Susan Smith has worked as an editor and writer in the technology industry for over 16 years. As an editor she has been responsible for the launch of a number of technology trade publications, both in print and online. Currently, Susan is the Editor of GISCafe and AECCafe, as well as those sites’ … More »
HP Unveils HP Mars Home Planet and New Wearable HP Z VR Backpack
August 23rd, 2017 by Susan Smith
In a webinar this month, HP executives talked about the exciting new approach and commercial solutions for virtual reality (VR). Together with NVIDIA, they have teamed up with Autodesk Fusion, LaunchForth, Technicolor, Unreal Engine and HTC VIVE to launch HP Mars Home Planet, a global project using virtual reality to simulate what a human population of one million could look like on Mars. HP has also unveiled what appears to be the first professional wearable VR PC – the new HP Z VR Backpack. Crafted to bring the full potential of VR to-life, it is designed to be a secure and manageable wearable VR PC.
The HP announcement included the following:
HP Mars Home Planet
The company also announced together with NVIDIA they have teamed up with Autodesk Fusion, LaunchForth, Technicolor, Unreal Engine and HTC VIVE to launch HP Mars Home Planet, a global project using virtual reality to simulate what a human population of one million could look like on Mars. In speaking with Sean Young, HP Workstations, he said that he works on the convergence between GIS, 3D scanning, VR and BIM. Autodesk Fusion partnered with NASA’s Mars Valley as a starting point for the Home Planet. Unreal built on a photogrammetrically accurate Mars. The collaboration of VR experiences is being led by Technicolor, who did the VR for The Martian.
HP Mars VR
Young said the opportunities for building smart cities are huge with VR. From a geological perspective, stakeholders can look at water, settlement sites, mining, terrafarming, and need a geospatial model and physics of the environment on Mars. They must look at cosmic radiation, gravity simulation systems, temperatures, all to be simulated in the Unreal game engine.
Autodesk Fusion’s media company division created the VR game Mars 2030 in Unreal. They referenced photos of Mars photogrammetrically and will use the 3D model winners as a starting point.
This is an effort to join together engineers, architects, students – anyone who wants to participate for free to design an urban area of what will life look like on Mars with a million people.
This will start in the concept phase and move to modeling and rendering, basically following a typical design workflow. In each phase, the community will be invited to come in and create vehicles, building, transportation networks, anything important to contribute to the ultimate vision.
Phase 1 – Conceptual design phase including infrastructure such as transportation, Mars exploration vehicles and could include bitmap images, 3D model, or text description.
Phase 2 – Modeling phase inspired by phase 1. You can model anything you want, and compete for a variety of awards. There will be a library of 3D models of what may on Mars one day. There will be the opportunity to 3D print, and submit samples of dirt on Mars. The difference in this project from others is that it is entirely conceptual; there is no as-built environment to draw from.
Another competition running in concert with this one will focus on rendering from any of those 3D model entries.
HP’s VR Vision
HP sees a larger opportunity for VR in the commercial space and is positioning itself to be the trusted partner and choice for those partners who might be looking at commercial VR.
According to vice president, Product Management, Workstations, Josh Peterson, most people think of gaming when thinking of VR today. “That’s where VR has been most prevalent. Gaming makes up about 76% of all VR content out there, being enjoyed by tens of millions of gamers.
We participate with our HP gaming products and that will continue to be a big part our strategy in general. We have seen tremendous growth in Omen and as recently as last month we’ve introduced new products for not only the gaming space but also the commercial virtual reality space.”
“We’ve been looking at VR for a number of years, talking to customers, exploring use cases, and we’ve reached a critical tipping point in the technology,” said Peterson. “Just in the last 18 months, we’ve talked to many customers about pressures they’re under, about the bottlenecks of their processes, and how VR can help them transform their workflows. And they’re ready for this transformation. The technology is here to help us make this happen together, and it’s happening now.”
Because of the improvement in display, graphics and CPU technologies, customers can transform their workflows with VR.
What most customers wanted was threefold: 1. Better ways to engage with their customers, provide better experiences, and through this engagement they want to extract value for their business. VR has the potential to help customers engage with their customers in a more meaningful, more effective way. 2. Ways to cut costs, and for training, VR can be most effective and cut costs. There is a huge opportunity around the idea of optimizing investments, and 3. Customers are looking to accelerate their time to market, shorten development cycle, streamline design processes and drive more efficiency in the organization. VR has the ability to help in these different use cases in the commercial segment.
