Poornima Vijayashanker

Is There Really a Market for Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality Products?


Remember Google Glass? Yeah, it didn’t quite take off, did it. It was just one example of a failed attempt to productize virtual reality. Its short lifespan, along with a number of other products since the 90s, has probably got you thinking that there is just a lot of buzz around augmented reality and virtual reality.

Although the technologies seem exciting, you might be on the fence when it comes to investing your time and energy exploring the technology.

It doesn’t help that the cost associated with production and acquisition of the devices, and the limited toolset, have made them both a challenge to tinker with.

But I have some good news for you: much of the market is changing! There are some great applications disrupting businesses and industries like healthcare, and a number of resources making it easier to build.

In today’s Build episode, we’re going to dive into the major differences and similarities between augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR). Then we’ll debunk the many myths around AR/VR. And in next week’s episode, we’ll share some of the cool applications that are coming on the market and a number of resources to help you get started!

To help us out, I’ve invited Rose Haft, who is the CEO and Founder of Lumenora.

Here’s what you’ll learn as you watch today’s episode:

  • The major differences between AR and VR
  • Why products like Google Glass failed to take off and what new products are learning from its demise
  • Why you haven’t heard from companies that are actually making a mark
  • Why big companies like Facebook are investing in a long-term strategy
  • How Rose Haft got introduced to AR/VR and how her company Lumenora is approaching the market

Listen to the episode on iTunes!

Is There Really a Market for Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality Products Transcript (Raw)

Poornima Vijayashanker: Wondering what all the buzz is about when it comes to augmented reality and virtual reality? Well, stay tuned to find out more. Welcome to Build, brought to you by Pivotal Tracker. I’m your host Poornima Vijayashanker. In each episode of Build, innovators and I debunk a number of myths and misconceptions related to building products, companies, and your career in tech. You’ve probably heard that augmented reality and virtual reality are the way of the future and maybe you’re reluctant to join all the buzz. Well, I don’t blame you. In today’s episode we’re going to debunk a number of myths and misconceptions related to augmented reality and virtual reality and then in the future episode we’re going to talk about some of its applications. To help us out, I’ve invited Rose Haft, who is the CEO and founder of Lumenora. Thanks for joining us today, Rose.

Rose Haft: Yeah, absolutely. Thanks for having me.

Are augmented reality and virtual reality the same?

Poornima Vijayashanker: Yeah. Why don’t we just get started by introducing to our audience, in case they’re not familiar, what exactly is the difference between augmented reality, AR, and virtual reality, VR?

Rose Haft: Absolutely. Yeah, so augmented reality and virtual reality are a way to have a computer interface that’s very close to the eye that allows for there to be a different way to interact with the computer than what you’re used to today. Augmented reality makes it possible to see what’s happening in the real world that everyone else can see, with a little bit of image overlay that will help to display text, or data. If you’ve heard of Magic Leap, it’ll also help to display holograms and things that look very lifelike. The difference between augmented and virtual reality is that in virtual reality you have your own environment and you’re not able to access any of the exterior world, so you’re completely immersed inside of that environment. It makes it a little bit more difficult to see what’s happening elsewhere, but there are a lot of really useful applications for being fully immersed and reasons why people really enjoy using it.

Why Rose Haft (CEO and Founder of Lumenora) got interested in augmented and virtual reality

Poornima Vijayashanker: Maybe you can tell us what got you interested in augmented and virtual reality and then we can talk about why you decided to start your company.

Rose Haft: I got interested in augmented and virtual reality in high school. I knew I wanted to be an engineer and I had an opportunity to work as an intern at one of the local prototyping facilities. At that facility we were working on building advanced headsets for the military. I really had a chance to see how having a hands-free tool that could be worn can really do anything from help to save lives, as well as help to communicate silently between people. I thought it was really interesting, a different way of interacting in technology, than had ever been there before.

Why building headsets for augmented and virtual reality was challenging and led to limited product adoption

Poornima Vijayashanker: What inspired you to start your company Lumenora?

