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In this episode we get get back to basics. One story today — no frills, no fakes, no fillers. The topic: The hardware eruption that just blanketed Las Vegas in new Augmented and Virtual Reality HMDs. The 2019 Consumer Electronics Show (aka CES), which will have just wrapped up by the time you hear this. The show may be over, but the task of separating the real hardware wheat from the vaporware chaff is going to take a while.
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FULL TRANSCRIPT OF SEASON 2: EPISODE 8
00:00 Joe Johnson: Welcome To the In Reality Podcast, now starting, three, two, one.
00:07 JJ: Welcome to the In Reality Podcast where we cover all things augmented and virtual reality. The In Reality Podcast is hosted by Joe Bardi and Joe Johnson and features news, commentary and perspective from industry veterans and experts. First up, introductions. I’m Joe Johnson, Creative Director at Marxent Labs.
00:22 Joe Bardi: And I’m Joe Bardi, Communications Director here at Marxent.
00:25 JJ: It’s time to get back to basics. Just one story today. The topic: A hardware eruption that just blanketed Las Vegas in new augmented and virtual reality HMDs. I’m talking about the 2019 Consumer Electronic Show, aka CES, which will have just wrapped up by the time you hear this. The show may be over, but the task of separating the real hardware wheat from the vaporware chaff is going to take a while. Coming out of the show we’re left with more questions than answers. Was CES the death knell for the Oculus Rift? Is Chinese manufacturing giant Huawei already too late with those AR smart glasses they announced in November, with a street date of sometime in the next two years? And if Huawei is late, what does that make Apple? And what about all this new gear from HTC, Vuzix, Pico, Nreal, ThirdEye, Corning, DigiLens and others? Did the world just change again? It looks like the hype cycle of life continues. Joe, you ready to get started?
01:13 JB: Let’s do it.
01:19 JJ: Am I reading this?
01:22 JB: No I’ll read this one.
01:22 JJ: Okay.
01:23 JB: [chuckle] I’ll spare you. 2018 was a rough year for Facebook and particularly Mark Zuckerberg, what with all that testifying in front of Congress and ducking demands from the EU that he testify in front of their parliamentary bodies, and so on, and so forth. Motley Fool addressed Facebook’s VR strategy in the November article, “Facebook Faces Crossroads in Virtual Reality,” by Travis Hoium. Hoium posits that despite Oculus Go’s increased traction in the market ahead of the HTC Vive, and Facebook’s own Oculus Rift, Facebook is finding that cheaper headsets lack the wow factor of high-end headsets. An even bigger challenge to Facebook’s VR adoption, most people don’t even know Oculus exists. EMarketer estimates that only 5% of people in the US will even put on a VR headset regularly this year, and Oculus only sells a few million units per year. What does any of this have to do with the 2019 CES? Well, this year CES saw an absolute flood of new VR and AR hardware, including any number of low-cost headsets from companies that enjoy exactly none of Oculus’s industry-leading notoriety. So Joe, the question remains, is Oculus dead? And is the VR/AR hardware market it helped create about to be flooded by zombie products that no one knows about, much less wants? Or is there some kind of hope for the future in this year’s CES unveilings?
02:34 JJ: I’d say there’s definitely hope for the future looking at this long list of stuff that’s come out.
02:38 JB: There’s a lot of interest in this…
02:40 JJ: In this sector. Yeah.
02:41 JB: Yeah.
02:42 JJ: So why don’t we just start by going down the list that we set up at the beginning of the show?
02:48 JB: Yeah, we could do that.
02:48 JJ: Let’s start at the top of the list. Okay, well we know a bunch of Oculus offerings, I’m pretty sure Vive is doing stuff, HTC is doing stuff to regain some ground. Like what are they releasing?
02:56 JB: So HTC made a number of announcements at CES. The first, or… There was no biggest. There’s actually several large announcements from HTC. One is…
03:04 JJ: I’d say there’s a biggest but tell me what you want.
03:06 JB: You’re thinking the Vive Eye Pro?
03:09 JJ: I’m thinking maybe the Cosmos, actually.
03:10 JB: The Cosmos, see… Okay, so the Vive Eye Pro is they’ve added eye tracking to the Pro…
03:15 JJ: Which is super important from a UX standpoint, being able to focus on interactible objects and VR with your eyes rather than using a cursor is a big deal.
03:22 JB: Yes. And the Vive Cosmos is kind of the mystery device that was announced, but details were maybe a little bit scarce. It seems like maybe it’s gonna be a competitor for the Oculus Quest, which is gonna come out in the middle of the year.
03:38 JJ: The Quest, if I’m not mistaken, is a stand-alone, right?
