Trends report 2022: Immersive technology in industry
Oct 27, 2023
A doctor using AR headset to examine a brain scan

Exploring the paradigm shifts in technology that are shaping the future of industry

A woman using a large touchscreen display

Executive summary

Within the next decade, technology will enable a paradigm shift and unlock immense opportunities for everyone. The pursuit of innovative, efficient, and resilient solutions in the face of unprecedented challenges is compelling enterprises to embrace next-generation technologies, starting with extended realities1 and leading down the path to a holistic metaverse based on Web3.

These advances are ushering in new and creative ways to experience data and evolve insight. We can use extended realities to share, discover and communicate within a team; it is an intuitive way to bring engineering and design data to life. The metaverse offers an opportunity to engage with information in context, through verified and trusted sources.

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has altered traditional working methods. The disruption has been most keenly observed in those industries that have typically relied on physical assets or in-person engagement to train employees and design, manufacture, market, sell, and repair their products or services. Industries now commonly experience design in context at any time during its creation, and communicate effectively across functions worldwide.

The increasing adoption of real-time data technologies is instrumental in accelerating the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR). Described as the convergence of emerging technology, 4IR includes advanced digital production technologies such as the industrial Internet of Things, human-machine interfaces, and artificial intelligence.

All of this is happening against the wider backdrop of the growth of Web3, which is characterized as a fully functional and user-friendly decentralized web where users control their own data and identity. The promise of Web3 is that it allows access to data from anywhere, which poses challenges to industry around digital asset ownership and security. Essentially, Web3 enables the metaverse.

The new way of working is immersive,” a commissioned study by Forrester Consulting on behalf of Unity.

Digital lights with ones and zeros throughout

How will industry adopt the emerging technologies of 4IR while ensuring asset security in the Web3 environment? The available foundational real-time 3D digital twin solutions serve as a platform for 4IR, and Web3 provides new means of interaction for employees, customers, and colleagues. Assets in the metaverse must be compatible with real-time technologies, from trusted and verified sources, and be accessible to those collaborators who need cross-functional information to make smart decisions. →

  1. Digital twins, based on 4IR technologies, are a critical enabler for Web3 in industry. These are already in use with various levels of completeness in many industries, and they are seeing a positive impact across product lifecycles. Digital twins enable better collaboration, clearer communication, faster product development, and more efficiency in all workflows.
  2. The move toward 4IR and Web3 must be carefully planned. The experts caution us against the pitfalls. Critical aspects such as digital asset ownership and management and the security of intellectual property require education across multiple functions (from innovation teams to legal departments).
  3. On the journey toward Web3, we are all learning. The key to success on this journey is to identify existing technology and map it to specific use cases. Be sure to meet your users where they already are, whether it’s building an onboarding program for digital natives using a virtual space, enhancing design collaboration with real-time 3D solutions for immediate sharing of design models, or multiple other use cases leveraging different devices and everyday tools.

Most importantly, now is the time to make a start, however small those first steps toward Web3 might be.

In this e-book, four experts with a range of industry perspectives explore how industries are adopting emerging technologies and the positive impact that’s having on product lifecycles. They consider what the next year of development might look like as the information-centric Web2 evolves toward a decentralized web via the innovations inherent to 4IR, ready to enable the metaverse.


Elizabeth Baron

Enterprise Solutions Senior Manager — Unity

Elizabeth leads architecture development of Unity’s enterprise solutions, based on the innovative Unity platform. Elizabeth and her team apply holistic and creative solutions for enterprise to connect knowledge with experience for cross-functional teams.

Elizabeth is also Chair of ACM SIGGRAPH, the world’s largest international community advocating for advancements in computer graphics and interactive techniques.

Elizabeth was a technical specialist in immersive realities at Ford Motor Company. She is the inventor of the Ford immersive Vehicle Environment (FiVE) process and technology. FiVE provides contextual data and real-time ray tracing in an immersive environment for global reviews, uniting design and engineering for holistic problem-solving.

Elizabeth received Ford’s highest award honoring her technical leadership at Ford and her industry influence in immersive visualization. She has received the SIGGRAPH Practitioner Award for her contributions to industrial design and her influence on multiple industries, and was inducted into the SIGGRAPH Academy.


Fadi Chehimi, PhD

Europe Lead of XR Capability and Consumer Experience — Accenture

Fadi leads Accenture’s extended reality (XR) consumer-centered endeavors in Europe, focusing on solving “real” business and human problems using extended reality (XR). For that he wears two hats: a human-centric design hat to create differentiating experiences that people would “want and love” to engage with, and a tech architect hat to deliver that value using the most optimal technical solutions and modern methodologies.

