Unity, Lenovo and Varjo prepare AR and MR for enterprise use

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Big announcements from Unity, Lenovo and Varjo at AWE Online 2020 yesterday signalled their preparedness to move on to the next stage of AR and MR adoption within enterprise

In brief

➨ What? AWE Online 2020
➨ When? 26 May to 29 May 2020
➨ Where? Here
➨ How much? $199 for a four-day pass

In full

The second day of AWE Online 2020 saw Unity reveal that MARS—or Mixed and Augmented Reality Studio—will be released on 1 June.

The AR creation tools have been in the works at Unity for a few years and the software company used AWE Online 2020 to bill them as the means to “create experiences that finally deliver on the promise of AR and do so with an efficient, streamlined authoring workflow”.

Inside the Unity Editor, creators can author complex, data-oriented apps visually, test experiences, use runtime logic that adapt responsively to the real world, and deliver apps that work across platforms.

Unity showcased MARS with a new Wallace & Gromit AR game from creator Aardman and UK-based studio Fictioneers.

Fictioneers used MARS from Unity to “bring contraptions and environments to life” within The Big Fix Up “and give them intelligent, dynamic behaviour”.

Aardman’s Merlin Crossingham, creative director of Wallace & Gromit commented: “Aardman is a multi-faceted creative studio and is just as happy with classic film making as it is with new and emerging technologies. Wallace and Gromit’s heart and soul is in stop motion, but they have often dabbled in the cutting-edge of tech, and this is one of those occasions. We are delighted to join forces with the amazing folk at Fictioneers to take Wallace and Gromit on a new adventure in such a groundbreaking way.”

Lenovo’s ThinkReality AR platform and A6 headset, released last year as a potential rival to Microsoft’s HoloLens 2 and Magic Leap 1, is being offered to the company’s roster of Fortune 1,000 clients, which is a distinct advantage it has over most immersive tech startups, according to Michael Leone, director of commercial AR/VR.

Its access to existing customers means Lenovo can be the first to learn about their needs, pain points and potential use cases for immersive tech.

Lenovo’s ThinkReality AR platform and A6 headset were released last year as a potential rival to Microsoft’s HoloLens 2 and Magic Leap 1
Lenovo’s ThinkReality AR platform and A6 headset were released last year as a potential rival to Microsoft’s HoloLens 2 and Magic Leap 1

These relationships have revealed product assembly, real-time expert support, equipment maintenance, and quality assurance and training, as the key areas of focus across Lenovo’s customer base. Interestingly, Nathan Pettyjohn, commercial AR/VR lead at Lenovo, focused on manufacturing’s immersive tech needs in an article yesterday, where he pinpointed training, safety and maintenance, and worker productivity and business efficiency, as areas where that particular industry is most in need of an AR or VR upgrade.

To address these focus areas, Lenovo is positioning ThinkReality as an end-to-end platform that makes it easier to build, deploy and manage enterprise AR solutions—underpinned by its development capabilities.

Since ThinkReality and the A6 headset was launched, Lenovo has focused on building. Now, Leone said, the company is turning to buy-in, by bringing third-parties on board to develop certified solutions via its platform for the benefit of its enterprise customers. One such partnership is with Clay AIR, whose native gesture recognition technology has been added to Lenovo’s A6 headset, meaning wearers can use their hands to navigate native and core operating system functions.

Another of these partnerships is Holo|One, the Swiss MR software company. Its Sphere solution is made up of modules for collaboration, remote assistance, and workflow and training. Leone seemed to suggest that the collaboration tool will be offered as part of ThinkReality, with Lenovo underpinning a tailed offering that will be delivered some time in Q3.

Responding to a question from VRWorldTech about working with third parties such as AR startups, Leone said that Lenovo has adopted a limited-basis strategy, whereby the company is highly selective in its choice of partner, to guarantee their reliability and reduce risk, which are key requirements for its Fortune 1,000 clients.

Enterprise headset maker Varjo used its speaking slot at AWE Online 2020 to announce a commercial partnership with MeetinVR, creator of the long-awaited enterprise virtual collaboration software, which has just launched in open beta for trial, after three years in private beta with numerous Fortune 500 companies.

Through the partnership, MeetinVR will release a dedicated version of its application that supports all headsets in Varjo’s portfolio—VR-2, VR-2 Pro and XR-1 Developer Edition. They have also introduced a new bundle offer where new buyers of any Varjo headset will receive six months of MeetinVR for free for five users.

“Remote working is now becoming our new normal and the need to be able to virtually collaborate with colleagues, customers and partners around the world is business critical,” said Urho Konttori, co-founder and chief product officer at Varjo. “As enterprises adapt to a new work environment, we’re excited to partner with leading industry players, such as MeetinVR, to help build the future of virtual and mixed reality collaboration.”

The partners have deemed the delivery of a solution that provides photorealistic 3D quality to be essential to creating a true sense of immersion and presence while working together in VR and MR environments.

Pairing the human-eye resolution found in Varjo’s devices with MeetinVR’s software achieves this aim, according to Cristian Emanuel Anton, chief executive officer of MeetinVR.

New buyers of any Varjo headset will receive six months of MeetinVR for free for five users
New buyers of any Varjo headset will receive six months of MeetinVR for free for five users

Anton said: “Varjo’s photorealistic resolution gives users the ability to see reflections and shadows of their 3D models, as well as read text, all of which create a realistic experience for collaboration amongst meeting participants.”

“With this partnership, users don’t have to abide by the rules of physics anymore. They are able to merge real and virtual elements seamlessly in our collaborative platform. This sets a new benchmark for remote presence and interaction for professionals.”

One of Varjo’s enterprise customers, Volvo Cars, sees the benefit of enhanced virtual collaboration and is already using MR to transform its workflows. Timmy Ghiurau, lead for virtual experiences at Volvo Cars, said: “The high quality and fidelity of what Varjo’s headsets offer, together with the effective collaboration tools from MeetinVR, bring remote collaboration to the next level.”

“From UX evaluation, to hosting virtual workshops to ideating around our products, being able to do so in a realistic virtual environment will make our processes more efficient and collaborative, especially in the current context.”

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Main image: Fictioneers used MARS to “bring contraptions and environments to life” within The Big Fix Up “and give them intelligent, dynamic behaviour”