Enterprise Uses for Virtual Reality and Mixed Reality

PDF version of this report
You must have Adobe Acrobat reader to view, save, or print PDF files. The reader
is available for free

Enterprise Uses for Virtual Reality

and Mixed Reality

by Faulkner Staff

Docid: 00021059

Publication Date: 2104

Report Type: TUTORIAL


Advances in virtual and mixed reality are beginning to make the technology
feasible for some business uses. While the applications are likely to remain
limited, markets that are impacted could be affected significantly –
and sooner than expected. The ways that the technology can be used
for business are still being explored, and keeping track of developments in
the field will help enterprises to determine how the technology might be used
within their industries.

Report Contents:

Executive Summary

[return to top of this report]

Virtual reality technology,
which makes users feel as if they
are in a simulated environment, is being considered for wider use by

Augmented Reality Technology Tutorial
Augmented Reality Marketplace
Enterprise Uses for Artificial Intelligence Tutorial

The market for virtual reality and the
related “mixed reality” and "augmented reality " technologies are
forecast to grow substantially in the coming years. Mixed reality
offers both virtual reality, that is, fully simulated environments, and
augmented reality, which places
virtual objectives in the real world, such as when a three-dimensional
design for a product appears on a real-world table, or prospective furniture can
be viewed in the place it would be located within a buyer's home.

There are many virtual and mixed reality products already on the market,
mostly viewers that can be put up to users' eyes or headsets that they wear. At the low end
products that are really just holders for smartphones, which provide
all of the processing power and display technology. At the highest end of the
consumer an professional markets
are self-contained viewers that can cost anywhere from hundreds to thousands of dollars.
Within the research community there are even entire rooms, called CAVE
systems, that deliver much more immersive experiences.

But, despite the technology available, the business uses of
virtual and mixed reality are fairly specialized. For example, virtual
reality is sometimes used for military and police training or for
remotely showing real estate properties. Meanwhile, mixed reality is increasingly being
used for product design. There are, however, limitations to employing virtual
and mixed reality for enterprise use. Often, it is
still too bulky and expensive for many applications, and putting
these shortcomings aside, current applications haven’t touched
core parts of fundamental business processes like data
analysis. Predicting
the market is difficult, but it appears that mixed reality
may have more serious enterprise uses, while virtual reality
often focuses on gaming and other entertainment.

Enterprises that are
considering using virtual or mixed reality for business purposes can
begin by researching how the technology will be used within their
industries. Even industries that do not use the technology may be
affected because it requires components such as processors,
sound systems, networking devices, and software, all of which are made
by a wide variety of companies.

To forecast the direction of
virtual and mixed reality, following the development community is
helpful. Some virtual and mixed reality vendors support the work of
independent developers by offering code online and maintaining
Web-based communities for sharing information. The interest of
developers is likely to be one factor that determines
whether a particular system succeeds.


[return to top of this report]

reality makes users feel – at least to some degree – that
they are in a different environment. The technology varies
significantly from the simple applications being used today to advanced
ideas that exist only in theory. To
understand the technology and the market, it is helpful to distinguish
the terminology used to describe variants in the field. As defined
by Louise
Chan, the market divides into three technologies:

  • Virtual
    Reality – Offers users the experience of full immersion. The
    artificial world is fully created and it is not integrated with the
    real world.
  • Augmented Reality –
    computer-generated objects to the real world. Users are primarily seeing their actual
  • Mixed Reality – Blends
    virtual and augmented
    reality in roughly equal amounts. Users may have the illusion that real
    and computer-generated objects are all part of one, seamless world.1

(This report focuses
on virtual and mixed reality. For more information about augmented
reality, see “Augmented Reality Technology”2
and “Augmented
Reality Marketplace”3 in
Faulkner’s Advisory on
Computer and
Communications Technologies

Virtual and mixed reality can be created by various types of products. At
the low end are well-known consumer devices that are simple viewers
using phones to provide the hardware, software, and display screens.
Google Cardboard, one of the first devices of this type which cost $15 when it launched,
was just a cardboard container with plexiglass
the View-Master VR, which cost only slightly more, looked much like the old
child’s toy that displays slides, but it serves the same purpose. There are also more sophisticated options that
are still feasible for consumer use. Well-known examples include the Oculus
the HTC
Vive lines, both of which can be had for $300 to $800. Microsoft has also spearheaded a
push by several third party manufacturers to create what are known as Windows
Mixed Reality Headsets. These operate nearly identically to the Quest and Vive,
but are built specifically to take advantage of Windows 10's built-in mixed and
virtual reality software. They are priced between $200 and $500. Pricing
variances among headsets determine the quality of the visual resolution, the
available control schemes (including factors such as haptic feedback), and the
tracking method being used to detect the wearer's motions.

