VR Meetings – Making Zoom Fun?

Virtual reality (VR) is slowly creeping into multiple industries but the technology has exploded onto the market – at least not yet! However, that looks set to change as more companies recognise they need a solution that keeps a distributed workforce engaged, motivated and happy.

It’s far to say that remote working has been a productivity success story. One pioneering study showed WFH employees achieved a 13% uptick in output. On the flip side, remote workers found they were disconnected from their colleagues and having a disproportionate number of meetings. Time constraints and loneliness piled on the pressure and employees were working longer hours.

Not only that but employees have complained of “Zoom Fatigue”. For firms pivoting to a hybrid model, the cognitive overload of video conferencing is a problem that will not go away anytime zoom (sorry for that poor pun but somebody had to do it). So how can VR save us from zoom fatigue and is it a worthwhile investment? You can guarantee that VR won’t be the only solution put forward – but it probably will be the best!

Overcoming Zoom fatigue 

Businesses have been rushed into bad technology decisions by the likes of Microsoft and other software companies over the last year. Some of these decisions will be costly and difficult to undo. I don’t have any data on this yet, but it wouldn’t surprise me to learn that a large number of businesses had no option other than to sign up for a costly video conferencing suite. And now your employees are suffering from so-called ‘Zoom Fatigue’ right?

We shouldn’t single out Zoom, but the company did enjoy a meteoric rise during the pandemic. Whilst they offer a free service, meetings were limited to 40-minutes (now 30-minutes). The time restraints meant even small businesses and freelancers were nudged into a licensed package of either $14.99 or $190.9 a month. Enterprise-level packages start at $999.50 a month. Ouch. Whilst work-related interactions are important, businesses have been crowbarred into paying for something that used to cost nothing. And employees are spending more time in meetings. That feels like one of the bad technology decisions I mentioned earlier.

VR Meetings

Video communication is okay for a small group of people. No more than five. Everybody has the opportunity to share their ideas and decisions can be made. For larger groups or lengthy discussions that can easily run on for a couple of hours, video conferencing suites have a negative effect. There are no real interaction and fatigue kicks in. The meeting then becomes disengaging and counterproductive.

A solution that has been floated as a genuine game-changer is VR. An article on the BBC website reports the technology could “snowball” in the workplace as companies look for video conferencing alternatives. In a VR simulation, designers can create any type of environment you need. For the purpose of this article, let’s say we recreate your meeting room or even the meeting room you would prefer to have – one that is fitting for a billionaire executive. We know you’re worth it!

Participants then wear headsets, and possibly gloves, that have tracking devices that mimic your real-life movements in the virtual space. In a virtual boardroom, attendees appear as avatars that are able to interact with one another as though they were in the same room. The purpose of the headsets is to make the brain think what you are seeing is an actual experience. In the virtual world, your emotions and reactions are triggered in the same way as if the event was actually happening.

Because designers can essentially bring remote teams together in one space, VR is tipped to revitalise the events industry and will probably become a staple feature for company meetings.

The Future of VR

Companies have been slow to adopt VR. That’s mainly due to the bulkiness of the headsets and the cost. However, virtual reality is being ramped up and engineered for the workplace. Google, Apple, Sony, Facebook, Samsung, and others, have invested heavily in VR stocks. It’s only a matter of time before they figure out a satisfactory solution that is cost-effective and practical.

As VR becomes more ubiquitous, the cost will naturally come down. Consumer adoption of VR headsets is growing thanks to 3D movies and video games. It is thought that around 26 million virtual reality headsets are currently owned by employees. Businesses that typically send representatives on short-stay business trips will also eliminate expenses associated with travel. Cost, therefore, may not be the principal stumbling block. It would appear that VR meetings are on the horizon, and when they appear, they will save us from too many meetings.

Facebook Horizon Workrooms

Announced by Facebook on Thursday, Horizon Workrooms is a virtual meeting space that will let colleagues gather in VR and work from the same virtual “room.” Workrooms include virtual whiteboards which you can export as an image, configurable room layouts, and the ability to use your computer in the virtual room via keyboard tracking and the Oculus Remote Desktop companion app. They literally put work in your work so you can work while you work.

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