When people think of virtual reality (VR), it tends to be in a context in which the technology replicates a physical process. Take manufacturing design, for instance: vehicle developers can walk around a 3D model of their latest car prototype, and inspect it from every angle. They can make cosmetic changes – the color, let’s say – but they can also maybe swap engine parts, and gauge the difference this makes to performance.
What might not spring so readily to mind about virtual reality is its potential application to non-physical areas of business – but just because it’s less obvious doesn’t mean it should be dismissed. It’s certainly something we’re addressing here at Capgemini.
A prime case in point is the concept of the VR Command Center. Enterprise-level management has always benefited from a focal location from which it can coordinate operations in finance, administration, supply chain management, and HR. We’re looking at how these functions might be approached in a VR world.
There are several advantages to this approach:
- The lack of physical limitations means you can have as many screens as you like. Users don’t need to toggle between apps, windows or web pages: they can all be immediately available in virtual space
- Information can be accessed and interpreted in new ways. It may be just as useful to walk around a visualization of revenue data as it is to examine the 3D car design I mentioned just now
- Physical visualizations can also form part of this management application. For instance, it may be useful for supply chain management purposes to see the dispatch depot in real time. Similarly, if a large order is in the offing for a non-standard product, you might want to see shop-floor scenarios that will help decide how to re-organize things – and also help gauge what the implications will be for costs of production
- Because it’s virtual, the Command Center constitutes shared space. It can be occupied in real time by people with the same or complementary functions, but who are physically based in different parts of the world. They can look at all those virtual screens together; they can have meetings at a shared virtual desk; and they can also have productive ad hoc side-conversations, just as they do in the real world round the coffee machine. In fact, colleagues might even be present in hologram form: a major US film studio is working to make this possible at the moment.
Making it work
To achieve something like this, you’re going to need not just the software, but different means of facilitating human-computer interaction, including VR goggles, haptic gloves, and an earpiece or speakers. (That covers off three of the five senses: taste and smell are harder to achieve, but fortunately, they’re also less necessary to the task in question). With the gloves, you’ll of course be able to interact with the virtual screens, as though they were touch-sensitive.
Of course, a VR Command Center can’t meet every need, and there are drawbacks. It’s hard, for instance, to imagine any one person being able to spend hours at a time in virtual space without feeling disoriented. It might therefore be best to coordinate short, overlapping shifts, or to convene people at set times.
Handled well, VR Command Centers may have much to offer. At Capgemini, we envisage them being part of the mix in three to five years from now.
We also expect them to evolve. We’ve written several online articles about Intelligent Process Automation, artificial intelligence (AI), and robotic process automation (RPA), and it may be possible to monitor or interact with these technologies in a virtual world.
When that happens, we may find we achieve new levels of benefit that we can’t yet even foresee.
To learn more about how a VR Command Center could monitor or interact with your AI and RPA technologies in a virtual world, contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
Miroslaw Bartecki is head of Capgemini’s Intelligent Automation Lab focused on adopting AI technologies into business services. He leverages the potential hidden in deep and machine learning to increase the speed, accuracy, and automation of processes.