VR_AR Global Summit highlights - it’s time to scale 2

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The first day of the virtual VR/AR Global Summit saw Elizabeth Baron, Nathan Pettyjohn and Brian Robinson offer advice to immersive technology developers as well as businesses looking to roll out solutions at scale

Quick read

➨ Elizabeth Baron set the scene for the three-day virtual conference and exhibition, where ‘adaptability’ is the overriding theme as enterprise comes to terms with doing business during a global pandemic
➨ She encouraged developers to understand that the “immersive paradigm must work how enterprise works”
➨ Nathan Pettyjohn also sat down with Brian Robinson to discuss scaling virtual and augmented reality solutions

The story

Attendees of the second virtual VR/AR Global Summit of 2020 find themselves and society “embarking on a renaissance, a new age”, according to keynote speaker and Unity Technologies enterprise solutions executive Elizabeth Baron.

Baron set the scene for the three-day virtual conference and exhibition, where ‘adaptability’ is the overriding theme as enterprise comes to terms with doing business during a global pandemic.

The “new age” Barron referred to is the arrival of technologies that allow businesses to communicate and collaborate digitally, alongside the steps taken forward in previous decades.

To take advantage, immersive technology developers must accept that society is “now in an experience economy”, Baron explained, meaning that product design should no longer be their ultimate aim.

Instead, developers must focus on user experience and combine art and science to deliver an entirely new immersive experience that reduces complexity while enhancing outcomes.

Baron encouraged developers to understand that the “immersive paradigm must work how enterprise works”. For example, unnatural user interfaces, such as controllers, must be replaced with a solution that replicates how businesses carry out key tasks.

Only by adapting to enterprise can immersive technology developers take advantage of this new age. For their part, businesses are already embracing virtual and augmented reality, to the point where they are finding new ways of using them. Baron suggested that developers now need to strive to serve their needs more closely.

‘The best experience is the hands-on experience’

Nathan Pettyjohn, president of the VR/AR Association and commercial AR/VR lead at Lenovo, sat down with Brian Robinson, innovation specialist at tyre manufacturer Bridgestone, to discuss scaling virtual and augmented reality solutions.

Robinson offered the key takeaway from the discussion, that implementations of virtual and augmented reality solutions in enterprise are finally moving away from proofs of concept and toward large-scaled rollouts.

While attempting to introduce solutions at Bridgestone, which operates many manufacturing bases and retail locations that stand to benefit from immersive technology, Robinson has faced infrastructure and cost challenges.

Infrastructure challenges include internet connectivity, demanding significant consultation with users on how they propose to use a device to assess their needs.

For example, a virtual reality headset for training may only need to be updated occasionally, so it doesn’t require a constant connection. A mixed reality headset for remote assistance, however, requires a continuous connection, so Robinson must figure out how to supply that, particularly in a manufacturing facility that is the size of a small city.

The other challenge, cost, is often solved by allowing a user to borrow and test a device, so they see how it can solve a problem or enable a task to be carried out more effectively.

Bridgestone uses immersive technology in all kinds of ways. Its approach to training is particularly insightful, highlighting how a hybrid virtual/augmented reality implementation can bring significant benefits.

For machinery operation training, Bridgestone uses virtual reality to introduce workers and get them comfortable with a piece of equipment. Then, when they are ready and able to train on the floor of the manufacturing facility, workers use augmented reality to gain access to an information overlay as they interact with the equipment.

It’s Bridgestone’s view that “the best experience is the hands-on experience”, Robinson said. Virtual reality provides this, but users are closed off without access to training materials or instructors.

Augmented reality can then step in and allow a worker to receive support while they are training with the equipment itself. Walkthrough videos can be viewed at the same time, which is more impactful, and instructors are able to offer support.

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Main image: Canva

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