03:40 JB: The Quest is a stand-alone, this is not a stand-alone. It still says that it would plug into a PC or another device.
03:46 JJ: Probably a smartphone.
03:48 JB: But they are not really specific although I think there’s an image floating around of it, like, plugged into a smartphone.
03:52 JJ: Yeah. Is… Are they… Is it mixed reality? I bet it’s a mixed reality headset. I bet it can do… I’m just speculating right now, ’cause there’s not a lot of information.
04:00 JB: That’s true.
04:00 JJ: But my suspicion is that Vive has been working on… We’ve talked about this ad nauseum, they’re working on a headset that can do both, right? It plugs into a computer to get your full-on, high quality VR headset situation, and then it can plug into a smart phone and be the smart… The augmented reality experience that you’re looking for.
04:18 JB: Yeah, and so some features that they know… So, it has embedded inside-out tracking.
04:23 JJ: That sounds like something you would use for AR.
04:26 JB: Yes, AR or VR. It also… So, it looks like it has cameras on the front and it flips up in an interesting way so that you’re not sort of… I think they’re trying to address the idea that you’re trapped in a box.
04:38 JJ: Wait, you mean the existential trapped in a box, or just with a VR headset, trapped in box?
04:44 JB: [chuckle] No, I think I meant existential.
04:45 JJ: Okay cool. Thanks, HTC, we appreciate the help.
04:48 JB: Again, it’s just, there was a lot of questions at the end of last year about what HTC would do in response to sort of the Oculus Quest being announced and that’s still June.
04:57 JJ: And don’t forget the Oculus taking their numbers away on Steam VR.
05:01 JB: Yes, well and that’s the other thing. So Oculus, at the end of last year Oculus, the Oculus Rift is the number one headset…
05:08 JJ: Yeah, they unseated the Vive.
05:10 JB: According to the Steam VR store, we should…
05:12 JJ: Which is a self-reporting survey.
05:14 JB: Yes.
05:14 JJ: And they have to have the device plugged in and it doesn’t pay any attention to enterprise uses, it’s all gaming. So take it with a grain of salt.
05:20 JB: But just to set the scene, so the Rift ended December with 46.45% of the total VR share on Steam. Vive had 40.82. And then the Pro was at 2.81.
05:31 JJ: So they’re at a standstill, they’re basically neck and neck.
05:33 JB: Right. And so I think the question then becomes, what will look like at this time next year when you start to figure in all of this other hardware that got announced? And we’ll… I’ll start the bidding here with the Pico…
05:48 JJ: G2 4k.
05:49 JB: G2 4k, which interestingly enough seems aimed at the enterprise.
05:53 JJ: Yeah, so it probably won’t do anything to Steam VR numbers but looking at the specs for it, you know, 4K display, obviously trying to improve that sort of screen door effect that you get in VR headsets, and then an interesting specific feature, replaceable eye pads, easy to replace eye pads, right? ‘Cause you don’t wanna… You don’t wanna share eye goo, face goo with other people.
06:13 JB: It turns out the spread of disease is frowned upon by most consumers. [chuckle]
06:17 JJ: Yeah. Enterprise level clients don’t wanna spread diseases. Another important feature which is super relevant to our businesses is kiosk mode, which locks the headset into an application. That’s clearly an enterprise feature.
06:27 JB: Yes. One of the overarching themes of all of the hardware that came out of CES this year, is that almost all of it, other than the HTC Cosmos which we just mentioned…
06:36 JJ: Sure, and anything Oculus is doing too.
06:38 JB: It’s almost all enterprise-directed, right?
06:40 JJ: Is Magic Leap shooting that way? ‘Cause whenever I watch their marketing materials or their promotional materials, they’re clearly also looking for nerdy gamer types who wanna have a new toy.
06:49 JB: My general take on Magic Leap is that they were competing with Microsoft for that giant military contract that Microsoft got, and Magic Leap, I suspect, is now trying to figure out where they’re gonna get the first big contract.
07:01 JJ: Where they’re gonna get their money?
07:02 JB: And the problem with that is that several companies brought out stuff at CES that looks like a better version of the Magic Leap.
07:08 JJ: Yeah.
07:09 JB: I’m referencing specifically the Vuzix Blade…
07:12 JJ: Which we’ll get into later.
07:13 JB: And the Nreal glasses…
07:14 JJ: And the AR glasses.
07:15 JB: AR glasses.
07:16 JJ: We’ll dig into the AR stuff a little later. Let me finish up with the G2, though.
07:19 JB: Okay, yeah, yeah.
07:20 JJ: It looks like they’re going $300 and $350 for this stand-alone 4K display with replaceable eye pads, kiosk mode, hands-free controls, and a controller if that’s your thing. That seems like a pretty aggressive price point. Are they just eating a bunch of losses to get into enterprise hands? Probably?
