Mobile is the "Here and Now" VR/AR Opportunity: VRARA's San Francisco Fall Event


Though PC and console VR are sexier, mobile is where VR could really scale.  This was a central theme that emerged during VRARA’s packed San Francisco Fall event.

For instance, the 2 million headsets that will be sold this year (IDC), are dwarfed by the 2.6 billion global smartphones that are the installed base for mobile VR.

Yes, it's still the lesser version of VR but it's improving. Moreover, mobile VR's mainstream-friendly price point make it the gateway drug that VR needs at this stage.

The same goes for AR: Lenovo’s Carter Agar showed us practical use cases for smartphone-based AR through the recently released and Tango-powered Phab 2 Pro

With Tango’s depth mapping and area learning, use cases range from the whimsical (virtual dominos on a real table) to practical (interior design, guided indoor navigation).

Beyond Borders

Moving on to our panel, three heavy hitters are sinking their teeth into VR and AR through corporate strategic investment: Orange, Lenovo and Comcast Ventures.

A cross-section of the VR world can be seen in Comcast Ventures’ investments over the past year. Michael Yang leads a team devoted exclusively to CV’s investments in VR and AR.

His investment thesis is grounded in VR's vision as the next major platform shift. But more importantly it’s one that scales across geographic and vertical/industry borders.

For example, CV investment NextVR, revolutionizes a media staple with massive reach: live sports. It's also broadcast’s saving grace against cord cutting, which VR will amplify.

Orange meanwhile stands as a carrier at a time when VR/AR data payloads will skyrocket. Its Orange Silicon Valley (OSV) subsidiary tracks emerging tech opportunities.

According to OSV business strategist Kristie Cu, VR aligns with 5G rollouts. And that’s good timing, given that mobile VR and AR’s data throughput will certainly need bigger pipes.

Bottom Line Results

Lenovo meanwhile manufactures PCs for VR’s graphical processing needs. And it’s competing on the AR front, as shown in Agar’s earlier presentation.

Lenovo’s director of worldwide innovation, Joe Mikhail had a lead role on Meta’s series B round, and correspondingly believes AR’s real opportunity is all about enterprise. 

This includes everything from workplace productivity to manufacturing and industrial design, such as 3D modeling, he says. It's one reason AR will surpass VR in market size.

In these enterprise integrations, the name of the game will be to improve operational efficiencies, agreed both Mikhail and Cu; and to demonstrate true bottom line results.


Mike Boland

Michael Boland is Chief Analyst and VP of Content for BIA/Kelsey, covering online and mobile media. Mike is a frequent speaker at top industry conferences such as BIA/Kelsey events, Search Engine Strategies, ad:tech, and WHERE 2.0. He has authored in-depth reports on the changing local media landscape including online video, social networking and mobile. He contributes regularly to highly read online news sources such as Business Insider and the Huffington Post. A trusted source for reporters covering the interactive media space, his comments have appeared in major news and trade media, including the Wall Street Journal, Fortune and Forbes. Previously he was a San Francisco-based freelance writer for business and technology magazines, such as Red Herring, Business 2.0, and Mobile Magazine. Mike began his career in business analysis and journalism as a staff reporter for Forbes magazine, where he covered tech & media.