AR/VR: Planning for the Unplannable

Scott Sackville, Product Marketing Director, AR/VR, Jabil Green Point
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Scott Sackville, Product Marketing Director, AR/VR, Jabil Green Point

Scott Sackville, Product Marketing Director, AR/VR, Jabil Green Point

Jabil Surveys Technology Leaders on How They’re Preparing for the Future of AR/VR

No longer the stuff of science fiction augmented and virtual reality (AR/VR) are rapidly expanding their foothold in the real world with the release of the latest generation of smartphones, glasses, headsets and other devices — paired with a growing ecosystem of content, apps and supporting technologies.

 Ultimately, AR/VR requires technology to produce the content and devices to provide the experience 

Yet despite the hype, the AR/VR market is still in its infancy stage and unsettled even among those driving innovation. Neither devices nor content has become mainstream. But the innovation and technology are advancing at such a pace that the tipping point cannot be far in the future.

In every industry, companies need to apply fresh thinking to product design and creation, market access, and supply chain management. Forward-thinking firms are also asking themselves some tough questions.

• How do we prepare for AR/VR?

• What barriers or obstacles do we face?

• What do we expect from vendors and from ourselves?

Jabil recently sponsored an online survey of AR/VR stakeholders that design, market and/or produce manufactured products, in industries such as consumer electronics, healthcare, entertainment, and retail. The survey asked for their perspectives on adoption and future expectations of AR/VR and elicited some interesting results.

Expectations and Obstacles

Over two-thirds of the survey’s respondents expect that AR/ VR will become mainstream within five years. Yet virtually everyone agrees there are technology (99 percent) and content-related (97 percent) challenges to overcome. These obstacles aren’t insurmountable, but a full third of respondents said they preferred to wait and see which way AR/VR technology might evolve before setting their course. Only 7 percent had gone beyond planning to launch pilot projects, and just 4 percent said that they were actively executing on a plan today.

Manufacturing decision makers disagreed about whether innovation or investment represents a higher hurdle. A small majority (61 percent) cite innovation in the belief that AR/VR is not ready for use at their companies. For the other 39 percent of respondents, the barrier is investment. They feel AR/VR technology is mature enough but wonder if their organizations are willing to make essential investments. As one respondent said, “You can raise a good amount of money thinking you’re going to go in, but it takes a tremendous amount of effort and money to get to good AR.”

Application and Device Ecosystems

One thing is clear: It is unlikely that the first AR/VR killer apps will emerge from a single player. Not even the largest or best-funded companies can wrap their arms around the sprawling ecosystem of innovation. Collaboration, partnering and developing a strong supply chain will be as critical to success as cutting-edge design.

The majority of those taking a wait-and-see posture toward the AR/VR market believe that consumer applications will pave the way for the technology. Among decision-makers who have committed to a plan or a pilot program, 66 percent predict that the first killer app will be produced for business use, and of these 71 percent believe that will take the form of a medical application. Manufacturing (47 percent) and military applications (46 percent) are also expected to be major market segments for AR/VR.

In addition to applications and use cases, survey respondents were asked to predict which types of devices would have the widest use. Smartphones (69 percent), gaming consoles (62 percent) and smart-glasses (54 percent) led the way. Respondents also predicted a significant role for headsets (52 percent) and tablets (32 percent) but seemed skeptical that immersion chairs (10 percent) would find widespread adoption.

Technology, Content and Cost

Ultimately, AR/VR requires technology to produce the content and devices to provide the experience. To identify innovation gaps, Jabil asked respondents committed to an AR/VR plan or pilot about the progress of content creation. Nearly three-fourths (74 percent) say that the technology that’s needed to create the content isn’t mature enough. There’s also the matter of cost. Nearly half (45 percent) say that it’s still too expensive to create content.

There are also some specific technology challenges that need to be overcome before AR/VR will enter the mainstream, though there was little consensus on what form this would take. Just over half of respondents agreed the price of manufacturing or technology limitations with AR/VR-specific devices are the greatest concerns. Survey respondents also cited the need to overcome consumer technology limitations with smartphones, watches, and tablets. Concerns about mobile connectivity and how AR/ VR form factors will integrate into daily life also received attention.

Jabil’s new white paper, “The State of Augmented and Virtual Reality,” contains numerous additional insights for technology and business stakeholders in product companies.

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