Eyes on HTC: Enterprise use of XR is expanding — will XR also be the new home office interface?
In this post, Drew Bamford, Corporate Vice President of HTC Vive Creative Labs, discusses key trends and possible challenges impacting the XR market, as well as interesting use cases. This is the second post in Tobii’s blog series “The Future of XR”, where Tobii’s business partners share their views on the development of the XR industry.
What are the most important trends that will impact the XR market in the coming 3–5 years?
Drew Bamford: There are a couple of things I think we’ll see in the next few years. From a hardware perspective, we expect a lot of effort in making headsets that are lighter and smaller in form, which will be important for remote collaboration. We should also see a strong push toward full retina resolution in the next couple years. These fidelity improvements will especially benefit design and simulation experiences.
Another area we expect to grow and really add to the experience from a software side is technology that engages the sense of touch with haptic and force feedback.
“Being able to ‘feel’ the experience, with haptic gloves, vests or even a full suit, will create incredible immersion. We’re already seeing steps toward improved immersion by incorporating additional physical inputs into the experience, such as eye and hand tracking.”
What do you think the biggest challenges are to XR adoption today?
Drew Bamford: For the consumer marketplace, XR is still not mainstream. However, we’ve seen consideration skyrocket in the enterprise space, especially in recent months with the transition to remote work and collaboration due to COVID-19. Businesses are rapidly evaluating how to use new technology to keep their workforce connected and trained. Our VR collaboration tool, VIVE Sync, launched in beta at the end of April and there have already been more than 5,000 meetings held in Sync.
For consumer adoption, this is what we think needs to take place:
- XR needs killer apps and content to grow its audience. This is the classic chicken-and-egg conundrum, where content developers are reticent to invest their resources until the market develops and the install base doesn’t take off until great content exists. Fortunately, there are a few major developers who continue to invest to create the market, and there remains a passionate community of indie developers who are determined to break new ground in immersive content.
- In design and engineering, we continue to work to break down barriers to adoption and use: principally related to performance, usability and ergonomics. These categories are all improving — and eye tracking plays a big role in this — but we’re not there yet.
- We also believe adoption will pick up as XR becomes social, and it allows more connections to the outside world. There is great progress on this front, with a lot of development activity around remote collaboration in the wake of the global pandemic.
- Finally, there is still a cost barrier for the mainstream consumer. In the context of other technology products, such as smartphones, tablets and even game consoles, headsets are really not particularly expensive, but we need a breakthrough in frequency of use to meet the value bar set by these other categories.
What will need to change over the next 3 years to shift or reduce these challenges?
Drew Bamford: In the very near term, there will be a split between high fidelity products like VIVE Pro, and lightweight products aimed at consumers. Further out, we’ll likely see the two categories converge.
As mentioned earlier, one of the biggest milestones will be retina resolution because then we’ll be able to replace desktop displays with XR headsets.
On the enterprise side, which industries will benefit the most from XR and why?
Drew Bamford: “The enterprise segment of XR hardware and software has excellent traction and is forecast to grow to over $60 billion by 2023 (IDC and ARtillery Intelligence).”
Moreover, COVID-19 is clearly having a substantial impact on the mindset and tools for working collaboratively, acting as an accelerant for these technologies. We see this technology benefiting industries from travel, to education, to design and collaboration, and healthcare.
Which XR application areas do you think will have the brightest future?
Drew Bamford: “There are so many possibilities for XR applications. Most top of mind right now for us is the office of the future, where a simple XR headset encapsulates your entire home office.”
We also see a use case for professional designers looking to easily visualize their digital designs in the real world and for immersive occupation training.
Drew Bamford builds products and experiences at the intersection of human desires and bleeding edge technologies. Drew leads HTC Creative Labs, a cross-functional team of researchers, designers and engineers with offices in Seattle, San Francisco and Taipei. When he started the experience design team at HTC in 2006, Drew helped drive the transformation of HTC from ODM to global consumer brand by creating a branded user experience for HTC smartphones with TouchFLO on Windows Mobile and then HTC Sense on Android. Today, Drew and his team are again transforming HTC’s business by design, by inventing the XR products and services that will make HTC VIVE a leading brand in spatial computing.