At Apple, one revolution often hides another. In the same way that the iPhone has generalized the use of apps, Vision Pro mixed reality headset unveiled Monday night could well give birth to the “office of the future”. With this $3,500 device, everyone can create the “ultimate work environment”, even promises Apple.
For example, an executive traveling on the other side of the world will be able to join a videoconference and see their colleagues in 3D. Architects or graphic designers will be able to view their work in 3D. In factories, the helmet can also be used for remote maintenance, or to validate products or industrial processes before their launch.
A first buzz peak in 2016
Companies certainly did not wait for Apple to test virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR). “In 2016, the launch of the Oculus Rift headset by Facebook had already generated a first peak of buzz,” recalls Virgile Dier, marketing manager at Orange Business in charge of mixed reality products. “At the time, we thought that the uses would be mainly for the general public. But that didn’t happen. »
With only 10 million units expected in 2023 worldwide (all brands combined), according to IDC, helmets have never really taken off among individuals. On the other hand, uses in companies are developing. This is particularly the case in construction, construction, health and, more broadly, in the industrial sectors. Many are still in the testing phase. Typically, companies experiment with just a few headsets.
However, “we are starting to see AR-VR projects that are scaling up,” continues Virgile Dier. “There has been renewed interest since the pandemic and the arrival of hybrid working methods. At the same time, technologies are becoming more mature. The dynamic is strong, and Apple has understood this well. They anticipated the fact that the demand would come mainly from companies. »
Projects under 10,000 euros
Orange Business, for example, sells Oculus headsets or Microsoft HoloLens to its professional customers, with support (advice, training), billed in man-days. Among its references, a major player in automotive technical control, or Allimand, a large manufacturer of machines for the paper industry. “With a helmet, a junior engineer or technician makes fewer mistakes than a senior profile,” ures Virgile Dier.
Training is another great use case. For three years, Bouygues Telecom has been using its four Oculus Quest 2 headsets to train new technicians responsible for deploying networks. Several concrete scenarios (installing a 5G antenna in the countryside, deploying fiber under a Parisian sidewalk, etc.) have been reproduced identically, as in a video game. Nine modules, of fifteen minutes each, were designed in this way.
“AR-VR transforms the way we learn. With a headset, the user retains between 75% and 90% of a training session, compared to only 10% when it comes to traditional verbal reception,” explains Sandrine Chauveron, who is leading the project at Bouygues Telecom. On the other hand, if the operator draws a very positive essment, the return on experience is still difficult to measure. “This will be our next step,” admits Sandrine Chauveron.
What about the cost of these devices? “Companies can start an AR-VR project with less than 10,000 euros,” says Virgile Dier at Orange Business. The helmet itself is only part of the total cost. The bulk of the expenditure is more in integration with information systems, business applications, training, etc.