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3 Strategies To Help Virtual Reality Overcome Hurdles

Virtual Reality Hurdles

March 1, 2017 was the kickoff event of the first VR Hub in Tokyo.  I volunteered to speak at the event, since VR's cousin technology, augmented reality, was a core technology of one of my startups.  The only problem was, that I didn't know what to speak about.  

I started with interviewing developers and designers in the virtual reality technology space.  One of those people was my little brother, who works for a virtual reality company, Marshmallow Laser Feast in London.  It started out as a light-hearted conversation but a comment a made struck a nerve and he became really defensive.  

What did I say?  

"Virtual Reality is not ready for prime time."

I had said it and it was out there on the record.  Then, I had to explain why I believed that statement to be true.  After some introspection, research, more interviews, I realized there were three problems that are slowing the growth of this technology.  After that, I was more easily able to recommend strategies to fix these problems.

Here is the full video presentation (Links to the slide deck and questions and answers are at the bottom of the article.)  Cliff notes to the video are below this video.


The Problem - Virtual Reality Hurdles

Where do you even begin to tackle as big as virtual reality? The industry is so vast, VR means something different things to different people.  To simplify the problem, we conducted a thought exercise.  

What if Virtual Reality Was a Company?

VR, Inc.

Once we started thinking about virtual reality as a company and not a product, the problems came into sharper focus. From there we asked, what is the problem that virtual reality is solving? Not surprising, the response we got most often was "boredom." That is to say that most developers, designers, and users see the tech as an entertainment device. 

The Elephant In The Room

the elephant in the room - the thing no one wants to talk about

One glaring problem with virtual technology is the one thing that nobody really wants to talk about. What we call "virtual reality" is a really old technology. 

From all of the hype surrounding Oculus and HoloLens these days, you'd be justified if you thought this was an emerging technology.  And while the technology has certainly improved in quality and connectivity, the fundamental technology is approaching the ripe old age of 180. If you're under the age of 30 and reading this article, even the name virtual reality is older than you are. 

The Stereoscope - 1839

The Stereoscope - 1839

The Lenticular Stereoscope - 1849

The Lenticular Stereoscope - 1849

The name virtual reality was made up in 1987

Virtual Reality - 1987

So to put that into perspective, in the past 170 years, communications have gone from:

Handwritten letters


antique phones

to this...

mobile phone and messaging

to this.

Music has gone from:

Screenshot 2017-03-09 07.55.06.png


Screenshot 2017-03-09 07.55.15.png

to this...

Screenshot 2017-03-09 07.55.24.png

to this.

Transportation has gone from:

stagecoach with horses


first automobiles

to this...

First airplaine

to this...

moon landing

to this!

But in that same 170 years, virtual reality has gone from:

Screenshot 2017-03-09 07.56.35.png
this... to this.

It is the framework which changes with each new technology and not just the picture within the frame. 

- Marshall McLuhan

3 Strategies

 Clearly, the framework as the virtual reality interface must be altered before we are truly living in an age of virtual reality.  But how can we get from here to there? Here are three strategies that would help:

Strategy 1: Rename ViRtual reality

Microsoft and others have begun to recognize the danger of being linked with the name VR.  You may be wondering why a name matters so much for a product to grow.

For starters, language is a unified form of communication which implies agreement.  Here's what I mean by that.  If I'm holding a banana and I tell you it's a rabbit, I have failed to reach an agreement and therefore the word I chose is a failure. 

Let's dissect the name, virtual reality.

Screenshot 2017-03-10 07.06.04.png

The definition of the word virtual is first defined as "almost or nearly as described, but not completely..."

This immediately highlights two problems:

  1. The subconscious does distinguish between a virtual experience and a real experience.  All experiences are treated as reality by the subconscious.
  2. The words virtual and reality are in conflict with one another.  Would you want to go out with your friends and have an almost or nearly good time, but not completely?

Purely from a marketing perspective, virtual reality is making a promise and then contradicting itself in the same name.  Here's reality, but it's not reality. 

When we asked virtual reality companies to pitch us on their product idea, not one person used the word virtual to describe the experience. 

Instead, the word that we heard more than any other word was immersive.


For augmented reality, we suggest replacing augmented with assistive to avoid the cosmetic surgery implications of augmenting.

Screenshot 2017-03-10 07.23.32.png

assistive reality and immersive realityOnce a better name has been agreed upon and professionally branded, like THX for example, we can move on to strategy two - segmentation.

Strategy 2: Segment

Segmentation is where these two technologies start to become really interesting. Segmentation opens the door to a better understanding of you audience and, based on their specific needs, helps you better understand the problem that these technologies are solving.  Segmenting clarifies the unique selling proposition and opens the door to exciting partnerships, such as immersive reality and robotics.

Robotics and Immersive Reality

robotics and immersive technology

A robotic and immersive partnership makes jobs possible that would otherwise be impossible for humans to do. It can serve as a counterbalance to problems of scale, distance and danger. Imagine being able to shrink to the scale of the microscopic level and use a nanobot to perform tiny tasks. These tasks would appear life-size to even a clumsy operator, but could executed with micro precision.

Segmenting for Industry specific problems

Whilevirtual reality is beginning to dip it's toe into the sea of sciences with psychotherapy and other environmental awareness campaigns, the efforts are only scratching the surface of what can be done with immersive sciences.

Clearly identifying and mapping out segments will highlight and bring attention to opportunities. For example, immersive sciences could be sub-segmented into immersive environment, psychology, medical, and chemistry.

immersive sciences - immersive evironment, psychology, medicine and chemistry

Another segment with untapped potential is immersive government. For the record, we intentionally picked the most boring segment we could think of.  

immersive government - immersive governance, nato, voting and space

Could immersive technologies increase people's desire to participate in civics?  We believe so. 

One idea is to make a real-world immerse SimCity where participants can alerted to real problem.  Points can be awarded based on solutions, or donations. 

Another idea is a civilian-based NATO where participants from all over the world can meet with the goal of finding peaceful resolutions.  Members can gain status and a larger speaking opportunities based on how many disputes they've resolved. 

Strategy 3: Unify

For immersive technologies to get persuasive market traction, all of the creative, independent thinkers need to be on the same page. That means unifying under open-source guidelines, software and being active in the community. 

Screenshot 2017-03-09 07.57.59.png

Unified Standards

Without a strong unified and open-source standards guide, many developers and contributing technologies will be left to flail about without clear guidance.  In December 2016 Khronos began tackling this problem and already has buy in from big players like NVIDIA.

unified software

Additionally, the entire immersive ecosphere could greatly benefit from a unified development software for both designers and programmers.  What's really lacking here is a Photoshop for immersive technologies. 

Unified community

It's easy to fall in to the trap of competition.  Every company wants to be first to market with the best idea and position itself as the leader in immersive technology. However, isolated technologies stagnate growth. It is an unavoidable fact that the developers of today are laying the foundation for the innovators of tomorrow. The community as a whole should embrace this fact rather than try to out-position this reality. 

What's needed now is a unified community to share ideas and help each other bring about an immersive revolution. We can have all of the strategies in the world, but never achieve success if people 

For More Information

Download the full slide deck with notes here, or view on SlideShare here.

Q & A



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Is VR ready for primetime?  Not yet, but it can be. Here are 3 strategies that will help the industry overcome virtual reality hurdles and gain market traction and grow faster.

11 March
Virtual Reality, Strategy, Augmented Reality, VR, AR