Sometimes, great things come out of failure. Especially in the startup world. As we look back at the year past, we take one last look at what failed, with the hope that they will generate great, unsuspected outcomes. As well, we take a peek at 2018 and its probable heroes, with the firm understanding that our vision just might not be that accurate.
Losers of 2017
- Ads in images. A long time coming. And while we will certainly continue to see them for many years to come – bad ideas die hard- they will be exclusively relegated to the click farms of the interweb. The underlying thinking here was flawed from the start. Let’s put ads on images like Youtube puts ads on videos. Except, while people might watch a video for a few minutes, no one stares at an image for 5 minutes. In fact, the human brain processes visual signals at around 600ms, making time spent looking at a photo at around a few seconds. There is no initial engagement in photographs like there is with videos. Thus, whatever the ad, it is hardly seen. And to make matters worse, because of a lack of advertisers, the ads displayed are completely unrelated to the image content, transforming them into annoying spam.
- Cameras as glasses. Google Glasses paved the way, Snap followed right in. The marketplace, however, does not want them. Snap is left with over $40 million worth of unsold Spectacles despite a very smart and effective marketing campaign. While they are the closest thing to never missing a picture, they are perceived too intrusive to be socially acceptable. Ironically, we seem to be settling in for the ubiquitous camera, which offers even less privacy.
- Apple live photos: Where is it? At launch in 2015, it seems like a sure winner: Backed by the number 1 camera in the world, the iPhone, and supported by the number 1 platform in the world, Facebook, it sure looked like an instant winner. Instead, it is a major flop that never gained any traction. Probably too complex to execute and not answering any real need, users completely ignore it.
- Copyright: A long and painful death. It doesn’t really protect creators and it doesn’t work for users. The only beneficiaries are platforms (Pinterest, Instagram, Imgur, Facebook) who have built massive businesses while completely ignoring it. The culprit is well-known: an antiquated set of rules that no longer fits the current ecosystem. Problem is, no one really seems to care enough to fix it. If this keeps on, we might see the end of the individual artist, who will no longer be able to make a living off his creation, in favor of the UGC created flow, which might accidentally produce a (free) masterpiece.
- Net Neutrality: For the visual space, high consumers of bandwidth, this will hurt. While images have greatly been optimized, they also have increased in volume, making any visual business the potential target of any greedy ISP. Established ones like Shutterstock, Getty or even Pinterest might be able to pay but not the startups. In the video space, this will be more significant. And it will probably kill the nascent VR space, as it requires the most bandwidth. As well, Verizon, now owner of Flickr, might decide that any other image-centric website should no longer deserve to live and put heavy throttling on its traffic. For the consumers, accessing image centric website will also incur a premium fee, and apps like Instagram or Snapchat might be only accessible to those ready and able to pay.
What to look for in 2018:
- Augmented reality: With massive support from companies like Google, Apple, Samsung, and Snap, AR is now at the top of the visual tech development wave. With successes like Pokemon go, which seamlessly blends gaming and marketing, it is now very much in the crosshairs of the advertising world. 2018 will see successful implementations of AR visual storytelling, brilliantly exploiting its novelty appeal, its mobile-first ( and almost exclusive) essence, and its cross-dimension universe ( real and not real). And it will not just be marketing. Expect some impressive usage in the news and magazine space. Not unlike VR and 3D before, its explosion will be tied directly to how easy it will be for consumers to create, and share, their own work.
- Visual search everywhere. While apps that can recognize items from pictures and tell you where to buy them are becoming common, they remain very specialized in apparel. But now that we have invited Google and Amazon into our houses ( via Alexa or Google home), expect to see visual search shopping to explode. 2018 will certainly see the next iteration of these home assistants to have built-in cameras which will recommend products based on what you show them ( willingly or not). As well, your fridge, and later down the line, your car will also suggest items to buy based on what they see.
- Driverless cars everywhere. Well, no, not really. at least not yet. However, 2018 will start seeing the results of research done for driverless car sooner than the automotive market. Some of the biggest and richest companies like Google, Apple, Mercedes Benz, BMW, and Ford are pouring millions into developing self-driving cars. Using vision to solve how to best understand the context in which a car is evolving, they are pushing the research of visual A.I. to its extremities. Merging camera with radars and thermal imaging, using real-time object identification and location, while developing sophisticated prediction analysis, they are forced to invent everything from scratch. And while it might be some time before the first commercial self-driving car hits the road, it will not be long before we see the fruit of this research end up in our everyday lives. A bit like NASA did before (and after) they send the first person to the moon. Expect to see very sophisticated computer vision solutions appear on the market, directly born from driverless car research.
- Stabilisation of the number of photos taken by humans… Numbers fluctuate between 1.2 billion to 1.8 billion photos taken a day. While it has been exponentially growing for the last 10 years, 2018 might just see it reach a plateau. Why? for a couple of reasons. One, there is so much time in a day when a person can and will take a picture. Current estimates are anywhere from 10 to 30 photos a day, per person. Exception of the photo hysterics or the Snapchat addicts, most individuals will just not be able to take more. Second, the park of camera-enabled devices is stabilizing. Those who have cameras will just upgrade them while does who don’t will most likely not use them, even if enabled. We are getting close to hardware saturation, if not there already. So no more explosion of photos?
- …Increase in robotic photography: While there are no publicly available studies, machines are starting to take more pictures and videos than humans. Not because they would like to remember a cool concert or take pictures of themselves. Rather because they are part of a data analyzing scheme. With the increase of self-monitoring machines to IoT, there will hardly be any machines without one form of context analyzing device, mostly in the shape of a computer vision apparatus. And these will ( they already are) take more pictures and videos than the whole universe of human beings. And it won’t matter, because more than 90% will never be seen by a human being, ever. It will just be like electricity, passing by in hidden cables or wireless data, feeding one machine with the results of another. Regardless, the 1.8 billion images we take a day will seem like a drop of sand on a Hawaiian beach compared to this volume.
Photo by See-ming Lee (SML)
Author: Paul Melcher
Paul Melcher is the founder of Kaptur and Managing Director of Melcher System, a consultancy for visual technology firms. He is an entrepreneur, advisor, and consultant with a rich background in visual tech, content licensing, business strategy, and technology with more than 20 years experience in developing world-renowned photo-based companies with already two successful exits.