In 1964 AT&T launched a product at the World’s Fair in New York called the Bell System PicturePhone. The PicturePhone was a way for people to see another person in video live and, at the same time, talk on the telephone. Basically, they rolled out these location-based Zoom or Skype “offices” over 50 years ago. Why is this important to talk about? Because they had a great idea at the wrong time. The timing was wrong because consumers were still very much used to either talking on the phone or meeting in person. The consumer behavior and willingness to pay for such a product was not in alignment with the timing of the rollout of their product. The product was too expensive for homes and too limited for business, as documented in the video by Bill Hammack, the EngineerGuy. Today, however, most people use video meeting in their personal life on a daily basis.
Let’s make a parallel of this story to emerging technologies like AR/VR. It’s not that the technologies are not going to be important or that they’re not important now. Certainly we’re seeing the boom of the #metaverse and major growth in AR/VR. The question is about specific products: is the technology timed to meet consumer behavior and consumer needs at a price point where the market is at? For video calling to be as widely accepted as it is now, it had to be at a fair price for easy adoption. Once consumers were able to use their webcams on their desktops, it allowed them a cost-effective way to jump into the market of video calling. The cost of doing a few minutes of the PicturePhone back in 1964 was several hundred bucks. And while that might have been cheaper than a plane ticket to visit Aunt Ida, it wasn’t worth the price of replacing a telephone call for most people.
Now, we can apply this learning of timing to Membit augmented reality. Membit developed our augmented reality platform before Google rolled out AR Core. Membit was live on the App Store before Apple rolled out ARKit. We were so early that the phones we were developing for did not require any special lenses (forward-facing, rear-facing or depth perception). Yet we were still able to place and view persistent content in augmented reality, which is amazing. Even today, the big players who don’t use HPS, our patented Human Positioning System (TM), cannot place persistent markerless AR with the ease of Membit.
Where are we at now? In the market of augmented reality we’re at a point where consumers are armed with mobile devices that are enabled with augmented reality. People can use their devices very easily and they are also more open and experienced in the behavior of viewing and sharing content that features augmented reality. So we’re excited about the adoption of this new behavior to engage with AR combined with mass use of mobile devices. The convergence of these two key factors points to market realities indicating Membit’s time has truly come. Consumers have AR machines and use them all day long: mobile devices in their pocket. We don’t have to wait for AR glasses or XR backpacks with mobile HMD for thousands of dollars. We have the tools we need right now to make and deliver AR that can be experienced on our phones quickly and easily.
While Membit AR started out ahead of the market (but certainly not so far ahead as the PicturePhone), we are truly well-positioned to take off now. The price point is right, the devices are ready, and brands and their audiences are willing and interested in this new journey.