Recently, Start Replay were lucky enough to perform an email interview with the Director of Workstation Virtualization, Commercial VR and AR at Dell, Gary Radburn. In the interview below we discuss Dell’s position on Virtual Reality and the platforms’ use outside of the video game industry.
SR: Many people (especially gamers) would never consider to think that Virtual Reality is becoming an important commercial tool. Whilst some would also argue that – much like 3D – the platform is a novelty, do you think that VR’s integration into the work place will ensure it has the longevity to not burn out in the coming years and beyond?
Gaming may have dominated the headlines until now and rightly so because this sector really has led the VR charge for some time. But actually, when you look at the bigger VR picture, gaming is only just the tip of the iceberg. The B2B market represents a much larger portion of the growing market as businesses look to VR for training, collaboration, design and much more. Analyst predictions certainly help to quantify this too, with the VR market primed for adoption with 216 million active users and $45 billion hardware market by 2025. With the PC market also projected to be a $30B industry by the end of 2018 Dell is in a very exciting position – taking key learnings from our gaming (Alienware) and home entertainment background, in order to implement VR for commercial agility.
The next generation of VR that we are seeing today aims to bring immersive visualisation to the masses by democratising the technology. The implementations in the commercial space are endless, and our Precision workstations address the need for more rigor when professional creators demand the utmost in performance and reliability while building incredible VR content.
SR: Of all the commercial ways VR is being used, which is your personal favourite?
One of my favourite success stories has to be Jaguar Land Rover – an early adopter of VR to design and develop vehicles, saving fabrication time and money. VR has eliminated their need for a physical wind tunnel, saving significant cost. They even launched their first fully electric SUV, the Jaguar i-Pace, in one of the most progressive VR press conference ever. It is exciting to think that this is just a flavour of what is yet to come in the automotive sector.
SR: Is there an industry which you think would greatly benefit from VR, but isn’t currently using it?
I have not long returned from VR World in London, where I was hugely impressed by the growing number of ways VR is being used commercially. From oil and gas, media and entertainment, construction, engineering and manufacturing to healthcare, VR is being used to digitise businesses, improve customer experiences, train employees, enhance collaboration, improve product design and speed time to market.
Right now, the only barrier to more people using it is fear. For businesses looking to take the leap into VR, the space seems like the Wild West – there is no clear definition of terms or best practices. That is why we are investing so heavily into our VR Centers of Excellence in countries around the world. These centers are designed to empower businesses and commercial customers, giving them the opportunity to get their hands on VR and better understand industry best practice. The first step is to see first-hand the possibilities VR can bring, after that the world is your oyster.
SR: I read that Dell has used VR to help rehabilitate returning military service members who are suffering with PTSD. Could you give examples of where VR has successfully helped, and if so, how it did exactly and where Dell fell into the equation?
The University of Southern California’s Institute of Creative Technologies (ICT) collaborates with the U.S. Department of Defence, as well as entertainment and game development industries, to solve problems facing U.S. service members, students and society using advanced technology.
ICT’s Dr. Skip Rizzo is playing a huge role in revolutionising the role VR can play in rehabilitating returning service members with PTSD and helping autistic teenagers overcome the stresses of interview for jobs, all with Dell workstations and VR technology.
VR’s potential in the healthcare sector is as exciting as it is inspiring. It has the power to trick the mind, firing neurons in the spines of paraplegics or calm the heart rate of patients on their way to an operation theatre. That’s when I get really excited about VR, when it is used to help change lives in a positive way.
SR: Whilst VR is an incredibly immersive experience, Augmented Reality is equally immersive due to its real-world basis. Do you think products such as Microsoft’s Holo-Lens will overtake VR, due to its more ‘realistic’ approach to building virtual constructs in the everyday environment of consumers? Do you think it would be more conducive from a commercial aspect to use AR rather than VR?
It will be interesting to see how the market folds out here and to see which headsets emerge as front runners. It certainly feels as though we are at tipping point at the moment, with AR, VR and MR (mixed reality) use cases being experimented with en masse. For me, VR and AR are two points on the same journey – layering virtual data on top of physical space will completely transform how we learn, work and one day socialise. This vision may feel further away, but it remains an equally important focus for us at Dell.
SR: Does Dell have any desire to create its own VR or AR headset?
As a leader in VR we are 100% supportive of bringing incredible, immersive VR experiences to more people. We’re excited to be partnering with Microsoft and have an exciting opportunity to build on our work with HTC and Oculus to develop even more accessible solutions for all kinds of users interested in VR.
As showcased at Computex recently, the Dell Mixed Reality Headset takes advantage of some of the same technology used in HoloLens, in particular built-in inside-out tracking, meaning there is no need to purchase or install external trackers or sensors in the wall. Moreover, you don’t need to bother with a complicated setup, just plug and play. You can read more about the headset on our blog – look out for more updates over the coming months.
Thank you to Gary Radburn for taking the time to answer our questions.