Aug 16, 2021
Qualcomm products mentioned within this post are offered by Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. and/or its subsidiaries.
A revolution in advanced consumer, enterprise, and industrial XR devices and software aimed at productivity, creativity, and gaming is growing rapidly — perhaps nowhere more so than in the business world. More companies are utilizing unique XR products that take advantage of emerging technologies in mobile and cloud computing to offer employee solutions that simplify tasks, cut costs, and open completely new avenues of growth. That demand is leading to a need for innovative XR products designed to fill a surging enterprise segment.
From smartphones and laptops to the latest VR and AR devices, Snapdragon platforms continue to drive the latest advancements in mobile computing and XR technology. With cutting-edge mobile and XR platforms, Snapdragon powered devices not only have the power and efficiency for complex workloads, but also fast, low-latency connectivity for incredible performance almost anywhere.
Take the Lenovo ThinkReality A3 smart glasses, which integrate our Snapdragon XR1 Platform. The smart glasses offer a powerful, scalable solution to the growing demand for enterprise XR technology.
Introduced at the beginning of 2021, the ThinkReality A3 smart glasses provide a comprehensive set of digital solutions for enterprise or industrial applications in an easy-to-use sunglasses-like form factor. The immersive but not isolating glasses pair dual 1080p see-through displays with advanced software tools, the Snapdragon XR1, and a removable USB-C cable for powerful tethered connections to PCs and Android smartphones.
Available in both PC and Industrial Editions, users can tether to either select PCs or the moto g100 5G smartphone, the first moto g device with a Snapdragon 8 series processor. The Industrial Edition pairs the Snapdragon XR1 Platform with the g100’s Snapdragon 870 5G Mobile Platform for flagship-level performance that enables enhanced experiences in all kinds of industries, from finance to architecture to engineering and beyond. Used together, they can increase productivity, reduce error rates, and decrease resolution time for businesses with both in-person and distributed workforces. Workers can do more — guided workflows, 3D visualizations, immersive training, and online collaborations — from anywhere.
To learn more about the ThinkReality A3 and Lenovo’s vision for the future of XR technology, we spoke with Jon Pershke, vice president of strategy and emerging business with Lenovo’s Intelligent Devices Group.
What’s driving the current momentum in commercial enterprise AR/VR technology?
We really have reached a tipping point in the AR field. AR technologies and use cases have been incubating steadily over the years. Collectively, many industry-leading enterprises have successfully deployed AR solutions in limited capacity and the ROI has steadily improved.
So, within the last few years, we have been poised for AR to see more widespread adoption. And then the pandemic struck, creating a second major catalyst. For example, with strict travel restrictions in place, it is impossible for a company’s top technicians to get to where they are needed to repair costly and critical infrastructure — like machinery within a semiconductor fab. Companies are turning to AR solutions to enhance remote assistance or collaboration scenarios to optimize distributed workforces. Even post pandemic, this technology will continue to be used for improved productivity.
What key areas have the ThinkReality team focused on over the years?
Lenovo’s ThinkReality commercial AR/VR solutions were launched in 2019 with the mission to make it easier than ever to build, deploy, and manage enterprise AR and VR solutions at scale. The team is fulfilling this mission.
The ThinkReality software platform is among the first truly device- and cloud-agnostic AR/VR platforms to enable commercial customers to build, deploy, and manage applications and content on a global scale and with global support.
ThinkReality comes with powerful development and management tools, such as a software development kit, cloud and device services, and MDM support. Our newest AR solution, the ThinkReality A3, is one of the most versatile smart glasses ever to launch. It connects to PCs or smartphones and brings efficiency and productivity to a wide variety of work environments and use cases. The ThinkReality A3 is a next generation AR solution — light, powerful, and versatile.
What are some industries or applications that can benefit the most from the ThinkReality A3 right now?
The Industrial Edition tethered to a smart phone is ideal for frontline workers that need head mounted smart displays to support completing complex tasks in less time and with lower error rates. Workers in manufacturing, energy, and engineering industries can benefit the most from using AR solutions like the A3.
