Stop The Hype – Microsoft And Magic Leap Are Creating Their Own Disasters – Forbes
Augmented reality has a rosy future if you consider;
- Snap’s IPO crowing about future augmented reality products
- FMCG companies are adopting the technology as well as the gaming industries and companies like LEGO
- Pokémon GO clones like Snatch sprouting up
- Pinterest recently launching a shoppable AR lens
- Physical Oculus Rift demo sites being shut down
Mixed reality isn’t having such a smooth ride. Instead the headset-making world seems to enjoy creating problems for itself. Microsoft has announced it is cancelling the launch of HoloLens V2 in favour of forging ahead with the ‘mechagodzillasupertriplekickcombo’ HoloLens V3 and the semi-imminent (but no-one quite knows anything about it/when) arrival of Wunderkinder Magic Leap seems to just keep rolling. Beyond this, HoloLens (and mixed reality in general) is still nowhere near ready for primetime. Tech isn’t the real problem in this equation – it’s PR – the technology will come but any PR strategy is a choice and these companies are making bad bets.
Microsoft is not alone in the bait-and-switch hype video PR campaign world. Magic Leap recently took a big PR hit when it was revealed that promotional videos – labeled with disclaimers about no manipulation – had been manipulated to look better than the product. Expectations (more times than not) fall short of the reality for mixed-reality products whereas augmented reality usually delivers a simple, seamless or somewhat expected experience. Mixed reality (currently) requires clunky headsets and offer small screens within visors that frustrate users after the wow and ‘”od this is heavy” factors subside. Augmented reality is different again, users simply install and fire up an app and get value – mixed reality often makes you work for it. Mixed reality promotional materials show a utopia of potential presented but then comes the fall when a user gets to use the unit.
Hype is often a necessary part of most emerging technologies – you’ve got to be positive (and I am for mixed reality) or – but the veracity of the claims made by the mixed-reality community need to be cooled if they are to bring even early adopters on board – let alone consumers. If the Theranos debacle taught the startup world anything it is that hype must be carefully managed and courted or real damage can occur – a fate no one wants for “the future of computing.”
HoloLens is still not available to buy outside the Developer community and with the cancellation of V2, users won’t be seeing much until at least 2019. Whether Microsoft postponed it because of Magic Leap or because of the desired ‘generational leap‘ (or another reason entirely), the fact remains this delay is an opportunity for competitors (including augmented reality as a whole) and a costly one for Microsoft in terms of research and design expenditure and delayed revenue (assuming HoloLens sells). I can safely say from trying several iterations of HoloLens that things are progressing but until users are presented with something that looks even 50% what the videos promise, Microsoft (and others) will continue to have a big – expensive – problem on its hands.
Paul founded HERE/FORTH, an emerging technology advisory.