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Why Holograms in the Enterprise Might Take a While

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Image: Wavebreakmedia Ltd - Alamy Stock Photo
AT CES 2022, hologram technology company PORTL unveiled the PORTL M tabletop device, intended to bring holograms into your home without an augmented reality (AR) or virtual reality (VR) headset. Users can film and stream content from a mobile device to project as a hologram on PORTL M, which features an AI-enabled smart camera, integrated speakers, and an HD touchscreen display.
PORTL’s hologram presence has gained use-case popularity in entertainment, telemedicine, and fitness. But what potential does this technology have in the enterprise? WorkSpace Connect tapped Tim Banting, senior principal analyst at Omdia, for his assessment on hologram technology in the enterprise, potential use cases, and where adoption is heading.
Responses have been edited for conciseness and clarity.
What are the enterprise use cases for holographic video meetings?
Banting: I see very few use cases for holographic video. Many enterprises even struggle to equip their users with technology such as external business-grade webcams and headsets!
Instead, I suspect VR to slowly make its way into meetings and online events, driven primarily by consumer adoption in the gaming space. The consumerization of IT—how trends in the consumer space drive new demands and expectations in the enterprise—remains a powerful force in the digital workplace.
Which industry verticals are most likely to incorporate this technology into their meetings?
Banting: I expect healthcare, hospitality, and retail to be the primary adopters of this type of technology; however, as a means of enhancing the customer or patient experience—not conduct regular internal meetings and conference calls. The barrier will be the cost of providing yet another device for end users.
It's not a case of delivering a better meeting experience, but it's about how vendors can demonstrate value within a budget-strapped IT department.
How would holographic video meetings fit into the overall enterprise comms/collaboration tech ecosystem?
Banting: To succeed in the enterprise communication and collaboration market, new entrants must look towards vendor certification programs to win the trust of IT buyers. For example, Microsoft and Zoom have certification programs to offer their customers confidence that third-party solutions provide a high-quality experience. It’s not a case of plugging in a new endpoint like a pair of headphones or a webcam. There’s an existing software-based meeting infrastructure with which [holographic video] must integrate .
Standards ensure different videoconferencing solutions are compatible and can interoperate across IP networks with other systems based on the same protocol. There are formal standards for the coding and decoding of video signals (VP8, VP9, H.264, and H.265) and interoperability, such as H.323, SIP, and WebRTC.
Few vendors develop proprietary codecs to limit interoperability and lock customers into a closed and restricted eco-system. Most videoconferencing vendors have certification programs where partner solutions are tested and evaluated with compatibility, performance, and a quality experience in mind.
Does holographic telepresence add to the meeting experience that we're missing now?
Banting: It's debatable whether a 3D representation of a person adds anything more than a high-definition 2D representation. Plus, the whole holographic experience will degrade to the lowest common denominator—2D—when someone joins from a different device.
What do you think will be the impetus for adoption/the tipping point to normalizing holographic video meetings?
Banting: If there were pent-up demand for enterprises to conduct meetings differently than they do today, the market would have driven significant development in this area already. At this stage, [holographic video meetings] seem to be a novelty until we identify a compelling use case.
I think the tipping point will be when established meeting and conferencing providers start promoting holographic technology. Vendors have already trialed more affordable VR-based solutions. For example, Cisco unveiled Webex Hologram late last year, and Microsoft first announced HoloLens in 2015.