One of the more influential financial analysts following Apple is Gene Munster of Piper Jaffray. He made headlines recently when he stated in a report to clients that Apple could be getting into VR/AR in a way that would dramatically impact the future of the iPhone.
His report stated that Apple’s recent spate of acquisitions and hires points to the company earmarking significant investment towards AR/VR research and development.
“These initial steps are expected to be the first in a path toward phasing out iPhone in favor of a mixed reality headset or similar device. That reality, however, is not expected for at least 15 years.” Munster says.
“We believe 10 years from now Generation Z will find reality inefficient,” Munster writes. “We believe the concept of an ‘inefficient reality’ is evident through smartphone use today the precursor to mixed reality offering users the ability to find more information as needed.”
Gene is a very smart guy and when he talks I always listen. But there is one thing he said in this report that really stands out to me. He said that, 10 years from now, “Gen Z will find reality inefficient.” Actually, I would argue that all of us consider reality inefficient even today.
One of my favorite T-Shirts I have seen in the wild says, “Reality Sucks” and, for most of us, there is a lot of truth in this saying. For centuries, we have had books, and more recently movies trying, to show utopia and a world without strife, anger, hunger, etc. But as you know, reality is reality and it is tough masking it even with technology.
Which is why the idea of “inefficient” reality is problematic to me. I am no social scientist but somehow the idea of not viewing our world in real terms could inoculate Gen Z and generations behind them to a false sense of the real world and its issues and problems as it exists in the future. In fact, this idea alone should make the demand for social ethics professionals a hot job title in the future.
Don’t get me wrong. As one who has championed the tech world for three decades, the role technology could and should play in creating VR and AR worlds is exciting and important. And, to some extent, I can even accept the idea that especially AR could layer on key bits of info, images and other content on top of real world settings and be used in ways we can’t even imagine today to navigate the world around us. However, if this technology in any way de-sensitizes us from the real world then I must suggest that proceeding with this idea or concept in a highly responsible way must be a priority.
I have been studying VR and AR for almost five years now and, given this research, have a pretty good idea of how these technologies will develop and impact our market. So the idea Apple would phase out the iPhone and instead expect people to use an enhanced headset or glasses instead is a stretch for me. For the foreseeable future, I see the need for a smartphone, PC or gaming system to provide the actual processing and visual enhancement in order to make the goggles or glasses work properly.
I have no doubt in 7-10 years all of that power can shift to a headset or goggles. What I still cannot envision is millions upon millions of people walking around with these headsets on and that being their only means of mobile information and communications. At the same time, Gen Z and the generations behind them will clearly be given digital tools, some we can’t even imagine today, to help them live, work, learn and even play smarter than we do today.
But I think it is worth bringing a cautious note to allowing virtual reality or augmented reality to be something that dulls us from what happens in the real world. If it presents false promises of what the world around us is really like with the help of technology, even if in some ways it makes it better and perhaps even more tolerable, we need to be sure it is done responsibly as well.