The Essential Eight technologies Board byte: augmented and virtual reality

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What should corporate boards know about virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR)?

VR is a technology that generates highly realistic images and sounds that transport users to alternative settings. In this computer-generated simulation of a 3D image or environment, users are immersed in their own “virtual reality” where they can interact with the simulation in realistic ways. AR, on the other hand, provides an experience based on the user’s actual environment, amplified by computer-generated sensory input, such as sound, video, graphics or location data.

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VR and AR in action now – and in the future

Go to the Super Bowl – without leaving the couch: Augmented reality is already an established presence in sports – think about all of the computer-generated ball-tracing graphics that show football plays or golf shots. Some professional sporting events are already broadcast in VR, allowing fans to choose their digital seats and move around the field to see the game from different vantage points – using virtual headsets in their living rooms.

Sporting smartglasses in the workplace: Many manufacturers have started to bring smartglasses into their factories and plants – and with those smartglasses, augmented reality. These wearable computers provide information tailored to the worker’s context and space. By just looking at a shelf, a worker can see data through the glasses about what is stored there. 

Augmented interior design and virtual DIY: Updating your kitchen? Customers at Lowe’s can experience the remodel well before demolition starts. With an AR headset, they can see different design options for their next big project. Lowe’s also has an on-demand virtual reality clinic for all the DIY-ers looking to hone their home improvement skills. 

From 2D to 3D in the hospital: Medical communities are considering the ways VR and AR can improve research, education, training and the patient experience. With augmented reality, studying anatomy will become a three-dimensional exercise, enabling students to peel away layers of the body to study images of bones, organs and the brain. Instead of learning by observation, surgical residents could use VR simulation training to practice as they prepare for the real thing. 

Questions boards should ask management about VR and AR:

Boards will want to keep abreast of the opportunities and risks that come with VR and AR. Here’s what boards can ask management about how VR and AR might fit into the company’s strategy:

  • How might AR and VR impact our company’s products or services? What new business opportunities could these technologies create?
  • Are our competitors starting to use AR and VR technologies? If so, how?
  • Can we use AR and VR to improve our business processes, such as logistics, maintenance and marketing, or to enhance employee training and experiences?
  • Do we have the talent in our workforce to execute on these technologies? How can we increase the skills of our workforce related to these technologies?
  • Do we understand the hurdles to adoption and use of these technologies, including necessary upgrades in hardware and operating systems?

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Paula Loop

Governance Insights Center Leader, PwC US

Barbara Berlin

Managing Director, Governance Insights Center, PwC US

Vicki Huff Eckert

New Ventures & Innovation Leader, PwC US

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