Extended Reality (XR) fundamentally reinvents how we interact with our work and environment, with the potential to deeply alter business and society. In fact, Gartner predicts that 20 percent of large-enterprise businesses will adopt XR technologies by 2019.1
But, why wait until 2019?
Since 2008, Accenture has been exploring the immersive frontier to understand how we can practically and seamlessly apply XR to provide tangible benefits to the enterprise. Let’s dive into some of the work Accenture has done—for clients and internal use.
Consider the increasingly competitive recruitment process. Annually, corporations spend $73 billion to recruit the best candidates. To help prospective employees better understand Accenture, we started providing a fully immersive virtual tour in 2016. The tours got great engagement rates, and the rich experience helped stimulate interest among top candidates.
Virtual tours quickly found a place in many areas, from tourism to patient care. In 2015, 10,000 national park fans downloaded and used a National Park Service virtual tour built by Accenture Labs. The virtual app, powered by Google® Cardboard, highlighted four iconic national parks and supported the National Park Service in its efforts to go digital and attract more visitors. Virtual tours allowed fans to even see areas that aren't typically open for the public, like the medical room in Alcatraz.
As another example, Accenture Labs has leveraged XR to accelerate product placement and store design. By virtually testing products and customer preferences, retailers can deliver products that are more tailored for consumer demands. Through a Virtual Store, we placed virtual products on virtual shelves to understand the optimal product arrangement and store layout, without building a physical shelf. Customers wore the HTC Vive VR headset and the application tracked their motion through heat maps to measure engagement with different designs. With VR help, consumer goods packaging companies could capture shopper analytics and quickly iterate through product designs.
In 2015, Accenture collaborated with aircraft manufacturer Airbus to help industrial workers accelerate daily tasks. Airbus sought to reduce the complexity and time associated with assembling cabin seats. In less than a month, Accenture and Airbus developed AR smart glasses that displayed all the required information for an operator to mark the floor for cabin seats with speed and precision. The results were impressive. The productivity for the seat marking process improved by 500 percent, error rate dropped to zero, and the time spent per aircraft reduced by more than 85 percent.
Accenture and Airbus use smart glasses to support cabin assembly
If XR can help industrial workers, can it help office workers and the C-suite? Accenture Labs wanted to explore how XR could allow management to quickly visualize product designs before the products are built. built. Research shows that 2D images of 3D objects are cognitively limiting because they are difficult for our brains to process, overload working memory and are tough to recall. So, in 2017, with an aim to make spatial reasoning a little easier, Accenture built a proof-of-concept for Dassault’s CATIA, a 3D design platform. We placed CATIA design files in the Microsoft HoloLens headset so that viewers could understand how the flat design of a car seat would render in the real world. The CATIA CAD (Computer-Aided Design) software served as the single source of truth and was seamlessly integrated with the AR simulation. Any changes in the CAD design were instantly duplicated in the HoloLens in the form of a 3D Digital Double. Design teams and executives could interact with life-size models of the seat to make better and faster decisions.
Digital Double. Design teams and executives could interact with life-size models of the seat to make better and faster decisions.
Proof of concept of using AR to visualize product designs
As a final step, Accenture moved beyond the CATIA 3D car seat to understand how XR could help engineers rapidly test experiences for a full car. In 2017, Accenture Labs built an automotive VR simulation using Oculus Rift. This demo simulated a rider’s experience in a semi-autonomous vehicle, and connected the physical and digital worlds through sensor data to further personalize the experience. With the simulation, remote engineers could collaborate in 360-degree digital space and assess the rider experience without building a physical prototype.
In 2016, we also launched internally an incredibly popular HR application for empathy training in the workplace, as part of Accenture’s Inclusion and Diversity programs. After years of research and collaboration with leading universities on the topic, Accenture Labs developed a VR experience that simulated various “Day in the Life” scenarios to train our diverse workforce during onboarding. In 2017, we expanded this effort and advised work with a French startup, ManzaLab, in developing a VR prototype aimed at fighting gender bias and stereotyping. The “Gender Swap” app is a role-playing game that permits total immersion and change of perspective. By allowing employees to experience six scenarios from the other gender’s perspective, the simulation builds awareness and promotes empathy in a powerful way. Some of this work is described in ManzaLab’s VR blog.
These examples illustrate just a handful of use-cases across industries and roles, but the possibilities are endless. We are at the beginning of a platform revolution, and will continue to explore and push the limits of XR in the enterprise space. Established leaders and budding startups alike must harness these emerging technologies to remain innovative and competitive.
Interested in incorporating XR in your business practices? We’d love to hear from you. Follow this XR blog series for industry-focused deep dives to understand how engineers and designers, medical professionals and industrial workers can enhance their work with XR. And, hear more perspectives on XR’s potential and best development practices in enterprise. Contact the Accenture XR group or Accenture Labs to learn more.