What has to change for immersive reality in 2017

VR failed our expectations in 2016, that is clear. How do we bring VR to general masses in 2017? After recently discussing this exact topic with VR/AR/MR creators and entrepreneurs of Seattle at WTIA panel this week, I have come up with a list of must-haves for VR to become more than a hype among the geeky population.

Weight 

One of the biggest disadvantages of today’s immersive reality devices is their weight. Spending most of my awake life in front of computer, I already have a plethora of neck and back problems. Many people do – that comes with the sit-in-front-of-PC 8+ hour workday. The hardware of the immersive devices has to improve before the weight is lowered to a comfortable level.

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Horrible setup

I love setting up IKEA furniture… sometimes. IKEA furniture exists and people are okay with putting it together from scratch because of its cost. We learned to enjoy the printed leaflets with listed parts and step-by-step instructions on how to put the furniture parts together on the fly. IKEA UX works because of the cost of the furniture. However, if you are paying $900+ for a device, you would hope the setup would be less painful than drilling walls in your computer rooms and walking around with a “Geiger counter” like device measuring your room dimensions.

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Killer app

One of the people I talked to on the WTIA panel disagreed with me on this remark, but we currently do not have a killer app in the market. Think of Angry Birds for phone, World of Warcraft, Minecraft, Facebook! These are all successful software inventions that invite the user to return, to want for more. I am yet to see this kind of experience in the immersive industry. While  successful and well-made apps such as Paintbrush exist, they are not enticing for me personally to come back to every day.

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Marketing

Do you remember when iPod came out? Everyone wanted to have an iPod device on them so they could show off in front of their friends. And what for? The image that an iPod provided to you. iPods, and later, iPhones, were marketed brilliantly, promising you a cool lifestyle, a stylish device that would let you immediately stand out in an awesome way. The VR world lacks this right now. Most of the advertisement I have seen for VR is focused around a really cool techy gadget or male FPS gamers (haven’t we been through this… like 30 years ago?). Nothing about lifestyle, about how cool/awesome/creative you would be if you owned the device. I understand why the marketing state is where it is. Overemphasizing the coolness aspect can be misleading and could make the people who buy the product angry once they discover the aforementioned problems of weight, horrible setup and lack of killer apps. But it does not take away the responsibility of the companies to be more inclusive.

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The Verdict

All in all, the immersive reality products have a lot of problems and entire marketing departments to fix before it becomes commonplace. The promise of the Virtual Reality and the targeted markets have to become more focused before we can become best buddies on HoloLens, Oculus or Vive. So far the virtual reality devices have been too tinkerer focused, and for a good reason: right now it is tinkerers who purchase, play and create for the products (myself included). I am afraid that without proper image for the products, it will be still tinkerers who are targeted in 2017. Let’s be CodeBrave and change the perception of immersive reality by making some apps for everyone.

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What has to change for immersive reality in 2017

#DressLikeAWomanInCS

There has been a lot of discussion on the #DressLikeAWoman topic. As a woman in CS, both in Idaho and Washington, I had different pressures tugging me to dress like a  guy/woman in order to feel respected and get a better shot at succeeding in this field.

Dress like a guy

Ever since I entered the realm of computer science as a college student, especially in undergrad, I was surrounded by men. I did not want any extra attention you get when wearing a tight T-shirt or slim jeans. I wanted to fit in, be like the rest of the crowd. So I wore baggy jeans, baggy T-shirt and a hoodie for the first few years of my CS education. Do not get me wrong, I still dyed my hair and did makeup, but I felt like dressing up like one of the guys was crucial for me to succeed… that is, until I started dating a man who is now my husband.

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Dress like a woman

Dressing in skinny jeans and a tight T-shirt in the engineering building was a shocker to me. So far in the bagginess of clothes, I was unnoticed, merged with the gray crowd of white male engineering students (ugh). But as soon as that changed, I got stares. I got awkwardness. I got ignored. This is when I started distinguishing between what I wore to school vs what I wore after school. That added to my pile of laundry every week, but at least I felt more comfortable going to school.

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Dress professionally

While working in Idaho, I was still surrounded by mostly men, so I continued my work/after work outfit switching. Idaho is not normally known for its fashion – people tend to dress up comfily so they can hit the trails straight after work. Only a couple of my friends dressed up in style. That changed when I moved to Washington. The dress styles! The hair! The shoes! The diversity! I am no longer the only technical woman in the office, and the other technical women dress up professionally, yet with style. I love it. The best thing is there is not a single style you have to follow. I feel like I could show up in Doctor Who T-shirt and a blazer one day, and then in a strict professional dress the other.

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Have A Look

An interesting point I have observed in major tech companies is that the people tend to have a look – a style that distinguishes them, allows people to easily recognize them. From Steve Jobs black turtleneck to Scott Guthrie’s red polo to Alex Kipman’s long hair and graphic T-shirts – major technology leaders tend to have a look that distinguishes them. What is the look that you think distinguishes you? How would you like to be perceived by the crowd? What outfit would you wear if you had to give a TED talk tomorrow?

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So what’s the verdict?

Dressing up in a technology realm is tough. The fact that I had to dress up like a guy to fit in at my school is ridiculous, but I had to do it to get through school and not be stared at. If you are still at school, just pull through it, it will end soon. If you are starting a new job, dress professionally on the first day. Observe how the women, especially respected technical women dress up in your company, and adjust your clothes accordingly. Find your look, be a professional and be CodeBrave!

#DressLikeAWomanInCS