ANALYSIS: Fun is now functional. VR and AR started as consumer apps and are now being used in health care, utility and other business apps
As it has for a number of years, consumer technology innovation has been teaching enterprise IT some real lessons in moving the IT needle from “fun” to “functional.”
Look at all the innovations created by consumer-tech vendors that are now standards in business IT: PCs (remember, they started as “personal” computers), smartphones, tablets, touchscreens, high-definition video (from the gaming industry), connected car IT systems—we could go on. In recent years, personal digital virtual assistants such as Siri, Alexa, Cortana and Google started on the consumer side and are now working their ways into the office environment.
The use of virtual and augmented reality started out as “fun” consumer apps and are now being used in health care, oil and gas exploration, weather and myriad other professional applications.
Those are just a few examples as to why the Consumer Electronics Show, currently being held in Las Vegas through Jan. 12, is such an important annual event for the entire IT world. This is where products such as the home VCR (1970), early PCs (1978), camcorder (1981), digital satellite system (1994), high-definition TV (1998), Microsoft Xbox (2001), Blu-ray disc player (2004) and many others have debuted.
Why CES Is Important for Enterprises to Understand
“This is a great reason why the Consumer Electronics Show is so important to big, traditional enterprise IT companies,” Accenture’s Greg Roberts, Managing Director for the company’s high-tech practice, told eWEEK. “You can take something that started out as purely a gaming activity to now potentially become core to some of their B2B and large-enterprise offerings. You can see that the consumer side could quickly evolve to be more of a B2B play.
“For example, if, say, HP thought of CES as just a consumer show, they would miss the boat on evolving their AR/VR capabilities to do a broader play in education, manufacturing and other areas,” Roberts said. “The ‘fun to functional’ theme goes across all these different technologies.”
Turns out that Accenture, one of the largest and most respected IT consultants/researchers on the planet, has been doing a lot of research on all of this, unearthing some trends that could be important to enterprise IT companies.
Key Trends for 2018
Here are the four standout trends it sees at the outset of 2018:
- Stand-alone digital voice assistant devices are leading the evolution toward blended digital and physical experiences.
- Interest in connected experiences extends to self-driving vehicles.
- Consumers want more than just fun from augmented and virtual reality.
- Consumers are in search of simplified, flexible and engaging subscription over-the-top (OTT) video experiences.
To expand upon Trend No. 1, voice-controlled personal digital devices appear to be a replacement for some of the key functionality of smartphones. Consumers who own in-home digital voice assistant devices are using their smartphones less often for entertainment and online purchasing, Accenture said.
Digital voice assistant devices—powered by artificial intelligence—are stand-alone hardware devices that use voice interfaces for a range of consumer services such as playing music, turning the heat and lights on and off, and providing news, weather and sports scores.
Data Summarized in New Report
Accenture’s online survey of 21,000 consumers in 19 countries–whose findings are summarized in the new report, “Time to Navigate the Super Myway: Giving Consumers Exactly What They’re Looking For”–said that two-thirds (66 percent) of consumers who own digital voice assistants said they use their smartphones for fewer applications in the home since acquiring the devices. Nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of these owners said they use their smartphones less for entertainment, and more than half use them less for online purchasing and general information searches (58 percent and 56 percent, respectively).
At this early date, it all looks pretty disruptive to the huge smartphone industry. Fifty-five percent of those surveyed said they would prefer to replace their smartphone with a wearable digital assistant, Roberts said.
Like most things in the modern world, the analogy of Staples’ fabled Easy Button seems to win out; the lowest common-control denominator will be the winner. It’s much easier simply to tell a device to do something rather than click a phone or a PC, crack open a book or ask another person in an effort to come up with the desired information.
Next up? Sci-fi scenarios: Thought waves controlling devices. What all this does to the human brain over the long term is an altogether appropriate question.
The Accenture survey indicated that ownership levels of digital voice assistant devices are projected to more than double this year, reaching 39 percent of the online population in India, 37 percent in the United States, 34 percent in Brazil, 33 percent in China, 26 percent in Germany, and 24 percent in the United Kingdom.
More Functionality Sought for AR/VR
People want to do more with AR and VR than pretend to ride a roller coaster or stand at the edge of a high cliff. The research showed that their interests extend far beyond gaming to a range of more practical needs. For example, two-thirds (67 percent) of respondents said they are interested in AR or VR to learn about a place they are visiting or to learn new skills or techniques.
Other areas of interest include visualizing how clothes might fit (cited by 61 percent of respondents) and experiencing a sporting event live (52 percent).
As for the OTT (over-the-top video, such as Amazon, Hulu, Netflix and others) experience trend is concerned, Roberts said the research confirmed that people like it but they want to simplify it from a billing perspective.
“We found that 42 percent of their viewing time is spent on OTT content, but only 23 percent of their wallet (budget) is in there. While some people are cutting the cord (for cable TV), this shows that we’re probably at the inflection point where people can now viably think about cutting the cord, and that starts to create some unique opportunities,” Roberts said.
“If a service provider can make it easy for these consumers who buy four, five or 10 of these OTT services and still make it easy to buy limited stuff they still want from their cable provider—whether it be local channels, ESPN, et cetera—then you have the ability to completely cut the cord,” Roberts said.
How IT Enterprises Can Please Digital Consumers
Accenture came up with four recommendations for IT product and service providers regarding how they can give digital customers exactly what they are seeking:
Focus on blended digital and physical experiences: Consumers are embracing the blended experiences that voice-enablement provides. Soon consumer interest will shift from new form factors to connected, live intelligence and success will pivot on how well companies create and sustain engaging blended experiences. Integrating natural language processing will be a key imperative for the developer ecosystem such that video, voice and various other interfaces work seamlessly together at home and on the go.
Architect new ecosystems to connect consumers: Behind blended experiences are rapidly evolving ecosystems of hardware, software, connectivity and content providers. As service access grows ubiquitous and focus heightens on integrated digital and physical experiences, new ecosystems are needed to deliver engaging use cases. Whether it is a partnership between mobile and stationary devices, data sharing across platforms or collaboration with unique providers, dynamic ecosystems will form the basis for differentiation.
Innovate with new business models: The merging of digital and physical experiences represented by DVAs, self-driving vehicles and AR/VR creates monetization opportunities that could introduce completely new businesses and business models. How will free time be spent in a self-driving vehicle? How can AR/VR and autonomous technologies assist in health care or training? A persistent focus on innovation will help companies lead the way in the blended experience evolution.
Put consumers at the heart of the OTT experience: OTT video is here to stay. Now it’s time to retool the current business models to put the consumer at the center of the online video experience. In doing so, video service providers can unlock expanded revenue opportunities through business models such as new aggregation services, flexible bundles, tiered subscription access models with consumer-oriented advertising approaches and services that position OTT providers as competitors to traditional pay TV.
Originally published on eWeek