You don't need any special goggles to see a predominant trend in the mixed reality market: Most of the gains afforded by the technology have come in the enterprise. This is particularly true for augmented reality because it lacks even the young ecosystem of games catering to consumers that have sprung up in virtual reality.
As a company that has a strong presence in smartphones today and which must anticipate the personal form factors of tomorrow, Qualcomm (client) has been aggressively pushing AR applications. The company this week stepped up its support of business applications, with the launch of the XR Enterprise Program. A key part of its pitch to solution providers is that optimizing XR applications for its processors can help customer upgrades and migrations amidst form factor evolution and a volatile device vendor landscape. Regarding the latter, even in an age where Microsoft is more inclined to produce its own hardware, supporting early partners likely factored into the decision to bring the Snapdragon-powered HoloLens to market itself.
The 15 or so founding partners cover an instructive cross-section of the verticals where mixed reality is most useful, including construction, manufacturing, healthcare, retail, and transportation. But they also include more horizontal plays such as virtual meeting company Spatial, which I wrote about last November.
Participants will be able to tap into an enhanced level of tech support, co-marketing and business development resources, fairly standard fare for these kinds of programs. However, they'll also be able to tap into matchmaking opportunities for synergies within the group (which may not be as tight-knit a community as one might think given its early days) as well as opportunities for seeding and pilots at enterprises. This would again capitalize on a lesson learned from the Microsoft rollout of HoloLens, where companies got to promote themselves as innovators and one -- Trimble -- even became an accessory maker for HoloLens 2.
While not tied to work on any operating system, the XR Enterprise Program should be a boon for Android given Qualcomm's focus on mobility. After an early VR push and the aborted Project Tango that relied on a depth-sensing dual-camera system, Google has fallen far behind Apple, which has rapidly iterated its ARKit SDK versus Android's counterpart, ARCore. The disparity may be a tough one to swallow for Google, which was far ahead of its time in pioneering an augmented reality wearable with Glass. But, as I wrote, it has realigned that product to serve the enterprise. Beyond that, nobody doubts that, at some point, AR will have to break free from the smartphone to reach its full potential.
PREVIOUS AND RELATED COVERAGE
Augmented reality invades the conference room
Spatial extends the core functionality of video and screen sharing apps to a new frontier.
With Enterprise Edition, Google Glass finds its ROI calling
Glass's vision as an everyday digital overlay onto the real world was overly ambitious, but the Enterprise Edition scales back enough inhibitors to make Glass a competitive AR option.
HoloLens 2: Going hands-on with holograms
The HoloLens 2 is a huge step forward from the original that does more to realize the promise of mixed reality than anything before it.