By Jo Diss
Enterprises like BP and Toyota have been using XR technology to aid research, training and production for more than two years now. But latency issues, battery life and heat transmission are among the reasons why head-mounted displays (HMDs) aren’t used in large businesses for other purposes. Now that’s about to change.
Ericsson CTO Erik Ekudden says the rollout of 5G will overcome issues that have prevented XR from reaching its potential to improve productivity and convenience for enterprises, customers and public institutions. With this barrier removed, it’s only a matter of time before this technology impacts society and every industry globally.
Extended reality is the collective term for virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), and mixed reality (MR). It enables us to interact between physical and virtual worlds. While VR is already used in homes for gaming and is recognised as having significant potential, with AR, information is overlaid on the real world (as with Pokémon GO, for example).
According to Ericsson’s report on XR and 5G, AR has the most potential for businesses because it combines HMDs with hands-free capabilities. “The ability to have information overlaid on the real world, while simultaneously having your hands free has been shown to increase worker efficiency dramatically,” it says. Erik Ekudden says 5G is a “major breakthrough” for XR because the mobile network edge can do most of the processing, which will result in lighter HMDs and an improved user experience.
HMD technology and wearability has already come a long way in the past 10 years. Improvements in computer processing power means HMDs don’t need to be tethered to a computer using a cable anymore. This and other significant advancements in the content and integrations available are creating exciting opportunities for enterprises that are planning hybrid and in-person events. When you sit on a seat in front of a stage, you’re passively watching a speaker deliver their latest message. When attendees participate in the same event in VR, they can experience the information they need to learn. The difference can be transformative for attendees who, in our experience, often come away exhilarated.
XR also offers enterprises that don’t necessarily want to build a large stage in the real world, a way to be more creative by instead using a computer-generated set and background to complement their message. Any employee, speaker or attendee with a 5G connection will be able to use XR to participate in events like this from the comfort of their home or office anywhere in the world – no hand sanitiser or quarantining required. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, whose company bought Oculus in 2014 for US$2 billion, believes the impact of XR will be so significant that AR glasses will eventually replace televisions, media and even art in our homes.
Businesses that move to hybrid working models, as James Brown, the CEO of wtv. wrote in this earlier article, are likely to see XR as a way to bring their remote, global workforces together. With analytics likely to be built into VR platforms in the future, more collaborative environments are expected to evolve. For their HR directors, CMOs, event teams – in fact, across their entire organisation, the creative potential that XR offers for fostering culture, engagement, networking, collaboration and social interaction is enormous.
The future impact of XR on events alone, can be seen as recently as the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, when spectators who couldn’t attend were able to use VR to experience events in real-time. In a report by Euronews and AP, members of NTT Docomo team describing the potential for this technology, say spectators normally glance backwards and forwards between the pool and the display during a swimming event. But this would become unnecessary with AR. Data from the event could be sent to another location and cast on to an empty pool, so spectators can participate without being restricted by their location.
Free flowing data and social media capabilities will make it more important than ever for enterprises to ensure their security reviews take XR events like this into account. Mitigating this risk makes sense for large businesses. In many cases, XR will eliminate the need for expensive travel, potentially reduce venue costs, can make meetings more cost-effective and dramatically increase accessibility.
With telcos investigating how to make XR delivery possible, enterprises will have powerful new ways to use this scalable technology to communicate in ways that have never been possible before. It’s a new frontier and the enterprises that realise its transformative capabilities will be first to tell the story.
Find out how wtv. can transform your hybrid and in-person events.