Report: Extended reality needs responsible design

June 9th, 2019, Published in Articles: PositionIT

Having witnessed a five-fold-plus increase in patent registrations since 2014 and over a doubling in investment, extended reality (XR) is gaining momentum rapidly. Yet responsible business approaches are crucial. They also carry the potential to sustain explosive growth in this industry.

Waking Up to a New Reality: Building a Responsible Future for Immersive Technologies, a report published in collaboration with the G20 Young Entrepreneurs’ Alliance (G20 YEA), examines how extended reality — 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. 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 6000, 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.

According to the report, priority actions for businesses include:

  • Building an early-warning system: Rather than creating rules that cannot keep up with rapid innovation, business leaders must instil a culture of responsibility that integrates ethical questions into the habitual behaviours of everyday work and key decisions.
  • Drawing on diverse experts for responsible design: Businesses must extend their ecosystem of partners to include neuroscientists, mental health experts, sociologists and behavioural theorists to aid the responsible design and use of XR tools.
  • Empower your workers: Target XR investments to improve worker productivity, training and creativity. The very roles that are most exposed to automation are often those that will be augmented by immersive technologies, helping to turn jobs at risk into jobs of the future.

The report also recommends actions for policymakers:

  • Ensure inclusive and affordable access: extend powerful new infrastructure (like 5G networks) to make XR experiences widely available, at appropriate prices, especially for the provision of health, education and social services.
  • Incentivise local innovators and entrepreneurs: enable small businesses to not only use XR tools and experiences, but also participate in their development, ensuring locally-relevant solutions.
  • Stimulate research and discussion: convene relevant experts from across sectors and disciplines to build the necessary understanding and principles that allow XR innovation to flourish amid appropriate safeguards.

The full report can be downloaded at https://www.accenture.com/us-en/insights/technology/responsible-immersive-technologies.

Contact Accenture South Africa, Tel 12 622–2200

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