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w w w. v r w o r l d t e c h . c o m

Where there’s a will, there’s ease of use Software’s flexibility overcomes any barrier Blippar

Use webAR and get a bigger share of the basket

Duke Energy

Experts unite to build immersive content in-house

Agora

VR and AR, meet RTE

The Reality Wire PIXO, NVIDIA CloudXR and Theia Interactive

T H E

B U S I N E S S

O F

M A N U FA C T U R E D

R E A L I T I E S


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m a g a z i n e Published by: Premeditated Media Group Ltd 71-75 Shelton Street Covent Garden London WC2H 9JQ

w w w. v r w o r l d t e c h . c o m

Where there’s a will, there’s ease of use

Editor Mark Dugdale editor@vrworldtech.com

Software’s flexibility overcomes any barrier

Publisher

Blippar

Use webAR and get a bigger share of the basket

Jonathan Savage

Duke Energy

Experts unite to build immersive content in-house

jonsavage@vrworldtech.com

Agora

VR and AR, meet RTE

The Reality Wire

Editorial board

PIXO, NVIDIA CloudXR and Theia Interactive

T H E

Jan Pflueger, advisXR

B U S I N E S S

O F

M A N U FA C T U R E D

R E A L I T I E S

Sophia Moshasha

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© 2021 Premeditated Media Group Ltd. All rights in and relating to this publication are expressly reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means without written permission from the publisher. The views expressed in VRWorldTech Magazine are not necessarily those of the publisher. While the publisher has taken every care in compiling this publication to ensure accuracy at the time of going to press, it does not accept liability or responsibility for errors or omissions therein, however caused.

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Deadline: 01/10/2021

Publication date: 25/10/2021

Entertainment Issue

Immersive movies, games and experiences are becoming big business, online and in the real world. They can be found in homes as headsets become cheaper for consumers, in museums as guests demand more immersion, and at venues as operators seek new ways to attract customers.

Mark Dugdale, Editor editor@vrworldtech.com

Jonathan Savage, Publisher jonsavage@vrworldtech.com


Editor’s Note

Putting immersive tech to the test Nine out 10 isn’t bad

W

elcome to our

talk to us. Please do read each and

ninth edition of

every article, and let us know what

VRWorldTech

you think via the usual channels.

Magazine. I’ll start by talking

I will add here that The Reality Wire

about the big 10—the next issue—

in particular is shaping up to be a

almost being upon us because it

popular forum for demonstrating

is the one this year that I am very

thought leadership in this space.

much looking forward to.

We appreciate your patience while we figure out how best to build

We will cover entertainment, from

VRWorldTech and this magazine

gaming to sport, art and film. It will

as platforms for promoting and

be our opportunity to write about

understanding immersive technology

one of immersive technology’s most

for enterprise.

exciting areas, and we cannot wait. That is all from me for now. Stay The magazine will continue to be

tuned to VRWorldTech.com and

all business, as usual, but the end

our social channels for news on

product is specifically one of joy and

upcoming issues and our plans for

satisfaction, a round of applause

2022.

and fierce debate. Great art does great things and we intend to show that virtual and augmented reality (VR and AR), and other immersive technologies, are no exception. To this issue, we look at the creation tools behind VR and AR, and consider their development and application for a range of use cases. A point to consider before turning

Mark has been a business-to-business

the page is your motivation for using

journalist for a decade. He has edited and

immersive technology in the first

written for websites within financial services

place, because knowing what you

and law. He graduated from the University of

want to achieve is half the battle.

Leeds with a BA in creative writing.

Thank you to PIXO, NVIDIA, Theia

Mark Dugdale Editor VRWorldTech

Interactive, Blippar, Duke Energy and Agora for taking the time to

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Contents

In this issue 10

Exclusive announcements, press releases and thought leadership articles focused on software. Featuring PIXO, NVIDIA CloudXR and Theia Interactive

20

Editor’s Comment: Software Whatever your barrier, immersive technology is flexible enough to achieve many aims, as long as you have the willingness to try

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Contents

22

Duke Energy When immersive technology and subject matter experts meet, the result is exceptional virtual reality training that meets users’ needs

30

Blippar One of the ways to improve consumer confidence and get a bigger share of the basket is to use webAR

38

Right now, there are many innovations popping up in augmented and virtual reality combined with real-time engagement—and Agora is at the forefront

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VRWorldTech is a must-read resource if you want to stay up-to-date on progress within immersive technology for enterprise. Our content sits between the technology’s creators and developers and the business leaders who can benefit from its use and application. We cover the stories that make immersive technology a reality.


TRW

Exclusive announcements, press releases and thought leadership articles focused on software. Featuring PIXO, NVIDIA CloudXR and Theia Interactive

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TRW

Achieving the promise of XR for enterprise: unlock high performance compute with XR streaming

Greg Jones Director of global business development and product management for XR at NVIDIA

T

he promise of extended

and visual fidelity is often a

these devices have overcome to

reality (XR) for

critical component of the virtual

drive adoption is ease of use.

enterprise is a lofty

experience.

Virtual reality (VR) systems typically

one. Collaboration with colleagues anywhere

in the world in a graphically rich environment with an array of intuitive

XR market dynamics—allin-ones are changing the landscape

digital tools at the user’s fingertips.

require large graphics processing units (GPUs) to achieve high frame rates. This means cabling the HMD directly to a workstation or playstation. With recent advances in

Currently, the XR market is seeing

onboard GPUs, HMD manufacturers

The balance between dataset

significant growth in head-mounted

have, to some degree, eliminated

complexity and compute power

display (HMD) sales. The organic

the need for the cable. This

needed to render datasets is

growth is being enhanced by a new

onboard GPU coupled with onboard

still a significant challenge in

dynamic in the market: all-in-one

tracking means a user simply puts

accomplishing the promise of XR.

(AIO) HMD sales.

on the AIO and viola—they are in an immersive environment.

This balance is particularly fragile

AIOs are those headsets powered

in the enterprise XR market, where

by onboard compute with internal

Of course, there is a tradeoff: being

dataset size can be massive

tracking capabilities. The barrier

mobile and thus, battery-powered,

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TRW the AIO devices have a limited power envelope for the onboard GPU. The difference between the capabilities of a mobile GPU and a full-sized NVIDIA RTX A6000 is anywhere from 20X to 50X, depending on what you measure (memory, shading units, etc), never mind the absence of specialised cores. The end result for the enterprise market is a juxtaposition between the current market dynamic and the classic quest for high-fidelity visualisations of complex data.

