Augmented and virtual reality are on track to explode in the next few years: The International Data Corporation recently predicted that AR and VR headset device shipments will reach 99.4 million units in 2021, up nearly tenfold from the 10.1 million devices shipped in 2016. Enterprise users can use the technology to increase productivity by allowing workers to see and interact with data, such as building a blueprint, or viewing human organs, instead of viewing only a static image on a screen, according to the report. Manufacturing and design, healthcare, transportation, and retail are the industries most likely to benefit from AR and VR technology, IDC claimed.
"The enterprise potential of AR and VR continues to grow as companies explore use cases and move beyond pilot applications," said Bill Briggs, CTO of Deloitte. These efforts are increasingly intersecting with Internet of Things (IoT) technology—such as sensors and connected devices—which help build a more integrated, extended digital landscape, he said.
"This 'mixed reality' environment strips away the barriers that interfere with our ability to make decisions quickly, absorb and process critical information, visualize possible scenarios before acting, or share knowledge and tasks between individuals and groups," Briggs said. "Science fiction no longer, the future of engagement is here, and enterprises will likely be the first to embrace it."
However, while the sales of these devices may be on the rise, the implementation of this technology remains slow. When the TechRepublic CIO Jury was asked "Has your company implemented, or is it considering the use of, AR and VR?", 10 members of the TechRepublic CIO Jury said no, while two said yes.
The two tech leaders who said their company uses AR and VR both work for architectural design firms. "We find it a crucial tool for customer engagement," said Simon Johns, IT director at Sheppard Robson Architects LLP. The reason, said Johns, is that it "helps our clients visualise the projects."
Dan Gallivan, director of information technology at Payette, said the firm has implemented VR and is now using the technology for multiple projects.
"In 2016, we acquired two HTC Vives and an Oculus Rift," Gallivan said. "We initially thought we would use it solely for client demonstrations of our building design models, but we were pleasantly surprised to find our architects started to use [the devices] to view models before they were ready for client demonstrations." VR became a design tool, with architects using the headsets to view their models in new ways and make design decisions earlier in the process, he added.
The firm also purchased a laptop so that the architects could take the VR sets to site meetings with clients and use as a teaching tool for local university students, Gallivan said. "At this point we only expect VR to keep expanding—and next up will be AR," he added.
In the education realm, there are three barriers to AR/VR adoption, according to Jeff Kopp, technology coordinator at Christ the King Catholic School. "It's still too expensive. There are too many standards. And VR content/software needs to be compatible across devices," Kopp said.
There is also little traction at this point in the healthcare space, said William Weider, CIO at Ministry Health Care. In healthcare, "we rely on products rather than internal development," Weider said. "Are there many virtual reality developers?"
Inder Davalur, group CIO at KIMS Hospitals Private Limited, who was not part of the CIO Jury, agreed. "Hospitals in India are just now getting serious about paperless electronic medical records," Davalur said. "It will be another decade at least before AR and VR make financial sense. The only exception I can think of is if there is a breakthrough in adapting these technologies in a medical treatment or therapy—rehab for postoperative patients, for instance."
This month's CIO Jury included:
Michael R. Belote, CTO, Mercer University
Simon Johns, IT director, Sheppard Robson Architects LLP
Dan Gallivan, director of Information Technology, Payette
Cory Wilburn, CIO, Texas General Land Office
Jeff Kopp, technology coordinator, Christ the King Catholic School
Joel Robertson, CIO, King University
Michael Spears, CIO and chief data officer, National Council on Compensation Insurance
Florentin Albu, CIO, Ofgem E-Serve
David Baker, CTO, Fringe Benefit Group
Michael Hanken, vice president of IT, Multiquip Inc.
William Weider, CIO, Ministry Health Care
John Rogers, IT director, Nor-Cal Products, Inc.
Want to be part of TechRepublic's CIO Jury and have your say on the top issues for IT decision makers? If you are a CIO, CTO, IT director, or equivalent at a large or small company, working in the private sector or in government, and you want to join TechRepublic's CIO Jury pool, click the Contact link below or email alison dot denisco at cbsinteractive dot com, and send your name, title, company, location, and email address.
- Cracking Open Snapchat Spectacles: Sunglasses that are more than meets the eye (TechRepublic)
- How VR will drive storage — or the reverse (ZDNet)
- CIO Jury: 83% of CIOs allow wearables at work (TechRepublic)
- Microsoft's HoloLens: How these surgeons can now voyage around patients' organs (ZDNet)
- BYOD, IoT and wearables thriving in the enterprise (Tech Pro Research)
Alison DeNisco Rayome has nothing to disclose. She does not hold investments in the technology companies she covers.
Alison DeNisco Rayome is a Senior Editor for TechRepublic. She covers CXO, cybersecurity, and the convergence of tech and the workplace.