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HP brings device management to VR headsets

HP's SaaS product lets businesses using HTC and Pico virtual reality headsets track device locations, push application updates, patch devices and set security policies.

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

The ExtendXR SaaS will make it easier for companies to configure the VR headsets before handing them to employees, HP said this week. The company 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, the Neo 2 and the Neo 3 Pro. HP declined to say whether it would support other manufacturers' devices in the future.

Today, companies find it difficult and time-consuming to deploy VR software in a headset or keep the applications, operating system and device firmware up to date.

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

"The biggest issue with AR and VR today is security concerns," Brasen said. "[The device] is collecting information about the user that can't be collected anywhere else."

When a person puts on a VR headset, malicious actors can see the user's movements and figure out the PIN used by the gestures a person makes when typing it in virtually, Brasen said. They can also hack into the cameras on the device 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 for debugging devices over USB. Removing the latter feature prevents people from exposing their devices to hackers by fixing the headsets without IT support.

HP ExtendXR menu
HP's ExtendXR is a device management software designed for VR headsets.

The service costs $120 per device per year for the standard package and $156 per device per year for the premium, which includes single sign-on and more security features. There are volume discounts for companies that order 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 doctor training in hospitals and medical schools. According to a study by PwC, VR headsets helped businesses train employees on average four times faster than those not wearing the headsets.

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

"There's enterprise interest, but the volume is low because of various barriers to entry," Gartner analyst Tuong Nguyen said. The hurdles include enterprise-ready hardware and software and implementation time and costs.

In 2021, AR/VR companies shipped 1.3 million headsets worldwide to businesses, an increase of 35.5% compared with 2020.

Maxim Tamarov is a news writer covering mobile and end-user computing. He previously wrote for The Daily News in Jacksonville, N.C., and the Sun Transcript in Winthrop, Mass. He can be found on Twitter at @MaximTamarov.

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