Insights on XR hardware from the Field's Experts: Schenker Technologies

We had the pleasure to meet Tom Neubert, from Schenker Technologies  during  the XR Bavaria Meetup: VR/AR Hardware Hands-on! And as we mentioned previously, Tom agreed to participate in an exclusive interview with us about the future of XR hardware.

Why Schenker Technologies you might ask? Simply because it is one of the leading names when we talk about IT hardware and accessories. They have an extensive background in XR technologies and they keep on surprising us with the researches and new technologies they bring to the market.

Schenker Technologies is a Leipzig-based company operating throughout Europe as a provider of IT hardware and accessories, distribution services, and the latest augmented and virtual reality technologies. Around 80 employees are responsible for a comprehensive range of activities, from production and storage to service, support and administration, all under one roof.

Just one element of the company's portfolio is the local manufacture of freely configurable laptops and desktop PCs. These are from renowned company brands, like XMG (gaming) and SCHENKER (professional users), which have already received numerous awards from industry media, thanks to the use of the latest and most powerful components, in addition to their expert trilingual customer service.

The third pillar of the company, the new e-commerce platform bestware.com, also complements and rounds off the company's own range with a carefully chosen selection of the best products from other manufacturers and the new bestware.com PC configuration tool. Schenker Technologies sees itself as an innovative trendsetter and uses its many years of distribution experience to provide the European market with the world's most interesting new technologies and customer solutions.

Since 2016, the company has also been providing its customers with increased support as part of the OVRLAB partnership, acting as a specialist full-service provider for the implementation of commercial-creative extended-reality projects.

Tom Neubert pictureNow that you have a detailed idea about Schenker technologies, let me give you a bit more information about our interviewee. Tom Neubert is the Product Manager XR at Schenker Technologies & bestware.com. He is an XR enthusiast and was more than helpful in our journey to provide you with more information about the current hardware state of VR.

 

Without further ado, here is the interview we had with Tom:

Can you tell us more about Schenker? What is your company's philosophy and which customers do you target?

Schenker Technologies is a Leipzig-based company operating throughout Europe as a provider of IT hardware, accessories and distribution services, for example, laptop and desktop PCs as well as the latest in augmented and virtual reality technologies. Our philosophy is to provide every client – no matter private or business – with the right customized hardware – out of one hand and with the highest quality standards. Around 80 employees are trying to achieve that day by day and are responsible for a comprehensive range of activities, from production and storage to support, service, marketing, sales and administration, all under one roof.

Just one element of our company's portfolio is the local manufacture of freely configurable laptops and desktop PCs from renowned company brands XMG (gaming) and SCHENKER (professional users), which have already received numerous awards from industry media thanks to the use of the latest and most powerful components, in addition to our expert trilingual customer service.XMG-WALKER-04-1

In 2016 we started specializing in VR, as with the XMG WALKER we were the first manufacturer of backpack PCs for VR in Europa. Since that we have been in direct contact with all major VR manufacturers, like HTC VIVE, Oculus, TPCAST Wireless, Leap Motion, Varjo, and VR COVER, and are distributing and reselling their products to all kind of industries and customers.

Regarding VR, there has been a lot of news – hardware and software wise – in the last months. What are you most excited about?

XR_1_FrontRight_Transp-1That has to be Varjo’s XR-1 – hands down! With their first-ever Mixed Reality headset, they created a device for engineers, researchers, and designers who are pioneering a new reality. With photorealistic visual fidelity and ultra-low latency, the XR-1 Developer Edition seamlessly merges virtual content with the real world. For the first time ever, a headset shows virtual content as it should appear – indistinguishable from the real world. With that feature, you can effortlessly switch between virtual, mixed, and real scenarios as you work, which  gives you a whole new range of possibilities, for example a mixed reality workspace. Schenker Technologies is happy to partner with such innovative and thriving companies and integrate their hardware and knowledge to our clients.

In your view, what is the ideal hardware to start with VR?

That depends on whether you mean private end customers at home or businesses that want to use VR productively within their daily work.

A good start for users at home is Oculus Quest. You get a fully mobile VR headset, at an affordable price point, and it still enables you to play all fan-favorite VR games and have tons of fun. On top of that, you can  now link the headset to your high-end PC and get even more quality out of the device.

VIVE-Pro-2.0-1To enterprise customers in industries like architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) or training and simulation, we always recommend to start with an HTC VIVE Pro. It’s an enterprise-grade VR system for demanding users. It works in seated, standing, and expansive multi-user environments to accelerate timelines, enhance training and design, and simulate impossible scenarios. In case they need more premium features like ultra-high resolution or integrated eye or and hand tracking, we still have the room above with devices like the Varjo VR-2 Pro or VRgineers XTAL that we can offer.

What do you think about mobile VR with hardware such as the Oculus Quest or VIVE Focus?

With remote training or classroom education, there are definitely use-cases out there that require all-in-one VR headsets which focus on mobility and flexibility more than image quality. This means that the resolution and refresh rate of the displays can be lower in comparison to PC-VR if that gives you the option to set it up and use it wherever you want, whether there is a power plug or not.

As said before, Oculus did a great job developing a 6 DoF headset like the Quest and offering it an affordable price in order to get many users at home into VR. In my opinion, the whole VR eco-system still needs a broader user and community base to get rolling. Oculus helped with that! Unfortunately, they are lacking productive B2B tools at the moment, which makes developing and scaling customized enterprise applications harder than it has to be.

This gap is filled by HTC with their answer to Quest: VIVE Focus and Focus Plus. On top of the 6 DoF VR hardware they offer dedicated B2B support and service utilities, like a device management system that makes scalability easy, or features for rendering and streaming content from a beefy PC to the headsets.

From your perspective, what have been the major obstacles for VR in order to become mainstream - do you think that the price for VR Hardware might be the main reason?

It’s one, but not the main reason. For the mainstream market, facts like bulky form factor, unergonomic wearing comfort and the lack of good and creative content are weighing in more than the price point. If a PC gamer is willing to pay 1.000 to 3.500 Euros on his or her gaming rig and 449 Euros for a “VR gaming upgrade” (Oculus Rift S) or “VR gaming console” (Oculus Quest), it is definitely not overly expensive. Headsets these days are still just way too uncomfortable to use for long gaming sessions and VR games are often uninspiredly ported PC games – which is clearly not working.

A simplistic game like Beat Saber goes through the roof - in terms of sold copies on all platforms - because it is unique in play style and is utilizing the medium “VR” as it should: in a spatially dynamic and competitive manner that brings a lot of fun!

How does the VR scene look like in Germany according to you?

A very productive, open-minded and collegial one.

In 2016 and 2017, we were visiting a lot of VR meetups in major cities, like Berlin, Munich, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Cologne and Leipzig, where we met people who had just started VR developing or even those who had just learned about it and where keen on trying it on their own. Quite a few of them later started their own businesses related to VR, and it was great to see how everyone was still participating in sharing knowledge and ideas for “the greater good” – the success of the upcoming VR trend.

It’s even better to see that those businesses are grown-up by now and operating and serving in several industries successfully!

 

We would like to thank Tom once again for his detailed answers. As you can see, the VR-scene is flourishing.  It is touching so many aspects of our personal lives and buisesses. We can not wait for the big breakthrough when XR technologies are as normal as the use of a cell phone. All of us here at vr-on GmbH believe strongly that we are getting closer each day to that era!