Online Platform and Hardware Directories
XR Collaboration Platform Directory
There are nearly 100 XR collaboration tools currently on the market. How do you know which one to use, and when? This comprehensive guide was designed to provide the information you need to decide when, how, and with whom to collaborate in XR. More XR collaboration products enter the marketplace nearly every day. Rather than get into the details of each product in this publication, we highly recommend that you visit XRCollaboration.com and use our interactive tool and feature comparison information to make your own selection of the best platform and hardware for your particular needs and requirements.
The online, interactive XR Collaboration Platform Directory provides snapshots of known, available XR collaboration products, their features, and the devices best suited for using them. The Platform Directory serves as both the central repository of detailed information about every XR collaboration platform, their features, and the devices best suited for using them along with an easy-to-use interactive tool for matching these to your needs. Tools are shown in randomly sorted order and not based on any specific recommendation. We have, however, grouped tools that are more general purpose separately from tools designed to address more specific needs and industries. All of this is free to use and share. Our aim is to help everyone make the most of available technology for productivity and connection.
This is a rapidly evolving landscape, so be sure to check for updates periodically at: www.XRCollaboration.com/directory
The XRCollaboration.com website hosts the “XR Collaboration Resource Guide” in both HTML and downloadable PDF formats. The Guide will be updated periodically, so please make sure you sign up with your email address for updates.
XR Device Hardware
When you plan to use XR collaboration software, you will need physical equipment so you can see and interact with other people. While you can use more traditional computing equipment – desktop/laptop computers, tablets and smartphones – the real power of XR collaboration comes from using more immersive XR headsets or Head Mounted Displays (HMDs). That's because these devices can present content in a spatial context and allow you to enjoy a sense of digital presence through avatars and your point of view that is not possible in a video conference call.
Using AR HMDs, you can use your real world environment as a context for displaying digital content. For example, the wall next to your desk can be turned into a virtual whiteboard. Or you can place 3D objects on the desk in front of you.
Using VR HMDs you can replace the real world and immerse yourself completely in a digital environment designed specifically for collaboration. The scale of the space you see and interact in with VR can be much different than your real world environment – and even completely fantastical if desired.
While we highly recommend exploring both AR and VR HMDs for getting the most out of XR collaboration tools, we recognize that many people will get started using devices that you probably already have.
Desktop, Tablet, and Smartphone Devices
Although there has been great progress in making HMDs lighter, more affordable, and pervasive, a large proportion of users still engage with XR collaboration tools via more traditionally available desktop, tablet, and smartphone devices. Additionally, a small percentage of the general population will encounter mild discomfort with Virtual Reality and should plan to use either traditional devices or AR HMDs. A 2D display can be a viable option for accessing XR collaboration tools, but it will often come with limited interaction (mostly operating as a spectator) and a less convenient and immersive display experience.
Augmented Reality HMDs
There are a lot of different Augmented Reality devices or “smart glasses,” but few are currently powerful enough to provide a great user experience for XR collaboration. Be careful: a "smart glass" device is usually highly limiting because it knows nothing about the real-world environment you are in and simply hangs a digital display in front of you – usually only in front of a single eye. This is not optimal and instead we recommend that you select a binocular device (one with a display for each eye) that has the ability to use SLAM technology to understand something about the real-world location you are in. This enables a less fatiguing, more immersive user experience.
Standalone AR HMDs
There are two types of AR HMDs – standalone and tethered.
A standalone AR HMD is one that does not need separate compute equipment but has everything you need all in a single head-worn device. These devices tend to be a little heavier and bulkier because they need to include battery and compute technology to perform their functions. They also tend to be more expensive. However, in exchange, these standalone devices tend to offer the best display and most immersive user experience for collaborating.
