Immersive technology trends — the tipping point is near

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  • Immersive technology is on the verge of becoming a part of everyday life, providing businesses with easier access to value at scale.
  • Integration of immersive tech into the enterprise is expected to accelerate, with more everyday workplace apps becoming available on immersive tech platforms.
  • To fully leverage the potential of immersive tech, building trust with stakeholders should be prioritized.

Right now, immersive tech is poised for everyday use. This is similar to what we saw with the PC in the early 1980s or the smart phone in the early 2000s. Soon, it will likely provide avenues for business model reinvention.

Spatial computing, the metaverse and the mixed reality spectrum — ranging from augmented to virtual reality and extended reality — each qualify as immersive tech. Some of these technologies can create a virtual world. Others can provide an overlay over the physical world. Many enable you to interact digitally through voice commands, or by moving your eyes, gesturing with your hands or shaking your head. Each of these things can offer business easier access to value at scale — and they will likely keep on getting better, as a virtuous cycle of adoption and innovation begins.

To help navigate the approaching tipping point, we offer five trend insights. They come from our work developing immersive tech applications in our labs, our real-world use of it for client engagement, training, and surveys of employees across industry sectors and organizational levels. We also help our clients develop strategies for immersive tech, implement it and evaluate the impact.

Together, these insights can help you achieve concrete business value from immersive tech, both for the coming 12 months and for years to come. In their emphasis on integrating immersive tech with business strategy and other emerging technologies they can align with the data and insights from our 2023 Emerging Technology Survey.

1: Integration into the enterprise will continue — and accelerate

You may soon prefer to pick up a headset rather than boot up your laptop. One reason is that the user experience is improving. Equally important is that more everyday workplace apps will be on immersive tech platforms — and these apps will be interoperable with the two-dimensional apps you’re already using every day. You will (for example) be able to start a meeting in 2D, switch to immersive tech to work together designing physical products or writing software code, then take headsets off and finish up in 2D — with your work synced specifically for you.

Besides everyday enterprise apps, now available in immersive, we can expect to see more and more immersive apps that provide special value such as a sense of personal presence, or support for complex maintenance of manufacturing facilities. Many immersive enterprise applications are already mature. Companies ranging from aerospace to healthcare already use them for design, manufacturing, oversight and other functions. What we expect to be new this coming year is both the rise in these applications’ power and ease of use as well as their provenance. Many will likely come from large, trusted technology companies with which major corporations already have deep relationships — facilitating immersive tech’s integration into current workflows.

What you can do next

  • Get moving. If you still don't have any use cases for immersive tech up and running, now is the time to get started. Strong value propositions are available in workplace collaboration, worker and customer engagement, productivity and more.
  • Assess the tech. Identify which devices will be better suited to your chosen use cases and be sure that your tech stack can support them.
  • Manage and secure. Consider headset hygiene, controls, cybersecurity and privacy to help build trust in this new tech entering your organization — including potential support for a “bring your own device” model.

2: New ways of working will spur adoption

Immersive tech can soon help you do your everyday tasks better — and help many high-value workers do what they couldn’t before. If you’re a technician repairing complex machinery, for example, then mixed reality can give you 3D insights into components that you can’t see with the naked eye. It can also provide you with easier access to data sets, diagnostic tools, manuals and specifications, and specialists’ advice.

Immersive tech can also help reconcile desires to work remotely with the advantages of in-the-office work. Your headset might, for instance, provide “floating windows” allowing you to work with multiple apps simultaneously. The experience is like having multiple monitors in an office — except each of them are in a headset that fits in your briefcase. Immersive tech can also help strengthen corporate culture. A study that compared virtual reality to video conferencing found, among many other advantages, a 58% boost in participants feeling a sense of closeness to colleagues.

What you can do next

  • Rethink where work happens. Since immersive tech can make remote work even more productive — and help strengthen corporate culture by mirroring in-person experiences — consider the impact on in-office and workforce strategies more broadly.
  • Strategize for flexibility and scale. It’s fine to focus on a specific use case for a pilot, but consider too the potential to scale. Which of your enterprise platforms and applications could benefit more from an immersive tech upgrade?
  • Adopt an opt-in model. One of the better ways to encourage adoption is to let people choose to use it — or not. Many will often eagerly choose the opportunities immersive tech offers, but you should be respectful of individual preferences and sensitivities.

3: Immersive commerce will become a major channel

As immersive technology continues to improve, and as more of it comes from trusted brands, its role in digital commerce — which is already significant, especially for digital natives — will likely grow by leaps and bounds. Immersive tech can enable consumers to “try on” clothes, accessories, cosmetics and more, from the comfort of their home — and often through their phones. Or if they want to remodel their kitchen or buy a new TV, they can use immersive tech to “try it out” — visualizing that new kitchen or how that new TV will look in their living room.

