From Internet Porn to Online Shopping: What Top Journalists are Saying About VR

The future of virtual reality looks bright, but it’s still unclear

Imagine being front row at New York  Fashion Week as Tom Ford  debuts its latest spring line without worrying about the hassles associated with travel, cost or crowds. In fact, you’re sitting front row to the catwalk with the runway spanning the length of your living room.

But how?

Virtual reality is slowly entering the world, connecting people  in ways that we thought were only possible in movies — and it’s much more than gaming. Interestingly, it has been leveraged to tackle (and sometimes spur) dialogue on issues like racial and sexual discrimination. 

For example, Stanford University’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab is using virtual reality for diversity training scenarios. The research has caught the attention of companies including the NFL, who is looking to the technology as way to train the league on understanding bias through custom-built diversity sessions.

But Stanford is just one example of how VR is slowing becoming adopted outside of gaming. The technology is  trickling into our everyday lives as the future of music videos, sporting events and even “vacations.”

In order to uncover what the future really holds for this seemingly fledgling technology, Highwire spoke with reporters Daniel Terdiman at Fast Company, Kurt Wagner at Recode and Marco della Cava at USA Today. What follows are insights from these insiders on where virtual reality is headed and the potential hotbed verticals emerging VR companies should avoid.

Q: What VR companies are on your radar?

Wagner: Beyond the obvious big players, like Oculus, HTC Vive and Google VR — Felix & Paul Studios, Penrose Studios, Lucid Sight, Inc., Vivid Vision.

della Cava: I’ve done a few stories about content companies like Penrose Studios, Jaunt — just keeping tabs on where the content’s going because the tech is sophisticated and will continue to get more sophisticated, more streamlined and less expensive.

Q: Are there any trends in virtual reality you expect to be big by 2017? In the next five years?

Wagner: I think shopping in VR could be relevant in the next five years—taking a tour of a home or a car from your living room. Also, I imagine VR porn will be big.

della Cava: I would say mobile is the thing to keep an eye on. Who can figure out just how good VR and AR can be on the smartphone? That’s something we all own right now, and if someone can find a way to give even a halfway-decent VR experience through the smartphone, that’s going to be powerful because we already own it. It really promises the short burst of a VR experience.

Q: What problems lie ahead for virtual reality companies?

Terdiman: The biggest problem is consumer adoption. Consumers must understand that not only is VR cool, but that there is a lot for them to do with it. Right now, there’s a big wow factor, but then people often wonder, “What’s next?” Until people get past that hang-up, there will not be mass adoption of hardware that is necessary for mass consumption of software.

Wagner: VR is a pretty individual activity. You put on the headset and really have to keep to yourself. I imagine it will be tough to get people on board with the idea when it truly requires total separation from the real world in order to enjoy VR. At least when you use your phone, you can still pay attention (kind of) to the people and things going on around you.

della Cava: It’s going to be a timing thing. There’s tremendous potential but I’m just not sure where it’s going to go now. There may an experimental period for the next five years, but it’s exciting especially in the enterprise space where you can see a lot more practical applications, especially with AR. Imagine getting instructions remotely on fixing an engine. That’s more real right now.

Q: In what sectors do you see virtual reality serving the most purpose?

Terdiman: I think it will be great for social experiences and for entertainment. People will be able to use VR to preview travel they might want to do. They’ll be able to learn things they wouldn’t be able to otherwise. Ultimately, though, I see it as a major entertainment medium, both for games and for music, sports and scripted stories.

Wagner: I think it’ll be important for mental health reasons—folks who have depression or anxiety or a fear. I could see it really making an impact there.

della Cava: It’s got strong potential—if it’s rolled out the right way—for sports and entertainment. That’s the way VR could trump AR, because you really want to commit fully to that experience.

Want to keep up with the latest trends in virtual reality? Follow us on Twitter @HighwirePR.

Daniel Terdiman is a senior writer at Fast Company covering emerging technology. Follow him on Twitter @GreeterDan.

