The Oculus for Business Solution

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September 30, 2020

Oculus for Business is a Virtual Reality platform for enterprises, providing software and a structure to manage VR deployment with a tailored experience. Most importantly, it gives organisations control over a fleet of headsets, including enterprise-grade customer support provided by Oculus. Oculus’ business solution offers a great user experience as well as cutting edge data security and privacy.

The first thing you need is adequate hardware to support the VR devices and the solution. See our last blog post on the upcoming Oculus Quest 2. Also needed is the ability to manage your VR deployments. Oculus’ platform gives control, ability for good integration and content to run on the headsets. 

If you lack the internal team to set up and deploy Oculus for Business on your devices, or don’t even have your devices yet, Oculus has made it easy to have a third party company, such as iTRA design and deploy your VR experience, while you maintain all the control.

What can your business gain from switching to Oculus for business? VR technology is proven in training. VR can give a more hands on feel with prototyping new products. It can also be a cool way for co workers to interact.

Oculus for business gives your company the ability to manage the fleet of devices and Oculus provides decent technical support for the VR solution. Oculus knows It can prove costly to call in IT experts to help with maintenance, so they have engineered their platform for ease of setup and maintaining the fleet.

Oculus for business has been designed for devices to remain on premises, nothing worse than workers taking company devices home and downloading games or other trivial things.

Oculus recommends having a good approach to implementation of their product. Appoint someone who can be responsible for driving the solution. Organisation is key for getting this product to work for your company, this will improve efficiency and reduce cost of implementation and resources spent.

VR is coming of age and appears to be a great solution for training and other company projects, whether it’s prototyping, showcasing new products, or if it's training in a safe, socially distanced environment. Not only should this technology make your company more efficient, but your workers will love the new technology and trying out the new gear. The best thing is that Oculus for business gives your company more control over its own assets.

Connect with iTRA to discuss your next project.

Oculus Quest 2 is here

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September 22, 2020

We are living in uncertain times, the outside world is dangerous and Virtual Reality seems like a good idea. When needing to keep our distance from others, VR becomes a good option in theory, but headsets can feel clunky and at times a bit of an unnatural experience. The Oculus Quest 2 is heading in the right direction, being self-contained and with its improved screen and a reduction in weight. Due to be shipping on October 13th

While the Oculus Quest 2 has kept a lot of the original features that have worked, like the stand alone design, there have been improvements made in other areas that were needed, like a reduction in weight, improved screen and as a whole feels more comfortable.

The original Quest was known for its sleek all black appearance, but Oculus Quest 2 has gone for a lighter colour scheme with its pure white body and black foam face mask, which looks great giving it a two toned appearance. Oculus have kept the same rounded plastic front end, with each corner supporting outward-facing tracking cameras.

The first Quest headset felt quite front heavy, the new unit is somewhat lighter. Also Oculus has opted for a more comfortable cloth strap and also offers an alternative strap option.

Oculus are still using an LCD screen in their Quest 2, but the resolution is higher, 1832 x 1920 pixels to be exact. Refresh rate is up to 90Hz which will mean there can be up to 90 frames per second, which makes for a smooth, crisp experience.

Oculus’s Quest 2 uses Qualcomm’s Snapdragon XR2 chipset, which on paper is 2x stronger than Snapdragon 835 used for the original Oculus Quest. This is helping to run richer content with higher resolutions, making for a greater experience. A more efficient processor that can handle the job better will save power consumption, so the batteries will last longer before needing to recharge.

Quest 2 has more memory going from 4GB the original headset to 6GB. The device has greater storage capacity going from 64GB to 256GB. These upgrades have been achieved over the predecessor while being cheaper, costing only $299 instead of $399 USD

In the way of audio not much has changed from the original headset, still using small directional speakers, this can be more comfortable for the user than wired headphones or earbuds. One of the drawbacks of this is that the sound isn't just confined to the user, it can be audible to people who are in the same room, which would be distracting for the other person. The overall sound quality is still adequate.

The Quest 2 is using the third generation of Oculus Touch, providing you with two plastic remotes with a good grip and nice tactile feel. The controllers use a grip button and trigger, two face buttons and an analog stick for each. Oculus have reintroduced the thumb rest, which makes for a better controller feel.

The controllers use two AA batteries for power, rather than internal unchangeable rechargeable batteries. The reason for this is because there's no real easy way to plug the controllers into a charger, it ends up being easier to replace the batteries when they run out of charge. Oculus have improved the efficiency of their controllers, which means the batteries will last longer, 4x longer Oculus say.

