This might be a surprise to some, but VR has actually been around longer than Facebook! Not only that, but despite some consumer success over the past 30 years, VR has historically been employed primarily in the service of enterprise use cases.
When VR technology was expensive, using caves or head mounted displays, there needed to be correspondingly high value scenarios where the tech could be used. High risk training is an obvious one - when you’re teaching a commercial pilot how to land a plane when the engines fail, it’s worth the investment to use VR tech to make that simulation as real as possible. When training an offshore oil rig worker how to handle emergency scenarios, it’s much cheaper to do that on land in a simulation than at sea. When showing off a prototype of a new car (or building) it’s much more cost effective to take stakeholders through virtual mockups rather than manufacturing physical versions at each iteration.
As the economics of VR has changed, so have the market opportunities. With consumer-grade headsets and readily available content creation tools, VR can be deployed for a fraction of what it used to cost. Estimates for this current round of VR technologies put 2016 as the first $1B year, growing to a $150B industry by 2020.
Clearly there is a lot of excitement in this space and a lot of investment dollars going into a range of technologies that do one better than our current flat displays. As VR hardware continues to improve, distribution is getting to a point where major content producers are dipping their toes in.
Box's 3D engine can be used to render 3D models interactively in preview, and to power 360 photo and video viewing. These viewers also support the WebVR spec, with a polyfill for mobile browsers so to provide support for Google Cardboard.
But why would an enterprise company would want to build a VR experience?
Aaron Levie was recently interviewed on the future of work and he highlighted VR as one of the areas of investment for Box. Virtual and augmented reality will not only affect the media industry, they will be much more pervasive. All of the companies that produce these devices that we use to interact with content are exploring how to fundamentally change that experience. There is no chance that this trend stops with gaming or film, it will be more pervasive.
The examples for enterprise use of virtual and augmented reality go on and on, and Box is committed to working with our customers and partners to be the content and collaboration platform behind these experiences.
Nearer term, Box's robust 3D engine powers 3D model viewing, as well as 360 photo and video and we worked with Google to offer Google Cardboard VR headsets to all attendees at our BoxWorks conference, with a sample web app at https://box.com/vr to highlight a few of the near-term use cases for 3D and VR in the enterprise.
The first demo is a 3D scan of Aaron Levie's shoes, the Onitsuko Tigers. We scanned these shoes using Agisoft PhotoScan, a photogrammetry solution. This demo effectively shows a 3D photograph, how you can take any object and create a 3D representation that can be used for product review, education, or online sales.
Product design is another area that is seeing high demand for 3D. For a company like Sonoco, who designs packaging and displays at a massive scale, being able to share interactive 3D designs is huge. Rather than rendering out multiple static views or videos, they can share the raw 3D model, with variants to show the customer different options. The example we're showing is for an in store display, and we've taken some liberties on the product branding, for demo purposes.
Customers like Toyota have been experimenting with 3D and 360 content for new product designs and workflows that are increasingly leveraging 3D content. In the app, we're showcasing the Mirai, Toyota's fuel cell vehicle. It's a unique design, that would be challenging to communicate with static images. Interactive 3D, especially with a VR display, really brings the product to life.
Interactive 3D can also be used for dental scans, as seen in the sample content from TP Ortho. TP Ortho now shares the 3D scan with dentists and patients, rather than static images. This gives the ability to really understand what's going on with the patient's teeth.
These are just a handful of the use cases that we’re starting to see for 3D and VR. I’ve been truly amazed at how many of our customers have teams kicking the tires on VR and AR for their business. It’s an exciting time, at the inflection point of new ways of experiencing content alongside rich analytics and insight. The next few years will be a lot of fun, with tremendous opportunities for delighting customers and streamlining internal processes.