How Can Immersive Technologies Transform Your Business

I 12:01 pm, 19th May

The 2019 report on "Immersive Economy in the UK" surveyed 200 organisations, including manufacturers, R&D companies, distributors, service providers, technology developers, public funders, industry networks, and trade bodies. In the survey, 87 per cent of participants found that immersive technologies helped improve their organisation. In this e-book, we take a deep dive into the immersive technologies market and how these technologies can transform businesses. 

Immersive technologies refer to technologies that use digital or simulated worlds to emulate the physical world. Also called "extended reality" (XR), immersive technologies have transformed the way in which organisations and individuals work, interact and communicate. Immersive technologies include augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), mixed reality (MR), simulations, and 3D games.

A report by PwC forecasted that virtual and augmented reality have the potential to strengthen the global economy by $1.5 trillion by 2030. Apart from generating 400,000 new jobs, these technologies are poised to give a $69.3 billion boost to the UK's economy.

While VR and AR were associated largely with the entertainment and media industries, they have now penetrated into multiple industries and sectors. Businesses are increasingly using AR and VR technologies to train their staff, improve customer experience, augment marketing efforts, enhance the efficiency of production and design, among others.

Chapter I: An overview of the immersive technologies market

In the UK, the immersive technologies' market size has increased 35.1 per cent on average each year from 2016 to 2021, with the industry revenue being £1.5 billion in 2021. The UK is the largest market in Europe for VR and AR, with the immersive technologies market expected to grow to $160 billion. Increasing adoption across industries such as healthcare training, architecture, defence, manufacturing, construction engineering, entertainment, and transport are driving the growth.

According to Statista, 29.9 percent of immersive tech companies operate in the technology sector in the UK, whilst 22.3 per cent are in the art and media sector. The other sectors that prominently use immersive technologies include:

- Professional services

- Leisure and hospitality

- Real estate

- Non-profit education

- Consumer goods 

- Healthcare

- Agriculture

Some of the fastest-growing XR companies are working in diverse industries, including criminal justice, life sciences, education and training, and civil engineering. 

Chapter II: Immersive technologies and business transformation

Skills development

Virtual reality helps businesses implement skills training in immersive contexts. Not only does this make learning more effective while also creating a safe space to make mistakes and learn. VR and AR are also used to impart training on diversity sensitivity, customer empathy, usage of machinery, dealing with emergencies, converting sales, and public speaking skills. Vodafone, for instance, uses VR in their learning and development programmes to improve their employees' public speaking skills, while PwC leverages VR to provide soft skills (inclusive leadership) training. 

American Airlines relies on VR to train staff on cabin crew procedures while Ford trains its employees on reducing production line accidents. Brands such as Shell and Walmart use VR to impart situational training and emergency response training.

In most cases, businesses leverage VR to simulate real-world scenarios where employees can practice and learn. For instance, Strivr uses VR to train its employees on handling massive crowds that are common on Black Friday.

VR can not only make learning more engaging, it can reduce the training time. Walmart trained more than a million associates using VR. Employees were trained on operating the new kiosk where customers pick up their online orders. Trainees received immediate feedback on the VR platform when they made mistakes. In the past it took an entire day to train each employee inside specifically designated training stores, but now, virtual reality reduces the training duration to 15 minutes.

Immersive technologies can be leveraged to optimise process-driven roles that help make workplaces safer while lowering downtime. Augmented reality is being used to provide easy access to manuals and technical information to maintenance engineers through visual interfaces.

Reducing risk

Apart from imparting training on interpersonal skills, work processes, and technical information, virtual reality is the perfect training method in high-stake situations. Prior to the introduction of VR, employees had to imagine the high-risk scenario and visualise how they would deal with it. Today, they can replace it with a real-world simulation that enhances the efficacy of the learning experience.

For instance, British Petroleum partnered with VR company to train their employees on emergency exit procedures at their Hull-based oil refinery. Employees had a safe place in the virtual world to learn from mistakes which helps reduce the chances of real errors that can cost someone's life.

In the medical world, VR helps lower risks related to life-threatening situations. Surgeons at a Los Angeles-based hospital partnered with a VR company to create training modules on treating children in emergencies. The simulation is used to teach doctors how they can save infants in anaphylactic shock or suffering seizures. 

When Johnson & Johnson Institute developed immersive training using VR for surgeons on performing operations, there was a 230 per cent improvement in surgical performance.

Remote knowledge sharing 

AR helps in remote assistance by knowledge sharing between experts and remote field workers, for instance, in servicing equipment. DHL uses hands-free AR to improve efficiency, accuracy and training times of warehouse pickers. The UK NHS used AR to connect physicians to field staff during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Remote work and virtual conferences 

VR platforms provide a digital/virtual 3D space that facilitates collaborative work. These XR platforms have the ability to revolutionise work processes. While teams can work remotely, interdependent tasks can be simultaneously performed. Digital 3D spaces can be used to simulate a real-world conference or event environment where participants can customise their 'digital avatars' to attend, network, and learn. These VR spaces also enable the creation of virtual classrooms where learning becomes engaging, fun, interactive, and dynamic.

For instance, VR is accelerating R&D efforts by transforming workflows. With virtual prototypes, R&D teams can fail fast while learning quickly.

Visualising and analysing scenarios 

Operational uses of VR include AF Gruppen (visualising construction projects, collaborative design), HTC (industry conferences), and Cisco (visualising organisational social networks).

