Where do you see the XR industry in 5-10 years?
Hello friend, and welcome back to 7. Yes, we made it a week. Today is the 7th episode of my 31 day series where I am answering your questions about creating a career and a business that you love. In today's episode, I'm going to be tackling more of a big picture question that someone sent, which is, where do you see the XR industry in 5 to 10 years? I think this will be an interesting one to dive into because although it's not directly related to tangible practical advice on, on getting clients or building a career, at the same time, it is quite important that you think about where the industry is going to be in those amount of years, and how that will impact your career and business. So we're going to get into all of that good stuff.
This is a full transcription of the episode. Listen to it here:
Okay, let me grab my fortune teller book and my mystic Meg cloak, because I'm about to be Nostradamus for the day. In this episode, I talk about the future of the immersive industries and I think this is something that I actually really love to think and talk about, often, because it grounds me in what we're all working towards. Basically, I think it's really important that if you're working in this industry, that you believe in the technology, that you believe in the direction, that you believe that where we're headed with this technology is worth the daily grind that sometimes it takes to work in the industry. The truth is, it is hard, especially right now, I mean, the carnage that this virus has had on the kind of the steam, the momentum that location based VR had and the effects that it's having on production companies as they can't get out and do as many shoots on, you know, on clients pulling back on budgets, because they don't want to risk budgets on something as experimental as VR - there's so much going on right now that I think zooming out and looking at that big picture is so important to keep you sane.
I think from my point of view on where we're going to be in 5 to 10 years changes and of course it will because you know, you don't have until some some kind of technology comes out or you see a new rumour about a new big company working on something or until you see these things, you kind of don't really know which way it's gonna go. Right?But what I tend to do is, I tend to look at the big picture consumer behaviour. So controversial opinion, I don't think that VR and obviously, I want to talk about the immersive industries in general, because I think ultimately, that's where it ends up being. It's like AR and VR merge and it's kind one - it'll be in one headset and it will be one pair of glasses, or whatever it is. So, you know, the mixed reality future, let's say, is a lot further away than most people think. I think, to the specific question, which is where's it gonna be in 5 to 10 years? I think in 5 years time, Apple or Facebook or Google will have out a pair of glasses that connects with your phone, a bit like an apple watch does and it will be a mixed reality, it will most likely be AR, maybe it will be capable of some VR, I'm not sure. But I would imagine in 5 years time, there will be some kind of, let's say, Apple glasses
that early adopters use. So I think it'll be the first steps towards immersive becoming commonplace, because as soon as you have the big buy in of big companies like that, now you're starting to kind of penetrate that early majority mainstream audience. I still think it will be mainly early adopters that have it, as in it will be kind of you know…you and I, the people are in the industry. Like the tech nerds, the people that are willing to spend probably 1000s on quite an experimental and early device, a bit like when you look back at like the first iPhone. I mean, because I'm part of a tech family and my parents have always owned companies that were in the media and they're super techie and love tech, we all got the first iPhones when they came out in 2007. But it wasn't really i don't think, i think i was reading something recently about the fact that it took a good number of years before smartphones were adopted even by the early majority. When I'm referring to early adopters, early majority, I hope, maybe I'm just like taking for granted that everyone knows about the hype cycle. But if you look at the hype cycle of technology, and this is the hype cycle, which is an actual graph, I can't remember who puts it out. But if you google hype cycle technology, you'll see it. And basically, it's like the wave, It's like a pattern that data analysts have spotted with how technology is adopted and so it goes through these hype cycles. Right and the kind of the people, the demographics, that the technology attracts during those hype cycles is basically split into the early adopters, which is like us in VR, right now. We're early adopters. You've got the early majority, it still a very a tiny, tiny amount, so I'm not sure that would be considered early majority but you know, it's when it starts to kind of seep into the mainstream, but it's still not commonplace for everyone's habit. Then you get the late majority, so then it's like - okay, now this has become so commonplace, this has become so essential for life, that you kind of have to have it. Now we're at a point where, if you've not got a smartphone, then you're kind of an outcast, that's not normal, right? Like the majority of people have smartphones. But why? Why didn't majority of people have smartphones because pretty much everything in life depends on you being able to have access to the internet, all of our entertainment, they're built on the idea of having access to the internet, wherever you are in the world, right? And having like a camera in your pocket, and basically just having access to essentially the piece of tech that is more powerful than the computer that launched the rocket to the moon, in your pocket. Like, if you sat on a tube, I always think it's really funny when people are sitting on the tube in London reading books and reading newspapers, because I feel like those are the kind of people that are slightly cooler than thou and I like - haha, yeah, look at me, I'm not reading on my Kindle app, or I'm not watching a Netflix series. I'm reading an old school paper. Now no shade to those people because respect, you've probably got a very healthy relationship with technology that I wish that I could have. But you know, it's kind of like that technology now has been so widely adopted, whereas that is not going to happen to XR for a long, long, long time. And I can just hear everyone, like not everyone, but I think there'll be a few people that listen to this, who are hardcore into the tech that say - the technology is incredible and we're on an exponential growth curve with how good the technology is getting but the factors of when people adopt technology is not really growing. I mean, yes, it has to do with technology itself and it has to be good and it has to be light and it has to be affordable, yes but more than anything, the thing that dictates whether or not people adopt the technology is consumer behaviour. You know, it comes down to is this thing useful for people's lives?
