Baseline of extended reality features and functions makes customization easier
Every domestic and foreign car, truck and SUV is assembled in a factory.
Before the thousands of components and subcomponents can be integrated into a road-worthy vehicle, the factory itself has to be built. It needs walls, a floor, a roof and power, gas and water to fuel the machinery. Once the shell of the factory is ready and the tools are in place, cars can fly off the assembly line at a rate of thousands per day.
If we build cars with a common infrastructure and tools, why not build software solutions in a similar manner?
Accelerating XR solutions
This was the question we asked when we assessed the many extended reality (XR) solutions we provide to look for ways to deliver faster outcomes to our internal and external customers, whether that is more rapid prototyping, accelerated training or improved data visualization.
XR solutions include all technologies that extend your reality by blending virtual objects and worlds with the real world to create immersive experiences. XR includes virtual reality, augmented reality and mixed reality. Many of the solutions we create share similar features, so we unified and consolidated a code base to get customers what they need for their specific use case in a fraction of the time.
“Rather than rewriting code from scratch each time we have a customer need, we are building an extensible software baseline with features and code modules that can be used across many customers, accelerating the time to delivery and reducing development cost and risk,” said Gardner Congdon, SAIC domain director for extended realities. “Every customer has a unique set of requirements, and each new feature we build gets integrated into our baseline, improving the value proposition to all customers. We began with the most common features that cut across the largest number of use cases and have utilized our approach to accelerate several customer solutions.”
SAIC has an extensive history of providing XR and immersive technology solutions to help customers, particularly within the Department of Defense (DOD), realize significant benefits more rapidly compared to traditional means. That experience, and a little independent research and development funding (IRAD), fueled the birth of SAIC’s XR Accelerator.
“We have an enormous library of features and now, with the XR Accelerator, we have a strong baseline to integrate functionality,” Congdon said. “We’re not way down on the learning curve. We have a deep understanding of our customer base and their respective operational environments.”
Internal beta testing
SAIC’s XR Accelerator was first adopted by the company’s digital engineering team, which needed to rapidly incorporate XR to demonstrate the benefits of virtual design review. The engineering team had a vision for what was possible, but had no idea how quickly the immersive tech team could deliver.
“This was so satisfying to see this work internally just as well as externally,” Congdon said. “We didn’t start from ground zero, so we were able to deliver a solution in days rather than weeks or months. And now, the digital engineering team has a base for their future demos.”
Building up the digital factory
As a factory gets more and more tools, jobs can be completed faster. Every new lathe, drill and grinder makes future jobs easier.
“With each new tool put into production, all customers can benefit from that functionality, but faster,” Congdon said.
After establishing a baseline of commonly requested XR features, more tools are added to the accelerator program, through which we exercise the value of our intellectual property. This is tremendously important to the program as a whole because it saves time and resources when building the base infrastructure for future customers.
“This enables us to deliver functionality to customers faster with new features and tools with each ongoing iteration,” Congdon said.
Accelerating in the future
In 2021, SAIC’s focus has been on building the factory, so to speak. As more use cases grow – in digital engineering, healthcare, human performance, training, manufacturing and more – tools will be added, and the capabilities of the factory that is the XR Accelerator will expand.
“As more customers realize the benefits of using extended reality features, like multiplayer collaboration or biometric data recording, it’s a lot easier to see how those foundational features benefit our delivery of solutions down the road,” Congdon said.
Beyond that, SAIC is letting its customers tell us where to go from here.
“We’re going to let our customer demand guide us,” Congdon said. “As the XR Accelerator matures, it’ll be such a quick, seamless process to fulfill each customer’s unique requirements.”