Sales and marketing

AR and VR in sales and marketing are used by businesses to help their customers try on or visualise products before purchasing them. This not only reduces travel costs but saves on shipping costs as customers are more likely to buy the right size/colour the first time. Examples include Tissot's watch try-on AR experience, try on shoes by Poizon and parcel sizer by UK Mail. O2 UK uses VR to research their in-store displays.

Many businesses are using apps to provide an immersive experience. For instance, the Place AR app from IKEA allows customers to place digital furniture in their homes to see if the colour and size fits the space. Nike has integrated an augmented reality tool in its app that can measure customers' feet with great accuracy within seconds. This strategy helps Nike sell more products to consumers directly through its shops, app and website, while saving on shipping costs as consumers are more likely to buy the correct size.

Immerse technologies in the architecture sector are used to improve client relationships. The Your Home Made Perfect series created by BBC uses VR to bring home plans to life. Clients can walk around in the digital and furnished version of their future home, which helps identify any issues in time.

Audi has embedded VR experiences to allow customers to get a feel of their customised car while scrutinising the smallest details. BMW uses AR content to help potential customers make informed buying decisions.

With a realistic version of the car with AR, users have the chance to walk around it, change the colour of the paint and view the car from different angles.

Customer experience

VR is a powerful storytelling medium and is used to fully immerse customers in the product experience.

It is changing the way customers shop by immersing them into a virtual store where they can browse, get real-time assistance, shop, try on or visualise, all from the comfort of their homes. As a result, there are no constraints of location or time on shopping experiences, and with minimal effort, brands are able to create a global shopping experience. With logistical hassles removed, customers are more inclined to try new products that they would not otherwise.

XR can also be used to emotionally connect customers to a brand, which strengthens brand loyalty. 

For instance, TOMS, a shoe company, used a 360-degree VR video where people could experience what it is to donate TOMS shoes to children in need. The VR experience helps TOMS customers visualise the impact they help create when they buy a pair of TOMS shoes.

XR can not only enhance customer experience but yields tangible business benefits as well. A case in point is how Jaguar redefined customer experience by launching the VR experience in 2016. The virtual reality experience enables the in-store consumers to choose the make, colour, model and features, while they can also get inside the car to see the interior. Not only do they allow a 360-degree view but changes can be made in real-time. According to Jaguar's head of communications, VR had a major impact on their brand, helping them sell an "incredible" number of cars.

Immersive technology not only helps create eye-catching marketing content but can be used to offer practical support across the customer journey. Nespresso offers step-by-step descaling instructions with the help of AR, which helps customers have access by just scanning the package using their phone.

Reducing time to market 

XR environments used in the design context help reduce the time and cost involved in creating physical prototypes. They help align the design vision and reduce time to market. In 2019, Bugatti's latest luxury car, Centodieci, was unveiled, taking only six months to design. With the VR headset, designers and engineers could view the interior and exterior mock-up of the vehicle in 3D. This enabled the entire team to interact and flag improvements before producing the physical model.

The technique is finding increasing application in the automotive industry as it saves money and time. Volvo is another brand that uses an XR-1 headset to test different designs and systems in real-world conditions before designing prototypes.

Ford is using VR to create car mock-ups that have reduced the time taken in design. The VR and 3D technologies allow designers to translate their imagination into 3D sketches, which has improved productivity while transforming designer workflow.

Enhance the efficiency of processes 

Among the numerous applications of AR and VR, one of the more interesting ones relates to analysing and understanding the working processes. Virtual reality is used to simulate workers' movements which are then analysed to understand production and ergonomic problems. For instance, in a manufacturing unit, assembly operations can be studied in the virtual environment to design safer and more efficient production lines. 

XR technologies can be used to capture the full-body motion of workers, 3D printing to rebuild machines, and VR to simulate the production environment. This makes it possible to analyse the workers' posture, body position, the force used to perform an operation, and the worker movements. After identifying ergonomic or production-related problems in the virtual environment, the workplace can be modified in the real environment. For instance, VR can help modify assembly procedures, workbenches, or the layout of the assembly line.

DHL Express built a training platform on VR to develop the skills and knowledge of their staff. They tested a new efficient method at twelve locations spread across the world and found that the method helped people work more efficiently.

This approach offers several benefits to businesses that include fewer accidents at work, optimised ergonomics and assembly processes, enhanced efficiency, higher quality of product, cost reduction, and reduced time-to-market.


Current innovations and applications of immersive technologies across sectors underscore the immense, disruptive potential of AR, MR, and VR to transform businesses. It is estimated that 23 million jobs across the world will use either virtual reality or augmented reality for meetings, training, or customer service purposes by 2030. The growth rate of immersive technologies is projected to reach 21.6 per cent in the period from 2020 to 2027. 

To truly revolutionise the business world, immersive technologies need to address real-world challenges and the economy as a whole. Forward-looking businesses that seek to innovate need to identify the return on investment by recognising the impact these technologies will have in streamlining operations, developing employees' skills, supporting growth, and connecting with customers.

Xavier Lisoir - Managing Director 

" The Covid pandemic demonstrated that operations could be managed remotely despite the shortcomings of the existing solutions and equipment. VR and AR tools are progressively getting more capable and affordable. The metaverse which is about to come will provide new opportunities and use cases for a broader adoption and refinement of the AR & VR technologies. They should thus be considered on any digital transformation agenda both for internal and external interactions "

Source : PwC Luxembourg

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