It's that time of year again! From next Monday (February 27) through March 2, 2017, Mobile World Congress (MWC) will take place in Barcelona. I attended this event (then 3GSM) for the first time in 2005 and it is fascinating to see how the event has morphed from a B2B telecoms technology trade show to one of the largest business conferences around the globe. This year’s MWC theme is “The Next Element” which may seem broad but I quite like this idea that mobile is elemental and has become part of our daily lives. By analogy with the previous industrial revolution, mobile is like electricity: once you have access to it, it is a disruptive enabler of adjacent technologies powering more powerful innovation. Mobile is barely entering its teenage years.
Consumers now use mobile as a sixth sense. If the human senses serve as effortless faculties through which we access information on the world around us, then mobile has become the sixth sense. It brings digital to consumers in their daily lives. It has truly become the face of digital. That’s the main challenge for marketers: as mobile becomes the primary interface between your brand and your customers, you must leverage mobile to accelerate digital transformation and transform the customer experience you deliver. A lot has to happen behind the scenes for marketers to be able to deliver real-time contextual experiences on mobile. That’s why it makes a lot of sense for marketers to spend time in Hall 8.1 where most marketing, advertising and app vendors will be gathered.
Since Mobile World Congress, where the reality on the show floor was often either virtual or augmented, I’ve been thinking quite a bit about the practical uses of AR and VR – particularly in government and a smart city context. It’s not just all fun and games, is it?
The example of changing a roller coaster experience with new settings delivered via VR glasses is really cool. Yes, you can imagine repeating the ride to experience catapulting through medieval battle, flying through a tropical jungle, or bobsledding down alpine slopes. But the practical side of us – or at least me – wants to know what else there is. And, fortunately, I have a colleague who has already been thinking of these things.
A few months ago, I had the pleasure of collaborating with JP Gownder on a presentation for Forrester clients in Geneva. I presented on the ways to derive value from data and opportunities to leverage new insights service providers – clearly something top of mind for many of our clients. But alas JP’s presentation was much cooler, providing examples of how to derive real value from new technologies including AR and VR. Since then I’ve being thinking about how the two are related. And, in fact, they are.
AR and VR technologies aren't new. Virtual reality first experienced a boom of interest in the early 1990s, spurred by the 1991 book Virtual Reality by Howard Rheingold. In 1995, Angelina Jolie starred in the movie Hackers, which introduced mass audiences to head-mounted VR display technology. But the early promise of the technology fell apart due to underperforming graphics, attention-jarring lag times, outlandish hardware requirements, and the lack of an application ecosystem. No VR market emerged (outside of niche categories like military usage) until Facebook acquired the Kickstarter startup Oculus for $2 billion in March, 2014.
Late December is always a good time to reflect on the year gone by and think about the people that made the year special. Among the people who are special to analysts are the many people we work with in the vendor community. The key contacts we have with the vendors are in the field of Analyst Relations. It must be a tough job, since they probably find themselves in a constant game of tug-and-war between the analysts and their employers – they being the rope that’s getting pulled, of course. It is often a thankless job, so I want to say, “Thank you!” to them all!
For the past few years, I thought it would be a nice gesture to award a semi-formal recognition to the Analyst Relations professional of the past year. There is no trophy, plaque, or certificate, just my personal gesture of appreciation.
For the subset of AR pros I encounter, one name has appeared repeatedly on the winner’s list – Liz Kingof CA. In fact, she has won 3 of the four awards so far. Liz is amazing! She embodies all the qualities of greatness in this field! Another stellar professional won it in 2011, Linda Sanders of HP. This year, we have another name making this venerable list, but I have to also give special kudos to Liz, who was once again incredible in 2013.
I will postpone the name of my 2012 winner for a bit. I first want to thank the great AR professionals with whom I have the pleasure of working! For those outside the technology vendor world, analyst relations is a function vendors use as the liaison between their people and analysts like me. We influence the market and therefore they know they need us to understand their offerings so we can accurately advise our clients.
Not all AR people are good, so the great ones always stand out. Some view the analysts merely as extensions of their marketing initiatives and see their job revolving around trying to “brainwash” the analysts. This is a narrow-minded view of the relationship that never works with self-respecting, intelligent analysts. Take note, vendors: we analysts hate that approach!
Great AR professionals engage us in a more intimate two-way dialog. We need more than just the occasional briefing. We need access to executives and developers. We need to know the roadmap and where executives see the company going. My favorite part of the relationship is to be integral to strategic directions, participating in the development rather than just being informed after the fact. The great ones make this process seamless and enjoyable. We all like to pick on vendors, but we need to engage them as partners. The reason we like to pick on them is because poor AR and other stereotypical behaviors fuel distrust and sometimes downright hostility. Bad vendors give the good ones a bad rap.
I am fortunate to work with some fantastic AR professionals! They make my life easier and I appreciate that! They all share some important attributes:
They are genuinely warm people. They may be aggressive inside their organizations and possibly even disliked for their ambitious approach, but to us, they clearly want to help us. That benefits their employers more than most people know.
It's me. I was in Macy's last Saturday morning checking out the augmented reality (AR) app, "Believe Magic." I got a lot of stares. At one point, I had a small audience as I danced about and took photos with Macy holiday characters ("Yes, Virginia" characters) that only I could see on my phone. What I liked about this app is that Macy's and Metaio didn't push the technology too far - they created an experience well within the bounds of the technology. It worked without long delays or instructions.
There were TWO red mailboxes in the Macy's in downtown SF. When I asked for help ("Where's the red mailbox with the AR app?") from the nice Macy's executive in a black suit, her jaw dropped a bit with the realization she had no idea what I had just said or wanted. Another sales associate helped me out and took me over to a full-blown display that allows people to interact with the characters even if they don't have a phone. The app allows you to take pictures with the characters, share them with friends (usual FB and Twitter plus email), make cards, etc. It's fun. The small crowd of people pointing and staring . . . also fun. :)
This app is more about marketing, but it will give you a sense of the potential of AR for commerce purposes. We've just finished up research due out this week that speaks to the uses of AR in the purchase funnel or commerce track. AR will allow consumers to experience products pre-purchase. AR will simplify the discovery and consumption of content (e.g., pricing). AR will improve the owners' experience with "how to" guides.