Moonlighting as a contributor to our CMO role's research, I've just published a major new report about how virtual reality will affect marketers, collaborating with Forrester's lead on digital disruption, James McQuivey, PhD.
CMOs and other marketers have four choices when it comes to virtual reality (VR). Most of you should wait and see, because there's no business imperative to invest scarce time and resources in VR this year. But there are three other choices available to digital predators – that is, CMOs at companies that want to shape trends, not follow them:
Crawl – The Coachella music festival went a step beyond providing an event app: they handed out thousands of cardboard VR headsets to attendees. Since festival-goers can't be everywhere at once, they can catch shows that happened on other stages, extending and rounding out the benefits of attendance. They recognized that consumers don't yet own their own VR devices, so they gave them out as part of the experience to deepen engagement.
Today, Microsoft's Terry Myerson announced the new strategy for Windows in the classroom. Windows 10 -- which is now Windows-as-a-service, with periodic updates delivered from the cloud -- will see a big feature update this summer with the Windows Anniversary Update, announced a few weeks ago at the BUILD developer conference. Now we're learning about the education-specific features that will take on Chromebooks.
It's no secret that Google's Chromebooks have taken the education market by storm; they now constitute more than half of shipments of new devices sold to U.S. schools. Some schools are even re-imaging old Windows PCs into Chromebooks. As a result, both Apple and Microsoft have seen their positions in the educational market slide south over the past four years.
Why does this matter? Well, for the obvious device sales implications, of course. But it's part of a longer-term customer relationship issue, too: If young people grow up not knowing Windows, will they ever care about the platform? Tomorrow's Windows customers could be shaped in today's classroom... or tomorrow's Chromebook customers could be.
For schools, Windows Anniversary Update will address key issues in education:
April 12, 2016: The day Oculus updated its Rift shipment timeframe for customers. As has been widely reported, Oculus customers face widespread months-long delays in the deliveries of their virtual reality headset purchases. To add a personal anecdote, I ordered within the first 5 minutes of the pre-launch window (once the web site started working, which it didn’t at first), and my Rift shipment has been delayed from March 30th to “between May 9 and 19th,” assuming Oculus actually succeeds in meeting its new dates.
While my personal Rift delay is merely an annoyance, the botched launch has real repercussions for the VR ecosystem. Oculus’ delay:
Hurts developers of games and apps. The diversity and depth of the VR developer ecosystem is impressive. While many developers focus on games – logically enough, since that’s a key early adopter demographic – others offer applications ranging from clinical treatments for PTSD to collaboration in virtual spaces. The common denominator? None of these developers are making money if there are no headsets available. And while many apps can be ported to other platforms, Oculus has been the centerpiece of many developers’ high-end VR efforts.
Hurts media startups and innovations. Media, too, sees a potential loss. While some media companies go the route of the New York Times and focus on Google Cardboard phone-based VR, others are counting on developing truly immersive experiences that simulate presence. Studio Jaunt VR has an Oculus app that, again, won’t be addressable until customers receive their Rifts.
Looks a bit like sci-fi, right? But it's happening right now. Two vendors, one in the US, one in Europe, take somewhat different approaches to robotic parking:
Boomerang positions its offering as RoboticValet, a service that serves two customers. For property owners (developers, real estate investment trusts), Boomering solves a key problem: The high price of real estate in places like Miami, Chicago, or San Francisco. Robotic valets can save significant space, allowing developers to build more profitable buildings. And for consumers -- that is, buyers of the condominimums -- Boomerang's service is a luxury amenity: A 24/7 valet service that drops their car off to the same spot every time.
Serva TS can retrofit existing garages to 'expand' usable space. Serva TS reports gaining 40% capacity in an existing garage space, making it a less disruptive and expensive solution for garage expansion. For customers, there's a smartphone app: As soon as your flight lands, you can summon your car, which a robot will bring to the designated spot.
