Feedback Loup: Jurassic World VR Expedition at Dave & Busters

Last Friday, Dave & Busters rolled out Jurassic World VR Expedition (JWVRE) at 114 locations, making it the most widely available location-based VR experience. We gave it a try and loved it. What’s unique is the combination of experience, duration, and cost that makes it “tell a friend” quality. While the future of VR is often debated, we remain optimistic that experiences like Jurassic World VR Expedition will advance the theme. 

Screenshot: VentureBeat

Background. JWVRE is a partnership between Dave & Busters (distribution), The VR Company (licensed and developed the content), and VRstudios (hardware and platform). Dave & Busters refers to it as an “experience,” but we felt it was more akin to a “ride.” It was less of a game, even though it has a gaming element.

Experience. The ride immerses you in Jurassic World (via HTC Vive headsets) where you act as a park ranger with the objective of “scanning” as many escaped dinosaurs as possible to return them to their cages. Up to four players can be on the ride, which utilizes hydraulics and fans to simulate the sensation of speeding through the park. It was the best VR experience we’ve had in the 4 years of covering the space.  

Distribution. Dave & Busters has 115 locations in the US, and last week opened Jurassic World VR at 114 locations (Puerto Rico location was excluded).  This rollout is notable given it’s the largest location-based VR rollout to date.

Cost. Much of VR’s struggle with adoption stems from the high sticker price, but location-based VR offers you a chance to experience the technology without committing to a full-blown investment. JWVRE’s 5-minute experience costs $5, in line with standard location-based VR pricing of $1 per minute. We tested JWVRE at the Towne Center Mall in Cary, NC. We visited a VR gaming arcade at the same mall and found 8 bays of HTC Vives, 3 of which were in use. The arcade also had $1 per minute pricing, but the quality of the experience was lacking. Unlike typical Dave & Busters games that use a point system, JWVRE requires the purchase of a $5 ticket. The average non-VR game runs 6.7 points (stored on a pre-paid card), which equates to about $1.30. The advantage of using the point system is players lose track of the amount they’re spending, and we believe the uptake of JWVRE would increase if users were charged 25 points instead of $5.

Disclaimer: We actively write about the themes in which we invest: virtual reality, augmented reality, artificial intelligence, and robotics. From time to time, we will write about companies that are in our portfolio. Content on this site including opinions on specific themes in technology, market estimates, and estimates and commentary regarding publicly traded or private companies is not intended for use in making investment decisions. We hold no obligation to update any of our projections. We express no warranties about any estimates or opinions we make.

Feedback Loup: Peloton Digital

We’ve said it before, but it’s worth repeating: Apple + Peloton would be a match made in heaven. After testing Peloton’s new Peloton Digital offering ($19.49 per month), we think Peloton and it’s growing content library would fit nicely in the Apple ecosystem.

Peloton elegantly combines hardware (bikes, treadmills), software (the Peloton app), and services (Peloton Digital) — all based on innovative workout content – in the personal fitness space, an area of intense interest for Apple. Within Apple’s new Apple as a Service paradigm, including their concerted effort in original content, acquiring Peloton would make a lot of sense.

Screenshot: onepeloton.com

Testing Peloton Digital. Like its close competitor, Aaptiv, Peloton Digital offers a deep library of original workout content. And with video in particular, Peloton is writing the playbook for innovative entertainment content across new viewing categories. The service offers more than 10,000 live and on-demand classes for cycling, running, bootcamp exercises, outdoor exercises, and strength training. Peloton Digital is a broader, higher quality, lower cost workout solution compared to a typical gym membership.

Among the team at Loup Ventures, one of us has a Peloton bike and loves it. One of us has been a Peloton subscriber for a few months hacking the cycling classes for use on an elliptical — a jerry-rigged Peloton Digital approach before it was launched. The addition of running and outdoor (audio) classes adds meaningfully to the user experience and the opportunity for Peloton.

We tested the ’30 min 5K Race Prep’ class led by Matt Wilpers, an audio-only on-demand running class. It was a great workout. The coaching talent, music, production quality, motivation, and overall experience seems hard to improve upon.

Source: Loup Ventures

Creating empathic experiences. Our thesis on empathic retail extends to the fitness space and applies to Peloton. In short, Peloton is leveraging technology to create a personalized yet communal workout experience. The live and on-demand classes are intentionally relational, taking the experience to the next level. Peloton will succeed if they can continue to build community to provide an empowering experience across as many use cases as possible.

