Virtual and Augmented Reality - Real or Hype for Enterprise?
By Gary Radburn, Director, Commercial VR/AR, Dell
However, business owners are now recognizing that these technologies offer far more than just entertainment, and the nature of the technology enables a thorough immersion into environments where participants can experience an emotive connection to the content. So, you are probably asking ‘Is VR/ AR right for my strategy and for my customers?’ In this article, I hope to address some of the key questions we hear from customers considering their future strategy.
Put a headset on and view the opportunities
A number of CxOs have not even tried VR or AR and are trying to make decisions that are based outside of this experience. My advice here is to try them as soon as you can – would you buy a car without a test drive? a house without looking at it? This is going to be an investment for your business that can change the way that you sell to and interact with your customers, how you train your sales force, or how you perform maintenance on your systems and products. Such a change in business process requires thorough investigation and that is precisely why we invested in VR Centers of Excellence around the globe so our customers can see the benefits easily. It is easier to relate to a VR experience that is pertinent to your vertical so I have taken several CxOs through that personalized journey. In every case, as they take off their headset after as little as 10-15 minutes, they ‘get it’. They can now clearly see how engineers can visualize a product to collaborate and design it better; a customer who is purchasing a building can walk within it, and see how space is utilized by furniture, and how day/night cycles within could affect the occupants; a surgeon can visualize an MRI scan and not only determine how to operate on a tumor but on the tumor; a patient with PTSD can be treated via the recreation of the environment in VR to reduce the triggers of the condition through exposure therapy; oil and gas companies can collaborate over distance to work out where to drill by all simultaneously visualizing the seismic data; employees can experience hazardous situations without being put in harm’s way.
Any vertical can utilize VR to help with everything from training to sales and anything in between
The list of applications that VR can be used for is literally limitless. Any vertical can utilize VR to help with everything from training to sales and anything in between.
Consider valuable use cases
The next question is – “Do you, in your business, need to utilize VR/AR to elevate over your competition?” Some CxOs have come to me and stated that they need to do something in VR. They don’t know what, but they are seeing their competition embrace the technology and have the FOMO effect (fear of missing out). This in itself is not a reason to implement – clear goals and objectives are key as with any other business decision you may make. VR or AR can bring many opportunities, especially when it comes to information and skill exchanges. Imagine if you did a survey of your organization and worked out how many of your staff were eligible for retirement in the next couple of years. There have been instances recently where this number has exceeded 50 percent. This now raises the question of how can you get younger, new team members on board and, more importantly, transfer the experience and necessary skills to the new employees quickly and efficiently. VR and AR allow you to do that, as experiential learning (on the job training) is far more effective in transferring skills. The ‘aging workforce’ can see through the trainees’ eyes and then either talk them through a simulation, in the case of VR, or actually augment their vision with arrows, circles, comments of what to do when and in which order. How many times have you consulted YouTube to find a video of how to take apart (and hopefully put back together) something at home that needs fixing? Now imagine that but in the form of a live interactive video training with the expert guiding you personally. That is the power of VR/AR training.
Practice and explore
The last major question that gets asked is ‘Is this the right time to get onboard with VR/AR?’ There are concerns around the resolution, tethering and headset weight that are often brought to the fore and these are limitations of the technology we have today. My feeling here is ‘today is the worst that VR and AR is going to be.’ Improvements are happening all the time, and it really is getting better and better – a year in VR/AR, is like a dog year – seven years of technology development rolled into 365 days. It is almost like asking yourself about buying your dream car. Do you wait until you have saved up enough to buy the car and then learn how to drive, or do you buy what you can afford today to learn the basics, make the mistakes, and thus avoid wrapping yourself around the nearest lamppost? Your competition would have already jumped in and learnt the ropes and you will be starting from scratch. You will have the better hardware, but you will be making the same mistakes that they have already learned from, increasing their competitive advantage.
At Dell we have made numerous investments to help our customer base investigate, adopt and implement VR and AR solutions to decrease time to monetization and increase confidence in engaging with the right partners. VR and AR technologies are here to stay and analysts have estimated their value to reach 10s to 100s of billions in the next 5 years. The key here is not the absolute value but the magnitude – this is not another false start for a new technology, this is a real game changer.
The only question that should still be in your mind now is not if you are going to implement VR/AR in your business, but rather where and when will you implement VR/AR in your business.