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article imageQ&A: Workplaces shifting with advanced AR/VR technology Special

By Tim Sandle     Nov 15, 2019 in Business
New technology is shifting the workplace, making positive advancements across many different fields - and AR/VR is at the core of this landscape change. Michael Leone (Lenovo) delves into these technologies.
Just imagine simulating a patient going through cardiac arrest with a real-time opportunity to see and treat in a room that looks identical to the ER space at SickKids hospital? This type of immersive experience is moving the needle and making traditional forms of education, like working with a mannequin to receive a theoretical response, outdated, says Michael Leone, Director of Commercial AR/VR at Lenovo.
As an example, a recent study on The Future of Work in Canada found that the greater adoption of AR/VR will continue to grow in some part due to its ease of use and range of applications. Specific advancements include:
Workplace shifts that separate work from where you live,
Growing and improving simulation, collaborative platforms, and data visualization,
Increased access to education, services, and entertainment ,
People may build and spend time in virtual communities, creating parallel worlds, social movements, and economies of virtual goods and services.
To discover more about applying these types of technology to the workplace, Digital Journal spoke with Michael Leone.
Digital Journal: How is digital transformation impacting on the workplace?
Michael Leone: Digital infrastructures will pave the way forward for greater businesses agility. At Lenovo we see this as Intelligent Transformation – using intelligent computing to empower people and business. Emerging technologies, such as AI, AR and VR have the ability to seamlessly enable end-user collaboration and productivity, while meeting the security and manageability requirements of the IT infrastructure. Furthermore, these tools will change how employees interact with technology and each other, which can increase competitiveness and enhance the speed of business processes with employees and consumers.
DJ: What potential do VR and AR have specifically?
Leone: Both AR and VR technologies can be used to automate processes and abstract the user in a way that can improve productivity, process accuracy or even security.
Given these properties, the possibilities are endless. By overlaying digital content on top of the real world in a hands-free environment, AR headsets are being used in industrial settings to help get work done in a smarter and faster way. This includes reducing error rates, cutting repair times on expensive machinery, and improving training by immersing the user in the experience verses passive learning. By integrating AR experiences with organizations’ existing digital assets and data infrastructure, companies can deliver relevant information to their employees at the exact moment it’s needed. This reduces cognitive load and has proven to increase efficiencies.
With VR, we see strong potential in training, education and design collaboration. VR fully immerses a user in a new environment, allowing them to view virtual spaces with extreme fidelity, and workers learn faster and retain more information than passive-based learning methodologies. A number of organizations are using VR for training in place of sending workers on-site for training. This also reduces travel time and costs. When scaled to a large global workforce, the return-on-investment (ROI) of VR in training environments is significant. New VR devices are also now delivering near 8K resolution with eye-tracking, allowing for new opportunities in 3D design reviews. This allows engineers and designers to more rapidly and efficiently prototype new designs and share them in a virtual environment – making it highly valuable for industries like architecture, engineering, construction, and in the automotive and aerospace sectors.
DJ: What is Lenovo's solution?
Leone: On a functional scale, solutions like Lenovo ThinkReality can solve real problems in ways that were previously unimaginable. Think operating rooms for patient simulations, or remote assistance with hands-on aviation training for aircraft maintenance technicians. Our goal with ThinkReality is to offer a software platform that enables enterprises to build, deploy and manage all their AR and VR applications and hardware devices at scale. AR and VR have proven significant value to businesses, but until recently, there’s been a challenge in scaling these solutions for widespread impact for larger organizations. Lenovo is uniquely positioned to deliver enterprise grade digital solutions at scale with our customer based in 180 markets. Last year alone, we delivered 100 million connected devices.
We see AR and VR solutions as an extension of the current digital ecosystem. One good example of how ThinkReality is being used by one of our customers is in the airline industry. Whenever an aircraft is due for routine maintenance, airplane technicians working on the plane would have to constantly look away at physical and technical manuals while juggling documentation through photos. The longer routine maintenance took with aircrafts stuck on the ground, the more it cost airlines precious time and profit – sometimes up to millions of dollars a day. Lenovo’s engineers, designers and user experience teams found a solution to solve this customer challenge with smarter technology. Our customer used the Lenovo ThinkReality solution to accelerate their mixed reality application development. It’s designed so that it can be deployed across a hardware and cloud agnostic environment.
