Google Invites Us To "Daydream" In Virtual Reality

At Google I/O today, the company announced a new mobile-centric VR offering called Daydream. The nicely-named Daydream VR builds off of a mobile device platform, much as the Samsung Gear VR add-on device does for Samsung S7 smartphones. Daydream combines three elements:

  • Android N smartphones optimized for VR. As Samsung has shown with its successful Gear VR efforts, it takes a high-end smartphone with deep pixel density and great graphics performance to effectively drive VR experiences. Google announced that a variety of handset vendors -- including Samsung, LG, HTC, Huawei, and others -- will release smartphones that meet the new Daydream standard. Additionally, Android N will include a number of VR-specific performance optimization features.
  • Reference design for headset and controller. Google also announced a reference design for both a headset and a controller (see photo). Importantly, the controller is aware of where it is in 3D space, allowing users to interact more richly with their controller than, say, an unseen controller.
  • Applications and Google Play distribution. Google will move some of its own offerings to Daydream. They've rebuilt Youtube to be more VR-aware, allowing a variety of new video content to be streamed throught Daydream. Google StreetView will come to VR, offering people a more powerful way to explore real-world environments. 
     
Read more

Microsoft Fights Back In Education

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:

Read more

Oculus’ Botched Launch Harms The VR Ecosystem

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.
Read more

Reality Check: Virtual Reality Isn’t A Real Market. Yet.

You’re probably hearing a lot of endless, excessive and short-term virtual reality (VR) hype. For example, at SXSW 2016, a great deal of time and energy is being devoted to VR experiments, new media announcements, and demonstrations. 

The reality? The vast majority of consumers aren’t there yet, don’t know or care about VR, and won’t know or care in 2016 unless they are hardcore gamers. And only a few forward-looking enterprises – digital predators – are experimenting with VR in effective ways today.

At Forrester, we believe that VR will find its place in the pantheon of important computing platforms, eventually reshaping the way workers work, enterprises interact with customers, and consumers perform a variety of tasks. In other words, it's going to be a real market... at some point.

Too many clients think that VR is a platform that they simply must address in 2016. We think that’s premature. Even in the era of hyperadoption, VR must overcome key obstacles to gain mass market status:

  • Need for market education. Most consumers don’t have a deep understanding of VR, nor is there an easy venue for them to learn about it. Retailing represents a challenge: Buyers must experiment with a headset for many minutes to even get sense of what the technology does. In past technology revolutions (smartphones, tablets), the Apple Store played this role… but Apple isn’t in the VR game (yet).
Read more

Why 2016 Will Be The Year Of Digital Signage And Displays

I've just published a major new report, The Digital Signage And Display Opportunity in 2016. I'll also be holding a webinar on this topic on Tuesday, January 26th, 1-2pm ET USA; it's entitled Screening the World: How Digital Signage, Displays, and Magic Mirrors Drive Business Value. Please register for my webinar here.

Since Forrester was founded in 1983, we've never had a coverage area on digital signage  ̶  until now. Why? In the age of the customer, digital signage and related display technologies are growing rapidly, because:

  • It's now a dynamic, disruptive, interesting technology. Once just a simple, unidirectional, broadcasting mechanism, digital signage now offers an array of new technology features like interactivity, facial recognition, and magic mirrors, and others that can drive valuable business scenarios across any vertical. Digital signage also interacts increasingly with mobility, as more installations allow customers to take what they see on the sign with them on their own smartphones.

  • Regulatory and business requirements drive adoption. The FDA ruled that all QSRs must provide nutritional information on all food and beverages by December 1, 2016. Digital signage solution providers report QSRs as one of the fastest-growing segments of the digital signage market as a result of this ruling to help package nutritional information with dynamic menus. 

Read more

The Broken Promise of IoT -- And What To Do About It

My colleague Michele Pelino and I have just published a major new report, Bridge The Broken Internet Of Things Promise. At its best, the Internet of Things (IoT) -- a catch-all term for technologies that enable objects and infrastructure to interact with monitoring, analytics, and control systems over Internet-style networks -- has the potential to reshape customer experiences. 

In the report, we cover the example of Royal Caribbean's Quantum of the Seas, undoubtedly one of the more impressive examples of how IoT and wearables can redefine digital customer experience (DCX) while also employing digital operational excellence (DOX) in service of customers. In one of several DCX examples, Royal Caribbean has made the Quantum a wallet-free zone using wearable bands that act as everything from the key to your quarters to purchases at the bar. For DOX, the Quantum solves a perpetual pain point for both customers and crew: Did a particular piece of luggage make it onboard and, if so, where is it? RFID tagging and a mobile app solve this operational problem nicely. (See Figure for a screen shot of the mobile app).

As we detail in the report, RFID tracking has revolutionzed the check-in process, improving the speed of the process, lowering errors, and giving customers peace-of-mind.

So IoT sounds like a panacea for retailers, hospitality firms, travel vendors, and similar firms -- right?

Read more

Robots Will Soon Be Parking Your Car

During our research for the Forrester Big Idea report The Future of Jobs, 2025: Working Side-by-Side with Robots, we spoke with not one, but two different vendors that automate parking garages, Boomerang and Serva Transport Systems. Rather than explain, I'd invite you to watch a few seconds of the following video, which depicts how Serva TS robots park cars -- all cars -- at the Dusseldorf airport in Germany:

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.
Read more

Differentiate Your Digital Business With A Device Innovation Lab

I've just released a significant new report, How To Build The Device Innovation Lab That Differentiates Your Digital Business. Innovation is a huge topic – just ask my colleague Martin Gill, who leads Forrester's digital business transformation research. But I&O leaders have their own role to play in innovation: Specifically, the use of devices and similar technologies to drive business results.

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.

Lowes' OSHBot Redefines Retail Customer Service

Read more

Robots Won't Steal All The Jobs -- But They'll Transform The Way We Work

This morning, WIRED published an article about my new Forrester Big Idea report, The Future of Jobs, 2025: Working Side-By-Side With Robots. You're probably familiar by now with the panic-stricken books (like Martin Ford's Rise of the Robots: Technology and the Threat of a Jobless Future) and headlines (HBR's What Happens When Robots Replace Workers?) proclaiming that the future of employment is bleak because of the rise of automation technologies. In other words, the meme goes, robots are taking all the jobs.

By "robots," we mean all forms of automation technologies, including those that conduct physical 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.

Read more

Augmented And Virtual Reality Are Ready For Prime Time

I've just released a major new report on Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented And Virtual Reality Should Be Part Of The Innovator's Toolkit. My research finds that it's time to give AR and VR their due consideration when solving business problems involving either workers or for customer interactions.

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.

Read more