From startups to multinational corporations, today’s businesses are looking for new technologies that help expedite the development and prototyping of new products, foster interaction with customers on a global scale, reduce overhead and expenses and even cut their carbon footprint. VR is in many ways the perfect solution for achieving all of the above. However, not all enterprise VR systems are created equally, and as such, there are several technical points that companies looking to invest in VR should consider before finalizing their decision.
Below are the 10 most important technical factors driving enterprise investment in VR today.
1: Total Immersion:
Can users get lost in the experience and forget that they are in the VR world? The theory of total immersion is akin to experiencing VR in a manner that feels like you’re experiencing the real world. There are numerous factors that go into making a VR experience that offers such realism, including comfort of gear for long-term use, quality of hardware used, such as processors, resolution and refresh rate of displays, optics, tracking hardware, etc. We will get more granular on each of these factors below. But, this is an instance when having the right mix of hardware makes the product as a whole greater than the sum of its parts.
2: Optics and Resolution:
When it comes to adopting VR into enterprise applications, screen resolution is one of the most vital technical elements for creating an excellent experience. For example, if you’re designing a car, you need to be able to see detail in the materials used to build the vehicle with vivid clarity, such as fabric textures, metallic flakes in paint, and grain marks in wood.
First VR headsets had around 1000x1000 pixels per eye, which was too low-res to create any kind of realistic picture. Additionally, the low pixel density of these early display panels created a visible screen door effect. By doubling the resolution of the display panels to 2000x2000 pixels per eye, you quadruple the pixel density of the displays, enhancing the system’s capabilities to show finer detail and eliminating nearly all visible artifacts inherent with lower-resolution displays. It does not mean the artifacts aren’t there, they are just unnoticeable and therefore does not limit the immersion factor.
The latest ‘new frontier’ in VR display resolution for enterprise-grade VR is 4K per eye. Similar to the aforementioned jump from 1Kx1K pixels per eye to 2Kx2K, 4Kx4K doubles the overall resolution of 2Kx2K displays and quadruples the pixel density. This translates to an incredibly high-resolution experience that achieves a level of quality that allows users to literally see with incredible detail, allowing them to do anything inside VR. And, when we achieve 8 – 10K per eye, most users will be unable to decipher the virtual world from the real world.
Of course, resolution is important, but in the end, the final visual quality and visibility of pixels depends on the lenses and field-of-view (FOV). Lenses are actually one of the most crucial components in every VR headset. Even if you use the very best, most accurate and fastest switching displays, the lens is the last stop for the visuals before it hits your eyes, and it defines the final picture quality. Therefore it is best to create lenses that are similar to the lenses in our reading glasses, because this kind of material does not have hundreds of small circles, but is rather a complex material compound with a precise surface.
I like to compare the process of creating excellent picture quality to making a great cup of coffee. If you start with a quality coffee/display, you have the perfect foundation for a quality cup of coffee/VR visual experience; but every step in the process of making coffee/or delivering VR visuals, can reduce its overall quality.
However, while boosting screen resolution is an important step to generating a better QoE, the most important improvement in VR headsets to come in the near future will be eye tracking. When it is properly implemented, it can be used for simple marketing analysis, but can be also used to significantly improve the picture quality, lower distortion and eliminate potential nausea.
3: Field of View:
In VR, field-of-view is the measure of how much of the virtual environment is visible to you through the display. Naturally, humans with perfect vision have just over 210 degrees of forward-facing horizontal field-of-view. This natural viewable area spans from the furthest reaches of our peripheral vision. Of course, people have a much narrower range of focus, allowing them to clearly see what’s in front of them, while still having a limited detail sense of their periphery. Many lower-end VR headsets today have a FoV of only 90-110 degrees. This creates a binocular effect that nearly cuts out any sense of peripheral vision, creating a fake-feeling experience. Systems focused on the enterprise market tend to have more advanced optics, with some systems offering as much as 180-degree FoV for delivering an immersive viewing experience complete with periphery-filling visuals.
4: Zero/Low Latency User Input to VR World:
Hardware is a key component of the VR experience. Often times with VR, we focus on the optics and display components. While those components are responsible for the quality of the visuals we see, the hardware inside the VR system is what drives the overall quality-of-experience for those visuals. With powerful processors, GPUs and tracking sensors, enterprise-focused VR systems are designed to ingest incredibly high-resolution content and turn it into a natural feeling VR experience, free of any hiccups, noticeable latency or unnatural scene movements.