Rose Haft: Yeah. After working at several companies, including working at Meta helping to design the Meta II, I realized that there were a lot of logistical and engineering reasons why people weren’t able to build the headsets that I felt like were ideal and also why those reasons are also part of the reasons why people don’t want to adopt them. I was studying at Stanford a little bit of biomedical engineering and how to use sensors, like you would in surgery, and I thought it’d be great to incorporate them into a headset. Again, there were logistical reasons to doing that. After I found a partner company that could help solve one of the major problems in the area, and with my unique background in design, knowing how to design things differently, was really a great match to build something that is more advanced, more capable, and people actually want to wear it and use it.

How businesses are applying augmented reality and virtual reality to their business processes

Poornima Vijayashanker: Yeah. Do you mind sharing the application of what you’re working on?

Rose Haft: Yeah. Right now, we’re kind of fitting into the maintenance repair and operations space. There are over 200 companies internationally that are using it to do things like supply chain management, companies like BMW who build cars find it useful to make sure they’re choosing the right parts and putting them together in the right way, and making sure that their quality process, you don’t have to go back and double check work, they’re doing it right and the first time.

Poornima Vijayashanker: Got it, so it’s really a training platform—

Rose Haft: Yep.

Poornima Vijayashanker: For people, yeah.

Rose Haft: We’re adding in extra features and we’re doing some fun and cutting edge things that will help to even more improve those industries, especially training. In order for people to learn skills, and trade crafts, and the majority of Americans who hold the same job title need to go to school to learn these things, and how to work on specific machines, and machine types. We’ll be integrating a real-time training system where you can learn a new skill or a craft in real-time and you don’t need to have the several years of school, so we’ll be able to adopt robots faster, and self-driving cars, and those sort of things.

Why people have been reluctant to adopt augmented reality and virtual reality products

Poornima Vijayashanker: Very nice. You mentioned early on that there’s been a lot of reluctance to adopting this new technology, AR and VR. Why is that?

Rose Haft: There’s a lot of reluctance for a variety of reasons. People haven’t found that they’re stylish enough, or cool enough, and also really haven’t found the benefits. They’ve really only seen the detriments and pullbacks as far as feeling like their security is being threatened or their privacy would be threatened because of the ability to record and take in information. I think the use cases are just now starting to be developed. One of my favorites is there’s a 3D graphing app, and so you can use it for calculus. I know we’re doing some fun and cutting edge things that really will help the average everyday person meet typical goals and those sort of things and it’ll make it better and easier to adopt once those use cases are there.

Poornima Vijayashanker: Yeah, and we’ll hold that thought. We’re going to dive into those use cases in the next episode. There’s also a lot of myths being propagated right now and I think one of them, because of the lack of adoption, people just are saying that AR/VR is dead and there’s not much going on. Is that true? Are people not building these headsets anymore? Are they no longer investing in the technology infrastructure?

Rose Haft: Yeah, that’s absolutely not true—

Poornima Vijayashanker: OK.

Rose Haft: Whatsoever.

Poornima Vijayashanker: Yeah.

Why you haven’t heard from companies that are actually making a mark in the augmented reality and virtual reality market

Rose Haft: There’s still a lot of investing to try to find the right solutions and the right designs, so people can actually wear them and adopt them. I know companies like mine have tried to stay as much out of the media as possible, because people have spent billions of dollars trying to find the right solution, and as soon as you put something out there, people feel like they can help themselves. Working on companies like mine who are working on very proprietary things, or making sure that they’re developing and building strength, and so we’re doing a lot of things in the background that can’t be seen quite yet, and eventually will come to mainstream once we really feel like we’ll be able to offer something that people really want.

Poornima Vijayashanker: Are there any other myths that are being propagated, aside from the one around it being dead?

Rose Haft: Yeah. People think they’re ugly.

Poornima Vijayashanker: Right.

