March 4th, 2019
By Lynnette Reese, Editor-in-Chief, Embedded Systems Engineering
Dell is advancing AR/VR while making it accessible to gamers, retailers, educators, manufacturers, and more.
The world is rapidly changing, using new technology to accomplish more than ever before. Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) continue to break barriers as hardware continually extends performance to higher levels. Dell Technologies is a collective force that’s committed to advancing human progress. What does Dell currently see in the AR/VR landscape?
Lynnette Reese, Editor-in-Chief, Embedded Systems Engineering, interviewed Gary Radburn, Director of VR/AR globally at Dell.
Lynnette Reese (LR): What are the many diverse applications out there for VR/AR today?
Gary Radburn (GR): The affordability and accessibility of Virtual Reality (VR) are opening greater commercial and consumer applications of the technology. We are quickly moving into an era where Augmented Reality (AR), VR and natural user interfaces will be the norm in a variety of different use cases. According to Gartner’s numbers, AR, VR, and mixed reality immersive solutions will be evaluated and adopted in 20% of large enterprises as part of their digital transformation strategy by 2020.
Immersive computing will bring vast improvements to medical treatment, social causes, and complex manufacturing applications. Here are some examples:
- Interplay Learning is using AR and VR technologies to make skills training immersive and accessible in the fields of HVAC repair, electricians, and plumbing. They are using VR to help companies train with customized 3D simulations and “VR-in-a-box” training and certification courses.[i]
- Albert “Skip” Rizzo, Ph.D. is the Director of Medical Virtual Reality at the Institute for Creative Technologies within the University of Southern California. He is the person behind Project Bravemind– a clinical, interactive VR-based exposure therapy tool for returning U.S. soldiers and war veterans.[ii]Exposure therapy involves the repeated ‘reliving’ of traumatic events in the imagination – but in this case, it’s occurring in a controlled and safe VR environment under a clinician’s care. The patient can begin to process the emotions associated with the trauma and de-condition the mind to help reduce anxiety over time. He is also working on building VR scenarios to address social and vocational interactions in persons with autism. You can read more about his work at https://www.delltechnologies.com/en-us/perspectives/how-virtual-reality-is-saving-lives-both-on-and-off-the-battlefield/
- Carolina Cruz-Neira, the world-renowned inventor of the CAVE virtual environment, is currently leading the University of Arkansas Emerging Analytics Center for faculty, researchers, and students to explore advanced applications of VR, mixed reality, and visualization.[iii] In the field of medical education, she contributed to the Anatomic Eyes Project where users can dissect a life-size, virtual cadaver using simple pinch gestures. She’s been using her CAVE VR for applications to advance business, but also to promote computer science work and research in education, including computer science programs in public schools. There’s a video where she discusses her work at https://www.delltechnologies.com/en-us/perspectives/redefining-virtual-reality-with-dr-carolina-cruz-neira/
- Working with National Geographic Explorer Mike Libecki, Dell put out a VR series documenting Mike’s travels to Greenland and other remotes areas of the planet. A recent innovation in VR that made it possible was being able to record 8K quality VR video. VR brings the viewer right alongside Libecki on his expeditions. As a teaching tool, Libecki can better show the majesty of the natural world and the impact of pollution and global warming on the environment.
- Local city planners on the east coast are using VR and AR technologies as important research and visualization tools for urban development and infrastructure planning, emergency management, and tourism. The power of visualization shouldn’t be underestimated – immersive VR experiences can really help bring a concept to life for stakeholders, investors, and the public.
LR: You work closely with Dell customers on VR/AR deployments. What challenges do customers tend to face?
GR: Historically, there has been a perception that VR or AR projects are too expensive or complicated, but customers are recognizing that implementation is now scalable and worth exploring.
Another challenge is identifying/imagining the right VR application. Customers are interested in the technology, but generalized offerings or customizable templates are limited. At Dell, we’ve been working closely with partners through our Technology Partner Program to deliver services and resources to help our customers explore the potential of VR/AR.
