Preparing for virtual reality in the enterprise

Both augmented and virtual reality have the potential to transform sales, service, and production for all types of businesses

by Maribel Lopez

Trade shows such as CES and Mobile World Congress highlight how the latest and greatest in consumer technology can also be used in business. Once believed to be just for gamers, virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) are the latest consumer technologies to boast potential enterprise use cases. AR uses hardware to augment your physical surroundings with digital information, while VR provides an immersive experience that replaces your existing surroundings view with a virtual reality.

Business leaders in areas such as retail, field service, and manufacturing are looking at how both VR and AR can transform sales, service, and production. For example, an auto dealership could use a VR headset to allow a prospective buyer to experience different options for a car such as leather color and wood trim. Field service technicians could use AR smart glasses to overlay digital information on top of their physical view of a machine while they are repairing it. In the fast food industry, VR headsets could be used to train staff on food preparation.

VR/AR can be used in almost any industry. But both technologies are still in their infancy as consumer products. You should consider answering these key questions before you move your company beyond enterprise trials in AR and VR:

  1. Do you have the resources to create AR/VR content? Many organizations struggled to find mobile developers for enterprise apps. The same will hold true in VR and AR. Before your organization can embrace these solutions, you should work with at least one of your existing ISVs to ensure a production quality app will be available for the headsets.
  2. How will you store, distribute, and update VR content? Certain content, such as sales and training material, will need to be updated frequently. You will need a content distribution network strategy to ensure consistent content, security, and easy updates across all locations.
  3. How will you procure and manage devices? If you need 2,000 headsets, will you procure them directly from the device manufacturer? Even if you can easily purchase the hardware, it’s unlikely that the manufacturer will set up the devices and preload software to make it ready for use out of the box. If you don’t have IT staff in all your locations, it could be a challenge for users to set up their own devices. You  will also need the equivalent of break/fix services from either IT or a service provider to replace glasses, helmets, and other devices. Enterprise mobile management (EMM) services will also need to be expanded to include inventory, security, and over-the-air updates for these new devices.

While AR/VR holds great promise in the enterprise, we’re years away from mainstream use. You can smooth the path for your company by evaluating how VR/AR will impact existing EMM, content delivery networks, and app design strategies.