According to a new report released by Accenture, Extended Reality (XR) has the potential to provide tremendous economic and social benefits. Yet, it also carries new physical, mental and social risks. However, it has been noted that business leaders would be required to take a considered approach to designing, building and deploying XR tools.
As such, the management consulting company has published a report titled "Waking Up to a New Reality: Building a Responsible Future for Immersive Technologies" in collaboration with the G20 Young Entrepreneurs’ Alliance (G20 YEA) to examine how XR — which includes virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR) and a growing range of other immersive tools — is already creating new value well beyond the worlds of gaming and entertainment.
“Many organisations are unaware of the speed and scale of the coming XR revolution. A common misconception is that VR and AR are set to remain limited to the world of consumer gaming and entertainment. That’s changing quickly and the patent race is on. As firms begin to realise the full potential of XR, its applications are broadening and deepening. South Africa stands to benefit tremendously, if XR is rolled out with a responsible, inclusive mindset," said Hans Zachar, Managing Director for Technology Strategy at Accenture in Africa.
Use cases for Extended Reality
In addition to delivering enhanced customer experiences, immersive tools are being used to augment workforce productivity, provide training and deliver mental health treatments.
Industry expenditure on XR is scaling rapidly, overtaking consumer spending, and is set to reach triple the level of consumer usage by 2023, according to the IDC. Accenture analysis also shows that the number of patent applications for AR and VR rose almost five-fold between 2014 and 2016, to more than 6,000, and start-up funding grew 237% in the same period.
Yet despite the opportunities that come with XR, the Accenture report also points to certain risks that companies must be mindful of, such as the misuse of personal data, the creation of fake news and experiences, cybersecurity risks and anti-social behaviour.
Pointing to the possibilities of tech addiction and the disengagement of people from real-world societal problems, the report also emphasises how unequal access to XR could amplify social divisions through exclusion from consumer and working opportunities.
“Given the risks, inclusivity and accountability will be crucial to the design process, and should be driven by teams with diverse mindsets. Making XR accessible to everyone while minimising the risks should be the focus – and amounts to leveraging XR in a way that helps create sustainable growth. In South Africa, as elsewhere, XR experiences should be harnessed to improve people’s lives and drive beneficial societal outcomes,” said Zachar.