Microsoft Ignite has been lighting up the newsreels lately, as the company releases information about all its latest innovations for UC and collaboration. One of the most disruptive areas that Microsoft have begun to explore recently, has been that of “virtual reality”, and how VR solutions can be used to enhance the meeting space. Of course, Microsoft isn’t the only giant experimenting with this particular concept, Cisco has also started to embrace the connection between VR, and collaboration.
In an effort to find ways of making the communication and workflow experience more engaging for today’s enterprise, both Microsoft and Cisco are taking very different approaches to the world of VR. While Microsoft is using something called “mixed reality”, to blend the virtual world with the real world, Cisco is focusing more on building digital environments. So, what are the details, and benefits of each option?
Microsoft’s “Mixed Reality” Space
With mixed reality, Microsoft is trying to create digital versions of real-life solutions. With “digital twins”, they’re hoping to create virtual models of physical products, services, and processes, secured across all devices. The “Ignite” conference in Orlando this month highlighted this mixed reality concept, with an insight into a use case from Ford.
Ford is using the mixed reality concept to allow engineers and designers to collaborate on ideas in real-time, designing new cars and specifications in a virtual environment. While previously, the brand used clay models to design their cars, virtual reality concepts like the Microsoft HoloLens could make managing new models a far more streamlined process for Ford, therefore improving time to market.
Currently, Microsoft’s mixed-reality concepts are also available through Microsoft Teams. For instance, you can make notes on product designs in a mixed-reality environment, and come back to them on Teams later for a quick refresh.
The only problem with this particular approach to VR, is that hurdles for adoption are high. As equipment costs skyrocket, and training requirements remain to be a significant concern, it’s tough to see a world where mixed reality could be an “everyday” part of business at present. Of course, that doesn’t necessarily mean that there isn’t potential.
Cisco and Cisco Spark VR
On the other side of the fence to Microsoft, we have Cisco and Cisco Spark VR. This VR model was introduced at Enterprise Connect earlier this year, and just before Microsoft Ignite, Cisco allowed their customers to play around with the concept themselves. You can download the beta version of the Cisco Spark VR app in the Oculus Rift store, and explore the possibilities for yourself.
The idea behind Cisco Spark is to give companies the chance to create their own virtual spaces within the Cisco Spark Platform. Users will be able to jump into a virtual office space, where they can view shared whiteboards, files, and more. According to Jens Meggers, the VR solution is Cisco’s first step towards a future where mixed, virtual, and augmented reality become a natural part of the office space.
Is VR What’s Next for Businesses?
Cisco and Microsoft might be leading the way in the VR communications market, but they’re certainly not alone. There are plenty of UC vendors out there that have started to explore different realities for their own strategies. For instance, Zoom recently announced an integration with AR provider Meta Co, who are now helping the brand to deliver Augmented Reality meeting room spaces.
If that wasn’t enough, an IDC study suggests that about 30% of the 500 IT leaders surveyed are in the process of testing their own AR software. That’s not much of a surprise when you consider the fact that the market for VR and AR will grow to a value of about $162 billion by the end of 2020.
Ultimately, the deciding factor of who comes out on top in the VR race will be which features deliver the most productivity and efficiency to the office space. However, ease of use and adoption will be an important element too.