The coupling of mobility with high performance graphics

frame, the GPU adjusts the frame to

as AIO HMDs (as is the case in

accommodate any head movement

the image above of a user wearing

Enter streaming XR. The idea of

occurring after the original frame

an Oculus Quest 2), phones, and

streaming the XR frames from

request. With late latch, the user

tablets, the juxtaposition of mobile

a high-powered computer to

sees a frame that is effectively only

devices and high-fidelity visual

a lightweight mobile device is

a few milliseconds old, relative to the

experiences is eliminated.

obvious. However, XR has a unique

their head position.

requirement in the time it takes to

Streaming XR: the tip of the iceberg

update an image in the HMD after

To stream VR, many groups move

a head movement; this is generally

the late latch function to the client

called motion-to-photon (MTP)

GPU, essentially hiding render,

While streaming XR graphics is a

latency. The commonly accepted

encode, network transport, decode

remarkable innovation, it is just the

maximum MTP latency is roughly 20

latencies behind a ‘late’ late latch

tip of the iceberg. If we look a bit

ms. Any longer than 20 ms and the

transform.

deeper, we see streaming is the

XR user tends to experience some degree of nausea.

bellwether of a changing world of XR. Surprisingly, our experience with

Three factors enabled by streaming

NVIDIA CloudXR, NVIDIA’s XR

that will change the face of XR come

The 20 ms latency requirement is

streaming platform, suggests

to mind immediately: distribution

also a problem in tethered VR. The

that streaming XR over network

of XR experiences, scalability, and

common fix is often referred to as

latencies of 50-60 ms produces

disaggregated compute.

‘late latch’, where the HMD runtime

excellent VR experiences. Distribution of XR experiences:

requests a frame, the app receiving this call uses the GPU to create the

With systems such as NVIDIA

The majority of enterprise XR

frame, and at the last step of the

CloudXR, streaming XR to any

content is distributed via a

GPU to HMD transfer of the rendered

number of mobile end devices such

dedicated workstation, often

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TRW below the waterline, we see streaming from a workstation, either in a LAN or across the internet from the cloud or telco 5G edge, allows users to access significant computing resources for more than just graphics (although, as shown in the image on the left, those are high quality). Streaming allows us to enter the realm of disaggregated compute architectures. Now, one GPU runs the VR render, while the second GPU runs a conversation artificial intelligence (AI) user interface (AUI), as a located in a dedicated space due

customer is a bonafide VR user

third runs a simulation. We have

to the need for external trackers.

experiencing a high-fidelity digital

the ability to move compute

This dedicated space often

creation, whether that creation is a

workloads around the machine

requires personnel to help users

building, manufactured good, or a

room, a multiple GPU LAN-based

and their data into VR. That’s a lot

stunning non-fungible token. A new

workstation or low latency compute

of dedication for an organisation to

user is in the market.

at the 5G edge, coupled with longer

embrace this immersive technology,

latency compute at the regional

nevermind the hassle of the user

Scalability: Traditional VR is

data centre. Using disaggregated

making their way, along with their

limited to whatever system was

compute means AIs can now sit in

data, to the dedicated space.

tethered to the user’s headset.

the virtual environment with us and help design, simulate, and navigate

Streaming from edge, data centre,

With streaming XR, a user can

or workstation means VR can be

order up whatever level of compute

distributed to any space: a user

resource is needed—a render needs

And, through cameras and other

can put on their AIO, hook into

four GPUs? No problem, those GPUs

connected devices, AIs in the

the network and stream a full-

are in the cloud. How many users

virtual world can look out at

fidelity experience to their desk,

need to come together to participate

the real world via augmented

breakroom, home office, wherever.

in a design review, meeting,

reality (AR) and help construct,

concert—it doesn’t matter, as users

simulate, and navigate the real

VR software vendors’ customer

can dial up more instances in the

world. Streaming XR, seemingly

base moves from anyone co-

cloud. The scalability of XR offered

impossible a couple years

located with a capable workstation

by streaming is nearly unlimited.

ago because of the latency

to anyone who can access one.

the virtual world.

requirements of XR, is now a

Send a customer an HMD for

Disaggregated compute: If we

stepping stone to revolutionising

hundreds of dollars and that

follow the iceberg a bit further

AR and VR for enterprise.

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TRW

How PIXO makes VR integration simple for enterprise

V

irtual reality ( VR)

identified three main hurdles that

Hurwitz, referencing common

brings new potential

face organisations regarding the

implementation hurdles he’s

to workforces with

use of the technology: lack of

witnessed since his company first

benefits across entire

content, hardware complications,

started developing VR training

organisations, from

and implementation/distribution.

solutions for business in 2016. The

improved employee communication,

beauty of his company’s platform

to team collaboration, to

With these three issues in mind,

is its simplicity, flexibility, and ease

engagement and training, and much

PIXO launched a first-of-its-

of use.

more.

kind VR content distribution,

The use of VR can drastically

management, and analytics

With PIXO Apex, organisations

platform, called PIXO Apex.

that need content can access a

improve the way organisations

growing library of VR titles, license

operate, with various proven

As a platform, PIXO Apex is

what they want, then provision that

benefits associated with this new

designed to make VR easier than

content to the appropriate users or

immersive technology.

ever for enterprise clients and other

groups, compatible across a wide

major organisations to deploy, use,

variety of popular headsets.

Leveraging VR can result in

and scale.

reduced expenses, higher employee

Organisations that already have

engagement, and improved

“PIXO Apex solves issues

content, developed internally or by

communication and productivity.

around content, hardware, and

third parties, can also distribute

distribution on a global scale,

and manage it simply by integrating

This all begs the question: why

which have, up until now, held the

those titles with the PIXO Apex

hasn’t the enterprise market been

industry back from reaching its

platform’s web-based application

able to adapt the technology faster?

full potential,” says PIXO founder

programming interface (API), PIXO

VR solutions company PIXO

and chief executive officer Sean

Apex Bridge.

