Oct 26, 2020

Extended Reality is boosting workplace efficiency

Digital Transformation
Joanna England
3 min
Agility and resilience in business are essential in the current climate, say experts, as extended reality trains workforces and boosts productivity
Agility and resilience in business are essential in the current climate, say experts, as extended reality trains workforces and boosts productivity...

Extended Reality is making headway in the workplace as a tool that boosts workforce efficiency and resilience according to a new report by IBM.

The tech giant has called for businesses to “adapt to a different normal” to deal with flexibility in processes, staff training and work platforms. 

The shift to working-from-home has pushed companies to seek better digital solutions. XR provides a new digital approach to completing tasks and providing training. It offers a safe and efficient solution for improving training, workflows, and employee engagement.

To date, businesses globally have been implementing Extended Reality (XR) – also known as Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR), in a range of areas. Enthusiasm for the tech, which enables users to experience real-and-virtual combined environments and human-machine interactions generated by computer wearables, has been positive. But just last year, uptake of the tech was still sluggish. 

The global pandemic has since accelerated interest in the tech and IBM says up to 40% of SMEs have said they are interested in investigating its potential. The global research and advisory firm Gartner also estimates up to 70% of companies will be investigating XR by 2022. 

According to Gartner’s report, employees want to experience the opportunities XR offers. It states, “While approximately 75% of workers have never used AR/VR headsets or similar devices on the job, the vast majority (78%) say they are open to using the emerging technology if asked by their employers.”

Because XR enables people to see, touch, hear and interact with its digital reality, it becomes an extension of the senses – especially when partnered with AI. Demonstrations of XR in the workplace have included visualising drawings and designs of solid objects, giving doctors hands-free access to patient data during surgery; and displaying utility networks overlaid on a construction site.

Providing an accurate perception of physical environments, XR is also a far superior teaching tool than company manuals. Indeed, businesses that have switched to XR have reported a 46% fall in task completion delays, and productivity improvements of 32%.

Talking about the slow uptake of XR prior to the global pandemic, Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, said; “Think back to 2008, when the App Store went live. There was the initial round of apps and people looked at them and said, ‘this is not anything, mobile apps are not going to take off’. And then step by step things start to move. And it is sort of a curve, it was just exponential — and now you couldn’t imagine your life without apps. AR is like that. It will be that dramatic.” 

Niko Bonatsos of General Catalyst recently told Tech Crunch that XR will continue to be adopted across industries because of its obvious potential. He said, “We’re seeing some progress in VR and some of that is happening because of the Oculus ecosystem. They continue to improve the hardware and have a growing catalog of content.”

He added, “I think their onboarding and consumption experience is very consumer-friendly and that’s going to continue to help with adoption. On the consumer side, we’re seeing some companies across gaming, fitness and productivity that are earning and retaining their audiences at a respectable rate. That wasn’t happening even a year ago so it may be partially a COVID lift but habits are forming.”

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Jul 23, 2021

New government strategy to put UK ahead in global innovation

3 min
The government’s Innovation Strategy aims to set out plans to confirm the UK’s position as a leader in innovation and enable advancements in technology

The UK government’s plans to increase private sector investment into elevating the UJ’s position in the global innovation race have been outlined in a new Innovation Strategy developed and launched by the business secretary, Kwasi Kwarteng. The strategy is part of the government’s “long-term vision” to boost private sector investment in R&D across the UK, enabling tech companies such as mobile networks to create new technologies. 

While the private sector is important in boosting R&D spending, the government says that the UK “is still committed” to increasing annual public investment in Research and Development with the aim of reaching a record US$30.2bn (£22bn). 

What will the Innovation Strategy allow the UK government to do? 

By adopting the Innovation Strategy, the government claims it will be able to achieve several other goals. These include:

  • Ensuring government procurement is proactive and supportive, providing a route to market for innovative new products and services
  • Consulting on how regulation can ensure that the UK is well-placed to extract the best value from innovation
  • Commissioning the Regulatory Horizons Council to consider how best to support innovation through regulation, including looking whether there are a set of high-level guiding principles for regulation that may apply broadly to any sector of innovation
  • Introducing new High Potential Individual and Scale-up visa routes, and revitalise the Innovator route to attract and retain high-skilled, globally mobile innovative talent
  • Undertaking an independent review to assess the landscape of UK organisations undertaking all forms of research, development and innovation
  • Reducing complexity for innovative companies by developing an online finance and innovation hub between Innovate UK and the British Business Bank within the next 12 months
  • Expanding IP education programme for researchers and launch International IP Services to bolster innovative companies’ and researchers’ ability to confidently collaborate, export and invest overseas
  • Publishing of a new action plan on ‘Standards for the Fourth Industrial Revolution’, promoting standards that enable innovation to flourish
  • Investing £200mn (US$275mn) through the British Business Bank’s Life Sciences Investment Programme to target the growth-stage funding gap faced by UK life science companies
  • Supporting 30,000 senior managers of small and medium-sized businesses through Help to Grow: Management to boost their business’s performance, resilience, and long-term growth

Business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said in a statement that “the UK can look back on a proud history of changing the world through innovation. From the industrial revolution to the vaccine development of the past year, the impact on our everyday lives is undeniable.

“That spirit of discovery is still alive in this country today, but we have not always turned our genius for innovation into jobs and companies here in Britain.

“The countries that secure leadership in such transformational technologies will lead the world, enjoying unrivalled growth, security and prosperity for decades to come – and it’s our job to ensure the UK keeps pace with the global innovation race”.

The organisation added that through the long-term plan, it aims to “rekindle our country’s flame of innovation and discovery”, and to aid businesses in taking the “vast opportunities” brought about by innovation.

“If we get this right, we can build the foundations for the new industries of tomorrow, and ensure British firms are at the front of the pack to turn world-leading science into new products and services that are successful in international markets”, the organisation concluded. 

To implement the strategy, the government plans to work with universities and research organisations with five projects receiving part of £127mn capital injection through the Strength in Places Fund, which is delivered by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI).

In addition to the Strength in Places Fund, £25 million of funding for the Connecting Capability Fund will help drive further economic growth through university-business innovation.


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