Better training, manufacturing efficiency and better visualization are among the highlights of the pitch across industries according to members of Protocol's Braintrust.
Head of XR at Qualcomm Technologies
We live in a world where XR is often limited by the not-always-predictable latency of home connections and previous cellular connectivity generations. With 5G, applications that require robust processing for compute-intensive applications at the highest resolution won't be limited. We must separate VR, MR and AR. It's true that VR and MR are mostly indoor, and Wi-Fi is expected. However, in many business scenarios, customers don't want to worry about setting up Wi-Fi at different locations (e.g., in training, retail showrooms, event planning). In AR, users can use it both indoor and outdoor, where the need for 5G is apparent.
Using manufacturing as an example — where a wired connection on a factory floor could be hazardous — 5G would allow wireless edge-processing to an XR headset, eliminating or reducing the need for wires. With the deployment of 5G networks, many facilities may set up private 5G networks, allowing XR devices to distribute the computing between the device and the local network. 5G's lower latency and high throughput to either the network or even a high-end local PC enables boundless XR, which splits the processing and allows users to drive sophisticated, photorealistic graphics to manufacturing facilities. Additionally, XR Viewers, which are sleek glasses tethered to 5G smartphones will expand in 2021, which will enable corporations to scale up XR solutions for real-time collaboration and speed-of-life interactions due to a more-affordable price point.
Efficiency, safety and simplicity are often core decision-drivers for the C-suite considering 5G and XR because of the potential to increase productivity, optimize worker performance and save money. These benefits have been unlocked by many corporations Qualcomm collaborates with on XR. And, using examples from Qualcomm's 50+member XR Enterprise Program, we are able to showcase what success looks like within an organization.
Global Director, Digital Transformation and Workforce Competency at Honeywell
Virtual reality is shaping how many industries are choosing to train their employees. VR can deliver workforce development benefits beyond traditional training methods such as classroom-based education or e-learning.
With growing global competition, an experienced workforce nearing retirement and the challenges of COVID -19 where employees cannot attend traditional in-person training, operators require robust VR-based technical training and development solutions that accurately depict real-world environments and facilitate a safety net.
Traditional training approaches often fail to pass muster, resulting in reliability issues and increased operational incidents. However, VR's learn-by-doing offers increased knowledge retention and mitigates situations that can result in operational downtime, and aids in improving competencies across varied areas such as operations, maintenance and safety.
This approach significantly improves upon current training tools and methods as VR-based training boosts confidence and retention while improving overall professional skills. Experience shows that students using VR can learn significantly faster than in the classroom.
In short, VR provides targeted, on-demand, skill-based training for workers.
CEO and Co-Founder at VNTANA
5G will help XR at scale because it can quickly deliver large files to mobile devices. XR requires 3D files, which are typically very large. Any company that designs and manufactures products from medical devices to footwear has initial 3D design files, but these are way too big for web and mobile. They require a lot of manual work by 3D artists to fit into web and mobile specifications.
VNTANA's 3D Collaboration Platform helps automate this through our patented optimization, texture compression and sanitization algorithms. 5G will help open up the restrictive size requirements to make this easier and enable more robust, interactive web XR experiences. Optimization of 3D manufacturing files will still be required, but 5G will enable scenes with multiple 3D files and more interactivity.
Global Head of Enterprise, HTC Vive
The emergence of 5G stands to change how we work, live and play, opening tremendous opportunities when combined with XR experiences. For companies, this means a new way to engage with and solve pain points for their customers and employees.
Humans are fundamentally driven to operate in a three-dimensional world, yet in the era of computing, much of our working life occurs in 2D, where it's become normal to stare at flat screens all day for everything from data to presentations to videoconference calls. Through XR, however, we now can return to a more natural and intuitive way to work.
The rise of XR technologies is rooted in its fundamental usefulness and efficiency to train, teach, design, collaborate, share and more. With 5G connectivity, there's an emergence of cross-platform solutions that offer enhanced experiences when delivered via XR, such as solutions that require dynamic rendering or visualizations of large data sets. The fundamentals of XR, coupled with 5G adoption, offer an important tool for growth and competitive advantage for those who see the inevitable path forward.
Like nearly every emerging technology, XR takes time for advancement and adoption, but we are at an inflection point for growth. While these technologies are nascent in a 4G world, in a 5G world, their impact will be bigger than we can imagine today.
