The COVID-19 pandemic has induced the world’s largest at-scale behavioral change in the history of human existence. Never have hundreds of millions of businesses and workers around the globe shifted their operations and mindsets this rapidly—and at the same time. We are already seeing the societal and economic impact, as well as indications of how it will reshape every aspect of our lives.

Under pressure to reskill and upskill their workforces, leading companies are now focusing on new ways to train, engage and retain their people. Extended reality (XR) has emerged as a way to slash costs, remove distance barriers, optimize productivity, enhance learning and reduce errors across almost every industry.

According to Statista, “The commercial use case for augmented and virtual reality (AR/VR) that is expected to receive the largest investment in 2023 is training, with $8.5 billion US forecast to be spent in this field. VR gaming, VR video/feature viewing and AR gaming make up the three largest consumer use cases for AR/VR, with $20.8 billion US expected to be spent in 2023.”

XR is empowering people to personalize experiences, be great at the work they do, remain connected while physically separate and feel confident in their safety. This immersive technology allows us to engage not only our senses, but also our emotions and the cognitive functions of our brains.

XR experiences solve immediate needs in the COVID-19 world

At the recent 2020 Enterprise Wearable Technology Summit, Accenture presented a breakout segment on how XR can help people navigate uncertainty today and outmaneuver it tomorrow.

We shared examples of how Accenture is implementing XR solutions to help both our business and our clients, including:

  • Continuity with remote experts: While much of our client work could be done remotely, there was some essential work where that was not possible. Remote expert solutions allowed us to provide operational continuity on mission-critical projects.
  • Collaborative innovation: Due to the pandemic, physical meetings are limited. One way we have continued to bring innovation to our clients and internal meetings, while collaborating in a way that makes us feel present together, is through the use of the Accenture Immersive Collaboration Platform, our internal framework to create multi-user photorealistic virtual environments.
  • The new normal and return to work: By now, people have realized that returning to offices will be different, and the need for companies to enable a safe return for their employees is of the utmost importance. XR can help companies to maintain a safe and productive environment.

As the XR Lead of the Accenture Houston Innovation Hub, I presented a recent project I led called Operation Be Safe. Be Well. during the virtual summit. This immersive experience blends game theory with a virtual avatar host and chatbot to answer frequently asked questions in a 3D environment. Instead of reading about health and safety protocols in a standard company email, this fully interactive experience accelerates people’s behavioral intelligence and more robustly prepares them for reintegration to the office.

By leveraging XR technology, a digital twin of a physical office space and powerful yet easy XR coding languages, our project team created a memorable experience proven to quickly increase knowledge retention and decrease safety incidents.

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Toward the future

Brad Rossacci, creative director of the Accenture Houston Innovation Hub, eloquently said, "As humanity is immersed in the acceleration of the experiential economy—where every facet of our life, work and play is becoming an experience with which we interact—our imaginations and expectations are creating a deeply interconnected need for wonderful, magical and epic experiences. As technology is catching up with our imaginations, XR is ripe with big, beautiful opportunities to satisfy our expectations and accelerate our very human reality."

The mix of technology and human ingenuity offered by XR has tremendous power to help us all navigate this “very human reality” and pivot the story of COVID-19 from one of challenge and isolation to one of growth and reinvention.

See more on Workforce

Krista L. Taylor

Global T&O Immersive Learning Lead, Extended Reality Lead, Houston Innovation Hub

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