One of the biggest knocks on virtual reality is that there aren’t computers that can meet the threshold of the gigabyte-demanding visuals the immersive technology has to offer.
Understanding a potential industry-crippling impediment, Dell has introduced three workstation tower computers targeted for both consumers and creators alike that will enable them with the recommended minimum system hardware configurations to support the intensely demanding visuals for an optimal VR experience.
Dell has defined VR-ready solutions in recent months by working closely with its hardware and software partners, like the HTC Vive and Oculus. The VR ready 22-core Precision desktops have cutting-edge graphics card and Intel’s new Xeon E5-2600 v4 chips.
The PC giant’s video game outfit Alienware is currently promoting VR through Lunar Golf: The Future of Golf Experience, an HTC Vive experience that’s on a travelling show during the PGA Tour. The game’s title hints at the task at hand—to feel like you’re playing golf on the moon, just like Apollo 14’s Alan Shepard.
Bryan Jones, vice president of commercial marketing for North America, global OEM and IoT at Dell, has spent the last 17 years with the company in a variety of executive positions in marketing and sales. He joined [a]listdaily to discuss how Dell is formalizing its commitment to the future of VR.
How is Dell currently navigating the waters of VR and AR?
VR is really starting to come into its own. From a consumer side, gaming and gamification is well on its way. What we’re focusing on the commercial side is the adoption of VR and AR. We’re kind of at the tipping point for that. A lot of companies are looking at AR. That’s where the first entry points would be in the commercial space, and where it would make sense from a technology perspective. VR is still a little ways out from a commercial perspective. We’ve had a lot of customers see our OEM and IoT division. They are starting to look at AR solutions in the commercial space.
What are some examples?
In any environment where you’ve got a dangerous or hazardous situation, most of those people are already wearing protective lenses. So, embedding technology and second-screen effects to help them with there job—and be safer—is really big. We’ve seen a lot of adoption in that space. Then there is the whole gamification piece. As you’ve seen the exposure of data in the commercial world, depending on which industry you talk to, corporate data is doubling every four-to-six months. There is a lot of structured and unstructured data. VR and AR applications can help a user make sense of all of that information, and utilize it. There’s a marketing, manufacturing and product development and design aspect of it—but it’s still very specific-use cases.
What are the challenges you’re facing in getting VR to be mass adopted?
I think a lot of it is still bound by two things—cost, and the experience bubble. There’s a lot of top-of-the-line [rigs], but it’s starting to come down. If you’re going to create this environment, you have to get the most out of it, yet be very careful about how fragile the experience bubble is. That’s where some of the cardboard experiences are not quite as immersive or ready for application. It has to come down from a cost perspective. There certainly is a technology barrier. I think there are a lot of companies pushing that envelope, which will create more adoption. I think the other is that it’s still a very specialized use-case. We have not seen that killer app, or tip-over functionality, except in really specific spaces.
How is Dell attempting to gain audience ownership with its line of products?
On the consumer side, Alienware is a natural extension from high-end gaming to incorporating VR. The work we’re doing with Alienware is a bridge into that space, and that’s where we’re really looking to drive the brand acceptance.
Industry prognosticators strongly believe video gamers will propel the VR industry. Does Dell feel compelled and somewhat responsible to help make that happen?
If you look at Dell’s corporate values, what we’re always really focused on ‘how do we increase capability, but at the same time, take out cost and complexity.’ And you can apply that to the B2B space, in the deepest, darkest part of the data center, all the way out to the consumer edge with VR and gaming. We want to make the computing side of VR much more affordable for the end-user then it is today. You can still have a very powerful machine. The cost of a good machine is $1,100-to-$1,500 in glass and audio to get that experience right. A big part of it is leveraging our DNA.
What is Dell’s DNA? What is your brand message?
How do you find the right influencers like Adrian Grenier and his VR project to deliver Dell’s brand message?
We don’t really want or need to engage with brand ambassadors at the very top level of Dell. People know Dell. People know what we do. We want to engage with people like Adrian who come along and help us tell our story. There has to be a commonality. We’re not interested in just going high on celebrities and endorsements. There’s almost zero value to us from a marketing perspective. I don’t criticize other brands who do it because maybe it fits better for them. For us, we have a very strong brand and we’re kind of the rock star of the industry in my opinion. If influencers want to come along and support and complement our platforms, they need to be passionate. We don’t want someone that’s just going to show up, have a drink, sign a few things, and leave. We want people like Adrian who engage and help drive value.
How about social media influencers, like the ones YouTube? Is that something you practice in order to tell your brand story?
Oh, absolutely. Especially on our consumer side. When you look at our consumer side and commercial side, there are dissimilarities. On the consumer side, we’re investing very heavily into our all of video channels, not just YouTube—right content, right place, right time. That strategy is important to tell and drive a story. On the commercial side, we use some of those same tools. But I think the biggest thing that we’re trying to harness is ‘there no longer is just a consumer person or commercial person.’ You are in and out of that persona all day because you’re constantly connected with the digital world. We have a social responsibility. We have a corporate responsibility to engage with you the right day, and one that enhances and enriches your life rather than just sell you products. If you’re a channel that’s always on shouting products, people disengage immediately, and wonder off. Things like social, and social video are really huge in telling a story and connecting people. Long-form video is six seconds now. You need to use that effectively, but also tie it back in to a more traditional media play. For the Dell Match Play, for example, we made TV commercials because commercials make sense in sports; people watch it in real time. But then all of the other streaming capabilities and digital capabilities make sense and serve different demographics and different interest levels. How do you pour all of that together? Because there is no such thing as a commercial plan, and a consumer plan. They have to come together.
How is Dell positioned to continue growing in the tech space?
Innovation comes from everywhere, so we’re focusing on empowering entrepreneurs. It’s about making tech manageable, simplified, and cost-effective. Innovation doesn’t occur inside the four walls of a corporate environment anymore. We want to extend the range of innovation. It’s not good tech if a grandmother has to ask her grandson how to use it.
Follow Manouk Akopyan on Twitter @Manouk_Akopyan