Augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) have long captured the imaginations of media and entertainment consumers, which has been fully reinforced by the recent Pokemon Go phenomenon. However, their impact may be even more dramatic in the enterprise. A recent Deloitte University Press report, “Augmented and Virtual Reality Go to Work,” detailed how AR and VR are “introducing new opportunities to transform the enterprise,” specifically in the areas of:
- Communication and collaboration
- Training and simulation
- Field and customer service
- Employee training
- Retail customer experience
Here’s some basic information to set the virtual stage: Virtual reality immerses users in manufactured 3D surroundings, such as distant real or imaginary places, allowing users to move through and interact with them virtually. Augmented reality overlays digital information on top of real, physical surroundings. The latter may involve anything from overlaying text-based specifications over a physical product on the shelf to allowing a construction engineer to virtually model different building designs in a physical space.
Deloitte describes numerous applications of AR and VR in enterprise communication and collaboration, which replace one-to-one interactions by people in the same location. Many of these applications provide IT organizations with the opportunity to change how employees report and share information and take action. For example, virtual reality is transforming collaboration and productivity tools such as videoconferencing and live chats with immersive face-to-face interactions that feature real facial expressions, physical gestures and subtle nonverbal cues that are replicated in real time.
AR and VR in the Cloud
Most virtual reality involves headsets, smart phones and high-powered local computers, but one of the challenges facing VR and AR is the expensive processing and graphics requirements of the connected device. As VR and AR increase in sophistication, those processing and graphical demands will grow quickly as well.
The scalable, pay-as-you-go processing offered by Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) providers fits perfectly with the increasing processing demands of AR and VR. And both IaaS and Data-as-a-Service providers, such as AWS EC2 and NaviCloud, offer the advanced graphics processing capabilities needed for VR and AR. Also, with a rapidly evolving technology and standards, delegating frequent upgrades and changes to a Software-as-a-Service or Platform-as-a-Service provider is a viable strategy.
However, the big challenge with this shift to the cloud is maintaining consistent performance and low latency over legacy networks or the Internet, which is the main reason many of today’s solutions run on local desktops. These challenges can be overcome with direct, high-speed interconnection to hybrid cloud-based virtual environments, and Equinix customer CDM Smith has recently demonstrated how.
An engineering and construction firm, CDM Smith uses a colocated, edge-based, hybrid cloud VR approach for optioneering and simulating its customers’ designs. The company builds and superimposes multiple digital models and iterations of designs on top of existing assets using virtual avatars. If CDM Smith didn’t directly access scalable cloud processing using fast, low-latency connections at the edge, close to its customers, these simulations would take days rather than minutes.
“We want to have the ability to collaborate, regardless where you’re at, have you represented through your avatar, see what you’re seeing and have everyone collaborate to a superior solution,” said CDM Smith CIO David Neitz, winner of the 2016 MIT Sloan CIO Leadership Award.
Watch the complete video with CDM Smith CIO David Neitz speaking about using cloud-based virtual reality in engineering and construction.