07:38 JB: Probably.
07:38 JJ: Yeah. I think it’s a smart move, honestly.
07:42 JB: Yes. VR… So we referenced the hype cycle at the beginning and the hype cycle says, “Oh, VR is… ”
07:47 JJ: Hype hype hype hype hype hype.
07:48 JB: What?
07:49 JJ: I said, “Hype hype hype hype hype hype hype hype.”
07:49 JB: Hype hype hype, oh yeah. And so, the hype cycle says that VR is now kind of like the bastard stepchild to AR instead of the other way around, as it maybe started.
08:00 JJ: Well slow down, don’t tell that to Marc Andreessen.
08:02 JB: Well, yeah that’s…
08:02 JJ: In a recent podcast, his investment podcast, he talks about VR being, “1000 times more important than AR in the next couple of years.” I don’t know if I agree with him, especially because that was the opposite of my prediction at the top of the year.
08:16 JB: Yeah, I was more Pro on VR…
08:19 JJ: You’re the VR guy. You’re the VR guy.
08:21 JB: And so I’m gonna tell you I love Andreessen’s… No, I felt like he was A, making a big prediction to make a big prediction, which is great. I also think, though the general spirit behind it is correct, I think that we don’t really know what either VR or AR are truly capable of yet. We know some things that they are capable of but we don’t know the full scope.
08:40 JJ: I think we know better what VR is capable of because we have a convenient, a mental hand hold for what VR is capable of. We’ve played video games. We can already see what we can do in imaginary worlds, when enough artists or artisans get together and start putting something together. So my suspicion, and I don’t wanna walk back my prediction already and I’m not going to, officially right here, this is not a walk back on…
09:03 JB: Okay good. Stand your ground Joe.
09:04 JJ: It’s easier to understand what VR can do right now. Augmented Reality has yet to be truly developed. We haven’t really developed it yet. So something is going to happen, there’s no way that this tool that all of these companies, Vuzix, Nreal, Apple, X2 whatever, whoever makes them, there’s no way that they’re just making stuff for no reason. I don’t think that’s possible. So we’ll see where it goes. Maybe AR’s time isn’t quite now, but I’m sure that it’s going to be just as important.
09:31 JB: And so this was the… This is second part of my sort of why Oculus is in trouble conversation. Number one is that it’s seeing increased competition in the VR market.
09:39 JJ: It is.
09:39 JB: Number two is that it’s about to see a lot of increased competition from AR smart glasses. And there’s real confusion in the public as to what the difference between VR and AR, and MR and XR are.
09:51 JJ: Yeah that’s a good point. So if you figure that Facebook was trying to position the Oculus as some sort of social tool, I can’t imagine that it’s gonna be better as a social tool than a decent pair of smart glasses that will offer basically the same functionality to people who just wanna update their stuff while they’re sitting on the bus or something like that.
10:08 JB: It’s the most quintessentially Facebook thing to say that they thought a good social tool would be a thing that completely obscures your field of vision.
10:14 JJ: That’s… Sick burn by the way. Props for the sick burn.
10:23 JB: [chuckle] But yeah so…
10:23 JJ: Notch one up for Joe Bardi.
10:24 JB: Thank you, thank you. So let’s dive in a little bit. So a couple of things you just said, like you talked about companies, about rolling out things for future products. That was the first thing I saw when I saw Corning had announced…
10:34 JJ: Oh yeah, they’re doing lenses right?
10:35 JB: Lenses. Corning and WaveOptics demonstrated high performance optics for AR. That to me has… Possibly has Apple written all over it. Corning is already a huge partner with them, with the iPhone and whatever.
10:47 JJ: Is that right? I did not know that.
10:48 JB: They make the Gorilla Glass that is…
10:50 JJ: Then there you go.
10:51 JB: The cover on all of them so…
10:52 JJ: Apple is gonna come late after all these… After all of this trash ware shows up and then they’re gonna do the thing.
10:58 JB: And so the interesting thing… The two that I already referenced that were sort of the best devices are from afar…
11:04 JJ: We’re switching over to AR?
11:05 JB: We’re switching over to AR, I’m transitioning.
11:06 JJ: I’m prepared.
11:07 JB: The two devices that caught my eye the most from all of the reporting out of CES, ’cause sadly we were not there, were the Vuzix Blade and the Nreal AR smart glasses. And so, both of those took a more traditional look approach.
11:25 JJ: You mean one looks like sunglasses, cool sunglasses and the other looks like Starbucks barista or art gallery owner glasses?
11:31 JB: Yes, that sounds right. But neither…
11:33 JJ: Things that human beings would wear.
