December 9, 2021
Good morning, and welcome to Protocol Next Up. This week: Snap is betting on mobile AR to eventually win the AR glasses race, and YouTube has struck a new deal with Roku.
It will be many more years until the arrival of truly consumer-ready augmented reality glasses — but just developing next-gen hardware in a lab isn’t enough to win the future, according to Bobby Murphy. Snap’s CTO recently told me that mobile AR is a key stepping stone to next-generation wearables.
“AR is going to require some real leaps in hardware [development] to get to a place where we have a comfortable, lightweight, powerful display that we can wear for many hours during the day,” Murphy said during a conversation we had ahead of this week’s Lens Fest, a multi-day event for AR creators that ends today. “Our strategy [for succeeding in AR] is rooted in hitting tangible practical impact in the next two to three to five years, and then continue to build on that foundation towards a future in which hardware is more capable,” he said.
Key to those efforts is Snap’s Lens platform, which includes its Lens Studio AR authoring suite, and its community of 250,000 Lens creators.
There’s also a growing trend of creators pushing the envelope with Lenses, especially with machine learning. “Snap ML is an incredibly powerful capability in Lens Studio,” Murphy told me.
Snap also unveiled a number of tools to help Lens creators build AR experiences.
All the while, Snap continues to work on AR glasses. The company revealed the first AR version of its Spectacles earlier this year, and Murphy told me that AR will be the focus of its hardware efforts going forward (read: no more non-AR Spectacles). But the company also plans to support AR devices made by other companies, including Meta and Apple.
“We will continue to look for opportunities to work with any company who is doing innovative work in the space,” Murphy told me. “Whether we are building our own hardware or operating our software on other companies’ hardware, we're going to empower the best form of AR experiences that we can.”
Big Tech and gaming platform wars
Big Tech is more interested than ever before in trying to own and define the platforms of tomorrow, but game companies have their own unique visions for how we’ll play and socialize in virtual spaces in the future. Join Protocol's Nick Statt in conversation with Manticore Games CEO Frederic Descamps and Zynga CPO Scott Koenigsberg at 10 a.m. PT on Dec. 14.
“Every article talking about a groundbreaking metaverse thing is just something that was done a decade ago in WoW or Second Life.” — Twitter user Grimvvice, responding to a New York Times article about a wedding in the metaverse.
“Roku needs YouTube more than YouTube needs Roku.” — LightShed’s Rich Greenfield, summing up the power imbalance in Google’s now-resolved fight with Roku.
To get higher impact — and ROI — on your upskilling investment, you need a program that meets your people at the intersection of skill level and function with engaging, hands-on experiences. Today's upskilling should include training on technologies like automation that can power innovation and drive efficiency across the enterprise.
Crisis averted: You will be able to watch YouTube how-to videos on your Roku while trying to assemble your holiday gifts after all. The two companies struck an 11th-hour deal to keep YouTube’s apps on Roku’s streaming devices and smart TVs, ending a multi-month spat.
The deal follows a few months of tense negotiations, complete with a lot of finger-pointing from both sides.
It’s unclear who ultimately won the fight. Spokespeople for the two companies didn’t share any specifics of the deal. However, It’s not unreasonable to assume that Google will have won at least some new concessions from Roku, given that YouTube is the second-most popular app on the smart TV platform, making it a must-have for the company. In return, Roku likely pushed for a long-term contract, which would give the company some confidence that people using its devices will have access to YouTube for years to come.
That’s not to say that everything is all merry and bright. As more people cut the cord and switch to streaming, smart TV platform providers are bound to keep clashing with the services running on their devices. Just look at the chaos on your typical streaming remote, and you’ll get a sense for how many issues still remain unresolved — and how many potential blackouts are yet to come.
A version of this story first appeared on Protocol.com.
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Thanks for reading — see you next week!