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AiThority Interview with Interview with Daniel O’Brien, GM of Americas at HTC VIVE

AiThority Interview with Interview with Daniel O’Brien, GM of Americas at HTC VIVE

Hi, Dan. Welcome to the Interview Series. Please tell us about your role at HTC VIVE.

I am the General Manager of the HTC VIVE Business for the U.S. region which is inclusive of Product Management, Sales, Marketing, and Operations. I have oversight and responsibility to deliver our full portfolio of HTC VIVE Products, Services, and Solutions for all our Consumer and Enterprise customers.

What has changed in the AR VR technology development landscape in the last three years?

I think it’s safe to say that for all tech, advancement and miniaturization go hand in hand. The XR industry is starting to hit its stride in this regard, with smaller and more powerful devices coming to market. HTC VIVE released the first glasses-style VR headset, VIVE Flow, in 2021. We followed it this year with VIVE XR Elite, which is also foldable and compact, but much more powerful.

Mixed reality (MR) is also in the spotlight these days. That’s largely thanks to improvements in passthrough technology, and the addition of depth sensors to headsets. VIVE XR Elite was our first headset with a sharp, color passthrough that makes MR not only practical but also fun. We’re starting to see some groundbreaking applications developed by our partners Taqtile, HAVIK, and more. But we’ve only scratched the surface of MR; there will be advancements in cameras and computer vision techniques in the coming years to bring these experiences even closer to natural human eyesight.

There are also big changes happening on the wireless infrastructure side. You need powerful, high-throughput connections to run immersive content in a secure environment – much more than what’s needed to stream movies. 5G and eventually 6G antennas will be integrated right into VR headsets. In the interim and to meet market needs, we’ve developed a Private 5G solution called REIGN CORE that can blanket a 10,000 m2 warehouse in a secure 5G signal. Recently, we attended the Interservice/Industry Training, Simulation, and Education Conference (I/ITSEC) demonstrating secure XR training solutions for defense, military, and law enforcement.

Connectivity was part of every conversation as government organizations looked to implement training solutions and scale in a secure environment. This Private 5G solution then enables organizations to run VR training with almost no latency.

Could you tell us about the XR product roadmap at HTC Vive? Which industries are you currently focusing on?

We count a lot of great partners in the defense vertical, as well as in healthcare and training. The technology trends I mentioned before – miniaturization and better passthrough – lend themselves well to all different types of training scenarios.

At I/ITSEC, we had up to 30 partners showcase their immersive training simulations that replicate real-world scenarios, giving trainees a safely controlled space to learn and advance their skill sets for mission-critical procedures on VIVE devices. 

In terms of products, we launched our newest device, the VIVE Ultimate Tracker recently. It’s a “self-tracking” tracker which means it knows its own position in 3D space and can thus be used to track your body parts in VR precisely. You can also attach it to physical objects and bring them into VR experiences. This is extremely useful for a lot of different vertical partners: healthcare, industrial training, defense, design, and more.

According to HTC VIVE’s latest report, 80% of active military-duty trainers said that XR enhances their education plans and empowers trainers to be more effective. Can you please explain what this means for realism-based training programs in critical operations?

XR training is kinesthetic in nature. It’s the most effective learning method for lots of people, as opposed to reading or listening to lectures. According to the National Training Laboratory, the retention rate for VR learning is 75% compared to 10% for textbooks and only 5% for lectures. In other words: humans learn by doing. XR makes it possible to go through potentially dangerous scenarios in the headset, without any actual safety risk, and get better prepared for real-world missions.

How is HTC VIVE eliminating work silos in remote settings? 

We have an enterprise platform called VIVERSE for Business, which lets employees with all different kinds of roles collaborate remotely. We built it with enough features to make it as powerful as you need – for example, for group visualization of 3D objects – but also with many core productivity features like scheduled meetings, support for 2D video calls on Zoom and Teams, and Microsoft Office file support.

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The whole idea is for VIVERSE to be an extension of the conventional office, particularly for globally distributed and remote teams.

Sales and Marketing organizations are steady users of XR technology for their lead-gen campaigns. How do your customers use VR to improve their lead gen operations?

It’s a great question as we use the workflow tools from VIVERSE for Business applications for our meetings as well as reviewing the content and preparing presentations for our customers and training on new products. We are also integrated with Salesforce in our VIVERSE for Business application and we can review customer information and engagement plans and strategy in our XR Headsets. In addition, we have integrated over five MDM partners as well as our own native solution for commercial customers looking to bring better management and security. Overall, we’re seeing great results with training, collaboration, and integration of useful applications like Salesforce. There’s a lot more to come on applications we are integrating and how we’ll continue improving workflows and efficiencies.

Your predictions on the future of AI in the XR industry that requires highly optimized and CX-driven workflow automation: 

AI will make our interactions with XR technology easier and more natural. Working with virtual input methods like keyboards is tricky, with a learning curve. AI can help us more naturally interact in VR through speech and gestures, in a human-centric way. Soon, we’ll probably be able to speak things into existence – like virtual objects and worlds. This means that the advent of AI will make it much faster and easier for businesses to develop intuitive, customer-first workflows.

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Thank you, Daniel! That was fun and we hope to see you back on soon.

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Daniel O’Brien is a seasoned business and technology executive with over 20 years of experience delivering revenue growth, leading strategic business initiatives and partnerships, managing P&L, brand building, and maximizing operational excellence for extended reality (XR) and augmented reality (AR) technology companies. He brings a breadth of experience in market-defining and pioneering wireless technologies, mobile devices, and XR products, and has a strong understanding of sector economics, multi-million dollar/multi-level development lifecycles, and integrated product and application implementations. Daniel has introduced inaugural VR products, Android Smart Phones, Windows Phones, and World Phones into the marketplace on behalf of numerous leading mobile operators.

HTC VIVE is the premier virtual reality (VR) platform and ecosystem that creates true-to-life VR experiences for businesses and consumers. The VIVE ecosystem is built around premium VR hardware, software, and content. The VIVE business encompasses best-in-class XR hardware; VIVEPORT platform and app store; VIVE Enterprise Solutions for business customers; VIVE X, a US$100M VR business accelerator; and VIVE ARTS for cultural initiatives.

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