Immersive business-to-business commerce can also take off. Business customers should be able to virtually test new machines, new retail settings, new workplace facilities and so on before they make procurement decisions — and they can meet virtually with sales and support teams anywhere in the world. The proliferation of devices, their increasing ease of use and the presence of trusted brands will lead to broad adoption.

What you can do next

  • Achieve near-term value. Immersive tech for digital commerce offers plenty of opportunities for relatively quick ROI. Off-the-shelf platforms — consisting of data demonstrating their value — can help you engage customers quicker.
  • Use tech that’s already common. The newest immersive headsets are exciting and will likely only get more so, but you can also reach customers with immersive apps that work on their laptops, tables and phones.
  • Consider the next gen platforms. Assess opportunities for customer engagement and sales in metaverse platforms, some of which already have tens of millions of daily users.

4: Immersive tech is about to hit scale — then keep going

We will likely soon see a proliferation of immersive tech offerings, with different price points and functionalities. You can select from one of many heavier, more expensive headsets that offer photorealistic experiences for use cases where such experiences offer value. For other tasks, you can select lighter, more comfortable, less expensive devices that still provide immersive functionality, such as “screen-less” devices embedded in eyeglasses. These devices can help provide a range of apps and services.

More device and app options typically encourage more adoption, which can help incentivize the development of more apps and devices, which ultimately can encourage more adoption and innovation. In other words, the scale we should reach over the next year will likely just be the start. Immersive tech can steadily become more and more vital for both businesses and consumers.

What you can do next

  • Balance cost and capabilities. Some immersive devices and services may soon be so inexpensive as to appear irresistible. But they should offer your chosen enterprise apps and compelling user experience so you can deliver higher value.
  • Get to know the growing range of use cases. From real estate visualization to digital twins, data analysis to workplace collaboration, physical asset design to soft skills training, new immersive apps and services are appearing daily.
  • Prepare your people. Empower your workforce so they can seize new opportunities to use immersive tech. Offer upskilling and consider new hires to help fill gaps in your management and control framework.

5: GenAI can help build it for you

If the idea of creating immersive content for your company seems mystifying, we have good news: Generative AI (GenAI) can help do the heavy lifting for you. It can, for example, power avatars for sales and customer service — which can help offer your customers a far more interactive, realistic and enjoyable experience than chat bots. To build routine immersive content, you can give GenAI natural language commands and it can do it. For more complex tasks, GenAI can help automate parts of the development cycle and augment others — increasing speed and cutting costs.

Would you like to represent complex data sets in an interactive immersive space? Design a customized virtual “meeting room” for customers? Simulate machine maintenance procedures or emergency response drills? Create immersive training that can adapt to the learner's pace and style? Build digital twins of facilities, investment plans, market forecasts or supply chains? GenAI, embedded in immersive tech, can help you do it.

What you can do next

  • Scale up GenAI. With GenAI’s value so great, consider a plan to quickly deploy high-value GenAI at scale and manage its risks.
  • Plan for reinvention. The convergence of GenAI, immersive tech and other Essential Eight emerging technologies can transform how work gets done, support new business models and more.
  • Prioritize convergence. Our 2023 Emerging Technology Survey found that those companies that bring AI, immersive tech, and other emerging technologies together often receive significantly more value from their emerging tech investments.

Immersive tech can help reinvent business models — and grow trust

Immersive tech can be integrated into everyday enterprise workflows, transform ways of working and shopping, enter a virtuous cycle of growing innovation and adoption, and tap into generative AI’s power. Together, these trends could disrupt industries — and help create new business models for organizations that use immersive tech wisely.

Yet, to fulfill its transformative potential for your organization, immersive should also grow trust with your stakeholders. That will likely require you (as is true for many new technologies) to update data governance, risk management, privacy, compliance and cybersecurity. You may also face new trust and privacy issues: immersive tech can potentially capture your eye movements, hand gestures, facial expressions, external environment and other sensitive personal information.

The good news is, reliable frameworks exist to help build trust in immersive tech – but it's critical to start with such a framework early. If you design trust in from the start, rather than seeking to “reverse-engineer” is in later, you can build solid foundations today and save time and money over the long run. With trust built in, immersive tech can offer you – from day one – secure, engaging, and powerful tools for workforce collaboration, enhanced business processes, customer engagement, new lines of business and more.

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Roberto Hernandez

Principal, Customer Transformation - Chief Innovation Officer, PwC US


Emmanuelle Rivet

PwC US Chief Risk Officer, PwC US


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