Here it is, folks! As promised this week we’re publishing the second half of my curated list of top XR trends for 2019/20 (read the first half here). This is an admittedly subjective list stemming from my personal observations of the industry, and there are several interesting and noteworthy trends which didn’t make the cut, so I’d love to hear from our readers about what you like, don’t like, or would have done a bit differently to arrive at the perfect top 10. As usual, you can get in touch by replying to this email or pinging me directly on email@example.com and @alicebonasio or @inside on Twitter. - Alice
5. Training and Education: It is no coincidence that some of the most interesting and compelling XR use cases have emerged from the education space. Research shows that experiential learning through immersive education translates into higher levels of engagement and better results in terms of knowledge retention and skills transfer. We have therefore seen a plethora of companies developing products that leverage Virtual, Augmented and Mixed Reality as teaching tools. Chris Milk’s company Within recently brought out the latest episode in its Wonderscope series which leverages storytelling to teach kids about our solar system, literally bringing it to life in their living rooms. Yet it is in workplace L&D that we see the amazing scope of these technologies unfolding: From train operators to roofing contractors, Navy personnel to police officers, XR has been used by companies from Walmart to Lockheed Martin to prepare people for all manner of scenarios, from stressful job interviews to nuclear warfare.
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4. Standardization: It might not have the sexiest ring to it, but this is a huge trend that will be crucial for the long-term rollout of immersive tech. Establishing common practices and protocols so that developers can make content that works across different headsets and platforms is what is going to enable the mass adoption of XR. Which is why we’ve seen companies like Facebook and Microsoft get onboard with the Open XR initiative launched by the Kronos Group earlier this year, which aims to enable precisely this type of seamless integration across devices and will allow companies such as 6D.ai to develop the world-mapping capabilities that will take us a step closer to the Matrix.
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3. Lighter, Faster, Cheaper: There’s no getting away from the fact that developing immersive hardware is a huge challenge. Stuff that goes on your head has to be comfortable, and preferably should look cool as well as stay cool enough so it doesn’t feel like it’s burning your face off. It can’t be too heavy, but must house enough processing power and battery life to deliver the experiences we’ve come to expect. Are we there yet? Absolutely not. We will surely look back in a few years to the current crop of gear with the same sort of wry amusement as we reserve for the mobile phones of the 80s and 90s. Still, 2019 has seen significant improvements and leaps across the XR spectrum, with HTC bringing out its new generation headset to replace the original VIVE , Facebook scoring a big hit with the Oculus Quest and collaborating with Ray-Ban to develop AR smartglasses, and a number of companies - from independent start-ups to the big boys - bringing their own Augmented Reality glasses into the mix (Snap to Vuzix and Norm to name but a few) and trying to get consumers excited - or at least used to the idea - of wearing these things.
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2. Finding a common language: One of the main difficulties you encounter when talking about immersive tech is exactly what the flip you call it. You know what you’re talking about, since you’ve experienced it, but conveying it to others requires a common language, but where it comes to our industry, experts, and consumers seem equally confused about what constitutes “Augmented Reality” versus “Virtual Reality” or Microsoft’s preferred “Mixed Reality.” “Spatial Computing” is another popular term, as is “Immersive technology” which is my go-to umbrella term. But recently I’ve noticed a strong trend towards adopting “XR” (Extended Reality) as a catch-all denomination that encompasses the immersive spectrum of experiences that includes all of the above. That makes sense, as the industry is inexorably moving towards increased convergence between formats that will make it very challenging to draw clear lines between AR and VR, for example. Whether or not it sticks remains to be seen (and I’d love to hear your thoughts!) but I rather like it, hence why I chose to include it as the heading for this top 10.
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1. One More Thing… If there’s an elephant in this virtual room, its name is Apple. The company has made no secret of the fact that it believes Augmented Reality is going to be pivotal in its future, and it has released a suite of tools to support developers in creating AR content. But as usual for the notoriously secretive company, official details on its future roadmap are few and far between, which keeps the speculation mill running at a feverish pace. 2019 has seen an endless stream of leaks and rumors based on information such as patents filed and new hire announcements. It seems likely that it’s not a question of whether or not Apple brings out some form of AR wearable, but when. What seems clear is that they refuse to be rushed into releasing something that will not deliver the magic. If they pull it off, however, it could turn out to be the next decade’s iPhone moment.
Editor’s Pick: 2019 could be the start of something special for Apple’s AR efforts
This newsletter was written and curated by Alice Bonasio, a journalist and consultant obsessed with the immersive technology space, including AR/VR/MR/XR and any other acronyms that fit into the realities spectrum. Over the past 15 years, Alice has advised a wide range of start-ups and corporations on digital transformation and communication strategy and is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Tech Trends. She also regularly contributes to publications such as Quartz, Fast Company, Wired, Playboy, The Next Web, Ars Technica, VRScout and many others. Follow her on Twitter @alicebonasio
Editor: David Stegon (senior editor at Inside, whose reporting experience includes cryptocurrency and technology).