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PIXO Apex represents the perfect solution

The integration of module

but also to be used for professional

intelligence via the Apex Bridge is

services companies looking to bring

a feature that sets PIXO’s platform

VR solutions to their clients and

apart from other VR solutions.

for developers looking to monetise

PIXO’s all-in-one, cloud-based

content without investing in sales

platform, offered on a monthly

and marketing.

subscription basis, allows

This feature guarantees all Apex content, regardless of source,

organisations to access, distribute,

incorporates user authentication so

Professional services companies

and manage all of their VR

only licensed users with the right

and channel partners can use

training (and other content) across

permissions can access the content.

Apex’s robust self-service

numerous global endpoints and

capabilities to add and manage their

thousands of devices and users, all

various clients in one place.

from one secure, easy-to-use, web-

It also tracks each user session back to the appropriate user and

based portal.

provides session data and training

For VR developers, PIXO’s content

scores when appropriate.

collection acts as a marketplace,

For businesses looking to distribute

connecting buyers looking for

VR training content and use it simply

This data is viewable in real time

solutions with various developers

and easily across an organisation,

through the PIXO Apex dashboard. It

looking to license their content.

PIXO Apex represents the perfect

is also available through application

solution.

programming interface endpoints

“We define our success by the value

for integration with existing learning

that we provide,” Hurwitz explains.

To find out how PIXO can help you

management systems.

“With this platform, we’ve solved the

leverage VR for your organisation’s

complex challenge of VR enterprise

needs, schedule your free demo

PIXO has designed Apex to allow

integration, making it as simple as

today via https://pixovr.com/

use from direct business customers

possible for our customers.”

contact.

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TRW

Claria: A quantum leap from self reporting and focus groups

Max Sims Senior product manager at Theia Interactive

S

ince it was founded in 2014,

But what if you could know

VR headset, which has six sensors

Theia Interactive has been

immediately what a person thought

built-in, letting designers and

looking for ways to improve

of a design?

researchers see the physical

the visualisation process.

responses of users, so they know What if you knew what they thought

exactly how a person reacts to

We’ve had a lot of success in the

even before they did? That’s where

a design, how intuitive it is, how

architecture, engineering and

our new biometric software Claria

exciting it can be and more.

construction (AEC) sector, and part

comes in.

of that was because our 3D virtual reality (VR) models could be iterated.

Theia was first approached Claria is a revolutionary new way to

several years ago to become an

take the guesswork out of design,

early developer for the Omnicept

Designers could try different things

marketing and ecommerce using

software development kit (SDK).

and see what the client preferred.

extended reality (XR) and biometric sensors.

It’s not an exact science, but it

We’ve worked with Unreal Engine since our founding, and we have

is a huge improvement over the

It was designed to work specifically

been building in VR for nearly as

previous methods.

with the HP Reverb G2 Omnicept

long, so working with a headset that

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TRW much more quickly than traditional methods, and there’s proof that it can be effective. In design, the term ‘failing forward’ may sound like a negative, but many times a product or service fails when it hits the marketplace. By learning why it failed, that knowledge could help it succeed during the next iteration, especially if you can refine the design or campaign virtually. With Claria, you can launch the product or campaign with more confidence.

Eliminate the guessing Claria’s purpose is to eliminate the guessing that comes with design decisions and to avoid outside influence. Often with design, the loudest voice, or the highest paid person’s opinion, is the final word. Imagine using a focus group where instead of leaving with a vague had a new level of sensor data was

presented over a more muted colour.

idea of what worked and didn’t,

a natural fit for us.

This gives a cognitive insight as to

you could run each person through

what the user is really thinking. From

a task and Claria could tell you

Claria collects biometric data,

that, Claria’s visualiser can display

where their focus was and when.

including pupillometry, heart rate

the user’s cognitive load when they

That would lead to qualitative data

and facial expression. Drawing on

perform tasks. This tells designers

that could be supplemented with

sensors in Omnicept, the built-in

and marketers things such as how

after-action reviews and interviews.

Tobii eye trackers can also see where

quickly the user learns their design,

a person is looking while Claria

or how much trouble they might

This data is invaluable to people in

tracks for how long. The eye data

have had familiarising themselves

multiple industries. One of the most

is then checked against the heart

with the proposed design or

common uses for Claria will almost

rate. That allows Claria to measure

campaign (alternatively, consider the

certainly be human factor engineers

heart rate variability against pupil

implications for the aircraft featured

for human-machine interfaces

dilation, which helps us understand

in the image above).

(HMI), who may want to know things

attention, focus and arousal. For

like how hard it is to operate an

example, we have consistently seen

By running experiments with

infotainment screen while driving.

a jump in interest when a red car is

subjects, the final design is iterated

The designer of the car’s interior

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TRW

wants data to justify one design

multiple disciplines can then view it

the Omnicept SDK and Claria

proposal over another. A medical

in the 3D environment, and filter the

produce are singularly unique in any

company may want to create

data through sliders, multiple angles,

VR system. It’s a quantum leap from

an easy and intuitive system for

heatmaps and graphs. They can

self reporting and focus groups

delivering medication in an intensive

then jump to the next experiment or

because there is supporting data.

care unit (see image above), or an

export it.

architect may want to test how easy

We are currently working on

it is for someone to find their way

Over the years, Theia has done well

multiple updates for Claria, and

to the right location on a massive

over 150 interactive VR projects

predict that our customers will

campus. Aerospace, automotive,

for clients such as Epic Games,

surprise us with what they come up

advertising, consumer products,

Adobe’s Substance, Sutter Health

with and how they use it. Right now,

AEC, training and medical—they are

and Wynn, to name a few. We’ve

Claria is still in early access with

all affected by this.

also worked on the enterprise level

participation limited to a handful

and created AEC visualisations for

of users. We plan to open things

In all of these cases, a Claria user

giants such as Toll Brothers, The

up by Q1 2022 and extend access

would create variations of the

Hard Rock Hotel and Gettys Group.

to companies with proven Unreal

intended design, map out the tasks,

We empower our clients with the

Engine experience. The ultimate

author the interactions in those tasks

tools they need to make the best

goal, however, is to make Claria

and package it for the subjects. Once

design choices. Claria goes even

so easy that anyone can creatively

the data is collected, specialists from

further, and the bioanalytics that

experiment on their own.

