Immersive technology, which harnesses augmented and virtual reality, has enormous potential for employers and employees alike. Enterprises in every sector are beginning to use it for gains in efficiency, commercial advantage and a competitive edge. Much of the enabling technology is already here. So why aren’t we all taking advantage?
Technology or, at least its application, usually follows a predictable path. What seems novel now becomes commonplace in a few years or even sooner. We saw that with the web. We saw it with wireless networks and mobile computing platforms. More recently, we have seen it with online gaming and, courtesy of Covid -19, video-conferencing platforms such as Zoom and Teams.
What we’re seeing now is the start of massive growth in the adoption of immersive technologies.
Immersive technologies – augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), digital design, 3D technology, virtualisation and the like – have migrated from the gaming and entertainment sectors to several key industries. Aerospace. Architecture. Automotive. Design. Engineering. Film production, Medical. Manufacturing. Retail. All are adopting immersive technologies. And it’s easy to see why.
The technology has a rich potential to deliver faster and shorter workflows, rapid proofs of concept, easier design, reduced time to market, superior decision-making, better learning experiences, and a host of other benefits.
Household names such as IKEA, Volvo and Toyota have been enthusiastic early adopters and they are not alone. The medical, manufacturing, industrial and military sectors are long past the experimental stage and they’re routinely including immersive technologies in their medium- and long-term plans.
Clearly, the widespread adoption of AR and VR technology is big business. But there’s a problem.
The growing demand for immersive technology has massively outgrown the skills pool. Put simply, there are plenty of enterprises which see the benefits and who want to use it, but not enough people who know how this might best be achieved.
Immersive skills are in hot demand. 60% of employers expect their reliance on advanced digital skills to increase in the next five years. 58% of businesses are looking for significantly more advanced digital skills in the next five years. In other words, the problem will almost certainly get worse before it gets better. Unless we act now.
Unlike previous technical advances, where businesses had the luxury of being able to wait until the technology matured and clear market leaders with a ready-made support infrastructure emerged, there is an urgency that we haven’t seen before.
The hardware and software of immersive technology have already attained a degree of maturity. The problem lies not in the tech but in the explosive growth in demand for it and the paucity of skills.
Growing the skills pool
So what can we do? First we need to inject a sense of urgency into all of this. Stakeholders need to act quickly, decisively and with an eye to the future. It is time to raise our game.
Governments, policy makers and education providers need to catch up fast and form bonds with the commercial sector. There are some established players, such as Unity and Autodesk, which stand out as enterprises which are working hard to transfer skills to individuals and their employers. More of that can only help.
Universities must get up to date and stay up to date. Immersive skills need to be integrated across key curricula. They need to be embedded as foundational skills across a wide range of degree programs from architecture and construction through to interior design and film production.
There should be much closer partnerships between industry and academia. We need to establish centres of excellence, leading by example and showcasing immersive technology platforms and applications.
Educators should practice what they preach and be at the forefront of using immersive technologies to build expertise and raise awareness of the many applications. We need to build skills now, not tomorrow.
Leaders in education, industry and government have a real opportunity to close the skills gap. If we all work together we can seize the growth opportunity that immersive technologies present across so many industries.
Employers should be supporting and encouraging their employees to upskill, with formal training and certification. We need apprenticeships and skills programs focused on immersive skills.
Make a start
No single nation has all the smarts on immersive technology. None of us can afford to be complacent. Countries that don’t have a skilled workforce (or the educational and upskilling programs to demonstrate a future talent pipeline) will find it hard to attract investment. Their industries will struggle to be competitive.
Educational institutions will put themselves at a considerable disadvantage by not embedding immersive skills into the curriculum.
We must, must get ahead of the skills shortage.
One day, perhaps sooner than you think – especially once the wearable technology has matured and gone mainstream and cumbersome VR goggles are consigned to the past – the use of immersive technologies be as commonplace as the world wide web and search engines.
Until then, there is so much we can do and so much to be done. The race is on. Don’t wait. Start running now.
Globally, the augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) industry was valued at $16 billion last year.1
60% of AR & VR spending in 2018 was for commercial uses.2
In 2019, investment in AR and VR in the healthcare, education, military, and manufacturing sectors were each greater than that in the gaming industry.3
Overall demand for real-time 3D skills has grown 601% faster than the overall labour market.4
97% of respondents in a survey indicated that the immersive economy was lacking appropriate skills.5
77% of companies in the same survey identified lack of technical skills within their own company and wider talent pool as a barrier to growth.5
35% of UK’s architects now use at least one form of immersive technology.6
$160 billion will be spent on AR and VR globally by 2023.7
The European market for AR and VR will grow to $50 billion per year by 2026.8
Want to learn more?
A free copy of the 60-page report ‘The Immersive Skills Storm’ can be downloaded here.
- Virtual Reality Market Share & Trends Report, 2021-2028, Grand View Research
- https://www.inlinepolicy.com/blog/how-uk-government- is-helping-virtual-and-augmented-reality-flourish
- Visual Capitalist, 2018
- ‘Visualizing the Future’ Burning Glass, 2019
- ‘The Immersive Economy in the UK’ 2019
- ‘Visualizing the Future’, Burning Glass, 2019
- ‘IDC Worldwide Semiannual Augmented and Virtual Reality Spending Guide 2019’
Meet Tomas Karlsson
A trained economist specialising in cost-benefit analysis and international economics, Tomas is applying his expertise to program and channel management. He has been responsible for the design and implementation of growth initiatives for a number of software vendors. Tomas’s current focus is on exploring how cutting-edge technology can best be used to improve the way people learn and interact with each other, as they define and achieve their business goals.