For example, we introduced a program to bring together other innovators in VR and AR to test and collaborate on the best technology solutions for diverse applications and experiences. The program allows Dell to help current and potential customers better navigate an evolving VR ecosystem while working with partners to verify and certify the best VR software and hardware solutions for them. We are bringing standardization where it is needed most. Dell currently has eight VR Centers of Excellence located in Santa Clara, Austin, Limerick, China, Frankfort, and Singapore, to name a few. These centers enable customers to experiment with VR proofs of concept, test, and validate solutions in a risk-free environment to find the right one for them.
LR: One of the barriers to adopting VR for an application is the cost of the system on which VR will run. How has Dell driven down cost?
GR: We understand how critical it is to deliver a robust and quality VR experience so as a leader in this space we have the most VR-ready PC platforms for the creation and consumption of content.
Figure 1: The Ready for VR badge on a Dell machine means that the machine’s performance is up to Dell’s VR standard. (Credit: Dell)
Dell is committed to the democratization of VR, and are 100% supportive of bringing incredible, immersive VR experiences to more people. We’re intent on providing solutions that address the full spectrum of VR experiences, prices, and performance that meet customer’s needs.
Dell has played a leading role driving down the costs of systems without sacrificing a great VR experience, and we are committed to growing our VR-ready PC portfolio and collaborating with VR partners to develop innovative VR/AR solutions for all types of customers.
We offer devices tailored for both the creation and consumption of VR experiences. We have worked with partners to identify the minimum specs for a positive, seamless VR experience, and have a broad “Ready for VR” portfolio. We will continue to build on our work with HTC and Oculus to develop even more accessible VR solutions for all kinds of users interested in VR.
LR: What are some of the best processors out there today that have high enough performance to deliver a superb VR experience? On the other hand, what hardware set up is realistically feasible for the average gamer to purchase?
GR: Integrated chips (ICs) play a considerable part in bringing accessible, powerful tools for VR creators and consumers. At an entry level, the Dell Precision 3630 Tower features 8th Generation Intel® Core™ i3 through i7 processors and new professional-grade Xeon® E processors with faster memory speeds up to 2666MHz, 64GB, and up to 225W of graphics support. It is ideal for creating or enjoying VR experiences that are particularly resource-intensive.
But chips are just one piece of the overall puzzle. You can have the best chip in the world for VR, but if your system is underpowered in other areas, then it can’t output a feed quick enough to give a good experience. When it comes to hardware set up, we put a lot of thought into our ‘Ready for VR’ standard. When you see that logo on a Dell machine, you are assured the perfect mix of components for an optimal VR experience. We make the choice easy and ensure that our machine can deliver the latest and greatest VR functionality.
LR: Can you fill in a bit more detail regarding the 2019 CES non-gaming PR released on Jan 8: “Dell is revealing a cutting-edge future capability of integrating the smartphone into the VR experience, allowing VR gamers to receive notifications, conduct phone calls and reply to text messages. Android users can even access all their mobile applications by pulling a virtual 3D model of their phone and operating it with touch inside the VR experience.”
GR: This was a Mobile Connect demo on the VR integration capabilities we can currently bring to consumers. Instead of being locked off in a VR environment, we wanted to show how we can still tie a person’s daily activities into the VR experience. We believe that seamless integration is one major contributor to VR adoption.
LR: What are the significant challenges today facing VR in gaming?
GR: From a technology perspective, VR is getting better and better. Rendering and movements are improving, and the hardware is becoming more accessible and cheaper for the average consumer to own.
The hardware is ready to deliver the next creative opus. VR software and games are improving all the time since delivering a story moves from ‘story telling’ to ‘story experiencing.’ VR used to be perceived and delivered as “short experiences” from a time perspective, but we are now seeing AAA titles in VR for extended immersion periods. This is where it is even more important to deliver the best, most comfortable experience which we, at Dell, strive to provide for our customers.
Gary Radburn is the Director of VR/AR globally at Dell. He leads a team dedicated to the development of deployment of VR/AR technology for businesses and consumers. He has over 30 years of experience building innovative VR/AR solutions to different industries and is a recognized advocate on the good the technology can bring about. You can follow him on Twitter at @VRGaryatDell
Lynnette Reese is Editor-in-Chief, Embedded Intel Solutions and Embedded Systems Engineering, and has been working in various roles as an electrical engineer for over two decades. She is interested in open source software and hardware, the maker movement, and in increasing the number of women working in STEM so she has a greater chance of talking about something other than football at the water cooler.