897] Kent Bye: So the other big player in the augmented reality world is Magic Leap. And they're taking a different tack in terms of the technology, the virtual retinal display, so they're essentially shooting photons directly into your eye. So I have a number of different concerns about Magic Leap. One is that they seem to have just a culture of secrecy, which is clearly observable by what you're able to see what they're talking about, but also a level of secrecy that I've heard just even internally within the company. whether or not they're going to be able to actually have development kits that are available for people to have access to, for example. Because the way that they announced it was that you have to actually go to the offices of the team and have access to this new magical technology. So at this point, I've heard a lot of people that have seen the demos. They say it's amazing and mind-blowing. But yet, I have other concerns about, are they going to be able to develop an ecosystem? And are they going to be able to have the cultural DNA within their company to be able to actually cultivate a developer ecosystem to have it take off?

[00:21:41.967] Brian Blau: So for a single company, even the size of Magic Leap with all their billions of investment, it's virtually impossible to stand up their own hardware ecosystem. It is so difficult, it takes billions and a dedicated team a very, very long time to do it. We haven't seen any new entrance in any type of device ecosystem in a very, very long time. And even companies like Facebook thought about it and are trying, and they're only taking baby steps. Oculus is the real first hardware system from Facebook, and they're a mature company, or more mature than Magic Leap is. So, I don't have a lot of confidence that they can be successful in the short term. Could they have a cool device by shooting lasers in your eyes? Sure. Would I want lasers shot in my eyes? Well, I'll tell you, I've had lasers shot in my eyes before. And I'm still standing here to talk about it. My eyes are fine. The thought of it is more distasteful than actually, I think, really, the harm that you potentially could get. I don't have a comment about how well it works. I think that there's going to be lots of different types of optical displays in the future. Lasers are going to be one, holographic waveguides are another, light field displays are another. They all have their own benefits and drawbacks. You know, I'm concerned for Magic Leap by some of the negative press that's come out around lawsuits and reports of the culture inside the company not being conducive to getting things done, essentially. I don't know that that's different from a lot of businesses, but when it's so public and there's so many lawsuits and they haven't even had a product yet, then you really wonder what's going on there.

[00:23:21.031] Kent Bye: Great. And finally, what do you think is kind of the ultimate potential of virtual reality and what it might be able to enable with all these adjacent possibilities with all these other technologies that are also coming out as well?

[00:23:34.689] Brian Blau: You know, in my dreams, and I've been doing this a long time, and I see successful VR as being one that you don't notice, right? It's being one that has such a natural user interface that you just use it and it works and you expect it to and you don't think about it. That's what I see as a successful VR system, okay? That means no wires, that means Fashionable form factors that you're not embarrassed to wear. That means connected cloud services that have the apps and services that are going to keep me happy doing whatever I'm doing. It means productivity that's going to help my work and not kick me out of a job. It's going to enhance what I do as an employee. Like, those are the kind of subtle things that I think advanced user experiences with immersive tech can bring to people. If it is that subtle, it's going to be helpful and it's going to be indispensable at that point. And I think that's, to be honest, the point at which it becomes that mass market success. You know, you look back at smartphones and you could say, well, Was it at the point when there was 40 million phones sold? Or no, maybe it was 100 million, or maybe no, it was a billion phones. Like, at what point were smartphones, you know, that mass market commodity device like we know them today? Well, we don't know the exact date. There was no exact date. There was probably a period of years when that transition was happening. And I think that that's what we'll see with AR VR is that there'll be a lot of devices out there. And then we'll wake up one day like, oh, wow, they're everywhere. And we're just using them and not even thinking about it. And then we'll look back and say, oh, the trigger point was two years ago, because now we're at this other point.

[00:25:09.010] Kent Bye: Just to follow up on that, as you were saying that, it made me think about one of the potential side effects of all these devices is the implications towards privacy. This is something I've been covering on the podcast a little bit, but I imagine that's maybe a little bit of a soft input to your different models. It seems like as we have more and more sophisticated technologies and capturing biometric data, it seems like we're kind of moving into this new realm of almost a paradigm shift of computing. And that new paradigm shift could potentially require new business models that go beyond what we have right now, which is this surveillance-based capitalism where you're trying to gather as much information as you can. And so once you start to have the capturing of unconscious data into these devices, if you're going to see some level of how that kind of fits into how you're looking at into the future as you're trying to project as to what's happening, if that's taken into account at all.

