Virtual reality is heading to your agency
A specialty of online video shows people stumbling clumsily, breaking things and freaking out, sometimes all three, while immersed in the sounds and sights of a virtual reality headset. Such representations give virtual reality a trivial and childish aspect.
But a VR headset might just be standard equipment that your agency provides to you and incoming employees. Goofy games aside, the industrial applications of virtual reality, staged in a carefully programmed metaverse, are nearly limitless. Until now, VR simulation has primarily been a technical training tool, used to help people learn how to operate complex machinery such as airplanes without the risks and expense of using real machinery.
Now companies are experimenting with virtual reality and custom metaverses for onboarding new employees, business meetings, and training and education in non-technical areas. It has the benefits that online training has always had. You can offer it on request, you don’t have to worry about travel and accommodation costs. Virtual reality simply expands into three dimensions what is now typically a flat-screen experience with people arranged in tiles like Hollywood Squares.
Maybe not so simply. With the creation of digital self-advocates, the spatial characteristics, both visual and audio, of virtual reality make the experience more than just extensions of Zoom or Teams. A social dimension approximates real-world interactions, including their potential for bad manners or worse.
I read that management and technology consulting firm Accenture purchased a large quantity of VR headsets for its own employees. Knowing Accenture’s footprint as a federal contractor, I asked about it.
Allison Horn, Accenture’s executive director for global talent, confirmed that the company did indeed purchase the headsets – 60,000 of them. An important initial application, Horn said, is onboarding new employees. Accenture also built what it calls Accenture Park, located, Horn added, on the nth floor. She described the park as an “always open, always available virtual reality onboarding campus.” People meet, learn through play and interact there. It is even equipped with virtual cafes with cappuccino machines.
I half-joked that with all these distant-but-close interactions, organizations might need to create a culture of meta. The more precise characters and numerical situations become, Horn agreed, the greater the need for rules, no less than in real offices. Whatever strange costume your avatar appears in for your gaming life will not fit the office on the nth floor of the metaverse.
Accenture learnings will eventually be made available to federal agencies. Kyle Michl, director of innovation in Accenture’s federal services unit, cited a survey showing that 75% of federal managers believe virtual or extended reality (XR) will be important to meet mission needs. over the next few years.
“At our federal studio,” Michl said, “we have a number of XR experiences. use of digital twins for hypothetical scenarios and operations.”
The use cases exist, but I haven’t seen any large-scale deployment of a federal VR or XR agency. Still, I feel like it’s only a matter of time.
Those videos I mentioned often show a helmet-wearing grandma and grandpa getting lost in a scary video game while being filmed by laughing family members. But you would be wrong if you assumed that comfort or acceptance of virtual reality rises and falls with age. I asked Horn if that was the case, or if she had come across any other yes-no lines related to VR demographics.
“What we’ve learned is that we haven’t found any yet,” Horn said. “We of course went into this with an assumption based on, you know, just stereotypes and an instinct that said, ‘Oh, are younger or more junior employees going to be everywhere? Are more established or more experienced employees likely to be really difficult to attract in there? We have seen no evidence of this.
Almost useless factoid
By Robert O’Shaughnessy
The first telecast from inside the Senate Chamber was on December 19, 1974 when Vice President Nelson Rockefeller was sworn in.
Source: US Senate