Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality

I am not going to spend your time defining these two new technologies, virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR); you can Google those on your own. But I spent part of last week at a sports and media technology conference in Los Angeles and wanted to relay a few things I learned. Separate post to come about my thoughts on conferences in general, as this one was put on by Sports Business Journal and I love how they do conferences. It’s not easy and they seem to do it well every time. Also I may post about my week in LA.

What I heard, and have thought myself for some time, were opinions that AR is “where it’s at” in selecting between these two technologies. That is not say that VR isn’t a great product, or isn’t going to be (already is?) a huge market. The context for the particular discussion was about live events and media viewing. In that context, the thinking is that layering in AR on top of a viewing experience is easier, more customizable and more practical than watching a basketball game from your living room with a headset on simulating courtside seats. Again, something that has already been done and seems successful so not knocking VR.

AR has some great features that may be able to resonate with consumers (of ALL generations) and providers. For the consumer:

  • Customizable. Think of the early AR we still use today – yellow line for first down and stroke zone for baseball. Imagine you could add to that, with statistics, odds of where the next play in the football game will end up or where the next pitch will go, historical at bats, etc. Imagine a special “announcer “ came on screen as a hologram and told you more about the players. Or…imagine you could turn it all off and watch as a traditional fan? Your call.
  • Practical for live experiences. AR can be developed via app for smartphones, already has fact (Pokemon Go fans where are you?). But content providers and venues could interact with their fans in a whole new way. Imagine you were getting ready for the hockey game, and at the designated time the music came on but instead of the current video mapping on the ice (at a cost of over $1 million…), you raised your phone and could select from multiple game introductions. Or imagine if you hold your phone up for a pic of Beyonce, she could pop up in your phone and provide a free download of her next song.
  • Gamification. Continue with the recent example. Imagine if Beyonce’s social media postings were hints about when to hold your phone up to win the prize. Or if you were watching a hockey game but there was a parallel AR game on your phone, where you earn points through merchandise purchases that gets you extra players to score more goals.
  • Less expensive. You already likely own a phone…so no hardware to buy to enjoy a leveled up experience.

For the venue or content provider:

  • Cost savings. As noted in one of the examples above, if the venue or sports team didn’t have to buy expensive hardware to deliver a great in-game experience, that would be a win. Similarly, artists are spending more and more on their production elements to wow the audience. Some of those elements could be recreated in an AR world.
  • Data!!! This one is huge. Users would need an app or to sign in. Their actions can be tracked in the AR app. This gives providers exponential data that should be very useful to promote interaction and engagement, and ultimately to sell to.

I’m a big fan of AR and its potential. One of the panelists at the conference pointed out that the new iPhone X is purpose built for AR and the new generation of iOS was developed with AR developers in mind. So this seems to be where the world is headed. And I still believe there will be a market for VR but that it will be more limited.

But if I’m wrong and VR wins out, I will just play Pokemon Go with my Betamax and be just fine.


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