11:35 JB: But neither looks like a Buck Rogers helmet or something, right?
11:37 JJ: There’s a prediction for me from the start of the year, right?
11:39 JB: That is. That is, yes.
11:40 JJ: As soon as they become things that a normal human being would wear, somebody might use them.
11:43 JB: And these are definitely much closer. They also do things like they’re expanding the field of vision from what the HoloLens had been able to do and from what the Magic Leap has been able to do.
11:52 JJ: Yeah, my understanding is that the Vuzix Blade had probably a much larger than expected field of view, which was the reason that it won the awards for design and stuff.
12:00 JB: Yeah, it won the CES 2019 Innovation Award for outstanding design and engineering.
12:04 JJ: Which is funny ’cause it just looks like regular ass glasses.
12:06 JB: ‘Cause it was like, “Wow, they’ve knocked it out of the park! They’ve made things that basically look like glasses!” But it’s true.
12:12 JJ: They made cool dad glasses.
12:13 JB: It’s true. And then the Nreal ones, in the pictures, they have orange or red earpieces and…
12:20 JJ: They look like cool EDM sunglasses. I would wear those.
12:22 JB: Yeah, and they have a little bit fatter front and the Nreal ones also have, similar to Magic Leap, a tethered puck that it actually has a Snapdragon processor and it is what’s powering the experience.
12:31 JJ: Sure. And those aren’t even the ones with the best field of view. My understanding is that the X2 smart glasses actually had the widest field of all of them. It also looks like something that you would wear in a science fiction film. So, good luck with that, guys.
12:40 JB: Yeah, there’s that problem too. And we don’t know what the HoloLens 2.0 or… 2.0?
12:47 JJ: I think technically it’s 3.0. They said they were skipping 2.0 to go straight to 3.0.
12:50 JB: Yes!
12:51 JJ: They probably got a decent pile of money from the Gov.
12:53 JB: They did. 400 something million dollars, I believe.
12:54 JJ: They’re probably gonna pour that into some more hardware development to get it going.
13:00 JB: Yeah, and we’ve referenced this before but they had sort of, not announced, but had publicly said the next version of the HoloLens would come out in 2019, they said that two years ago. So, my guess is whatever it is, it’s gotta be getting close. But I wonder if they’re now looking around and saying, “Whoa, all these people greatly increased the field of view we had and whatever, do we have to step it up?” I think of all of this stuff, I’m gonna use this analogy and I’m half reluctant to use this analogy because I don’t like the smartphone to VR comparison exactly.
13:32 JJ: It’s okay, we can just edit it out later if it sucks.
13:34 JB: Well, no, no. It’s not that, I’m gonna still… I want it included. I think a lot of these devices remind me of the Palm Pre.
13:40 JJ: Oh, man.
13:41 JB: Do you remember the Palm Pre?
13:42 JJ: What a damning statement the Palm Pre comment is.
13:46 JB: The Palm Pre when you look back at it now had all these great features, right?
13:48 JJ: Sure did.
13:50 JB: It was ahead of its time.
13:51 JJ: Sure was.
13:52 JB: It just didn’t quite nail the implementation.
13:54 JJ: It was too early.
13:55 JB: It was a little bit too early. And so when I look at the Vuzix glasses, what I see is the prototype for whatever Apple and Google will have glasses, and they’ll all… If Apple is working on it, they’re all working on it.
14:09 JJ: So what the hell are we gonna do with these things? And we talked about this a little bit earlier in the show, we talked about we know what we can do in VR. We have some good ideas about how to use VR, how the hell are we using AR smart glasses? ‘Cause the common thread that I’m seeing in all of the stories coming out of CES is like, “We don’t really know what it’s for.”
14:26 JB: It’s funny that you ask that, Joe, ’cause I checked out some products or some AR apps or whatever, from CES to see what the industry was sort of saying this is what you’ll use these things for.
14:35 JJ: Are they in the show notes I didn’t read?
14:36 JB: Yes, incidentally, we have the longest show notes in history, so if you haven’t seen those already, check those out.
14:39 JJ: Check those out, yeah. [chuckle]
14:42 JB: But so, when you see what they’re using AR for, not just smart glasses, like AR windshields were everywhere, AR dashboards in cars, actual windows for office buildings that provided AR readouts…
14:55 JJ: AR readouts of what?
14:57 JB: Where… Like it’s silly, right?
15:00 JJ: Yes.
15:00 JB: ‘Cause I don’t have an actual answer.
15:01 JJ: And that’s kind of what I’m getting at.
15:02 JB: But, you know, I…
15:03 JJ: Does it provide trajectory data for airplanes that you can see from the high rise?
15:07 JB: The picture I saw actually referenced like where other people were in other buildings.
