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🗣 Over the next five years, federal agencies will need to master an entirely new world – the virtual one. Fueled by advances in artificial intelligence (AI), 5G, and miniaturization, extended reality (XR) technologies are poised to become more powerful and more commonplace. For example, the U.S. Army is planning to acquire up to 120,000 Microsoft HoloLens headsets worth almost $22 billion to improve soldiers’ situational awareness and training.

Marco Tempest, a creative technologist with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab and Accenture Luminary for XR, notes that these technologies allow organizations to “invent the impossible” by bringing the virtual world to life. All of this raises an important question for federal leaders: what should this virtual world look like and how can they use it to advance the mission and serve the interests of the American public?

In today’s complex, digital-first world, XR will redefine how government trains its workers, delivers services to customers and operates remotely. With disciplines like digital engineering, telehealth, and data fusion taking center stage, the ability to work virtually in a digital world has never been more important.

 🗣 XR is helping federal agencies reimagine how they can operate while making data more accessible and digestible through:

👉 Training

As agencies seek to recruit and reskill workers for increasingly diverse roles, XR can deliver training that is more efficient, effective, and engaging.

👉Field operations

XR can improve field operations by precisely and intrinsically guiding workers through remote processes and bringing together expertise from anywhere to collaborate.

👉Situational awareness

XR can advance situational awareness and improve real-time decision-making through more impactful, data-driven visualizations.

👉Digital twins

Finally, XR can bring digital twins to life, with immersive experiences enhancing the understanding of virtual models.

In the post-pandemic world, federal agencies cannot afford to be followers when it comes to XR

🗣 XR tools are already enabling federal agencies to reimagine how they deliver on their missions. For example, a large federal agency used mixed reality headsets that project 3D images into a physical space to overcome travel constraints created by COVID-19. In this case, U.S.-based members of the agency conducted real-time visual inspections of facilities on the other side of the world, supported by visual data delivered by an on-site inspector. This is a vivid demonstration of the power of XR to enhance government operations regardless of geographic limitations.

In the post-pandemic world, federal agencies cannot afford to be followers when it comes to XR, and they no longer have the luxury to wait and see. Government will need extended reality to meet mission needs. To make the most of this opportunity, federal leaders need to consider how XR will impact and can enable their mission, and what technologies and skillsets are needed to master this new domain. They can begin by looking at their current business challenges and exploring new ways of enabling services for employees and customers using the latest technologies. Given that, leaders must begin a process of cultural change, looking for opportunities to leverage XR in support of increasingly diverse mission needs.

How XR can transform federal government

🗣 Now is the time for federal agencies to explore XR. The devices and technologies that support XR are fast becoming more affordable; you can buy VR headsets for just a few hundred dollars. At the same time, the simulations themselves are increasingly sophisticated, with a depth of detail and physical realism that mirrors the real world ever more closely.

The commercial world is already racing to XR. Research firm IDC reports that worldwide spending on AR and VR will see strong growth, forecasting a CAGR of 66.3% over the next five years. Over this period, spending by federal and central governments is forecast to grow by 90.5%.

Stacey Soohoo, research manager of Customer Insights and Analysis at IDC, wrote in November 2020: “2020 has become a major turning point where enterprises and organizations across all verticals are embracing the unarticulated need for augmented, mixed, and virtual reality.”

XR’s momentum in government

Most in government already recognize the need for bold action when it comes to integrating XR and see the application of XR expanding over time.

Empowered with tools to extend the human senses and reshape our relationship to our physical environments, government has the opportunity to dramatically enhance its performance through XR. The technology can be a powerful enabler of training, bring digital twins to life in complex ecosystems, and empower workers to increase their expertise, speed, and precision. From field inspectors to warfighters, the potential benefits extend across a range of federal missions.

The impact of XR promises to be far-ranging and disruptive, revolutionizing the employee experience. Digital simulations will give workers new tools in support of their efforts, while simultaneously empowering those same workers to deliver vastly improved services. In the “new normal” — at a time when remote connections are essential — agencies can leverage XR to maintain critical business operations and services where they are needed. Digital experiences will loosen the shackles of geography, freeing federal workers to access information from anywhere; to collaborate through tangible, hands-on interactions; to interact with each other and with citizens in profoundly powerful new ways.

💭 The best way to understand the moment we’re in is to view it as similar to the advent of the smartphone. No one at first predicted how disruptive a portable computing device would be; yet today, smartphones support the federal government in any number of areas, driving business processes that support ever-higher levels of productivity. In the future, will we always carry a smartphone to perform many day-to-day functions, or will that interface be replaced by simple, smaller headsets that expand our interactions using XR? That is yet to be unveiled.

Thoughts? Let us know in the comments, we are eager to read you! 👇

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