What led to the demise of the Google Glass and how new products are learning from its failures

Rose Haft: The glass hole is the scared term that’s used and we’re building something that will be a lot more sleek and stylish and have a lot more options in order to wear it and have it look different. I think the use cases that we’re developing will be cool enough and necessary enough that people will want to adopt it anyways.

Poornima Vijayashanker: Yeah. You’re seeing a lot of friction just in terms of the adoption because of change of behavior because people don’t see this as prevalent, so that makes sense. There’s already a number of big players in the market today. Facebook has Oculus. Google, like you mentioned, used to have Google Glass. What exactly is the difference between some of these big players, and maybe what you’re building, and what you see other people building?

Rose Haft: The main differences between each of the companies are the form factor and the tech-

Poornima Vijayashanker: OK.

Rose Haft: The technology that’s being used to develop them. There are several different optical technologies that are used and those really make a big difference in what a headset looks like. Most of the virtual reality headsets have a screen like your cell phone that’s in front of the eyes and there are lenses that help you to see an image clearly. That’s one type of technology. Companies like Google have something called a beam splitter inside the Google Glass and while it’s a smaller form factor, it has limited capabilities. Companies like Vuzix have something called a wave guide that has limitations around it as far as the brightness of the image, and the amount of the screen that’s able to be filmed. That might be a very technical explanation, but-

Poornima Vijayashanker: That’s OK, we have a very technical audience.

Rose Haft: Well, this is…I’m hoping to share-

Poornima Vijayashanker: Yeah.

Rose Haft: Relevant information. The biggest difference between each of the systems is the way the computer image is generated so somebody can see it. Those are really the big three ones that you see right now. Meta has a direct reflection. I helped to come up with that design. I built a…Meta hired me because I had built a prototype and they thought my prototype was cool and they hired me on to help with that.

How you can separate the fact from fiction around augmented reality and virtual reality

Poornima Vijayashanker: Yeah, that’s awesome. When our audience out there is trying to evaluate between fact and fiction when it comes down to augmented reality and virtual reality, what would you say to kind of arm them?

Rose Haft: Yeah. In order to help understand the difference between fact and fiction in an augmented and virtual reality environment, a lot of companies are going out and giving a lot of information and showing pictures and those sort of things, without actually having a product. It’s really important to look at how close is whatever is seen actually able to go out and be used in the world.

Also, companies that have a lot of hype, where they are getting the most press and it seems most exciting, aren’t necessarily the ones who are building the most useful tools. I think it’s kind of…Companies can be like people. If they’re kind of showing off a whole lot, but not really putting anything behind the game, then there’s probably a problem with it.

Otherwise, I encourage your audience, everyone out there, to really learn the science behind what’s happening. Part of the reason why we’ve been able to do things differently at Lumenora is because I knew the science, and I was able to go through and do things differently, because I knew the limitations of the methods trying to be implemented. Science, and also fact check, and double check if something’s actually ready, or usable, or wearable.

Why big companies like Facebook are investing in a long-term strategy around augmented reality and virtual reality

Companies like Facebook who have a five-year plan in order to build something and they’ve talked about that at F8 and those sort of things, they haven’t necessarily released anything publicly to show what they’re working on, and those are the companies that are more genuinely putting an effort into creating something useful before they go out and get credit for something they’ve not yet done.

Poornima Vijayashanker: Yeah. No, that makes a lot of sense. Well thank you so much, Rose. This has been really eye opening for us. I appreciate you coming on the show and sharing.

Rose Haft: Absolutely.

Poornima Vijayashanker: Yeah. Rose and I want to know, do you have any questions related to augmented reality and virtual reality? Let us know what they are in the comments below. That’s it for today’s episode of Build. Be sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel to receive the next episode where we’ll do a deeper dive into talking about some of the applications on augmented and virtual reality. Chow for now.

This episode of Build is brought to you by our sponsor, Pivotal Tracker.

Build is produced as a partnership between Femgineer and Pivotal Tracker. San Francisco video production by StartMotionMEDIA.