15:11 JJ: Oh, that’s not weird, thanks guys.
15:12 JB: It’s actually the exact opposite of how it should work. Those windows should be displaying information back in that I can then use in my meeting and whatever, and now I don’t need a whiteboard anymore, but I’m sure they’ll figure that out in the next 12 months.
15:22 JJ: Yeah, that would be a cute toy.
15:23 JB: Right?
15:23 JJ: Yeah.
15:24 JB: So in addition to all that, then there was an app to help you garden using AR, an app to help you cook using AR. There are all kinds of beauty utilizations.
15:34 JJ: I got it. I got it. I know exactly what we’re gonna use AR smart glasses for.
15:37 JB: What?
15:37 JJ: Have you seen Kingsman?
15:41 JB: I’ve seen more than half of the second one.
15:45 JJ: Okay. So there’s a moment in Kingsman where all of the agents are sitting virtual presence, telepresence. And you put on your AR smart glasses and then it’s like they’re all nice holograms. There you go.
15:56 JB: Yeah, there you go.
15:56 JJ: That’s the big thing.
15:57 JB: That sounds…
15:58 JJ: More telepresence.
15:58 JB: That sounds about right.
16:00 JJ: Sure.
16:00 JB: I think they’re still figuring it out. The actual answer here is that some kind of overlaying of information on the real world is useful and important.
16:10 JJ: We just don’t know what it is yet.
16:11 JB: We just don’t quite… They just haven’t quite figured it out. And I think that with what Marxent does and whatever, that’s certainly useful.
16:18 JJ: Yeah.
16:19 JB: But it’s a specific use case. It doesn’t… Well, we think it’s great, it’s not the same as what Tim Cook is describing as a transformational technology. Marxent may be transforming the way you buy furniture.
16:31 JJ: He still hasn’t explained to me what he means by it being a transformational technology, frankly.
16:35 JB: Yes, and I don’t expect him to until sometime late next year.
16:38 JJ: You mean… [chuckle] when they release their smart glasses and they’ve… Maybe Apple’s best talent is figuring out why people wanna use technology.
16:45 JB: Maybe. Maybe, yeah, I mean, they… You would hope that whenever it comes out, there is some kind of use case. And I mean looking at the watch is a good example of… They did find a bunch of compelling use cases for the watch, but it took a little while.
17:00 JJ: Yeah, I still…
17:00 JB: It wasn’t right off the bat.
17:00 JJ: I still don’t need a smartwatch though.
17:02 JB: Yeah, no, I don’t think… So I was gonna say, nobody needs a smartwatch. I don’t know that that’s true anymore. I think the older you are, the more you would benefit from a smartwatch.
17:10 JJ: Oh, yeah, as a memory aid?
17:11 JB: I think I… Well, as a memory aid, and as a health tracking feature.
17:14 JJ: Sure.
17:14 JB: I think that…
17:15 JJ: Yeah, people have been talking about that a lot.
17:16 JB: We’re in the infancy of a lot of that. And there was an article this week that said, nobody under 65 should use the ECG, electrocardiogram function on the new Apple watch.
17:25 JJ: Why is that?
17:25 JB: Because that test isn’t meant for you to check yourself over and over again and people are gonna start picking up false readings and stuff that aren’t actually there.
17:33 JJ: Doing the horse race for their own heart? That’s dangerous.
17:34 JB: And so that will be some of the figuring out, but there’s also a raft of other stories about people who went to the hospital after the heart rate monitor said, “Your heart is racing, you should check this out.”
17:45 JJ: Here’s a nice random connection. Andreessen said the same thing, he was talking about AR as a tool for health monitoring. He was talking about, people are gonna have six to seven elected monitoring devices on their body, at any given time, to get a picture of their overall health…
18:00 JB: Yes.
18:00 JJ: And, you know, of course, he mentioned the statistics around people who have heart attacks in a hospital versus people who have heart attacks outside out of a hospital.
18:07 JB: Yes, it’s insane.
18:07 JJ: Yeah. We often talk about techno-phobic issues. I guess if your devices are self-selected and nobody’s really monitoring your health for you and you have the option to do it whenever you want, you know like to not die from a heart attack. I’m okay with that. That seems fine.
18:21 JB: Yeah. That seems to be… That seems to be where Apple is positioning itself now.
18:26 JJ: You know what might be kind of interesting? I often think about augmented reality toys as just being toys, but in reality, toys are important to everybody, everybody loves toys. People use Snap filters because they enjoy them, they just genuinely inherently enjoy them.
18:39 JB: Yes.
18:40 JJ: What if you could, I don’t know, have a transponder on your body that sets a look for you and people who are using AR just see you the way you wanna be seen?
