IV.

XR and new job roles

Changes and impacts in the workplace

Like any other technology, extended reality will have an impact on – and create challenges for – jobs and the workplace. The way we perceive and define our interaction with the digital world will be tremendously affected and transformed. Until recently, interaction with digital elements and devices was mostly done in a 2D ecosystem.

With the possibilities provided by VR/AR/MR, we are moving towards an ecosystem where our interactions will happen in 3D. This next step in the way we interact with the digital world opens up a wide horizon of new ways, methods, strategies and environments for us to relate and operate in the workplace, from an individual point of view to collaborative teamwork contexts.

The way we access and manipulate information will also be radically transformed.

Note

Extended reality combined with AI could transform the traditional workplace

The following thought experiment is proposed by IBM: “Imagine a traditional field service repair. Repair technicians travel to a location and try to diagnose the problem based on previous experience. If unable to resolve it, they call in an expert. In the meantime, the customer waits. Not a good experience.

Now imagine that workflow enabled with XR and AI. In addition to their own insights, the technicians turn to AI’s machine learning capabilities to help them troubleshoot the issue, drawing on the experiences of thousands of other technicians and historical data. And, to avoid unnecessary delays, the technicians have arrived with the parts most likely to be malfunctioning based on analysis from an AI-enabled inventory system linked to historical data. AI verifies the solution and walks the technician through the repair using a digital overlay on a tablet or other mobile device. The customer is up and running quickly. A good experience.”

IBM (2020)

According to The Leadership Network, “companies such as Ford are leveraging VR as a collaboration tool to enable better and more efficient design processes, helping them to drive change across the company. Ford has been doing virtual design for over a decade, but since 2014, any changes visible to the customer have to be done with the help of FIVE (Ford Immersive Vehicle Environment).”

Workplace impacts

What major transformations can we envisage regarding the integration and adoption of these technologies in workplace processes and methods? AR/VR/MR could:

  • increase the level of efficiency in the resolution of tasks

  • facilitate and improve new forms of collaborative work

  • provide more precise and effective environments for accessing and manipulating information in context

  • improve interaction and communication processes in remote work environments

  • combine digital information with reality in order to increase worker capabilities

  • increase the quality, supply and availability of training and provide risk-free training in dangerous contexts

  • limit failures and errors in the execution of tasks through simulation and 3D projection of processes

  • improve the testing and verification process of products and solutions through contextualised digital simulations

There will be many impacts, challenges and opportunities created by the inclusion of VR/AR/MR in the workplace. However, it’s a process that will require adaptability and flexibility on the part of workers. It will create new forms and perceptions of collaborative relationships with people and machines and require a continuous process of adaptation to new challenges. In short, it will cause the "workplace" to be reshaped, making it conducive to new and challenging experiences.

XR and the future of work

As we have learned, the current digital transformation in the context of the fourth digital revolution will not only impact industry and the economy. Jobs and occupations are also strongly impacted – we thus have a range of new professions which will require new skills in new fields and new contexts. It is important that we know what these contexts and fields are – and to a certain extent what is envisaged – for the XR area.

The need for new skills

At the moment, the following technical skills are important in the field of XR development: software development; 3D artistry; designing interfaces for XR environments; sound, image and video production for 3D environments; and being able to understand and facilitate the integration of various emerging technologies.

XR jobs

Existing jobs include:

  • Unity/Unreal Developer

Software developer responsible for building AR/VR/MR products, based on design plans, targeted for different platforms using Unity (C#) or Unreal (C++) as a development platform.

  • XR UX/UI Designer

Responsible for designing user flow schemes and models for 3D virtual worlds or other forms of digital agents and interaction depending on the XR technology being developed. This is crucial because designing for 3D environments is different from designing projects and implementing 2D HMI.

  • VR Sound Effects/VR Video Specialist

Creates audio and video for 3D virtual worlds that have to be synchronised with all the 3D components of the VR experience.

  • Mixed Reality Designer

A designer with the combined skills and competences to design and create MR experiences (balancing AR and VR) in the context of providing the design structures (modelling the spatial computing environment) that will support the dynamic XR experiences.

  • XR Project Managers

XR project managers are specialists with specific capabilities in digital project development management and a specific background in the area of XR project development. This specialty will not only focus on the technical development component, but will require the ability to analyse and recognise the integration of human action components in XR project development. Human action components refer to the fields of neuroscience, psychology and many others, due to the numerous areas of application and the strong impacts that XR has and will have on the ways in which we perceive the world (or worlds – real and virtual) and act upon it.

  • XR: AR/VR/MR Researcher

With the strong personal, cultural, social and economic impacts associated with XR, it is important that organisations and companies have data and information to help and support their decision-making. In this context, research around XR technologies is fundamental in order to provide studies and point out horizons regarding the development and application of these technologies.

Emerging and new jobs:

  • Hologram Stylist

Person responsible for styling associated with the development and creation of scenes in a spatial computing environment applied to XR products.

  • Augmented Reality Life Designer/Consultant

This will be like a personal trainer for immersive worlds, a consultant of the sort that already exists for social networks. Someone who will be responsible for the creation of digital interactions that portray the image you want to transmit in virtual environments in terms of position and communication style. It applies to individuals but also to companies or organisations.

  • Personal Brain Trainer

With the possibilities raised by XR to help people with disabilities to live certain experiences that without XR would not be possible, an expert with knowledge of brain computer interfacing (BCI) will be needed. Due to the amount of hardware and software possibilities this expert will be responsible for choosing, adapting and applying the best solutions according to user needs. They will also have an important advisor role in the field of research and solutions development.

Part summary

After completing chapter 4, you should be able to:

  • Explain what extended reality means, including AR, VR and MR

  • Describe briefly how these technologies work and where they are being used

  • Recognise some of the potential benefits and risks of extended reality

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V. Implications of Emerging Technologies