If we take a retrospective journey through the last several years, there is one consistent theme that has had a continuous impact on Enterprise IT — and it’s one that we at Citrix fully embrace in our quest for the secure delivery of apps and data to any device at any time and on any network.
Of course, I am talking about Consumerization.
To use the Gartner definition, Consumerization is the specific impact that consumer-originated technologies can have on enterprises. It reflects how enterprises will be affected by, and can take advantage of, new technologies and models that originate and develop in the consumer space, rather than in the enterprise IT sector. Consumerization is not a strategy or something to be “adopted.” Consumerization can be embraced and it must be dealt with, but it cannot be stopped.
The examples are numerous and well documented; from the advent of the smartphone fueling the BYOD trend to the immediacy and simplicity of social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter. Consumer technologies are driving new ways for employees to communicate in ways that affect organizations, large and small, the whole world over.
At Citrix, we are constantly casting a quizzical glance toward to the consumer space to anticipate the next big thing that may arise. More importantly, we figure out how we can innovate to align with consumer trends to help our customers take full advantage of the promise of emerging technology and apply it to their business.
Over the past 6-12 months, we’ve seen an explosion in one particular area that is almost certain to have high impact and become considered as “mainstream” within the coming months – and it’s all about reality.
But it’s not just the every day reality that we see today through looking at the world with our own eyes, it’s the addition of virtual, augmented and mixed reality — three related, yet very different technologies — that provide the promise that was once the stuff of science fiction comics and the domain of imaginary x-ray specs!
“Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.”
So, what are these “new” realities, what do they mean and why would we be excited about these at Citrix? To begin, let me give a brief explanation of the subtle differences between the three technologies, as I believe it’s important to understand how they work and how the user experiences for each differs.
Virtual Reality (VR)
VR has been around, in one form or another, for a number of years, but was historically an expensive and very cumbersome proposition. VR, by definition, is a completely virtual, fully immersive, simulated experience. A VR headset, often called a Head Mounted Display (HMD), is required and used to fully obfuscate the end user’s field of normal vision. The HMD responds to a combination of physical movements to adjust what the user “sees”. This fully immersive experience creates the illusion that the user is located and acting inside a virtual world. VR typically relies on high performance PCs, with the HMD tethered to the PC via USB or HDMI (but more on that later) for ensuring a smooth, if somewhat physical restricted user experience.
One well-known VR product comes from Facebook’s $2bn acquisition of Oculus Rift, but a host of others, from Google to HTC to Sony to Samsung are jumping aboard the VR bandwagon. Consumer and enterprise-grade devices are entering the market almost monthly and many software companies and game manufacturers are scrambling to create VR experiences for their customers.
Augmented Reality (AR)
AR differs from VR in one major way: it does not need, nor require a full HMD to operate. AR is designed to “blend” content from the physical world with content from one or more virtual sources. This content can be anything from URL links to web content, files, videos or 3D models and animations and can be displayed using an AR “overlay” – which today, can be fully integrated into most smartphones. Typically, AR works on the concept of image recognition (where the AR browser can identify a physical object) or by using a technique to map a physical location (such as GPS coordinates). This enabling technology allows engineers, construction personnel, mechanics, installation fitters and many others to easily view overlaid information and models of what they’re working on to help improve productivity and accuracy.
The Google Glass project was widely considered the first mainstream wearable AR solution, while several months ago, Apple quietly acquired the leading AR technology provider, Metaio. It is widely speculated that future generations of iPhone and iPad will include native AR capabilities in these devices’ cameras. Let’s also not forget the huge and unimaginable impact that PokemonGO made in 2016, using a full, cross-device, cross-platform AR experience to define an entirely new kind of mobile gaming paradigm.
Mixed Reality (MR)
MR is the most recent entry of the three options and has also historically been labeled as “holographic computing” by Microsoft as part of their Hololens experience. Many technology purists will argue that MR is a subset of AR, but there is one noteworthy point to consider. In MR, just as with AR, the primary concept is to overlay virtual content on the physical world that is specific to, and interacts with, the context of the real world — imagine a construction pipe fitter overlaying the 3D design model on part of the oil refinery that they are working on — allowing them to check accuracy.
The major difference with MR is that the virtual content and the real world content are able to react to each other in real time. In the construction use case, this would allow the worker to make “live” changes and updates to the 3D model or to use MR to report real time progress. Microsoft continue to be the most visible and active proponent of MR, delivering the first version Hololens HMD earlier this year, and promising to provide the Windows Holographic Shell as part of an update to all Windows 10 PCs sometime in 2017. This will enable Windows 10 users to connect and use Microsoft’s augmented reality headset. An air of mystery still surrounds the super-secretive Magic Leap organization that has been in stealth for the past few years and is soon (hopefully) to come to market with their much-awaited MR solution.
Fascinating as this background explanation is, how is this related to Citrix?
Let’s refer to our mission statement: to power a world where people, organizations, and things are securely connected and accessible so our customers can make the extraordinary possible.
Citrix are actively working on aligning some brand new capabilities to all of the reality options – virtual, augmented and mixed. In my next blog post, I will to focus mainly on VR, but rest assured, I’ll provide further details on what we are doing with AR and MR in future posts.
Let me recap by sharing an image that I’ve used in recent presentations. This represents a “simple” view of how apps and data are securely delivered through Citrix Cloud, but also captures how this will evolve to allow apps and data to be consumed by different devices over time. Of course, these devices will include those natively capable of VR, AR and MR.
The future we see at Citrix extends beyond the mobile devices and business practices used in businesses today. We anticipate a day where we can create a new reality that enhances our best human capabilities, improving our ability to live and work. And we’re just getting started.
You can read Part 2 of “Keeping IT Real: Unleashing Virtual Reality Within the Enterprise” right here.