Separating Hype From Reality Around VR and Robotics

By Brian Braiker | January 01, 2018 |

Jennifer Wise came to Mobile World Congress expecting to have her mind blown. But by the third day of the industry's biggest event, the senior analyst from Forrester Research was a little let down.

"Some of the VR experiences are still missing the key components to make them good from the user experience perspective to fuel that adoption," she says. "We're talking about latency and the case for 5G, which isn't going to see mass global adoption for years."

Wise, who has a background in marketing and specializes in the customer experience, says she tried one VR experience where she was on a boat. But she felt like a disembodied head�""you look down and there's no body there … a lack of haptic feedback."

Still, she holds out hope for virtual reality and cites a few current uses for it and its cousin, augmented reality.

"When I'm looking at the VR headsets, we're seeing they're becoming more immersive, there's more technology. We're hearing that 5G is going to fuel these experiences, make them really, really fast," she says. "But there are still a few hurdles that we see"

The biggest opportunity for brands, says Wise, is in gaming, "which is not what every company wants to hear."

"If you're a company that wants to build greater empathy with a customer and create a stronger memory of the experience with a customer, then you have an opportunity to do that through VR," she says. "It is the most immersive, empathy-building experience you can do. Or if you are a company that has a long sale cycle�"that has a high-consideration product�"then you have the opportunity to let people see the experience before they experience."

One example is Porsche, which, through augmented reality, can let potential customers see what it feels like to have one of its cars in the driveway. Which is great. (If you have a driveway.)

Wise was also somewhat deflated by the robotics she's seeing here, which tend to be more gimmicky than practical. She spent some time getting to know one in particular, but walked away unclear on its purpose.

"I still don't know what it was supposed to do," she says. "It walked around, smiling at people, it followed you around. It waved. That's where being cool as a technology isn't enough."