How is the VR hardware industry evolving? Is AR ready for business yet?
VRX Europe 2019 covered lots of ground. Here’s the low-down.
VRX Europe 2019 took place in Amsterdam in April. It brings together circa 300 VR / AR / XR / MR end users, vendors and investors. It’s the first time I have attended the event.
Looking back through the event, I’ve tried to distill down the highlights that I believe are going to move the adoption needle and truly lower the barriers to entry for VR.
Enterprise VR use
Dimension10 work with some of Norway’s biggest enterprises. But I am always excited to see BMW, BASF, AECOM and Heijmars giving the real deal on implementing VR into large companies. My takeaways were:
- Engage the C Suite in the right way – a properly implemented VR workflow doesn’t happen overnight. Having senior stakeholders understanding basic concepts, like why their workforce have headsets on, is important. In the future, we will look back at this as an amusing time when we reminded people what a computer is, as working with a headset is really just like opening your laptop.
- Gain end user acceptance – change management is king, and accepting the new way of working with VR is make or break. Build a team with an interest in the technology and match this constantly to improvement areas where changing makes sense.
- Remember, not everything is better in VR…silver bullets are in short supply thank goodness, so as an end user, clarity on achievable use cases will set you up for success.
- VR ecosystems need to grow…fast. When content is crucial, access to information needs to be one of the first considerations your team has. And this access to structured, actionable data needs to become simpler to be moved into VR. Structured data means bidirectional use where the data can be pushed in and out of the VR environment giving value on both moves.
First impressions of the latest VR hardware
I got my first look at the new HP REVERB headset. In short - impressive. As a team spending hours in VR per day, comfort is important. But comfort in VR isn’t as simple as a plush lining or being lightweight. The headset needs to be a forgettable addition to the end user to truly fulfil its purpose. And that’s hard for a totally immersive device. The REVERB hits many of these points with its design, but most importantly is the inside-out tracking, making it a more accessible plug and play headset for consuming enterprise VR software.
Hot on their heels are HTC and the VIVE Pro. It continues to excel with its range of movement, sound quality and user comfort. From my perspective, VR rooms will still benefit from HTC’s headsets, but the REVERB opens up some new exciting options for travelling with VR equipment.
I also got to meet the team at Senseglove. They claim to boost immersion using only your hands, albeit with some pretty extensive gloves. Something that really struck me in this demo was when I said ‘It feels weird not having controllers’ – to which they replied, ‘But why? That’s how it’s meant to be!’. And they’re right – hardware innovation like this brings us closer to the real world. Because I hold a ball with my hand, not with a pincer coming from a TV controller. In short, keep an eye on these guys, especially in the more intricate use cases where touch and feel is integral to the experience, such as mechanical processes or manual training.
Where are we going?
VR has a tendency to move towards possible futures rather than the probable now. But all of the discussions had a clear workflow backing, with thoughts around the end user or the customer at each stage. Just take a look at ABB’s total revamp of their sales process, one of the cleanest and clearest implementations of XR based totally on customer experience. Their new sales showrooms are a story from start to finish, using VR and AR to tell the right piece of the story at the right time.
AR remains future based in the eyes of business. It’s easy to get caught in the hype of the next big thing, but some of the early work whilst the technology matures, was impressive to see. AR’s application for maintenance use cases remains exciting, but the hardware still has some way to go. Overall I remain excited for AR, but cautious on its timescales even with multi-billion dollar funding rounds for AR hardware providers and big commitments from the Microsoft’s of the world.