So to get to the actual question, where do I personally think the industry is going to be in 5 to 10 years? I think in 10 years, we'll start to see, especially AR and mixed reality, be very, very commonplace. Like a pair of Apple glasses on your face will be as common as an Apple Watch. It will do a multitude of things. It might even replace your smartphone in terms of its functionality. To give you an insight into the world that I really would love to live in. I would love to wear a pair of glasses where I could walk into my house and the majority of my furniture is pretty plain, like it's a particular light kind of shape, but it's plain and I could project different designs onto it. So I could almost buy my furniture designs, and that would change what it looked like. I would wear plain clothing but everyone who wears Apple glasses can also see the design that I'm projecting onto my T shirt right? So everything, digital furniture, digital fashion, and I think that's absolutely where we're headed. I think, you know, I won't have a need for a TV because I'll just project the TV onto the…onto the wall. Now, this is the thing I think of that is quite likely and quite…actually, I would really love to live in that in that world because I am a glasses wearer anyway, so I don't find it annoying to wear glasses but a massive barrier for all of this will be - does anyone want to wear glasses? I mean, it's a bit like a 3D TV thing, right? It's like, no one wants to sit and watch a movie with those heavy glasses on their face and this is one of the big barriers for VR and AR at the moment. No one wants to spend that much time in a VR headset, because it's annoying, it's uncomfortable. The technology at the moment doesn't offer enough of a reason to spend 24 hours in it. Unless you're doing that as an experiment for a TED talk and if you've not watched that Ted Talk, go and do that because that is that was a brilliant TED Talk. Can't remember who did that but anyway, yeah, he spent a week or something in a headset. Anyway, I mean, you know, my opinion on it is, I would very happily wear a pair of glasses that I could be walking down the street, and it was showing me the directions, it could also pop up messages on the side and like…it could, project things on to various things. It could give me information about a car, it could give me information about a shop that I'm walking by and tell me like what star rating it has, and what the menu is and you know, I'm totally into that. But then again, I do wear glasses, so it wouldn't really be that much of a change to me. Whereas if you're not a glasses wearer, and then I don't know, because I'm speaking out loud, I'm like…there was a time where wearing glasses became like a fashion statement, so I used to. I do actually still know people that wear glasses without any prescription lenses. They just like glasses because they like the look of glasses on their face. So I don't know, maybe there is something about, if it looks cool enough, and the function is right, then it will be massively adopted and I think that's a very likely thing. I think, for me personally, I've always thought that I've always come back to this idea that if you think about the inventions throughout history, if you think about technology in general, every invention or most of big pivotal inventions have been around the fact that we want to communicate with each other. We want to be able to be anywhere or talk to someone or communicate with someone. If you think about, I was thinking about the telephone. Before the telephone, it was like the post, right? Like posting something before the post existed, you'd have to like…I don't even know, send your letter with a local person that was travelling to that region to deliver your message? I mean, I guess that is post but maybe before it was an actual system and before you could travel with it, what did you do? Like how we are as a civilization, we have wanted to communicate with each other. We've wanted to be able to be with each other. You think about the internet, the internet is literally the ultimate can communication device. The idea that you could be connected to everything and everyone all the time. You can transcend distance you can transcend your own reality. I mean the internet is a virtual reality. I always think of VR as the layer on top of the