By Tawny Le, Oracle Applications User Experience

Science fiction books and movies such as “Ready Player One” and “Star Trek: The Next Generation” promote (VR) as an escape from the world or a method to create dream worlds. Such VR has been simmering for years. With the introduction of high-end headsets such as the Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive as well as low-end devices such as the Google Cardboard, the age of immersive technology is upon us.
Is there a place for VR in software?

Throughout 2017, it became clearer that while gamers are among the first supporters of VR technology, its applications are far wider than video games. Employee on-boarding, work training, and remote floor planning are some of the enterprise use cases we might see developed in the future.

The Oracle Applications User Experience (OAUX) Emerging Technologies team, or The Appslab, began looking at VR in November 2015 when the first Samsung Gear VR headset was released to consumers. We had a few questions:

  • Is the VR experience immersive and engaging?
  • How quickly can we build a VR experience?
  • How nauseating is the experience, if at all?
  • Would people wear this at work?
  • What are some enterprise use cases for VR? 

We brought the first consumer-ready virtual reality headset to Oracle Modern Supply Chain 2016, where 20 conference participants gave feedback on their experience.

Our research showed that the rules that guide films, games and apps are not applicable in VR. Anyone looking to integrate VR with an enterprise application needs to create a language and build user experience best practices specific to it. We learned that the most successful VR applications gave people free agency. Consumers can expect to use their hands and walk in their new virtual world.

Less successful applications lacked a story, had poor head-tracking, and there were too many fast-paced movements, which caused nausea. 

A virtual reality headset, like any other hardware, is only as good as its software. Creating quality content for VR still sits largely in the film- and game-making realm. These professionals have platforms  and workflows in place so that they can easily create their own VR experiences. Just as it did with creating personal websites, it will take a few years before VR-building options for laypeople emerge.

Comparing Augmented, Virtual Realities

Unlike Augmented Reality (AR), VR superimposes people into a virtual world. Because your whole self is essentially cut off from the real world, it only make sense that a person will work in VR using applications that typically require heads-down concentration. With today’s headsets, people can comfortably wear a high-end headset for up to an hour and a low-end headset for up to 20 minutes, on average. This means people can work in VR in short bursts.

Until the cost of owning these headsets drops significantly, the hardware becomes lighter, and developing VR applications becomes easier, we predict that we won’t see VR deployed in the enterprise space anytime soon.

Gartner Hype Cycle shows Virtual Reality is on the slope of enlightenment. This means that beneficial use cases for enterprises are becoming more widely understood. These use cases are cautiously funded and piloted. There is still no mainstream adoption.

Unlike VR, AR is the definition of accessible. Snapchat and Pokemon Go have brought the technology into the mainstream. You don’t need to don a headset. All consumers have to do is download an app and press a button to see virtual objects merged with their reality. 

Our research shows that AR is often inherently social. It encourages more and greater visual communication, which VR apps are still working to integrate well. 

With the release of Apple’s ARKit, we can expect the creation of augmented reality content to be more available and approachable to the mass public.

Inspired by Pokémon GO, we released a scavenger hunt app called Kscope GO. Conference participants can catch a range of creatures for points. Watch a video explaining how we built the experience.

When Google announced the revival of Google Glass, it was released with evidence that AR glasses have real use in the enterprise space. The AppsLab looked into Google Glass for the enterprise three years ago and found that Glass can be useful in the Supply Chain space, especially when aiding workers in a warehouse who need to fulfill orders quickly.

Ultimately, AR is more primed for mainstream and enterprise adoption.

The Future

Jason Rubin, Oculus VP of content (@Jason_Rubin), says: “In the long run, AR and VR headsets will likely converge.”

The Hololens allows customers to experience mixed reality and give feedback.

AR and VR are both on the mixed reality (MR) spectrum, with VR being the most extreme type of “other” reality. They can both co-exist on the same device. Depending on context, the lenses on any device can transform along different levels on the MR spectrum.

Customers are playing RoboRaid. Our research found that game-playing is addictive and immersive, but results in arm and hand fatigue.

Microsoft’s Alex Kipman (@akipman) sees the same sort of future: “In the future, we won’t need to choose between transparent or opaque headsets. Devices will adapt instantly, blending the real and the virtual into mixed realities.”

We also see a blend of technologies being most successful. Stay tuned here: As the technology evolves, we will report back with new research findings.

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