One of 2017’s biggest challenges for XR was slower-than-expected hardware adoption (especially VR). That key leading indicator governs the installed base on which other opportunities develop, including content and software.

But beyond sheer hardware sales, the sector has further suffered from fragmentation. The already small user base is divided into smaller subsets when you consider platforms and (sometimes) walled gardens like HTC/Valve, Oculus, and Daydream in VR; and ARkit and ARCore in AR.

This makes it harder for developers to justify ROI in content development because an already-small addressable market gets smaller. It’s similar in some ways to the platform wars of the smartphone era (iOS vs Android), but with far fewer users to subdivide… so far at least.

NVIDIA’s Martina Sourada in fact named fragmentation as one XR’s biggest challenges during a recent VRARA panel discussion that ARtillry moderated. And alleviating fragmentation was named as one of XR’s top priorities in ARtillry Intelligence’s 2018 predictions.

Fortunately we’re seeing positive steps. Platform-agnostic development tools like Unity have already lowered barriers. And there are low-friction development tools and libraries that continue to evolve, such as Google Blocks and Poly, Mirra and Sketchfab’s new marketplace.

Speaking of Google, another technology that will fight fragmentation is WebAR and WebVR. Based on Google’s web-based DNA (and revenue model), it will take the lead on — and benefit most from — web delivery of AR and VR experiences. Just yesterday, it provided a peek.

Last but definitely not least, the AR cloud will develop and gain importance as a repository of geo-tagged data and content to enable and populate AR apps and games. That will likewise be a “unifying technology” as we like to call them, because it adds value accross platforms.

As we’ve examined — and as broken down well by SuperVentures’ partner Ori Inbar — the AR cloud will be a critical component for AR’s promise. It will be be its data scaffolding, given AR’s seldom-discussed need to access mapping and positional data to overlay graphics properly.

Either way, a common thread in all of the above is a unifying effect to mitigate the XR fragmentation we’ve seen so far. The question, and the exciting part, is what business models will emerge to build unifying technologies, and make XR greater than the sum of its parts?

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Disclosure: ARtillry has no financial stake in the companies mentioned in this post, nor received payment for its production. Disclosure and ethics policy can be seen here.

Header image credit: The Venture Reality Fund