The pandemic’s impact on the use of immersive technology is encouraging for the industry, according to the latest survey from Perkins Coie and XRA
➨ Eighty-three percent of respondents to the XR Industry Insider Survey expect immersive technology investment in 2021 to be higher than in 2020
➨ Healthcare, education, retail, and workforce development and training are seen as areas of potential growth
➨ Access to software was identified as the biggest barrier to adoption
Immersive technology is primed for an enterprise and consumer boom after the events of the past year highlighted the potential positive impact of virtual, augmented and mixed reality, according to the latest XR Industry Insider Survey from Perkins Coie and the XR Association (XRA).
Law firm Perkins Coie and industry trade group XRA’s fifth annual survey of 164 industry stakeholders involved in XR reveals significant optimism for investment in immersive technology following its rise to prominence during the pandemic.
Eighty-three percent of respondents to the XR Industry Insider Survey (previously the Augmented and Virtual Reality Survey) expect immersive technology investment in 2021 to be higher than in 2020. That is a substantial rise over 68% of respondents in last year’s survey who said 2020 would beat 2019.
Optimism is also higher for some industries, with 95% of respondents saying their organisations plan to increase spending on immersive technology for better remote collaboration and training after the widespread forced shift to remote working last year.
Kirk Soderquist, co-chair of the digital media and entertainment, gaming, and sports industry group and partner in the technology transactions and privacy practice at Perkins Coie, says: “It’s clear that the initial economic disruptions related to Covid-19 didn’t hurt the XR industry’s prospects—and the pandemic’s long-term effects seem to have increased bullish sentiment related to immersive technology.”
“These survey results reflect what we’re hearing from XR dealmakers—that five-to-seven-year timelines are being accelerated to one to four years.”
Elizabeth Hyman, chief executive officer of XRA, comments: “Our survey results reflect two broad categories for how Covid-19 has changed the landscape for immersive technology. The first category relates what consumers are expected to do as and after the pandemic draws to a close. The second is about behaviours established during the pandemic that will remain. Put together, and the pandemic will have a lasting legacy in immersive technology’s continued evolution and growth.”
Jason Schneiderman, co-lead of the immersive technology vertical and emerging company venture capital attorney at Perkins Coie, comments: “Although, as the survey indicates, we definitely saw investments grow due to the pandemic, we were already experiencing a bull market leading into 2020, especially in education and workforce training, as well as the automotive and retail sectors.”
Enterprise sectors stand to benefit
The survey, conducted in April 2021, was preceded and informed by group interviews with experts in the field. Overall, the results show that immersive technologies continue to expand beyond gaming and entertainment, with sectors such as healthcare, education, retail, and workforce development and training seen as areas of potential growth.
Healthcare confirmed the projections of last year’s survey respondents as primed for disruption by immersive technology, with telehealth and other solutions providing an alternative as Covid-19 restrictions affected in-person treatments and disconnected geographically dispersed experts.
This sector was also the one—outside of gaming and entertainment—that this year’s XR Industry Insider Survey respondents think will be most affected by the pandemic.
Notably, marketing and advertising were next, even though they were not chosen by many respondents to last year’s survey as being primed for disruption from immersive technology.
The pandemic also appears to have greatly affected immersive technology’s prospects in education and fashion, according to the survey.
It was seen by 97% as a major contributor to significant advancement in education through 2026, with 63% strongly agreeing. Immersive experiences in retail, specifically in fashion, are already increasing as a result of Covid-19’s effects—with 89% of respondents agreeing that fashion and retail presented great opportunities for immersive technology.
The survey went on to identify existing barriers to adoption of immersive technology, with access to software proving the biggest.
Half of respondents said development of more accessible software (not specifically regarding open source software or software built for persons with disabilities) to meet the needs of all users will be the biggest driver of enterprise adoption.
For consumer adoption, respondents said the top driver was availability of and access to open source software and communities (61%).
Other challenges are consistent with results from past year’s surveys. User experience was cited by 65% of respondents as the top barrier to greater adoption of immersive technology, while content offerings (53%) and costs to consumers (27%) were other hurdles.
Women- and minority-owned businesses in XR
Perkins Coie and XRA also used this year’s survey to analyse sentiment from women- and minority-owned businesses. Six in 10 respondents identified as working for either.
Interestingly, these respondents are even more convinced than the overall survey pool that developers do not understand what makes content compelling for consumers, especially for minorities and women.
Findings showed that minority-owned companies were more likely to strongly agree, while respondents from women-owned businesses were more likely to agree or strongly agree on the lack of compelling content.
For respondents from minority-owned companies, existing content is especially lacking when it comes to being interactive and immersive. In addition, respondents from women-owned companies were more likely to think educational content is lacking even though they think the pandemic has affected the use of immersive technology in education more than any other sector except marketing and advertising (the full survey pool chose healthcare).