AI, web 3.0 and the metaverse are big buzzwords these days in marketing and tech circles. Futurescoping has skyrocketed ever since Mark Zuckerberg introduced his grand metaverse plans. Industry talk has materialised into actual investment with big brands purchasing “land” in this future world of augmented and virtual reality. 

While we are still far away from a complete adoption of the metaverse, the business world is set to undergo a transformative shift. This is driven by rapid advancements in technologies that underpin the metaverse. I’m talking about a less-commonly used term: XR. It stands for extended reality, which is an umbrella term for:

  • VR (virtual reality)
  • AR (augmented reality)
  • MR (mixed reality)

According to a recent report, there are 1,550 unique examples of XR business usage in the UK. 66% of organisations are already using VR. XR is now a tangible reality, and has the potential to revolutionise the way businesses train and operate.

6 businesses using XR to develop new and engaging customer experiences

  1. In the healthcare sector, XR is revolutionising training and patient care. VR simulations provide medical students and professionals with hands-on experience in realistic, risk-free environments. This allows them to practice complex procedures and hone their skills. For instance, surgeons can immerse themselves in virtual operating rooms, replicating delicate surgeries and gaining invaluable experience before performing them on real patients. 
  1. The entertainment industry is embracing XR to create captivating and interactive experiences that transport audiences to new realms. VR games and theme park attractions immerse users in virtual worlds. MR enhances live events by overlaying digital elements onto real-world environments.
  1. AR is transforming the retail landscape by bridging the gap between online and in-store shopping experiences. Customers can virtually try on clothes, visualise furniture in their homes, and explore products in detail before making a purchase. This enhanced shopping experience fosters informed decisions and increases customer satisfaction.
  1. XR can revolutionise education by bringing textbooks and classroom lessons to life. AR overlays digital information onto the physical world, allowing students to interact with 3D models, explore historical artefacts, and visualise complex concepts in an engaging and interactive manner.
  1. AR can augment manufacturing processes by providing workers with real-time guidance and instructions. Overlaid digital instructions and diagrams assist workers in assembling complex products, reducing errors and improving efficiency.
  1. VR is also transforming the real estate industry by enabling potential buyers to virtually tour homes, apartments, and commercial properties. This immersive experience saves time and money on physical visits, allowing buyers to explore properties from the comfort of their own homes.

How about the future of training with XR?

XR technologies hold immense potential for revolutionising training for all kinds of businesses. It offers a paradigm shift, providing an immersive and interactive learning experience that is unmatched by conventional methods. It has the potential to unlock a new dimension of employee development. Trainees can be transported into simulated scenarios, replicating real-world environments and situations with unparalleled realism. This immersive approach allows for hands-on learning, enabling trainees to develop critical skills, gain confidence, and make mistakes in a safe and controlled setting.

The benefits of XR training extend far beyond employee development. Businesses can leverage XR to enhance collaboration, streamline processes, and optimise resource allocation. Virtual workspaces can bridge geographical divides, fostering real-time collaboration among teams across the globe. XR can also be used to simulate complex procedures, allowing businesses to identify and rectify potential issues before they arise.

Where do I start?

Many of the same rules surrounding developing an upskilling program through ‘traditional’ means apply to XR. You need to start by auditing your team to uncover the expertise your business already processes, then marry this with your commercial strategy to identify gaps. From there you can determine which skills, teams or individuals to prioritise. It’s always a good rule of thumb to try as hard as possible to align the aspirations and interests of team members with the skills you want them to learn. People are much better students if they have a strong desire to learn a particular skill. 

Where XR differs from other learning experiences is that you will need to make a more complex cost-benefit analysis. Currently, there are plenty of training options open to businesses ranging from fully digital through to entirely in-person. An ideal upskilling strategy leverages these different formats to create a programme. This would be personally craft-personalised to the needs of the business and its team. Everyone can learn in a medium, time and format that suits them best.

As such, XR should not be seen as something you apply to every training scenario. For some skills, the cost of acquiring the necessary hardware and developing the training scenario will outweigh the benefit of it over other upskilling formats. On the other hand, creating a XR training scheme that can be personalised to individuals or modified as your business changes could have a massive ROI both in terms of cutting long-term costs and improving outcomes.

Final thoughts

As XR training is so new, the best approach is to pilot smaller virtual training programs and closely analyse the results. In an ideal world, you would run an A/B test – looking at how XR training compares to online learning for a particular skill to see where the biggest impact can be felt. There will of course be some skill sets within your business that XR should have an obvious role to play. But intuition is no substitute for cold, hard data. Overall, the future of customer and employee engagement with XR may be transformative. The expanding reach of XR technology will empower businesses to streamline their operations and gain a competitive edge in the market. Early adopters will be at the forefront of this transformation, reaping the benefits of this innovative technology.

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