Apple’s interest in fitness and content. The Peloton Digital experience was seamless with an iPhone, Apple Watch, and AirPods. Apple Watch is now the most popular watch in the world; we estimate it will generate nearly $11B in revenue in 2018. We think the success of Apple Watch is borne partially out of Tim Cook’s personal motivation to improve global health and wellbeing, which is an important factor here. Apple’s fitness ecosystem includes hardware (Apple Watch, AirPods, and Beats headphones) along with software (watchOS, iOS, App Store apps, and health-focused tools like GymKit, HealthKit, and ResearchKit) — but the company doesn’t own the content.

Apple is betting billions on original content (see more here). While the company may just have third parties like Aaptiv, Nike, Peloton, and others continue building the Apple fitness content ecosystem outside of its control, acquiring Peloton would also make sense. Just as Apple is investing in original entertainment content, acquiring Peloton would seriously bulk up its fitness content and services.

Disclaimer: We actively write about the themes in which we invest: virtual reality, augmented reality, artificial intelligence, and robotics. From time to time, we will write about companies that are in our portfolio. Content on this site including opinions on specific themes in technology, market estimates, and estimates and commentary regarding publicly traded or private companies is not intended for use in making investment decisions. We hold no obligation to update any of our projections. We express no warranties about any estimates or opinions we make. 

Feedback Loup: Oculus Go’s Baby Steps for VR

Source: cnet.com

  • Facebook announced the release of their Oculus Go standalone VR headset at the F8 developer conference on May 1st, and gave every attendee at the conference a free device.
  • The Go is an easy access point for getting into VR with its $199 price tag and built-in software eliminating the need for wires or other devices to power the device.
  • Though not a breakthrough, it is a step toward the mass adoption of VR. Still, we believe the much more important test comes with Oculus’s Santa Cruz project.

A proof-of-concept product. Facebook’s F8 giveaway reinforces the objective of the Oculus Go: to make VR more accessible and get the technology in the hands of more users. Unlike the Gear VR or Google Daydream, the headset doesn’t require a compatible smartphone to work, opening the door for other Android and iPhone users to get into VR at an accessible price point. The reason it must be “other Android and iPhone users” and not “anyone and everyone” is that a smartphone app is required to get the Go up and running. Fortunately, once the registration is done the app is unnecessary. The visuals and overall experience are pretty much the same as the Go’s smartphone-based cousins, but, while this means no new fancy bells and whistles, it also means that the quality of the experience is preserved in the leap from mobile to standalone VR. The controller, being one-handed with limited functionality, hinders the Go’s gaming capabilities, making video and other interactive experiences the most compelling apps available. As time goes on we believe developers will begin to get the hang of creating for this new platform and the experiences will improve. Nonetheless, the novelty of standalone VR is well-demonstrated with the Go – pull the headset over your eyes, and you’re in VR. No need to fumble with your smartphone or the outright daunting hardware of PC-based VR that makes the technology inaccessible. The Oculus Go is a great entry-point into virtual reality, and will hopefully expose many more people to the technology. Despite this fact, the Oculus Go comes up short in producing true ‘wow’ moments that can sway VR skeptics’ minds.

A promotional image for the Oculus Santa Cruz.

A promotional image for the Oculus Santa Cruz.

Santa Cruz in sight. Successfully replicating the Gear VR/Daydream experience on a standalone device bodes well for Oculus’s more ambitious standalone VR project, the Santa Cruz. Announced in 2016, the Santa Cruz is the standalone version of Oculus’s high-end Rift VR system, just as the Go is the standalone version of Gear VR (and Daydream). The Santa Cruz headset will have six-degrees-of-freedom through inside-out tracking and two full controllers for a much more robust experience. It is a logical progression to make the less intensive smartphone-quality VR content work on a standalone device before trying to replicate what high-end PCs are capable of. Providing a PC-quality (or better) VR experience anywhere will be far more effective than the Oculus Go in convincing people that VR is for real and here to stay. While this first generation of standalone headsets isn’t exactly a watershed moment, it is a positive and important step in VR innovation.

Disclaimer: We actively write about the themes in which we invest: virtual reality, augmented reality, artificial intelligence, and robotics. From time to time, we will write about companies that are in our portfolio.  Content on this site including opinions on specific themes in technology, market estimates, and estimates and commentary regarding publicly traded or private companies is not intended for use in making investment decisions. We hold no obligation to update any of our projections. We express no warranties about any estimates or opinions we make.

Feedback Loup: Model 3 Test Drive

It has been a tough day for Tesla. Shares opened down 5% and drifted lower throughout the day after Wednesday night’s circus disguised as an earnings call. On the call, Tesla provided incrementally negative commentary regarding Model 3 profitability. As believers in the Tesla story, spirits at Loup Ventures HQ were a bit low.