VR is a technology that can take you right to your workplace wherever you are. Virtual workplaces are fast becoming a normal way of life, especially in a time where there are restrictions on how close we are able to interact. Still this technology has a fair way to go for a fully comfortable experience for the user, but the Oculus Quest 2 is certainly a step in the right direction. VR is feeling more and more comfortable to the user as technology improves.

Connect with iTRA to discuss your next project.

AR and VR Training Technologies for Enterprise

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December 10, 2019

As Augmented and Virtual reality technologies mature, they are becoming a viable option for enterprise training. However there is still a way to go before these technologies become commonplace in most business scenarios.

J.P. Gownder, vice president at Forrester states, "Right now, we mostly remain in the early testing phase for AR and VR, but employee training is becoming a more common scenario"

Walmart and UPS are a couple of companies who have rolled out VR training programs. This is helping their new employees master their jobs faster and with higher quality and safety. At UPS, new drivers will use VR headsets to simulate city driving conditions during training. Large mining companies are using AR to help workers identify and fix problems with equipment, in factories or out in the field.

VR has had a huge impact on the customer side of things mostly due to gaming. Enterprise AR adoption is ahead of consumer AR in terms of maturity as said by Tuong Nguyen, who is principal research analyst at Gartner.

He goes on to say "We're really in the adolescence of AR and VR. We've had some time to test it, but it's still in its teenage years, so there are some growing pains to be expected. But we're already starting to see its potential."

The top three enterprise AR use cases right now include video guidance, design and collaboration and task itemization, according to Nguyen.

"For training, it's helpful for situations that are high risk" Nguyen said. "If it's expensive or dangerous to have someone training in a live environment, but you want them to at least know the muscle movement and the decisions they will need to make, you can have them do it in a virtual space, rather than in the physical world." Nguyen states this could include scenarios such as military surgery training, combat training or other emergency response training.

There are a number of products on the market aimed at enterprise adoption of VR/AR technology. A couple of examples are HTC Vive Pro and the Oculus for Business bundle. These can be used for enhancing worker productivity and job training in fields such as manufacturing and design, retail, transportation and healthcare.

Nguyen says "For any business, when implementing tech, it's either making you money or saving you money," and follows on to say "When you talk about employee training and use of immersive tech, it tends to be some type of cost savings, whether in the form of less accidents, higher accuracy rates, or fewer mistakes. That's the kind of benefit that the CIO should be expecting." With this being said, because these are interface technologies, success depends mostly on the task", he added.

Nguyen recommends doing some research and testing to see how these technologies can apply to your company. "Think about how it applies to solving certain problems, as an extension of tech" Nguyen said. "Don't just bring it in and say, let's see what we can do with this.”

The entertainment industry is still the main user of these technologies. Todd Richmond, IEEE member and director of the Mixed Reality Lab at the University of Southern California says "the bigger play long-term are the business verticals" and "Medical and education are going to outstrip entertainment with regards to uses for VR and AR."

The biggest use for AR/VR technologies in the future will be around telepresence, Richmond said. "It's the promise that has been on the horizon, of being able to telecommute in ways that are meaningful and productive," and states, "We're still not there yet. The immersive stuff is a new medium for communication and collaboration, and it takes time to figure out how to use a new medium effectively."

Richmond recommends that companies who are interested, seek out academic conferences to learn more about how it could fit into their current business structure. Richmond says "The trick for the enterprise is going to be figuring out when to make the leap, and when things are mature enough to move from it being a curiosity, and a set of experiments, to being a core part of their business" 

Connect with iTRA to discuss your next project.

HTC Vive Hand and Finger Tracking

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November 19, 2019

While we wait for Oculus to release the Finger Tracking SDK for the Quest, I’m playing around with HTC Vive’s implementation of hand and finger tracking to get a feel for the new input method and what advantages it unlocks!

Watch this space, more videos coming.

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Oculus Quest, Powered by a PC?

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October 17, 2019

The Oculus Quest was released in May last year with a VR experience surpassing its rivals, all contained within a wireless portable headset. Since its release we have seen numerous improvements, including new features and monthly software updates. Oculus has been progressively improving their Quest headset to give their customers the best VR experience possible. Recently at OC6, it was announced that a lineup of new features for the Quest will be coming. It’s expected that this will unlock the full potential of the Quest and will further expand how the user interacts with their content.