internet, it's like, the internet was actually the infrastructure for us to be connected to everything, everywhere, all the time and now we're going to go from this little rectangle that we have in our pockets that connects us to all of that, to actually being able to be there. Like I always, always think of VR as the ultimate teleportation machine and it's funny because I think Zuckerberg came out with a quote recently that said this basically, in no uncertain terms, and I think he was shading, Elon Musk and Tesla, because he was not a Tesla/SpaceX person but he said - I'd much rather, you know, work on something that brings the world to you, rather than, go to Mars. And, and I totally agree with that. I've been saying that for years, this idea that this machine is a teleportation machine, but instead of sending your atoms somewhere else, it brings the world's collective atoms to you. And if you think about it, that's basically just a layer on top of what we know… we built the foundations of a house with the internet and now what we're building on top of that layer, is the idea of being able to experience anything, and remove all barriers, and transcend all distance and time and everything. It's like, it is super futuristic but that's it right? And from a practical point of view, I think the tipping point will probably be where, yes, the technology has to be good enough. Yes, so many things have to come into play to make it possible and feasible and, you know, 5g is probably going to be super important to facilitate the explosion of immersive technology but the biggest place that I can see it having massive impact, and this is when it becomes quite commonplace and this is just my personal opinion, because I’ve had this conversation with several people in the industry who have disagreed with me, but I think when the technology is so cheap, so affordable, so accessible, and so easy to create for that it becomes you know…education itself, is completely transformed, because now you no longer need one teacher per 30 students, because you can have a VR where you had these small groups of kids learning at the same time. You still want that kind small group classroom vibe, so you can you can appeal to all kinds of kid's needs. But ultimately, the teacher is probably some badass incredible…it's probably Siri, or Janet from The Good Place. They can do it from literally anywhere, they can go to any field trip, they can learn on Mars about Mars, they can learn about ancient Egypt, in ancient Egypt, they can learn exactly with the cadence and the style of teaching that they need for their learnings. And who isn't going to buy into that? Yes, that is decades away but that's where this goes, right? That's the potential of this technology. I literally have got goosebumps because this is why I work in this industry. Because not necessarily that right now. I love spending every second of my life in a VR headset, because the truth is I don't. But it's because of where the future of this technology goes. And it's going to take decades, and it's going to take a lot of us in this industry to persevere and keep making and keep creating and keep championing but this is where it all goes and then well, then it's anyone's game.
So when it relates back to your career and your business, I just think about like, do you want to be on the right side of history or not? Because that's what this comes down to. This is happening. It's happening. You only have to look at you know, Facebook acquiring every bloody VR game studio andI think they just bought out a big kind of AR glasses company or that might have been Google, I'm not sure but either way.In fact, a friend of mine who works at Apple, said he had paid attention to the kind of patents that have been leaked and it seems like there is Apple glasses coming in the next few years, maybe even as early as next year. And that's game changing when these big companies are invested in it. I mean, Google have been doing AR for years, like you remember, like the first iteration of Google Glasses. Remember, everyone called everyone who had a pair of glasses? That's gonna be it with Apple glasses and if they get it, it's gonna be way more socially acceptable.Yeah, I think this all has to be, you only have to look at the writing on the wall, right? Everyone knows that, that this is where this is going.