The PC Edition, which enables virtual monitors, benefits office workers in the new hybrid, ‘work-from-anywhere’ environment that has become the new normal. Whether you are an intensive multi-screen user that moves between a sophisticated office workspace and the kitchen table at home, or a road-warrior looking to optimize your PC, you’ll enjoy the power of having up to five virtual screens and the ability to collaborate in 3D from the small, light, and portable A3 smart glasses.
How does the ThinkReality A3 and the evolution of workflow fit into the growing digitization of industries around the world?
AR is continuing to grow across major industrial verticals such as manufacturing, logistics, architecture, engineering, and construction – where they are dealing with complex visual tasks or hands-free workflows based on visual cues. Many of these audiences have been piloting AR and now are looking for solutions that can scale within their organizations and contribute to the growth and digital transformation of their businesses.
Better solutions to support smart workflow have never been more important. A seismic shift is occurring in the global workforce, particularly in manufacturing, as a large population of baby boomers retire and younger, digital-native generations move up to replace them. The manufacturing industry alone is forecasting a deficit of nearly 8 million workers by 2030, resulting in a forecasted unrealized economic output of $607 billion if current initiatives remain unchanged. New workers need better technologies to aid training and complete new and complex tasks on the job.
With AR solutions, general industry statistics show a range of ROI and KPI improvements as digital overlays in their field of view assist workflows. For example, workers equipped with an AR headset can experience a drop in manufacturing error rates to nearly zero, see 15-35 percent productivity gains in warehouse picking processes, and a 30-40 percent decrease in time spent to achieve field service resolutions.
Smarter technology is helping workers become more effective and safer, providing conditions for better overall job performance and retention. This could be a tremendous boon for enterprises as they accelerate post-pandemic production.
Where do you see the enterprise AR/VR industry in 10 years? What is Lenovo’s vision for this technology over the next decade?
Computing is moving beyond the data center and desktop to where physical work gets done with solutions involving technologies like edge compute, AI/ML, 5G, and AR. The AR space will continue to evolve quickly to solve problems and improve day-to-day productivity. Connectivity with 5G and edge computing will play a larger role in connecting people in new and collaborative ways and accelerating adoption. AR technology could be as ubiquitous in the workplace as PCs and mobile phones are today.
However, a truly scalable enterprise AR solution must incorporate a comprehensive mix of software, hardware, and services that allow for enterprise-grade scalability, making it easy to deploy and manage. This is where ThinkReality is focused, because scalable solutions are critical in showing ROI for large enterprises with a mix of unique device, app, and cloud requirements across many departments and many geographies.
The Lenovo ThinkReality’s vision we are fulfilling is for Snapdragon to be the choice for enterprises deploying AR solutions by offering a powerful and versatile platform supporting a broad portfolio of devices and applications both by Lenovo and leading partners. These solutions are backed by global advisory and customer support services to plan and manage deployments for superior experiences.
Why did you choose the Snapdragon XR1 platform to power the ThinkReality A3?
The ThinkReality cooperation with Qualcomm Technologies extends back nearly 5 years to the development of the ThinkReality A6, with that solution’s compute box using a Snapdragon 845 processor.
The ThinkReality A3 has been in development for nearly 24 months, and its development was in parallel to Qualcomm Technologies’ recently announced Snapdragon XR1 AR Smart Viewer reference design. Lenovo worked with Qualcomm Technologies on its early Snapdragon XR1 VR reference design — 6DOF QVR software — to modify it into an AR version.
We are extremely pleased with the results. The Snapdragon XR1 platform is embedded within the A3 smart glasses to help distribute computing workloads between the glasses and the host device, compared to an AR simple viewer which does not have any processing on the glasses.
Working with the Snapdragon XR1 and the extensive tools and resources from Qualcomm Technologies helped accelerate the development process of the ThinkReality A3. For example, the Lenovo team leveraged built-in SoC functions on the Snapdragon XR1, such as power management, audio processing, and image signal processing, as well video encode/decode functions. Overall, the embedded Snapdragon XR1 Platform enables fast processing and low latency for a premium user experience.