Reality check

Immersive technologies offer limitless opportunities, but they need a safe and conducive ecosystem to achieve their full potential.

Virtual is the new reality

India’s spend on extended reality (XR) technologies is experiencing significant growth. The impact of these technologies—augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR) and mixed reality (MR)—is being felt across myriad industries, notably healthcare, hospitality, education and retail. No doubt, XR could usher in improved safety for workers, enhanced customer experience and advanced learning. However, it could also exacerbate cyber attacks and privacy breaches since such immersive technologies leverage sensitive data that could be misused. For XR to flourish responsibly in India, policymakers, entrepreneurs and behavioral experts, among others, must form ecosystems that provide a secure infrastructure and strong incentives to encourage innovation and wider adoption.

xr

India’s spend on extended reality (XR) technologies is experiencing significant growth. The impact of these technologies—augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR) and mixed reality (MR)—is being felt across myriad industries, notably healthcare, hospitality, education and retail.

xr

No doubt, XR could usher in improved safety for workers, enhanced customer experience and advanced learning. However, it could also exacerbate cyberattacks and privacy breaches since such immersive technologies leverage sensitive data that could be misused.

xr

For XR to flourish responsibly in India, policymakers, entrepreneurs and behavioral experts, among others, must form ecosystems that provide a secure infrastructure and strong incentives to encourage innovation and wider adoption.

Extended Reality’s Potential Gets Real

Globally, XR is poised to be a US$160 billion industry by 2023. In India, the XR spending will exceed US$6.5 billion by 2022 from under US$2 billion in 2020 due to growing smartphone penetration—a key driving factor—which is expected to double during the same timeframe (Figure 1).

While this growth is fueled by burgeoning demand, the supply side factors are keeping pace. Currently, there are more than 170 AR and VR startups in India, with some 60 percent springing up in the past couple of years alone.4 Not surprisingly, most of the startups are based in metros and serve large corporations across industries. (Figure 2)

XR Market Size 4,000 (in US$ million)

CAGR
(85.2%)

  • 7000
  • 6000
  • 5000
  • 4000
  • 3000
  • 2000
  • 1000
  • 2018
  • 2019
  • 2020
  • 2021
  • 2022

Figure 1: XR takes off in India

Explore how Indian companies are putting AR/VR to use

Figure 2: Indian companies putting AR/VR to use

These XR use cases are just the tip of the opportunity iceberg. As business leaders continue to evangelize XR in India, the opportunities will grow in frequency and size. However, XR also presents new, under- explored risks.
The blurring of physical and virtual boundaries poses urgent questions around reality, trust and mental health. Our intimate feelings, behaviors and judgments may be captured as data for new uses—or misused in the wrong hands.
And the costs—physical, mental and social—of fixing mistakes or compensating for misuses could be steep. Clearly, XR must be built and deployed in a responsible, secure environment.
That XR is at a nascent stage in India is a silver lining as stakeholders can evaluate the potential risks upfront and develop public policies or design technological solutions to prevent, or at least mitigate, those risks.

Allows Access to Sensitive Data

Facilitates Fake Experiences

Heightens Vulnerability to Cyberattacks

Exacerbates Cyberbullying

Actions for Businesses
and Policymakers

While the risks posed by extensive use of XR will manifest themselves as we go further along, companies and policymakers need to address those risks as timely and optimally as they possibly can. Responsibility and ethics must be baked into the way XR solutions are built and designed, and not after they are deployed. Here are three ways in which businesses and policymakers can manage those risks:

Bring in
the Experts
Accelerate Wider
Adoption with the
Right Infrastructure
Incentivize
Innovation
Securing the Virtual Future
Immersive technologies must be developed responsibly
to ensure wider adoption and acceptance.

That calls for business leaders, policymakers and other stakeholders in India to be aligned on a shared vision and execute it to provide a secure, nurturing environment for such technologies to grow and thrive. In such an ecosystem, businesses could focus on customer experience or product value, while policymakers could make data security a priority. An organized effort by all parties would benefit customers and help scale these technologies more rapidly, paving the way for their successful rollout in the country.

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