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Deadline: 2 6 / 1 1 / 2 0 2 1 Public a tion da te: 2 0 / 1 2 / 2 0 2 1

Manufacturing Issue Designers are at the forefront of virtual reality, creating and refining ever impressive products, machines and buildings, without having to leave their studio and on much grander scales, while augmented reality is being utilised to redefine traditional spaces and bring 3D models alive, in the real world.

Mark Dugdale, Editor editor@vrworldtech.com

Jonathan Savage, Publisher jonsavage@vrworldtech.com


Software / Editor’s comment

Where there’s a will, there’s ease of use Whatever your barrier, this technology is flexible enough to achieve many aims, as long as you have the willingness to try By Mark Dugdale

20

August 2021

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T

here is a sense among developers and providers serving the enterprise market

that the software question, as it pertains to immersive technology, can be simplified down to a single catch-all concept: ease of use. Consider the examples set out in this issue’s The Reality Wire, which focuses on software solutions to


Software / Editor’s comment problems of content management,

company is doing with HTC Vive,

VR training solution developed in-

delivery and analysis.

and Vive Sync, demonstrating that

house by its XR Lab for the wider

virtual and augmented reality (VR

energy sector.

PIXO’s content distribution,

and AR) are edging ever closer to

management, and analytics

bridging the gap between the virtual

Duke Energy is developing

platform strips the complexity

and physical.

immersive content in-house

from enterprise deployment that had otherwise acted as a barrier.

because it wanted to be its first customer, leveraging both the deep

Content creation

From a single solution, immersive

expertise it has in the development

content can be managed, along

Ease of use comes to the forefront

of VR and AR products in its XR

with hardware, and used effectively.

in the lead features for this issue

Lab, and its deep knowledge and

The ease of use simplification hides

and our conversations around

experience of the energy sector.

much work and innovation, but that

content creation.

is what it ultimately comes down to.

The former could feasibly have AR company Blippar is on a

been outsourced, but the latter?

Similarly, NVIDIA CloudXR makes

mission to make webAR content

it possible to stream high-quality

creation and consumption as

Its content creation strategy is two-

immersive content to any number

easy as building a website using

fold: students benefit from custom-

of mobile end devices, removing

WordPress. Ambarish Mitra, its

designed, immersive training that

the need for high-powered PCs and

chief product officer, sees this as

caters to the work they do every

laptops that are usually required to

fundamental to webAR becoming

day, and customers benefit from

run them.

a key differentiator for brands and

the skills technicians develop by

retailers as society moves toward a

leveraging these tools. The result

digital economy.

is a positive cycle that makes

Ditching a cable in favour of a cloud solution potentially makes

developing—and using—immersive

immersive content fundamentally

Until then, Blippar is engaging

technology altogether easier at

easier to use and access, just as

with enterprise clients through its

Duke Energy.

Theia Interactive’s new biometric

studio, where they are leveraging

software, Claria, takes advantage of

the company’s experience and

One takeaway from this issue

advances in immersive technology

expertise to discover how webAR

is that software must improve

and biometric sensors to simplify

content can have the biggest

immersive technology’s ease of use

and improve the collection of data

impact on audiences. There are

factor, whatever the motivations of

for a range of use cases.

also lessons here on intent and how

developers and users.

innovation is feeding innovation. See, too, real-time engagement

But that is too simple a view

specialist Agora, the subject of our

One enterprise with a clear handle

to take. The important point to

regular Meet feature and a company

on immersive content is Duke

remember is that whatever your

dedicated to helping developers

Energy, a Fortune 150 company and

barrier, this technology is flexible

embed real-time video and voice

one of the largest electric power

enough to achieve many aims, as

engagement experiences into their

holding companies in the US. It

long as you have the willingness to

apps. This is exactly what the

recently launched Virtual Crew. a

try.

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21


Software / Duke Energy

Not made in a vacuum When immersive technology and subject matter experts meet, the result is exceptional virtual reality training that meets users’ needs

D

eveloping your own

the largest electric power holding

immersive content

companies in the US. It has the

in-house may not be

resources necessary to make

the way forward for

a success of most innovation

you. Simply put, the

programmes and here we see that

talent, technology and time required

is exactly what it is doing.

to achieve it are luxuries not every business can afford. Thankfully, an

In May of this year, Duke Energy

entire ecosystem of developers and

launched Virtual Crew. a VR training

experts are there to help you build

solution developed in-house by its

Indeed, Duke Energy’s natural gas

impactful immersive experiences for

XR Lab for the wider energy sector.

business unit—where its in-house

whatever your use case.

So impressed were the company’s

VR training programme was first

leaders with the lab’s work in

introduced internally—will realise

This story, however, focuses on

immersive technology that they felt

savings of approximately three

one business that was able to

ready to begin offering the solution as

hours in training time per technician

develop its own virtual reality (VR)

an external service (pictured above:

per course through the use of VR,

experiences—and turn them into

an employee of Piedmont Natural

and Duke Energy forecasts annual

a saleable solution. Duke Energy,

Gas, a Duke Energy subsidiary,

savings of more than $500,000 in

a Fortune 150 company, is one of

undergoes training through VR).

operational costs.

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August 2021

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Software / Duke Energy

Credits: Duke Energy

VRWorldTech Magazine was lucky

necessary to build a viable training

Elizabeth Escobar-Fernandes:

to be able to talk to Elizabeth

programme in a safety-conscious

Digital transformation is central

Escobar-Fernandes, IT manager

sector such as energy. This

to Duke Energy’s leadership

in the XR Lab at Duke Energy, and

interview was conducted via email

imperatives. In 2014, our digital

Amber Lineback, director of natural

and edited for style and clarity.

transformation leader, John

gas learning and readiness, about

Mitchell, prioritised the research

developing VR experiences and

VRWTM: Tell us about the XR Lab

and development of emerging

other immersive content in-house,

at Duke Energy—how did it come

wearables technologies with the

the origins of its own development

into being and what kind of talent

release of Google Glass. Years

team, and the ingredients

and experience does it boast?

later, several augmented reality

w w w. v r w o r l d t e c h . c o m

August 2021

23


Software / Duke Energy

August 2021

Elizabeth Escobar-Fernandes:

place. Those proved the power

Safety is the top priority for all our

of the technology to augment

employees, from new technicians

future workers’ capabilities while

to seasoned professionals. The VR

performing a task; however, the

apps the XR Lab team is developing

lack of quality data and modern

reduce the risk of incidents during

application programming interfaces

training and equip employees with

(APIs) posed a challenge to provide

more effective training that is more

enough business value to warrant

realistic to the tasks they must

adding intrusive devices to a

perform in the field.

