Virtual Reality

Is Enterprise Virtual Reality Ready to Be Actual Reality?

by: VMware Global Audio Visual and Events Director Josh Burton and VMware IT Product Manager, Colleague Experience Jai Chen

The blockbuster movie Ready Player One envisions a virtual reality (VR) world in which everything virtual is actually real, such that a player could physically touch another player or an object in a simulated environment. While some gaming places have been able to duplicate this experience (similar to laser tag), the reality of a Ready Player One experience for the enterprise market is not quite there … yet.

Why enterprise VR is important
The goal of enterprise VR is to offer participants a nonintrusive experience—one that comes as close to an in-person meeting as possible—from anywhere, such as a home office. But there is a greater benefit beyond limitless locations—community. VR enables enterprise teams to socialize and interact as if they were together in a physical space, even more so than video conferencing. Remote members don’t feel like outsiders, and every participant has an equally satisfying experience that deepens relationships and accelerates productivity.

Are we there yet?
Released in 2018, Ready Player One is set in 2045 and opinions from industry experts vary as to how close companies are to the VR presented in the movie. Therefore, rather than speculate on what might happen, we share here what currently exists for the enterprise market.

Haptic outerwear
As mentioned, the Ready Player One universe is all about physical experience in addition to a visual one. Today, we have haptic VR outerwear that provides realistic feedback for motion tracking, weight, and even temperature exists. One example is the TESLASUIT (unrelated to Tesla Motors), which duplicates a wide range of real-world sensations including warm rain or freezing snow—in addition to biometrics that measure emotional stress levels and vitals, much like a fitness tracker.

Gloves, a common feature in VR for years, have made significant advances. Approaches vary depending on manufacturer, but technologies include incorporating small motors that beam ultrasound onto users’ hands to mimic the sensation of pressure and texture. Another innovation is pixel-sized air pockets that inflate or deflate via pneumatic actuators that can apply resistance to each finger. As engineering advances continue to emerge, it’s conceivable that gloves will allow for fine-tuned motor skills, such as picking up a virtual pin or performing virtual surgery.

Modern headsets, while not truly haptic, are the closest existing technology to that featured in Ready Player One. The biggest issue currently impeding widespread adoption involves overall ease of wearability. There have been many advances in this area since the movie’s release, including the advent of wireless headsets for greater range of motion.

When will VR be actual reality?
Surprisingly, what’s keeping VR from achieving true Ready Player One status isn’t the technology—or at least not the wearable technology.

As with streaming services, the real challenge is the backend infrastructure and overall network bandwidth required to run endless real-time simulations with uniform quality. While enterprise VR will not typically involve thousands of concurrent participants as with consumer VR gaming, it will require the ability for stakeholders to create consistent ad hoc meetings, similar to video conferencing. Adding to that challenge is the fact that individual meetings may demand significant power themselves, such as a training session featuring a simulated and highly complex jet engine, regardless of how few ‘players’ attend.

Although enterprises have a lot more flexibility than a typical gamer when it comes to VR spending, there still must be a valid business case for the extra investment in infrastructure—even if outsourced. Especially when compared to traditional options for remote meetings.

All of this means there is a lot of good news about enterprises reaching the levels of VR found in Ready Player One, very possibly before 2045.

For more information on how VR can transform the enterprise, check out more VR blogs from VMware.

VMware on VMware blogs are written by IT subject matter experts sharing stories about our digital transformation using VMware products and services in a global production environment. Contact your sales rep or to schedule a briefing on this topic. Visit the VMware on VMware microsite and follow us on Twitter.


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