In an increasingly virtual world, GridRaster is here to enhance reality
Making things better, faster, and cheaper is the holy trinity of technological development. Usually, you end up focusing on two and have to compromise on one. When it comes to extended, mixed, augmented, and virtual reality, GridRaster has no interest in compromise. When you’re tasked with providing large-scale, hyper-realistic simulation and training for such partners as the U.S. Air Force, that’s a good approach to have. COO and co-founder Dijam Panigrahi spoke with BOSS about the state of the sector, the gains made since the pandemic began, and where enhanced reality is headed.
As 2020 dawned, many companies GridRaster works with were dabbling in VR and AR, with plans for large-scale use four or five years down the line. Since many of us have been living in a quasi-virtual world for the past year and a half, those timelines have shifted.
It’s the next best thing to being physically there, Panigrahi said, and that has been the way many businesses have had to operate during the pandemic.
“Initially when this change happened, everybody was thinking that this was something they were trying to do as a temporary solution to the situation. But as the pandemic prolonged and they could see the return on investment on the AR and VR they were using … this is now an integral part of the whole digital transformation.”
The aerospace and automotive industries in particular were looking at AR and VR as a way to provide training and to facilitate machine maintenance and servicing.
“Right now, it’s an absolutely integral part of the product life cycle, from conceptualization to sustainment,” he said.
Manufacturing has been leading the way in the adoption of AR & VR. Nearly 90% of AR & VR devices are going into the aerospace and defense, automotive, and oil and gas industries, Panigrahi said. They’ve helped bridge a skills gap in manufacturing. That’s a pretty big deal when you’re trying to put a spacecraft together.
“A new technician or engineer with even one year of experience, using those mixed reality and augmented reality glasses and getting the instructions overlaid on those glasses and being assisted by AR and all the data that is made handy, they are able to outperform people with five years’ experience. It’s a huge boost in terms of that skill set.”
The advent of 5G has done wonders on the better and faster fronts. It’s unlocked the potential to take AR and VR experiences outside of the traditional office or warehouse setting over Wi-Fi and make them truly mobile and portable.
“Most cases today, if you are looking at augmented reality and virtual reality, most of the movement is happening on the enterprise setup where you are in a room or something. All of this is happening either over the Wi-Fi or through a set of cables,” Panigrahi said.
With low latency, it will enable dynamic experiences that aren’t possible over Wi-Fi.
“With better bandwidth and better capacity to serve a higher number of users, you’ll be able to see that with low latency because the computing is much closer to the user, you’re going to see some use cases which are not possible today. For example, if you are trying to do a first-person shooter kind of gaming experience, there’s a very dynamic kind of movement involved. You can’t do that over Wi-Fi. With 5G now you can do those kinds of experiences.”
Leveraging the cloud, GridRaster can provide high-quality experiences on low-end devices. Providing high-quality backend software infrastructure required to bring this to mobile devices, GridRaster enables technology to provide the best experiences.
Being able to overlay the virtual with 5G onto the world so the virtual and real blend in such a way that it’s absolutely indistinguishable is a game-changer.
“You’re not only talking about doing it with a few users, you can potentially scale it to millions of users,” he said.
GridRaster’s capabilities open new possibilities for a variety of industries. Travel and hospitality, hit extremely hard by the border closures and social distancing measures brought on by the pandemic, can especially benefit.
Planning a vacation can be a big undertaking and working with a travel advisor is an exercise in trust. There’s a lot of research that goes into investing precious leisure time and money visiting a place you might never have been before. As much as an advisor can tell you about the place, the hotels, and the tours, showing is much more effective.
“VR can be an excellent way of providing an experience virtually and make you take a much bigger decision and a much more confident decision,” Panigrahi said. “From an industry point of view, they can do much better conversion of those customers looking to take a trip as well as upsell by instilling confidence as part of those packages.”
Enhanced reality can also improve medical care. Mixed reality is allowing experts to train students on complicated surgeries remotely.
“Any industry where there are situations where you have to handle expensive equipment or you have a sensitive procedure like surgery, VR is an excellent way of training somebody and making them more comfortable with those scenarios,” he said.
You can simulate emergencies and practice responses before those situations arise in the real world.
GridRaster will continue to focus on its aerospace, automotive, and telco clients as well as expanding into other industries, with direct-to-consumer offers in the near future.
“For any new technology to really get to scale and get attention, you need two things. One is relevance,” Panigrahi said. “The second thing is urgency. The relevance was always there. The pandemic provided the urgency which the whole industry is beginning to take off with really in a great way. We’re just seeing the tip of the iceberg.”
GridRaster might show us the rest.