worker’s toolset. Giving employees the ability to

The technology improves knowledge retention of the training experience by not just observing a task, but also performing that task 24

(AR) proofs of concept took

After the release of the HTC Vive

safely train for dangerous tasks,

in 2016, digital transformation

particularly in the natural gas field,

leaders started to see the power

was the most important benefit of

of this technology to deliver fully

VR. The technology also improves

immersive training experiences.

knowledge retention of the training

That insight led to the genesis

experience by not just observing a

of the XR Lab as our in-house

task, but also performing that task

development team of VR and

in a virtual environment. Lastly,

AR experts to deliver immersive,

we can get real-time feedback

interactive training experiences

on training or procedural tasks

and fully 3D-modelled training

performed in VR without the need to

environments.

have a trainer on site. That is a key value proposition of this technology

The XR Lab team is primarily

from a scalability, effectiveness and

comprised of former video game

cost-savings perspective.

designers and developers who were looking for a greater purpose

But those solutions are not made

to utilise their talents. By using

in a vacuum, and the XR Lab team

their VR development and design

works alongside subject matter

expertise to create safer and more

experts who understand our

engaging training, the developers

business and can provide insights

are having a long-lasting impact in

into the ideal VR solution.

the lives of frontline workers who, at times, are required to perform

The business subject matter

procedures that pose a significant

experts have become enthusiastic

safety risk.

participants in educating our uniquely talented development

VRWTM: Is training for safety your

team on their needs, recommending

primary use case?

solutions and directly contributing

w w w. v r w o r l d t e c h . c o m


Software / Duke Energy

to their design. The result is a

computers. The advent of highly

has been on the leading edge of

solution they feel ownership of.

capable, mobile chipset-driven

digital transformation for Duke

HMDs has overcome previous

Energy, and when the XR Lab was

By strengthening collaboration

objections to tethered equipment

created, we knew we had the best

between VR experts and business

and the higher cost of entry.

of both worlds: deep expertise

experts, the team has been very

Combined with our team's

in the development of VR and

successful in delivering exceptional

innovations to meet enterprise

AR products, as well as deep

training that meets users’ needs.

requirements while optimising

knowledge and experience of the

Also, this strategy has had a

for the available hardware, these

energy industry (the entire XR Lab

ripple effect, creating a culture

factors have all worked together to

team is pictured above).

of cross-functional collaboration,

validate our strategy and make us

learning and innovation. As a result,

extremely successful.

morale among the XR Lab and

It’s a win-win—our students benefit from custom-designed, immersive

business partners has increased

VRWTM: Why did Duke Energy

training that caters to the work they

and employees are empowered to

originally decide to create its own

do every day, and our customers

leverage innovation.

VR training content, rather than

benefit from the skills our

outsource the process?

technicians develop by leveraging

In addition to this successful

these tools.

strategy, some of the primary

Amber Lineback: One of Duke

technology obstacles have been

Energy’s leadership imperatives

And the business case is

overcome; namely, the need for

is “Transform for the Future”—

compelling. For our first module,

tethered head-mounted displays

and we take that very seriously.

students were 3.6 times faster

(HMDs) driven by expensive

The natural gas business unit

to train than using traditional

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August 2021

25


Software / Duke Energy

classroom methods. We continue to

use cases that can benefit from the

We’ve also made contacts at both

see other benefits as well, including

capabilities we've developed.

companies who are helping us

the fact that 92% of our students

develop the enterprise capabilities

had never used VR in the past, and

The mobility provided by Oculus

that these tools, traditionally built

after the first module, 78% said

Quest 2 headsets combined

for gaming, don't handle well.

they would recommend it to others

with the ability to still use the

(pictured above are Duke Energy

headset connected to a high-

All the flexibility we’ve carved out

software engineers and artists

powered computer, both wired and

of these very early technologies,

deveoping custom training that is

wirelessly, promises nothing but

in terms of enterprise use, directly

effective and entertaining).

more opportunity.

benefits our clients and future clients by allowing us to offer

VRWTM: What tools is the lab

Early in our investigation of mobile

options that previously haven't been

using to create VR content for

HMDs, it became obvious to our

available. You can learn more about

Virtual Crew and why?

team that Unreal Engine from Epic

our use cases using the Oculus for

Games combined with Oculus SDKs

Business technology in our case

Elizabeth Escobar-Fernandes: We

would give us the best opportunity

study: https://business.oculus.com/

have just scratched the surface of

for success.

case-studies/duke-energy/.

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August 2021

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Software / Duke Energy

A traditional classroom course doesn’t have that level of immersion and flexibility Amber Lineback Director of natural gas learning and readiness at Duke Energy

VRWTM: What kind of

way or easement; two electric

example, some of our customers

customisation can Duke Energy

modules: electrical substation

live in urban areas, and some are

offer to third parties as part of

grounding (also known as switching

in rural communities. We edited

Virtual Crew?

and tagging) and inspection;

our module for patrolling a right

one module for active-attack

of way to include both scenarios

Amber Lineback: The sky's

preparedness and response;

to make them as realistic as

the limit when it comes to

and one module for workforce

possible—a traditional classroom

customisation. So far, the XR

development, to attract the talent

course doesn’t have that level

Lab has partnered with internal

of the future to the energy industry.

of immersion and flexibility. We

business subject matter experts

could add more environments if

to build five natural gas training

Any of those can be customised

needed, including deserts or snowy

modules: natural gas purging with

to meet the procedures of

settings, too.

inert gas at the main, natural gas

other energy companies or

purging with direct displacement

businesses, and we can even edit

Additionally, we can create modules

at the meter, join plastic pipe

to accommodate specific tools

from scratch for our customers,

with stab fitting, outside gas leak

that may vary by customer or

both related to work in the energy

investigation and patrol right of

terrain in their service areas. For

sector or in other industries.

w w w. v r w o r l d t e c h . c o m

August 2021

27


Software / Duke Energy

Students can learn about power generation and different career opportunities Elizabeth Escobar-Fernandes IT manager in the XR Lab at Duke Energy

