By Pavel Tatarintsev, Expert at NNTC
For a long time, virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) technologies used to appear in the entertainment and gaming sectors only and required unique and expensive devices. Once, the equipment price went down and became affordable for the mass consumers, the VR/AR market started to grow quickly. Further evolution of these technologies will not only allow applying them for tackling production and business tasks, but also revolutionizing many areas of life.
According to PwC, virtual and augmented reality technologies are among those that will influence business development in 2018-2022. The key prerequisite here is their synergy with other technologies, such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT). IDC predicts that in 2019 worldwide spending on AR/VR solutions will be led by the commercial sectors, which will see its combined share of overall spending as 64.5% in 2019. The industries that are expected to spend the most on AR/VR in 2019 include personal and consumer services ($1.6 billion), retail ($1.56 billion), and discrete manufacturing ($1.54 billion). In addition to that IDC predicts that resource industries will deliver CAGR of 123.7% over the five-year forecast period.
The market for VR and AR in the Middle East and Africa is expected to increase to $6 billion in 2020, according to the same forecast from IDC. In particular, Dubai puts a lot of efforts to embrace AR and VR and envisions how these technologies may create new career opportunities and attract investments.
AR/VR technologies can become a big help in a variety of industries, even in those that seem to be far from 3D graphics use, as the banking sector. Actually, there are real-life case studies in the finance sector where companies have already been using 3D simulators to train employees in polite and empathic customer communications.
In addition, you can hardly imagine technical design or idea approval without the use of visualization tools. However, the market is still shaping its demand for VR solutions. Virtual reality mostly catches the attention of manufacturing enterprises that are undergoing a digital transformation, primarily oil & gas giants and petrochemical businesses, that were the first to realize VR value and benefits for production chain optimization and personnel training.
Manufacturing companies employ VR almost throughout the product lifecycle. For example, some solutions unite remote branches into a virtual environment, while designers can jointly negotiate and approve the design based on 3D model.
Virtual reality streamlines the production personnel training in sophisticated technological processes and operations, with some enterprises already employing training projects powered by 3D graphics. As a rule, such training concerns situations or processes that are impossible or extremely expensive to simulate in real life. Here, VR tools enable the scenarios that call for collaboration and maximum person immersion into the process. The same tools help analyze employee actions, check knowledge retention, and exert emotional influence — something which is crucial for occupational safety training.
The market witnesses an increasing demand for Digital Manufacturing products, including emergency drills for personnel or so-called Health & Safety solutions. Some enterprises went even further by establishing Centers of Digital Excellence. We help them by providing technical consultations and necessary infrastructure. In particular, machine-building plants and design bureaus can leverage NNTC competences to make the infrastructure work with graphic data without latency. With VDI technologies, you can work with 3D models safely and directly at your workplace. Professional visualization systems allow users to dive deep into details and examine the model in full scale.
Our GCC customers demonstrate stable demand for marketing VR product, which is the easiest to deploy. Now, VR and AR apps are more actively used by marketing specialists for product and service promotion, for example, in retail and corporate sales. Here, VR and AR technologies allow salesmen to demonstrate the product, which is not available yet, as well as its advantages, and differentiate from competitors thanks to brand-new customer experiences.
VR and AR tools have already proven their great efficiency when selling and marketing technically sophisticated products, including defense and industrial goods. For instance, industrial machinery vendor's representatives leverage an AR app and hologram table to demonstrate their products to potential buyers and investors during meetings and industry-specific expos. Eye-catching and clear demonstration of sophisticated equipment makes the difference.
With ongoing digital transformation, customers have gained a better insight into technologies and learned to make more prudent requests, thus contributing to a brand-new understanding of efficiency by both customer and contractor and new forms of collaboration appearing in the market. However, there are certain obstacles on AR/VR technologies' way to the B2B sector.
One of the issues is that new technologies call for new advanced infrastructure, including wireless communication devices, graphical servers and other components of a technology ecosystem. This technically challenging digitalization process is inevitable but requires investments to be made.
The lack of VR professionals is another obstacle here, with the collaboration between industry players being needed to foster specialists with brand-new qualifications.
We expect industrial VR products to expand their presence in the Gulf countries step by step in line with Industry 4.0 adoption by manufacturing enterprises. Today, we witness high awareness of VR and AR potential among various businesses. Digital transformation leaders initiate more and more VR and AR use cases by developing pilot projects both in-house and through collaboration with partners. Competent feedback is all we need. The earlier we get it and the more comprehensive it is, the faster changes will occur in the production culture.
The GCC businesses are now considering not just local technology implementations, but also centralized deployment that will change legacy approaches and methodologies. For instance, petrochemical companies are actively employing VR simulators for production personnel training and more effective risk management. Globally, all the above will result in a brand-new enterprise digital culture.