Spatial Computing: Expert Roundtable

Taqtile and Arvizio discuss the latest XR trending tech topic Spatial Computing

Virtual RealityNews Analysis

Published: November 29, 2023


Rory Greener

What a year 2024 has been for XR. At the start of the year, the technology industry faced layoffs as some major firms, such as Meta, started 2023 cautiously. Despite the 2022 Metaverse boom that swept imagination and scepticism equally, 2023 was tough during H1 for the immersive industry.

However, the narrative quickly switched towards the middle of the year. Apple, Meta, Microsoft, and many others started to reestablish the Metaverse and XR as serious business tools following a lacklustre adoption rate from consumer markets.

Moreover, Apple introduced the concept of spatial computing – the ability to leverage digital applications in an MR 3D space surrounding the user – to separate itself from the Metaverse hype-wave following a feeling of disenfranchisement from some pundits.

Since Apple introduced spatial computing to the masses during WWDC this year, 2023 H2 saw many XR firms adopt the wordage – alongside the current industrial Metaverse push – to showcase the next generation of enterprise-grade XR solutions.

However, what really is spatial computing? Is it a tool for businesses? Will spatial computing suffer from the same devastating hype-cycle that the Metaverse experienced, therefore leading to a name change?

Time will tell. Although, the best way to learn about the influence of spatial computing today is by speaking with experts leading the field.

Joining XR Today is a pair of leading enterprise-grade remote assistant service providers – Taqtile and Arvizio. Both firms have a storied and respected history of providing workplace visualization tools to clients way before the spatial computing hype wave. In turn, some of each firm’s respective solutions can be included in the spatial computing landscape.

Speaking to XR Today discusses the emerging spatial computing landscape is:

  • Betsy Gilbert, the Director of Partnerships & Marketing at Arvizio 
  • John Tomizuka, the CTO of Taqtile

Spatial computing is a new trend in the XR space following the Apple Vision Pro debut; what is spatial computing, and what implications does it have for enterprise end users?

John Tomizuka:

While the term “Spatial Computing” has been around for a couple of decades, it has gotten an infusion of momentum this year. A significant component of this new momentum is an industry trend bringing renewed attention to the human aspect of Spatial Computing.

The trend focuses less on the latest whiz-bang technologies and instead emphasizes the user experience. Spatial computing is putting a bright spotlight on how users interact with the XR environment – levels of realism, delivering a seamless experience, and even recognition of the potential to cause nausea and how to prevent it.

This trend encompasses the integration between the hardware and software. It’s great for the industry because, ultimately, it elevates the usability of XR for customers.

Betsy Gilbert:

The term spatial computing has been in use for several years and has been used by Magic Leap, Microsoft, Apple and others to describe interactions with virtual objects in 3D space.

While the term has been used to describe aspects of augmented, mixed and virtual reality we tend to use the term in the context of mixed reality experiences where the interaction exists between the real world and virtual objects.

Mixed reality interactions require the use of depth sensors (sometimes called LiDAR) and mesh-building software to map the physical space around the user. Using this mesh virtual objects can be placed that appear to interact with the real world.

Techniques such as occlusion further improve the experience, ensuring that virtual objects are occluded if they are placed behind real objects in the field of view.

Is spatial computing a buzzword, or will the definition mould the XR industry to come?

Betsy Gilbert:

Most recently, the term has been more widely discussed due to Apple adopting the term to differentiate its offering from others. We tend to think the terms augmented reality, mixed reality and virtual reality are widely accepted and unlikely to give way to the term spatial computing for widespread general use.

These are all different forms of spatial computing. However, Apple adopting the term is significant and may cause some re-alignment in the way the market describes such forms of interactivity.

Increasingly, AI will be used as a key part of the spatial computing experience. Arvizio has included techniques such as automatic object recognition, AI-based visual inspection, and generative AI assistance with the creation of spatial computing workflows into our AR Instructor solution, and we believe this will become more widely adopted.

John Tomizuka:

Yes, “Spatial Computing” is a bit of a buzzword. But Apple is taking the concept to a new level, evolving it into a household term. Consumerization of “Spatial Computing” will have an impact well beyond consumers but also influence how enterprise and industrial users perceive XR technologies.

By making Spatial Computing mainstream, an expanding ecosystem of enterprise and industrial users will develop an increased comfort level. This will directly lead to more opportunities for XR software and hardware makers to solve real-world problems for industrial customers.

What drivers are leading enterprise interest in spatial computing hardware and software?

Betsy Gilbert:

Arvizio has found that enterprises are looking at new ways of working with frontline workers in field service, maintenance, manufacturing, and training as being among the most widely accepted use cases for spatial computing.

The addition of remote expert collaboration using spatial computing to annotate and mark up real-world objects is also a key driver for organizations looking at spatial computing applications.

John Tomizuka:

At Taqtile, we have witnessed the intense interest companies have in the potential of Spatial-Computing solutions to empower frontline workers. These deskless employees have long-needed ways to access powerful computing technologies outside of the cubicle. From ongoing training, onboarding of new employees, and maximizing personnel resources by empowering them to complete more complex tasks more efficiently, the need has been apparent.

It’s paramount that these industrial workers are able to access powerful digital knowledge without impeding the use of their hands – fingers are the most valuable tool of industrial employees. It’s essential these workers have the use of their hands so they can complete their jobs.

XR hardware is the key to adoption in the industrial sector and delivering upon the potential of Spatial Computing. New form factors that meet the usability, wearability, and durability needs of the industrial workspace will lead to increased adoption and provide new levels of resilience to the industrial sector.

What security concerns will emerge if enterprise end-users adopt spatial computing?

John Tomizuka:

Because Spatial Computing depends on cameras capturing what users are seeing, such as proprietary information regarding equipment, manufacturing processes, and even the state of a company’s operations, security issues are definitely a concern.

It starts with the recognition that the viewpoints of industrial users of Spatial Computing technologies will be “on camera,” and vital data and information, even incidental information not germane to the task at hand, could be vulnerable unless proper security protocols are implemented.

This is not a new scenario. New connected technologies always require attention to unprecedented security issues. Solutions must be holistic, integrating robust security protocols on the hardware, software, and networks.

Does the spatial computing uptrend mark the initial tipping point for widespread XR adoption in enterprises?

John Tomizuka:

To date, XR growth has been gradual as more businesses and organizations run pilots and implement site-specific solutions. The new push behind Spatial Computing has the opportunity to dramatically increase widespread adoption throughout organizations.

Apple has a proven ability to get people to think differently and change behaviours, introducing technological innovations to the market and driving widespread acceptance. For example, once upon a time, wearing headphones in public used to be considered rude. Now, it’s entirely acceptable to wear an earbud and carry on a conversation.

This capability to create new markets has the potential to make XR technologies must-have solutions for both consumers and the enterprise. The development of a broad Spatial Computing market opens up opportunities for a host of XR solution providers.

For more information regarding spatial computing companies, look at XR Today’s market map.

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