Technology has always been one of the main drivers for progress and, ultimately, prosperity. Think of the wheel, the printing press, the Internet, and how these inventions transformed society as it existed back then. But such change does not happen naturally. You need to advocate for those technologies and their benefits. OneBonsai is one such advocate.
Ever since our humble beginnings in 2016, OneBonsai has been laser-focused on making companies more competitive through exciting, new technologies. To be specific, we focused on Virtual and Augmented Reality. Throughout the years, we have worked on projects for various clients to show the power of these immersive technologies in their processes and workflows. We believe that they have the capacity to significantly improve how we work and how we interact with the world around us.
Now that it’s the start of a new decade and we’re almost four years into our existence, the question has become: “Where do we go from here?” Hence this article. We want to give you a better idea of what we’re currently working and where we want to go in the future.
(we use XR – extended reality – as a catchall term for VR, AR, and MR)
XR Projects ?
A good vision finds the right balance between the ambitious and the pragmatic. A long-term vision without short-term practicality is more a dream than it is a goal. XR projects are the pragmatic, practical part of OneBonsai, because they’ve always been the area where we delivered the most value to our clients in a short period of time. As a result, XR is at the core of our business offerings. We’re able to provide valuable solutions to our clients right now, while also keeping an eye on the long-term potential of these technologies.
We have no intention of slowing down with these XR projects. It’s a great way to introduce a single company to the many benefits of immersive technologies. Every project is specifically tailored to the client we’re working with and our solutions are built either entirely from scratch or from basic building blocks, with the user in mind. Technology only exists in conjunction with the people using it.
If you’re curious to know how a design-led, tailored XR solution can make your company more competitive, do not hesitate to contact us.
The above being said, we noticed that XR projects are changing. Many industries are warming up to the idea of introducing XR to their workflows. This is in part because of 2019’s Oculus Quest, which has been a runaway success. It proved that VR does not have to be difficult to set up and that it can be used at scale.
In 2020, we expect these technologies to mature even more. For example, the Oculus Quest will ditch the controllers in favor of hand tracking, further lowering the learning curve of users starting out with VR.
Additionally, at CES, numerous VR devices have been revealed, with China taking the lead in releasing them. Many of these headsets are significantly smaller than today’s headset, resulting in more comfort for the user and, again, lower barriers to entry. While we don’t expect these headsets to become mainstream in 2020 (outside of China), it’s still a great direction that the industry will eventually head in.
All these technical innovations will further drive business adoption. Of course, mainstream media’s focus on VR and stories of successful VR implementations will also further fuel the demand for these solutions.
All the above being said, VR is still an expensive endeavor for companies, and development for a custom solution can quickly become costly. Enter our next target for 2020.
XR Products ?
While XR projects have been our bread and butter for the last five years, we increasingly believe that there’s value in standalone, off-the-shelf XR products. Here’s what we mean by this: some XR use cases are fairly similar across companies and even across industries. As such, it’s possible to create an XR solution for a single industry, and slightly adapt it for another. Alternatively, it is possible to create an XR solution for a geography, and adapt it for another.
In 2020 we will launch our VR Training platform, which will offer a number of modules that businesses can use. The first such VR module is a Fire Training. Teaching employees how to put out a fire is something that needn’t necessarily be tailored to a specific company. A packaged VR fire training can teach people across companies and industries how to put out a fire in an immersive, engaging way that doesn’t require you to empty actual fire extinguishers.
video: OneBonsai – Fire Training in Virtual Reality
Throughout 2020, we will build many of these standalone VR products. We work together with experts and partners in various fields to define the best training strategy for each new module. The resulting products will be more affordable than a custom solution, and readily available to clients.
These products allow an instructor to monitor the performance of the trainees, adjust scenarios to better match the requirements of the business, and increase retention. We already defined quite a few of these modules – have a look here!
Building projects and products is what keeps our company afloat and growing. However, a long-term vision requires research to ensure we’re on top of the latest technologies and can stay relevant. That’s why we spend quite a significant amount of our time doing research.
If you’re in a fast-moving field such as XR, you just have to stay on top of what’s hot and how it can benefit current and future clients. Additionally, to ensure our products can stay relevant and useful in the future, we often include hooks and functionality that can be upgraded to offer support for future technologies.
But we don’t want to limit ourselves to XR alone.
Researching adjacent technologies can often lead to exciting new advances in a particular field. Think of face recognition with principal component analysis. A statistical procedure combined with algorithms that recognize and create faces. Only obvious after the fact.
