June 24, 2021
Good morning, and welcome to Protocol Next Up. This week: Qualcomm's Hugo Swart charts out the path to consumer AR and Adobe helps companies create virtual photos.
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Apple, Facebook, Snap, Google, Microsoft, Magic Leap and numerous other hardware makers: There is no shortage of companies working on AR headsets and glasses these days. Some have embraced the enterprise as an on-ramp for future consumer products. Others are embracing consumer headgear, including VR headsets and smart glasses that may not offer true AR experiences for years to come.
As different as these products are, there's one thing that many have in common: Qualcomm chips. The company's Snapdragon processors are already powering some 45 headsets from a wide variety of manufacturers across enterprise and consumer AR and VR, giving the company unique insights into the evolution of this nascent market.
That's why I caught up with Qualcomm VP and GM of XR Hugo Swart, who told me that he sees the road to mass-market consumer AR developing on four parallel tracks:
Eventually, a number of these paths could converge for a true consumer AR device. Swart didn't want to predict when that will be, but he told me that Qualcomm sees AR/VR as a massive opportunity. "Over the next few years, it's going to grow exponentially," he said, adding that AR devices could ultimately become as ubiquitous as phones are today. "Every person on the planet is likely going to have one," he said.
"I would love to have a health insurance program. We don't have it yet." —Patreon CEO Jack Conte about things his company could offer creatives in the future.
"Maybe. That sounds right." —Roku CEO Anthony Wood, when asked in an interview to confirm that he is 56.
Recently, Micron announced new memory and storage innovations across its portfolio based on its industry-leading 176-layer NAND and 1α (1-alpha) DRAM technology. But what does "1α" mean, and just how amazing is it?
Add photography to the long list of things that may never be the same after the pandemic: When photo studios and agencies closed their doors last year, a number of companies turned to 3D graphics and virtual photography to create photorealistic assets and designs.
Adobe is betting that this trend will continue even as pandemic restrictions are lifted. The company released a new suite of 3D tools Wednesday that aims to help creatives in a wide variety of industries embrace virtual photography and 3D design.
Adobe VP of 3D and Immersive Sébastien Deguy told Protocol that the software could change how companies market and design products, and perhaps ultimately even lead to the creation of entirely new types of products.
The pandemic definitely increased demand for these kinds of tools by forcing designers to change their process. "They work from home," Deguy said. "They have to work more collaboratively."
But there's more in store for digital 3D designs. Companies will also be able to use these tools during the product design process, Deguy explained, and they will be able to use the resulting imagery to market products differently. One example: 3D objects can more easily be turned into augmented-reality assets, which consumers can then place into their own living rooms, and perhaps one day explore with dedicated AR glasses.
"The demand for 3D tools is only going to grow," Deguy said. "Life is in 3D, and now, creativity is in 3D, too."
A version of this story first appeared on Protocol.com.
The other day, a Roku PR rep sent me a list of Prime Day deals, but every link in her email pointed to the websites of Target or Best Buy. I found this puzzling — but then I remembered that "Prime Day" has become a universal shopping holiday not limited to Amazon. Some of the big chains call it "Deals Days" so as not to offend Jeff Bezos and his lawyers, but smaller online stores seem to have no such concerns, and proudly advertise their own Prime deals. I kind of like that, and hope that people will start to reclaim other holidays as well, corporate or not. Student Body Presidents Day, anyone? Block Friday, a day to celebrate all things Lego? I for one can't wait for National Donot Day, where we all just get to lay around and not move a finger.
Thanks for reading — see you next week!