[00:26:00.233] Brian Blau: So we've also thought a lot about privacy and written about it as well. And we've had various sort of models over the years. But what's come out is essentially this, is that we know that people give away their personal data for free in exchange for something they think is valuable. That's usually access to an app of some sort, Facebook, Gmail, whatever. And they value that. In fact, they value it so much they'll continue to give their personal data over and over and over and over again and they won't walk away from it. So we know that people get value from services in exchange for personal data. So we don't think that's ever going to stop. What we're worried about, and I think you articulated well, was the unintended consequences of sharing this data. And you may not share that much personal with any one system, but the systems together can sort of decode who you are and what you are and know about you, even though you didn't explicitly say that or send that information to anybody. That's the harder one, right? I don't think people in general know about the capability of these systems. In fact, today, any business, you know, it's just a matter of resources and money. They can go buy data about you. They can buy lots of databases and write algorithms to put that information together. Most businesses don't do that because they don't have a need to. They just want to generally know who you are. They generally want to know what kind of clothes you buy. They generally want to know where you shop because they want to advertise to you and they want to sell you something. They don't really care who you are necessarily, but they just want to make sure you get a good service when you patronize their business. And ultimately, I think that's the real value there and people will happily trade their data if the value exchanges like I described. If it's something more nefarious, if it is sort of the decoding of all the hidden data that you didn't know you had, yeah, then we're all in trouble, right? You and me both, and anybody listening. You know, there's been famous people that said privacy is gone, and yeah. But listen, I'm a dad, I have a 19-year-old son, and he's growing up at a different time than I did. When I grew up, The opposite was true about your data. It was impossible to share it with anybody. I couldn't broadcast it to the world. I'd have to go buy advertising in newspapers and on billboards to tell anybody who I was. Today it's 100% the opposite. I don't have to do anything. I just have to use my computer and everybody can know who I am. And that's the world that he's growing up in. And I tend to think that his generation and the newer ones won't have that expectation of privacy. And they'll think about it in a different way. They'll think about that exchange. that I mentioned a while ago, and they'll put more value on it. And they'll probably demand value for it at some point. Awesome.

