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September 29, 2016

What I Learned Presenting at Denver Start Up Week?

I was honored to be a panel member for one of the sessions at Denver Start Up Week.   The panel members discussed the Future of Virtual Reality: How AR/VR Is Disrupting Entire Industries.

I always find it interesting to look back on events like this and see what I learned and what new perspectives presented themselves.  Much of this insight comes from prep time and the conversations after the panel.

Some interesting areas come up about the future of AR/VR:

Apple, are they too late – I heard the rumors of Apple working on a variety of AR/VR projects but nothing has really come to market. In researching for the panel I started to ask myself if Apple was too late to the game?  Samsung has made huge progress in the market with Gear VR – could Apple come back?

My other concern is given Apple’s very slow release cycle with the Mac product lines, will those platforms even be able to support the emerging AR/VR world?  I am especially concerned with the historic inability to update hardware in a Mac by the user.  In a rapidly changing AR/VR world, computer hardware needs to keep up with AR/VR headsets. Can Apple’s approach to hardware development and long product release cycle match the pace of change in AR/VR or will much of the investment that Mac users have made not be able to run the latest technology?

Ultimately, I see AR/VR being a potential lever for a “substitution” risk for Apple.  If Apple cannot support the AR/VR world, will people make a very expensive choice to keep two sets of devices (Apple and non-Apple) just to have an AR/VR experience or will they switch away from Apple?  I will admit to switching from an iPhone to a Samsung primarily because of VR. The iPhone 7 is not that great and was forcing me to change with the new cable system.  Samsung makes a great device - so why not change and get VR with the Gear VR and a Samsung?

 zSpace, what’s that? – there are a lot of AR/VR devices on the market but most attention is around Gear VR, HTC Vive and Oculus Riff. I was amazed at the lack of knowledge on other AR/VR devices and AR in particular.  I brought our zSpace 300 for hands-on demonstrations after the panel discussion.  No one at the event had any familiarity with zSpace.  Personally, zSpace is my favorite AR platform – LOVE IT - and the one I feel has the most long-term business potential.  I would challenge folks in the AR/VR space to really scan the market and understand the different technologies.   This will be critical in matching technology to use cases – right tool for the right job.

Policy/ social issues with AR/VR - While there is a huge consumer/ gamer market for AR/VR, there are some real and significant business problems that are being solved. One of the problems seems to be that even small AR/VR initiatives get pulled into some much larger business/ policy problems.

One of the other panel members was from a company that is doing AR/VR based real estate listings.  The panel got into a discussion on the long term security and privacy issues regarding showing the level of detail of homes in VR and how that information sustains past the listing?

Just on the heels of that we got into a policy discussion on the use of AR/VR in elementary schools and what kind of policies may need to be considered for that use case.  Questions came up about the need of children to experience reality versus a world of virtual reality.  Many in the audience had not considered how much more opportunity can be opened up to students with the use of AR/VR.  Pretty heavy item to consider.  These are the kinds of questions that could also put the brakes on commercial work in a pretty fast way for a startup.

Pain Management – In doing my homework for panel prep, I can across AppliedVR.  AppliedVR is building VR systems to help patients’ pain management without the aid of drugs and instead using a Gear VR experience.  AppliedVR is actually doing a series of clinical studies on the efficacy of this approach.  What a great use of VR to actually help people.  Think of both the clinical and economic benefits to patients and payers.  I wonder what the FDA will do with this?  Does it fall under a mobile application that is prescribed by a physician and hence something they would regulate?  I hope not, or should it?

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