The Broader Context and Opportunity for AR and VR

One of the latest market trends for the last 5-6 years has been a focus on VR, AR, and mixed reality devices and applications. VR has been a topic in technology circles for decades and gained more prominence after technology scientist Jared Lanier began sharing his vision for VR starting in 1991. AR got serious attention when Microsoft introduced their mixed reality HoloLens headset and even more attention when Oculus introduced their VR headset at CES in 2013.

VR/AR, as defined by Microsoft a few years earlier, was really a mixed reality concept, although the rhetoric around it focused on AR. Their goggles had a see-through feature that would allow you to look at a room you are in and see an aquarium and fish swimming around you. With that, the concept of mixed reality and AR started to gain more attention.

At WWDC in 2016, Apple made it clear that their focus would be on AR as well and introduced the first version of AR Kit. Since then, Apple developers have created hundreds of AR apps, all being delivered on the iPhone.

These advances in VR, AR, and mixed reality are quite important to the technology industry because, at its core, it represents a major revolution in the way we interact with computers.

If you are a science fiction buff, you know that beginning in the late 1800s, science fiction novel protagonists often had fictional devices that they talked to get them to do something. But by the mid-1940s, when computers began to hit the scene, the only way we could talk to a computer was via keyboard input. In 1968, when 2001, A Space Odyssey, had Hal speak to the characters, the concept of voice interaction with computers gained serious momentum.

While using voice to interact with a computer showed potential, the technology that actually advanced the way we worked with a computer came in the way of the mouse, when Xerox PARC researcher Doug Englebart, introduced the concept in 1964. Then when Apple used the mouse as a new way to interact with a computer when they introduced the Mac, computers got the next big step in the man-machine interface.

Interestingly, Grid Computers, Palm Computing, and General magic, along with Microsoft and others, introduced the next evolution when they brought pen computing to the computer interface around the 1989-1991 time frame. Then in the last decade, as the technology became viable for more advanced user interfaces, voice finally became a way we could interact with a computer.

All of these advancements in computer interfaces represented huge improvements to the man-machine interface and were revolutionary in their own right.

However, I believe that AR, VR, and Mixed Reality, especially when delivered via some type of goggles or glasses, represent the next major evolution in the way we work with and interact with computers in the future.

If you have had a chance to test or use any of the VR and AR goggles in the market today, you most likely have realized that this experience is significant and have already understood that something big is going on when VR and AR delivers completely new computing experiences than the ones we have had on desktop and laptops for the last 75 years.

VR brings us into alternate universes, as modern-day teleportation, and AR makes your surroundings come alive with data, images, and unique experiences super-imposed on the world around you. Within the next decade, we will see more 3D and even holographic technology introduced into this next revolution of the man-machine interface.

The enterprise and consumer applications for AR/VR span from training, remote work, collaboration, teleconference and communication, and much more. In consumer markets, while there may be productive and utility angles, what most consumers will get excited about will be things more focused on entertainment like games and media. We are so early in this paradigm shift it is fascinating to watch from the component side, software and platform side, and overall hardware form factor side as companies work to figure out what is next in computing.

As one who has covered the computer industry since 1981 as a professional analyst, I am most excited about what the next phase of computing will enable in the upcoming decade. In fact, I suspect that with the kind of raw processing power that we keep squeezing into mobile chips and, 5G networks that by the end of the next decade will probably deliver 30-50 GBPS wireless speeds, this will enable VR, AR, and Mixed reality goggles and glasses to reinvent the concept of a personal computing experience. It will also revolutionize the man-machine interface in ways we could not have imagined 35 years ago when personal computers debuted and changed our world forever.

Published by

Tim Bajarin

Tim Bajarin is the President of Creative Strategies, Inc. He is recognized as one of the leading industry consultants, analysts and futurists covering the field of personal computers and consumer technology. Mr. Bajarin has been with Creative Strategies since 1981 and has served as a consultant to most of the leading hardware and software vendors in the industry including IBM, Apple, Xerox, Compaq, Dell, AT&T, Microsoft, Polaroid, Lotus, Epson, Toshiba and numerous others.

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