In the times we are currently facing, there is a lot of uncertainty. From SXSW to the Olympics, nothing seems to be safe from cancelation as our understanding of the COVID-19 pandemic grows.
Similarly, in the workplace, employees across the world have had to quickly adapt to the new reality of working from home.
Companies large and small are feeling the ramifications of this virus and the social distancing required to help stop its spread.
When in-person events are no longer possible
Recently at the PDX International Film Festival, days before the second half was completely canceled, I spoke with one of the keynotes speakers who is a film producer with over 20 years of experience. We reflected on the ways in which this pandemic has been affecting the film industry.
As I told her about how my company specializes in Immersive Technology (Virtual and Augmented Reality), she commented on how these technologies might indeed be the answer to the question on everyone’s mind: what do we do now?
My mind was already churning in that direction, and I couldn’t have agreed with her more.
Why now is the time for Virtual Reality
It’s no secret that Virtual Reality is finally beginning to see it’s fuller potential with technological advancements. The software is becoming more refined, and the hardware (like headsets) more comfortable and portable.
Already some conferences are changing to be completely online events through live videos. Living in the age of the proliferation of online courses, webinars, and online conferences, it is clear that we can adapt.
However, the truth is that online conferences never hold the same weight both in networking possibilities and attendee engagement as in-person ones.
The critical factor to this is a lack of presence. Traveling to another city and being in a room with like-minded professionals is very different from sitting in your pajamas, watching people talk on your computer screen.
Embodied Presence in VR
When in Virtual reality users experience what is often called Embodied Presence. This means that they feel as if they had actually ‘been there’ in the virtual environment rather than just having seen it.
Users are left with a memory of physically experiencing events in VR, and this embodied presence could lead to a more rich experience of a virtual conference or event.
This is not a new thing or some far off technology. Social VR already very much exists, and large scale events in VR have been happening for some years now. Now with the required quarantine, Social VR user numbers are up by a significant amount!
However, now unlike any other time, we are met with the fact that in-person events may be more and more challenging to conduct – and we don’t know how long this will be true for.
Working remotely in VR
The benefits of VR don’t end at just large scale events level. The same principles of embodied presence and virtual meetings directly transfer over to remote working.
If companies invest in setting up the systems necessary to have employees and collaborators work Virtually, they can continue ‘business as usual’ without putting anyone’s health at risk.
Top benefits of remote work in VR are:
- Virtual Reality creates ‘presence’ in a hyper-focused environment. Unlike one’s computer, which is full of distractions, VR provides a distraction-free environment for work to take place. This is because the task at hand is all that is visually available.
- Users feel like they are physically present with fellow employees. When immersed in a well done virtual experience, the technology (the headset, etc.) disappears, and the experience itself is all that shines through. For example, when you are in a very immersive game, you may forget you are in VR at all, becoming so swept up in the challenge that you walk into your chair or swing your controller at your unsuspecting friend in the room. This same level of presence is created within social experiences. Users will feel like they are sharing time and space with other people.
- VR is especially helpful for projects involving physical objects. Since VR is a spatial medium, you and your team can work with physical objects in 3D space rather than on a 2D screen. For this reason, even before the coronavirus, many architectural firms have already adopted VR to work remotely on projects.
- No one gets sick. No viruses can be spread in VR. Taking extra precautions and keeping people socially isolated for some time is our best option for global health. Virtual reality alleviates the pressures of falling behind on work and thus incentivizes staying at home for the time being. All this while providing people a way to have the social connection they need to thrive.
The future is uncertain. While widespread panic isn’t going to help us, neither is turning a blind eye to the possibility of long term effects of this virus. Intelligent companies would be wise to consider investing in this technology for health and efficiency’s sake.
The future is uncertain. While widespread panic isn’t going to help us, neither is turning a blind eye to the possibility of the long term effects of this virus. Intelligent companies would be wise to consider investing in this technology for health and efficiency’s sake.
It is no longer an expensive endeavor and with the right team can be implemented quickly and efficiently.
At Reflective Brands, we strive to keep technology human and help companies mindfully become industry leaders for good. If your team needs support in understanding how to best implement an immersive strategy for your company, we can help. In fact, below you will find a few software suggestions that may be helpful tools to get any remote team started.
“Collaborate with your team in a shared virtual space that evolves with your ideas. Meet in real time from anywhere, or leave comments for your team to see later.”
“Use cases of Bigscreen include both entertainment and productivity. It’s used as a virtual living room to watch movies, play videogames, browse the web, and hangout with friends. It’s also used for productivity as a tool for remote teams to collaborate together in virtual offices.”
“Glue is a modern collaboration platform that takes advantage of recent advances in immersive 3D graphics, virtual reality, and cloud computing. It is intended for business professionals who need global remote access to a shared team space for efficient collaboration.”