XR Talks is a weekly series that features the best presentations and panel discussions from the XR universe. It includes embedded video, as well as narrative analysis of top takeaways. 

One of the biggest questions asked about AR is, what will be its killer app? There’s lots of speculation on what it will be — everything from communications to commerce. But whatever it is, chances are it will be networked.

This is the assertion of someone who knows what he’s talking about when it comes to networked devices: ethernet inventor Bob Metcalfe. The law that caries his name states that networks exponentially grow in value with each node added. It stands behind the concept of network effect.

“It’s very likely that the killer app will be networked AR,” Metcalfe said from a live video feed at last month’s ARIA conference at MIT (video below). “That is, the platform and the standards will very much involve networking, if the birth of personal computing and the internet are any guide.”

Metcalfe came up with the law in 1980 which was formalized in 1993. It then defined local area networks, email, the commercial internet, content networks and eventually social media. Today, it defines lots of technology, including some of the most valuable companies in the tech sector.

“The big app that follows Metcalfe’s law — although they’ve never heard of it — is Facebook,” he said. “Facebook came from nowhere based on the value of networking and it continues to grow. Their company is booming based on the value of connectivity.”

Image Credit: Cornerstone

Back to AR, it’s clear that Metcalfe’s law will apply, in that networked apps will be more valuable than the disconnected experiences that rule ARkit today. That goes for user experience (multiplayer support), as well as better functionality from cloud mapping data (the AR cloud).

“There’s been an evolution of killer apps on the internet and I suspect that the same thing is going to happen in AR,” he said. “I keep hearing that AR and VR are useful for gaming, and training. Somewhere in there is going to be the killer app and I’m confident it will be networked.”

In fact the lesson of network effect continues to apply to several areas of computing. There are lots of examples from the past decade and beyond of added dimension and value that comes from networking, so it’s a safe bet that it will be a key component of AR’s eventual killer app.

“Remember we had GPS in our cars before we had google maps, which proved to be very useful,” Metcalfe said. “But Waze was the next big step where you’re not just talking to the satellites but you’re talking to each other.”

See the full video interview below with ARIA‘s John Werner, and stay tuned for more educational videos from industry talks every Friday.

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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.