Right now enterprise XR is where most growth in XR is happening outside of Oculus and Sony’s walled gardens.
If you look at the majority headset manufacturers and the major developments happening in the industry, most of them are targeting the enterprise market. This is happening for a multitude of reasons, but the primary reasons are that the industries where XR makes the most sense are already able to quickly realize their ROI and the cost of XR is marginal to the size of the benefits. This is a natural progression that we’ve seen other previous technology platforms have taken, including the PC and smartphone and there’s no reason to believe that XR will be any different. A lot of that XR has been on the PC with VR headsets, with nearly all automotive manufacturers using VR somewhere in their design process and most architectural firms are also using VR somewhere in their projects.
We are also seeing companies like Walmart utilizing mobile VR headsets like the Oculus Go for training employees, which has already helped as the CEO said that training helped save lives in the El Paso shooting because of active shooter training. There are also countless examples of enterprise AR helping enterprises to reduce training time and maintenance mistakes ranging from industries like Oil & Gas to automotive repair. However, the reality is that long term, many enterprises are going to want to adopt XR in ways that match the way their workers work, which is increasingly mobile and not tethered to a PC or a single location. Additionally, a lot of companies still don’t completely understand how they can leverage XR, be it AR or VR, within their company to improve productivity, reduce costs or simply accomplish things that were previously impossible. Some enterprises might be better fit for AR while others may be better fit for VR and there are companies out there that specialize in helping enterprises find the answer to those questions.
That’s why Qualcomm’s XR Enterprise Program makes so much sense, Qualcomm’s chipsets are already in pretty much all of the mobile XR headsets out there today, including Microsoft’s Hololens 2, HTC Vive Focus, Pico Goblin 4K, Lenovo Mirage Solo, Oculus’ Quest and Go, Google Glass 2, Nreal Light, RealWear HMT-1 and Vuzix M400. Earlier this year, Qualcomm announced an XR viewer program which is designed to help pair 5G smartphone manufacturers with XR viewer manufacturers to address some of the issues with some AR headsets being too bulky for some users and not having 5G built-in quite yet. The XR Enterprise Program aims to continue that work and connect its hardware partners like the aforementioned headset manufacturers (and future headset manufacturers) with enterprise solution providers in a broad array of industries including manufacturing, energy, healthcare, aerospace, education, insurance, retail, transportation and AEC (architecture, engineering & construction).
Qualcomm’s program will give the first members — enterprise solution providers — access to partners’ technical support resources, promotional opportunities, marketing promotion, joint planning and business development including matchmaking with other members. This also helps these enterprise solutions providers learn how to walk in XR before they run (for example: testing out smart viewers before they go full AR). A lot of enterprises may still be unfamiliar with where AR and VR technologies are at today in terms of capability and Qualcomm’s knowledge and connections should be able to help.
The program is part of Qualcomm’s broader Qualcomm Advantage Network, which is the company’s already existing ecosystem accelerator initiative which aims to help small to medium players grow into bigger more successful players in the company’s respective market. This also means that members selected for the program should get access to Qualcomm’s broader XR industry insights, connections with their end customers, visibility into upcoming hardware and software features and a Qualcomm XR Enterprise Program badge to display on their website and promotional materials. For more information and to apply to enter the program, follow this link to Qualcomm’s website.
Qualcomm already has a pretty big bench of companies participating in or supporting the XR Enterprise Program both from the XR world as well as the enterprise training and services industries. Companies like AMA, Cognitive3D, Librestream, Mitchell International, UbiMAX and Zerolight round out the enterprise solutions providers. In addition to them, companies like Arvizio, NIBIRU, Nrealal, Pico, RealWear, Scope AR, STRIVR, XR Health, VictoryXR and Vuzix are already onboard. That’s a pretty comprehensive list of companies already driving the mobile XR space with the latest in headsets and enterprise ecosystem services. Do note, that while some of the headset vendors are involved and supporting the program, they are not technically a part of the XR Enterprise Program.
My father used to own an auto shop, and I can immediately think of numerous ways that an AR headset could help train new mechanics or assist an experienced mechanic with a difficult problem. In that business, labor is your margin and every minute wasted is money lost. Also, it could help auto mechanics build trust with their customers, so when they say something is broken or needs replacing, they can pull up a photo or video of that area for the customer to see for themselves. This simply wouldn’t be as easy to do with a PC-tethered headset. That’s why companies like Mitchell International are getting involved, they build software for the auto repair industry among other things.
One big angle to consider is that while today enterprise XR is primarily PC-based, it will shift toward mobile much like most of the computing has today. Most PC growth is in laptops and smartphones are still a billion-device industry. XR is already making the shift toward mobile with standalone headsets gaining popularity and performance, with the Oculus Quest being a perfect example of that. AR is also going to be inherently mobile because the real benefits of AR will only be realized in the real world, which means having constant connectivity and AR world anchors. All of this will heavily lean on 5G as an enabling technology, which I believe Qualcomm gets better than anyone else in the industry. Because of Qualcomm’s understanding of 5G, I believe it would be key to understand the role it will play in enterprise XR and why such a program would be valuable for both Qualcomm and its partners.
Disclosure: Moor Insights & Strategy, like all research and analyst firms, provides or has provided research, analysis, advising, and/or consulting to many high-tech companies in the industry including AMD, Microsoft, Intel, and Qualcomm. The author does not hold any equity positions with any companies cited in this column.