Kurt Wagner is a social media reporter at Recode. Follow him on Twitter @KurtWagner8.

Marco della Cava is a technology and culture reporter at USA Today. Follow him on Twitter @MarcodellaCava.

 

Gearing up for Rock Health Summit: Digital Health Q&A with TechCrunch’s Sarah Buhr

Next week leaders in technology, medicine and policy will come together at Rock Health Summit’s digital health conference to discuss healthcare’s most challenging problems. In anticipation of the event, Highwire sat down with TechCrunch’s Sarah Buhr, whose inbox is flooded daily with digital health pitches from PR pros. Sarah is moderating the panel “Virtual Reality: Just What The Doctor Ordered?” and we asked her what she’s excited about leading into the show and what’s hot and what’s not in digital health.

What are you most looking forward to seeing at Rock Health Summit this year?

One of my passions is biotech. I’m looking forward to hearing about thSarah Burhoughts on genomics and how microorganisms are being used to grow different things. I also want to hear how creative people can get with pharmaceutical drugs and materials. I think another interesting topic is telemedicine, or how we can move medical care inside the home. Right now there are so many solutions where you can speak to your doctor and not go into the hospital, and I want to see how those solutions can evolve.

Are there any digital health industry trends that you expect to be big in five years?

Like I mentioned, biotech is exploding – specifically in the areas of genetic manipulation and gathering data. In the future I think we’ll be able to pull insights out to identify the things that contribute to cancer and testing for diabetes in your genetic makeup. Right now nothing really does that and there are so many problems and cures to find.

What trends are you tired of hearing about?

I’m not interested in B2B enterprise SaaS solutions or HIPPA compliance. Right now everyone is trying to create their own platform rather than fix the bigger problem.

What’s the biggest challenge in digital health?

One of the biggest problems is that people don’t have enough information on medical costs or medicines that might be better for them. Basically there isn’t enough information shared with patients from doctors.

Do you see any rising hotspots for digital health innovation in the U.S?

There is no other place like Silicon Valley. Think about it, there are scientists, programmers, inventors, investors etc., all at “ground zero” for innovation. However outside of Silicon Valley other hotspots that are on the rise include San Diego and Boston which both have a booming biotech scene.

If you’re attending Rock Health Summit make sure to say hello to our Highwire folks on the ground and let us know in the comments what you’re excited to see at this year’s conference.

Written by Morgan Mathis, an account director in Los Angeles and Lauren Kido, a senior account associate in San Francisco

Survey from Internet Retailer 2015 – The Buzz on eCommerce

We are already six months into 2015 and before you know it the holiday shopping season will be upon us. What is the status of the eCommerce industry half way into the year? Highwire scoped out Internet Retailer 2015, the leading e-retail industry conference held each year in Chicago, and took the pulse of the market to find out what leading brands have seen so far and what we can expect. Taking a quick poll of conference exhibitors, here is what we found out:

Holiday Shopping Optimism Prevails

There was a hopeful feeling in the air among exhibitors. In fact, nearly everyone we surveyed— 98 percent—expect eCommerce sales to improve during the upcoming shopping season compared to last year. While it may be no surprise that sales are expected to spike due to the rise of eCommerce adoption, there are a few unexpected things to watch for. For example, brands need performance with purpose and doing well by doing good might be more beneficial to your brand than you might think.

Thirst for Mobile Accelerates

Last year, analysts predicted that 2015 would be the year that most online retailers would offer customers a mobile eCommerce site. Our quick poll underscored this as a strategic priority. More than half of the companies we polled ranked mobile optimized sites, apps and content as their top investment priority this year. In light of the pick up in mobile shopping, the mobile payments market is also heating up and promising better support for retailers who want to accept credit cards through mobile apps. The jury is still out on how soon Apple Pay, Android Pay and a flurry of competitors (Samsung Pay, Square, Stripe) will become household names.

