Though virtual and augmented reality have largely been seen as consumer-focused, there are growing indications the technology could quickly gain traction in the enterprise.
WorldViz is among the companies that see a bright future for virtual reality (VR) as a corporate tool. The company has been involved in VR for more than 15 years now, selling software development tools and building applications for customers.
Next month, WorldViz plans to launch a new service, Vizible, designed to connect sales staff and clients – delivering an immersive VR experience that will “help close deals faster,” according to CEO Andy Beall.
“We want to make a point that this technology can be handed to the front lines of your company,” Beall said in an interview. “It doesn't need to be just kept in a corporate showroom: this can be handed to the outbound sales staff going out and [bring] in the revenue for the company.”
The idea is that Vizible’s VR presentations can help sales staff sell more complex products without meeting face to face or relying on PDFs and video calls. Users can view and annotate 3D mock-ups such as building floor plans or engineering designs for automotive or aerospace firms within the virtual environment, while communicating via voice chat. Vizible supports both Oculus Rift and HTC Vive headsets.
Despite growing interest in VR, the technology is still unfamiliar to many. One of the main advantages of Vizible, said Beall, is that it is easy to use, with a drag and drop interface that doesn’t require significant technical expertise. That allows a sales team to define which objects can be interacted with once clients have joined the virtual meeting, for example.
He described it as similar to well-known office productivity tools such as PowerPoint. “Our goal right now is to open the addressable market to us in a big way and in some ways to democratize VR for professional users,” he said.
“In a nutshell, our new launch is like a cross between PowerPoint and GoToMeeting for VR.”
Moor Insights & Strategy associate analyst Anshel Sag, who has demoed WorldViz Vizible, said that the use of VR as a sales tool takes teleconferencing to “a whole new level.”
“It also allows sales people to bring a headset or headsets with them and to show their customers in VR exactly what they're selling, be it an airplane, a building or any kind of high-detail device that might benefit from the buyer being able to experience greater immersion,” he said.
VR is already being used “extensively” in enterprise settings, Sag said. “In fact, many of the new developments that are going on in VR right now are aimed at the enterprise market.”
Because many companies see the business benefits of deploying VR, they’re willing to absorb expenses associated with the technology “in order to reduce development times and costs.
“Lots of prototyping is being done in VR now with faster iteration because the designers and engineers can see their designs at scale without having to build a single physical object,” he added.
A number of other companies are investing in VR and augmented reality for enterprise collaboration. Microsoft’s “mixed reality” HoloLens is aimed at business collaboration, with Ford testing out the technology to speed the vehicle design process with engineers across the globe.
Cisco has also introduced Spark in VR, which provides a way to collaborate with coworkers and interact with documents and whiteboards. Meanwhile, Slack and social VR platform Altspace announced an integration last year that allows users to connect in a virtual environment.
While Vizible is initially targeted for use by sales teams working with clients, Beall said it can also be used for internal collaboration or training.
“You can make a presentation that walks you through a user's manual, or guides you through a maintenance procedure, or even an HR personnel training course,” he said. “It can certainly be used for many equal purposes – [such as] training, design review, team collaboration.”
While the technology and content are still evolving and maturing, Beall sees big potential for connecting workers. “My vision for this is that the headset can be the phone of the future. Five or 10 years from now it is going to be the collaboration tool.”
Vizible, is set to be launched in October and is still available in beta. It will be sold on a subscription basis, at a cost of $250 per user per month.