This accelerated time-to-market with new software application solutions and gave their workforce more flexibility to adopt and deploy the most relevant technology for each specific business unit, as oppose to having to reinvest significant time and effort for each new device type or software tool. Ultimately this leads to a more efficient solution that saves valuable time and money.
DJ: Which sectors are adopting VR / AR most rapidly?
Leone: With the multiple applications of VR/AR, the technologies can provide benefits to companies in many different industries looking to reduce and eliminated errors, save money, and increase efficiency and productivity. Examples of industries that are currently adopting VR/AR include:
• Architecture
• Engineering
• Aviation
• Automotive
• Training & Education
• Smart Office
• Healthcare
• Oil, Gas, Utilities
• Insurance
• Mining
• Telecom
• Transportation
Healthcare is an industry that is prominently incorporating AR/VR into their practices. Lenovo believes the innovations in smart computing, AI, AR and VR in the smart healthcare arena combined with expertise from medical specialists can improve patient care, overall wellness and treatment of life-threatening disease.
One particular area in which healthcare providers are leveraging VR is mental health and reducing patient anxiety through distracting and transformative therapeutic solutions that work to familiarize patients with hospital surroundings and medical treatments. An example of this technology being utilized to enhance patient care is the Starlight Xperience VR program. Utilizing Lenovo’s Mirage Solo, The Starlight Foundation enables healthcare professionals to offer hospitalized kids to enjoy immersive experiences through state-of-the-art, hospital-ready headsets. The headsets provide age-appropriate and dynamic experiences such as field trips, meditation exercises and interactive games designed to distract and entertain young hospital patients.
From a business standpoint, the implementation of AR and VR in the healthcare industry provides healthcare givers real value by reducing costs, improving outcomes and expanding access to care. These kinds of technology can allow for “e-visits” that can remove physical barriers that can prevent individuals from receiving care. Additionally, mounting evidence demonstrates that immersive technology can reduce prescription drug use and shortens length of hospital stays.
DJ: How are employees responding to such technology?
Leone: We know there is a strong demand for technology to advance the workplace. This type of technology shift is especially amplified by younger generation employees. Millennials in particular multitask, switching between different forms of content that relate both to their work and personal lives at will. As a result, they want their technology to help them work remotely or in co-working spaces, and this calls for better connectivity and collaboration with colleagues on-demand.
The response we’ve seen from employees has been very positive, especially in relation to Lenovo’s efforts to digitize and transform employee orientation with the virtual reality Mirage Solo headsets.
Through these devices, employees can take control of the onboarding process, creating a richer, more immersive experience. Our goal was to enhance the onboarding experience through VR and create that “wow” experience for employees. A pilot program was launched through Asia Pacific, Lenovo in which new employees participated in “smarter” onboarding through a full Lenovo Theatre of company video training content, adapted for VR, as well as a 360-degree video that introduces new employees to Lenovo’s management team in living color.
Research shows that memory retention after a VR experience is two times higher than after viewing video or text-based learning materials. We’ve also found that is has had a tremendous impact on employee morale. Being immersed in VR made it easier for employees to concentrate, pay attention and remember information. Additionally, it provides an alternative for new employees or management team members, who may not be personally able to, to attend the orientation. It fills a gap that allows employees to hear directly from leaders even when they are not physically in the same space. This kind of interaction helps employees feel more empowered, excited, and motivated about the company.
DJ: Can virtual technology help to strike a better work-life balance?
Leone: Yes, certainly, but it might be best to look at it as striking better work-life integration. With AR/VR technology, employees have the ability to work remotely, at their own time, and at their own speed without impacting productivity. Not being confined to the traditional office, while still very much being connected, allows for employees to better manage other aspects of their life as they are more in control of their schedules.
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