Reality, Augmented? How to Drive Adoption of What’s Next

If new mediums take off only when they fundamentally change our everyday life, what are the daily implications of augmented reality? What are some principles for the adoption of new mediums?

Scott Belsky
Positive Slope
Published in
5 min readNov 14, 2019


On the prospects of augmented reality, opinions vary widely in my conversations with fellow investors, designers, and technologists. Many investors consider the space “many years away,” “un-investable,” “not practical,” and “far from certain.” At the same time, the designers and developers building the platform and authoring products for the space believe it is “inevitable,” “transformative,” and poised to change our everyday life as we know it — sooner than we think.

Since the best investors are most persuaded by present trends (rather than potential future trends), it is no surprise that augmented reality may be a bit far off to elicit excitement. Until it is clear which platforms (Apple, Google, Microsoft…perhaps even start-ups like Magic Leap) will dominate this new medium, it is difficult to invest with confidence. But among the most knowledgeable designers and technologists in the space, there is no question.

So what can product teams do to accelerate adoption — for AR specifically and new technology in general? First, always “show not tell,” with the use of prototypes and presumptive visualizations. Just putting something out there can solicit a ton of feedback and accelerate progress. And then consider a set of general principles for the adoption of new behaviors and products.

In the spirit of a prototype being worth a thousand meetings (or too verbose medium posts!), my team developed a short video to explore how our everyday actions will be enhanced — and in some ways transformed — as augmented reality is broadly adopted. Have a look:

Of course, setting a vision that drives alignment — as imperfect and rough as it may be — is just the first step. To really drive adoption in the first phase of a new product or medium, there are a few principles I think about a lot:

  • Novelty Precedes Utility: Transformative and mission critical technology tends to be used for more lighthearted and fun purposes in the first inning. This principle is especially true for consumer products but even applies to the enterprise. I recall my team at Behance being on HipChat and using the first version of Slack to share GIFs and jokes. The rest is history. For an emerging medium like AR, it is no surprise that games and other fun novelties (like lenses in Snap and Instagram) are the first applications. Don’t misinterpret these applications as the limits of a new medium, they are merely the kindling.
  • Outfit The Artists: Artists are best equipped to socialize (and help us appreciate) the edges of life — whether it is policy, technology, fashion, or culture in general. Artists are dreamers and risk-takers. To showcase what’s possible in a new medium, outfit artists with authoring tools and make them interoperable with the tools they already use — and the content they’ve already made. This is a crucial part of the strategy we’re taking at Adobe with products like Adobe Aero, which enables people to build interactive AR scenes with 3D objects and bring their PSD’s into AR — expanding the layers to create depth, etc.
  • Invest In Reference Apps: Just as the original apps on the iPhone (1st party (Apple) apps) set the bit for developers on how to build and design their own apps, the design and functionality of the early apps for a new medium are super important. Early developers will leverage the early UI/UX decisions you make and coast on any familiarity established by the early reference apps. On a related note, beware of creativity that compromises familiarity — the early days of adoption are all about familiar patterns.
  • Obsess Over The First Mile: Ironically, most product teams only spend the last mile of their experience building the product thinking about the first mile of the customer’s experience using the product. This is especially ironic given the fact that the only part of the product every customer experiences is the first mile! I’ve written quite a bit about crafting the first mile of product experience, and why, as my friend Dave Morin likes to say, “the devil’s in the defaults.” For new products and mediums, nail the onboarding.
  • Engage The Right Customers At The Right Time: If you have the luxury of doing so (start-ups can, big companies cannot), engage the cohort of willing and forgiving customers first — before aiming to engage every customer you can find. The old “take any customer you can get” adage is short-sighted, because the customers you have at different stages of your business impact how your product evolves and how your team prioritizes.

Of course, for augmented reality in particular, the prospects are dependent on hardware, advances in artificial intelligence, and software. But I believe we’re getting closer on all three fronts, and the approach we take to drive customer adoption can very much accelerate the whole space.

Augmented Reality is particularly interesting to me because of its potential to bridge the physical and digital worlds — as opposed to constrain us to one or the other. For millennia, we lived solely in the physical world. Then we invented a digital world and for the past 25 years it has increasingly entranced us. With smartphones, we see people all the time looking down at their screens and ignoring the physical world around them. It’s concerning, and I believe AR done well will synthesize the physical and digital worlds and enhance our interactions with both. In some ways, it could bring us back to a balanced way of living in the physical world despite being in the digital era.

As a result, I’ll bet that screen sales will look a lot like traditional camera sales as immersive experiences and devices go mainstream. Less “screen time” as we know it today may be a good thing.



Scott Belsky
Positive Slope

founder @Behance, cpo @Adobe, early stage investor and product obsessive; author of Making Ideas Happen and The Messy Middle.