Fadi has helped clients from a host of industries, including automotive, construction, fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG), entertainment, banking, telecoms and utilities, in their digital journeys. He designed, developed, led and delivered experiences and strategies to both employees and customers using different technologies like mobile, web, AI, XR, and now the metaverse.

Fadi is a thought leader advocating a new design mindset for XR, 3D web and the metaverse. He has introduced the concepts of spatial experience (SX), participant experience (PX) and perception design, and he is developing the framework to help designers create truly compelling experiences for virtual and augmented worlds.


Matt Fleckenstein

Sr. Director, Product Management, Microsoft Mesh — Microsoft

Matt currently leads product management for Microsoft Mesh, a metaverse engine that enables creators and brands to build rich, immersive experiences to engage customers, fans, and followers. For the past several years, Matt led the strategy efforts for Microsoft’s commercial and consumer mixed reality businesses.

Prior to rejoining Microsoft, Matt led product and marketing for Nintex, a low-code intelligent process automation platform company that was acquired by Thoma Bravo. Before that, he was the VP of Product at Salesforce for its Marketing Cloud and its IoT Cloud. In this role, he created Journey Builder, an award-winning marketing automation tool that enables marketers to plan, personalize, and optimize every step of their customers’ journey.

Earlier in his career, Matt cofounded several startups, including mSpoke (maker of content recommendation engine FeedHub and acquired by LinkedIn) and Amplero (an AI-driven marketing automation platform). He has invested in or advised many startups including 4Moms, Vivisimo, and ShoeFitter. In his very first job out of college, Matt played a key role in concept testing and launching Purell hand sanitizer.


Cathy Hackl

Chief Metaverse Officer — Futures Intelligence Group

Cathy is a globally recognized metaverse expert, tech futurist, and top business executive with deep experience working in metaverse-related fields with companies like HTC Vive, Magic Leap, and Amazon Web Services. She’s the CEO of the Futures Intelligence Group, a leading metaverse consultancy working with the world’s top brands on metaverse growth strategies, non-fungible tokens (NFTs), gaming, virtual fashion, and how to extend their brands into virtual worlds. She’s a sought-after consultant, speaker, and media personality. Hackl was recently featured in 60 Minutes+, WSJ, and WIRED’s coverage of the metaverse and is a contributor to Forbes. She has written two books and is writing an anticipated book on the business opportunities of the metaverse titled The Metaverse Economy. Hackl has been dubbed the “godmother of the metaverse” and is one of the top tech voices on LinkedIn. She’s also the host of Adweek’s Metaverse Marketing podcast and the dean of the Republic Realm Academy. BigThink named Hackl one of the top 10 most influential women in tech in 2020, and in 2021 she was included in the prestigious Thinkers50 Radar list of the 30 management thinkers most likely to shape the future of how organizations are managed and led.


The earth at night with digital points of light

Defining Web3

Web1 was based on distributed networks – where data exists in multiple places and is searchable and accessible. This iteration of the Web was focused on a user’s ability to access information and purchase goods online.

In Web2, the driving motivation is social connection, but is still based on the centralized data sources that are governed by bodies such as large corporate entities. This is widely accepted as the phase we are currently living in.

In Web3 the individual is front and center. The individual manages their own data, and their own presence, across the physical and digital worlds.

An individual could be a corporation, who is interested in adopting a decentralized, authenticated system to realize the benefits of the metaverse. However, some fundamental contradictions in data management and security practices will need to be resolved.

Web3 offers vast potential for digital ownership of digital assets, which can be many different things. The intrinsic difference in ownership of digital assets provides new value opportunities for companies. These include identity and identity management, which opens up questions of privacy and data protection of identity, as well as other digital assets.

How these individuals can have more control and can become organized around a shared value or shared concept is a potentially transformative issue in the Web3 era. A company may rewrite its mission, vision and guiding principles as a result, with considerable effects on behaviors, culture and productivity.

For a company to establish a metaverse presence is a major undertaking. The use of digital twins in industry for product development has laid the groundwork. They have complex data, multiple levels of digital assets, some of which need to be shared internally, some shared with vendors and suppliers – the complexity compounds very quickly.

“Web3 is the infrastructure that the next internet will be based on. It is an infrastructure that will connect people, things, and places, away from centralized governance or centralized gatekeepers.”
FADI CHEHIMI / ACCENTURE PhD, Europe Lead of XR Capability and Consumer Experience
A warehouse with some boxes appearing to be digital

Web and industry

There’s an inherent conflict between Web3 and enterprise.

There are real factors to consider regarding asset control and determining what digital assets can be authored, owned and/or consumed. “For example, an engineer working on a proprietary engine design – neither your corporation nor your customer would want engineers walking out the virtual door with those designs.”

An organization wants a level of control over the data and assets entering and leaving it. With Web3, different environments have different rules of governance, and getting those right is going to be critical for industrial implementations.

