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TREND: In the Coming Years, the Workplace Will Increasingly Shift to AR-enhanced Experiences

🗣 AR excels at helping us visualize data in a real-world context and at connecting people remotely, two common areas of the enterprise that have been crying out for innovation. Executives are already missing opportunities by not investigating augmented reality as a workplace tool for their business.

Before we start let’s check some data on the AR trends for the future workplace!

  • 85% of working adults say they want a ‘hybrid’ approach to home and office working in future.
  • Experts predict that nearly 23.5 million jobs worldwide will be using augmented or virtual reality by 2030.
  •  Could VR move from a futuristic concept to reality for remote employees?

For most of us, virtual reality (VR) is a distant concept, a type of technology confined perhaps to gaming. Yet the pandemic has prompted a meteoric rise in VR products and services, with the industry set to grow from $6.1 billion in 2021 to $27.9 billion in 2025.

As our lives move increasingly online, many companies are starting to consider virtual meetings and workplaces. Could VR move from a futuristic vision to reality for millions of workers?

🗣 With lockdowns prompting many people to move their social and working lives online throughout 2020 and 2021, technology companies searched for ways to increase connectivity. Sales of VR headsets rocketed, and global companies jostled to take up space in the industry. Also, experts predict that nearly 23.5 million jobs worldwide will be using augmented or virtual reality by 2030.

Notably, Facebook announced a new VR social app, and the founder and CEO of Zoom, Eric Yuan, set out his intention to develop immersive online meetings, hypothesizing that participants might soon be able to smell coffee and feel the sensation of shaking a long-distance co-worker’s hand from their own front room.

“Enterprise-led virtual environments can make, for example, learning to fly a plane or operating on a human a virtual training exercise,” says Gregor Pryor, a leading technology lawyer and expert in digital media and VR. “Work collaboration will no longer be constricted to a conference room or Zoom call. Instead, teams will be able to work together with the feeling of being in the same room” he added, being optimistic about the shift to virtual work life and believing that a hybrid approach to in-person and immersive digital experiences is a much less distant concept than we might imagine.

The sentiment is echoed by Romanie Thomas, founder, and CEO of recruitment and talent platform Juggle Jobs, who has been closely monitoring what employees and employers want in an increasingly remote world. “The leap to VR in light of remote and hybrid working seems inevitable, companies are no longer satisfied with the status quo of Zoom calls and Slack interactions. Emerging from the pandemic, employees are craving human connection but are unwilling to compromise back to the days of commuting and traveling. VR bridges an important gap by connecting people in a richer way” Thomas says.

🗣 Although 85% of working adults would like a hybrid approach to home and office working, companies are currently grappling with how to make new ways of working both equitable and beneficial to all.

VR can enable companies to run a credible recruitment process in a remote and distributed manner and allow them to train and energize their employees in a way that is revolutionary for the workplace.

🗨 Romanie Thomas, founder and CEO, Juggle Jobs

Would spending less time in the office than your ever-present co-worker mean you’re less likely to be promoted? Can collaboration and sharing ideas work in the same way without casual interactions over a coffee break?

And would demanding that workers spend a certain amount of time in the office make some workplaces a less compelling employer compared to a more flexible rival?

Thomas believes that VR can help to untangle some of these key complexities of a hybrid-working world: “In time, as the technology develops, I would also expect to see VR playing a greater role in formal meetings, helping to avoid the perception of global companies making decisions in one location or excluding working parents because they are unable to travel.”

🗣 Currently, the workplace VR industry is relatively small, but there are some notable businesses seeing significant uptake. Spatial, described as a VR version of Zoom, reported a 1000% increase in subscribers between its first months out in the market, while Microsoft has launched a VR headset that is already being used by organizations such as L’Oreal and Toyota.

With VR technology in its infancy, there is still a lot of development needed to make the technology accessible to all.

What do HR leaders need to consider?

The scale of investment and development required to implement VR in the workplace isn’t the only thing that bosses need to think about. After all, for those who feed off face-to-face interactions the idea of avatars and headsets might seem like an unappealing alternative to a traditional office environment. There’s also a risk that some talent might be turned off by a workplace that relies heavily on VR.

Experts cite mental health concerns, pointing out that it is difficult to support the well-being of employees in a virtual environment, and that VR could hamper fair and inclusive hiring and promotion practices can’t be used to totally replace in-person meetings,” says Thomas, “Rather, companies need to think more holistically about using VR as one of the tools to hold meetings, and to enable them to recruit remotely”.