The XR Lab takes the time to

power generation and delivery to

to drive change in the culture of our

fully understand the work, tools,

accomplish that mission. More

organisations while simultaneously

procedures and environments.

information is available at Duke

building skill sets, enhancing safety

Just as we created the existing

Energy’s XR Lab & Virtual Reality

and reducing cost.

modules from the expertise of our

webpage: https://www.duke-energy.

energy technicians, we can do the

com/info/unindexed/xr-lab.

same for others. We welcome the

I encourage anyone who is working to transform their training

opportunity to explore the needs

VRWTM: Is there the potential now

or their companies to consider

of businesses that are interested in

for the wider enterprise market to

the advantages of VR. As digital

leveraging VR as a training tool.

push VR training forward, as long

transformation becomes even more

as the talent and tools are willing

of a business imperative, it is a tool

and able to support you?

that can differentiate the leaders

Elizabeth Escobar-Fernandes: The workforce development VR game

in an industry from others. I think

provides an immersive experience

Amber Lineback: In our estimation,

about it like smartphones and video

where students can learn about

we are still very early in the

streaming; what were once leading-

power generation and the different

adoption of AR and VR tools to

edge technologies are now the new

career opportunities at Duke Energy

serve large enterprise use cases.

norm. VR is the next wave.

line worker) through gamification.

With the ongoing emphasis on the

More information about Duke

Each student in the VR experience

environment and green energy,

Energy’s Virtual Crew is available

has the mission to restore

our industry will need to be at the

by visiting virtualcrew.io or

power to the city and navigate

forefront of the innovation curve.

contacting virtualcrew@duke-

through the different phases of

Training through VR is a great way

energy.com.

(eg, engineer, relay technician,

28

August 2021

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T h i s

i s

a n

i m m e r s i v e

w o r l d

The Reality Wire tracks the latest press releases from across immersive technology. If you have a new product, an important update, vital funding or plans to partner, we want to hear from you.

H a v e

a

s t o r y

t o

t e l l ?

S u b m i t

i t

n o w :

e d i t o r @ v r w o r l d t e c h . c o m


AR content is king One of the ways to improve consumer confidence and get a bigger share of the basket is to use webAR

W

hen Blippar,

economy, AR's time may finally

webAR as it is more commonly

an augmented

have come.

known.

technology

This feeling is the opinion of

Mitra says: “WebAR is a very exciting

company

Ambarish Mitra, chief product

space. Blippar was involved early

based in London closed its pre-

officer at Blippar, a company that

on, but now we are really seeing,

Series A $5 million funding round

originally launched in 2011.

post-pandemic, the relevance of not

reality (AR)

earlier this year, there was a sense

only digital content but realistic 3D

that this immersive technology is on

With new investors on board, a

physical representations of digital

the cusp of something important.

content creation tool in Blippbuilder

content in AR.”

that is designed to make the whole It has to be pointed out here that a

process easier and a studio doing

The confidence behind his view

lot of people have been saying this

innovative work on behalf of major

comes from the pandemic’s impact

for years, but after 18 months of a

enterprise clients, Blippar sees

on consumer buying behaviour and

pandemic, lockdown restrictions

a bright future for AR content

patterns, which have shifted toward

and a societal shift to the digital

accessible via a web browser, or

online retail and digital channels.

30

August 2021

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Software / Blippar

We are really seeing, postpandemic, the relevance of not only digital content but realistic 3D physical representations of digital content in AR Ambarish Mitra Chief product officer at Blippar

w w w. v r w o r l d t e c h . c o m

August 2021

31


Software / Blippar According to The New State of

brands is also reflected in their

Retail report, produced by payment

advertising strategies. ARtillery

processing provider Checkout.com,

Intelligence reported that AR

approximately 75% of consumers

advertising grew from around $500

in Europe and the UK believe the

million in global revenues in 2019 to

future of retail is digital, after

$1.41 billion in 2020, and expects

a pandemic in which they did

that spending to surpass $8 billion

everything from order clothes to

by the end of 2024.

socialise with friends online. Mitra says: “There has been With consumers spending online

great adoption of webAR. And I

and through digital ecommerce

haven’t even mentioned the big

channels such as apps, Mitra

innovators in the space, such

argues that demand for webAR

as Apple and Google, who are

content from brands and retailers

driving the device camera with AR

is being created. In such an

technology forward, and the brands

environment, they need to

and retailers who have already

differentiate themselves. To achieve

embraced it. This is all positive,

this, there is a bigger focus on

but those were going ahead

merchandising above and beyond

irrespective of the pandemic.”

2D imagery and video, the previous decade’s key differentiator.

“What has really changed in the past 18 months is consumer

“Now, the differentiator is realism,

behaviour, the shift to the digital

or providing a visual representation

economy and the ease with

that is as close to the real thing

which it has happened. QR codes

as possible, in a preferred

have made the greatest ever

when they are spending online like

environment. With AR, this is

comeback—everyone wrote them

never before.

possible,” Mitra continues. Brands

off, but they are back, strongly.”

and retailers are shifting their

Mitra comments: “Hundreds of

merchandising strategies towards

Going forward, driving commerce

billions of dollars is going into

3D assets, brought to life on a 2D

and engagement on the web, with

online purchasing. It’s a very large

screen by AR.

ease, is the single biggest change

macro economic growth factor,

and acceleration point for AR, in

covering everything from food to

Mitra’s opinion.

clothes and furniture. Consumers

There is a higher level of customisation available with these

are making big purchasing

assets, meaning colour choices and

The easiness point is crucial.

decisions right now and not during

so on, as well as the ability to place

WebAR is not bound by any app or

a visit to a physical space.”

them in the environment for which

device. A consumer merely needs

their real counterparts are intended.

a sufficiently advanced browser

To achieve AR’s full potential,

Interest in AR among retailers and

to consume this content, at a time

webAR needs mass market

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August 2021

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Software / Blippar

adoption. It is both a differentiator

Creation and consumption

and the next logical step in an

to Mitra. Blippar aims to make webAR creation and consumption as

online buying experience that has

Blippbuilder is Blippar’s content

easy as possible for everyone, not

for so long relied on the 2D.

creation tool that allows brands,

just experts.

retailers, creative agencies and Mitra explains: “One of the ways to

more to develop their own webAR

Mitra likens its development to

improve consumer confidence and

content (a screengrab from

the internet: “The first generation

get a bigger share of the basket is

Blippbuilder is shown above).

of the world wide web wouldn’t

to use webAR."

have reached its potential if It is in the low code to no code

every creator had to know HTML.

