XR Talks is a weekly series that features the best presentations and educational videos from the XR universe. It includes embedded video, as well as narrative analysis and top takeaways. Speakers’ opinions are their own.
Among many metaphors for AR, one of our favorites is “MMO for the real world.” Coined by Ubiquity6 founder & CEO Anjney Midha, it depicts multiplayer interaction of a game like World of Warcraft, set in the physical world. It’s geospatial and social interaction plus game mechanics.
After featuring Midha’s insights in a previous talk, we pick things up in his appearance on This Week in Startups (video below). Besides MMOs, he invokes our second favorite metaphor: how content will be delivered in various thematic “layers” (as opposed to apps), that people create.
“We call these ‘layers,’ and people can easily author them using our tools,” said Midha. “Humans have an innate need to annotate the world. It’s the ability to say, ‘I was here’.” A key element to this vision is social sharing and personal expression within one’s social graph, he added.
With that user engagement comes monetization, which Midha believes will materialize like it has with social interaction and, again, MMOs. Like we’ve discussed with Meo, an AR business opportunity will be to satisfy user demand for digital personal expression, akin to Fortnight.
“My belief is in business models that worked in similar communities and MMO’s,” said Midha. “If you’re familiar with Roblox and Minecraft, those [players] like paying for upgrades to their world. And that’s going to be I think the most natural way people want to pay for stuff in AR.”
Of course, that personalization leads to questions of who owns augmented realities and the digital assets anchored to them? This will be a moving target where case law will begin to set precedent. But tech companies have to set the right tone for things like digital overlays on private property.
“One thing we think about a lot in AR is physical space and who owns the rights to what can be placed there” said Midha. “If it’s a public space, you may have access… If it’s private, you have the ability to permission it and say ‘this is my living room. I only want to invite my friends’.”
Meanwhile, all of this creates demand for digital content. AR worlds with social and MMO attributes will require lots of digital assets that are a sort of social currency which users can buy and/or trade. This opens up lots of business opportunities for creative content.
“There’s going to be a massive new category called spatial creators,” said Midha. “People who are today basically bound by 2D and are going to be able to build new kinds of games, new kinds of location-based guides, indoor navigation or art experiences.”
Business opportunities will also be evident in the industries and functions that AR disrupts. And Midha believes that chief among them is signage and billboards. With more dynamic ways of seeing the world around you, lots of traditional media will have to keep up or die.
“Signage is is such a hacky way to proxy a shared experience,” he said. “It always blows me away that signage still exists. I think it’s unlikely… If you close your eyes and try to imagine the future five years from now when everyone has AR, it’s hard to envision physical signage.”
Speaking of the longer-term horizon, Midha looks past AR’s current mobile state to its wearable future. But more important than the form factor is the fact that it will be ambient — a human/computer interface that provides an intelligent layer of information throughout our day.
“It’s not obtrusive,” he says. “It’s always on and it’s able to augment in useful ways without you having to explicitly say ‘can you please turn on this experience.’ It’s able to intelligently just come into your life and say, ‘Hey I know you’re trying to do this, let me help you with it’.”
But until we get there, evolutionary steps are key — including those that fail. Though Google Glass was a commercial flop and a glorified heads-up display, it’s important in any tech revolution to have early prototypes that test the market and inform subsequent innovation.
“Google Glass was a teaser, because it was not actually responding to the localized space,” said Midha. “It was not trying to localize you in real space. It was a single overlay. It was a screen on top your eyes. That was a step… it was step one. But you have to try to walk before you fly.”
See the full discussion between Midha and Jason Calacanis below, and stay tuned for our upcoming profile of Ubiquity6 in the ARtillry Interviews series.
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.