A tethered AR HMD is one that needs to be connected to external computing resources – typically via a USB-C cable to a smartphone. Some tethered AR HMDs use Bluetooth connectivity to connect to a smartphone, but this is usually for access to data and not compute functionality. In the near future, we anticipate newer devices that will support high-speed local wireless connections to the computing device. In many ways, you can consider a tethered HMD one that primarily functions as a display and sensor device, while all of the content they show will actually be computed and rendered on a separate device.
Virtual Reality HMDs
Standalone VR HMDs
There are many relatively newer Virtual Reality HMDs that do not need to be connected to a computer to work and provide a very good user experience. It is anticipated that standalone HMDs will continue to be in high demand, with sales growing for the next few years.
Standalone devices have come down dramatically in price, especially over the past year, to the point where they have become relatively inexpensive (e.g., the Oculus Quest 2 retails at US $299). The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic (especially in China) resulted in a global shortage of VR devices throughout most of 2020. However, near the end of 2020, production of devices ramped up significantly and in early 2021 has been keeping up with the accelerating demand. Globally it is estimated that standalone device sales will continue to have significant velocity and more choices will come to the market for users.
It is also important to note that there are key differences between these devices. In particular, some provide only 3 degrees of freedom (3DOF) movement tracking whereas others support a full 6 degrees of freedom (6DOF). (See the “Degrees of Freedom” section in the "XR Terms You Need to Know" section for more details.) A 3DOF device is typically acceptable for seated mode interaction but we highly recommend that for XR collaboration you choose a 6DOF device to have maximum flexibility.
Tethered VR HMDs
For users who need the highest possible image fidelity (typically measured by a combination of resolution, field of view, and pixels-per-degree), we recommend using tethered VR HMDs. These HMDs are connected to a relatively powerful separate computer. The computer performs all the calculations needed to generate the VR display (actually two – one for each eye) extremely quickly. VR displays tend to be heavy in their dependency on GPU compute functionality so when you are selecting a tethered VR HMD make sure your computer has the required features.
Maintaining Proper Device Hygiene
Because of the high cost of XR devices, these are often still shared, especially in the workplace. However, the proximity of the hardware to our eyes, nose, and mouth – not to mention the constant handling of controls and need to adjust the headset with our hands – heightens the risk of transmitting bacteria and viruses between users.
While this has always been an issue, the current global health crisis has put the need for maintaining high levels of device hygiene top of mind. While XR is potentially a great way to maintain human connections even while practicing social distancing, it is important to be mindful of physical hygiene best practices to ensure your device is sanitary to ensure user adoption and long-term business success.
Concentrated UVC Light Cleaning
Consider making use of one of the medical grade UV light cleaning solutions on the market. These can not only help to cut down on the overall time spent cleaning devices, but also increase the effectiveness of your device hygiene routine. They are also proven to kill 99.99% of all fungi, bacteria and viruses, such as COVID-19, that are on your devices.
Clean Controllers as well as Headsets
Controllers are often overlooked in hygiene procedures, yet on average, viruses can live on surfaces between four and five days. Users should ensure controllers and any other peripheral accessories that come in contact with the user are cleaned between rotations. Remember, foam inserts don’t enable effective cleaning of headsets!
The porous foam that usually sits on the inside of HMDs allows for bodily fluids to easily seep into the material, preventing wipes from effectively cleaning headsets. We recommend all devices should be either covered with a waterproof headset cover or coated in a waterproofing chemical before making use of alcohol-based wipes (60% isopropyl alcohol). You might also consider using a neoprene cover for your VR devices to provide additional protection. At an absolute minimum you should use sanitary disposable liners.
Follow Rigorous Hand Cleaning Procedures
People handling XR devices – at conferences, location-based entertainment (LBE) venues, or other shared environments (once it is safe to congregate in such places once again) – should always have a ready supply of alcohol-based (60% or higher) hand sanitiser which should be applied before the wearer handles the headset. If possible, the users should wash their hands with soap and water for a minimum of 20 seconds instead.
For additional information regarding Covid-19 (also known as the Coronavirus) you are advised to follow up-to-date information from the World Health Organization.