Controlling a VR world has never been so simple, with hand tracking set to raise the bar, no longer do you need to use controllers. The need for use of external sensors, gloves or PC’s are no longer required. What does this all mean? It means its enabling the user to have a much more natural interaction with their VR environment, being a far more immersive experience.

A new feature that is creating excitement for anyone who uses this technology is the Oculus Link. This is a new way to access Rift content on Quest headsets. Beginning in November, those who own a Quest and a PC will be able to access any Rift library with the Oculus Link software. You will be able to do this with any USB 3 cable but soon Oculus will be releasing a high performance optical fiber cable to give its customers the best experience possible.

With Oculus Link it is now much easier to train workers on a large scale, and the interacting between trainees and teachers can be more valuable and much more fulfilling. With everything Oculus have updated and the effort they have put into their headsets, creating a much more immersive experience than VR technology has previously provided.

Connect with iTRA to discuss your next project.

Throw Away Your Controllers, Oculus Quest is Getting Hand and Finger Tracking!

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October 3, 2019

The Oculus Quest has something new in store, its hand tracking and its set to change how we use VR. Many users of VR in the past have had difficulties with control and natural feeling of movements. This is about to change with the Oculus Quest. Coming in November is their new hand tracking technology. This is going to allow the user to be more immersed in VR and connect on a much deeper level, which no doubt will improve the VR experience.

All users of VR, new and old, will benefit greatly from this leap forward, as the experience is going to feel more natural. Hand tracking on the Quest will also reduce the difficulty in learning for people new to VR, and those who are not familiar or comfortable with gaming controllers. Probably the greatest benefit is that you no longer have to feel around for that controller you dropped while being completely immersed in the VR experience. 

The Quest’s hand tracking technology was showcased at OC6. It is expected to be launched in early 2020 as an experimental feature for consumers. Developers of VR apps will be able to create products using hand gestures to control their experiences. The Quest community will be able to trial this new technology early next year to get a feel of what's coming and how this will improve the experience.

This project started out at Facebook Reality Labs and has eventually turned into a great product to allow new VR input. Oculus’s computer vision team developed a new way of using machine learning to work out, in real time, where the users hands are and the position of the fingers. This is accomplished using the original monochrome cameras found on every Oculus Quest headset. Oculus didn’t need to use depth-sensing cameras, additional sensors or more processing power. 

This technology is an important milestone for VR training. The trainee can have their hands free from controllers which can aid in the learning process, as the experience will feel more realistic. In the future, it is expected that this technology will allow the user to pick up objects and use them as they would in the real world.

Bringing your hands into the VR world without the need for controllers is ground breaking. It will allow the user to feel much more comfortable in using VR. In training it is extremely important that the trainee feels comfortable in the way they are learning, as the trainee is much more likely to retain what they have learnt. VR is becoming the go to for all sorts of different training scenarios.

Connect with iTRA to discuss your next project.

Extended Reality – An Industry Perspective

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September 19, 2019

“We always overestimate the change that will occur in the next two years and underestimate the change that will occur in the next ten. Don't let yourself be lulled into inaction.”
- Bill Gates

We were delighted to present the “Industry Perspective” at the inaugural XR.Edu Summit held at Hale School this week.  iTRA’s Director, Mark Broome,showcased our experience and innovations to the room of educators giving them a perspective on the business cases for Extended Reality in the real world.  We spoke with a number of people afterwards who recognised the value of giving students exposure to #VR #AR #XR and giving them projects with tangible applications. 

Mark predicted in the next few years, as the hardware cost reduces and business cases become clearer, we will see an exponential rise in the use of XR applications across all industries.  He rammed home his point with the example of mobile phones to highlight the adoption rate of technology when the elements align:

As early developers iTRA is fortunate to have long term clients that recognise the benefits of including VR training in their suite of tools to improve the skills of their workforce. We have been developing XR applications since 2017 and continue to identify areas within our clients’ businesses where tangible improvements can be made with VR or AR applications.

Our experience shows that VR is without doubt an ideal training tool for immersion in high risk work environments and a cost-effective alternative for all kinds of training for physical activity, such as use of fire extinguishers, driving, identification of objects, etc.

AR has enormous potential for improving efficiencies in operations and this has been proven by major companies who have adopted the technology, such as DHL, Toll, and Boeing. Our AR Tagging App is just one application, but AR in Inspection & Maintenance, Operations Training, Remote Collaboration and Working Guides are all areas where AR will save both time and money.

The XR.Edu Summit presentation was well received by the audience who were looking for inspiration to produce graduates who are ready for the real world – in an extended reality space.

