Cisco UK & Ireland Blog

Selling presence – building a value case for new immersive technologies

November 3, 2016

Over the last year I’ve been designing and building Virtual Reality (VR) and Mixed Reality (MR) applications at Cisco, consulting many customers and partners in the process. For first-timers, these experiences can be mind-blowing, however after the initial novelty has worn off, what comes next?

While it’s fun to gauge people’s initial reactions, repeat usage is the only way to guarantee a technology’s adoption and ultimate success.

From a business perspective, my team have been doing just that; looking beyond the ‘so what?’, identifying areas where Mixed and Virtual Reality offer benefits over conventional 2D experiences (or indeed 3D visuals displayed on a standard screen). From now on I will refer to these technologies as ‘immersive’; it’s easier for me to write and a lot easier for you to read!

Unity3d Game Engine

Unity3D Game Engine

Game engines such as Unity3D and Unreal, have helped democratise 3D app creation, however the process can still be time consuming compared with conventional app development. At the same time, creation of good 3D content, whilst easier than ever, is still relatively complex and time-consuming. This is set to change as cameras and phones evolve into 3D scanning devices, capable of capturing models and immersive 3D in real time.

A glimpse of this new wave of hardware can be seen in Lenovo’s upcoming Phab 2 Pro mobile device, along with devices such as Occipital’s Structure Sensor and Stereolab’s Zed Camera. Simple, immersive content capture is possible right now using 360 cameras such as the Samsung Gear 360 and Ricoh Theta. At the very high end, Lytro’s Immerge camera has the potential to revolutionise 3D immersive capture through the use of light fields, although this technology is still a few years away from commercialisation.

Existing VR and MR headsets are heavy and uncomfortable for sustained use too. In our tests, around thirty minutes was the maximum most users would want to spend in a virtual environment. It became easy to identify who’d been using the Oculus Rift by the marks around their face and “HoloLens forehead” soon became a thing for our developers! RJ Mical, Google’s Director of Gaming sums up the current experience well – “[currently] Virtual Reality takes something away from you, at the same time it’s giving you something”Fogg behaviour model

If we had to summarise using Fogg’s Behavior Model you could say that core motivators such as time, money and effort are current pretty high, whilst ease of access and use is hard. Each new device moves us closer to the “Action Line” but we are still not there yet.

This doesn’t mean that immersive technologies are not ready for prime-time, far from it. It just means that content and applications have to be very, very good; user motivation needs to be high. Developers must deliver business value, going beyond a gimmick or novelty. Users must receive something they cannot get from existing technologies – just porting existing 2D apps into VR will not cut it.

So what does immersive technology give you?

Through our research, we have identified six differentiators which help immersive technologies deliver superior experiences above and beyond existing phone or 2D-based experiences. Experiences and applications can contain all, or just one, of these differentiators….

Six differentiators of VR/AR

  1. Objects, content and products
    Applications where users are focused on a three dimensional object, be it a car, product or CT scan. Think product design, health and scientific use cases.
  2. Immersive environments and simulations
    ‘Teleporting’ users into digitally constructed locations and situations. Typically these places may be inaccessible due to cost and safety reasons. Think training, military, architectural and IoT use cases
  3. Visualisations
    Allows uses to ‘get inside’ data sets, making abstract information tangible and manipulable. Has the potential to surface an additional visual dimension for understanding complex data sets or statistical reports that are much harder to grasp in 2D. Visualisations can be used for data, network and molecular visualization. Think financial, IT and big data applications
  4. Overlays and annotations
    2D data and augmentations placed over real world objects, enhancing workers’ vision with supplementary and useful information, in situ. Various applications including manufacturing, oil & gas and healthcare
  5. Social presence
    Taking real time collaboration to the next level; employees working alongside each other as if co-located, yet geographically dispersed. Think sci-fi concepts such as GI Joe’s 3D TelePresence or the Jedi Council in the Star Wars movies
  6. Natural user interfaces
    New ways of interacting with applications and content, using 3D controllers, hand tracking and speech interfaces, combined with chatbots and AI. Think sci-fi films such as Minority Report, Iron Man or Avatar

Over the coming weeks I will cover these six key areas in more detail, providing examples and use cases, drilling down and explaining how companies can harness immersive technologies to provide new business value for their customers.

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