My take on AR/VR for 2018. I need to know this because my startup depends on it.

On Facebook, Shel Israel, one of the leading thinkers on how digital affects the way we live, work, and play put forward the following question regarding what 2018 holds for augmented reality:

What is your assessment of how AR changed in 2017? What is your prediction for AR and business in 2018?

I thought about this because my vantage point is that I’m putting together a start up that has a focus on using immersive technology for healthcare and medical training. So, I’m looking as how it affects an industry analysts are saying will be among the most impacted. I’ve become an enthusiast with a heavy dose of realism. And maybe some skepticism.

It’s not that I’m letting that skepticism hold me down. On the contrary, I’m banking on immersive to move forward. But I’ve seen how “irrational exuberance” can lead the pioneers to convince themselves that it’s a revolution and not an evolution. This happens, quite often, because they only talk among themselves and never really listen or get to understand their prospective client base.

In 2018 (and probably 2019), we won’t see significant adoption of immersive technology. People within healthcare have started to hear whispers that it’s coming. But that’s not enough because — and this is especially important for medical practitioners — the standard that they care about is evidence-based best practices. Not the oohs an ahs that can accompany someone’s first journey to another setting when they put a headset on. Great ideas, solid ideas can be as worthless as pie-in-the-sky ideas.

To be sure, the whispers will get louder this year and into next. I see 2020 when things really start to change. Right now, it may be mostly certain niches that get the investments and the subsequent action. My partners and I have gotten our niche. Now it’s our challenge to get partners on the outside. A hospital system. A medical society dedicated to our niche practice. A medical school that’s associated with a hospital.

One thing I have to point out is that the methodologies and the metrics for all of this have yet to be developed. Most discussions take place in AR/VR forums, conferences, etc. Those doing the talking are people like me. It’s not being done at medical conferences. Sure, there may be a speaker here and there. Or even a panel. But overall, just like social media was 10–12 years ago, most of the players in the space talk among themselves. Most “leading companies” have a website, some sort of prototype, a kickass client (if they’re lucky) to give them credibility…and that’s it.

I think the answer in the midterm will be education. Would-be entrepreneurs have to educate themselves about the sectors within the medical professions that they want to target. They need to know what hospital systems are the most innovative. They need to know how decision makers think, from hospital administrators to medical school research officials, to influential types in medical associations and societies who will publish, edit, and read medical journals that produce studies on evidence based best practices. Getting press attention in TechCrunch or Mashable is awesome. But that’s not likely the publications that the decision makers read.

We also have to think as to how we will educate our future clients. That means speaking on THEIR terms in ways that they can relate to how they practice medicine, or purchase equipment, lead their hospital, administrate their medical and nursing schools.

So, to me, I think this will be a learning year for those who seek to enter the field. We’ll see smaller, targeted projects geared toward actual needs where the education may be elementary as opposed to the creation of breakthrough medical procedures that have yet to get full adoption. It will be this way for the next 2–3 years. At that point, key decision makers will really start to come on board.

That’s the route we’re taking. Go in assertively, but humbly. It’s time to learn…so when the industry takes off, we’ll have enough intellectual capital coupled with hands on experience to lead the way.