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A Look Back At Enterprise XR Adoption for 2019

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With 2019 come to pass I thought it would be a good idea to take a look back at how the industry (and our own startup) has grown over the course of the past year.  With the advent of mobile-VR aka the Oculus Quest, ruggedized-AR via the RealWear HMT-1, and even more futuristic AR technology via the HoloLens 2, we saw some major strides in technological advancement this year.  With this, we have also seen a lot more attention from major enterprise groups looking to adopt the technology in meaningful ways.  With much more enterprise adoption (60% of companies adopting the tech according to Gartner) how will 2020 shape up as brands look to merge the real world with virtual?

With our flagship client Toyota Motors Manufacturing Canada, we saw the adoption of virtual training, specifically for hazard identification and risk assessment across their manufacturing plants here in Canada.  It was great to see them adopt the technology, but more impressive was the fact that they are training up to 10,000 employees on safety training using virtual reality.  In the automotive industry, we saw Audi also embracing virtual reality for its new e-car the Audi e-Tron. Their application allowed employees to prototype and test the entire vehicle build and order process all from within VR, quite groundbreaking in itself.

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We also saw another automaker, BMW, decide to move into the ruggedized-AR space with the RealWear HMT-1 to all of its dealerships in collaboration with Ubimax for training front-line workers on maintenance operations at over 300+ locations across the US.  You can learn more about the RealWear case study here.

We also saw a lot of interest in VR from the energy sector, specifically with wind turbine technician training.  VR Vision is currently underway with developing a full-scale training program for maintenance and safety protocols for Avangrid, a major US supplier of wind energy solutions.  The energy industry shows promise, as we saw the oil & gas industry adopt the technology on multiple fronts as well.  RealWear was back at it working with Shell & Honeywell on an expansion to over a dozen countries for hands-free training and remote assistance. You can read their press release here to learn more.

Exxon Mobile also expanded its training operations in virtual reality as they rolled out a virtual garage where employees could practice various tasks before heading into the real world and getting their hands dirty.  This saved Exxon potentially millions in employee mistakes as their front-line workers were better prepared before hitting the actual pipelines.

Oculus dominated the hardware game for VR in 2019 with their rollouts of both the Rift S and the Quest.  The previous leader in the VR world was HTC and we saw HTC Vive Pro Eye arrive with integrated onboard eye-tracking and a moderate price tag of $1600.  Although with standalone VR making headways HTC lost a considerable amount of market share in North America, especially to Oculus.  It will be interesting to see if and when HTC roll out a better standalone device (Focus Plus was lacking) that is superior to the Quest.

RealWear was one of the fastest-growing companies for enterprise adoption with immersive technology in 2019.   They had a number of prominent use cases, most notably rolling out 10,000+ HMT-1s to frontline workers in Kazakhstan.  This came on the back of an $80 million capital raise that show that there are no signs of slowing down for RealWear.

The majority of highlighted use cases here are, you guessed it, for training applications, and we don’t see that trend slowing down in 2020.  If anything more enterprise groups should start to understand the benefits of training in a virtual “risk-free” environment before pushing employees into the real world where mistakes can not only be costly but dangerous.  What I’d like to see more is the inclusion of AI with VR/AR training programs to increase access, effectiveness and potential automation to scale training applications in virtual environments.  This is especially important for AR training as “computer vision” (technology that allows computers to understand what they are “seeing” through cameras), is quintessential to the successful operation of AR.  As machine learning algorithms learn more, you can expect this technology to increase in both scale and sophistication.

Perhaps most telling of the success of immersive training is a study that took place at the Beijing Institute of Technology, whereby students were tested on two mediums, one regular computer screens and the other virtual reality.  The learning outcomes from the virtual reality simulations showcased that students were able to retain information up to 90% of the time, compared to 50-60% scores on the other learning methods.  Immersive training is a relatively new medium for learning, but has massive upside given the distraction-free environments and focus attained from virtual isolation.

Looking Ahead to 2020

As we look forward to the growth and maturing of the VR/AR space there are quite a few exciting developments in store for 2020.  The first and possibly most exciting release will be the Oculus Quest updated hand tracking.  This opens up a plethora of possibilities for gesture control and using your hands in place of the controllers. Simply update your software on the Quest to v12 when it becomes available and you will be able to take advantage of this feature. This comes on the heels of the recently rolled out Oculus Link which enables Quest owners to play Rift quality content as long as they are connected via Oculus Link.

From an AR point of view, we are seeing updates from Microsoft’s HoloLens 2 that will feature both Layout and Remote Assist. These two incredible features that will allow you to design physical spaces virtually together (Layout), and collaborate with people while letting them see your point-of-view via the HoloLens.  This provides a perfect use case for remote subject matter experts who may need to provide support for enterprise training or in-field operations where the expert is not readily available.  Microsoft is targeting the enterprise world with these features as I don’t see them being viable or affordable for your average consumer.

While the HoloLens 2 debuted in November with twice the field of view, hand-eye tracking, and convenient flip-up display, it still carries an expensive price tag of $3,500. Perhaps with the rollout of Remote Assist and Layout, enterprise groups will have a little bit more justification for this kind of investment.

We saw substantial growth for immersive technology in 2019 and I don’t think there will be any slowing down as more and more enterprise groups are beginning to see the ROI behind adopting the technology. Gartner expects enterprise adoption to grow from 40% currently to about 70% of companies worldwide using some form of XR by 2022. There have also been many studies that have proven that learning outcomes are up to 90% more effective in immersive environments.

The University of Warwick, UK published a study proving the effectiveness of VR for retaining information learned through VR versus other mediums to be profoundly more powerful.

It’s great to see the progress of the industry and we look forward to sharing some of the enterprise client projects and use cases we are working on this year because they are truly groundbreaking. Heres to a successful and prosperous 2020 from all of us here at VR Vision!

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