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The rise and rise of immersive technologies

I wish I had a crystal ball to peer into the future and prove how big the Virtual Reality (VR)/Augmented Reality (AR) industry will become.

One of our recent reports forecasts that VR in the UK entertainment and media industry alone will reach a value of £801m by 2021, making it the fastest growing and largest VR industry in EMEA.

One thing’s for certain; emerging technologies like VR and AR are rapidly on the rise.

In fact, I’m convinced both VR and AR will become significant parts of both our professional and personal lives before too long.

But didn’t we hear the same thing back in the 80s when it first emerged, only for the technology to fall flat on its face? That was decades ago, and things have changed.

Today, we have the processing power to create highly immersive and truly powerful VR and AR experiences. The march of VR and AR is showing no signs of stopping.

However, as with any innovation, while it marches along, there are still a few barriers to overcome.

Bringing immersive experiences into the real world

Pokemon Go elicited mass, global interest in AR, bringing it into the mainstream consciousness.

In fact, you’ll struggle to read an article about AR today without a mention of this game.

On the one hand, it certainly did an excellent awareness job for AR and helped people understand the basics of the technology. However, on the other, in some people’s minds, Pokemon Go represents the limits of AR, presuming that’s as far as it can be pushed. But really that was just the tip of the iceberg.

But what that highlighted – not only in consumer attitudes but within businesses, too – is the education gap that exists in many people’s knowledge of AR and other emerging technologies.

Closing the gap through first-hand experience

In my role at PwC, advising companies on the strategic benefits of immersive experiences, I do often find that there are gaps in people’s knowledge and understanding about the technology they’re looking at implementing. They may have the theory of what it could do but have only ever seen it in a few slides of a presentation; they don’t have first-hand experience of putting on a VR headset, for example.

The danger here is that people start making assumptions – ones that might be completely wrong, and could mean wasted time and money. We need to close that gap by putting ourselves and our clients into those experiences first-hand and actually trying out these different technologies. It’s about achieving a better, more balanced understanding of the exciting opportunities available.

The convergence of realities

Right now, the number of successful mainstream VR and AR implementations is still limited. We’ll begin to see wider adoption when businesses stop thinking of such technologies in siloes and start combining their benefits.

It’s a bold statement but I do believe that VR and AR will become the primary ways we interact with the digital world. It’s difficult to see that right now, but we’re heading in that direction. We're already moving towards a far smaller form factor than the large headsets currently on offer, and in ten years or so the device you wear will be something you have with you all the time. You won't need to dig into your pocket to pull out a phone, unlock it, and access different applications. Artificial intelligence will be implemented, understanding where you are, what you're looking at, and providing contextual information.

The gradual path to seamless integration

This is already beginning to take shape across a wide variety of industries. At PwC we're talking to clients in retail, telecommunications, aviation, and even local government to name but a few—it's incredibly diverse, and they're all interested in understanding what the potential of these technologies are.

It might sound daunting, but businesses need to be thinking about how they implement VR and AR right now. Throughout time, companies of all shapes and sizes have successfully undergone changes that, at the time, were considered meteoric – like the shift from fax to email or the introduction of smartphones. Moving towards VR and AR is simply the next natural step in staying competitive.

These technologies won’t suddenly change one industry or sector—they’ll gradually pervade all businesses to the point where their use is a seamless part of the day-to-day.

My advice to those who are looking to potentially incorporate these kinds of emerging technologies into their business, is to put yourself in the position of the user. Step into the virtual world and experience it for yourself. Only then will you truly be able to understand the benefits, and potential return on investment, for your business.

To hear more of my thoughts on the benefits of VR and AR, and how they can support your business objectives, tune into Eulogy’s Behind the Headlines podcast, now live on iTunes, where I discuss the challenges of innovation adoption.

By Jeremy Dalton, VR/AR Lead at PwC UK

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Jeremy Dalton

Jeremy Dalton

Head of VR/AR, PwC United Kingdom

Tel: +44 (0)7701 295956

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