Here’s a list of the research topics we’re focusing on:
Procedural modeling. We create a lot of 3D assets and environments. We’re always looking for ways to generate such environments in a more efficient way. Not only will this allow us to take on more XR projects (because we’re faster at modeling new assets) but it’ll free up time that we can spend on research and on building the XR products we spoke about above.
AI and 3D. Once we have our 3D world and its assets, how do we fill it with algorithms that make such a world functional? And how do we make such algorithms smarter? We’ve already written about how AI can be trained in a virtual environment, but we’re always thinking of new ways where we can improve. Currently, we’re investigating text-to-speech (not speech-to-text!), object recognition, automatic testing, and other topics. Stay tuned for more details in the course of this year.
Immersive care. XR has many amazing applications in healthcare. We’re investigating how it can improve care for patients. One such example is how VR can be used to reduce preoperative anxiety in children, another involves the use of VR/AR to improve kinesitherapy. If these aren’t good use cases, then we don’t know what is.
Looxid. Brain-sensing technology and brain-machine interfaces (BMIs). We’ve written about BMIs before, and we’ll keep on investigating how this mind-blowing (or, actually, hopefully not mind-blowing) technology will find applications in healthcare and other industries.
Here’s one such example: VR can help reduce the symptoms of mental disorders. Given the increased, necessary focus on mental health, we believe that virtual reality exposure therapy (VRET) is an inexpensive and private way for therapists to help their patients.
Evolving XR Technologies. Of course, we’ll keep track of the latest and greatest in XR, whether that’s hand-tracking for the Oculus Quest, better VR audio, the HoloLens 2, eye-tracking, body tracking, and more fundamental technologies such as the advent of 5G and how it will impact XR.
While you need to work hard on current and future projects, you have to put yourself out there too. No company should live in a vacuum. Events are a great way to expand your network, see what the other companies in your industry are doing, and learn through osmosis. Here are a few of the events we will attend in 2020.
Unreal Academy. We do a lot of our work using the Unreal Engine. The Unreal Academy events are a great way to sharpen our skills with the Unreal Engine and learn what’s new and relevant for our business.
Oculus Connect 7. You can’t get around Oculus when you’re in the VR industry and Oculus Connect is the best event to know what the Facebook-owned company has planned for their Oculus devices. Often a good indicator for Facebook’s future too.
Gamescom. The world’s largest gaming event, with over 370,000 visitors. The gaming industry has always been at the forefront of innovation and it’s no different for XR. Think about what Pokemon Go did to introduce AR to the masses or what Half-Life: Alyx will do to introduce VR to a broader audience. Hence why we’re visiting Gamescom.
VR Days Europe. A 3-day conference on everything XR with a lot of good speakers and a matchmaking initiative where you can schedule meetings ahead of the event. Very useful to create the best networking experience possible.
SuperNova Tech Fair. Belgium’s biggest technology and innovation event. As a Belgian company, we can’t miss this one. Over 30,000 visitors from 23 different countries. Go Belgium!
Aside from XR or 3D industry events, we mainly focus on events for industry verticals: oil & gas, manufacturing, healthcare, security. We regularly attend as well as keynote at such events.
OneBonsai has grown significantly in a very short period of time. From 2 guys in a living room to 12 people in an office and many more regularly helping out on various projects and activities. We are extremely proud to work with talented, vibrant, and inquisitive people who see VR for what it is: the gateway to an exciting future! Without them, it would be impossible to provide great results for our clients while also driving growth and innovation in all aspects of our company.
In 2020, we expect to grow even more, expanding in areas such as products and events. By focusing on research, we aim to stay relevant and provide challenging opportunities that our team can tackle in the near and mid-far future. 2020 will be a challenging but exhilarating rollercoaster of a year, where we lay the foundation of much of what OneBonsai will morph into!
Apart from all the projects and products we’re working on and all the research we’re doing, we also strive to be good to our planet. That’s why we pledge to become a carbon-neutral company and why we decided that OneBonsai will become a fully remote company.
While this goal isn’t easy to achieve – we will still require some local presence, and VR at the moment requires relatively immobile hardware – we already see a significant impact on our global carbon footprint. In 2020, we will estimate our companies carbon footprint, and offset it directly or indirectly (e.g. by planting trees).
After all, what’s the point of striving for a better future if we neglect the planet we live on. While our carbon emissions are small in comparison to giant companies, we believe that every bit helps. We don’t want to stay on the sidelines when it comes to climate change.
We hope this article has given you some insight into what we’re currently working on and researching and what we want to work on and research in the future. We’ve come a long way since 2016 and we’re excited to see what the next five years will hold for OneBonsai.