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The Diminishing Issue of VR/AR's Scalability
By Jeremy Dalton, Head of VR/AR, PwC UK
Virtual reality and augmented reality can be significant forces in enterprise with applications from training and collaboration to asset visualization and maintenance. However, many organizations fear that the technology just isn’t workable at scale. Is VR/AR simply too expensive and complex to set up and manage for a large number of users?
The answer lies in a restructuring of our thinking.
If we perceive VR/AR as a product of only high-end headsets then it is understandable to conclude that it’s difficult to deploy at a massive scale. Setting up one of these headsets often requires patience and expertise to deal with the mass of cables, interconnected devices and potential technical issues that could arise. Consider setting up 1,000 and the resources required soon accumulate to unsustainable levels. However, if we look outside the high-end market we can find some answers based on current and future options involving smartphones and an up-and-coming selection of ‘standalone’ headsets.
High-End Smartphone Growth is Reducing Cost and Increasing VR/AR’s Reach
The proliferation of this technology is important not simply because of the greater numbers but because of the virtuous circle that it creates culturally: the more people own and use the technology, the more comfortable and accepting we become of it which itself leads to greater adoption and so the cycle continues.
Distributing VR/AR applications via user mobile devices can save organizations a significant chunk of cost. Plus, as smartphones get smarter, they will be increasingly able to support the richer, more complex features usually only associated with high-end VR/AR headsets.
A New Breed of Standalone VR Headsets Will Make Things Simpler
In 2018, standalone headsets like Oculus Go piqued public interest (accounting for 20.6 percent of the headset market in Q3 2018). Over the next few months, a more powerful version is due to be released: the Oculus Quest. Like the Vive Focus and Pico Neo, it promises to deliver an ‘all-in-one’ immersive experience giving users the freedom to move in VR without the need to be connected to external processors or tracking systems.
These headsets will cost approximately $400-$600 each which is far cheaper than current high-end solutions which require a powerful computer, extra peripherals and a load of cables, altogether tripling the above cost. This will make large-scale VR deployments less costly while remaining equally effective in a lot of cases. It will also reduce staff costs as these simple-to-set-up headsets require less technical oversight.
The Future: A Business-as- Usual Device in Enterprise
VR/AR hardware is improving all the time and adoption of the technology is increasing. With the imminent release of a new genre of standalone VR headsets, in as little as six months we should see the cost-benefit equation balance in VR/AR’s favor:
• The functionality of the technology will improve
• The business value of the technology will increase
• The technology will be more widely understood
• Complexity of setup will reduce
• Cost will reduce
Ultimately, VR/AR is on a journey to becoming a more mainstream business solution akin to a laptop or mobile phone. Whether you are looking at VR/AR from a short-term or long-term perspective, the issue of scalability is minimizing and moving in line with other business-as-usual devices.