When it comes to like entertainment, and the storytelling side, I have absolutely no idea where that goes. I love storytelling in this medium but ultimately, I think it's going to be like a crossroads of all different emerging technologies coming together. I think AI and
machine learning, I know that those two are basically the same thing. But you know, that combined with 5G, combined with room scale, multi sensory, kind of, like, the combination of everything will probably feed into what the next generation of entertainment looks like. But I mean, when I think about myself as a consumer, and I think this is really important, I think this is what you have to do. If you work in this industry, sometimes you have to remove yourself as a professional and you have to look at yourself as an average consumer. You have to think about, like what you like and dislike, and you have to talk honestly about what you're using the technology for. For me personally, I mean, I went through a stage of being absolutely obsessed with Beat Sabre, and Box VR and some other apps, but now I haven't really touched my headset for anything other than work related purposes for about two months, even in lockdown. However, I did attend a couple of raves in all space, which was a very unique experience. I'll have you know but yeah, I just think that sometimes we have to remove ourselves and look at ourselves as a consumer and go - well, what would I want as a consumer? What, realistically, if the headsets were light enough, and there was technology good enough, and there was an app on there that volumetrically captured a theatre show, and instead of travelling to London and paying 150 quid for a ticket to see Hamilton. Instead, if I could just put on a headset and be front row watching Hamilton? Oh, my God, I would do in a heartbeat, I would do it in an app, I wouldn't even think twice about it. So as a consumer, I'm still not bought into the technology, because it's not really aimed at me right now as a consumer. The people it's aimed at right now are the gamers and outside of that, obviously, it's got brilliant practical uses in business, and in health care in various industries but as a consumer of it. an average consumer, I would say, there isn't really a massive draw to it yet. So also, when you're thinking about, the future of the technology, it's also about thinking about that and it's gonna be interesting to see in a year, or twos time, what effect the pandemic had on, on the kind of adoption of the technology.
Because I think a lot of people in this industry were quick to say - well this is the perfect time to use VR and you know, fair play to them. Like, I know friends of mine that have used it to keep up with social events and meeting people in VR and stuff Aad they absolutely love it and good on them. And they're exactly the kind of consumers that will be buying into VR but, it's hard to get me on a FaceTime. So you're not going to catch me, you know, cruising into VR meetings anytime soon, unless it’s for work or a client purpose. I'm not sure what the answer is to the question…I think it does, I went off on a bit of a tangent there but hey, that's what I do, in case you haven't realised yet.
So this is really fun episode to record just because I love thinking about the big picture and I think, ultimately, what I've decided with my own career, and what I really love doing what I've realised is I want to have impact, I want to have impact in a way that I never thought I would though, because I always thought because I'm a storyteller, and I love creating, and you know, I'm a filmmaker. I love creating stories and films and I love working on narrative projects and writing drama scripts and that kind of thing. I always thought that was where my career would, you know, go snd obviously that is a huge part of what I do still but then I realised that there's this other part of me that absolutely loves sharing the information. Helping people grow their own business, helping people in the industry, helping people get into the industry, helping people create stuff in the industry, that will help us get to that big picture. Because I want that future, selfishly, I want those Apple glasses that allow me to change my outfit five times a day with just a click of a finger, just like it would be if I was wearing an Apple Watch. I think the best way for me to help drive the industry forward is to help as many of you as possible, stay excited about being in this industry, and also help you to navigate some of those turbulent waters that I've had to navigate over the years, but also helping you with things that maybe you're not naturally kind of inclined to do. I just happen to naturally love business sales and marketing so I'm very, very happy to like, share that knowledge and maybe that’s where my skill set is best placed.
I think ultimately, what it comes down to is, you have to be super passionate about this, you have to be passionate about why you're doing what you're doing. And for me, sometimes on days where I'm just feeling a bit low, and I'm not really sure whether I should be in the industry and you know, maybe I've had a particularly tough time with wrestling about getting a something onto a headset, and I just think why am I working so hard? Everything's so hard? Why am I not just doing what a lot of my friends did, and just work in traditional video where it's like, so easy, and everything's like, you know, at scale. I'm like - because I love this industry and because I love the technology, I believe in where it's going and I love the people. I love you guys. I love everyone that I've encountered in this industry and that I work with and connect with online. This is what it's about.
So anyway, inspirational rant over. I hope you enjoyed this episode and if you did, or if you have a question for a future episode, send me a message. My handle is @alexmakesvr on Instagram and Twitter or you can send me a longer question at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you want to sign up for daily reminders when this episode goes live, but also get a bit of a rundown of what I talked about in that episode, you can sign up to the newsletter below.
Okay, thanks so much for listening and I'll speak to you tomorrow.
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