How agencies will leverage virtual reality, generative AI over the next 2 years 

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A new Deloitte report forecasts that “spatial computing and the industrial metaverse” will have growing applications for state and federal organizations and said that “investigating these technologies can help agencies get a leg up on the future.”

State governments and federal agencies will increasingly use emerging technologies like generative artificial intelligence and virtual reality to augment their work in 2024 and beyond, according to a new Deloitte report on government technology trends.

The forecast — which examined “the accelerating technology trends most likely to cause disruption over the next 18-24 months” across government organizations — predicted that officials will push to embrace new tools and services, even as they remain focused on shoring up their existing IT systems and expanding their tech workforces. 

Deloitte’s report said that “spatial computing and the industrial metaverse” will have increasing government applications, in spite of the perception that augmented and virtual reality technologies are more consumer-oriented in their focus. While much attention has been paid in the public and private sectors to the benefits of AI technologies, the forecast said that “investigating these technologies can help agencies get a leg up on the future.”

Scott Buchholz, Deloitte’s chief technology officer for government and public services, said industrial use cases showcase how virtual reality can be used to train government employees. 

“If you have large, complex or dangerous machines, it turns out that training in virtual reality sticks better in the human brain for activities where we have to move our hands than if you're just doing it on paper or on a screen,” Buchholz said. “So people started with dangerous machine repair and those sorts of things, and then they moved to battlefield simulations and other areas.”

When it comes to government organizations adopting AI tools, the forecast said generative AI technologies, in particular, “can help agencies find answers in volumes of existing policies, summarize large documents or suggest content for review.” 

Buchholz noted that some state governments and federal agencies are already testing out generative AI technologies.

“People are at least exploring — if not starting to actively use — some of the document, synopsis or summarization features,” he said. “And if you look at what people tend to talk about when they talk about sort of maturity of capability models around generative AI, those are the basic ones that people generally believe are in the sweet spot of what generative AI can do today.”

The report said these early uses of generative AI technologies are likely to expand, calling for government agencies to “start pilots today to learn what is possible” and to focus more extensively on “educating leaders and users on what generative AI can and cannot do.”

Deloitte also forecast that governments will work to enhance the operating capabilities of their systems by incorporating other tools, such as quantum technologies and custom chips, noting that “training AI models, performing complex simulations and building digital twins of real-world environments require different kinds of computing power.”

In addition to using new technologies, Deloitte’s report also forecasts that agencies will work to better manage their “technical debt” by modernizing legacy IT systems through “a more integrated approach,” rather than “recurring ‘big bang’ modernizations.” This includes more of a focus on “preventative wellness assessments” of systems that rely on automated management and other “self-healing” services to maintain uninterrupted service. 

The broad adoption of new technologies like AI, however, also presents new challenges for the public and private sectors. The report cautioned that governments, in particular, will have to be more vigilant in dealing with deepfakes and other AI-generated content designed to spread misinformation or conduct phishing attempts on employees. 

“Managing the combination of cyber threats, misinformation and disinformation will require coordination across agencies, companies and countries,” the report said. “Utilizing collective intelligence and unified approaches is critical to swiftly identify and implement protective measures, as well as effectively defending agencies.”