Please contact us for more information on the use of XR applications within your organisation.

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Walmart is Embracing Virtual Reality Technology

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Walmart is joining forces with STRIVR to create a state of the art training platform using the best of Virtual Reality technology. The announcement was made during Walmart’s annual shareholder meeting. STRIVR is a VR based startup company based in Menlo Park. They have worked with companies such as PepsiCo as well as professional sports leagues such as the NFL.

During the meeting Walmart stated that it has been employing STRIVR’s technology in 31 of its training academies recently. This has proved very successful and Walmart hopes to roll out the program to all 200 of its academies.

A few years ago Walmart opened its very first training academy. Each is connected to a Walmart Supercenter and provides all employees in the general area with a classroom setting to learn for two weeks before starting an entry-level job or new role.

Using the latest Oculus headset, STRIVR’s technology lets the employees experience real-world scenarios. This means employees can prepare virtually for any situation they might deal with in the workplace, such as a highly crowded situations like Boxing day sales, or just cleaning up a spilt drink that a clumsy customer dropped on the floor.

Another advantage of using this type of training is that the instructor can see exactly what the student can see, which means if there is something the student missed, the instructor can quickly pick up on the issue and let the student know in real time what they have missed and how to address the issue. Other students can also see and weigh in/take tips from the overall performance of their peers. This can be a great learning tool as one can learn from others' mistakes.

STRIVR was co founded by assistant football coach Derek Belch alongside professor Jeremy Bailenson back in 2015. Bailenson concluded that VR training was the future as it was proven to be a much more dynamic and in depth way of learning, the trainee is more likely to retain knowledge gained from simulations rather than from a training video. VR training is a more tactile way of learning.

Virtual Reality technology has improved significantly over the last decade. This has lead to more widespread use in many sectors, especially in job training situations. Major oil companies have embarrassed this technology the most. We are also seeing major leaps in the health sector, helping train physicians in complex operation procedures, which has been seen over the last few years especially.

Mary Meeker, who is partnered with Kleiner Perkins said in a small article that she expects VR job training to be very important and will be gaining momentum in the coming years. She also spoke of STRIVR’s great success with Stanford football.

Walmart is expecting more than 100,000 of its new employees will go through its Academy training in due course. They have said this will be “an integral part of that experience.”

With major players like Walmart joining the VR training revolution, its certain that other major retailers will adopt this style of training, as the benefits from VR training have been proven time and time again.

Connect with iTRA to discuss your next project.

Navy Demonstrates The Spectrum Hunter Using Augmented Reality Technology

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September 3, 2019

You would think that having state of the art technology on the battlefield would give you a significant advantage? Well think again, as the more tech you use, the more likely your crew will be detected from the RF used to communicate. There is a saying that always rings true in the armed forces. “If your transmitting, you can be found”.

While on duty, armed forces are often equipped with many communication devices such as GPS, mobile devices, SOS beacon, hand-held radios, or Wi-Fi, with these devices emitting their own radio frequency traceable back to the sender. This means that a lot of personnel participating in active battles will have to turn off their devices to avoid detection as its important to be invisible to the enemy.

Currently to ensure transmitting devices are secure, soldiers use a handheld tablet weighing over 4 Kilograms. The device is equipped with a handheld radio to scan for and identify their own frequencies. While this device does come under the banner of portable, it’s still very heavy and can be a pain to use. Not only that, it forces the operator to take his/her eyes off the battlefield in order to scan, which can be risky in a live battle.

With the downfalls of the current technology, a Naval Information Warfare Center (NIWC) Atlantic team, is currently developing and testing a new transmission detection system that utilizes Augmented Reality technology. It projects visuals over the user’s real-world environment providing an accurate hands free way of detecting their own RF waves. This new system is dubbed ‘The Spectrum Hunter’

Operators have a few ways to use and communicate with this device, such as voice recognition technology, and can interpret physical hand gestures. This allows the user to easily locate and deactivate RF transmissions, but at the same time have an active eye on the field looking for danger.

In an article for Naval Information Warfare Center Atlantic Public Affairs, Sinclair says “The Spectrum Hunter system under development is hands-free. As the user packs a similar-but-smaller geolocator receiver in a backpack and wears a headset inside a helmet that allows them to ‘see’ images of RF waves on an augmented reality screen superimposed over heavy sunglasses,” and also adds “The helmet is fitted with a sunshade so the equipment operates outdoors.”

