Virtual Reality (VR) has proven its value for the enterprise for quite some time now, however, we are still in chapter one of our VR hardware story. New devices are being introduced to the market at a high frequency, whether it is new head mounted displays with higher resolutions, more focal plane displays, less wires, better battery life or accessories like haptic gloves, suits or other means of stimulating our senses to make the experience more believable and perhaps more efficient. In the recent weeks, I have been able to get my hands on some of the all-in-one VR headsets slated to include two 6DoF controllers in 2019. Among some other devices, the Oculus Quest and HTC Vive Focus seem to be the trend setters for the first half of 2019 with the potential to change the game in the enterprise space. But wait, will these headsets be the ultimate enterprise VR devices?
I want it now!
In three, five or maybe even ten years from now we will finally achieve it, the perfect VR device. It will be light and comfortable to wear, its display will have human eye resolution and utilize light field technology to make virtual assets behave the same way as real objects do in our vision. Its low latency and incredible processing power will prevent us from experiencing motion sickness. The device will be truly mobile and untethered and have a battery lasting so long, we won’t ever need its full capacity. It will not only immerse us through what we see and hear but also through what we feel, smell and taste.
Two apparent VR hardware trends
Until we get closer to the boundaries of what’s physically possible in the years to come, we will see an array of VR devices focusing on different aspects, features and specifications, depending on the use case they are meant to be for. As we are entering 2019 now, there are some high level trends we can observe and expect to materialise further this year.
1. Tethered devices with higher definition displays and larger FOV
On the one hand, we see several device manufactures focusing on higher resolution and often larger displays with increased field of views (FOVs). Varjo, Pimax and VRgineer’s XTAL headsets are all examples for this trend. Even Facebook has open sourced its ‘DeepFocus’ VR research to expedite the development of ultra-realistic visuals for VR headsets. While you might argue that higher quality vision and larger FOV are always more desirable, it has become clear in the recent past that especially design review and creative authoring applications appreciate these headsets the most. Since designers typically work in office environments, it is no problem to be tethered to a PC by cable in order to taking advantage of its superior processing and rendering power. Seeing the most “natural” representation of a product in VR under different lighting scenarios and the ability to simulate reflections and details of materials and textures are an absolute must for a designer to compliment, let alone to replace traditional design review processes like clay modelling and 3D printed prototyping.
2. Truly mobile with two 6DoF controllers
Outside of the shiny world of design, we see increasing interest and demand from the enterprise in the so called ‘all-in-one’ or ‘standalone VR’ devices brought to market by several of the leading VR headset makers. At the beginning of 2018, Oculus took the plunge and introduced the very affordable and compact Oculus Go. The device proved that affordability, simplicity and mobility are not only important to consumers but also to large enterprises. Walmart ordered some 17,000 units to deploy 360 video / VR training apps for its employees teaching them to operate equipment in their retail stores. Only a few weeks later both HTC and Lenovo introduced all-in-one devices to the market as well, with the HTC Vive Focus and Lenovo Mirage Solo both being built on mobile Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processors rather than on tethered Windows PC systems as we have seen for the majority of headsets in recent years. All three of the above standalone VR devices have one 3-degrees-of-freedom (3DoF) controller as their primary input mechanism. The second aspect they have in common is that Google (powering the Lenovo device with its Daydream platform), HTC and Oculus have all either announced a new standalone VR headset with two 6DoF controllers (i.e. Oculus Quest) or have announced new 6DoF controllers as accessories to their existing headsets out there already (i.e. Google and HTC). Google encourages developers to start working with their new 6DoF controllers’ developer kit while HTC has already demonstrated a pre-release version of its upcoming 6DoF controllers at their press event in San Francisco only recently in November.
Get ready for 6DoF standalone VR now!
#fulldisclosure the author of this article is Advisor, Go-to-market for Innoactive GmbH.