The AR Heretic says “We have too many VR / AR Events”

I won’t be surprised if, within a week of posting this article, the AR Intelligence portal is hacked and renamed the AR Heretic. This is because there is an unwritten rule in business that you don’t spook the horse that is pulling the cart of gold. The wheels are rickety and the axels are bent, but everybody is doing their almighty best to keep the cart rolling at any cost.

Back in October of 2016, when I first started AR Intelligence, I reviewed the VR / AR landscape and was surprised to find that a technology which had so much promise also had so few trade shows, conferences and symposiums. As well, when I looked at the events, I saw that attendance, both in terms of vendors and visitors, was meager in comparison to other industries I had worked in.

As an example, this year I attended the Wearable Technology Show in London and I was struck by how very small the show was. It was only a portion of a single hall. Not only was the show as a whole small, the portion devoted to VR / AR was underwhelming. Half of the talks were nothing more than mind numbing marketing pitches. A handful of VR / AR vendors were exhibiting and most of them were only able to show prototypes, with the promise that they would start shipping production units “very soon”. I even spoke with an exhibitor who admitted that he had no business concept, and he had one of the largest booths! In short, little legitimate substance was to be found. Things get worse when you try to plug VR / AR into a larger technology show, such as CeBIT, where my conversations with attendees paint a very dismal picture.

What I find odd is, although there are hardly enough eyeballs to go around, there has been a literal explosion in VR / AR events. At current count, I am finding 15 VR / AR events in the coming twelve months. Of these, six are Wearable Technology shows in Europe and USA. This, when the London show this year was so small and weak? AWE is claiming 200+ exhibitors and 200+ speakers – how many exhibitors are going to have shipping products in 2017 and how many speakers will be saying something you haven’t heard a dozen times over already? The numbers simply don’t line up with the current market reality.

I have been attending trade shows for 30 years and fully understand that it takes time for an industry to develop, but the hype surrounding VR / AR has grown way out of proportion to the current market opportunity.

While 2017 may be the breakout year of VR / AR technology, it may also be the year that numerous event organizers lose their shirt. Even with the tremendous growth that the market is currently experiencing, there is a limit to how much hot air a balloon can take before it bursts. Folks – cancel half the events! The pool is too small this year.

Below is a table of events that I am finding today. Did I miss any? I would also love to hear back from attendees on their impressions of the various events.

Event Name Country City Start Date
VRLA Expo USA CA April 14, 2017
The International Investment Forum in Virtual, Augmented and Mixed Reality Switzerland Zürich April 20, 2017
Enterprise Wearable Technology Summit USA CA May 10, 2017
Wearable Europe 2017 Germany Berlin May 10, 2017
4th International ARVR Innovate Ireland Dublin May 11, 2017
VR World UK London May 16, 2017
Augmented World Expo USA CA May 31, 2017
Web3D 2017  Australia Brisbane June 05, 2017
VR & AR World UK London June 13, 2017
WAVE Congress UK Coventry June 22, 2017
Wearable Technology Show USA CA October 03, 2017
ISMAR – The IEEE International Symposium on Mixed and Augmented Reality France Paris October 09, 2017
Enterprise Wearable Technology Summit USA Boston October 17, 2017
Wearable Berlin Germany Berlin October 20, 2017
Enterprise Wearable Technology Show UK London March 13, 2018