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COVID-19 is a powerful new driver of digital transformation

COVID-19 is a powerful new driver of digital transformation

Nice-to-have projects have suddenly become urgent ones

Company-X augmented reality specialist Lance Bauerfeind demonstrates how WebAR can be used to overlay a AR model of a new bath over the old bath.

Company-X augmented reality specialist Lance Bauerfeind demonstrates how WebAR can be used to overlay a AR model of a new bath over the old bath.

Credit: Supplied

The COVID-19 pandemic is turning discussions about digital transformation into action, according to Hamilton-based ICT services provider Company-X.

Co-founder and director David Hallett said the software specialist had discussed digital transformation with many clients in the year before the pandemic hit.

“Suddenly there’s been an impetus and they’ve seen an urgency,” Hallett said.

Clients were saying: "You know that project we’ve been talking about? Can we start that yesterday?”, Hallett said.

A health sector client, for instance, asked Company-X to lead the development of a digital system that would replace a manual one deemed too risky for staff when social distancing guidelines were in place.

“They said we need to digitise this and we need you to help us out so that was a project that kicked off,” Hallett said.

“Another was a legal practice which suddenly realised it needed to quickly modernise because it had no access to files or notes in its office because they were locked down."

Hallett and co-founder Jeremy Hughes, who both live outside of Hamilton, where Company-X is headquartered,
have engaged in regular video conferences with clients and team members based around the world.

“I spent the first year or so working with a client from the United States,” said Hughes.

“So that gets you really immersed in remote working when you actually never get to join the team face to face.”

Hallett said the only difference the COVID-19 pandemic made to the company's team of nearly 60 software specialists was that they had to go into the supermarket one person at a time.

“We did expect some of our projects to go on hold,” Hughes said. “But it didn’t happen. 

"I think it’s because we really focus on partnering with our customers and they trust us to get involved in really critical projects that have to be delivered."

Company-X has been driving hard on augmented and virtual reality since it acquired Pepper Creative in mid-2019, but that has now taken a twist with web-based delivery.

Traditionally augmented (AR) and virtual reality (VR) ran inside platforms or devices, Hallett said, however, the hardware could be prohibitively expensive.

New device- and browser-agnostic standards, WebAR and WebVR, are changing that and delivering experiences in a browser.

WebAR technology puts AR before anyone with an internet-capable device with a web browser. 

WebVR delivers a 360-degree virtual environment via the web browser or a fully immersive experience through a headset.

“Rather than having to build a native app for a system you can build a web-delivered AR solution,” Hallett said.

“It’s all delivered by the web, so you don’t have to go and install any software on these devices.”

Use cases for WebAR include marketing goods and services from modelling a new pair of glasses to planning a home extension.

“Take your new glasses,” Hallett said. “You can just use WebAR on your smartphone’s web browser to try on different pairs. You can decide whether you like the glasses, or if the frames need to be blacker. You can magically cycle through your glasses."

Similarly, a furniture retailer could offer AR versions of its beds, bookcases, chairs, desks, sofas and tables for
customers to try virtually in their homes before they buy by overlaying them on a live feed from the device’s camera.

“We can build a garage or carport using WebAR and answer whether it would look good with this sort of guttering or that sort,” Hughes added.



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