Tech gurus predict that within the next six years or so, the immersive technologies of XR–a category that includes augmented reality, virtual reality and mixed reality–could be as ubiquitous as today’s mobile devices.
If that comes to pass, will those currently exotic technologies deliver a serious impact in the workplace and on the HR landscape? According to a new survey of 200 startup founders, technology company executives, investors and consultants by global law firm Perkins Coie and the XR Association, there certainly could be use business case potential and interest among employers.
Respondents in the survey, now in its third iteration, generally found user experience such as bulky hardware or technical glitches to be the biggest obstacle for mass adoption of AR (26 percent) and VR (27 percent). That’s down from last year, when user experience was at 39 percent for AR and 41 percent for VR. But imminent adoption reservations aside, when it comes to the workplace the time will come there, according to one XR expert.
“The idea of VR and AR as a means of connecting people to the digital world in a much more natural and human way is profound,” says Tipatat Chennavasin, general partner at Venture Reality Fund. “It allows us to redefine computer literacy–we can adapt the computer to the way we think and want to work.”
While gaming continues to lead the pack in how the technology could be applied (54 percent said gaming is where they expect to see the most investments in XR over the next year), the workplace also is in the mix.
For example, when shown the statement, “XR is highly applicable to workforce development at this time,” 78 percent of respondents agreed. And when asked about the top workforce uses for XR, there was a connection between providing access to all information in real time and facilitating training and mirroring real-life experiences.
According to Perkins Coie’s Ann Marie Painter, a Dallas-based partner and chair of the firm’s labor and employment practice, putting aside issues of cost and scalability, it’s not surprising that 78 percent believe XR can benefit workforce development.
“Given the lasting impact of the #MeToo movement and the increased focus on addressing unconscious bias in the workplace, XR could offer some truly innovative options for employers to offer training and education that will make a lasting difference at a personal and emotional depth,” she says, adding that the positive responses in the survey about creativity also resonate for workplace use.
“Employers may be able to increase creative output at an exponential level if individuals and teams could immediately visualize and test new ideas in an XR environment,” Painter says, noting that this would take “brainstorming and brain writing” to the next level.
“There is no question that issues surrounding privacy interests and record retention, for example, will come up in the process,” Painter says. “But there is no reason not to look for ways to start to incorporate XR given the potential payoff.”