HP brings device management to VR headsets

HP has launched software as a service to manage the growing number of virtual reality headsets used in manufacturing, industrial design and medical training.

The SaaS ExtendXR will make it easier for businesses to set up VR headsets before handing them out to employees, HP said this week. The company has partnered with AR and VR device management company ArborXR to create the software.

For now, ExtendXR will work exclusively with HTC’s VIVE Focus 3 and Pico Interactive’s G2 4K, Neo 2 and Neo 3 Pro. HP declined to say whether it will support devices from other manufacturers in the future.

Companies today find it difficult and time-consuming to deploy VR software in a headset or to keep device apps, operating system, and firmware up to date.

Typically, enterprises use existing unified endpoint management (UEM) products to track their AR/VR headsets the same way they track IoT devices, said Steve Brasen, analyst at Enterprise Management Associates. But IT admins can’t patch devices, push updates to them, or provide the level of security that UEM provides for PCs, smartphones, and tablets.

“The biggest problem with AR and VR today is security issues,” Brasen said. “[The device] collects user information that cannot be collected anywhere else.”

When a person puts on a VR headset, malicious actors can see the user’s movements and determine the PIN used by the gestures a person makes when typing it virtually, Brasen said. They can also hack the device’s cameras and glean potentially sensitive information about the room the device user is in.

ExtendXR’s security includes single sign-on, location tracking, and the ability to disable an option to debug devices over USB. Removing the latter feature prevents users from exposing their devices to hackers by repairing the headsets without IT assistance.

HP’s ExtendXR is device management software designed for VR headsets.

The service costs $120 per device per year for the standard plan and $156 per device per year for the premium, which includes single sign-on and more security features. There are volume discounts for companies ordering more than 250 devices.

The service is available now with some features, such as user authentication, coming later this year.

VR devices have multiple enterprise use cases, including manufacturing, industrial design, and training doctors in hospitals and medical schools. According to a PwC study, VR headsets helped companies train their employees on average four times faster than those who didn’t wear them.

Nevertheless, VR hardware remains a rarity in enterprises despite the limited success of Microsoft’s HoloLens 2.

“There is business interest, but the volume is low due to various barriers to entry,” said Gartner analyst Tuong Nguyen. Barriers include enterprise-ready hardware and software, and implementation time and cost.

In 2021, AR/VR companies shipped 1.3 million headsets globally to businesses, a 35.5% increase from 2020.

Maxim Tamarov is a news writer covering mobile and end-user computing. He has already written for daily news in Jacksonville, North Carolina, and the Transcription of the sun in Winthrop, Mass. He can be found on Twitter at @MaximTamarov.