Immersive technologies like virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) have massive potential to change the way we work and play. They allow us to interact with other people and objects in realistic digital environments. Here are our predictions on how it’s set to transform work in 2023.
Virtual reality and the workplace
Virtual reality is no longer just for gamers. In fact, the list of possible applications for this emerging technology is significant. And it’s in the workplace that we could see the biggest transformation this year.
The figures speak for themselves. According to Deloitte, the VR market is expected to grow by 50% in 2023 compared with the previous year, generating almost $7 billion in global revenues.
While mainstream use of VR may still be some way off, many businesses, including those in the healthcare, education and retail sectors, are already exploring ways to tap into its enormous potential. Health and wellbeing is one of the biggest growth areas, with the global VR and AR healthcare market expected to be worth $4.9 billion in 2023 – up from $504 million in 2016. In this field, it’s used for everything from simulating operations and robotic surgery to phobia treatment and patient diagnostics.
Education and training is another lucrative VR market, growing globally by almost 38% in 2022. The benefits are clear – VR offers a safe way to teach skills in high-risk jobs, for example military and pilot training – but it’s an engaging way to train anyone.
With so much potential, it’s no wonder that excitement is growing about the future of VR in the workplace.
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VR and collaboration
Using video calls and shared desktops to connect remotely became essential during the pandemic, and that trend has endured as people continue to work from home. But for all its advantages, remote working is often limited when it comes to teamwork, social interaction and other scenarios that require a greater degree of immersion and involvement.
One of the best things about VR and AR technology is its ability to help us feel like we’re truly present, even when we’re not in the same office space together. VR can closely mirror a traditional office set-up, allowing you to occupy a shared area using a virtual representation of yourself in the form of an avatar. You can communicate with colleagues using body language, gestures and facial movements, just as you would in a physical space. From HR teams hosting more engaging onboarding sessions to creatives working together on design concepts from different locations, VR can make workplaces more productive and less isolating.
As organizations explore new ways to work remotely without losing the collaborative aspects of a physical environment, VR can really come into its own. There’s already an appetite for this technology among workers, with 60% of employees saying they want to see VR headsets introduced to their workforce by 2024. Some 62% also want to experience VR spaces with digital avatars for collaboration.
Businesses dipping their toes into the metaverse to make work more accessible and inclusive to everyone is a game-changer. And it could be that traditional office hardware, like desktop PCs and laptops, are replaced by VR headsets and glasses which give us that much-missed feeling of togetherness.
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Top VR and AR trends to look out for
As VR and AR become more mainstream, there are several trends we can expect to see in 2023. Here are some virtual reality future predictions to keep an eye on so your organization can stay one step ahead:
Rise of VR apps
One of the biggest barriers to VR growth is its dependency on VR headsets and other hardware. To make it more accessible, developers are now trying to incorporate VR capability into mobile apps by making use of the sophisticated hardware of smart devices. Although it’ll be some time before mobile apps are fully immersive, designers will continue to develop innovative mixed-reality experiences in a bid to make VR more appealing to a wider audience.
AR apps, which integrate digital content with the real world, will continue to dominate, likely accounting for more than 80% of the mobile app market in 2023.
Corporate VR in the metaverse
The buzz around the metaverse office is set to spread this year, with growing interest in new VR tech, including the Meta Quest Pro headset. Virtual tools that allow employees to collaborate, multi-task, share ideas and meet clients without the limitations of physical distance will be the new big thing in the corporate world.
Currently, only 19% of employees say that video conferences make them feel more present in meetings, and just 15% believe they lead to greater collaboration with colleagues. The trend will be for bespoke VR environments and experiences to be more reflective of real life (but better). For example, you could build a replica of your office to increase familiarity when employees can’t be there in person – and maybe add a stunning view or an inspirational artwork.
Immersive learning and development
VR can simulate the most dangerous and unpredictable real work situations in a controlled environment. Whether it’s surgeons performing life-saving operations without risk to real patients or factory workers grappling with heavy machinery, VR is a safe and cost-effective way to learn.
Not only that – it can also be used for soft skills training in subjects such as unconscious bias and stress management by mirroring real-life situations. A PwC study shows that people can learn material in 30 minutes using a VR headset that would normally take them 2 hours in a classroom. They also feel more emotionally invested – three-quarters of learners said that during a VR course on diversity, they realized they weren’t as inclusive as they assumed.
Faster design and prototyping
Thanks to fierce competition, companies are under increasing pressure to deliver innovative products faster and cheaper. VR can transform the creative process, helping ideas get to the shelf or showroom faster. Designers can use VR headsets and 3D printers to complete designs at home, and eliminate the most time-consuming stage of bringing a new product to market – building a physical prototype and testing it under real-life conditions.
Take German car giant BMW, for example. Its engineers visualize concepts on true-to-scale holographic 3D models of the prototype vehicles, bypassing the need to invest in physical manufacturing for R&D.
Personalized customer service
More companies are starting to see the benefits of VR and AR in providing a better customer experience. While chatbots and AI avatars that pop up on your screen on e-commerce sites have been around for a while to increase customer support, VR is a more powerful tool. That’s because it enables customer service agents to completely immerse their audience in their company brand while using real-time data to see how it enhances their lifestyle.
Rise of VR stores
Online shopping has many advantages, but one thing it lacks is the immersive experience you get from a traditional bricks-and-mortar store. Virtual fitting rooms, where you can see what an item looks like before buying it, and home design tools have gone some way to solving this. But the future is even more lifelike.
Customers will access stores through a VR headset and then walk around a virtual store, interacting with products and staff in 3D and even personalizing some items before placing an order. Eventually, every shopper will have their own AI retail assistant to advise them what to buy according to their taste and budget.
More immersive travel marketing
Travel companies will increasingly adopt VR as part of their marketing strategy to attract more bookings. Travel agents, hotels and other businesses in the tourism sector will have more scope to deliver a realistic experience of the type of services they offer. Customers will have the chance to preview destinations before booking, experiencing what it’s like to stroll barefoot on a Caribbean beach or stretch out on the bed of a luxury hotel, for instance.
Surge in VR wellbeing initiatives
Health and wellbeing will again be one of the top priorities for employers in 2023. Given that low employee engagement linked to wellbeing is estimated to cost the global economy $7.8 trillion a year, it’s a serious issue that the virtual world could help tackle.
With VR apps like Tripp and Supernatural, employees can take time out of their day to immerse themselves in guided visualizations, mindfulness and fitness techniques. Moving forward, we can expect to see the expansion of VR therapy in treating a wider range of workplace stresses and anxieties.
These virtual reality trends for 2023 are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to exploring this game-changing technology. As more organizations begin investing in immersive technologies, we can expect an even brighter future for the metaverse. Enterprises that don’t have VR and AR as part of their long-term strategy may find themselves at a disadvantage compared with forward-thinking companies that do.
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