HP sees the biggest opportunities in simulation and training. Government and corporations need training for their employees to be effective. But in many cases, it’s impossible to deliver a training experience that’s not dangerous or very expensive. With the introduction of VR, not only are you able to deliver VR as a very immersive, real world experience, for these occupations you’re able to do so in a cost-effective way, that can be repeated over and over to help develop the muscle memory for these occupations.
With VR, “we’re seeing customers be able to increase the speed at which the designers can iterate, collaborate with their teams, review designs with upper management or their client,” said Peterson. “So if you think about architects talking to clients, no longer do they have to do a fly-through on a big screen of the new design, they can actually let their clients walk through and experience the design with different times of day. We can give option A and B choices, while they’re standing in the middle of that at-scale design of that building. Very powerful opportunity.”
For health care, VR can be used in broad use cases ranging anywhere from the training of surgeons, doctors, nurses, all the way through to patient care, pain management or the treatment of common disorders that were once thought to be untreatable. Health care is a huge opportunity for VR. “One of our customers is using VR to treat patients where where anesthesia is not an option in certain procedures. They are using VR to provide patients with an escape to help with pain management. It is also valuable in training surgeons with the actual data of the patient where they can repeat the training many times before they actually go to the procedure.”
Commercial customers are looking for better ways to engage with their customers. They see VR as a great opportunity to open up opportunities across multiple industries. VR can transform the automobile showroom experience and transform the notion of auto dealership altogether. Instead of dealerships having to carry heavy inventory of multiple colors and models with multiple option packages, they can carry more modest inventory and put customers in immersive experiences that provide them an at scale view of the different color options, model option packages while at the same time offering customers that emotional connection to the experience so they can get right car.
Customers are beginning to realize VR is going to be part of their IT infrastructure. They need to have the same level of security and same level manageability for BIOS updates they want to be able to protect their IP, and it needs to be high performance to deliver that great immersive experience.
HP Z VR Backpack
Alan Buckner, director of workstation VR management, talked about the HP Z VR Backpack workstation that was announced at SIGGRAPH. The product boasts very high frame rates provided by NVIDIA Quadro P5200 with 16 GB video memory, seventh generation Intel Core i7 vPro Processing, two totally swappable batteries that can be swapped while the VR session is running. This allows the user to keep the immersion running. Plus 32GB Z RAM to drive large datasets and applications in VR.
The Backpack itself is lightweight, engaging, easy to management, for those who need an untethered experience for moving around in different jobsite areas freely. It also is great for IT administrators who want to bring the product into an environment where it works with other products.
“When you’re not in VR, you can actually undock the PC unit from harness and you have a fully functioning high powered VR machine,” said Buckner. “So when in a docked mode, it supports up to two 4K displays. Engineers had incredibly strong feedback about how powerful this was for them, because they’re often moving between VR creation and consumption multiple times throughout the day. This gives them one device that allows them to do both.”
The Backpack weighs just over 10 pounds including the entire unit with batteries and harness. “The harness is set up in the way to keep the compute off your back so it’s allowing us to stay very cool (the unit also runs cool), shooting airflow off the sides, a good experience when in the VR world,” said Buckner. “It has amazing connectivity, cabling on the very top, so it has a short cable that runs from the backpack to your HND, so it’s a comfortable and stylish way to experience VR.”
The product is certified with professional software and applications and development platforms, supports Windows 10 Pro security and HP client security for decision makers concerned about bringing new products into their IT environment.
HP Z Backpack supports head mounted displays such as HTC VIVE, Oculus, and Windows Holographic headset announced earlier this year. To remove the PC from the harness is a simple step – you can unclip to remove it, and snap it into the dock. HP Z VR Backpack is scheduled to be available in September starting at $3,299 USD. The datasheet is available here
HP VR Immersion Centers
“In talking with customers, what became apparent is they want ways to come experience and try out VR before they go to a pilot or rollout,” said Buckner. “So we have opened up 13 locations worldwide, four in the Americas, four in Asia Pacific and five in Europe. The idea of immersion centers is for customers to come in and experience various use cases, talk to experts around VR, try out hardware and HNDs, the full HP commercial portfolio, in addition to the Backpack. All experiences set up for those not in a VR experience can watch with full HD displays simulcasting what user is experiencing in VR.”
Partnership with HTC VIVE
According to HP, HTC VIVE is the best-selling HND in the world. Many commercial customers want to deploy these at scale. In order to make it easier for customers to obtain these, HTC VIVE Business Edition will be available through HP and partners as a bundled solution along with any of the hardware products mentioned in this article. VIVE brings you fantastic frame rates per second, standing resolution, 6 degrees of business controllers, and the Business Edition has a year’s commercial support. It also has integrated headphones. There is cable connectivity between the HND and the Z VR Backpack.
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