AR/VR: Reality is Not for the Faint of Heart

 By Gary Feather

The word on the street in Los Angeles was that AR/VR was everywhere at Display Week 2017.  True! AR/VR was a topic in keynotes, seminars, symposium presentations, and certainly in conversations everywhere. The available perspectives on this subject were one-of-a-kind, including those from the biggest (Samsung, Google, and Intel) and the brightest (Stanford, Lumus, and LEIA), with visionaries all around making this engagement a unique opportunity for attendees. 

However the R or “reality” of AR/VR is not for the faint of heart. 

Digging a little deeper and looking at more of the total environment, there is an unexpected juxtaposition of the rush of optimistic euphoria attenuated by the intense existence of dysphoria. From visionaries to researchers, from product developers to marketing experts, there was a community expressing both focus and frustration.  Words of encouragement in every session were coupled with warnings of past failures.

Welcome to the display industry!  This industry has for many decades presented the business reality of today against the great and glorious future of products in development. Those with deep experience and years of scars in these B2C and B2B markets know that aligning the solution to the moving demand is painful.  Not knowing what is good enough in manufacturing and performance and cost means frustration.  The specification and the application and the competition are unknown until you have a solution to be considered.  Literally hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent on the many instantiations of “the display that will change the world.”  Of course, few made it to that finish line. 

But there are also many successes to date. More great successes are real but not around the corner.  With the celebration at Display Week of 30 years of OLED, we see the explosion now in handheld units, with >30% using OLED. There are billions of dollars in sales and profits. It’s amazing. In parallel, we celebrate 20+ years of DLP products, from digital cinema to tiny pocket projectors to automotive displays and headlight steering.  Again, billions of dollars in sales and profit. And again, amazing. 

However, the battle field of business successes in display is littered with hundreds of failures.  Success is on the far side of failure.  It is easy to fail at a development/business. It is easy to create a bad design.  It is easy to avoid the feedback from the market and the user. Perseverance and passion are essential, as is “extreme ownership” in the development and iteration of the AR/VR offering.   

So to our brethren here leveraging displays and sensors and software for AR/VR system; stay the course.  Do not despair.  Don’t be frustrated.  Fail.  Fail early and often.  Iterate and innovate and test the opportunity.  Innovate for today and move.  The accomplishments so far of today’s AR/AR products are great. There are certainly billions of dollars in sales and profit in AR/VR for suppliers, manufacturers, and production products in the coming decade.  The reality is and will be a dynamic market and an unexpected set of social impacts.  The reality of AR/VR is ahead  --  for those stay the course.


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