According to Hackl, one of the big things to consider is the multiple paradigms that Web3 unleashes. “Sometimes the transactions will be virtual to virtual. I might buy a virtual good, I might buy a physical good that translates into a virtual world. The hardest scenario to prepare for would be buying a virtual good in a virtual space that translates into a physical good.”

It’s that complexity that industry needs to examine further. Industries engaged in e-commerce consider the person as the institution. Another level of complexity is added when you look at decentralized autonomous organization (DAO) entities. “When it comes to Web3 and DAOs, the challenge is to consider how these individuals who now have more control become organized around a shared value or a shared concept, and how that fits into the world of industrial transactions,” notes Hackl.

There’s an added level of complexity around contractual negotiations in Web3, particularly when DAOs come into play. The current process of identifying when a company wants to use another company’s service, where you have an individual negotiating a contract with another individual, is disrupted in the Web3 environment.

“The newly empowered individual wants to engage with different organizations to have them as suppliers, but those bodies are DAOs, so who do you speak to? How does a legal team understand that process? It’s a friction, and something for organizations to be aware of and plan for,” advises Fadi Chehimi.

“One of the fundamentals of web3 is that the individual is in control. When you have an enterprise or an organization that’s made up of lots of individuals there’s natural friction.”
A finger pressing a digital button with a locked symbol

The challenges to adoption

Scaling is key

Scaling is also a consideration. Looking years ahead, to when industry has fully embraced blockchain and it stores all transactions, maintaining and growing the metaverse will require strategic vision. As Web3 grows in capability and complexity, synchronizing and orchestrating the components of a digital twin to resolve conflicts might be a major issue for industries that build and engineer complex products.

It is important to provide a positive experience to customers (both internal and external). Technology must work seamlessly and, particularly with blockchain, we’re not quite there. Realistically wearable technology and connectivity When it comes to the future of Web3, Hackl thinks we’re underestimating two very important things:

→ Firstly, we’re underestimating how hard it is going to be to replace the mobile phone with a set of glasses. Putting a supercomputer on someone’s face is quite an undertaking, technologically speaking – from the sensors and the battery, to the weight and the optics.

→ Secondly, people underestimate how hard it’s going to be to have a lot of people wearing that supercomputer on their faces. It’s not about 10 people in a room with glasses; it’s about millions, if not billions, of people interconnected and consuming data. The challenge of connectivity logistics will be enormous – 5G is not going to cut it.

Educating for change

It will be critical to educate colleagues within the organization. The metaverse impacts many business functions, from innovation teams (who tend to be the early adopters), to marketing, legal, procurement, human resources, and sourcing teams, among others. All parts of the organization need to understand this new method of communication and collaboration, because implementing disruptive technology can be a very hard lift and has wide-reaching implications.

“There are technical, experiential, and usability challenges that we cannot ignore. Web3 is based in part on blockchain, and blockchain has its own limitations when it comes to speed of transactions. This in itself could be a blocker to industry.”
FADI CHEHIMI / ACCENTURE PhD, Europe Lead of XR Capability and Consumer Experience
Doctors using AR to examine a 3D brain scan image

Where to start

The use cases exist. Early adoption of any disruptive tech is about identifying its potential application. It’s a matter of aligning expectations with reality, in a pragmatic way.

“For example, Mesh for Microsoft Teams is about enabling virtual collaboration, but with realistic priorities. We know that the majority of users are going to use it from a 2D environment, despite the technology being way further along than that,” notes Fleckenstein.

Organizations need to meet people where they are, and take them on that journey. For certain use cases that means diving straight into 3D immersive devices in the form of VR headsets, but in other cases people will be using 2D computer screens. It’s important to set the stage, where you can bring people together from various places, on the devices that they’re accustomed to using every day.

Collaboration is one of the areas where disruptive tech is taking hold, particularly in environments where assets are involved (and those assets could be anything from an engine design model or artists digital sketches to something as simple as sticky notes or whiteboarding). Learning how to collaborate in an immersive space, with digital assets from the digital twin, enables new methods of discovery for a dispersed workforce.

To get started, identify the use cases and see how the technology fits those scenarios. “For example, supply chain in manufacturing,” Chehimi notes. “Throughout the whole supply chain there are different ways of transacting, different ways of transferring money, different ways of guaranteeing the authenticity of certain products. Surely this is a perfect use case for the blockchain and cryptocurrency technologies that are already out there.”

Industries need to think beyond the obvious applications of technology, to see the wider benefits. For example, virtual fashion retail has an opportunity to realize revenue in the long term. “Right now, they have to move physical inventory, and there are supply chain issues. But if it’s virtual fashion that is consumed in a virtual space by an audience that wants to consume it that way, that’s a very different business model,” considers Hackl. “How do we move away from a mentality of ‘we sell physical goods in a physical world’ to ‘we sell physical goods in the physical world but also virtual goods for virtual spaces’?”

