More Substantial Content Opportunities for Augmented Reality Show Promise but Leave Unanswered Questions

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By Eric Abbruzzese | 4Q 2019 | IN-5660

Augmented Reality (AR) has had an interesting ramp up into the world; Google Glass was one of the first mass market, widely-known AR devices to land on people’s faces, and it failed as a consumer product. Since then, efforts to develop new headworn smart glasses in enterprise have been substantial, while the consumer market is suggesting immense potential on both the smart glass side and, more impactfully, on mobile devices, albeit not for a few years. Across devices, markets, and users, content has to be appealing, easily accessible, and ultimately valuable. This hasn’t been the case on the consumer AR front in the past, but capabilities growing in mobile AR suggest greater potential going forward; enterprise has seen greater success thanks to dedicated content houses and platforms providing highly tailored content depending on the needs of an implementation—something not possible for the consumer space.

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Bigger Names, Bigger Audience

NEWS


Augmented Reality (AR) has had an interesting ramp up into the world; Google Glass was one of the first mass market, widely-known AR devices to land on people’s faces, and it failed as a consumer product. Since then, efforts to develop new headworn smart glasses in enterprise have been substantial, while the consumer market is suggesting immense potential on both the smart glass side and, more impactfully, on mobile devices, albeit not for a few years. Across devices, markets, and users, content has to be appealing, easily accessible, and ultimately valuable. This hasn’t been the case on the consumer AR front in the past, but capabilities growing in mobile AR suggest greater potential going forward; enterprise has seen greater success thanks to dedicated content houses and platforms providing highly tailored content depending on the needs of an implementation—something not possible for the consumer space.

Today, the rate at which this compelling content hits both consumer and enterprise users’ hands is increasing, as is the overall value of this content. A recent experience, done in combination with Scape Technologies, Nexus Studios, and the Dallas Cowboys football team, leveraged 5G and AR to enable AR statistics display, interaction, and a full AR halftime show. Magic Leap and production company Wilkins Avenue are creating a Mixed Reality (MR) musical with singer Vanessa Williams. Outside of sports or entertainment, strides are being made in educational content, retail experiences, and healthcare that admittedly need time to mature to see significant adoption but are entering the market strongly.

Promising Steps but Questionable Market

IMPACT


Content is so often an afterthought with new technology rollouts like AR. VR suffered early on for the same reason, and even today the ramifications of a lack of valuable content can be felt; mobile VR devices like Google Daydream are all but dead, despite some inherent value in a VR experience with a low barrier to entry. There was just never any compelling content available on these devices, and so sales stagnated. Some enterprise VR use can get around this thanks to targeted and tailored content creation, and the same is true for enterprise AR.

There are still lingering questions around augmented reality across markets: is there enough capability with hardware to provide valuable experiences at scale? Is the promise of a large-scale consumer glasses market realistic considering the difficulties seen in early attempts and similar markets? What are appropriate price points for this hardware across different markets? These questions require time, research, and trials to sort out. This has been ongoing on the enterprise side, and some actual scale is being seen with content and platform operators homing in on the elements that are most strongly tied to the customer’s Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). Scaling that enterprise effort further, or looking to the consumer market, starts to shift the requirements around and alters the required conversation.

The example with Scape, Nexus, and the Cowboys is a great example of technology, content, and customer coming together to do something new. The impact and potential importance of 5G for AR can’t be understated, and a stadium value add experience like this has been discussed as a theoretical 5G AR scenario for years. To see it happen is a promising sign of maturing capabilities and cooperation among players. Even so, it is too early to extract actual metrics around the validity of that project and most others. So, while it is a confirmation of possibilities, it is not necessarily a confirmation of value.

Actual versus Perceived Value

RECOMMENDATIONS


Value can mean a few different things depending on the market being examined. For enterprises, value often distills down relatively simply into Return on Investment (ROI). Valuable consumer content is more nebulous, often quantified through metrics like watch time and Click-Through Rate (CTR) for video content and advertising. Either way, though, there is a quantifiable way to examine the value of content for an audience or user. The only way to truly understand the value of a piece of content for an end user is to get that content into their hands; anything less will always be theoretical at best and can miss important elements.

With this in mind, targeting high value content needs to be a priority. There have been countless early efforts to create valuable experiences for users that were realistically slightly modified Research and Development (R&D) projects or immature development tests. This is exacerbated thanks to the incredible objective value that AR can provide in the right circumstances; with so much promise and excitement, products are rushed, and technology is pushed to market just for the sake of getting it to market. Outside of just unengaging or unnecessary content efforts, this also manifests in poor User Interface (UI) and/or User Experience (UX). UI/UX has been almost entirely ignored or forgotten in AR again due to that immense possible value. However, it doesn’t matter how much potential ROI is on the table for an AR training implementation if the trainees don’t engage with it, which can be caused by confusing UI, poor input recognition and control, or general disinterest or disbelief in the efficacy of the experience.

Whether these new content experience types ultimately replace more traditional content isn’t important, but their existence and engagement rate with users is. Traditional and transformative content can exist side by side, and often thrive that way by not overreaching hardware or content capabilities and not overpromising to users. Again, this holds true for both consumer and enterprise content, where the KPIs are different but the need to deliver on those KPIs is constant.

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