Coworking: Virgil Wong believes immersive technologies can connect us

“The best examples of innovation enhance our life experiences.”
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Virgil Wong

5 min read

Coworking is a weekly segment where we spotlight Tech Brew readers who work with emerging technologies. Click here if you’d like a chance to be featured.

How would you describe your job to someone who doesn’t work in tech?

My startup, Medical Avatar, uses virtual reality to reduce stress, anxiety, and PTSD. Our Healthy Selfie symptom-tracking app improves the accuracy and quality of patient-physician communication.

My job at HGS focuses on using AI, automation, and analytics to create happier experiences for customers and employees. We put an end to people stuck on the phone, waiting endlessly to talk to a customer service representative. HGS provides the technologies and talent for fast customer interactions. We help large and mid-sized companies worldwide ensure that every moment with their customers is prompt, personalized, and positive.

What’s the most compelling tech project you’ve worked on, and why?

HGS recently modernized the call center of a $15 billion telecommunications company, empowering employees to do their best work. Our digital team rapidly implemented new tool sets to simplify and accelerate what were previously manual and complicated processes.

Before AI, customer experience team leads listened to hundreds of hours of phone call recordings each week, typed notes into spreadsheets, categorized each call individually, and assembled performance reports manually.

After our generative AI solutions, a team lead can now review all calls within minutes, see performance reports in real-time, and reach out to service representatives immediately whenever problems arise.

Our contact center platform, HGS Agent X, has an AI-curated, collective knowledge base containing the best answers and suggested actions for quickly solving customer issues. The system also prompts agents with selling opportunities—and checks in with them about their well-being, especially after difficult conversations.

What technologies are you most optimistic about? Least? And why?

As a current board member of the New York Civil Liberties Union, I’m least optimistic about all the surveillance technologies used by governments and private companies to erode personal privacy and autonomy. I am also deeply concerned about the deleterious effects of social media platforms that proliferate echo chambers, misinformation, and meaningless conflicts between friends, family, and strangers alike.

I’m most optimistic about new applications of virtual reality, augmented reality, and mixed reality. Having worked with JoAnn Difede at Weill Cornell Medicine, I’ve seen firsthand how VR can treat PTSD.

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By simulating human experiences, immersive technologies can connect us to people’s lives in ways that we may have never imagined. We can empathize with others by virtually walking in their shoes.

What’s the best tech-related media you read/watch/listen to?

MIT Technology Review analyzes tech trends and offers substantive insights into AI, biotech, climate change, and public policies. Hyperallergic and Ars Electronica publish satisfying posts and commentaries about art, culture, society, and technology.

Futurism and Ars Technica are engaging and credible sources of information about emerging technologies, scientific discoveries, and tech-related news, while MedCity News provides quality information about the technologies, companies, and policies affecting healthcare professionals and organizations.

What’s something about you we can’t guess from your LinkedIn profile?

I can whip up a decent cowboy avatar Lionel Richie cover parody when necessary.

What do you think about when you're not thinking about tech?

I sketch every day, and drawing is a cognitive process. I draw people, human anatomy, and environments to think about connections, structures, memories, dreams, mortality, and our collective unconscious.

I’m fascinated by the work of Carl Jung, Ernest Becker, Bruce Greyson, and Elisabeth Kübler-Ross. I have been taking classes and teaching for an organization at the convergence of art, medicine, death, and culture called Morbid Anatomy.

Based on my ongoing research and interviews with cardiac arrest patients, I recently produced a virtual reality simulation of near-death experiences, or NDEs. NDEs generally have a positive and transformative effect on people, shaping healthier perspectives about life and mortality. With its similar sense of disembodiment, virtual reality offers a safe way to experience a life-changing event.

Mostly, I do think a lot about technology, but I’m less concerned these days with the latest pyrotechnic wizardry. Every day, my thinking as a technologist gravitates around the needs of patients, customers, and employees. How can we help people feel heard, supported, and connected? The best examples of innovation enhance our life experiences and build stronger and healthier interpersonal relationships.

Keep up with the innovative tech transforming business

Tech Brew keeps business leaders up-to-date on the latest innovations, automation advances, policy shifts, and more, so they can make informed decisions about tech.