“Ideally you want web3 to revolutionize your end-to- end workflows, across the board, for every person in your organization. But I think it’s more the case that we will find pockets of traction, where somebody can get started despite the significant
Digital avatars in an outdoor virtual space

Example: Accenture’s Nth floor

Accenture’s Nth floor is a virtual space where new hires a re onboarded and get to know the company. They can meet and gather in this virtual space and go through orientation.

This groundbreaking project, with a massive deployment of 60,000 Oculus headsets, demonstrates that collaboration using immersive technology is doable right now, not 10–15 years from now – it’s not just science fiction.

“It doesn't need to be rocket science; it’s as simple as getting people into a beautifully designed 3D space where they can meet and gather. that by itself gives us back our humanity. I see a group of people standing there, I walk up to them and join
FADI CHEHIMI / ACCENTURE PhD, Europe Lead of XR Capability and Consumer Experience
A city at night with digital lines of light

A vision for the future

Hackl has an optimistic view of the future:

→ In the metaverse, we’re all world builders. Now is your time to build. It can be a beautiful, very complex world; it could be something as simple as an NFT that you mint. This is your chance to build different things.

It’s a great opportunity for women and minorities to know that they are welcome in this future, that they can be leaders as well. This is a time where no one is an expert – we are all pioneering this. If you are passionate and you want to pivot into Web3 this is a great chance, because we need more diverse leaders to build this future. The Web3 future will have challenges, but if we have more diverse seats, more diverse people at the table making decisions, it might turn out to be a better future.

Chehimi underscores the importance of making this technological shift together:

→ Web3 is like a bullet train that’s going at a pace that is unprecedented, and it’s pulling everyone with it to some destination without clear stops along the way. So people don’t know exactly where they’re going, and whether there are stops along the way. But they are ready to jump in.

The key takeaway here is: You’re not going to be alone, but don’t be left behind.

Understand the logic of your business and how it operates. Understand and identify those use cases where aspects of this technology will be able to help your organization right now.

Fleckenstein has practical advice:

→ There are a lot of use cases out there today that aren’t getting the attention they deserve – whether that’s creating a digital twin of your manufacturing facility so that you can improve uptime and optimization, or leveraging really rich 3D assets so you can conduct really meaningful design reviews of complex manufacturing components.

It’s critical that companies continue to push on those use cases. As things like cryptocurrency, blockchain, and Web3 come to fruition, those companies that already have the expertise through early adoption will be in the best position to fully exploit the opportunity going forward.

An illustration of digital lines converging

At the speed of thought

Closing words from Elizabeth Baron

Fundamentally, the metaverse is about providing a new and deeper communication paradigm. It is born from the wider adoption of a suite of technologies. Implementation of real-time 3D technology brings the power to convert various datasets, such as computer-aided design (CAD) and building information modeling (BIM) assets, into an enterprise 3D data pipeline, forming the basis for a holistic digital twin.

The resulting digital twin is the platform by which to derive further insight using 4IR technologies, including additive manufacturing, the industrial Internet of Things, human-machine interfaces, artificial intelligence, and more.

Extended realities provide a means to share, discover and communicate in an intuitive way, in real-time, to bring engineering and design assets to life. Digital twins that leverage 4IR technologies form the basis of a collective intelligence.

This cascade of enabling technologies means everyone can be included in the extraordinary potential to discover insight – and use it. The metaverse unlocks opportunities for everyone, and has the potential to level the playing field within an enterprise by removing silos. It provides truth by way of data. When effectively built, a company can create a metaverse, based on Web3, that is an accurate and up-to-the-minute representation of real-world assets and environments. This is transformational, enabling productivity at the speed of thought.

An effective and comprehensive decentralized web3 provides a natural approach for discovery. it promises a user-centric and fair internet, where individuals are in control. Essentially, web3 enables the metaverse, making possible authentic collaboration and communication in immersive, holistic environments.

Create your experiences today

Ingest 35+ 3D file formats.

Create real-time 3D applications.

Deploy to 20+ platforms.

Our tools and workflows give you the power to create extraordinary interactive and immersive digital twin applications.

Build to succeed: Accelerate solutions

Unity Accelerate Solutions: Industrial consists of world-class software development teams. Specializing in ingesting your data into Unity, integrating with your systems, accelerating real-time 3D use cases for digital twins and much more, Accelerate Solutions offers custom development solutions for businesses of all sizes. To learn more about Unity Accelerate Solutions and how we can translate your goals from concept to reality, contact us.

Get the e-book

Fill out this form to access cutting-edge insights and solutions from industry experts