Skip to main content Skip to footer

February 09, 2022

Extended reality: Moving beyond the novelty phase

As the hybrid work model takes hold, virtual and augmented reality tools will become vital to collaboration.

Employee collaboration post March 2020 has changed greatly — and also not at all. While there’s no longer any guarantee that everyone (or even anyone) will be in the same room when brainstorming an idea, rethinking a workflow or designing a new product, businesses everywhere are continuing to rely on essentially the same tools for remote collaboration that have existed for over 20 years, albeit with bells and whistles added.

As businesses increasingly offer flexible work-from-home options and curtail frequent travel, it will only be natural to look to virtual and augmented reality (VR and AR, respectively) tools — collectively known as “extended reality” or XR — to shift remote collaboration from a flat, one-dimensional experience into a multi-dimensional one. By equipping employees with anything from AR or VR head-mounted displays (HMD), to gaming-like consoles, to a browser-based enterprise “metaverse,” businesses can pave the way to more natural, productive, inclusive and satisfying ways for workers to interact, wherever they are geographically. The following figure shows, for example, how XR can improve on today’s video meetings.

This may seem like science fiction, but the XR industry is picking up quickly, as the current market value of around $26 billion is projected to surpass $460 billion in 2026, largely propelled by the enterprise market. Businesses are using XR to generate value and save costs today; from Nestle offering salespeople immersive factory tours to fully understand the company’s quality and food safety standards, to BNP Paribas offering virtual banking to replace closed branches, organizations are moving from the pilot stage of XR projects to more scaled and practical use.

While XR has traditionally been long on promise and short on delivery due to tech limitations, high costs and a general sense that the tools are faddish or niche, it now stands to secure a hold on the enterprise. With the growing interest and increased demands from employees for a solid remote-work experience, businesses need to understand more about XR collaboration capabilities and choices.

Guidelines for XR exploration

As more attention is focused on XR-based modes of collaboration, here are our key insights for business leaders who want to improve the employee experience and supercharge their remote/hybrid work experience:

  • XR can enhance many forms of collaboration. From ideation and planning sessions, daily standups and training, to product design and the creation of digital twins, collaboration doesn’t stop at simple meetings. Shared experiences with a goal and need for deeper interaction can all benefit from the natural human geometry that an XR upgrade can bring.

  • Using the right virtual space will determine success. AR and VR both have their benefits and limitations. Trying to shoehorn an interaction into XR that doesn’t need it will damage its reputation in organizational use. Ensure that implementations, not the novelty factor, leverage XR’s power.

  • Hardware and software integration must be tight. Friction for entry is still high with XR. Headsets can make users feel nauseous or uncomfortable. With good quality hardware and well-designed software, this can be mitigated to allow for a comfortable experience.

  • New forms of data can be leveraged. HMDs and motion-tracked controllers provide a new level of biometric data that can improve business processes and products. When XR is used for collaborating on training or design, the resulting data on how people interact can be particularly insightful. Over-surveillance, however, could result in ethical concerns and privacy invasions.

  • Ethical issues are far-reaching. From data collection to avatar representation, the ethical issues raised by a workplace infused with XR abound. Businesses should increase their awareness of what may arise so they can both prevent or mitigate issues. For more on its ethical use and a deeper look at XR in general, see our white paper, “Infusing XR into remote collaboration.”

Moving forward in an XR-driven workspace

As we’ve shown, XR’s enterprise use is growing and will continue to do so. To supercharge collaboration and enhance the employee experience, we advise businesses to consider the following factors as they advance XR initiatives:

  • Use special events and pilots to overcome the perception of gimmicks. XR can be a difficult technology to describe — it must be used and experienced to be understood; thus, it’s a challenge to introduce and promote. To reach as many people as possible, consider holding townhalls or all-hands meetings in virtual space, with those unable to use a headset joining via phone or computer. At the same time, identify teams that would benefit most from early implementation, either through high-value use cases or the need to collaborate across geographies, and pilot regular sessions held in XR so attendees can evangelize the experience to colleagues.

  • Treat XR as you would other enterprise technology. Treat your XR rollout as you would any other new enterprise system, and ensure due diligence on HMD and software selection. Work with enterprise partners and consultants to ensure that the implementation meets all needs and expectations, and account for the unique challenges that a successful XR rollout poses.

  • Create data and ethics policies now. Don’t wait for issues to arise before creating strategies to counter concerns over XR data privacy and user behavior. Use demonstrations in XR early in implementations to provide training and guidance on how avatars should appear and users should behave. Create policies around data collection and usage, if relevant. This will imbue your staff with confidence in your approach.

  • Be creative. XR removes limits on the tools you can use for creativity. Don’t simply replicate physical meetings and collaborative exercises in virtual space; brainstorm, create and use the technology to greater ends. Use enterprise forums such as the VR/AR Association to leverage cross-industry knowledge on best practices and innovative use cases.

For more information, visit the Digital Strategy section of our website or contact us.

Cognizant Insights Team

We’re here to offer you practical and unique solutions to today’s most pressing technology challenges. Across industries and markets, get inspired today for success tomorrow.

Latest Posts

Related topics

Subscribe for more and stay relevant

The Modern Business newsletter delivers monthly insights to help your business adapt, evolve, and respond—as if on intuition