18:48 JB: Oh, that’s interesting.
18:48 JJ: There’s this interesting set of options for that there, I’m just thinking specifically of Blade Runner 2049, there’s a scene that is not safe for work that involves an augmented reality projection on top of another human being for the purposes of…
19:02 JB: Entertainment.
19:02 JJ: Tele-intimacy. That’s what I would describe it as. By the way, everybody go watch Blade Runner 2049.
19:08 JB: By the way, that was at CES too. What was, not exactly, but sort of…
19:12 JJ: Oh, are we referencing something in the awkward show notes?
19:15 JB: Yeah, you know I didn’t include…
19:17 JJ: Are we skipping ahead to end of the show?
19:18 JB: I didn’t include of the… You know there’s two shows going on in Las Vegas right now and they didn’t include any of this stuff from the other one.
19:24 JJ: So if I’m not mistaken, if I’m just taking a stab in the dark, and this is an honest to God guess, I bet it is an adult technology show or an adult award show?
19:29 JB: Yes, there’s… Running concurrently.
19:31 JJ: Yeah.
19:32 JB: And AR is…
19:32 JJ: Featured prominently?
19:34 JB: Yes, yes.
19:36 JJ: We don’t need to dig into that. Hey everybody, just be aware.
19:38 JB: Yes, yeah, just Google. You’ll figure it out.
19:39 JJ: Yeah Google for yourselves. But all right, well I guess there are some options coming up for augmented reality use cases.
19:45 JB: Yes, my final takeaway from CES and seeing all of this stuff that was coming out was A: What the companies that are developing these products have decided is, for now, it’s enterprise, more than consumer. There are all kinds of business uses… There’s all kinds of business uses for both AR and VR.
20:04 JJ: Sure.
20:05 JB: And they’re trying to leverage those. And then the hardware makers are trying to sort of solve problems or issues that have come back to them.
20:11 JJ: All right, well then let’s play a little game called based on specifications, capabilities and look, what do we think the actual winners from this pile of gadgets is going to be looking forward longterm like do you think that Pico’s headset is gonna make a dent in the Oculus/five fight?
20:27 JB: No.
20:28 JJ: Not even for enterprise?
20:29 JB: I don’t, I… No. Because the problem… Like they’re playing a game of, “We have 4K resolution, whatever,” but they’ll get matched on that in five minutes. And knowing, somewhat, how big companies choose vendors and stuff like that.
20:46 JJ: Pro tip: Everybody. They tend to choose other large vendors who they can rely on I.e…
20:50 JB: That they feel proven or whatever…
20:52 JJ: HTC and Oculus probably.
20:53 JB: Which is why… Like I admire the hell out of what Pico is doing but I don’t know if they’ll ever actually…
20:58 JJ: They’re like an indie farm, farm fresh VR headset.
21:00 JB: I should also say my perspectives are all somewhat limited to the United States.
21:05 JJ: Sure.
21:05 JB: I don’t know if Pico will be huge in Europe and I don’t see that, right? I don’t actually know. But so… I think out of all of the things we mentioned, I already believe that…
21:15 JJ: Vuzix? Is it Vuzix?
21:16 JB: Well, I already believe that the Oculus Quest was gonna do well in the middle of the year.
21:19 JJ: Sure.
21:19 JB: I suspect the Vive Cosmos will be interesting. Whether or not it hits or not, it’s gonna depend on the implementation and what you can actually do with it.
21:24 JJ: And what it actually does, yeah. Like if it’s what I think it is, if it’s a mixed reality headset, it might be really cool. I know that I’ve been loathed to pick up any of these until I see hardware sort of settle down and turn into something that I wanna use. I think that if Vive can put together a decent mixed reality headset for me, I’d probably pick it up.
21:44 JB: Yeah, and so…
21:44 JJ: I think it’d be time to pull the trigger.
21:46 JB: As for Vuzix and Nreal and the X2 glasses…
21:49 JJ: The glasses yeah.
21:51 JB: All of those… The interesting thing about those…
21:53 JJ: Do you think they’re gonna get dumped by Apple?
21:55 JB: This is the thing, okay. It’s not about the technology, and it’s not about… And it’s actually not about their… Or it is a little bit about the size of the companies involved. But I’ll explain what I mean in a second, it’s about the ecosystem around the device.
22:06 JJ: You mean the iTunes store?
22:08 JB: All of those… Both in the stories you read about both of Vuzix and the Nreals there’s this question of what will you do with it and whatever. And my expectation is Apple and Google to some extent, and maybe Facebook or whatever. They have been building these giant content farms and they’ve been programming for the iPhone for 10 years and all this stuff. So when they hit, they’re going to have an ecosystem of…
22:31 JJ: It’ll be integrated into what they already do.