“It’s beginning to play a big role

category, meaning little or no coding

It only happened because of

and will continue to play a big

skills are required to use it. Tools

Microsoft Frontpage, Macromedia

differentiator role until everyone has

such as these, set at this entry

Dreamweaver and then scale-based

it, and then the differentiator will be

level, are integral to the successful

tools like WordPress. The majority

the quality of execution.”

development of webAR, according

of websites were created by people

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August 2021

33


Software / Blippar

who didn’t know how to code. But

possible, the creation side needs to

The other factor behind AR

the seeds were created by those

be very easy.”

reaching its full potential is

who knew how to code.”

consumption, or how consumers WebAR content creation needs to

view, interact with and ultimately

This is the stage that AR is at

be low code to no code for this to

engage with this next generation of

right now, Mitra says. Experts are

happen, so Blippar is taking this

content. The problem, Mitra says,

using software development kits

approach with Blippbuilder and giving

is the proliferation of standards:

(SDKs) and working on ad hoc

anyone with the inclination easy-to-

“We hold a neutral position—we

projects, usually in partnership

use tools that work as WordPress

have no bias toward our own app

with a professional studio such

does for creating a website.

for viewing AR content or anything

as Blippar’s. From working with

else. We encourage clients to use

partners, experts can gather the

Mitra says Blippar is focusing on

knowledge they need to take

creative agencies and educational

webAR to the next level.

institutions and publishers as

Each platform has a standard.

the ideal early adopters for

Mitra cites the examples of Google,

In Mitra’s view, ease of creation

Blippbuilder, because they are

Apple, Facebook and Snap, which

will play a key role: “That transition

keen to create the next generation

all prefer their own: ARCore, ARKit,

is happening right now. But for

of content for marketing and

Spark AR and Snap AR.

webAR to reach its full potential,

advertising, and education. He

what I define as the new 3D

adds: “They’re not large scale

By the end of 2022, he believes

internet, where the 2D screen

developers but they are having an

there could be as many as 20 and

reflects the real world as much as

impact and are driving it.”

doubts whether creative agencies or

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August 2021

w w w. v r w o r l d t e c h . c o m

whichever tools they wish.”


Software / Blippar even larger organisations will have

it goes mass market. It has to be

paths, trying to become better,

the capacity to support all of them.

easy for the 99% to create, edit

achieving world firsts, such as

and share. The tools are essential.”

breaking speed and corner records.”

Blippar’s Formula 1 car

“The studio attracts clients who

This is why webAR is important. Content is removed from dedicated apps, silos if you will, and gains

can afford and are able to use

the kind of cross-compatibility

The other side of the Blippar

Blippbuilder, but they are using

that developers and consumers

business is its studio. Mitra likens

the studio for their education. It is

alike prefer: “It’s the same reason

it to a Formula 1 car of a major

the best way for us to work with

why WordPress is so popular for

manufacturer.

them, using our experience and

developing websites, all of that

expertise. Our clients can easily

complexity is removed with a single

develop this content themselves,

button that lets you publisher

but they want to see AR at its best

wherever you would like.”

and understand our experience and data. And they want to have the

It is a path that Blippar is taking with Blippbuiler: “We are doing it with the SDK and crosscompatibility between Android and iOS. It has a QR code base, so you do not have to create a separate library for both, rather you create one app that supports both standards and so you do not have to work on ARCore and ARKit separately. We are one of the first companies that will be ready to show demand for and move toward cross-compatibility.” Mitra continues: “From an R&D

highest impact.”

The studio is is changing paths, trying to become better, achieving world firsts

The impact they are seeking depends on the company. A typical bluechip usually wants to affect an audience in a particular way, whether it is to achieve sales, brand awareness or heighten its reputation as an innovator. Chinese consumer electronics manufacturer OnePlus turned to Blippar Studio last year for the launch of OnePlus Nord, its latest smartphone. Its aim was to reach as many consumers as possible and

perspective, we’re studying every

show them something they had not

platform right now to export

seen before (their project, explained

content straight from our content

Its aim is to be at the cutting

in the next paragraph, is shown in

creation engine. That’s where

edge of development, pushing

the images on p34 and p36).

Blippbuilder is today and where

the boundaries of what can be

it is going because it is important

achieved in AR.

OnePlus product launches events

to the future of AR—so that it

are usually high-profile affairs,

is omnipresent, everywhere—

“Whereas Blippbuilder is the mass

situated in stadiums with tens of

otherwise only the experts will

produced car business, the studio

thousands of people in attendance.

create content and that is not how

is the Formula 1 car. It is changing

With the pandemic forcing the

w w w. v r w o r l d t e c h . c o m

August 2021

35


majority of live events around the

sat at their desk or on their softa.

This is what Blippar Studio does:

world behind closed doors, OnePlus

Some consumed it in their garden

pushes the technology beyond

wanted to do the entire launch of its

or at their coffee table. Their

what are considered its boundaries

new smartphone live in AR—what

perspectives were also different,

to achieve something that has not

would be a world-first.

with some seeing it from bottom to

been done before. In the case of

top, others top to bottom, some by

OnePlus, the result defies definition:

“The launch was the work of our

their feet. Everyone had a unique

“They come to the studio to create

studio team, which they completed

experience consuming this mini

something that has a quarter or

in 80 days,” Mitra explains.

concert, via their smartphone. It

half-year level impact. I cannot call

Watch this video to find out more

was theatrical and beautiful.”

the OnePlus Nord launch an advert,

about the launch: https://youtu.

or even a product launch in the

be/6a4spRcREQs. What made it

The numbers speak volumes. The

traditional sense. It was almost a

so innovative was that it upended

product launch attracted 670,000

product solution. It demonstrated

what it means to experience a live

concurrent users, and a cumulative

what OnePlus is capable of.”

broadcast.

total of five million users. OnePlus

Mitra says: “A broadcast is

Nord then became the highest selling

OnePlus has worked with Blippar

smartphone in the company’s history.

three more times, “so it’s on”. Mitra

generally the same: everyone

says: “The AR medium convinced

consumes the same 2D content

Mitra says: “They innovated in a

them. They saw the results and

on a flat screen. The OnePlus

post-pandemic era in a completely

wanted to continue working with it.”

