Distance has been a problem for insurers throughout the history of the industry. It is a source of cost, inconvenience, and inefficiency.

Now, thanks to extended reality, the problem of distance is coming to an end.

As described in the 2018 Technology Vision for Insurance, the immersive experiences made possible by technologies like virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) are changing the way people connect with information, experiences, and each other. Accenture uses extended reality, or XR, as a blanket term for these technologies.

Insurers are increasingly turning to XR to eliminate distance and improve access to people, experiences, and information. Eighty-four percent of insurance leaders surveyed for Tech Vision 2018 reported that it’s very important for their organization to be a pioneer in XR solutions. The same percentage predicted that it will create a new foundation for interaction, communication, and information.

While XR uses are still in their early days across the industry, trials are moving forward and the technology has many promising use cases. Carriers are experimenting with its use in field work, where it can improve efficiency and safety for claims inspectors and others; in training, where it could deliver life-like simulations that boost skill acquisition; and in customer service, where it could improve the customer experience.

To be sure, XR is still in its early days, with significant challenges still to be addressed. XR content is very expensive to produce right now. Low market penetration of XR-capable devices limits the potential impact of XR experiences.

But these limitations are common to all new technologies. They will be addressed for XR just as they were for smartphones, the personal computer, internet access, and other technologies that were once expensive and niche.

As that happens, XR’s power and popularity within insurance will grow, possibly to the point that the most important experiences an insurer offers will be virtual ones.

When exactly that will happen is still unknown. The impact of other trends described in the 2018 Tech Vision for Insurance is less opaque. Join me next week for a look at one of them: data veracity. In the meantime, if you’d like to read the report, you can find it here.

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