It is more common to talk about new trends that could shape an industry at the beginning of the year than in the middle of spring. There is no rule about this, it just seems right to do it at the beginning of the year. However, this does not mean that the industry does not develop new products and technologies throughout the year, which in turn create new trends. Today I will talk about an old technology that could indeed turn into a new trend for the display industry.
I am talking about HMD or virtual displays. They have been around for a long time and seem to be a favorite of all movie makers. Products from several manufacturers are available in the market. However, so far this technology has not reached the status of mass adoption by any means.
As with many product introductions before, the first one to release a product is not always the market leader, or even the survivor, in the long run. Typically the company that can bring the product, together with the right message to the consumer, wins out in the market. We are just experiencing this in the tablet market. Apple was by no means the first to develop a tablet computer or bring it to market for that matter. They are still the most successful company in that market and will be for years to come, if we believe the market research firms and their crystal balls.
This brings me to the reason I believe that the virtual display has a chance this time. A big company with consumer mass appeal, and a track record of finding new technologies and being competitive in the market, is one of the key ingredients for a successful product introduction. While Sony was indisputably this company in the 1990s, Apple is the leader of the pack today. The companies that come to mind after that are Samsung, Amazon and Google. Of these companies, Google has the reputation of entertaining many new ideas and spending money on product development like no one else. On the other hand, Google is also known to shut down new ideas should they not pan out and make money at the end of the day.
Google is the one to come forward with a project called ‘Project Glass,’ Google’s research and development program to prototype and build an augmented reality head-mounted display. For the first time, someone is promoting a head-mounted display for something other than watching a movie or flying a fighter jet. While we have many other options for watching a movie than viewing via a head-mounted display, very few of us will ever find ourselves seated in the cockpit of a fighter jet. Now, Google takes the head-mounted display and adds augmented reality technology to it, thus creating a product that actually has the potential to catch the consumer’s interest.
In recent weeks, several reports stated that Google is actually testing these ‘Goggles’ in the Google HQ. Google also posted pictures of people wearing these glasses, as shown in the attached picture courtesy of Google. I really don’t know of many headquarters that employ fashion models, but Google certainly has the money to do it.
Google also published a video (available on YouTube) that demonstrates what this product could do for people. The following link will take you to the video. http://www.youtube.com/Google Glasses
Google seems to see this as a first step toward an electronic assistant that could help people in many ways and make life easier for many people. Just think of the implication for the elderly or otherwise handicapped person, and what a difference this could make to their lives. Google definitely seems to see the potential in this technology as they are even working on solutions for people wearing corrective glasses. This seems to be beyond the stage of concept development.
All this together gives the head-mounted display a real chance to penetrate the mass market this time around. A large company with a vision combined with the right technology and enough money to bring the message to the consumer may be all it takes to make the HMD a success this time. Many of you may not agree with me for various reasons, but it is not the industry specialist who drives the market; it is the large corporation with the marketing budget that makes things happens.
Norbert Hildebrand is an analyst for Insight Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org