Ascent B2B IT Forum – Next-Gen Enterprise Tech: How AR & VR are Pushing New Boundaries
2016 marked the year that augmented and virtual reality (AR/VR) made it out of research and development labs and became a consumerized – and widely recognized – technology. In fact, Gartner’s latest emerging technologies Hype Cycle plots AR and VR on the “Slope of Enlightenment,” and IDC forecasts worldwide AR/VR revenues to reach $162 billion in 2020 from $5.2 billion in 2016. One can argue that most of us have already dabbled in AR and/or VR, whether via Pokemon Go on an app on our mobile devices, or a miscellaneous headset experience.
While AR and VR are making inroads on the street, it’s also forging ahead as a notable technology for use in the enterprise. Last week, Ascent hosted our 9th B2B IT Forum on AR and VR as it makes its way from obscurity to mainstream. Our moderator, BBJ tech reporter Kelly O’Brien asked our panelists from Verizon, WAYFAIR, META, PTC and AR Spirit about the more obvious consumer uses of these technologies, and how they envision they might take shape – literally.
Most of the panelists agreed that mobile devices are responsible for consumers’ initial interest in AR and VR and is the most straightforward delivery method for its debut (thanks to mobile gaming developer, Niantic). “AR and VR are currently taking off on devices that people already have,” said Ross Finman, co-founder and CEO of AR Spirit. As for the future, that was more uncertain – the answers varied from glasses to headsets.
This range in predictions and vision for the future of AR and VR was a common theme throughout the discussion, with our experts commenting on how early we are in the evolution of these technologies. John Werner, VP of strategic partnerships at META, drove this point home, describing the current state of these industries as “the wild west.” The future is still anybody’s guess.
While we are in the early stages of AR and VR, industries are grappling to determine how they’lll fit in within their infrastructure, and thinking about their next move. “AR and VR technology is something unique in our lifetime. The question is, how are we going to harness it?” Werner probed.
AR and VR are already being explored in some industries; field service, automotive, education, and architecture to name a few, the results of which are nothing short of spectacular. Finman sees AR growing in three main areas: instruction, visualization, and entertainment. Michael Campbell, executive VP at PTC went on to add inspection, interaction, and service to that list.
Mike Festa, director of Wayfair Next at WAYFAIR, doesn’t believe that large enterprises are interested in joining early adopters. “Big companies are waiting it out. But a small, agile team has the opportunity to learn AR and create the newest Amazon or eBay.” He explained that these technologies require specific technical skills, and forecasts that there’s going to be an increase in talent emerging from graduating classes as we move forward.
As we know and Michael Campbell confirmed, “there is untapped potential in the enterprise space, and we will see an uptick there.” When asked how to facilitate the knowledge and expertise transfer from consumer to enterprise uses over the next 10 years, Campbell said we need to “lower the barrier, make it easier to reuse 3D assets, make it easier to incorporate other content, just make it stupid simple and articulate the value.” Sound advice.
For Danny Klein, senior manager, New Business Incubation at Verizon, whether you are using AR and VR within your company or externally, what’s important is “being able to provide the right information to the right people at the right time.” Verizon is focused on AR in field service management solutions, specifically.
So, what does adoption in the near-term look like? Panelists emphasized the importance of setting reasonable expectations, and mostly agreed that it’s getting harder to set expectations on what is possible, especially with how AR and VR tend to be sensationalized in the media. On the other hand, these once futuristic technologies are no longer simply special effects we see in movies like The Matrix; “I think we’ve gone from decades to years,” predicted Klein, and analyst firm Gartner agrees that both technologies are expected to reach maturity within 5-10 years.
There’s no doubt that augmented and virtual reality technology are poised for take-off. The mystery lies in how they will be leveraged both in and out of the enterprise, making our lives easier and better. At Ascent, we’re keeping a close eye on the space and look forward to following as AR and VR technologies continue to materialize. We anticipate compelling opportunity and innovation in the not so distant future.