Most people are aware that VR is great for gaming and entertainment, but VR is also providing effective creative solutions for businesses.
Realistic digital simulations empower businesses to operate efficiently in highly competitive industries.
Thanks to recent innovations in computing hardware, a wide range of professionals have begun to integrate VR technology into their workflows.
VR’s impact has already been felt in retail, architecture, medical education, and the automotive industry, and the technology stands to benefit many more professional fields.
“At Intel, we work with a range of companies. We go in and partner with companies whose ideas we see an initial value in,” said John F. Bonini Vice President, Client Computing Group, General Manager, Esports and Gaming at Intel Corporation. When partners have questions about how to apply their ideas for VR to business, "Intel helps people to get answers," he said.
One such company is VR Motion Corp., founded by the former racecar driver Dominic Dobson. Though Dobson had competed for years in the Indianapolis 500, he had never raced in the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, a notoriously difficult uphill race in the Rocky Mountains. After training exclusively in a virtual simulation of the course, he took first place.
On the heels of his success, Dobson partnered with Intel to develop VR Driver Training simulators for the automotive industry. His technology, which accurately represents the acceleration, braking, and steering of vehicles, has many commercial applications.
This year, VR Motion Corp. partnered with the automaker Honda, allowing potential customers to virtually test drive the Civic Si* at public events.
Additionally, United Parcel Service* has shown interest in the technology as a safer and cost-effective alternative for teaching new employees how to drive delivery trucks. Recently, UPS began installing VR Motion Corp.’s virtual driving units at nine training facilities. The delivery service is planning to train 4,000 people on the equipment by the end of 2017.
With applications like VR Driver Training, VR is transforming the automotive world, but this is only one use of VR simulations. Because the technology is so versatile, VR can be adapted to many commercial environments.
For example, InContext Solutions’ merchandising software allows retailers to optimize shelf space and store layouts in VR. Working with nationwide retail chains such as Walgreens, they use Lidar surveying technology to build 3D models of retail spaces inside of a computer simulation.
This process allows merchandisers to experience a new store design in VR before they make the expensive decision to roll out a template across many stores. Visual merchandising not only improves efficiency, but lets retailers experiment with unconventional store layouts that are often key to attracting new customers and driving sales.
With the advent of online shopping, “physical retailers are having to rethink the experience of consumers to get them in the door,” said Mark Hardy, the CEO of InContext Solutions. “For retailers, the challenge is how to reinvent yourself.”
VR is a powerful tool for business, and VR systems require powerful hardware. While the Graphical Processor Unit (GPU) is often thought of as the linchpin to a VR system, this is a misconception. VR usage involves the entire platform, not just the graphics card.
The Intel platform plays a very important role in a VR system. Intel is dedicated to supporting VR with horizontal solutions, including processor, memory, and I/O.
This begins with an Intel® Core™ i7 processor, as the component is responsible for managing many tasks in VR systems. First of all, the CPU provides positional tracking so that the simulation can determine the location of the user’s hands and body.
Also, the CPU is responsible for controlling spatial audio, which allows audio cues to sync up with the user’s behaviors as the user moves through a virtual environment. Similarly, the CPU governs complex physics, so that objects in the simulation behave believably. All these tasks stack on top of the CPU’s duty of feeding the GPU information to draw the assets. It is increasingly important that the processor is up to these tasks.
Other Intel® technologies are also significant to running VR smoothly.1 Able to stream large amounts of data from the computer to the headset, Intel® WiGig technology will free VR users from bulky cables, allowing them to move around unencumbered while wearing the headset.
Likewise, Intel® Optane™ technology helps to alleviate non-interactive loading screens that often literally put the user in the dark while the next part of the simulation is loading.
While such attention to details may seem like overkill, factors like fluidity, realism, and believability are extremely important to the overall experience. According to Dobson, complete immersion improves memory retention by up to 30 percent. For employees trained in VR simulations, better VR leads to better performance on the job.
Seamless VR simulations are of particular relevance to businesses like Blausen Medical, whose purpose is to educate. Blausen licenses its award-winning library of medical animations to universities, where they are used to teach future doctors about complex structures of the body. The company’s first foray into VR shrinks the user down to the size of an atom, so students can experience molecules and proteins at enormous scale.
VR technology takes businesses to places that previously were not possible. With the aid of the Intel platform, VR presents a new frontier for businesses to thrive.