NIWC Atlantic Acting Executive Director Peter C. Reddy adds.“The sky is the limit for potential uses for Spectrum Hunter.” and “Augmented reality can enable an operator to more quickly and easily locate the source; this is a paradigm shift toward capabilities of the future.”

In the future, the Navy hopes to build on and expand the use of its Spectrum Hunter. In time it is hoped that this technology will be used to detect the enemies RF waves as well. “Our team is initially focusing on detecting handheld radios and will expand the scope later to detect cell phones and other devices,” Sinclair explains. “In the future, we plan to modify it to identify RF waves emitting from enemy forces.”

The prototype of The Spectrum Hunter was showcased last July at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. During this exercise, experts from more than 35 government agencies and industries were able to brainstorm potential insights on how they see this project and where it can go.

Connect with iTRA to discuss your next project.

The AR office space with Magic Leap One

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August 27, 2019

Augmented Reality has been around for a while now, with there being lots of new uses for this technology, from mockup workplaces to state of the art simulations. It surely is time to utilize this technology in an office environment. Using the Magic Leap One with its CNN app, this combination can allow you to setup an AR space, anywhere, anytime.

Magic Leap One has been on the market for about a year now. Surprisingly this device hasn’t really hit the mainstream, at least not yet. One thing is for sure, every office could use a bit of livening up with some cool AR products. Magic Leap one is a viable tool for the average white-collar office worker.

AR Workspaces Are the Future

The Magic Leap One offers an easy to use truly immersive experience, using wearable AR technology. It’s easy to see how tech like this can enhance your everyday experience of the world around you. Using this technology in the office can improve productivity just by making the most mundane tasks more enjoyable.

Generally an office space will consist of a whole lot of monitors, mice, keyboards and whiteboards enabling workers to multitask various activities. Now think about donning a headset and having everything you need at your fingertips at all times. Sure, it seems pretty unfamiliar to put something on your head and view the world around you in an altered state. But if you were to really think about it, it makes sense, as you can see exactly what is needed at any time using AR technology. This saves workers time and increases productivity.

The Magic Leap can be used with other users easily. One of its best features is its ability to put AR holograms in your vision that look pretty realistic. Unlike VR, which closes you off from the world, AR lets you remain engaged with real people and places. Also, although increasing numbers of white-collar workers are working remotely, the working world is still dominated by people in office spaces.

Magic Leap works best with a high speed internet connection, public wifi such as cafes lack the internet gusto needed. Also noted is that the headset gives off some heat in operation, but as long as your office is air conditioned this will not affect comfort in use. The Magic Leap also comes with a shoulder strap which is very useful when using the device for long periods of time.

Apps to Use Within Your AR Desktop Setup

The most important thing to consider when setting up a virtual office with the Magic Leap One, is figuring out which apps make the experience the best it possibly can be. Some apps that work well together are: the Cheddar news video streaming app, Clock app, Wallpaper app via Screens app, Gallery app, Avatar Chat and of course Helio (the AR web browser). When you put all these apps together you get a truly immersive and fun workspace.

Another useful feature of the Magic Leap One is the ability to force a particular screen to "follow" you wherever you go. The following functionality is in the menu of most Magic Leap apps and can be initialized by clicking on the front-facing bumper.

With these apps working together, the experience is deep and surprisingly non-distracting. An AR environment that can turn a normal, dull working space into a colorful center of activity.

If we want to talk about drawbacks, the main one would be its limited battery life, a common problem shared by all mobile devices. In an AR office setup battery life won't last much longer than 3 hours. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing as it's a good idea to take a break after a few hours. The Control device consumes much less power if you're not constantly using it, so it requires much fewer recharges. While on the subject of battery life, it can be inconvenient to have to open the main menu and navigate to the battery icon, just to find out how much power the device has left. Once the Magic Leap drops to 25% power left you will be shown a warning of low battery life.

Is it worth it?

The Magic Leap AR office setup may not be everyone's cup of tea, but for someone with a boring job or limited work space, this might just be the setup. It’s easy to see co-working spaces offering the Magic Leap One as an optional menu item, allowing visitors to create their own virtual space among unaffiliated workers. Because of the relatively opaque effect of the AR panels and the ability to plug a pair of normal headphones into the device, it’s easy to create a bubble of AR constructs amid a crowd of fellow co-working space users.

People are getting seasoned to the idea of wearing a headset, You won't necessarily get weird looks by wearing the Magic Leap One in a public setting, though you still might get the occasion look of “what’s that thing on your head?”. People really are now ready for the AR future.

Connect with iTRA to discuss your next project.

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