Drones Don’t Cut it: The Cool Kids have Digital Wallets

It’s hard to compete with the visual appeal of drones and the sci-fi thrill of imagining your next purchase being delivered to your doorstep by a flying robot. However, when it comes to actual long-term impact to eCommerce, industry insiders are placing their bets elsewhere. Specifically, Internet Retailer exhibitors were hot on digital wallets (61 percent), augmented reality (31 percent) and beacons (28 percent). While we will probably continue to see drones stealing headlines, savvy companies are putting slightly less eye-catching technologies to use.

No. 1 Way to Woo Customers – Give Back, Be NICE.

It’s official, a great product and excellent service are table stakes in eCommerce. Inspiring consumers to fall in love with a brand requires something more meaningful in 2015. When asked, “What makes you love an eCommerce brand today?” The highest rated quality was “doing well by doing good.” Although great and dependable customer service is still very important—22 percent ranked it as the second most important feature—taking care of employees and giving back to the community wins the most points with customers today.

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Beyond Snowden: A New Era of Security Disruption at RSA 2014

RSA2

Say what you want about Edward Snowden, but the fact of the matter is that his recent leak of NSA secrets has brought cybersecurity to the forefront of national conversation. This year, conversations regarding privacy were constant at RSA, to no surprise. In 10 years, when we’re commuting to RSA 2024 via hoverboard, we’ll look back and remember RSA 2014 as the year cybersecurity and privacy discussions left the hacker forums and leaped to the front pages of the Wall Street Journal and New York Times.

Despite the controversial buzz surrounding Snowden, whose mystery is only exceeded by his power, the polarizing whistleblower and current Russian resident still played second fiddle to the central themes at RSA 2014: continuous disruption and the recent flock of investors targeting cybersecurity start-ups.

From the industry’s first bot killer to an evolved look at geopolitical nation-state cyber attacks, the innovation and research to emerge from the industry this year signaled a changing of the guard that was hard to ignore at RSA 2014. Several members of the Highwire PR security practice were on site this year to rep our growing security practice and learn more. See their highlights below:

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Nicole Plati, Senior Account Executive
At RSA 2014, we were reminded just how dynamic and rapidly accelerating the cybersecurity sector is. You could feel it in the air: this was the biggest RSA ever. One of the messages heard over and over again at RSA was clear: if the industry fails to develop disruptive new technologies and defense mechanisms, out-of-date solutions will become obsolete as soon as they are put into place due to hackers that simply work harder, better, faster (stronger?). At this year’s show, Highwire client Trustwave reminded us that we are officially in an arms race between cyber criminals and IT professionals, and without the latest and greatest technology, IT professionals will constantly be playing catch up.

Megan Grasty, Account Executive
Cybersecurity is by definition a constant war between the good and evil. This year, my favorite keynote was from HP’s SVP and General Manager, Enterprise Security Products, Art Gilliland, who taught us if we want to succeed, we need to “think like a bad guy.” Tying in a Star Wars theme (unfortunately, no lightsabers were broken out), Art reminded us that the bad guys usually had the cooler weapons, but it’s up to all of us to use the force and build our own cool weapons that focus not only on breach prevention, but on the full cycle of an attack.

Natalie Mendes, Account Associate
When I tell friends I represent enterprise security companies, most people’s eyes tend to glaze over. However, if we’ve learned anything from the cyber events of this year, it is that cyber security may just have the largest impact on consumers of any other sector. From Snowden’s NSA revelations, to Apple OS vulnerabilities, and yes, even the Mt. Gox exchange hack, cybersecurity has never been closer to the everyman. It was with this perspective that I attended RSA, realizing that the greatest vulnerabilities and threats in the cyber world are being rooted out and stopped by the companies in attendance at the conference. In fact, at RSA this year, security companies uncovered threats exposing the confidential information of consumers such as the iOS key logging flaw discovered by FireEye and Bitcoin-stealing botnet exposed by Trustwave. If there is one industry that should excite and interest every person it is security, and RSA is a conference that brought that fact to life.