Nord was similar in that it was

different medium and it was more

concurrent and broadcast at

cost effective than an in-person

This work, as AR and webAR move

the same time, but it was also

event and they were able to reach

toward the mainstream, shows

a 3D asset broadcast through

a much larger audience. It had this

what can be created with the tools

AR-capable devices, meaning

goal of massive distribution and it

at hand. What they will be able to

consumers did not need to be

created their desired impact.”

create next is anyone’s guess.

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August 2021

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Issue 8 Miss the latest issue of VRWorldTech Magazine? We've got you covered Issue 8 focuses on architecture, engineering and construction Featuring Numena, Holo-Light, Make Real, VRdirect, Arkio, From The Future and more

Mark Dugdale, Editor editor@vrworldtech.com

Jonathan Savage, Publisher jonsavage@vrworldtech.com


Software / Agora

Right now, there are many innovations popping up in augmented and virtual reality combined with realtime engagement— and Agora is at the forefront Virginia Liu Senior vice president of marketing and ecosystems at Agora

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Software / Agora

R

eal-time

Virginia Liu: Aroga was

thousands of customers in over

engagement (RTE)

founded back in 2014 with the

100 countries.

specialist Agora

quintessential Silicon Valley

is dedicated to

startup story and the vision

VRWTM: How important is RTE

helping developers

of creating meaningful human

becoming to the enterprise market

embed real-time video and voice

connections around the world

as a means to bridge the virtual

engagement experiences into

through RTE. In a small house in

and physical worlds, particularly

their apps.

Mountain View, California, Tony

where VR and non-VR are

Zhao and a small group of friends

concerned?

This is exactly what Agora is doing

began to work on the original code

with HTC Vive, demonstrating that

for Software-Defined Real-Time

Virginia Liu: The past 18

virtual and augmented reality (VR

Network (SD-RTN).

months opened many eyes to

and AR) are edging ever closer

the capabilities of RTE from

to bridging the gap between the

Ultimately, SD-RTN created

a consumer perspective to a

virtual and physical.

the RTE category. Our platform

business perspective.

provides developers with simple, VRWorldTech Magazine spoke to

flexible and powerful application

Oftentimes, consumer technology

Virginia Liu, senior vice president

programming interfaces (APIs) to

paves the way for enterprise

of marketing and ecosystems at

embed real-time video and voice

adoption. For example, immersive

Agora, to discuss the company’s

engagement experiences into

livestream concert experiences

offering and why the enterprise

their apps.

delivered via AR or VR show the

market, and the developers

possibilities of RTE. Likewise,

serving it, should consider RTE

Fast forward to today, Agora has

businesses can utilise similar

for upgrading their apps and

grown exponentially and is now

technologies to connect

experiences. The interview was

dual headquartered in Santa

workers for an engaging remote

conducted via email and edited for

Clara and Shanghai with more

collaboration experience.

style and clarity.

than 1,000 employees worldwide after going public in 2020. RTE,

When you are collaborating,

VRWTM: How did Agora get

powered by Agora, exceeds

the most effective way to do

started and what stage is the

more than 50 billion minutes of

so is ‘context first’, not ‘video

company at today?

engagements per month between

first’, because it will eliminate

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August 2021

39


Software / Agora the awkwardness of trying to

(SDK). Through Agora, developers

accessible, productive and

achieve shared context with

can seamlessly embed RTE tools

enjoyable for all participants.

things such as screen sharing

such as voice, video, messaging,

in meetings. The ability to build

and interactive live streaming

VRWTM: Do you have any other

artificial intelligence and AR

technology into their apps.

partnerships and integrations

and VR capabilities directly into

on the horizon that you can talk

interactive experiences opens up

What’s more, through Agora’s

so new business possibilities to

API, there is little effort required

achieve shared context.

from developers to produce

Virginia Liu: We are always

maximum quality with latency in

exploring new opportunities to

Enterprises now have the

milliseconds. They are also hosted

bring real-time engagement tools

opportunity to fundamentally

on Agora’s SD-RTN, the virtual

to industries across the world.

change the way they operate with

network overlay running on top of

compelling and engaging content

the public internet that guarantees

We recently teamed up with HP to

when they remove the limits of

minimal latency and packet loss.

integrate the power of real-time

physical space and distance for their employees. Right now, there are already so

engagement into HP’s Oasis on VRWTM: Tell us about your work

OMEN Gaming Hub, which is pre-

with HTC Vive and Vive Sync—was

installed on all OMEN PCs.

this a big milestone for Agora?

many innovations popping up in AR and VR combined with RTE.

about?

The collaboration will integrate Virginia Liu: It’s a big milestone

Agora's voice, video, messaging,

for both Agora and HTC as it

and interactive live streaming

The possibilities for connected

brings real-time engagement to

technology into OMEN Oasis

devices continue to expand, and

the growing industry of VR.

allows up to 16 people to play

businesses need to determine how

their favourite titles together in

they can begin to implement these

By integrating Agora’s Video SDK,

virtual watch party rooms.

types of technologies to increase

Vive Sync can enable seamless

productivity, engagement,

remote collaboration between HTC

There are many amazing RTE use

accessibility and inclusivity.

Vive users and non-VR users within

cases being developed every day.

the same virtual environment. VRWTM: How does the Agora

You’ll be seeing so many unique

platform work and what does it

This provides users the ability

and innovative use cases in the

achieve for developers?

to share in the same immersive

coming year. Stay tuned!

experience on any device, without Virginia Liu: At Agora, we are a

requiring a VR headset.

developer-first company. We are

VRWTM: Finally, how can interested parties get in touch

always thinking of the developers

Additionally, users are able to

who are creating amazing

share their screens and files

innovations with our platform. Our

in the collaborative meeting

You can always message me on

APIs work as a low-code, low-

environment, making the

LinkedIn, that’s the best way to

latency software development kit

virtual reality experience more

reach me.

40

August 2021

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VRWorldTech is a must-read resource if you want to stay up-to-date on progress within immersive technology for enterprise. Our content sits between the technology’s creators and developers and the business leaders who can benefit from its use and application. We cover the stories that make immersive technology a reality.

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VRWorldTech Magazine: Issue 9  

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