Could the Future of Virtual Reality Lie in Enterprise Software?

HIGHLIGHTS

  • VR can enable immersive lessons, and be useful for education and training
  • It is making an impact in gaming but also has potential in enterprise
  • Early adoption of VR is slowing, but this is fairly typical, says HTC

“Virtual reality can enable unique experiences that are not available through any other platform, and come in a number of different flavours, to appeal to a wide spectrum of users,” says Vinay Narayan, Executive Director, VR, at HTC Vive. It’s not surprising to hear a senior executive at one of the only two serious players in the VR space talking up the potential for VR, but what is interesting is that Narayan believes that a lot of the untapped potential of VR lies in the enterprise space.

Could the Future of Virtual Reality Lie in Enterprise Software?

HTC co-develped the Vive with Valve, the famous game company that makes the Steam distribution platform, along with some of the most popular games such as the Half Life and Portal series, and as Narayan acknowledges, much of the early impetus for VR has come from games. In fact, when he’s asked to name his favourite VR experience, he demurs, saying there are too many things to choose from, before naming the game Job Simulator as one of his top picks.

But today, nearly a full year after HTC started accepting pre-orders for the Vive, there are fears that the interest has plateaued. Looking at the Steam Hardware and Software Survey, January 2017, you can see that after early growth in share both Oculus Rift and Vive share looks fairly stagnant. Does that bode ill for VR?

htc vive consumer

“Sign ups – from a pre-order standpoint – the curve has been very typical,” says Narayan. “It’s similar to what you would see for any device, and although we can’t share the exact numbers, it’s been quite healthy. We’re still seeing adoption grow, and the biggest growth today is coming from a new area, that’s the non-gaming space. There are over 1,000 titles on Steam alone, and we’re expecting enormous growth in the enterprise space.”

That’s where companies such as Noida-based SmartVizX enter the picture. Some companies have been looking to make games, and others movies. SmartVizX has been using VR to design buildings. Narayan is one of the members of the board for SmartVizX, along with some other companies around the world, and he tells Gadgets 360 that his role with these companies is fairly hands-on, as he can help them to shape their VR strategy, and give a perspective on how VR is being used around the world.

For companies working on VR, in India and around the world, Narayan believes that consumer awareness of virtual reality, or the lack thereof, is the greatest challenge. “These guys are doing some really great work, but if the public at large isn’t aware of it, then that is a problem,” he says. “Right now, VR is just getting started, and not a lot of people are on-board yet, which is less of a problem in enterprise.”

smartvizx vive

Outside of gaming, he sees a lot of companies that are developing software for VR, such as design tools, and he also says that VR can be used in education and training.

“For design, blueprints and mockups, they’re all an interpretation,” he says. “Even a 3D model of a building has limitations. But in VR, you can prototype with perfect accuracy. You can take someone on-site, into the location. If you’re an architect who can take your client on a walking tour of their new house, without wasting time building a 3D model, and letting them actually look up and get a real sense of scale, it is hugely beneficial.”

“It’s particularly valuable for education,” he adds. “If someone uses VR to solve a problem, they are much more immersed. More of your mind is engaged with what you’re learning, and it makes a bigger impact. One of the ways in which the Vive is already being used is for firefighter training, because obviously you can’t just keep setting buildings on fire to train the rescue workers. The results of that have been amazing.”

firefighting vive

In fact the ViveTracker, which was unveiled recently at CES 2017, is used for the firefighter training – this accessory clips on to a real firehose, so that its movement can be tracked inside the virtual world. This makes for a more realistic exercise than fighting fires with a Vive game controller. “The ViveTracker is going to open up a range of new experiences, both in gaming and otherwise,” adds Narayan.

This focus beyond gaming, and to explore the different capabilities of VR, is also partly why HTC Vive launched its own market for VR apps recently, the Viveport VR App Store. With this launch, there are now three different app stores for VR – the Viveport, the Oculus Store, and Steam. This is not an exclusive store – Vive users can make full use of Steam, and Viveport doesn’t exclude the Oculus Rift.

“We believe equal access to virtual reality experiences will make the world a better place; enhancing our daily lives and the way we connect with everything. An important goal for the Viveport team is to enable developers to reach a global audience and grow their business,” said Rikard Steiber, Senior Vice President of Viveport.

Viveport

Narayan explains that this will enable Vive to help highlight not just games, but also other VR content. “SteamVR is a very widely used tool, but it’s best known for games,” he says. “Viveport will allow us to highlight non-gaming applications as well, and this will also be helpful when working with enterprises.”