The truth is, however, the most significant component to achieving the feel of having low latency hardware is the display. But, while the rumor is that you need to have displays with at least a 90Hz refresh rate to achieve acceptable latency, it just isn’t true - nor is it that simple. For example, a standard 100Hz display without any VR function will look slower and more blurry than a 70Hz VR display. This is because a VR display shows you only the most recent data, after their colors are properly rendered. Using a VR display means using OLED or LCD panels, which allows adjustments for flickering or backlighting.
5: Hardware Compatibility:
A potential drawback for any type of new corporate technology investment is the possibility of having to upgrade or replace existing technology deployments due to incompatibility issues. You want to ensure that your VR system supports any applications developed for other VR headsets, thus making it easy and convenient to upgrade.
A great example of this is VR tracking. Most conventional virtual reality headsets only work with their own proprietary tracking system. However, there are tens of thousands of tracking systems installed worldwide that are suitable for VR use. Why not work with those too? Currently, XTAL is the only VR headset capable of supporting a broad variety of tracking systems.
Another typical issue to arise is compatibility between virtual reality headsets, graphics card drivers and visualization engine versions. This happens because the virtual reality field is developing rapidly and upgrades and new functions are constantly being released for every layer of the technology stack. When Nvidia, for example, publishes new drivers where one VR function is missing and Unreal rolls out a new version where one of the biggest improvements is native integration of the same function, it can end up being an unsolvable problem. The only option is to port everything to a different platform.
This does not happen all that often, but users of SteamVR are accustomed to seeing something stop working with every new update. This causes a lot of inconvenience, and is something that the entire virtual reality industry needs to overcome in the near future.
6: Software Support:
Software is what drives the overall VR experience. Without it, users would just have an expensive blindfold. Software support is incredibly important, you want to make sure the software platforms and programs you currently use can be adapted to power an immersive VR experience. Companies should work tirelessly to ensure that their VR system supports a variety of popular industry-specific software applications. On top of popular software applications, it’s imperative that VR systems support application platforms, like Unity, Unreal and Unigine, as well as have native support for OpenGL or DirectX integration.
7: Developer Network:
Beyond offering support for off-the-shelf applications, it’s important for your VR system partner to have a pipeline of software solutions be created. You want to make sure your VR system is supported broadly by developers from around the world. Some companies have dozens of in-house developers dedicated to helping external developers fine tune their applications for their systems. This ensures that any software created maximizes the capabilities of the VR system it’s running on, works exactly as expected and achieves the best possible end-user experience.
8: Custom Application Development:
For many non-consumer VR deployments, customers want, or need, to create a totally custom user experience specific to their needs. Whether it is providing customers with a virtual tour of a production facility halfway across the world, or the military needing to provide pilot training for a new fleet of fighter jets, VR systems providers should have the capability of developing bespoke software that provides customers with a VR experience specific to their needs.
9: Established ROI:
VR systems are in a unique position to help companies accomplish a variety of tasks. No matter the goal of a business, whether it be financially motivated, competitive or anything in between, ask your VR solutions provider to provide evidence of how it has helped other companies maximize VR ROI.
10: Established Customer Base:
In addition to ROI, can you count on your VR solutions partner to be in business for the long haul? Chances are, you probably also don’t want to be the first test subject for a VR system. Luckily, there are established players in the enterprise space. Working with an established company adds peace-of-mind that you’ve selected a company capable of getting the job done. Like a job interview for a new hire, it doesn’t hurt to ask for references.
Whether your business has been exploring VR for a long time, or if you’ve never used VR before, don’t be afraid to ask a lot of questions. By building a thorough understanding of how enterprise-focused VR companies and their products address the aforementioned points, you’ll be able to make an informed decision about which VR system is right for the tasks your business wants to accomplish.
Marek Polčák completed his cybernetic engineering master’s degree at Czech Technical University’s Faculty of Electrical Engineering in 2011 with a focus on biomedical engineering. At the same time, he received a degree from the Masaryk Institute of Advanced Studies School of Business in industrial management.
During his final years at the university, Marek founded a team that developed its own robotic platform. Over several years, the team designed and produced robot prototypes using the ROS operating system and a chassis of their own design.
In 2013, Marek took an interest in virtual reality in connection with the FlyPrague project designed to offer tourists a unique virtual flight over Prague’s historic city center. FlyPrague gradually tried all the VR goggles available on the market and decided to use feedback from nearly 40,000 people to begin developing its own equipment.
That work came to a culmination in 2017 with the founding of VRgineers, a virtual reality engineering company dedicated to developing and manufacturing cutting-edge enterprise-grade VR gear for professionals. Their new generation high-resolution VR headset platforms, VRHero 5K Plus and XTAL are used by clients in the automotive, architecture, industrial design, and training sectors, enabling them to transform their work using VR technology. The company is headquartered in Prague with a U.S. office in Los Angeles.