xBerry Talks – New Opportunities in the Virtual World – VR in Business with Badal Dixit and Cobalt Cox
When an exciting subject meets experts from the field who have some thoughts and knowledge to share, there we have xBerry Talks. In this issue of the xBerry Talks series, we discuss the possibilities of using virtual reality in business, its biggest challenges, and its impact on the future. With Badal Dixit, Founder of PearlQuest Interactive, and Cobalt Cox, Director of AR/VR at Fishermen Labs, our tech partner in the US, we’re looking for answers on how the VR industry can influence business (and not only business!).
From Virtual Boy to Virtual Reality – A Journey Through the Evolution of VR
The concept of virtual reality dates back to the 1950s when pioneers such as Morton Heilig began experimenting with immersive sensory technology. But it wasn’t until the 1990s that VR technology advanced enough to become commercially viable. In 1995, the first VR headset, the Virtual Boy, was released by Nintendo, but it wasn’t successful. Today, we use VR in many fields, including gaming, healthcare, education, and real estate – but what exactly has had the most significant impact on the development and popularity of VR in recent years?
“Historically, the progress of any technology happens with multiple points of impact drawn together to democratize it. Though the general popularity of Virtual Reality is gaining remarkable traction, we can’t compare it to other technologies like smartphones and IoT,” says Badal Dixit. “ The rise of HMDs (head-mounted displays), now sold at retail, has had a significant impact. Ever since the Oculus development kit in 2012, there have been crucial improvements in headsets in terms of ease of use, form factor, and pricing. HMD manufacturers like Oculus, HTC, Pico, and others have become pretty much mainstream in the last decade. Until the early 2000s, only military, scientific, or specialized applications considered using VR; today, every kid wants to own a headset. This progression has genuinely impacted the possibility of VR becoming a standard in this next wave of spatial computing and the Metaverse. Although the attribution of VR gear usage is limited to entertainment and gaming for the general user, its evolution has found comprehensive use in enterprise and education.”
“During 2015 to 2017 there was significant investment in VR that helped build a foundation upon which the technology and industry has matured,” notices Cobalt Cox. “ Gaming has had the greatest consumer impact on VR with positive steady adoption and is the primary force accelerating sales in the consumer market. Emerging metaverse platforms have also seen adoption in VR though this currently remains tied to gaming until more utility can be brought into the metaverse. In enterprise markets VR has been of tremendous value in training applications.”
The aforementioned Virtual Boy, the first VR headset commercially available for purchase, was priced high, making it accessible only to a small segment of consumers. To democratize VR, we needed to wait several years for the technology to significantly improve and enable more optimal development and production. In recent years, we’ve seen the emergence of a number of more affordable VR headsets which have made VR technology more accessible to a wider range of consumers.
“It is the accessibility and ease of obtaining a VR headset that has given rise to a plethora of applications that, until now, had been unimaginable,” concludes Badal.
A Screen With A Strap or An Exclusive Immersive Experience? Technical and Design Challenges Facing Virtual Reality Adoption
The introduction of all new technologies is inextricably linked to many tests, experiments, and errors. As VR has been in discussion and use for some time now, we’ve got a lot of it behind us. Current VR solutions, however, are still being developed and improved by scientists and industry experts. What are currently the most significant technological challenges of virtual reality technology, and what can we do to get closer to the perfection of this solution?
“It is easy to simplify a VR headset as a screen with a head strap. However, hardware that is biologically compatible, comfortable and acceptable for human use requires a lot of additional features,” says Cobalt Cox. “High resolution, high frame rate, high contrast screens to match human vision, high fidelity sensors with low latency tracking to match inner ear fluids and head movement, considerable computing power to process all of the inputs and render the output for the user, and lastly a high capacity power source to supply energy for an acceptable amount of time. That doesn’t include features such as eye or body tracking and increased FOV or haptics that add a lot to immersion. There are a lot of technical challenges and they all need to be overcome for growth in VR and increased adoption.”
“Unlike Augmented Reality (that forms a digital layer on top of the user’s view using a mobile device or AR glasses), Virtual Reality is an exclusive immersive experience,” claims Badal Dixit. “So, for new and novice users, the motivation to remain 'inside’ a VR experience is challenging, and I feel it sometimes becomes a barrier to mass adoption. Even though VR HMDs have become lightweight and cost-effective, they are still not as convenient as smartphones or sunglasses for a general consumer. Most potential users still perceive VR as the gear you’d only really put on in a gaming arcade.”
“For mass appeal the largest challenge I believe is miniaturization, mobility and form factor to make VR sleek and sexy. Getting all of that technological power packed into something ‘small’ and fashionable is a big engineering and design challenge that needs to be overcome,” says Cobalt.
