A look at seven XR companies helping the world combat COVID-19.
When you think of XR, what do you think of? Immersive games? Sharing funny images with friends on social media? New ways to understand information or interact with brands? Some XR companies are using their resources to help us move past coronavirus.
This article will look at just a few of the XR companies that are using their resources to help healthcare providers, frontline workers, and even those of us staying at home.
Much of the coverage on headset manufacturers during the crisis have involved decreased availability. Demand has gone up and supply chains have been disrupted and many XR companies have seen backorders on their supplies.
However, some XR companies and headset manufacturers have found the funds and resources to give back or have incorporated additional design features to meet changing needs.
In my drive folder, I have a special folder for our articles linked to COVID-19. Within that folder, is another folder just for Pico. I’ve had a soft spot in my heart for Pico since they never got the credit they deserved for launching an all-in-one headset a year before Oculus. But, their response to COVID has been something else.
They partnered with MyndVR and Littlstar to bring VR content to assisted living communities in April. Then, in May, they partnered with XRHealth to increase the availability of telehealth solutions.
Pico will also come up in a number of locations in this article, as they have worked with other XR companies in offering their solutions as well.
Smart glasses manufacturer Rokid announced their Rokid Glass 2 model back in January. As mass-production recently concluded, the manufacturer has incorporated and subsequently promoted a feature of the glasses allowing temperature monitoring.
Use cases pointed to by the company include scanning large numbers of individuals from a distance in situations like schools, airports, and tourist attractions.
Much of the ingenuity that XR companies have dedicated to the cause have involved introducing or updating platforms for applications like remote learning and telehealth.
The above-mentioned headset shortage among XR companies has inspired a number of content producers to rethink their gameplan, including AIXR award-winning group FundamentalVR. The accredited experience is so realistic that it counts as credit in medical curricula.
The last time ARPost talked with FundamentalVR, they had just partnered with haptics pioneer HaptX. The relationship gave FundamentalVR unparalleled realism, even simulating different tissue weights. However, it also limited the accessibility of the experience. In April, the company launched @HomeVR as well as a mobile-based virtual ventilator training.
“One of the interesting things with VR was that there was lack of hardware,” FundamentalVR CEO and co-founder Richard Vincent said in a Zoom interview. “You can access some of our experiences on mobile. We planned them for VR but we knew that a lot of people wouldn’t be able to access it.”
@HomeVR makes much of their content available on stand-alone headsets. It also incorporates a multi-user feature that medical institutions are using for collaborative remote instruction.
We always had multi-user on the roadmap for our platform, but we weren’t planning on releasing it until Q3 or Q4 of this year,” said Vincent. “We turned up the gas on that aspect of the platform for this specific use case.”
The platform does rely on in-controller haptic feedback which is a big step down from HaptX. However, it still provides valuable feedback to training medical professionals.
The company’s existing flagship product, HoloPatient, is an XR experience that allows medical professionals in training to interact with realistic virtual test patients in safe environments.
As a response to the pandemic, the company has created HoloPatient: COVID-19. The experience allows healthcare professionals, experienced or in training, to interact with a simulated COVID patient to understand how to safely and accurately locate symptoms, etc.
“Healthcare providers must be trained to recognize the signs and symptoms of COVID-19 in a safe environment,” GIGXR CEO and founder, David King Lassman, said in a release shared with ARPost. “GIGXR created the COVID-19 version of HoloPatient to address this ongoing need, and we’ve made it available free, democratizing access to this essential training content.”
As learning happens remotely, many are looking for an education-based XR meeting space. Early last month, XR education platform VictoryXR, together with Pico, launched VictoryXR Academy, a virtual campus for students and educators. The virtual campus includes an anatomy classroom, an astronomy lab, and an art center.
While the launch took place with Pico, it is compatible with most popular headsets and with Windows Mixed Reality.
Like many of the XR companies that we have seen, VIVE’s contribution to COVID world is something that they already had in development but weren’t intending on rolling out to the public. At least, not as early as they did.
In April, while VIVE representatives were streaming content replacing the canceled GDC, AVP of content production, David Sapienza presented VIVE Sync – the company’s remote meeting platform.
Sapienza explained that the platform had originally been created for internal use. The company decided to make it available to consumers as venues closed. The platform is currently in beta.
Holo4Labs is a HoloLens application for augmenting laboratory research through connected devices, hands-free features, and remote assistance capabilities. The last time ARPost spoke with Holo4Labs, they had just won the 2019 Best Innovation Initiative from Emerging Europe. They were also nominated for the Auggie Award for Best Enterprise Solution.
With all work strained and increasing pressure on laboratory workers – specifically in the health field – an expanded Holo4Labs helps to streamline the process. The update will help less experienced researchers get working faster and will help more experienced lab workers work even more efficiently.
“The software automatically scans the sample and suggests the next step to the lab worker. In addition, everything can take place under the supervision of an outside supervisor, who can track the process outside of the laboratory and instruct personnel,” – Holo4Labs CEO Przemysław Budnicki said in a release shared with ARPost.
Advent of the Future?
Proponents of XR technology have been calling it the technology of the future for decades. Faced with a once-in-a-lifetime crisis, XR companies are proving that these technologies can change the ways in which we learn, work, and live.