22:32 JB: And they will have at least a couple of things they will claim are killer features whether or not they’re… You know stocks up. No. They’ll have a few… There’ll be something that they will try to… They’ll try to hang their hat on it as, “You need to buy this.”
22:44 JJ: So you’re just… You’re literally writing all of these glasses off?
22:47 JB: I just… It feels like a transitional period to me and the market is figuring it out…
22:51 JJ: You think Microsoft and Apple wins, and then the transitional period is like all these little fish get swallowed up by sharks at some point…
22:57 JB: I was gonna say, like, “What does winning even mean in this conversation?” Is that…
23:00 JJ: Winning in this conversation…
23:01 JB: Is that Vuzix being purchased by a larger company?
23:05 JJ: First of all, probably yes, which says more about the tech industry really than anything else.
23:10 JB: Or just the economics in 2019. We’ve reached this point where it’s a few giant companies that gobble.
23:16 JJ: Would make corpse get what they want?
23:18 JB: Right, and I keep reading stories because the last few weeks have been stock market turmoil and everything, and you compare Apple to Sony in the ’80s and ’90s, and it’s like nobody could have pictured in ’87 that Sony would have this horrible dip, but Sony actually then did come back, and it went away and it sort of fluctuates now whatever, but it doesn’t enjoy that…
23:37 JJ: Grant prestige that it did before.
23:38 JB: Yeah, just that air of invincibility.
23:40 JJ: Sure.
23:40 JB: That Apple has right now, and that’s being pierced at the moment.
23:44 JJ: You mean with their stock prices tumbling?
23:46 JB: Yes. But so when you actually look at it, it’s like, “Well, did the fundamentals of their business change?” Is…
23:52 JJ: No.
23:52 JB: No, and who… What company is actually gonna come? It’s not that…
23:56 JJ: And stock prices tumbling is not an actual indicator of lost value.
24:00 JB: Yeah.
24:00 JJ: I mean those prices can go up and down and nothing changes…
24:02 JB: Exactly, exactly.
24:03 JJ: Until people actually dump stock.
24:04 JB: And so it’s hard for me to say, “Yes, this little company that just made this product is gonna come and dethrone one of the big five tech companies, because with pluck and attitude.” I just…
24:14 JJ: Man, we could use more pluck and attitude around here.
24:16 JB: We could, we could.
24:18 JJ: All right, well, then basically we’ve landed on there’s a lot of activity in the sector, and there’s some cool interesting things happening, and…
24:26 JB: Yes, both AR and VR are healthy. Even though the reports are that it’s all dying and everything else, that’s not the case.
24:33 JJ: Sure.
24:33 JB: There’s still products, there’s still innovation, there’s still experimentation. That’s all still going on. It’s not like everybody just…
24:39 JJ: Well that’s hopeful.
24:39 JB: Abandoned these things. So yes, that’s my general take away. You know me, I’m a hopeful guy.
24:44 JJ: I do, I do. I’m gonna go ahead and feel it today. I’m gonna go ahead and be a little hopeful with it. The thing that I’m hopeful for, is that somebody finds a really good way to use AR that lets me enjoy it, rather than be afraid of it.
24:54 JB: Ah, yes.
24:56 JB: I look forward to seeing what that looks like.
24:58 JJ: Yeah, me too. Okay, well then, let’s get to the fun part of the show.
25:08 JJ: So, what weird stuff did you find at CES this year?
25:10 JB: Oh yeah, oh okay, yeah, so we gotta… We’re just gonna do this real… We gotta run it down real fast, though. Because, so I found this, whatever this article that was posted to…
25:18 JJ: Should I click the link?
25:19 JB: Mysmartprice at whatever. It’ll be in the show notes. Titled, “Wait, what? Infrared hair dryer, and other stupid gadgets from CES.”
25:27 JJ: Okay, so first of all, first of all, let me cut you off.
25:29 JB: Okay.
25:30 JJ: I have to cut you off about this.
25:31 JB: Please.
25:32 JJ: Do you know what infrared energy is?
25:37 JB: I mean sort of. Yes.
25:38 JJ: It is heat. It is how the universe expresses temperature change in a non-visible light source, okay? It is just radiation that transmits heat. So when you say an infrared hair dryer, they’re all infrared hair dryers.
25:52 JB: Well let me, well, hold on. Let me read their statement.
25:56 JJ: Sure.
25:57 JB: The company is called VOLO.
26:00 JJ: Sure.
26:00 JB: VOLO says and I quote, “Our quartz infrared light and heat penetrates the cortex of your hair drying it from the inside out,” which the story then goes on to point out, is exactly how we cook using… We cook foods using infrared ovens.
