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The Shift to Spatial Computing: Understanding the Challenges and Opportunities for Organizations


Spatial computing technologies are rapidly transforming the way people interact with data, each other, and their environments. Technologies like augmented reality, virtual reality, and mixed reality represent an evolution in human-computer interaction that is still in its early phases but promises to fundamentally change the way people live and work. As these new platforms emerge and mature, organizational leaders face important challenges related to how spatial technologies will affect their industries, workforces, and business models. To effectively lead their organizations through this transition, leaders need a solid understanding of what spatial computing is, the benefits and challenges it presents, and best practices for adoption and implementation.


Today we will provide an overview of key concepts regarding spatial computing and its implications for organizational leadership.


What is Spatial Computing?

Spatial computing refers to technologies that leverage spatial relationships to connect digital information to the physical world. Three main categories of spatial computing include augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), and mixed reality (MR):


  • Augmented reality overlays digital information, such as images, text, or videos, on top of the real world. Examples include mobile AR apps and heads-up displays.

  • Virtual reality immerses users in simulated, computer-generated environments that can be similar to or completely different from the real world. VR headsets are required for full immersion.

  • Mixed reality blends digital objects and information with the real world environment. MR technologies use see-through displays to overlay digital content onto real-world scenes in real-time.


The Benefits of Spatial Computing

By facilitating novel ways of interacting with information and each other in virtual and blended environments, spatial technologies offer significant benefits to organizations:


  • Increased productivity through new digital workflows and remote collaboration capabilities

  • Enhanced training and simulations for skills development in fields like manufacturing, healthcare, and education

  • Immersive brand experiences and digital marketing through AR and VR

  • Improved knowledge transfer and facilitated learning through interactive 3D visualizations

  • Augmented remote assistance using AR for hands-free guided support


Challenges for Organizational Adoption

While promising extensive benefits, spatial computing also presents challenges that leaders must address:


  • Cost and return on investment uncertainties due to the newness of the technologies

  • Limited content and applications ecosystems compared to traditional platforms

  • Requirements for specialized hardware, development resources, and IT infrastructure

  • Changes to workflows, skill requirements, and work culture with new interfaces

  • User acceptance, adoption barriers, and managing expectations around the technologies

  • Privacy, security, and legal issues regarding data collection and user experiences

  • Accessibility concerns regarding inclusion of people with disabilities


Strategies for Leadership

To reap rewards while navigating challenges, leaders should focus on education, piloting use cases, change management strategies, and establishing governance models.


Educating the Workforce

Lack of understanding is a primary barrier to adoption for both employees and leaders. Education is key to helping people recognize opportunities while managing concerns. Instruction should cover:


  • Capabilities and limitations of spatial technologies

  • Potential use cases relevant to the organization's industry and mission

  • Identifying "champion" employees excited to test new workflows

  • Change management strategies and cultural adaptations required

Piloting High-Value Use Cases

Early adopters should start small by piloting high-potential but low-risk uses of spatial tech aligned with strategic goals. Example pilot areas may include:


  • Training simulations for complex processes like equipment maintenance

  • Remote collaboration and knowledge sharing between global work sites

  • Digital marketing campaigns leveraging AR experiences

  • Field service workflows using AR for remote support and documentation

Establishing Change Management Processes

New workflows disrupt existing habits and relationships. Leaders must oversee change management via:


  • Stakeholder input processes to address concerns proactively

  • Communication strategies and progress updates during pilots

  • Success metrics focused initially on learning rather than financial goals

  • Adapting policies, infrastructure, and skill requirements over time

Building Governance Models

Strong governance establishes guidelines for scaling use responsibly. Leaders should:


  • Identify data privacy, security, and accessibility requirements

  • Vet hardware and application vendors to validate compliance

  • Develop policies for content curation and management

  • Monitor pilots to ensure benefits outweigh distractions or inefficiencies

Conclusion

While navigating technical, cultural, and economic challenges, embracing spatial computing technologies strategically positions organizations to gain competitive advantages. With careful planning, clear communication, and incremental change management overseen by informed leaders, businesses can harness new platforms to elevate user and employee experiences, streamline operations, and spur innovation. Preparing today using educational, pilot-based, and governance-focused approaches can smooth the transition to an era of immersive computing and ensure long-term organizational success.

 

Jonathan H. Westover, PhD is Chief Academic & Learning Officer (HCI Academy); Chair/Professor, Organizational Leadership (UVU); OD Consultant (Human Capital Innovations). Read Jonathan Westover's executive profile here.



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