Then the day took a turn. At about 10 o’clock in the morning, we had an unexpected visitor, Bo Hu, the proud new owner of a Tesla Model 3. Bo picked up his Model 3 earlier this week and stopped by our office because he wanted us to see the car. We had been on a staged test ride in a Model 3 at the hand-off event last summer, but this time was different for two reasons: 1. we got to drive the car for the first time, and 2. we witnessed firsthand how Model 3 owners become Tesla evangelists. We felt like it was 2007 and we were listening to an early iPhone user sing the praises of his new device.

The driving experience. There’s not much that we can add that hasn’t been well-documented regarding the experience of driving a Tesla. The overall experience, including ease of use, acceleration, smoothness, comfort, and attention to detail, exceeded our high expectations. The one issue was an error message on the display reporting an open charger port which was in fact closed. We view this as a small but important data point that suggests the Model 3 is not airtight today. That said, it’s easy to see how Tesla will work those bugs out of the system over the next 6 to 12 months. We left the test drive a little jealous of Bo, and with the feeling that purchasing another vehicle in this price range is simply foolish – a feeling that Bo shares, as he mentioned that any new car purchase for his family going forward would undoubtedly be a Tesla.

The bigger story. As Model 3s hit the road, everyday drivers will become Tesla evangelists. Bo is an engineer by trade, more the technical type than a salesman, but the way he talks about the car and his experience with Tesla is a compelling pitch. This is common among Tesla owners, and we anticipate that Model 3 sales ramp, word of mouth will be a powerful demand driver. Bo mentioned several of his friends that own Mercedes or BMWs that have recently put in Model 3 reservations since seeing the car.

Bo’s visit couldn’t have come at a better time. Just as we were disappointed with Tesla’s latest turn of events, driving a Model 3 refocused us on what matters most, a product that delights consumers backed by an inspiring mission.

Disclaimer: We actively write about the themes in which we invest: virtual reality, augmented reality, artificial intelligence, and robotics. From time to time, we will write about companies that are in our portfolio. Content on this site including opinions on specific themes in technology, market estimates, and estimates and commentary regarding publicly traded or private companies is not intended for use in making investment decisions. We hold no obligation to update any of our projections. We express no warranties about any estimates or opinions we make.

Feedback Loup: Star Wars Holochess

Now you play chess in AR just like R2-D2 and Chewie. On Wednesday, Star Wars Holochess was released as an additional game mode on the Star Wars Jedi Challenges iOS app. This version of Holochess uses ARKit and allows users to play the game right on their smartphone. Holochess, officially known as ‘dejarik’ in the Star Wars universe, is a chess-like augmented reality game where players compete against an opponent with holographic monsters on a game board. Holochess was one of the early mainstream examples of augmented reality in the media, first appearing in 1977 in Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope.

Source: StarWars.com

Holochess was previously available with Star Wars: Jedi Challenges, but the hardware was required to play. It’s now available on the App Store, but it’s apparent that it was ported over from the headset version. The experience isn’t perfect, and the controls aren’t very intuitive, but for Star Wars fans, the novelty of playing Holochess on your table is enough to download the app.

The game’s visuals are crisp, the creature models look good, and each has their own animation (faithful to the films) for both doing damage to an enemy and eliminating one. However, the user can’t change the size of the board or choose its location once it’s been placed. In order to get a closer look or read descriptions and stats for creatures, the user must physically get closer to the board with their phone. The creature in the center of the picture below is an example. Its name, number of hit points, and damage dealt are all displayed but very difficult to read and there’s no way to make it more legible short of peering closely.

If anything, this edition of Holochess is an example of the high expectations we have for augmented reality being met with the harsh reality of what the technology is, or is not, capable of today. Yes, it’s true that you can now play Holochess in your living room and don’t need to travel to a galaxy far, far away, but it’s not something you will spend hours playing. This is not the Star Wars AR experience you’re looking for. For that, you’ll have to buy the headset and controller from Lenovo, which allows you to have full on lightsaber battles in your living room, among other things.

Disclaimer: We actively write about the themes in which we invest: virtual reality, augmented reality, artificial intelligence, and robotics. From time to time, we will write about companies that are in our portfolio.  Content on this site including opinions on specific themes in technology, market estimates, and estimates and commentary regarding publicly traded or private companies is not intended for use in making investment decisions. We hold no obligation to update any of our projections. We express no warranties about any estimates or opinions we make.