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.

Super-resolution scaling AI to improve performance for Oculus Quest

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March 24, 2020

Google and NVIDIA’s Super-resolution scaling AI are real winners, turning low quality images into more detailed ones, proving this software is game changing. Oculus have shown great interest and plan on using it themselves in the not too distant future.

After some research Facebook’s AI division have found a way to provide developers with more rendering power with a simple software update. It gives up to 67% more rendering power and is suitable for mobile VR hardware. Though implementation of any sort of image rendering AI can be complex and have a range of issues to address. This latest update sees clear improvements in performance for the current generation of VR hardware.

A document from Facebook AI researchers states that they are using a “super-resolution” algorithm to turn poor quality images into higher resolution, clearer images. This means for example Oculus Quest apps can be rendered at 70% of their current resolution which in turn drastically increases performance of the app allowing higher frame rates for a better experience. This super-resolution algorithm will take lower resolution images and convert them into new images utilizing the devices mobile processing architecture. The end result is much sharper and more detailed images, without using as much processing power as it normally would rendering high quality frames.

Using AI to improve image quality is nothing new, NVIDIA used its own AI-upscaling algorithm for Shield TV last year and google used it’s Super Res Zoom on the Pixel 3’s camera back in 2018. This technology is especially good for older, slower mobile chipsets like the Snapdragon 835. It’s also a huge benefit for developers who wish to port their PC VR titles over to the Quest, As well as making it easier to develop apps to run across multiple platforms.

Once, this concept of turning low quality images into high resolution ones was just stuff of  science fiction. But with advances in AI, what once seemed impossible has become reality. Facebook’s super-resolution algorithm isn’t too different from previous algorithms of its kind. It teaches machines to detect common objects and then the AI imagines how the full object is meant to look. NVIDIA’s developed a similar AI algorithm for its RTX line of graphics cards to enhance images while not suffering much of a loss in performance.

For now, while there is much anticipation, there is no set timeline for rolling out the updates for Oculus Quest, or for any headsets. Dynamic Fixed Foveated Rendering was added to Oculus development kit last year, which greatly improved the performance of the Quest’s apps with no real loss in visual quality. We hope to see this update rolled out sooner rather than later.

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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Improve Mine Productivity with Augmented and Virtual Reality Technologies

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November 12, 2019

Augmented and Virtual Reality technologies have been around for a while. The potential for these technologies are endless. Mining companies have embraced VR/AR for some time and are always looking to do more. Currently these technologies are, for example, reducing equipment maintenance costs and offering their personnel a safe way to train.

AR and VR technologies are being used widely at both the consumer and commercial levels. Companies like Microsoft and Google are developing their own VR/AR technologies and are competing for their market share. The VR/AR industry is predicted to be worth more than $150 billion worldwide by 2020.

Mining industries utilized VR/AR quite early, as the potential for training is ground breaking. Using these technologies for training not only saves companies money but has been proven that it can be a better way to train employees.

Mining operators have realised the potential to address many issues with VR/AR technology, with improvements in productivity, safety and machinery uptime to name just a few. For mining companies, AR offers training in the real world with helpful overlays. VR replaces the real world with a simulated training environment.

EMIMSAR, an EU funded project, is a system that allows miners to be able to view AR versions of complex equipment on helmet mounted displays. Using sensors to record and analyse temperatures, rates of acceleration and sample noise from sprockets. This allows staff to assess heavy duty components like gears and chains. This data is then given to a knowledge based maintenance system. When combined with background data on components, it creates real time virtual visualisations on the machinery which can be viewed by other miners while working on the same machine.

The EMIMSAR AR system has been developed and used to great success by Germany’s largest coal mining firm RAG, which used it for maintenance planning, loaders and belt conveyors.

Kumba Virtual Reality Centre, which opened in August 2015 has incorporated a 3D stereoscopic theatre and a 3D, 360° cylinder theatre. The 3D simulation creates true to detail mining conditions and creates scenarios such as underground rock falls, that is truly immersive experience for the user.

Rio Tinto has now partnered with New York based Bravo Media to custom design the Oculus Rift experience. It features a computer generated environment that allows the user to fly above the coast of Canada, before taking you for a tour down the Diavik diamond mine.

Grey Properjohn from Australian company Vix Technology wrote in a newsletter "The ability to mix virtual content with reality will provide countless opportunities to improve operational safety and efficiency, as well as bringing the corporate offices even closer to the operations on the ground by connecting people in ways never imagined before,"

He goes on to write "Imagine standing in an underground development heading and becoming visually aware of all the adjacent headings, slopes and declines in the immediate vicinity, or being able to virtualise the trends in ground features like fault-zones or stress-zones… Extend this to drilling from underground and you can virtually eliminate the potential to inadvertently intersect other existing openings.”

"The assessment of mining an open pit through underground workings takes on new meaning if you could actually 'see' the workings. Even from an office environment, users can be immersed in the underground operation tracking the locations of all people and assets within the mine in real-time."

These are just a few examples of how mining companies are using the VR/AR technology. Many more projects are in development that are sure to excite.

Connect with iTRA to discuss your next project.

Oculus Horizon

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October 22, 2019

At the last OC6 meeting, it was revealed that a new social VR world, named Facebook Horizon is to make its debut on the Oculus Quest and Rift platforms sometime in 2020. Horizon is a product of everything learnt about virtual spaces and communities over the past few years. This is the first step into a fast growing world of communications in the VR field, where connecting with peers becomes more fulfilling than ever before.

It’s already a fun experience hanging out with friends and watching the latest movies on your VR headset. It’s also a great way to learn new skills and explore the world virtually. Human curiosity is fueling the VR revolution and this is at the heart of the Horizon project. Participants start in a busy town square where they can find people to meet and talk to. The experience then broadens into a world where everyone can explore new virtual places to go, games to play and communities created by other people, where you’re free to create your own unique experiences with friends.

Horizon lets you design and create your own avatar from many different styles and body options. The possibilities are endless in creating your avatar and it’s a great way to express yourself. From there you will find magic portals called telepods that will transport people from public spaces to unique worlds with plenty of places to explore.

This is just the start of your experience. It’s possible to move between various Horizon worlds, created using the ‘World Builder’ which consists of a collection of easy to use creator tools. Everyone has the ability to create new worlds and activities completely from scratch. The world builder tool does not require the user to have any previous coding experience. It’s up to the user whether they choose to play, build or just simply watch what others are up to. Horizon has a welcoming environment with guides called Horizon Locals, who provide assistance and answer a range of questions.

It’s possible to imagine how companies could use this to train their workers on mass. Not only could they create virtual training areas to be used in their workplace, but the trainee’s can also use that created workplace in their own time, at home or wherever the trainee has an internet connection and a place to charge their headsets.

Not only can Horizon help with training, but it could be feasible to create a space where people can come and accept online work for your company. Companies could choose to watch their workers or take a back seat and let the workers manipulate their own working environment to suit them.

Take your workplace with you!

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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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