Government contractors have a new means to provide their services
The way forward for most occupations and services is through increased automation and digitization. Jobs are increasingly relying on computers and other digital technology to increase productivity and decrease costs. This is seen already in the private sector where there are many companies whose technology is put to use in education and in the entertainment industry.
But what about harnessing the power of these AR and VR technologies to help the government provide enhanced services? Are there ways that contractors can provide these services in the government marketplace? As we’ll see in this article, digital technology is the way forward, but it is not without its challenges.
Types of AR/VR and their Uses
AR/VR or augmented reality/virtual reality were once thought to only exist in the realm of science fiction. Video games were only played on a 2-D screen — television and computer monitors existed in this same realm as well. It’s hard to wrap your head around the fact that most of this technology is still extremely new — and have yet to reach the mainstream market. Before we delve into its relationship with the government, let’s examine what exactly is this “digital revolution” and what does it encompass?
There are three types of extended reality (xR):
- Augmented Reality. This is a type of software which can be run on a device (smartphone, tablet) that uses our reality and incorporates images into it. This means it is able to see the environment through a camera and insert images to overlay on top of that environment. It appears that the images are apart of our reality — however only visible on the phone or tablet.
- Mixed Reality. This is a combination of AR and VR and utilizes a handset and a real environment for a more immersive feeling than augmented reality alone. The headset allows the user to still see their real environment and interact more with the images that are overlaid on top of it. The headset cancels out some of the artificiality of the AR as well.
- Virtual Reality. Instead of projecting an image into our environment, VR instead creates a whole new environment. The user typically has a headset as well for a completely immersive experience and a 360-degree vision field.
The uses of these xR technologies have revolutionized the education industry. There are programs available to teach students from pre-K all the way to doctoral students studying for their PhDs. Companies such as Google and Lifelique are changing the way students learn about history, science, and math. But using AR/VR technologies, they’re providing an amazingly thorough and educational experience.
Outside of education, Amazon Web Services (AWS) provides a service that allows anyone to create VR/AR applications and has been used to provide VR and AR experiences to hospital patients, allowing them to escape the stark white walls that surround them in the hospital while simultaneously providing a sense of community and excitement.
Additionally, Microsoft is utilizing MR and VR to change the way employees are trained in all kinds of industries. This shortens the time away from the job, and also offers employees a chance to learn new skills and connect with their co-workers at the same time.
How Can AR/VR Help the Government?
All of this technology and its applications is changing the way that learning and training are done, but how could all of this benefit the government? Digital xR can be applied to different situations that would improve government efficiency and accuracy.
AR and VR create an opportunity for users to experience work situations in a controlled environment. This has limitless uses for the military, police, and emergency services. By providing extensive training– sometimes for dangerous experiences– people in this line of work will be better prepared and able to react quicker.
Pilots and astronauts can also benefit from training for situations with the use of a simulation. By creating vivid real-world flying experiences– without the hefty price tag– pilots can be well trained and more cost-effective.
Similar to simulations, immersive experiences can be helpful at national monuments, parks, and museums. By offering an interactive AR service, you can enhance the experience of visitors and tourists. Historical and cultural events can be re-created to assist with learning, and additional information can be presented in a more interactive way.
Instead of just looking at a monument and reading a plaque, people could hear and see a historical person come to life. The opportunities to enhance the history of cities and sites seem to be endless with the assistance of more immersive experiences.
Interact with data
Using AR or VR to visualize data can have an enormous impact on professions such as engineering or city maintenance. By being able to pull up information in real time and not have to search for it will save governments — and their contractors — a lot of time. It also offers the opportunity to see structural elements from other perspectives — ones not feasible to perform in reality.
Providing maintenance can be costly both fiscally and in worker hours. AR/VR technologies would be able to assist workers by immediately pulling up a machine or a configuration to assess the best way fix a problem. It also eliminates the need for a system or machine to remain out of service because a technical expert is required.
Using VR, the expert can be contacted immediately and show the situation, and offer a fix in a much quicker amount of time. Experts can also see what those in the field see, and help diagnose problems and offer solutions at a much quicker pace.
AR/VR have been making strides in education for the public, but it can also be helpful for government workers as well. Training can be done from anywhere, and scenarios can be created and accessed as many times necessary. No longer will entire days be spent training, or have to be conducted off-site. With digital archives available at any time, workers can build upon their skills and have the opportunity to learn new ones.
Public health and safety
The government is responsible for many inspections, and AR/VR technology can make these less lengthy and more efficient. By having access to the data of previous inspections, government workers can see where failures occurred in the past and offer better, customized solutions. Having access to data in real time will eliminate wasted hours and help to streamline inspection and safety processes.
These technologies would prove extremely helpful in allowing police officers access to data regarding situational environments. They would have data reporting to them of occurrences such as arrests in the past, as wells as the outcomes of those situations. Police could also be assisted with the use of real-time expert analysis of evidence or witness testimony. This would help speed up processing times and help more cases get solved.
Are There Any Barriers?
As with any new technology, there are challenges that are to be expected. For AR/VR, these can fall under four headings:
- Cybersecurity and privacy. Maintaining privacy is extremely difficult in a digital world. More security equals more cost, and governments will need to find a way to find a balance between the two. Depending on the level of security needed, utilizing a cloud-based privacy system may be a good solution.
- Legacy systems. Older systems will need to adapt and connect to the newer technology for data management. It might be helpful to connect all the systems in an agency via an API solution.
- Conflicting requirements. Employees and stakeholders may be cautious about all this new technology, all at once. It might pay to run a test program that demonstrates the usefulness of integrating AR/VR into the agency’s processes.
- Financial sustainability. Cost is always an issue with new technology, but governments can justify the expenditures by tracking metrics — and using the data to justify the digital services’ ROI (return on investment).
Although the government will have to address these challenges to digitization, it also offers contractors the opportunity to bid on cybersecurity and financial management contracts as well.
What does this Mean for Contractors?
There are many ways which AR/VR can assist the government and help it function more efficiently, and this means there are many ways for contractors to offer their services. The government marketplace will need to adapt on a large scale to all the manners in which contractors can bid to provide AR/MR/VR services. There will be new legislation and rules set in place to govern these types of contracts as well. It will be well worth considering to offer your AR/VR and support services to the government — it is headed in the digital direction.
Digital technology is becoming more widespread and available — and because of that, the cost will continue to decrease. AR/VR systems can be extremely beneficial to the government — it can enable an agency to do so much more, with fewer resources. This is only the beginning of what will become a greater utilization of these technologies — for the better of government and contractors who provide services to it.