I interviewed companies from a variety of verticals – travel, retail, energy, clothing, financial services – and spoke to thought leaders in innovation theory to help I&O leaders solve a series of problems: How can we innovate using customer-facing interaction technologies such as mobile devices, robotics, digital signage, and virtual reality (VR)? How can we establish a device innovation lab (DIL) to help technology and business leaders at our company develop technology-infused, customer-obsessed strategies? And what are the success factors for DILs – from mission statement to staffing to key performance indicators?
In the context of my report, a device innovation lab is an a in-house space for designing, experimenting, piloting, and deploying device-based innovation projects. Done right, a DIL can differentiate your business's digital business efforts in impressive ways. Take, for example, Lowes' robotic retail associate, OSHBot.
By "robots," we mean all forms of automation technologies, including those that conductphysical tasks, intellectual tasks, or customer service tasks (which mix elements of both physical and intellectual activities, but which constitute a distinct category in the age of the customer). Indeed, some impressive new technologies are becoming incredibly useful in a variety of organizational settings. Take, for example, Rethink Robotics' Baxter robot, seen in the video below. Unlike traditional industrial robots, it's safe for workers to be around Baxter -- and it's imperative, too. Because software engineers don't program Baxter; human colleagues simply move the robot's arm to teach it new actions, and it learns in real time.
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.
You've probably heard about the Quantified Self (QS), a movement that aims to capture, analyze, and act upon data from the human body in the interest of better health, fitter athletes, and sharper minds. Today, QS is giving way to QW -- Quantified Workforce. A variety of technologies -- devices, software, services -- can quantify the health, fitness, mental acuity, timeliness, and collaboration of workers. Many of these services are ready for prime time, but present some challenges in implementing. These challenges aren't primarily technological; they're related to privacy, workers' rights, and human resources policies. Done right, though, quantifying the workforce can drive both top- and bottom- line growth in your company's business.
I've analyzed this trend in a new report, Smart Body, Smarter Workforce. Here are just a couple of examples of how quantifying the workforce can drive better business outcomes:
Lower the company's insurance rates. In January, 2014, Forrester predicted that insurance companies would offer lower rates to individuals who donned wearables -- and we are now seeing that response. In April, 2015, John Hancock announced an opportunity for buyers of its term and life insurance policies to earn up to 15% discount on their insurance rates by wearing a Fitbit, sharing the data with the company, and meeting certain activity levels.
It’s not often that a new product release has the potential to reshape the way people work and play. The PC, the browser, the smartphone – all of these products fell into that category.
Microsoft’s new HoloLens has the potential to do the same. (Check out some photos from Gizmodo here -- they don't live up to the actual experience even a little bit -- and this video, which doesn't do it justice, either).
Yes, that’s a big claim. But I’m here to challenge your thinking with this assertion: Over the next few years, HoloLens will set the bar for a new type of computing experience that suffuses our jobs, our shopping experiences, our methods for learning, and how we experience media, among other life vectors. And other vendors will have to respond to this innovation in holographic, mixed reality computing.
This weekend, I’ll be heading off to Las Vegas for the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show (CES). Infrastructure & Operations leaders should – and do – keep tabs on the news coming out of CES. In this era of consumerization, bring-your-own (BYO) technology, and Shadow IT, CES announcements affect the I&O role more than ever before. I have three tips for how to think about CES 2015:
Look at consumer technologies through a workforce lens. So many smart, connected products quickly migrate to the workforce. Sometimes these technologies enter via BYO and segue into company-owned, as tablets have done over the past few years. In other cases, vendors that target consumers immediately see the value their products can bring to workforce scenarios. For example, I recently spoke with Jonathan Palley, CEO of Spire, a wearable device that tracks not just activity but also state of mind (tension versus calm, focus versus distraction, and related states). While the product was launched to the consumer market just about a week ago, Jonathan made clear that “workforce is a huge part of our strategy as well.” Imagine helping workers remain in a more productive, less stressed state of mind via wearables.