This is Part 2 of a two-part series. Click here to read Part 1

It’s no secret that the use of the smartphone has radically altered almost every aspect of our day to day lives, and the workplace collaboration suite of tools is no exception. In the past five years, I’ve gone from being yoked to a desk where I made and received calls and voicemail to a place where I now seamlessly interact with customers and colleagues via the Webex Teams app on my smart phone using voice, IM, and video – all while being miles away from my office or even up in the air. This reduces my need to take up valuable office space and energy, and it eliminates the need to commute most of the time resulting in more overall work being done. Cha-ching.

While still nascent in many respects, virtual meeting spaces will emerge as the preferred medium of business collaboration. Cisco Webex recently received a back-end and user interface overhaul that laid the groundwork for more AR capabilities to come. They will need to overcome the traditional barriers people inherently have with interacting with an avatar that doesn’t provide a fully immersive experience by leveraging AR/VR to portray real people more accurately. As the technology becomes more robust at capturing an individual’s body language and facial features – and reproducing it seamlessly – the natural aversion to using a virtual medium for meetings will be replaced by a growing dependence on them. 

Gap, Inc. use of AR for virtual fitting rooms 

AR/VR will empower field and customer service agents as well. Contact center support agents will have access to information that can be sent seamlessly, to both customers and field service reps, for things like complex maintenance procedures, training, and product lifecycle information. As a Collaboration Engineer, I see the value in being able to look at products or reference key aspects of them using an app on my phone that is synched across all my devices, uses the camera to interact with the real world, and that also lets me interact with colleagues.

According to the International Data Corporation’s Semiannual Augmented and Virtual Reality Spending Guide, the compound annual growth rate for the period 2017-2022 is forecast to be 71.6%. Spending on AR/VR products and services is expected to reach 27 billion this year, a 92% increase year over year. Current surveys show IT decision makers in the US indicate many companies are testing one or both.

Author Carrie Wilkerson said, “The longer you’re not taking action the more money you’re losing”. With the largest growth expected in the consumer industry, missing the opportunity to develop an AR/VR solution while competitors invest in them is risking losing out to the competition, and in a world where competitive advantages are hard to come by, having a forward looking plan to empower your workforce to collaborate more effectively while enabling your customer to interact with your products and services in a more personal way is what separates winners and losers in market share.

Other technologies are also rapidly developing that will go hand in hand with AR/VR to offer an entirely new way to work and collaborate. These will be explored further in the next blog which will cover the advent of 5G and what that will mean for Collaboration as well as AI and how it is already being used to make work and working more efficient.

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