The forces of cloud, mobile, and virtual reality seem on a collision course. In its current form, the only thing a PC has over a mobile computing device or phone is the display. With the advent of fast wifi, cheap cloud storage and cloud processing, the box on our desk no longer has speed, memory or processing as advantages. However, a mobile device simply could not compete with the size and scope of a high end monitor. We like big displays.
But what if the GearVR, and other similar devices, becomes the new mobile extended use display?
Samsung’s virtual reality device for mobile, GearVR, had a very successful launch over the past few weeks as the first consumer oriented virtual reality display of this era. So successful, I am no longer thinking of it as merely virtual reality. Instead, I am thinking, what if we never introduced GearVR as a virtual reality device? Virtual reality feels like a gaming and entertainment platform. The label feels limiting right out of the box. What if we simply thought of it as the future of mobile displays? Does it have the potential to be nothing less than the mobile monitor of the future?
Have a long plane ride? Plug a 3D display into your phone, and watch Netflix in immersive 3D.
Moving into a college dorm or new apartment? The GearVR is billed as “the home theater of your dreams”. No need to find a few hundred bucks, and lug a big rectangle around and worrying about finding a place to hang it.
It seems that this is getting to be less and less about virtual reality and more and more about adding another layer to the already rich mobile technology stack. Most of us think of the application as the top layer today. But we are racing towards a world where the application can render to a small 2D screen, or an immersive and large 3D one based on how we want to consume that particular content and what we have jacked in. This is new and this is big. The potential of a mobile internet that we can dive into and swim around in is endless. The question is, once we dive in will we ever come back up?
What happens to big screens when 99$ 3D mobile displays are available for every type of phone? Maybe they become a novelty and slowly fade. Are there still use cases for large and comparatively expensive 2D screens?
One of the preeminent thought leaders in mobile, Benedict Evans, asks it this way:
“how much, really, do we need a large screen, and how much does it remain something that’s just there, and turning on sometimes, but used less and less, with the thing we hold in our hand actually a better watching experience? And for what kinds of content?“
With a far superior display, one that is 3D and exponentially larger while being fully immersive, what exactly is the need for a PC monitor or a TV? There might be some uses. Or, on the other hand, maybe our kids grow up in a world where they won’t ever own a PC or TV. The display is the final chasm for mobile to leap on its way to total computing domination.
A few folks might suggest that home is one thing, but that we will always need PC’s in the typical workplace. We had workplaces long before PC’s, and I would humbly suggest we will have workplaces long after the PC wave has crested and rolled back out to sea. And I think mobile virtual reality displays might just be the thing to accelerate it. Mike Alger, a brilliant UX designer, is currently assembling thoughts on ergonomically friendly work stations leveraging current generation virtual reality hardware that enable higher levels of productivity.
As Mike points out, the tools are all in place today. And if larger displays, more focused immersion, and a comfortable experience all lead to higher productivity, what exactly is the friction that keeps this from happening? To borrow from a popular 90’s movie, you had me at higher productivity…..you had me at higher productivity.
Honestly, it is hard to see how it doesn’t happen. However, at least once a day when I am discussing virtual reality, some very smart person with a very good memory will remind me, “it didn’t work before, I got burned last time, what makes this time different for virtual reality?”
It’s simple. It’s the fact that 2.5 billion of us now have a very personal supercomputer in our pocket. A very personal and very powerful computer missing only one thing, a brilliant display.