Virtual reality wants to make a place for itself in the corporate world

Estimated read time 4 min read

The HoloLens headset from Microsoft. The HoloLens headset from Microsoft. MICROSOFT

No more playing! If the most visible and most media outlet for virtual reality (VR) is video games to date, it is on the side of companies that the developments will be the most important. “VR allows you to see the products, manipulate them, put them in a situation, evaluate them… and so to move faster during the design,” explains Hervé Fontaine, vice president B2B and development at HTC Vive.

The group has, for example, entered into a partnership with BMW, whose objective is, in the long term, to eliminate physical prototypes : “It’s ten times cheaper and four times faster,” he argues. In the longer term, Mr. Fontaine believes that this technology will spread to all sectors. And this one to cite architecture, “where we sell a unique product that we cannot modify once it is delivered”, construction “for project management”, commerce, education, medicine…

“Acceleration phase”

Proof of the dynamism of this technology, which has entered a new dimension, with the commercialization of the first consumer headsets (Oculus Rift, Samsung Gear, HTC Vive, PlayStation VR …), two fairs are being held in France a month apart: Virtuality, whose first edition was held at the Centquatre, in Paris, until Sunday, February 26, then Laval Virtual, starting on March 22. Some 110 exhibitors announced for the first, 200 for the second, which registered more than 15,000 visitors in 2016.

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“In the coming years, we expect a boom in professional uses of VR, because the investments necessary to equip ourselves with this technology will continue to decline,” explains Olivier Godest, founder of the Virtuality show, who envisages the event as a place to “democratize VR and develop business. »

Laurent Chrétien, who directs the Laval Virtual salon, founded in 1999, abounds. “In 2014, we were still doing virtual reality in devices that were 3 by 3 meters with floor-to-ceiling screens and could cost up to 1 million euros. Today, we are witnessing an acceleration phase driven by the major manufacturers: the massive availability of their products increases the appetites of developers”, and therefore the list of outlets.

Depending on the technologies used, fully immersive (virtual reality) or mixing reality and virtuality (augmented reality or mixed reality), the operations are different. The sectors of industry, which were already used to working with computer-aided design (CAD), such as automotive, aerospace or furniture, are the most advanced.

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Encouraging prospects

With its HoloLens headset, which allows virtual elements to be integrated into a real environment and does not require connection to a computer, Microsoft can already offer nomadic uses, especially for maintenance. The group has thus succeeded in convincing the elevator giant ThyssenKrupp to equip some of its technicians with helmets that allow them to receive technical assistance during the most sensitive interventions.

“VR touches the user’s brain in a deeper, more instinctive way”, David Nahon, director of the Dassault Systèmes Virtual Immersion Lab

Dassault Systèmes, which was already a leading player in CAD, converted to VR very early on. “We want to develop in the design of 3D models for virtual reality,” explains David Nahon, director of the Virtual Immersion Lab at Dassault Systèmes. Beyond the advantages in product design, Mr. Nahon also sees an interest in training or marketing: “VR touches the user’s brain in a deeper, more instinctive way. »

An argument that could be taken up by the French company Augment, which develops augmented reality applications on tablets and smartphones. This lightweight solution convinced architects, distributors, who can thus present products that they do not have the place to exhibit, and seduced the students of the faculty of dental surgery of the University of Strasbourg. This type of solution is today the one that presents the most encouraging prospects. By 2020, augmented reality is expected to absorb three quarters of a virtual reality market estimated at 120 billion dollars (113 billion euros) worldwide by the company Digi-Capital. Date by which this sector should reach “a critical size”, according to the Forrester firm.

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