the higher end of the wearable viewer market is Microsoft’s Hololens and updated
Hololens 2,
which costs $3,500 for the newest commercial version at launch. It is a mixed reality
rather than virtual reality device. In mixed reality, users’ vision
is mostly unobstructed, allowing them to move around their environments while viewing holographic
images. Virtual
reality products may be used more for games and other
entertainment, while mixed reality technology may be used more for
business applications such as industrial design. For example,
Microsoft’s Hololens line can be used to depict holographic prototypes of
designs or to show realistic, three-dimensional medical images. A
key distinguishing feature between lower end and higher-end products is
whether they are self-contained. Lower end products, such as the headsets in the
previous paragraph, typically rely on a
phone or PC to provide at least some processing power and other
functionality. Higher end products, however, tend to be self-contained, providing all of the display, processing, and networking
technology needed.

the highest-end are amusement rides and entire rooms that create
virtual reality experiences. The use of such technology is still
largely confined to the research community and commercial installations. These rooms are often
“CAVEs” for “Cave
Automatic Virtual Environments.” A
profile of such a system at Brown University compared the differences
between CAVEs and headsets: “Cave systems let viewers wearing
lightweight 3-D glasses, move freely, see their own bodies, and interact
– an ideal setup for research, teaching, and industry,” writes Amanda
Katz.4 “The economic model is different, too.
Rather than being based on
anticipated mass retail sales, the funding … was through a
$2 million grant from the National Science Foundation and $500,000 from
Brown.” Headsets, on the other hand, are
less expensive but are likely to have a much wider range of software
developed for them. (Virginia Tech also has a full-room system,5 as does the University of California Santa Cruz.6)

Current View

[return to top of this report]

Today, the uses of virtual
and mixed reality for business are
still relatively limited. Unlike
another emerging technology, artificial intelligence, they are not
yet disrupting core business
processes, driving strategies, creating major competitive advantages,
or providing new business intelligence. (For an analysis of how
artificial intelligence is affecting businesses, see “Enterprise Uses
for Artificial Intelligence” in
Faulkner Advisory for Communications
Computer Technologies
.7) Furthermore, the interest that virtual and mixed
reality have captured is focused on certain functions and
industries more than others. For example, functions like training are
well suited to the technology because, instead of flying a trainer to a
different city each week, companies can simply conduct classes
virtually. Telehealth services, similarly, can give patients access to
a wider range of specialists than are available locally. (For information about telehealth trends,
see “Telemedicine Technology” in
Faulkner Advisory for Communications and
Computer Technologies

The uses that have
attracted the most interest so far include:9

  • Advertising
  • Education
  • Entertainment
  • Military and law
    enforcement training and simulations
  • Industrial training and simulations.
  • Tourism promotion and
    virtual tourism

Many of these current uses
let people remotely explore
an environment, like a real estate property. This makes “visiting” a
location easier, less expensive, and, in the case of something like a
disaster site, less dangerous. The same advantages can also be realized
for circumstances in which a location would be impossible (or
nearly so) to visit. For example, Lockheed Martin uses virtual reality
to allow employees to troubleshoot problems in space

Today’s technology has the
power to dazzle. Often, people who experience virtual reality
environments are deeply moved. “It’s
only a matter of seconds before you become completely
entrenched in your new reality; looking,
reaching, touching and
experiencing an explosion of the senses.”
says Daniel
Newman, describing his test run of a system at a trade
show.11 But
the technology also has serious shortcomings. Most of the truly
impressive technology is too expensive for typical consumers, and some
of it is too expensive for almost anyone but researchers and people in
highly specialized fields. Much of the technology is also bulky and
requires being near, or even tethered to, other equipment. This
inconvenience has limited the technology’s utility and the range of
applications for it.


[return to top of this report]

Virtual and mixed reality are relatively new, and their markets are still taking shape. Revenues for
each are expected to grow in the coming years:

  • A 2016 report by
    Deloitte Global estimated that 2016
    was the first year that the virtual reality market reached $1 billion,
    with hardware generating $700 million and content generating $300
    million.12 Deloitte found that the market is
    driven by
    games, however, while enterprise uses focus on “experimentation” and
    are, at the moment, “commercially insignificant.”
  • The market for mixed
    reality technology is forecast to
    grow significantly in the coming years, reaching $6.86 billion by 2024.13
    Retail and e-commerce uses are in particular expected to expand because
    offer new ways to display products.

market’s growth rate will
depend in part on whether users find the technology compelling, but
this is hard to
predict. It
does not appear that the technology will reach all industries and all
business functions in the foreseeable future. Much of the technology is
expensive and requires specialized equipment, so it will not soon reach
homes or typical businesses.

It is also unclear what
designs will be favored. Today’s devices come in a
variety of form
factors, from treadmills to gloves to amusement rides that people are
fastened into.14 Advancements
in the field are likely to depend on the technology’s perceived
quality and whether it can be used for a wider range of purposes.
Today, the technology has been used effectively to create stunning
displays, but its broader potential remains unknown. For example, in an
article describing how artists have been using the new technology,
art critic Jason Farago writes that “The wonder I felt when I first put
on an
Oculus Rift … is undeniable. Now the challenge is to put virtual
reality in the service of something more complex, for it would be a
pity if wonder was all we got.”15


[return to top of this report]

