The spring refresh

Posted: 07.21.15

In the land of technology, the second quarter isn’t so much about spring as it is about laying plans, getting ready, and marshalling forces. Traditionally, the commercial spring refresh is about updating and spiffing up products, and getting them out the door to clear the decks for summer when it’s time to hunker down and prepare for the new year.  

Spring is also a time when companies experiment and test out ideas for the fall. This fall we’re seeing trends with real staying power growing out of familiar technology. Probably the most obvious area is AR and VR. Those who went through the first round of VR fever around 20 years ago can probably be forgiven for thinking this round will go much the same way. 

There’s always fuel for cynicism. For instance, how about the sputtering stereographic 3D industry? 3D TV isn’t going away, but it is no longer booming either. It’s been severely damaged by the failure of 3D TV in the home, and once again it looks like just one fad rolls in as another rolls out again, but that’s not what’s going on at all. Instead, each new wave is having a cumulative effect. All that irrational enthusiasm over 3D content has resulted in a lot of very well made content that has given people wonderful experiences and memories. Now, creative people are thinking about how to create even richer experiences for VR, and they’re building on lessons learned from creating 3D content. The interest in AR is also strengthening the wave. AR content is making sense for industrial applications, for heads-up displays in cars, planes, motorcycle helmets, home design, and for games. The next round of glasses includes models that do VR and AR. The waves just keep building. 

Image of 3D printed sculpture by Joshua Harker (

The Internet of Things is another complementary trend, and the CAD companies have gone gaga for it. Why, they will tell you, we’ve been building things all along. But what hasn’t happened all along is the evolution of agile processes, the co-development of products with the software that runs them. The processes of visualization, design and assembly, making are becoming intertwined, and as products go out in the world, they’re taking their digital souls with them so designers can learn from what happens to products after they’re shipped. 

Games and entertainment used to be the great enabling technology, but there’s just as much enthusiasm now for products as well as diversions. New development is augmenting the money-making power of the gaming industry. At E3, VR was everywhere, but so were new ideas about what games could do as a result of VR and AR. Google and Microsoft are figuring out ways to scan rooms instantly. Surfaces can become game impromptu game boards, but they can also become virtual spaces for data. When Microsoft previewed the Hololens, the emphasis was more about bringing digital data out into our lives where we can all interact with it for fun, business, household information. 

We’ve seen a lot of ideas taking root this spring; can’t wait to see what blooms.