[00:28:34.947] Kent Bye: Well, thank you so much. You're welcome. Thank you. So that was Brian Blau. He's the vice president of research for personal technology at Gartner Research. So I have a number of different takeaways about this interview is that first of all, the biggest takeaway I got from this interview is that technology is adopted when people stop thinking about it, when they just are doing something that is completely intuitive and natural, and they just start using it. And so when I look at the movement towards these more immersive technologies, I actually see that there's more ambient computing technologies that are a little bit adjacent to virtual and augmented reality, but are a little bit more in terms of driving adoption. A couple of examples are the conversational interfaces that you're having with both the Google Home and Amazon Alexa, as well as being able to have these conversational interfaces with both Siri on iPhone, as well as the Google Assistant on Android. And so both of these technologies are pushing us into the direction of these conversational interfaces that are moving beyond the screen. Apple just announced at their latest keynote this Apple Watch, which is able to then actually make phone calls. So paired with their AirPods, which don't have a cord, they're wireless, so you're able to have wireless headphones. And instead of looking at your phone, you're able to start to take phone calls, but also have conversational interfaces with the technology. Both with the Alexa in the home as well as these AirPods, all of these are being bootstrapped with music and something like Spotify is actually driving consumer technology behavior more than the augmented or virtual reality technologies. So being able to seamlessly listen to music through your watch may be something that people want to do and is driving adoption of all the computing technologies being centered in a wearable, something like with your watch. So that's actually laying a huge groundwork, I think, with the movement towards these more immersive technologies. The other company that I think is really driving consumer behavior when it comes to augmented reality is Snapchat. I did an interview with Doigoo Daniels back in episode 370 where she really called it in terms of like Snapchat is an AR company and they're really driving AR technologies. At the time that I talked to Brian, it was before the new 10th anniversary edition of the iPhone had come out, the iPhone X, and at that point there were only rumors about what the depth sensor cameras were going to be, but it turns out that there was only a depth sensor camera on the front and not the back. For anybody that would be interested in augmented reality, having a depth sensor on the back would be much more well suited to be able to do all sorts of additional volumetric things. But instead of having a depth sensor camera into the wide world, it is actually focused on you looking at your screen and being able to capture your face. And so the demo that Apple showed was one of Snapchat, where you're able to do a volumetric capture of your face and you're able to do this detailed level of face painting. and altering of your identity through these filters and that is the thing that is like driving the technological roadmap is the consumer behavior of identity expression and being able to take these selfies where you're able to not just communicate with text but you're able to do a form of visual communication And so the fact that there's a depth sensor camera on the front of the camera allows people to then do a face scan and to do much more sophisticated digital painting onto their face, which allows them to animate and express themselves in a new way. At the latest Apple keynote that happened on September 12th, 2017, Craig Federighi showed demos of both the Snapchat filters of being able to paint digitally on your face, but also the animojis, which is this ability to start to embody the emoji characters and to record a little recording. So this is actually on the front lines of what is driving the consumer behavior when it comes to these augmented layers of reality that people are using to be able to communicate and connect with each other. We're moving away from text communications and with the advent of smartphones, we've just had a lot more use of the emojis since, you know, you're not constrained by having character inputs. You can actually have a lot broader range of visual communication that goes beyond just those letters. That is being expanded out now with these depth sensor cameras such that we can go beyond just communicating with these abstractions and just physically embody these characters yourself. If you watch the video of Craig Federighi actually embodying the different animal characters, you notice that he actually changes his core expression of who he is. And it's almost like he's tapping into different dimensions of his own personality as he's seeing a visual representation of these embodiments through the virtual mirror of looking into his cell phone and seeing himself animate these animojis. And I think that is the interesting thing for me, is that These animojis are in the front lines of being able to get people used to having these virtual embodiments of different characters and noticing how their behaviors and communications are changing. So I'll be curious to see what Google is going to be announcing with the pixel two. And what is it that Google is going to be doing? That's going to be hooking into driving these consumer behaviors. And also this morning on Tuesday, October 3rd, Microsoft had their latest announcements of their mixed reality headsets. Now, semantically, they're not actually mixed reality headsets. They're more like just plain old VR headsets. But the mixed reality part is that they have sensors on the front such that they do inside out tracking. So they're able to do six degree of freedom tracking without having any external sensors, which is a new capability. So the one that I'm most excited about is the Samsung IDC headset, which actually has a higher resolution than either the HTC Vive or the Oculus Rift. So for me personally, I think that additional resolution is actually going to be making a huge difference when it comes to people using virtual reality headsets for professional use. At this point, the resolution is not quite good enough to be able to clearly be able to read text. Once you're able to start to read text, then there's going to be applications like big screen VR that I think are going to be driving huge amounts of adoption of being able to use virtual reality within this immersive computing platform. As well as what Microsoft is doing with their Windows 10, they're going to have a lot more native immersive computing paradigms that are built into their operating system. And so I think actually Microsoft is making some huge plays here when it comes to these mixed reality headsets. But since Samsung has been involved with the Gear VR, I personally am going to be much more excited to check out their Samsung Odyssey mixed reality headset to see how that actually works. And Samsung is actually coming up with their developers conference next week as well. after the Oculus Connect 4, which is also coming up next week as well. So there's a lot of big news that I think they're going to be coming out in this time period, really kind of solidifying this future of these immersive computing platforms that are going to be used to be built upon over the next couple of years. I think everybody's kind of still searching for those killer apps are going to be driving adoption and innovation. It's going to be up to the tool builders and the applications are going to be actually driving a lot of adoption. One of the things that I've heard from a number of different analysts is that the applications that people are actually doing within virtual reality have to do with like these 2D screen applications, whether it's watching movies like Netflix, where you get a better experience of feeling like you're in a movie theater, or you have like spatialized audio, or people who are playing video games with their friends. And so you have a social experience where you're able to get out of your isolated co-located space and be able to jump into a virtual reality space with your friends and be able to do these different gaming applications on applications like big screen VR. So I see the potential of these new immersive computing platforms. And, you know, when I say I'm not as interested in the timing of that, I guess what I want to clarify that a little bit is that I'm actually am concerned about it because it has to do with the overall health and the ecosystem of people who are creating applications who are able to create those applications and sustain themselves and being able to do that. And the fact that these new mixed reality headsets are going to be able to be plugging into these SteamVR games that are out there and available, then there's going to be a wealth of content that's going to be available. Now, whether or not some of these SteamVR applications are going to be completely ported over into the Windows Mixed Reality Inside Out paradigm, I think the tracking is not going to be quite as good. That's my prediction. And when it comes to like playing games like, say, AudioShield or Soundboxing or Space Pirate Trainer, I have yet to play any of these experiences, but I think that having your tracking rely upon having some combination of line of sight and having things within your field of view, then there's going to be some of the immersive gameplay mechanics when you're hands are behind your head if you're shooting a bow and arrow, or you're reaching out far to the left or right if you're hitting an orb in either soundboxing or audio shield. And I think there's going to be certain applications that are going to really push the limits of what this inside-out tracking can do on these Windows Mixed Reality headsets. And so there may be a sweet spot of certain types of virtual reality experiences that have to be customized in order to fit the specific needs of these Windows Mixed Reality headsets. But that said, I've yet to be able to have access to these headsets and be able to try out a variety of these integrations on SteamVR. But that was one of the things that was announced today at the press conference at Microsoft, that these new headsets are going to have integrations into SteamVR that you're going to be able to actually have access to this whole range of immersive content that's already out there, both from the HTC Vive, as well as some of the games that are available for the Oculus Rift through the Steam Store. So, that's all that I have for today. I just wanted to thank you for joining me on the Voices of VR podcast, and if you enjoy the podcast, then spread the word, tell your friends, and consider becoming a member to the podcast. This is a listener-supported podcast, and I rely upon your gracious donations to be able to continue to bring you this type of coverage. So, become a member today at patreon.com slash voicesofvr. Thanks for listening.

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