Last year, we predicted that VR would shape the future of work, particularly true in the workplace training sector. This prediction has been vindicated by the immersive tech industry. They are making a huge push towards creating VR (and some AR) products for enterprise.
Major players in VR hardware are pushing to make their respective headsets the industry standard for enterprise. So let’s take a moment to look at the various. headsets, and delve into why this shift towards the enterprise market is the biggest thing to happen for immersive technology in a decade.
Pico 4 Enterprise
Pico launched their standalone ‘Pico 4’ headset this year. As of October, it is available to customers in Europe, Japan, and Korea. In addition, they have announced the ‘Pico 4 Enterprise’. They describe it as a standalone, ‘all-in-one’ headset, with eye-tracking, hand-tracking, face-tracking.
These features are ideal for training in a business context. It has a Qualcomm Snapdragon XR2 chipset, and offers a 105 degree field of view. The 2-3 hour battery life will be useful for training simulations. Pico 4 Enterprise comes equipped with its very own ‘Pico Store’, as well as access to the Steam Store when tethered to a PC. Time will tell if these limited places to purchase and create apps will be detrimental to the headset’s popularity.
It is priced at an estimated $900US. Pico have not been able to compete with the likes of Meta/Oculus up until this point. However, Pico have made a concerted push in the European market. This headset could change the game for them.
Meta Quest Pro
The new offering from Meta/Oculus also uses Qualcomm Snapdragon technology. It will be over 30% more expensive than the Pico 4 Enterprise, retailing at $1499US. With Meta’s dominance over the VR market in the last 2 years, you’d expect that they can get away with the higher price point.
Meta predict that “VR devices will help usher in the next computing platform”. They envisage a future where people will use headsets everyday of their working lives for a huge range of applications. This is why they are so keen to invest in the enterprise market. However, there are long waiting lists for getting hold of the Quest Pro. Some users have taken up to 2-3 months to receive the headset. Could this waiting list be a detractor for companies looking to adopt their device?
Like the Pico, the Quest Pro offers 256G of storage. Meta state that this headset will be “50% more powerful than the Meta Quest 2”. If this is the case, the Quest Pro will be tough to beat in the scramble to be the mainstay of the enterprise market.
Lenovo ThinkReality VRX
At the Immerse Global Summit in Madeira this year, the head of commercial VR at Lenovo, Jason McGuigan, announced their ThinkReality VRX headset.
Lenovo are trusted by their customers to produce solid, consistent hardware, at competitive prices. Their new headset is described by the company as being “the evolution of Enterprise VR”. It offers 6 degrees of freedom and is also powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon chipset. Like the Pico 4 Enterprise and The Meta Quest Pro, the ThinkReality VRX uses “pancake lenses”, with small focal lengths, which result in a much more compact (and lightweight) headset.
Lenovo have already started to make inroads into the workplace training market, and believe their headset has the power to take over this sector. Early reports describe the headset as very comfortable for long-term use. Existing Lenovo headsets like the Lenovo VR Classroom 1 and Lenovo VR Classroom 2 leverage the Google Play Store.
A challenge that Lenovo will face is where to target this headset. With Oculus and Pico targeting The US and EU respectively, where does this leave Lenovo? And would it be foolish to underestimate Asian markets for headsets? Alternatively, with increasingly buy-in for XR products, existing markets could yet expand.
The company is yet to announce what the headset will cost, but it is predicted to be reasonably priced. Traditionally, what Lenovo products lack in high-end functionality, they make up for in low pricing.
Apple VR/AR Headset
Apple have been investing in XR technology and companies for years now. Tim Cook has described augmented reality as “a profound technology that will affect everything”. He said that Apple is developing a mixed reality headset that could be available by 2023. There are also reports of a simpler, cheaper version of the headset coming out in 2025. This headset is a prelude to ‘Apple Glass’, a product that has been teased for what feels like forever at this point. An upgrade to the much touted concept, and abysmal flop, that was Google Glass.
Whatever Apple finally come out with, it is fair to assume that their products will be high-quality, expensive, and fit for purpose in an enterprise setting. People wouldn’t necessarily have originally expected the iPhone and the MacBook to be useful in industry settings. These were perceived as high-end gadgets for white collar work. Today, Apple sells 6.4 million MacBooks each quarter, and over 100 million iPhones annually. These devices are used in every conceivable way in the enterprise market. Will the headset have similar success?
Magic Leap 2
Magic Leap have thrown their hat back into the immersive tech ring. They describe their ‘Magic Leap 2’ as the “most immersive augmented reality headset for enterprise”. They believe that the lighter, more refined design, will be able to overcome the problem of widespread adoption of AR devices.
While this product is different from the others mentioned in that it is exclusively for AR, Magic Leap are trying to reach a similar workplace training and business market to Pico, Meta, and Lenovo.
The Magic Leap 2 has the largest field of view at 70 degrees when comparing it to similar AR devices. The company have also introduced “Dynamic Dimming”, a first of its kind innovation that allows the headset to be used in bright lighting. This gives it an edge on its competitors for outdoor use. The Magic Leap 2 does retail at a whopping $3299US. This could be a limiting factor in terms of market penetration.
Microsoft HoloLens 2
The successor to the HoloLens has been in circulation since 2019. However, Microsoft have added features to the HoloLens 2 AR headset to make it more appropriate for enterprise applications. They offer an ‘industrial Edition’ of the AR headset to “support regulated environments such as clean rooms and hazardous locations”. This version of the headset follows rigorous safety constraints that allow it to be used for industry. There is also a HoloLens 2 version that has an integrated Trimble hardhat, designed for users in engineering and related fields.
Microsoft and Magic Leap are both American companies, that will be vying for a foothold in the US AR market. Both of their initial headsets were met with lukewarm responses. Time will tell if one company corners a larger demographic.
Like the Magic Leap 2, the HoloLens 2 begs the question: which type of device will become the industry standard? Are VR simulations, or real-time AR, going to blow up in the enterprise market? Perhaps there is a place for both technologies?
China’s push into the headset game
One of the biggest Chinese manufacturers of headsets is DPVR. They describe their headsets as “cutting edge VR headsets and PC tethered headsets for gaming, training, and education”. The Chinese market has always managed to create lookalike tech products, with decent functionality, at a fraction of Western prices. Their copycatting has been largely successful to dominating less affluent markets. Think of smartphone manufacturers like Huawei or Xiaomi.
If mixed reality becomes a staple in the enterprise toolbox, expect Chinese companies to throw their hat in the ring. By this token, Statista forecasts that the market for VR headsets in Asia will grow to over $4.5 Billion US by the end of 2023. It therefore wouldn’t be surprising for companies across the continent to create XR products for enterprise in the near future.
In addition, Reuters reports that China aims to ship over 25 million virtual reality headsets by 2026. They government plans to nurture 100 core companies and form 10 public service platforms for the industry. This adds fire to the perspective that China are looking to rival some of the West’s biggest tech giants in the immersive tech space.
Hardware Investment Is A Massive Step For XR
It is difficult to know which of these headsets (or others) will be the enterprise industry standard in the future. Perhaps different products will carve out different niches. What can be said with certainty is that this widespread investment into XR hardware for business is unprecedented.
This represents a seismic shift into the adoption of tools in the enterprise market. The world is waking up to the power of immersive tech. Finally, in the form of workplace training and instruction, a standout application for XR has been found. Irrespective of which products succeed and which don’t, the push towards new innovation is invigorating for proponents of immersive tech.