The Future Of Computing Is Here. Unfortunately, It Attaches To Your Face.


Headgear of the future past.

In 2001, a product was unveiled that had been described by John Doerr, one of the most successful and influential venture capitalists in technology, as “more important than the Internet” and he predicted that it would be the fastest company to achieve $1 billion in sales. Jeff Bezos, CEO of claimed “cities will be built around this device”.

Any guesses?

The Segway.

By any measure, the Segway failed to live up to that hype.

Far from making a dent in the universe, it is rare to see a Segway in use by anybody other than tourists or mall cops.

When Google Glass was first launched, it was predicted that the future of computing had arrived, and that it would be the must-have consumer product in 2014. Google asked early adopters (“Google Explorers”) to tweet about what they would do with the product, in order to be chosen for the privilege of purchasing the product for $1500.

As a number of Google Explorers found out, wearing Glass allowed you to explore what it was like to become instantly and wildly unpopular, and even banned from some restaurants and bars for using it.

 I believe what those two failed product launches have in common is this: No matter how cool the product experience is, If using the product in public makes people want to punch the user in the face, it might not catch on.

So what to make of the hype about the coming wave of Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) hardware that promise to transform the way we interact with media and the world around us? All of them show amazing promise and potential with varied approaches to technology and experiences. But still, with the exception of a few, what many of them have in common is succeeding in making the user look like a dork.

So does that mean they will fail? Mark Zuckerberg sure doesn’t seem to think so.

Last year, Facebook placed a $2 billion bet by acquiring Oculus (an early industry leader) that VR has a significant role in the future of computing, well beyond what up to then seemed like simply a cool new game peripheral.  “Immersive virtual and augmented reality will become a part of people’s everyday life,” Zuckerberg said. “History suggests there will be more platforms to come, and whoever builds and defines these, will shape the future and reap the benefits”.

Shorter term, he imagines a newsfeed where people don’t just share stories and  photos, they can share virtual experience. Instead of photos of a friend’s mountain climb, you can see what it was like to stand there at the summit, look in every direction, and look down to see how far they climbed.

In addition to Facebook’s 2016 release of their new Oculus product, other upcoming Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality products releases include Sony Project Morpheus, Samsung Gear, Microsoft HoloLens, Raser OSVR, Avegant Glyph, and Magic Leap. Google Cardboard provides users with ability turn any smart phone into a VR device, using a housing that costs less than $5.

Glyph and Magic Leap both address the dork factor of strapping a monitor to your face in a different way. They both beam images right on to the user’s retina, combining real world and virtual imagery. Previously, the only way to have that kind of hallucinatory experience was to ingest a substance that has the unpleasant side effect of causing the user to dance badly and enjoy jam band music.

While it is unlikely that we will be seeing the use of VR headgear in public anytime soon (we can only hope), there are plenty of opportunities where VR will take off in more private, business and institutional settings. Home entertainment, both with games and experiential applications, is an obvious application. But beyond entertainment there are uses being explored in education, engineering, the military, museums, scientific visualizations, construction, healthcare, travel, and real estate.

With so many hardware companies pouring marketing dollars into the creation of new platforms for digital experience, there will be high-demand for creators of content who can take advantage of the opportunities that 360º content holds.

As an agency, we always seek out new and compelling ways to communicate, to immerse the audience inside of a brand story, to create some magic.

Many times, creatives will start their problem solving by answering the question “what if?” With VR, we wonder what if instead of showing you a picture of a resort client’s beach, we let you take a walk there? What if instead of talking about the features of a car, you could see what it feels like to sit inside, look around, and go for a drive? What if our organic foods client offered customers an experience of looking around inside a living beehive? Recently, we produced a VR solution for a client where instead of telling the customers what the software solution did, we let the customers take an abstracted journey through their application solving a problem.

While it remains to be seen if VR is the future of computing, or simply a novel but geeky way to interact with certain types of content, it does offer a compelling new opportunity to connect people with shared experiences, explore worlds that don’t exist, and to tell stories in immersive ways never previously possible on a consumer scale. Bell Systems used to promise customers that Long Distance was “The Next Best Thing to Being There”. Thirty years later, VR technology hopes to close the gap on that promise even further.

The Gamer Is Not A Bonehead, She is Your Boss.

David Ogilvy once famously said “The consumer is not a moron, she is your wife.”

When discussing the marketing potential of games, there is a tendency to assume that games are mainly the domain of young adult males, playing games in their parent’s basement. But when you look at the data behind the gaming industry, one of the stats that jumps out right away: 47% of the market for games is female, and that is rising.

And that’s when you are looking at the games industry as a whole. Isolate the market to just casual games, and the market is overwhelmingly female. Unlike other types of computer gaming, such as those on consoles or multi-player internet-based games, it is women who make up the largest number of people gaming on their mobile devices.

Far from the “dude in a basement” stereotype, a whopping 70% of casual gamers are women. Busy women, professional women, Moms.

To update Ogilvy: “The game player is not a bonehead, she is your boss.”

Why do casual games hold so much appeal to women? Among the factors that female gamers have pointed to in surveys:

Female friendly. Many console games are designed with content that women find objectionable and isolating: the level of violence, the portrayal of women, or both. Casual games have tapped into a market that has always existed for smarter, gender-neutral games, offering game content that has a broader appeal.

Time. When you don’t have the luxury of spending time with tutorials or manuals, casual games are appealing because they are easy to learn, and instantly fun. Many console games are best enjoyed when you have hours to play, not minutes. The majority of casual games are card and puzzle games that offer short bursts of escapism.

Price. The price point of casual games offers some guilt-free pleasure. Casual games range from free to play to under $20, with many available under $5, compared to console games that can cost upwards of $49.

Easy to pick up, hard to put down. It’s easy to sneak in a quick session in between appointments as stress relief in a packed schedule. Casual games are easy to start, jump right into the gameplay, and easy to pause without penalty.

According to the site Mom Central, about 52% of Mom’s play games at home, 34% regularly play games on their cell phones and 29% play while waiting for their kids or while in line at a store.

When you consider that women are responsible for making between 80 and 90% of all pocketbook decisions in the household, it makes a lot of sense to find creative ways to leverage the overlooked appeal of games to this critical demographic.

Marketers dismissing the marketing potential of games or gamification applied to women based on outdated gender stereotypes are missing a tremendous opportunity.

Smart content marketers like Lifetime Television, Procter & Gamble, Daily Break Media, Coca-Cola and others have tapped into the power of games and game theory to engage women via branded games, game mechanics applied to marketing programs, and in-game advertising.

When it comes to the potential for games to engage women, the games have only just begun.

This post originally published on MediaPost, and Connelly Partners Blog.