For now, as we grapple with an increasingly hybrid world and what this means for the workplace, VR remains a hotly discussed topic. But is it realistic to imagine that we might all be sitting around a virtual conference table in years to come?

🗣 As companies examine how technology could aid the needs and cater to the demands of an increasingly flexible workforce, it certainly seems that VR will grow in importance. Implementing it in a fair, affordable, and constructive manner will be a challenge that HR and technology leaders must work hard to overcome.

But there are a few key areas of business where AR-enabled solutions are already offering tangible advantages. Here we tell you about some of them!

👉 AR tech support for faster solutions

The incredibly scalable nature of augmented reality, accessible from dedicated headsets to simple smartphone apps, makes it ideal for remote technical support. For instance, using AR, technicians would no longer have to try to explain a fault in machinery to an engineer since the engineer would be able to see the issue from their own point of view, and potentially diagnose the problem remotely. One of the key metrics for support issues is time to resolution — a measure of how much downtime is lost while equipment is offline. AR can help resolve these types of issues more efficiently.

In a recent webinar, Taqtile CCO Kelly Malone noted that frontline workers no longer have to wait for someone to be available or for a supervisor to free up time: “They can reach out to a colleague who’s familiar with the system. And because it’s integrated, they can see [through the device] who recently worked on the machine, who authored the procedure, and who else performed the job”.

👉 AR visualization for collaborative design

The ability to create detailed 3D models that are viewable in AR means that design teams can work remotely from the same data with greater confidence. Unlike 2D video conferencing, designers can collaborate in AR on prototypes and products while each sees the model as if it were in their hands. AR solutions, like Magic Leap, augment traditional collaboration approaches by not only enabling deeply immersive remote collaboration but also adding context and knowledge to in-person communication.

This aspect of AR is at the heart of MakeSEA, a design visualization platform available on Magic Leap. Designers can upload 3D computer models of their work to a library, which can then be shared with their collaborators. As the design evolves, so does the model in the library, ensuring everyone is always looking at the most recent iteration.

👉 AR meetings: reinventing the workplace

Over the past few years, all of us have been getting used to connecting with our teams over video calls rather than around the boardroom table, but inevitably there is a frustrating sense of disconnection that comes with it. The shared space and viewpoint that AR business meetings offer means that they are more collaborative and engaging, as attendees can view and interact with objects rather than sitting passively watching a slideshow.

Augmented reality can truly redefine what the traditional idea of a company “meeting” looks like. For example, Ericsson’s AR-enhanced Gemba walks show managers context-relevant overlays, pulling from back-end data on resource planning, equipment efficiency, analytics, and shop floor performance, as they walk around their smart factory. The headset even allows them to make and receive video calls on the move so that issues that are identified can be raised and shared in an instant.

👉 AR training: faster upskilling

Traditionally, rolling out training programs for employees across a large company is time-consuming and often requires hiring specialist trainers and bringing them into multiple workplaces or sending staff out to external sessions. Either way, the cost, and logistical requirements are steep. With AR learning, staff can be instantly connected to the best trainers in the world, across all your locations, and benefit from the same hands-on tuition wherever they are.

Magic Leap’s partner Talespin found that users of XR training picked up new skills 1.5 times faster than those using online e-learning and four times faster than those in a classroom environment. The same statistics also applied to learner focus; those learning in AR/XR were four times more engaged than class-based learners and 1.5 times more focused than e-learning users.

Most importantly, the PwC study found that the ROI from XR staff training kicks in sooner than you might think. For companies looking to train just 375 staff members, using augmented reality can be cheaper than physical classroom learning. At 1,950 staff members, it becomes more cost-effective than e-learning.

👉 Addressing core business needs

It can be tempting to think of augmented reality as something only relevant to cutting-edge technology startups, but it already has the power to improve any company, particularly at the enterprise level, with practical improvements to essential processes. Those benefits won’t only be felt in the C-suite either. One of the long-term advantages of wearable technology like AR is that it brings data and connectivity to diskless workers who have traditionally not had that access.

🗣 There are already everyday uses of AR that are directly relevant to enterprise companies. Those who aren’t investing in AR right now are not only missing out on immediate benefits, but they risk being left behind as the technology matures. Are you going to be one of them? We sure are ready to help you get behind the AR trend and get your workplace to a new level!

Interested in learning how? Check out 📲

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