26:14 JJ: Just so you know, here is how a hair dryer works. A tungsten filament is heated until it generates red and infrared light, and it heats the air around it, and then the air is blown out of the device, and then transmits energy into your hair all right, evaporating the water. What they’re describing is exactly as far as I can tell, the exact same thing as a regular hair dryer.
26:42 JB: Yeah, except possibly with more damage to your head. So there was also… Would you like an Alexa enabled smart toilet?
26:53 JJ: Please tell me more.
26:54 JB: It’s only eight grand.
26:55 JJ: It’s only eight grand, okay.
26:57 JB: Only eight grand.
27:00 JJ: Well I guess I order Amazon products whilst pooping? Is that the goal?
27:05 JB: It also offers a multi-colored ambient light.
27:07 JJ: Does it play music?
27:08 JB: It does play music.
27:09 JJ: Okay, then my dream is, my dream is realized. I can now…
27:12 JB: I would say, “Can I get it for four grand?” That’s my only… I just wanna cut the price.
27:16 JJ: I think realistically, you could probably get it for 500 bucks if they were honest about what it cost to make it.
27:22 JB: The Kolibree…
27:24 JJ: Kolibree, it’s called.
27:26 JB: Yeah, yeah, Kolibree, but they spelled it weird.
27:28 JJ: Yeah.
27:28 JB: Kolibree smart toothbrush. It’s the Magic smart toothbrush, it comes with a Smartphone companion app.
27:35 JJ: Oh, I get it. So they’re using augmented reality. They’re using an augmented reality Snapchat filter to teach kids how to brush properly?
27:42 JB: To teach kids how to brush. The problem is…
27:44 JJ: Look, can your kids put down the goddamn smartphone for two minutes…
27:47 JB: Well, the problem is, you have to hold the smartphone in one hand and brush with the other.
27:51 JJ: Guess what? I’ve done it. I can do it right now.
27:53 JB: Have you ever seen a…
27:54 JJ: A kid do it?
27:54 JB: Just a five-year-old brush their teeth, let alone…
27:57 JJ: They do have diminished motor capabilities.
28:00 JB: I don’t like to let my children do either of those activities just by themselves.
28:03 JJ: You should…
28:03 JB: Holding a phone or brushing their teeth, let alone at the same time.
28:05 JJ: You should let them brush over the toilet with the phone. I think that’s the right idea. Here. The next one is the URGONight. The URGONight for sleeping. What does this do?
28:17 JB: Well Joe, it’s funny that you should ask.
28:19 JJ: That headband looks very stylish, by the way.
28:21 JB: Have you had trouble sleeping because of gadget addiction?
28:26 JB: ‘Cause this French company has a gadget that’ll solve…
28:27 JJ: Solve that problem.
28:28 JB: Your gadget addiction sleeping problem. It’s a smart headband that claims to train your brain to sleep better.
28:35 JJ: I think I already know how. It’s called, put the phone down about an hour before you go to bed.
28:40 JB: The idea is to track your brain processes and mental activities and visualize them using a companion app. It does sound like it would make me tired.
28:46 JJ: It, Honestly, honestly… You’re right, I’m exhausted just listening to it right now.
28:50 JB: The company claims that this will help you realize what brain processes would help you sleep better.
28:56 JJ: Oh, okay, so hang on. I do talk therapy for everybody who wants to know.
29:01 JJ: It’s medium. It’s real medium at helping me realize what thought processes do what.
29:06 JJ: And I’ll be honest. I don’t think a headband’s gonna help me.
29:10 JB: Perhaps staring at your smartphone app will help you sleep.
29:15 JJ: I’m so ready.
29:16 JB: I love this story.
29:16 JJ: That’s a great story.
29:17 JB: Just go with dark mode on your phone, and you should be fine.
29:20 JJ: Well, I guess we’re gonna talk to everybody in a couple weeks about something else that’s also interesting.
29:24 JB: Perhaps with a guest.
29:26 JJ: Perhaps with a guest.
29:27 JB: Whoo!
29:27 JJ: Do you wanna tease ’em?
29:28 JB: I don’t.
29:28 JJ: Do you know who the guest is?
29:29 JB: No, so I don’t wanna tease ’em.
29:30 JJ: Oh, what a mystery. All right, everybody. Well, In Reality, I’m Joe Johnson.
29:33 JB: And I’m Joe Bardi.
29:33 JJ: And we’ll talk to you later.
This week, the Joes talk to Margie Manning, a prolific reporter who covers Tampa Bay’s burgeoning startup culture, about the… continue reading
Last episode, the Joes checked out the cavalcade of AR & VR Devices announced at CES 2019 and bemoaned the… continue reading