Technology has been a lifeline for many businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic, opening the door to new ways of remote working at record speed. But will these new solutions define how companies operate in the future?

A step up from video conferencing lies Extended Reality (XR). Comprising Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR), holograms, and an increasing array of immersive technologies, XR is recasting the boundaries of physical spaces and human interactions.

The XR industry has reached a tipping point

XR patent applications are increasing, and funding for XR start-ups is booming – this technology is poised to make a potentially outsized change to the world as we know it.

But with this burgeoning reality come critically important questions. Before the doors to the new world are fully flung open, we ask: who must take responsibility for what happens in these untrodden plains, and what they look like and include?

ISINNOVA is a partner institution on the Living Innovation project, funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 programme and coordinated by Vienna University of Economics and Business, which explores the responsible use of innovation and is currently holding a series of online events about remote working.

In March 2021, Living Innovation held an Online Dialogue on the topic of XR in the context of remote working, with industry experts Larry O’Reilly and Armen Ovanessoff giving keynote presentations.

Larry O’Reilly is CEO of ARHT Media, which specialises in holographic telepresence. This technology enables people to appear as fully sized holograms in another location, a tool which is saving many businesses significant expenditure on travel, lowering their carbon footprints, and helping to alleviate the crowded diaries of in-demand CEOs and presenters.

“By using holographic telepresence, our clients experienced higher levels of engagement, increased experience value and improved content retention” – Larry O’Reilly, AHRT Media.

The benefits of these leading-edge technologies are clear. But they should not detract from the potential risks. Armen Ovanessoff, Principal Director at Accenture Research, and author of reports on the responsible use of XR technologies, sets out six key risk factors:

  1. Misuse of personal data
  2. Fake experiences
  3. Cybersecurity
  4. Tech addiction
  5. Antisocial behaviour
  6. Digitally divided worlds

“Although the positive impact Extended Reality will have on the future is extraordinary, the consequences will be irreversible. Challenges, such as the threat to intimacy and the unknown mental impact of such technologies, must be considered in advance” – Armen Ovanessoff, Accenture Research.

Responsibility must be built into the heart of this new technology before it is too late – and determining who should ensure that happens is a conversation that needs to take place now.

Policymakers will be key in establishing the rules and setting guidance, but ultimately, it is business leaders that will largely define the technology and drive demand for services through their business models. Whilst it must be a collective effort across society, it is enterprise that must first and foremost ensure that ethics are integrated into the way they work.

To view the replay of the Living Innovation Online Dialogue and see Larry and Armen’s full presentations, click here.