How Emerging Industries shape the future for Developing Countries

Normally when we think of emerging or advanced technologies, our minds wander off to some dimly lit garage in silicon valley where two or three engineers would be surviving off instant noodles and McDonald’s Dollar menu building the “Next Big Thing”. However in recently years as the hype for starting companies and high pay software jobs continue to attract young professionals from all over the world to migrate to the bay area, a thought bubble and group think mentality began to take over America’s most innovative city. Products and Apps pumped out at breakneck speed tweaking and squeezing efficiency out of every miner task we do only daily basis. It’s almost as if we’re in some kind of race to achieve a Wall-E like floating potato chair state. Now I am all for innovation, my google home and minis sits comfortably in every room taking care of every mundane task I have from scheduling calls to shuffling music, but what’s often called to question is whether or not the rest of the country is ready to catch up.

Wall-E Potato People!

Ironically while the rest of America is constantly in conflict with itself about the over-adaptation and reliance of technology, the developing countries around the world are more than eager to jump on the newest tech trend. While LumiereVR was in China as part of HTC Vive’s first batch of “Incubees” we were astonished to see how quickly the country has evolved from a developing nation to a near cashless society in just a few decades. It seems the fear of counterfeit bills and the lack of infrastructure has prompted and lead the nation to skip credit cards altogether and jump straight to Mobile Payments. Regardless if you’re in a metropolis like Beijing and Shenzhen or in Tier 2 cities like Dongguan, every vendor from Hotels to small food-stalls on the streets will take either WeChat Pay or Ali Pay. All you do is scan their QR code with your phone, and Boom! No cash, no wallet, you’ve just made a purchase.

WeChat Pay

Another example is the use of blockchain to build infrastructure. While America had long established a stable system for governing, many countries around the world are just recovering from brutal military regimes or have recently gained independence from a big colonial power. In order to not fall into yet another corrupt system due to human nature, many places like Papua New Guinea have partnered with crypto funds like Day One Investments, who specializes in long term blockchain investments in order to bring innovative crypto companies into the nation where they have real immediate impact and implementations. Once again the irony of progress has stunted the growth potential of the United States. Too heavily developed to adopt new infrastructure technologies, these nimble and flexible new worlds get a new competitive advantage in the long run over the reigning giant.

For us in the VR space, we can’t help but to wonder whether our emerging industry, which also faces the same stunted growth in the US as mobile payment and blockchain can also find new havens in developing worlds.

So first of all, here are basic reasons why VR isn’t adopted:

  1. VR headsets are bulky and people are self conscious
  2. VR resolution is too low compared to regular TV and even youtube videos
  3. VR is too expensive requiring a high-end PC
  4. VR doesn’t have enough content

Taking these 4 major issues to heart, we took off to visit developing nations, to See whether or not we can turn some of these issues into opportunities. Our first stop was India, leveraging the Ink Fellowship which brought me to Hyderabad to speak at the opening pre-con for GES. Luckily for us the conference topic was about innovation and cultural development of India giving me the perfect exposure to the opportunities and threats India faces as a nation. Post-conference I had a fair bit of time to explore the cities of Mumbai and Bangalore, one of the most interesting we found was that people were not self conscious at all about anything. From actively pursuing selfies with you simply because you’re foreign to putting VR headsets on in broad daylight without fear of judgement. This automatically crosses out our first issue. After setting up Pop-up booths everywhere, feedbacks also told us resolution is not a problem, for a nation that hasn’t been spoiled with UHD TV, the 1080p screens and 2k per eye resolution is just fine for the most part!

Man enjoying himself in VR while everyone looks on

Another interesting thing to note is that in recent years, India has seen a huge growth in E-sports. People can live in the most non-impressive homes but sport gaming computers upwards of $USD3–4k. This is the one that really surprised me. However in hindsight, India, being a culture that is responsible for producing some of the most renown engineers in silicon valley is of course going to be forward thinking in terms of technological advancements. Finally the lack of content is the issue that we can solve. Our trip to India in November has proven to be more than fruitful, forming new partnerships with artists and studios to build localized content for the population of 1.5 Billion. With a culture as diverse as India, there are stories and hidden gems every 100 miles traveled. Bollywood alone is unable to satisfy the need for entertainment, giving startups and studios like ourselves a big opportunity to explore and thrive.

Documenting a traditional Indian Wedding with 360/VR

In the next couple years we’re expecting to see location-based VR entertainment to proliferate developing markets. Chinese hardware companies are reaching saturation in China, their eyes are now in Africa, Latin America, and Europe. With growing middle classes in developing nations hungry for more entertainment, we can be confident that VR’s adoption there would very quickly overtake the rates we see in North America. As entertainment make devices go mainstream we will no doubt also see adoption outside of films and games as well. Training simulations, Education, perhaps even new use-cases we haven’t even thought about. It is exciting to see over time nature has a way of evening the odds, power has a way of changing hands even at no one’s fault. Sooner or later a hard reset is needed to jump start innovation once again, and so the pendulum continues to swing...