Most people may roll their eyes when the subject of augmented and virtual reality (AR and VR) in the enterprise is brought up, but developers of both the hardware and software behind the technology are looking forward to a whole new world of opportunity.
From improved communication and collaboration to entirely new forms of infrastructure management and maintenance, backers are united in their belief that you can do more in an artificial setting than a real one.
Research and Markets recently added AR and VR to its portfolio, predicting that the AR market with go from 150,000 units in 2016 to 22.8 million in 2022. This will push revenue from a paltry $128.6 million to nearly $20 billion, generated by platforms ranging from simple reality assistance glasses to fully immersive smart helmets and holographic displays. At the same time, the technology will evolve past a simple consumer novelty to a wide range of enterprise, industrial, municipal and vertically oriented applications like health care.
AR’s potential to remake the world of business intelligence should not be underestimated, according to Business Insider. For complex functions like supply chain management, AR can vastly improve the decision-making process, cut down on travel, and improve productivity by creating 3D visualizations of supply chains or immersive representations of factory floors and warehouses. In this way, the supply chain manager can become omnipresent, with the ability to view conditions across entire production and delivery environments – right down to the state of conveyor belts in overseas facilities and the traffic and weather patterns in customer regions.
Elsewhere, AR/VR has the potential to disaggregate the workforce to the point where even a central office becomes a thing of the past. As IT Pro Portal’s Chris Martin notes, properly equipped employees will be able to converse virtual face to virtual face from anywhere in the world, while at the same time gaining access to data sets and display capabilities that will make meetings and conversation more productive than ever. Meanwhile, repair and maintenance activities can be augmented with virtual overlays of exactly what a piece of equipment is supposed to look like and step-by-step virtual representations of the exact process to bring it back to working order.
Already, the market is starting to generate specialized platforms for key use cases, such as ODG’s new ruggedized R-7HL headset designed to withstand hazardous environmental conditions. The company is pitching the devices, which sell for $3,500, to oil and gas firms, as well as mining, utilities, chemical and pharmaceutical companies, and reports indicate that there is currently a back-order on new shipments. ODG is also working toward an enterprise-class device, due out later this year, as well as a prosumer version with features like hands-free displays and geometric room modeling.
Of course, developer interest is no guarantee of commercial success. To usher in the next user interface, the AR/VR industry will have to clearly demonstrate that it can provide not only a different means of working, but a better one.
The potential is certainly there, but success, as always, will come down to the application.
Arthur Cole writes about infrastructure for IT Business Edge. Cole has been covering the high-tech media and computing industries for more than 20 years, having served as editor of TV Technology, Video Technology News, Internet News and Multimedia Weekly. His contributions have appeared in Communications Today and Enterprise Networking Planet and as web content for numerous high-tech clients like TwinStrata and Carpathia. Follow Art on Twitter @acole602.