PwC’s Jeremy Dalton’s new book, Reality Check
TRANSCRIPT Reality Check – Jeremy Dalton
Sage: Hello, everybody, my name is Mark Sage and I’m the Executive Director of the AREA (Augmented Reality for Enterprise Alliance). I’m really excited to be here today with Jeremy Dalton from PWC. He’ll introduce himself in a moment. Jeremy has been doing a lot around the UK and the world in terms of evangelizing XR. And today we’re going to be talking about a book that he’s recently released which is getting a lot of traction. So, anyway, Jeremy, can you please introduce yourself and the work that you’re doing in the immersive technology space?
Dalton: Absolutely. Thanks a lot for having me here, Mark, I appreciate it. I work in immersive technologies. I lead a team at PwC UK to really take advantage of both Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality in a way that adds business value. In other words, in a way that companies would find very useful.
Sage: Fantastic, thank you, Jeremy. You’ve just released your first book, which must be really exciting. It’s called Reality Check. I’m excited to have an early copy of it. What I really like is it’s about immersive technologies and how it can transform your business. There are some great definitions of the technology, which is important because there’s so many terms that are being used. It includes some great thought leadership examples about best practices and how to deliver the technology. Finally, and we’ll come back to in a little bit more detail, there are great case studies – real examples of companies deploying AR and VR and the benefits that they’re getting. So, before we go into too much detail, why did you decide to write the book? What was your inspiration?
Dalton: My inspiration actually came from a bit of a negative place, actually. I know it sounds like I’m being a bit of a downer, but I was having conversations with organizations and stakeholders that were starting to engage or at least had heard of immersive technologies but didn’t really understand their true potential. They’d never really tried a business application, and as a result, a lot of them had misconceptions and thought the technology is all about video gaming!
And you can kind of understand where they’re getting this perception from. If you watched The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon and you saw Brie Larson playing Beat Saber in virtual reality, or if you read the plethora of articles out there relating to game playing, it’s quite understandable that you might have this view that all there is to Virtual and Augmented Reality is gaming and entertainment!
But that’s obviously not true.
My role at PwC is all about the business applications of immersive tech. I really wanted to correct that misconception and show that there is so much more to immersive than just video gaming and entertainment.
Sage: That’s great. And as you well know, the AREA is very focused on getting that same message out to the ecosystem about the benefits of AR industrial use cases. Going back to your book, what I really like – and it’s really, really important – is the number of case studies and real-life examples of deployments. This is really needed by the industry. How easy was it to capture this information and how much depth do you go into in the book?
Dalton: On the one hand, it was quite easy to do a lot of desk research and dig up PDFs that were available in terms of case studies from different industries. Those were great but they were quite high level most of the time. So in some cases, I got in touch with individual organizations.
For example, there’s quite a detailed case study from a Norwegian construction company called AF Gruppen. And I really enjoyed speaking to them about how they’ve been implementing Virtual Reality in this case. I got a lot of data out of that conversation which was quite exciting for me.
On the Augmented Reality side, I also got to speak to organizations like POIZON, which is a Chinese online sneaker market that has been using Augmented Reality for sales purposes.
I got to speak to an XR vendor called vGIS. They produce Augmented Reality software that allows utilities companies to understand the infrastructure of pipes, cabling and all sorts of underground infrastructure. Augmented Reality helps make that invisible infrastructure visible again. I thought that was a fantastic use case in the utilities and energy industry, and so I really dug into that use case a bit more.
It was a bit of a mix overall. There is a good amount of case studies available online from different companies and different industries, but I also had individual conversations with a lot of organizations, and that includes both sides of the equation – XR vendors, as well as XR users.
Sage: Collecting industry case studies is one of the key activities the AREA is focusing on this year (2021). Hopefully, we can work together as the industry needs more case studies! They want to see companies successfully deploying XR technology as it encourages more companies to follow. The more we can share success stories across the ecosystem, the better, so thank you for your work on this.
One of the questions I get asked a lot, especially as the AREA is a global alliance, is which country is leading the way when it comes to the deployment of XR technology? We are both based in the UK, so what is the status of the UK for XR and how do you see the future?
Dalton: The UK is a very exciting place for XR. If you look at the data that came out of the 2019 immersive economy report from ImmerseUK, they found that the UK is currently Europe’s largest market for VR with more than 500 immersive technology projects worth over £220 million. So fantastic, positive news. Given that this report was released back in November 2019 and we’re now at the beginning of 2021, those numbers will have only increased. In addition, you’ve got organisations like the AREA supporting UK and global companies. It’s really important to bring the industry together, connecting industry to academia, promoting XR usage, and improving the understanding of the technology with case studies and data points to back it up.
Even from an academic perspective, there are a number of world-leading organizations in the UK. You have institutions like University College London, University of Leeds, University of Bath, Manchester Metropolitan University – all contributing to a greater understanding of immersive technology and how it helps in a business context.
In addition, the UK is the fifth largest video games market in the world. You may be wondering why I’m mentioning that, given my initial words were about XR not being just about gaming, but also about business applications. But there is a connection because the video games market supplies a lot of the talent that goes into building immersive applications.
So regardless of whether these applications serve business purposes or not, the ability to draw on such a fantastically available and skilled group of people in the UK definitely helps.
Sage: Thank you, and just to reiterate, the AREA is a global alliance with members all around the world, including a number of universities. Thanks for some really great insights.
So penultimate question, Jeremy: what is needed to help drive the successful deployment of immersive technology in the enterprise space?
Dalton: If you think about the four main challenges to mainstream adoption of XR, they are cost, content, education and experience.
Cost is fairly self-explanatory.
Content is less of an issue for enterprise, as usually they’ll build their own bespoke content or use a platform to create content, many of which are being created in the market now to help them solve common content problems in different industries.
From an education perspective, I think this is an area where there’s definitely a lot of work still to be done. This is also one of my motivations for writing Reality Check. Put in other words, this book is about educating business leaders around the world on the value of immersive technology. I still think that many industries and business leaders are going to engage with stakeholders and experts in immersive technologies. They’re going to need to try out (first-hand) the technology to really understand what value it can bring to their businesses, as well as looking at the theoretical side, and the data to help build the business case.
But the thing that makes immersive technologies so much more different from other technologies like Artificial Intelligence and blockchain, for example, is that they are very experiential, visceral and in the case of Augmented Reality, very front-line technologies. In other words, they provide a layer to present information in an easy and intuitive way to consume. They present the information at the right time as well, which is important and incredibly underestimated in the business world. I’m hoping to see greater education and engagement from business leaders. That’s ultimately what will help drive the successful deployment of immersive technologies.
Sage: To summarize what you’ve just said, immersive technologies are unique in that they provide information to workers when they need it, in context, making it easy to consume and enabling them to take action from it.
Finally, how can people get a hold of your excellent book, Reality Check?
Dalton: You should be able to grab it from Amazon or a local bookseller (when COVID-19 subsides and we’re allowed outside). And if you want more details, you can check out this link – Reality Check – and get 20% off by using the AREA discount – AREA20 (available until 5 March).
Sage: Jeremy, as always, great to speak. Thank you very much for your insights. Good luck with the book. I’m sure we’ll be speaking again very soon.