Balance Optimism and Pessimism

The uses of virtual and
mixed reality are likely to be limited in the next few
years, but their impact may still be profound in some areas. For
example, fields such as military training and entertainment could see
significant changes. Exercising
skepticism about grand predictions for the technology might also be
wise, however. One optimistic prediction has been offered by artist
Chris Milk, who has created virtual
reality installations. He argued in a popular TED Talk that
technology could increase people’s empathy and thus “change the world.”16
To demonstrate, he described a virtual reality piece about refugees which
allowed users to experience their plight first hand.
But, Yale psychologist Paul Bloom, who studies
empathy, is skeptical that virtual reality has such strong
potential. “The
problem is that [refugee] experiences aren’t fundamentally about the
immediate physical environments,” Bloom says.17
“The awfulness of the refugee
experience isn’t about the sights and sounds of a refugee camp; it has
more to do with the fear and anxiety of having to escape your country
and relocate yourself in a strange land…. You can’t tap into that
feeling by putting a helmet on your

Understand the Role of Supporting Technology

One way that virtual and mixed reality could have a broader impact across
many industries is by creating new demand for hardware and
software. The components of these systems are
often made and distributed by traditional vendors, not just
those in
the niche industries where virtual
and mixed reality are used.
Understanding this potential new supply chain might help enterprises
spot new opportunities or identify potential disruptions to their

Common components of such
systems include:

  • Screens
  • High-end processors
  • Sound processing and
    amplification technology
  • High-bandwidth
    networking devices
  • Software applications

of the focus of virtual and mixed reality is on graphics, but sound is
also a key
element. “Without the right audio cues to match the visuals, the brain
doesn’t buy into the illusion,” says technology writer Mona Lalwani.18
But this illusion is difficult to achieve. “For the trickery to
succeed, the
immersive graphics need equally immersive 3D audio that replicates the
natural listening experience…. Everyone’s ears are unique, so the
imprint of one person’s anatomy on a sound is completely different from
the other. It’s the reason generic dummy head binaural recordings don’t
have the same effect on everyone. Likewise, they don’t always work for
VR either.”

The creation of software
for virtual
and mixed reality products is likely to be an especially active area,
which will
bring in a wide range of vendors and push the boundaries of how the
technology can be used.

Follow Work in the Development Community

Many major technology
vendors in the field offer developers’ platforms and tools. For
example, Google has offered
software development kits for both its Cardboard product and its
higher-end Daydream platform, which supports an external controller in addition
to a companion smartphone. The company has also provided online
forums and
extensive documentation designed to help developers, and published a library of code on the popular
code-hosting site GitHub.
Microsoft offers an online community and resources for its HoloLens, while
Facebook and HTC maintain storefronts and support infrastructures for their
Occulus and HTC Vive lines, respectively.

By following the development community, enterprises can
predict what types of technologies and applications may become popular.
Developers are likely to focus their efforts more on some platforms and
products than others, and these preferences will help to steer the
technology and marketplace.


[return to top of this report]

Chan. “Mixed Reality vs. Virtual Reality vs. Augmented Reality: What’s
the Difference?” Tech
December 18, 2016.

2 Faulkner Staff. “Augmented Reality Technology.” Faulkner Advisory for
Communications and Computer Technologies.
December 2017.

James Barr. “Augmented Reality Marketplace.” Faulkner Advisory for
Communications and Computer Technologies.
February 2018.

4 Amanda Katz. “Brown University Unveils 3D Virtual-Reality Room.” Boston Globe. June
20, 2015.

5 Adi Robertson. “Step into the Cube: Virginia Tech’s Giant Virtual
Reality Room.” The
March 13, 2015.

6 Tim Stephens. “‘CAVE Lab’ Offers
Immersive Virtual Reality Tools for Research and Teaching.”
University of California
at Santa

(newscenter). May 6, 2016.

Geoff Keston.
“Enterprise Uses
for Artificial Intelligence.” Faulkner
Advisory for Communications and
Computer Technologies.
January 2017.

Geoff Keston.
“Telemedicine Technology.” Faulkner
for Communications and Computer Technologies.
January 2017.

9 Erin
Carson. “While Virtual Reality Is Commonly Associated with Gaming, It
Is Being Used in Many More Capacities. Here Are Nine Examples.”
March 10, 2015.

John Brandon. “Is
Virtual Reality Finally Ready for Business Use?” CIO. September 16,

Daniel Newman. “CES
2017: How Immersive Virtual Reality Points to the Future of Product and
Experience Design.” Forbes.
January 8, 2017.

Reality (VR): A Billion Dollar Niche.”

. 2016.

13 “Mixed Reality Market
Expected to Reach $6.9 Billion by 2024.”
Grand View Research

October 2016.

“Top Ten VR Highlights from CES
2017.” Virtual Reality Society.

Jason Farago. “Virtual
Reality Has Arrived in the Art World. Now What?” The New York Times.
February 3, 2017.

16 Chris Milk. “How Virtual Reality Can Create the Ultimate Empathy
Machine.” TED.
March 2015.

Paul Bloom. “It’s
Ridiculous to Use Virtual Reality to Empathize with Refugees.” The
February 3, 2017.

Mona Lalwani. “For VR to Be Truly Immersive, It Needs Convincing Sound
to Match.” Engadget.
January 22, 2016.

[return to top of this report]

[return to top of this report]