Oculus hopes to encourage corporate users to get on board the VR train with this week’s launch of a business-focused product bundle.
The Facebook-owned company sees a variety of uses for its headsets, from enterprise collaboration to employee training, in a range of industries. Putting VR technology in the hands of more businesses is a crucial step to growing the market, and Oculus wants to make the process easier with Oculus for Business.
The US$900 package contains an Oculus Rift headset, Touch controllers, remote, three sensors and three Rift Fits headset foam pads. Business customers will also receive dedicated customer support and extended licenses and warranties.
“Businesses of all types can use Rift to boost productivity, accelerate trainings, and present the otherwise impossible to their employees and customers – across industries like tourism, education, medical, construction, manufacturing, automotive, and retail,” the company said in a blog post.
Oculus’ launch follows a similar move from rival VR hardware vendor HTC Vive last year. HTC’s Vive Business Edition contains a range of Vive products, along with dedicated support and 12 month warranty. That package costs $1,200.
Oculus’ own announcement shows how the firm has lagged behind HTC in the commercial market, as well as with consumers, said Moor Insights and Strategy analyst Anshel Sag.
“This move seems like the beginning of Oculus' recognition that they need to formally address the business market, otherwise the enterprise doesn't believe they'll get the support they need,” he said.
The backing of Oculus and Facebook will help further the case for VR at work in terms of growing the market, said Sag. However, support for business users is still emerging.
“I do believe that if Oculus wants to serve this market appropriately, they are going to have to also offer services that address enterprise needs and not just sell them a 'business kit,’” he said.
Oculus for Business is aimed at a variety of use cases. Audi is using Oculus to create virtual showrooms for its cars that let prospective customers try out thousands of custom configurations before making an order. There is also potential around employee training, with DHL showing staff safety procedures when lifting heavy objects.
Workplace collaboration is another emerging use.
Oculus has partnered with Cisco for trials of a VR version of Spark, its collaboration platform that supports messaging, voice calls and video conversations. Spark in VR allows remote workers to meet and communicate in virtual environments using avatars, allowing them to brainstorm on virtual whiteboards and interact with files. There are also integrations with Cisco’s digital whiteboard, Spark Board.
This is likely just the beginning for VR as a collaboration tool.
“VR will be a new way for business to collaborate online and will bring the richness of interactive graphics to more business scenarios,” said Brian Blau, Gartner research vice president.
“It’s such a new way of communicating that business services, such as Cisco’s Spark, will add immersive computing capabilities as a way for business to get started in VR,” he said.
Others companies are developing VR products aimed at the enterprise. Microsoft’s mixed reality Hololens has been used to connect engineers at Ford, and, earlier this week, Nvidia announced Holodeck, a high-resolution collaborative environment that companies can use to design, develop and demonstrate their products in virtual reality.
“There are a lot of products out there right now and people are trying to figure out what works best,” said Sag, at Moor Insights and Strategy. “If Cisco's Spark VR works as good as their enterprise non-VR product, then they may have something serious with their Oculus partnership.”
There are already signs of interest in social VR, including Linden Lab’s Sansar, vTime and Facebook’s own Spaces.
While there is a strong consumer focus with such tools, as a wider audience becomes comfortable interacting in virtual environments the same multi-user collaboration features are likely to be introduced and then optimized for business scenarios, said Blau.