Augmented reality is projected to be a $150 billion industry by 2020 and investors are spending like this is an actual reality not a projected one. Osterhout Design Group (ODG) about raised $58 million in Series A from Vanfund Urban Investment & Development, Shenzhen O-Film Tech, and other investors, including strategic partner 21st Century Fox. There has been a lot of rapid movement this year with media companies investing in VR, AR and 360° video being seen in software, content development and hardware. Notably, Facebook and Oculus Rift VR; Huffington Post and RYOT; HBO and Otoy; Microsoft and Hololens; along with Conde Nast, Vice Media, Discovery Communications and USA Today among many others. But without great smartglasses that enhance instead of detract from the AR/VR experiences, the market won't shift from early adopters to mass market.
ODG's CEO, Ralph Osterhout, is famous for designing and building gadgets for two James Bond movies, The Spy Who Loved Me and Never Say Never Again. But no matter how cool technology like virtual reality and augmented reality is, at the end of the day, the tech is still relying on being a pair of glasses. Even with see-through displays and photo-realistic screens, ODC will have to satisfy the style desires of more than James Bond to dominate the world AR smartglasses market. Will their new models being shown at CES 2017 be "fully integrated, small, light, and sleek"?
At the Moxie-sponsored FutureX Live event, I personally tried multiple smartglasses like the HTC Vive VR, Oculus Rift VR, Meta Vision and the Microsoft HoloLens, despite great tech features none of the glasses are yet delivering on a promise of inobtrusive immersiveness, let alone being stylish or cool enough to transcend fad to mass market appeal.
Seeking to build a digital layer on top of the physical world is a challenge in and of itself, but the form factor of these and other smartglasses have major user issues in terms of fit, function and style. Spending funding dollars on more than software, viewing technology, and amazing content will be necessary for anyone to emerge world dominator, so what should ODG concentrate on in terms of creating a cool AR product that consumers will buy?
In a world where 7 out of 10 product fail, how can you (and ODG) be sure to succeed? Here are my not-so-secret universal product design and launch tips that transcend technology and product categories:
- Stop drinking your own Kool-Aid - Staying within your hype community is dangerous. Friends, family, early adopters, Kickstarter, and even heavy investment are not good indicators of whether or not a new product will sell well. You have to get in front of the skeptics and those who control consumer spending.
- Make moms love it - over 85% of consumer spending in all product categories is bought or influenced by women. If you want any product to succeed overcome mom/wife/girlfriend complaints, concerns and objections. If you think you are exempt to this rule and are making a product for single men who don't have a mom, wife or girlfriend to answer to, then think again. These men will still consider how they want to be perceived by a prospective girlfriend.
- Define MVP features as skin deep - If your target consumer won't stop to pick up the box, they will never see the great technology and features you invested time and talent into. Use the rule of maximum valuable not minimum viable product first and foremost for how to spend your design time and money. Consumers will wait for upgrades in function but not for style. They will wait for a better-looking model.
One additional thing to take away from this money boom and 'shelf space race' with manufacturers is that this is the perfect time to be a content generator in apps, games, 3D design and video. These investments are pushing AR to be more accessible and lower priced faster, so soon, all will need your great content to help them differentiate.