Before virtual reality head-mounted displays (HMDs) and computers to drive them started to reduce in cost, taking the plunge into virtual reality (VR) for any business used to be a daunting and expensive endeavor. Fortunately, HMD technology has advanced, providing organizations with a less expensive entry point to begin realizing the value that VR can bring to their workflows and their bottom line. Once an organization embraces VR in its processes, it’s hard to imagine ever going back. While HMDs work well for some use cases, other organizations may begin to feel held back by their limitations. Large immersive VR systems like video walls and CAVEs have been enabling insight and collaboration for decades but have been overshadowed recently by lower-cost HMDs. Justifying the investment in large-scale immersive environments can be difficult without a solid understanding of the return on investment.

HMD Limitations

  1. Real world isolation – While wearing an HMD, you no longer see your body, your colleagues, or any of your physical surroundings. This can be quite disorienting and uncomfortable for some users.
  2. Constrained collaboration – Wearing an HMD creates a very personal experience. An HMD will suffice when reviewing a design independently, but productive collaboration can suffer when examining or presenting a design with a group. Each user’s view and tracking is quite independent from others collaborating in the same space. While avatars can be added to the VR content to try to address this, a limited collaborative experience remains.
  3. Restricted use cases – As mentioned, HMDs are great for singular views, but the ability to show off a new product concept or building design to a large group becomes quite challenging.  Cycling multiple people through one device takes time and leaves non-viewers hanging. Viewing the same elements at the same time while each person has an independent view makes presentations unproductive and potentially confusing. Many users find they are only able to wear an HMD for 10-15 minutes because of the discomfort they can create, which limits the amount of time and depth of conversation that can occur in this VR view.

If your organization has embraced VR with the use of HMDs, you’ve likely begun to see the benefits of incorporating this technology into your workflows. For some organizations, that’s enough. For many others who realize the value VR brings to their enterprise, but feel constrained by HMDs, incorporating a large-scale immersive environment might be the next step. Not only does this solution provide fewer restrictions, it comes with many additional advantages.

Large-Scale Immersive Advantages

  1. The WOW factor – Viewing content and data in large-scale is impressive on many levels. It’s hard not to be inspired in such a space. Incorporating cutting edge, high-tech solutions into organizational workflows has been proven to impress clients and investors, attract high-quality employment recruits, and retain valuable employees longer, addressing the growing issue of knowledge transfer with high retirement rates of veteran employees.
  2. Multi-purpose uses – Of course large-scale immersive environment are great for VR design reviews, but their use cases extend well beyond just that. Immersive environments aren’t only a 3D display. They can be used in 2D mode as a board room or conference room for impressive presentations and collaborative discussions. The system can be used for sales, in 2D/3D or a briefing center  capacity with visiting clients. Utilizing the space for applications beyond VR offsets the technology cost by sharing with more users.
  3. Extensive collaboration – Most projects come to life amongst a collaborative team. Large-scale immersive environments enable a team of researchers, designers, engineers, manufacturers, and marketers to all view and collaborate on concepts, design modifications, and changes simultaneously, and in real-time. Incorporating VR into organizational workflows reduces the need for physical prototypes, increasing productivity, reducing design flaws, limiting recalls, and reducing overall costs. In research applications, new scenarios and variations can be presented and reviewed for new insights.

Making the leap from VR using HMDs to a large-scale immersive environment does involve some informed planning along with investment. This isn’t a decision that should be taken lightly, but partnering with an experienced technology integrator can reduce risks and increase your organization’s ROI. An integrator’s job is to align solutions with an enterprise’s specific goals and use-cases, not just sell the technology they have available. Here are some items to consider when you’re ready to expand your VR capabilities.

Large-Scale Immersive Environment Considerations

  1. Location – The immersive environment needs to be central to your organization’s primary use case. If employees have to walk more than 100 meters or drive a distance to utilize the technology, they likely won’t. This is particularly applicable in areas where weather, like snow and frequent rain, is a factor. Be sure to select a location where user traffic will be highest, reducing the risk of underutilization.
  2. Technology – One-size-fits-all isn’t true with solutions. There are so many display technology options to choose from. Projectors, flat panels, and Direct View LEDs all come in many varieties. Selecting which works best for your organization will depend upon its use cases. Be sure to work with an integrator that provides honest information, benchmark comparisons, and makes recommendations that help you make an intelligent decision.
  3. Footprint – Real estate costs are high so adding or taking over existing space for VR can be a big decision. Like above, one size doesn’t fit all. Ensure power, HVAC, and space requirements align with use cases and technology selected from the start. Modifications made after technology is installed can be both challenging and costly.

For decades, large scale VR has been saving organizations time and money every year. If your organization is ready to transition from HMD VR technology to a large-scale immersive environment, find a technology partner that can set you up for success. We’re here to help.

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