Exploring the Expanding Use of VR Beyond Entertainment
Although VR was initially presented as a new form of amusement, it soon turned out that its uses go far beyond that. The entertainment industry has played a great role in the advancement of VR technology, but many other industries are finding ways to use VR to improve their processes. Which aspects of a business would be most beneficial to move to a virtual environment
“In the initial years, VR had numerous use cases envisioned on a conceptual level. Until it hit the inflection point, those use cases started materializing with not only R&D departments of large enterprises but a massive startup and venture capital ecosystem encouraging an assortment of cross-industry applications,” notices Badal Dixit. “Virtual Reality lets you visualize environments and objects that are not feasible or practical to view within your reality in toto. Although it seems like the best bet for gaming and entertainment due to optimum next-level immersion into these 3D worlds, now, the technology has reciprocal use cases for marketing.”
“Entertainment, particularly gaming in VR is certainly a successful and growing use case. I expect VR entertainment to continue to grow and that more units will be sold. However, entertainment is a use case rather than any inherent value of VR; immersive simulation is the value prop,” says Cobalt Cox. “With control over a user’s sensors you can place a person into an infinite amount of immersive locations and roles. This is a very powerful and extremely unique ability that only VR enables, when done well.”
“At my company PearlQuest, we spent almost a decade producing interactive technologies and immersive on-ground experiences for corporate events,” says Badal. “As things stand now, we are trying to pivot our services into Virtual Reality for B2B marketing. Our clients and prospects are companies looking to visualize their products and services as a sales tool or at trade shows/exhibitions. There is a growing demand in enterprise marketing departments as they realize umpteen advantages. Companies can showcase extensive products & applications, enhance customer experience, increase sales with in-depth demos, and reduce costs (space requirements, environmental footprint, and lower insurance premiums).”
“On the consumer side some items may be dangerous to stock on display or impractical for consumers to try before purchasing,” adds Cobalt. “VR simulations make it possible for your customers to try out outdoor hunting and fishing equipment, as in this immersive Firshermen Labs’ solution for Walmart, in an engaging, fun and safe way before purchase. The simulations can be gamified, educational, experiential or any blend between to create the best solution to lift sales and keep inventory flowing. The spatial computing and visualization capabilities in VR also open opportunities for design, engineering, construction and data visualization among other use cases.
“Nonetheless, VR generates a great buzz among audiences and sparks interest in the younger demographic,” claims Badal. “Our latest hit project was a VR product showcase for our client, Hira industries from Dubai, to be implemented at the biggest construction trade show, The Big 5. Our client manufactures and trades construction products with applications quite impractical to be shown with video or basic 3D modeling. We created a partially developed building in the VR world and applied their products as real-world examples for the attendees to view. We had a similar success story with Jinko Solar, a Chinese solar panel manufacturer who were proud to have installed panels in the world’s largest solar plant in Abu Dhabi. Rather than doing helicopter shots of the plant (an impossible feat due to regulations), we reconstructed the whole solar field as a VR simulation to showcase it to trade show visitors at the World Future Energy Summit. On the contrary, one of our FMCG clients, Dabur, wanted a beautiful garden developed (as a VR environment) where the customers can find herbal products hidden in flowers and bushes, to enhance brand recall and engagement. Therefore Virtual Reality can genuinely take marketing initiatives to the next level.”
Virtual Reality (VR) is also increasingly being used in training and education as a way to provide interactive experiences for learners. By simulating real-world scenarios, VR allows users to practice skills and procedures in a safe, controlled environment. What impact does it have on business, and what could the future of VR look like?
“As a business, imagine training your employees in a hazardous environment that is high risk and high cost. A well-crafted VR simulation can reduce the costs and associated risk by simulating that hazardous environment to the trainee in a convincing and measurable way,” notices Cobalt Cox. “A simulation can change scenarios to be different, less or more hazardous for the trainee to have greater exposure before going into the field. All of the actions can be measured and tracked for information rich assessment. Even in situations where VR is not a complete replacement for physical training, VR can still have a positive ROI of reducing physical risk while increasing success rates.”
“Of course, there are immense case studies and success stories now with enterprise learning & development,” adds Badal Dixit. “VR used for training mainly helps with budget reduction, better contextual understanding, enhanced cognitive/emotional reactions, and, most importantly – retention. That said, VR, in a big way, is finding its sweet spot in education. There are thousands of products and startups focussed on the sector. Imagine transporting the child to a pre-historic era or the Great Wall of China rather than making them read about it,” Badal concludes.
Virtual Reality vs Real Doubts – Business Challenges During VR Implementations
Every novelty and innovation at first arouses curiosity but also worries. Is it the right solution for my business? Will the costs of implementation turn out to be higher than the benefits of accomplishment? Will the solution work? We asked our experts how they deal with customer doubts and about the most frequent causes of resistance when introducing VR to subsequent enterprises and projects.
“One of the largest challenges is the oldest – in other words,expectation and education,” says Cobalt Cox. “When new technologies arise it’s easy to not understand the technology or how to apply it, meaning the expectations are misaligned and value is lost. VR is not a magic bullet that will solve all of your problems and VR is not as problematic as you may perceive it to be. For example, you’ve probably heard about motion sickness, aka simulation sickness with VR, which is real. However, simulation sickness among other misrepresentations can be resolved or avoided when the technology is applied correctly. Fortunately it’s my job to educate and inform our clients on how, when and where to successfully use technologies. As for reception and adoption from clients or end users we’ve found both parties to be very receptive to new technologies, VR included. For anyone not convinced of the value of VR, or other immersive technologies, education and experience are quick remedies.”
