When we think about Virtual Reality or Augmented Reality, many consumer experiences come to mind, from walking around streets with Pokémon Go or visualizing what furniture to place around our bedroom. Although it is natural to first think about these consumer applications, Extended Reality—which encompasses the full experience spectrum across virtual and augmented reality, is already having a profound impact on the enterprise.
Businesses have been incorporating Extended Reality (XR) to accelerate their daily work, boost innovation, improve safety and slash costs. XR solutions are moving out of the R&D labs to become integral parts of larger digital transformations. The Accenture Extended Reality group has been actively helping clients ride this new wave.
The interest in XR is rapidly growing. As per Digi-Capital, investors poured $2.3 billion into XR in 2016, a 300 percent investment growth over the $692 million invested in 2015.1 With these investments, we can expect headsets that are more comfortable and affordable, improvements in display technologies and more natural user experiences with less motion sickness. Such developments will quicken adoption and growth. Experts expect XR revenue to grow from $6.1B in 2016 to $13.9B by the end of 2017,2 and then to $80 billion by 2025.3
Although some remain skeptical that businesses will successfully leverage these nascent technologies, International Data Corporation (IDC) expects corporate XR usage to rise faster than consumer usage.4 IDC suggests that by the end of 2017, 43.2 percent of XR spending would have come from the retail and manufacturing industries alone.5 In fact, Gartner predicts that by 2019, 20 percent of large-enterprise businesses would have adopted XR technologies.6
What is Extended Reality (XR)?
XR refers to the spectrum of experiences that blurs the line between the real world and the simulated world. The technology immerses the user through visuals, audio, and potentially olfactory and haptic cues. Users can dive into a new situation and fully experience it, regardless of whether the situation is actually dangerous, expensive or impossible.
The two major types of XR are Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality. Each has its own unique advantages.
Virtual Reality (VR) places you in a digital world by creating experiences using 360-degree video, photospheres or computer-rendered environments. The most effective way to understand is to experience, and VR allows us to do just that. VR increases intuition and experience by shifting the user from a seat of passive observation to an active participant in the middle of the action. VR is already profoundly affecting the way we work, as illustrated through these examples:
When an infant was born missing one lung and half a heart, surgeons at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital in Miami used 360-degree imaging in VR to analyze her body and envision the procedure that transformed her. 7
Frank’s International, a global oil services company, uses VR to train oil rig workers through safe, captivating and immersive simulations before placing them in hazardous areas.8
Augmented Reality (AR) brings the digital world to you by overlaying digital information and images on top of the real world and allowing you to interact with virtual objects. The human brain is well-aware of stereo and motion cues, which explains why we might find 3D representations in AR simpler to digest than 2D representations.9 In fact, an exploratory study conducted by Accenture revealed that 87.6 percent of individuals found that dynamic 3D instructions were more helpful than plain 2D instructions.10 Here are some examples of AR in action in the workplace:
Newport News Shipbuilding helps workers thoroughly visualize and analyze ship structures in AR instead of in abstract, paper diagrams.11
AR telepresence tools such as CAT LIVESHARE reduce downtime of complex equipment, and the associated revenue loss, by enabling experts to remotely train and support workers in real-time through voice, 3D animation and screen sharing.12
With AR/VR, we can inject new dimensions of reality into our daily work to enhance our capabilities.
The reality of the frontier
Although we are on the cusp of a human experience revolution, we are still some years away from widespread adoption. XR technologies are nascent and face challenges such as uncomfortable headsets, optics, spatial mapping and unintuitive interactions.
Nevertheless, XR is neither science fiction nor a tool of the distant future. XR fundamentally reinvents how we interact with our work and environment, with the potential to deeply alter business and society.
We are already witnessing success stories in enterprise. A recent survey conducted by Gartner indicates that 40 percent of organizations using AR found the technology to exceed expectations.13 Businesses can circumvent the limitations by concentrating on enterprise use-cases that are focused, require limited headset use and do not rely on complete immersion. And, as we invest and conduct research, we are continuously improving the user experience.
Innovative companies are already exploring and adopting these technologies. Any businesses, regardless of the industry, can benefit from XR, and early experimentation will set leaders apart.
We are launching a series of posts to help you explore incorporating XR into your business. Stay tuned for our industry-focused posts to understand how engineers and designers, medical professionals and industrial workers can enhance their work with XR. We will also share Accenture’s explorations in XR and our views on XR’s potential and best enterprise development practices.