New Questions Arise from XR End Users on the Factory Floor

Factory workers' questions indicate growing interest and acceptance of XR in manufacturing and beyond.

Written BY

Scott Burkey

April 2, 2024

2024 is turning out to be the year that the questions changed. Let me explain: Over the past five years of my career implementing extended reality in heavy industrial environments like mills and factories, I’ve been asked many questions like:

               “Why do we need VR to train workers when we’re already training them successfully?”

               “Are you sure we can wear that (head-mounted device) in our factory?”

               “Isn’t that just for gaming?”

               “Why should we change when this is how we’ve always done it?”

               “Will wearing that device make me dizzy or sick?”


Most of the time, these well-meaning questions come from members of my own generation, typically veteran workers who have been on the factory floor since the Rolling Stones’ first tour. These senior employees have a lot of experience and also exhibit a lot of resistance to change. I’ve been happy to help educate them and their leadership on the shift in how Gen Z – the next generation of workers – consumes, shares, and references information—namely, digitally on mobile or headset. 

The younger workforce has had devices in their hands and on their heads since before Kindergarten. We need to meet this generation with the tools they’re familiar and comfortable with. 

The past five years have shown that XR devices are ready, the software is ready, and the value is real! Extended reality technologies are helping new workers reach proficiency faster and keeping machines running longer in today’s manufacturing operations. Now that the benefits are proven, I’m beginning to hear very different questions from internal stakeholders:

            “How do we scale this?”

            “What if we applied artificial intelligence to XR? Would it get us even better results?”

            “What are other manufacturing verticals doing that we can learn from and implement?”

            “Can we be even more effective and reduce training time and machine downtime further?”

            “Could we use VR for this other problem we have over here?”


This change or shift is the result of both small and big wins in our frontline operations. We’re starting to look at the value XR brings with the benefit of some hindsight. We recognize that our preconceptions – “VR is a toy” – were holding us back before. 

It’s encouraging to say the least, and I’d love to discuss or even debate with any reader. Your experience may be different. Maybe you’re not there yet. Maybe XR isn’t bringing as much value to your deskless workforce as ours. Let’s work together—there’s a whole community of practitioners now that have put XR to work in factories like yours. Let’s shift the skepticism of XR on the factory floor to acceptance, enthusiasm, and brainstorming about the value still yet to be realized!



About the Author: Scott Burkey oversees extended reality products for WestRock. He's a champion of new technologies in the manufacturing industry and a veteran speaker at the Augmented Enterprise Summit. Catch him again this Oct 15-17 in Dallas, TX.


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