“There are challenges we face at different levels,” claims Badal Dixit. “ At the pre-sales stage, there are two types of prospects. One category is those who know about the technology either because they are enthusiasts already sold on VR’s capabilities and would like to explore how it could work for them. These leads are relatively easier to tackle as we have to put on our 'consultant hat’ and figure out the best approach to meet their needs. The other category is those to whom we have to sell Virtual Reality as a concept and then apply it to their needs. Here the demand generation becomes formidable as most of them have never experienced VR, and they perceive it as a gaming device rather than a groundbreaking technology. For B2B sales, the best way to solve this roadblock is to find the correct decision maker and get them to try out a VR experience relevant to their industry.”
“However, mass adoption is the only challenge for companies developing consumer VR apps, as their prospects are headset owners already well-versed with the tech,” Badal adds.
Facebook on Steroids and Business Misjudgements – The Risks of VR
The democratization of advanced technologies such as VR is always controversial. Changing the shape of the labor market, where some professions may be replaced by modern technological solutions, social unreality, and the impact of technology on social skills are just some of the concerns emerging in the discussion. What are the possible risks of virtual reality in business and social contexts?
“In the business context, similar to how AI results in workforce transitions, significant growth of VR could result in job losses for some,” claims Badal Dixit. “Although VR augments and adds a new dimension to computing in general, some sectors like training, physical labor, and event management could soon cut their workforce by adopting the technology. Virtual Reality propels Robotics forward with telerobotics and advanced human-assisted automation, thus changing the workforce dynamics of many industries.
When the world starts embracing a truly decentralized Metaverse, a complete, blockchain-backed, immersive VR world, it could change the whole landscape of humanity. It wouldn’t be merely like Facebook on steroids. The risk is that people’s dependency on the Metaverse could pose a threat as another existential realm we 'live’ with. This obsession is just one possibility, the way we are dependent and addicted to social media platforms today, humans have made it more than just a technological tool. I wouldn’t want to imagine a Ready-Player-One scenario of people turning into zombies wearing VR headsets. However, something that takes them away from their true selves could become a reality, not just Virtual Reality.”
“Every answer carries risk and limitations. It’s very important to understand that VR is not the right solution for every problem. Every problem is unique and needs to be thoroughly understood to apply and craft the best solution,” says Cobalt Cox. “Helping identify your business problems and craft clever effective solutions is exactly what Fishermen Labs does. Perhaps you believe your business does not have any problems that VR can solve. Perhaps you are right, although I would urge you to talk with an experienced team to test that assumption. Misdiagnosis therefore mistreatment can be as dangerous as an unresolved problem.”
“The virtual reality (VR) market is experiencing rapid growth and is expected to continue its upward trend in the coming years,” comments Marek Stojecki, Founder and CEO at xBerry R&D House. “A report by Technavio forecasts that the VR market will grow from $7.9 billion in 2021 to $75.57 billion by 2025. This growth is driven by advancements in VR technology, increasing adoption in various industries, and growing demand for immersive experiences.
VR is no longer just limited to entertainment, it has the potential to transform various industries and aspects of our lives. As mentioned by Cobalt, it is being used to train people to operate in hazardous operations, providing a controllable yet realistic environment to prepare individuals for highly stressful situations! Companies like Fishermen Labs and PearlQuest Interactive are leading the way in transferring cutting-edge VR technology to real-world business scenarios, making VR more than just a technological curiosity but a powerful tool that can improve our performance significantly. This approach aligns with xBerry’s mission of using technology to enhance lives. Be sure to check out our case study section for inspiration on the projects we have contributed to. Want to learn more or talk about your idea? Contact us to find out how our expertise can support your business.
A big thank you to Cobalt Cox and Badal Dixit for sharing their valuable insights and opinions in our VR article. Your contributions have shown us the many ways in which VR is being utilized and the impact it’s having on various industries and areas of our lives. We truly appreciate your time and expertise and can’t wait to hear more from you in the future.”
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Experts bios of this edition:
Badal Dixit, an Entrepreneur and New Media Consultant for the last 18 years. PearlQuest is a Dubai-based startup focusing on Interactive Digital Experiences for Retail and Consumer Engagement. They specialize in areas like XR (AR/VR), Immersive Technologies, Experiential Marketing and Digital Signage. After successfully working with clients such as ExxonMobil, ADNOC, Phillip Morris and Samsung. Badal and his team have executed more than 250 projects in the UAE. Badal’s mission is to make PearlQuest a leading quality-driven and solution-oriented interactive media company from Dubai, serving clients across the globe.
Cobalt Cox, Director of AR & VR with Fishermen Labs since 2018. Fishermen Labs is a LA based maker agency specializing in strategy, design and development for AR, VR, mobile app, web, and emerging tech products. Fishermen Labs has successfully deployed over 500 projects for notable brands including Adobe, Amazon, Chase, Disney, Nike, P&G, Walmart. Let Fishermen Labs and xBerry strategize, design, develop and deploy your next project .