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AR, VR and new-age tech companies report increase in demand as Covid-19 grounds workforce

Imagine sitting in your room, wearing a virtual reality (VR) headset and getting the feel of walking into a conference, or an expo, or watching a product demo. This isn’t science fiction as the Covid-19 outbreak grounds millions of people worldwide.

Last Updated: Mar 29, 2020, 11.30 AM IST
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New Delhi: Imagine sitting in your room, wearing a virtual reality (VR) headset and getting the feel of walking into a conference, or an expo, or watching a product demo. This isn’t science fiction as the Covid-19 outbreak grounds millions of people worldwide, VR technology and other new-age technology like this is now increasingly in demand as business continuity takes priority. Companies selling this are speeding up roll-outs, and also expanding their product lines. Companies like the Hyderabad-based Imaginate and Gurgaon-based Queppelin are now seeing unprecedented demand for VR, augmented reality (AR) and mixed reality (MR) technology from companies in India and abroad.

Imaginate chief executive Hemanth Satyanarayana said demand for solutions like these has jumped more than two and a half times in the last month. He said the main demand comes from manufacturing companies - which need to constantly train their staff, but may not have the option to send physical trainers anymore. Along with this, remote troubleshooting for high-end machinery is also propping demand.

At temp staffing company Quess, many of the 380,000 grounded employees are now getting training sessions subjects like selling, on their phone. Face-reading artificial intelligence gives them feedback on how well they’re speaking, and where they can improve. Queppelin founder Prafulla Mathur said there was now increased demand for virtual meetings. His company is now expediting a VR solution for a bluechip company in India.

How is VR different from video-conferencing solutions? VR can help in situations where precision is required. It also helps people pay attention better – like during lectures or meetings. Satyanarayana said a large educational institution in India recently asked for a VR demo to conduct lectures. It can also give a real-world feel of being in an expo, or a conference, said the companies.

At the same time, advanced forms of older technology like video-conferencing, webinars, email and remote access of devices are also taking off. “In these times, it is important to have visual communication rather than over phone," said Deloitte India chief talent officer SV Nathan. The company is using tools like Skype and Zoom for the same. Bigbasket’s head of human resources TN Hari too said the company has now stepped up the use of Zoom, Google Hangouts and Skype.

LogMeIn, a company which enables remote working through online meetings and remote access of devices, among other things, said there was a 100% increase in new sign-ups across all product portfolios. Pankaj Gupta, founder of EnableX, said there’s “immense demand” for virtual events as the Coronavirus outbreak has forced cancellation and postponement of events. Gupta also said that major demand was coming from educational and private coaching institutes that are now considering webinars and online lectures.

IBM is helping its clients with remote capability offerings, upgrading their networks and enabling collaborative technologies to ensure productivity, said Lingraju Sawkar, general manager, Global Technology Services, IBM India/South Asia. He also said the company had been investing heavily in this direction for the past few years. Email-collaboration company Hiver, through which employees can check the status of emails which require action, said there’s interest from a completely new set of companies.

The increased demand has pushed companies to quickly expand their product lines. Enablex is now launching a video-enabled hiring platform, while Imaginate is doing demos for virtual expos. Some of them are even providing the solutions for free. LogMeIn said it is giving governments, educational institutions, healthcare organisations, and non-profits free ‘Emergency Remote Work Kits’ for three months.
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