The competitive advantage offered by early enterprise XR use cases may make it difficult for other B2B professionals to learn how they can apply things like VR and AR in their own firms, a panel of experts told this week’s CES 2019 conference.
Speaking from the week-long gadget showcase in Las Vegas via Livestream, several startups in the enterprise XR space — an umbrella term that covers virtual, augmented and mixed reality technologies — execs suggested the early successes are quickly becoming trade secrets.
“While we see some great examples, a lot of companies don’t want to share that,” said Vinay Narayan, vice-president of product & operations at HTC Vive. “It’s going to be the system integrators and the technology providers’ responsibility to showcase those use cases, otherwise connecting the dots may be a big challenge.”
Dr. Justin Barad, an orthopaedic surgeon who is also co-founder and CEO of health care startup Osso VR, said areas such as training and knowledge transfer were some of the more obvious areas, but he’s come into contact with other enterprises who are struggling to define a proper business case.
“A lot of times people are like, ‘We know we have a problem, we know VR might fix it, but we don’t know what to build and how to deploy it and do that,” he said. “You’re seeing some people not even getting in the headset because they’ll say, ‘Oh, I know VR,’ which is like saying you’ve read a book, so you don’t need to read Hamlet.”
For those in the enterprise XR space, the challenges go beyond traditional marketing but helping potential customers understand the nuances of VR vs. AR, as well as fast-changing jargon. Sarah Hill, CEO of Columbus, MO.-based StoryUP makes an XR product called Healium, and she said the firm has also developed a video curriculum to assist staff who will be talking about what it does to the outside world.
“(If you’re in enterprise XR), you’re not just a content or hardware company — you need to be an education company as well,” she said. “No one is going to even come to your doorstep if they don’t understand what you’re selling.”
Smart enterprise XR firms also help introduce enterprises to non-competitive peers in the space, given that a purchase might be bundled based on the needs of multiple departments.
According to Sayon Deb, a senior research analyst with the Consumer Technology Association, some rapidly growing areas for enterprise XR adoption include guided learning, immersive training, enhanced customer experience and design.
Charlie Fink, who wrote a book on the uses of AR, said the firms most likely to experiment with the technologies tend to be those with innovation labs, their own CTOs and where buy-in from the IT department has already been established. Fink said he conducted a study of airplane engineering firm Boeing, for instance, that was able to save millions in wiring a jet using AR and to increase its accuracy. That was just the tip of the iceberg, though.
“What I found is that almost everybody there is using AR, but in completely different ways,” he said.
As the potential for enterprise becomes better understood, Narayan urged companies to bear in mind that different flavors of the technology might be required, not only to meet the unique needs of various industries but even different kinds of employees in a single organization.
“With XR, there doesn’t need to be one single killer product,” he said. “Companies are successful when they understand that XR doesn’t live by itself, but depending on how they use it in their existing technology stack or workflow.”
CES 2019 wraps up Friday.