COO and Co-Founder at GridRaster
We see 5G as a foundational technology that will allow true convergence of XR with other powerful platforms: cloud and AI. The low latency and faster throughput of 5G will allow XR to leverage the power and scalability of cloud and the contextual awareness and insightfulness of AI to drive mission-critical use cases in the industry. The convergence of these defining technologies will usher in the next wave of innovation and productivity in the enterprise. It will completely transform the way we visualize, manipulate and collaborate across the lifecycle of product: design, manufacturing, operation and maintenance, training, sales and customer engagement.
For example, the design of next-generation cars will happen in XR, where teams can collaborate remotely in "near-real" high-fidelity environment, iterate rapidly on the concepts/ideas, and quickly make decisions, resulting in a more efficient and cost-effective process, while at the same time improving the overall quality of the product. The overall design process will shrink from months to days.
Also, XR will be a game changer in operational settings such as remote repair and maintenance. A frontline worker conducting repair and maintenance tasks will be assisted by contextually aware AI-driven instructions in XR in real time to help complete the task lot faster and more accurately than ever before. The order of magnitude of savings can vary from 30% to 90%, depending on the specific use case and operational settings.
And we are getting there.
CTO at PTC
Where frontline work is performed, we are often underserved by infrastructure that does not bring man and machine together to make a larger impact. 5G is not a technology that is solely about making your next phone better at streaming video. It is really a powerful means of solving a far wider spectrum of wireless communications challenges. Particularly in the industrial settings, where greater wireless reliability, increased bandwidths and lower latency — which exists in specialty wired networks — can now transcend to more devices for more ubiquitous real-time networking and mobility.
With XR experiences, our eyes are difficult to fool, and richer experiences will greatly benefit from the overall responsiveness that 5G brings, particularly in industrial settings that have traditionally challenged the reliability of wireless technologies. 5G's promise will allow more real-time interactions to exist in those experiences that meet our personal expectations.
Many of us can tolerate infrequent negative experiences with any app we use. But we are quick to reject the applications we heavily use where they do not match our performance expectations. The same holds true for XR experiences. In simple cases where we want to identify what we are looking at, 5G enables faster recognition. And the true advantages kick in when computer vision and analytics provide a real-time ability to guide users to perform their work properly.
XR is really IoT for people. Our personal expectations demand the greatest levels of interactivity, and 5G is a compelling delivery vehicle to elevate our human experience in XR.
Director of Corporate Innovation at RLab
In a few words: It will change radically. Today, there are a dozen plus startups I've worked with that are on fire, raising millions of dollars with XR enterprise platforms, applications and tools in the middle of an unprecedented pandemic. This is before they are supercharged with 5G computing power.
Think of 5G as jet fuel, accelerating computing power beyond anything we can imagine today. Applications for XR cut across every industry and sector: health care, real estate, industrial manufacturing, education, retail/ecommerce, media, entertainment, sports, and so on. While it's unclear what 5G means today or will mean in three or five years, we know the purpose is to make all digital applications and particularly XR faster, with greater bandwidth and less latency — unleashing the performance of these applications in real time.
Imagine a surgeon sitting in New York City using a virtual reality headset to operate a robot that is operating on a patient in London. Or a designer in Hong Kong collaborating on a 3D prototype with a colleague in Helsinki, with their human avatars working together in the same virtual room. How lovely would it be to be in a virtual room with a large group of loved ones playing a game or watching a show, together, right now in the time of COVID? The possibilities are truly endless, and it's not science fiction.
There will be winners in these new technologies, there always are. Right now, the smart enterprise professionals are trying to understand what and how 5G and XR will materially improve their business, from back office applications to new products and services. I know they are, because I work with some of those Fortune 500 executives who are doing just that every day, looking for a competitive edge. There will be winners, will you or your company be one?
See who's who in Protocol's Braintrust (updated Oct. 14, 2020).
Questions, comments or suggestions? Email firstname.lastname@example.org
Kevin McAllister ( @k__mcallister) is a Research Editor at Protocol, leading the development of Braintrust. Prior to joining the team, he was a rankings data reporter at The Wall Street Journal, where he oversaw structured data projects for the Journal's strategy team.
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