Of course, the question is whether there are enough users to sustain this interest in VR, and allow even just three different platforms to proliferate. Part of the problem is the high cost to enter – the cheapest option, the PlayStation VR will set you back by $399 (Rs. 41,990 in India), and you need to own a PS4 in order to use it. The Vive is the most expensive of the lot, priced at $799 (roughly Rs. 54,900), and you’ll need a pretty powerful PC to use it as well.

Narayan however dismisses the concern, and says that awareness is the real challenge that HTC and others in the space are looking at right now. “Coming at this from a cost standpoint, the price point is already going down,” he says. “We are also work with a lot of PC partners to help bring the cost of ownership down, by reducing the minimum spec required, and helping to create bundles that bring the cost down. Over time, this will only improve, so what we have to focus on today is awareness.”

ZTE’s Nubia Z17 Receives Its First Android Software Update

ZTE’s latest flagship smartphone, the Nubia Z17 is now receiving its first Android software update. The handset is currently running on Nubia UI 5.0, and the new update will bring the build version to v2.39. Based on the changelog posted, the package brings several optimizations and fixes to the device, including a fix for a Wi-Fi issue whereby the phone is unable to detect Wi-Fi hotspots. The power consumption in certain scenarios has also been fixed and the usual system improvements are included. On top of that, a bug which has been causing the return key to be unresponsive has also been solved. This problem has prevented some units from charging properly, according to previous reports.

The update is being rolled out over-the-air (OTA) and is relatively sizable, weighing in at over 139MB. If you own the Nubia Z17 and have received a push notification from its manufacturer, it is best to download the update while being connected to a Wi-Fi network. ZTE launched the Nubia Z17 earlier this month and it has since been made available for purchase throughout China. The Nubia Z17 is the first smartphone to go on sale with 8GB of RAM, though not the first phone to be launched with that configuration. That honor goes to the ASUS ZenFone AR which was announced at CES 2017 and has just been made available. When it comes to specs, the Nubia Z17 is packed with a 5.5-inch Full HD display panel and is powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor along with the Adreno 540 GPU to handle graphics. Memory-wise, it comes in variants with 6GB of RAM and 64GB/128GB of internal storage and 8GB of RAM with 128GB of flash memory.

For optics, the handset sports a dual camera setup on its rear consisting of a 23-megapixel shooter and a 12-megapixel sensor. The setup is assisted by 2x optical zoom support along with Dual Pixel autofocus. Selfies are handled by a 16-megapixel camera which is equipped with an 80-degree wide-angle lens. Keeping the lights on is a 3,200mAh battery with support for Qualcomm’s Quick Charge 4.0. It’s currently unclear how long will ZTE take to release the Nubia Z17 in markets outside of China but more details on its efforts to do so should follow soon.

 

HTC U11’s First Software Update Brings ‘System Enhancements’

The HTC U11 just started selling in North America, and it seems like HTC is already pushing a software update for the device. According to HTC’s US website, the update is already on its way, and it will upgrade your phone’s software to version 1.11.617.3. HTC did not share an extensive changelog for this update, though, all the company listed under new changes is ‘System Enhancements’, which suggests that the company is patching up some bugs with this update, and probably bringing some optimizations as well.

Now, according to some reports by users, this update will fix issues with Android Pay, and other apps which are using SafetyNet, so that’s great news if you’re using Android Pay. Now, the phone will let you know when the update is ready to install, but if you’re eager to check for yourself, you’ll need to navigate to All apps -> Settings -> About and then select ‘Software updates’. After you do that, you’ll need to tap the ‘Check now’ option, and then ‘Download’. Do keep in mind that your phone might reboot several times during the upgrade process, so don’t panic if that happens. Also, you’ll need to make sure that you have at least 35 percent battery left on the HTC U11 if you want to update it, otherwise, you’ll need to connect the device to a charger. Now, there’s a way for you to manually update the HTC U11 if that’s what you want, you will need to download HTC’s Sync Manager and install the RUU file yourself. If you’d like to get more info regarding manual installation, HTC explains it step-by-step, all you have to do is follow the source link down below.

The HTC U11 was announced last month by the company, and it is made out of metal and glass. This phone sports a 5.5-inch QHD (2560 x 1440) display, along with 4GB / 6GB of RAM and 64GB / 128GB of native storage, depending on the market. Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 835 64-bit octa-core SoC fuels this smartphone, and a 3,000mAh non-removable battery is also a part of this package. A 12-megapixel OIS snapper can be found on the back of this smartphone, and Android 7.1 Nougat comes pre-installed with HTC’s Sense. If you’d like to know more about the HTC U11, check out our official announcement of this smartphone.