Unit cost of experiences

The arc of conveying experiences through the ages has been:

  • Spoken Stories
  • Written words
  • Pictures
  • Museums
  • Videos

If a picture is worth a 1000 words and a video is 1000’s of pictures, the pattern of history is the density of experience being shared is increasing.

As technology continued to evolve, each of these mediums continued to fall in unit cost of delivery. Today, spoken stories can be recorded and broadcast to millions of people for a few dollars a month, or even free. For contrast, in centuries past, spreading a story would require a man traveling to different communities sharing his story, then hoping others would repeat it.

In today’s world there is new technology for shared experiences, Virtual Reality (VR)/ Augmented Reality (AR)/ Extended Reality (XR). A museum may be the best way to learn about a particular piece of history, and with these technologies it will be possible to bring museums to where people are, rather than having to bring people to the museum, again lowering the unit cost of the museum experience.

The falling unit cost doesn’t happen instantaneously. The cost of making video cameras fell over decades. The cost of the internet and data storage have continued to fall over the last 20 years as development of ever faster connections, processors, and larger storage space in a denser area becomes possible. There are some of the technologies that need to evolve in order to deliver new Virtual Reality (VR)/Augmented Reality (AR)/ Extended Reality (XR), I’m going to discuss one opportunity that I see below.

In order to deliver a Museum or similar experience to someone through VR/AR/XR it will be necessary to build the model of the real equivalent. To do so, there are two options, modeling the entire Museum in software from scratch, or using 3D scanners to build capture a digital copy of the place. The challenge with the former is the length of time it would take to model likely complex shapes and items and the high cost associated with that. Additionally, recreating realistic textures and colors will be difficult. While if enough people still wanted the experience delivered it could be cost justifiable, it would likely be inefficient.

The second option of scanning is lacking in modern day technology. Here’s what’s missing: A 3D scanner, that can capture large spaces or objects, and also has a camera capability that captures the textures of objects as it is scanned and applies the surface appearance to the 3D geometry that is being captured. This would create a truly realistic digital copy that could be used to craft an experience with a lower unit cost.

Either way, there is a new option for experience, and I believe AR is what will be a powerful tool for continuing to lower the unit cost of experience.