Photography is finally building the commercial footprint that a bunch of us fogies dreamed about, and the investment world is jumping in to figure it out. Per Instagram and Snapchat, photos have been a fabulous distribution loss leader, but profit is on the horizon. Ubiquitous imaging is about to change the world even more than phone cameras did. I spent a lot of the ’90s on mobile imaging when the phones were still too far from reality. No one could yet make money or even gain distribution. Just 15 years later, Neuromancer is about to show up. Molly Millions might just get her specs this decade.
While the most visually dramatic apps are still the vertical ones, like APX pictured above, the every day uses are coming. Last year, a pal of mine tried to ship an iPad app that let you point the camera at a pile of Ikea parts and it would highlight the which hole to address with which screw. Google is getting into the act at an industrial level with a new tablet prototype.
Much as Gibson feared when he wrote Neuromancer, Molly’s eyepieces might well respond to OK Google, Hello Amazon, or FML Facebook. The open source stack for smart mobile and wearable devices has not emerged. History tells us the open stack emerges once the hardware commoditizes, but that’s a nervewracking, decades-long wait. I’m encouraged that open commoditization is happening already in Google, Facebook, and Amazon’s clouds, but I might be rationalizing.
While we’re waiting, advertising, and ecommerce are going to be footing the bill for whole visual communications shebang. Photo ads will matter on Pinterest, Instagram, and far across the mobile internet. The first real discussion of the challenges and opportunities of profitable businesses in this sector will be at Vision Summit in NYC next week. The guy putting it on — Evan Nisselson — of LDV Labs is an incredibly focused seed investor in imaging, and he’s put together a great day.
Get to New York next week.