Hewlett-Packard and partner zSpace have rolled out a workstation called the HP Zvr that has a virtual reality display, stylus and an experience that promises "true holographic viewing."

In a test, as I outlined on ZDNet, the display worked well and allowed you to immerse yourself in multiple activities from dissecting frogs to tweaking building designs. The Zvr is likely to be lost amid the parade of products being launched at CES 2015, but virtual reality is a recurring theme. Most of these virtual reality (VR) devices are going to be focused on the consumer at first, but don't be surprised if they take a turn for the enterprise quickly.

hp-zvr-right-facing-2.jpg

With that in mind it's worth pondering a pilot or two in select industries. Pricing for HP's Zvr wasn't disclosed, but VR has the potential to improve the customer experience as well as workflow and collaboration. Here's a quick snapshot of what you need to know:

  • Industries where VR has a role. zSpace, HP's partner, is targeting the following verticals with its VR systems: STEM technology, education and research, corporate training and healthcare. That focus largely revolves around the enterprise, but any company utilizing computer aided drafting, engineering and other tools could find a use for the Zvr. For industries such as hospitality and retail, a VR headset may be a way to improve the customer experience.
  • Applications. The catch with HP's Zvr is the application ecosystem. HP needs to build one. zSpace has a software developer kit, developer program and applications. The third party ecosystem is lacking, but the HP partnership could change that situation. zSpace's medical bundle comes with tools from third party developers Cyber Anatomy, Fovia and EchoPixel. Training has tools from EON Studio and Siemens. Education has physics applications, dissection tools and a modeling tool build by zSpace. It's unclear how many apps zSpace and HP need, but the addition of Autodesk, Adobe and other key players would allay any enterprise concerns.
  • The players. HP and zSpace are an obvious enterprise fit, but CIOs should explore Oculus, now owned by Facebook, and Samsung's headsets too. Samsung's headsets are powered by Oculus. Those latter players are primarily focused on gaming and consumer entertainment, but could have a front-facing customer play.
  • Returns. These systems are experimental, but won't break the bank. For starters, business cases are likely to revolve around product design, collaborating faster and educating employees. Like most pilots, start small in a department and move from there. Perhaps the biggest return at this point is letting your CEO know you're pondering what to do with virtual reality in the enterprise.