Virtual reality, augmented reality, 3D environments…no matter what you do for work, you’ve been hearing these futuristic-sounding terms for years.   

To the average worker, these technologies have always existed on the periphery of day-to-day life. They might make waves in the gaming industry, for example, but they’re not changing the workplace on a mass scale. Well, that’s about to change.  

Earlier this year, we covered Microsoft’s “future of mixed reality” keynote at their annual Ignite conference. Since then, there have been a number of monumental developments in the immersive technology market – with more of the world’s tech juggernauts strategizing to make extended reality (virtual, augmented, and mixed reality technology) a ubiquitous presence in hybrid workplaces.  

If you only see the branded advertisements and extravagant keynotes, these futuristic tools can seem more like flash than substance. But it’s not just hype: new research backs up the shift to extended reality (XR) technology as a legitimate way forward for modern workforces. 

Given the sheer number of blockbuster announcements promising transformative tech on the horizon, it can be difficult for the average business to put these developments into context. So  if you’re wondering how VR glasses can help you do your job, you’ve come to the right place.  

Read on to learn the latest in the world of extended reality technology – and more importantly, what impact these innovations might have on your work environment.  

Has the ‘future of work’ already arrived? 

Let’s start with the biggest recent bombshell in the tech industry. In October of 2021, Mark Zuckerberg revealed that Facebook will change its name to Meta, reflecting the company’s new vision of the “metaverse” – which, according to the company’s announcement, “will feel like a hybrid of today’s online social experiences, sometimes expanded into three dimensions or projected into the physical world.” 

The announcement follows a number of other big-name businesses who plan to usher in new forms of virtual reality, augmented reality, and mixed reality technologies to a mass audience. 

 

With workforces displaced across different locations, there’s a high demand for new forms of communication and collaboration — tools that transcend the monotony of video meetings and the limited functionality of messaging platforms. Technology providers recognize this demand and the potential for XR to become a viable solution. Just look at some of the other developments that have been announced over the past year: 

  • The video conferencing platform Zoom partnered with Oculus, a virtual reality provider, to create functionality for VR meetings. 
  • Microsoft announced “Mesh for Microsoft Teams”, a feature that combines mixed reality capabilities with video conferencing to create immersive holographic experiences. 
  •  Cisco, a leading software company, unveiled Webex Hologram, a “hybrid work collaboration tool” powered by augmented reality that combines Webex meetings with 3D holograms.

 

When you read through these various announcements, you’ll notice how much emphasis is placed on catering to the new needs and expectations of hybrid workers. Distance and detachment has impacted so many fundamental business practices, from training employees to participating in meetings, and XR technology aims to close the gap. 

This might all still sound a bit like science-fiction, but it’s becoming more of a reality by the day. According to ARtillery Intelligence, virtual reality used within businesses will grow from $829 million in 2018 to $4.26 billion in 2023.     

Research suggests that immersive technology has a tangible impact on key business goals.  

Extended reality (XR) technology offers a number of different workplace use cases – many of which have yet to be discovered. But business leaders may look at all these grand announcements about the future of work with a fair bit of skepticism. After all, it’s a huge investment to equip a workforce with VR/AR headsets, let alone train employees on how to utilize the cutting-edge features these tech companies are promising to roll out. 

Is this just ‘shiny new toy’ syndrome, or can immersive technology actually help a business improve their bottom line? 

Luckily, there’s already a fair bit of research that’s been done about the business use cases of XR technology. A study by IBM looked at one of the most common use cases of XR across industries that already utilize this technology – training.  

The ability to train employees using a mixture of physical and virtual environments is one of the biggest selling points of XR in the workplace, and IBM’s research suggests it’s for good reason. VR-based training can reduce training time by 40 percent and boost employee performance by up to 70 percent, compared to traditional training practices. 

The same study also offered these results from companies who use augmented reality tools: 

  • AR can reduce mistakes and unnecessary service calls by up to 90 percent. 
  • A shipping and logistics company increased productivity by 25 percent after providing workers with AR glasses. 

Of course, the use cases for a shipping company will vary greatly from those of an advertising firm, or a sales organization, and so on. With that being said, there’s already evidence that XR technology is much more than futuristic gadgetry and can actually make a tangible business impact.  

Despite the grand announcements from Facebook/Meta and other tech companies, it’ll still be some time before the average employee is wearing an AR headset throughout their workday. But it won’t take as long as we might’ve imagined prior to the pandemic.  

This movement in the tech industry is proof that virtual reality, augmented reality and the like will play a major role as business adapt to hybrid environments. In more ways than one, the future of work is right around the corner.