Every year CES kicks off with the promise of unveiling new consumer technology that has the potential to transform our lives. The tech promises a palpable glimpse of the progressive tech future and gives us visibility into investing areas.
Immersive experience – and the consumer appetite for it – continues to evolve. From visual communications like AR/VR/XR, to advertising, news, retail data and vertical specialties to cinematic experiences, this is the world that surrounds us.
And with this new year – 2020 – we have a palindromic lens that allows us to look backward and forward to see where we’ve been and how the Extended Reality or XR space – which refers to all the various forms of computer-altered reality, including Augmented Reality (AR), Mixed Reality (MR), and Virtual Reality (VR) – is evolving.
This year’s CES featured an exciting 60-minute track entitled CES Digital Hollywood, where I had the opportunity to participate on the panel titled “AR/VR/XR: Top Technology and Entertainment Companies”, with panelists providing insight from a cross-sectional perspective.
Joining me on the panel were Marcie Jastrow, SVP of Immersive Media, Technicolor Experience Center; Sarah Vick, Head of Business Development, Intel Studios; Neil Parris, AR / VR, Entertainment Partnerships Lead, Google; Michael Ludden, Global Head of Enablement & Principal AR Advocate, Bose; Kirk Soderquist, Partner, Perkins Coie LLP, and with Steven Masur, Senior Partner, MG+, as the panel moderator.
Here are some key takeaways from the panel:
XR and investments
- XR describes the whole continuum of the industry with VR on one end and AR on the other end, and MR (Mixed Reality) is everything in the middle.
- Significant growth in XR is enabling content creation, and the evolution of what traditional storytelling and content looks like through interaction with new technologies.
- XR is applied in both the entertainment industry and the enterprise, driving how we make investment decisions at Verizon Ventures:
- We often see startups focus on either entertainment or media-related application use cases, including entertainment companies (like location-based VR and content) as well as sports. And then there are industrial or enterprise applications such as surgical AR visualization (or remote maintenance use cases.)
- Enterprise companies that are providing platforms that enable content creation also exist, whether it’s for enterprise or entertainment. Those are interesting from a startup perspective as well, because they cover the whole ecosystem.
- For Verizon Ventures – we don’t focus on one or the other. We focus on companies that have managed to find a use case that is interesting to the customer base, whether that’s a consumer or enterprise company and that have proven a viable business model around it.
- XR technologies change the user experience from one that might be more insular, centered on one’s own devices, over one that engages with other people in a social setting. Form factors of the future, such as smaller, less intrusive devices, such as next-gen glasses, contact lenses and other may enable a more social immersive experience.
- The US is often a springboard for innovation; Snap for example, is creating AR experiences that APAC is taking up in their own platforms.
- Innovation in a cultural context: We see a lot of experimentation in APAC with AR/VR/XR applications. Because APAC has physical/geographical space limitations due to its dense populous, AR and VR adoption may be faster and greater than other parts of the world. What does that remote scenario look like for all of these different countries? We have never been more connected on a global level. And so everything that is happening in China, Asia, in Dubai – where they have many different amusement parks with VR – is all about the feedback loop that enables us to learn how this consumer behavior translates to the US market, so that we can grow and expand XR realities in the US.
5G as the XR experience enabler
- At Verizon Ventures, we see 5G as an enabler of adoption of full AR, VR and XR on both the enterprise and entertainment consumer media side as well.
- We are seeing some of these early validation cases or data points that show – especially in Asia for example – which is a little further ahead in terms of consumer experimentation, adoption of XR uses cases and how 5G enables that experience to be better.
- We feel strongly that 5G will be perhaps one of those things that we’ve been waiting for that will make the shift for both consumer and enterprise adoption to happen.
XR adoption and status of the industry
- Looking at AR and VR from a device perspective, some companies are more interested in platform opportunities, not necessarily device opportunities. However, the distribution of AR core through devices gets AR into the hands of millions of people, and so the focus for one company is making sure that devices are AR core enabled.
- The past five years have been about creating better user ability – everything XR built was really to learn, to understand the way that content coexisted with our physical world and how people felt when they were enclosed, while also being physical. So, we’re working to solve a number of interconnected challenges technical and creative to make it all work.
- If you look at any technology, the trajectory is around 0-15 years. Between now and 2025 is a very interesting time for content creators to build content and come up with new ways of storytelling because there are so many different platforms in which to do it now. Storytellers are really pushing the boundaries with XR as it’s about creating and growing a whole new medium to work in.
- The first step is having content, then building and deploying the content in a way in which people can actually get into a headset without danger and liabilities.
Our panel discussion concluded with reinforcing the objective we discussed at the beginning: how to create a sustainable, repeatable, scalable, creative, immersive pipeline that can be used over and over again. In this arms race of achieving ease, access, adoption, 5G will be a key experience enabler as we continue to overcome the challenges in XR. It is an exciting time and we’re looking forward to seeing how this space evolves by next year’s CES.