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VR and AR: Seeing is believing

Peter Kasahara Managing Partner Digital Intelligence and Customer Centric Transformation, PwC Switzerland 13 Mar 2020

PwC’s report «Seeing is believing» explores the impact that virtual reality and augmented reality will have on the economy by looking at how these technologies can help organisations grow their revenues while transforming the way they engage customers and colleagues. True to form, the report is enhanced with AR experiences throughout.

Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) have expanded beyond the realm of the gaming community, showing their broad potential to benefit society and the economy at large. Everything is in place now for these technologies to deliver on their promise by improving the way organisations operate, making processes faster and more effective, and creating incredible new experiences. Businesses, the economy and society are at a crucial stage in the adoption of virtual reality and augmented reality.

The major finding of the economic impact assessment conducted by PwC economists for the report «Seeing is believing» is that VR and AR have the potential to deliver a $1.5 trillion boost to the global economy and to enhance more than 23 million jobs by 2030. These technologies are already contributing over $46 billion to global GDP.

How is this possible? From creating new customer experiences to improving workplace safety, there are many compelling uses for these technologies. They will ensure more efficient processes, improve training and provide more opportunities for collaboration and cooperation. By bringing together teams from any location into a single virtual space, VR and AR may also accelerate product development. VR and AR can reduce costs and boost efficiency in all kinds of ways, from improving the picking and packing productivity of warehouse workers with AR glasses, to providing information for engineers and technicians in the field. Automotive companies, for example, are using virtual reality to cut the time between initial design and physical modelling from weeks to days.

VR and AR technologies receive strong support from the fact that headsets have become much lighter, cheaper and more comfortable to use with a vastly improved field-of- view, resolution and software. 5G networks and cloud computing will most likely reduce latency, delivering a smoother end user experience. Another key area of technological development is haptics, which allows VR and AR users to «touch» things in the virtual world and get instant feedback.

Enhanced business through enhanced technology

As a result of these improvements, VR and AR can provide companies with unique opportunities to create value and reduce cost. The report identifies five major use areas for these technologies: product and service development, healthcare, training, process improvements, and retail and consumer interactions.

In product and service development, rapid prototyping and collaboration using VR and AR technology will speed up and enrich the creative process. The time-intensive requirement to build physical prototypes can be reduced dramatically, bringing ideas and innovations to life and products to market far more quickly. In healthcare, VR and AR have extensive possible applications related to front-line patient care and training to build on current healthcare uses. VR will provide simulations to train doctors and surgeons, as well as to test their decision-making and stress responses in a risk-free scenario. VR applications may also help patients cope with anxiety by previewing positive outcomes for potentially stressful scenarios. Lastly, AR glasses can overlay scans and x-rays onto a patient’s body, augmenting the view a surgeon has while working.

The use of VR and AR in training benefits both the organisations, who can maintain consistent, measurable standards, and the trainees, who will benefit from the engagement this technology offers as well as its proven aid with knowledge retention. The technology also provides a way to train employees for important scenarios that are not practical or safe to simulate in the real world, such as response to emergency situations or asset maintenance in dangerous environments.

VR and AR are opening up new ways to improve the efficiency, productivity and accuracy of employees and processes. Engineers and technicians can access repair diagrams using an AR interface, enabling them to more quickly identify problems and conduct the appropriate repairs and maintenance. The new technologies also offer new ways to engage, entertain and interact with consumers. VR and AR give retailers the opportunity to create exciting new customer experiences, from virtual fitting rooms for fashion stores, to AR applications that let people test how furniture would look in their home before purchasing it.

Time to get started

The report «Seeing is believing» presents the views and opinions of PwC specialists and industry figures on how organisations can benefit from VR and AR and what steps they can take. PwC offers you five tips to get started:

  • Focus on a specific task

Be specific: focus on using VR and AR to speed up a clearly defined process, improve safety, reduce costs or enhance your customers’ experience.

  • Think about more than just software

Implementation hinges on things like designing a tangible solution and creating an effective deployment programme.

  • Create a seamless experience

A comfortable and intuitive user experience will heavily impact the positive uptake of a VR or AR solution. 

  • Start small and build your VR/AR know-how

The best way to understand the benefits is to see VR and AR in action: start small and explore the potential with an initial pilot programme.

  • Let test results guide you

Be pragmatic: based on a small test case, gather feedback to direct your next steps.

Contact us

Peter Kasahara

Peter Kasahara

Managing Partner Digital Intelligence and Customer Centric Transformation, PwC Switzerland

Tel: +41 58 792 42 15