ARTICLE BY CLIFTON DAWSON

Clifton Dawson, CEO of Greenlight Insights, is an analyst who covers digital disruption and how today’s company are transforming their business models to deliver next-gen experiences through virtual and augmented reality technology. Follow him: @AskClifton.

Strategic Insight: VR will be the backbone of many enterprise applications, such as industrial design, employee training, remote communication. A new slate of HMDs powered by Microsoft's Windows 10 will introduce key features needed for enterprise use of VR.

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One issue with the current generation of VR headsets is that they can restrict the user from engaging fully with the outside world, limiting their usefulness in many workplace settings. New VR headsets to be released this year from Acer, Dell, ASUS, HP, 3Glasses, and Lenovo will be powered by Microsoft's Windows 10 operating system. As such, the Microsoft powered VR HMDs will come with several important features that are designed to bring the outside world, inside the headset experience, and will improve the usefulness for industrial design, workforce training, and remote communications.

3D MODELING

Microsoft is bent on becoming a major provider of 3D animation tools, and thus will add more 3D creation features into Windows 10 via its Paint 3D application, as well as the "Windows Capture 3D Experience" application. Currently, Windows Capture 3D Experience can scan 3D objects via a Windows mobile device and export it to the Paint 3D application. Users can then view or modify it, but Microsoft plans to expand the application to other smartphone devices as well.

Industrial and architectural designers will soon be able to enhance their 3D models using a VR headset, shortening the time it takes from to go from concept to pre-production. Sketchup, a popular 3D modeling software, will be supported by the Window's 10 VR headsets. Moreover, Microsoft will soon expand the 3D feature in some Microsoft Office applications. Schools and offices are likely to see presentations in MS Word and Powerpoint in 3D soon.

CORTANA

Microsoft VR headsets will work with Cortana, Microsoft's digital agent, so users can speak to give commands or interact with content. Initially the headsets will support nine languages. More languages will be added during the holiday season this year. With the lineup of affordable HMDs, Microsoft will help people be productive, which is already the company's main focus.

The best aspect of the integration in VR headsets is that Cortana works on Windows phones, PCs, and tablets for a unified Windows 10 experience. Plus, the more someone uses Cortana, the more personalized a user's experience will be.

Natural language speech control will also provide accessibility for users who cannot physically interact with a VR experience. This opens the Microsoft headsets to a population of consumers who have not been able to interact with VR before.

INTEGRATION OF PRODUCTIVITY APPS

Thanks to integrations with Microsoft Exchange and Outlook, Cortana has a view into work users' e-mails and calendars. With the Microsoft Office 365 cloud service, Cortana has the power to search files and turn up relevant documents. Soon, LinkedIn* will start feeding Cortana more contextual information on the people you network with with. (LinkedIn was purchased by Microsoft for $26B in December 2016.)

Plus, Microsoft is providing the tools for developers to not only hook their apps into Cortana, but also to use the Microsoft Azure cognitive services to give them similar levels of artificial intelligence.

A NEW PROPOSITION AMONG THE COMPETITION

Thanks to Windows Holographic compatibility with the coming generation of Windows-powered VR headsets will enable greater usefulness for training new employees, as well as for training existing employees in new skills.

Initially, many of these devices will require customization for a specific use case. Over time,  there will be some standardization in enterprise HMDs. Their premium product cost (thus price) will diminish so that it more closely resembles that of high quality mass-market HMDs.