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Insights EDU

Getting Started with Social VR for Enterprise: Everything You Need to Know

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Niclas Johansson | Consultant | Immersivt

21 Feb 2020 | 6 min read

The digital workplace of the future is not dependent on a physical place where you meet. Social VR and AR will break down this barrier and allow for digital meetings with no limits.

In this article, you will find out why companies should look at the possibilities of VR meetings, what kinds of meetings can be run effectively with this technology, and some examples of types of VR meeting apps that are on the market.

7 Reasons to Give Social VR Meetings a Chance

Get the feeling of presence without really being there: In VR it feels like you are there with your whole body – you can make eye contact with the person you are talking to, you can hear from where in the room someone else is talking, lean in and whisper to the person next to you without the others hearing. This results in VR meetings feeling more like meeting face to face.

Save money – and time: When you have the possibility to cut down on physical travel thanks to VR, you can achieve a huge increase in efficiency and make big savings.

Save the environment: Traveling less for pure business purposes also means reduced carbon emissions. Today we do not have the luxury of NOT working as environmentally sustainably as we can – and this applies to all parts of the business, meetings included.

Remove distractions: Participants in regular conference calls report that they are distracted for an average of 15 minutes at each meeting. With VR, you can run more effective meetings because participants can’t look away at their smartphones, and are guaranteed to be present in the same virtual environment.

Move the meeting to otherwise impractical locations: VR meetings offer endless opportunities for location changes that can either provide excitement and change or be connected to the topic of the meeting. When the meeting becomes an experience, the content will be more sticky to the participants – making the meeting effectively a mini-retreat!

Interact with 3D objects: Through VR you can not only pick up screens, documents, pictures and videos during the meeting. You can also import and examine a digital prototype of, for example, the building or product that the meeting is about. Or why not create products together in VR without having to manufacture physical prototypes, just like Volvo, Ford, Airbus, and other vehicle manufacturers do to save millions in development costs?

Innovate! VR and AR are key technologies for digital transformation. Your organization has the opportunity to become a pioneer in developing entirely new ways of working with these tools. You can work effectively with innovation in practice, in a truly cross-functional way… without huge investments and organizational changes.

6 Types of Meetings that Work Great in Social VR

Showing a prototype in Social VR during a meeting

Here are some examples of types of meetings suitable for VR, so you can quickly start exploring the business benefits of VR meetings

Sprint standups: Short effective meetings can also involve colleagues from other offices if you run them in VR. (Use apps from A or C)

Workshops/brainstorming: Flying in key personnel from different company offices for a workshop is costly – and unnecessary. Try meeting in VR instead! (Use apps from C)

Pair programming: Code together? You can sit next to each other and watch each other’s work, with as many screens as you want … over any distance. (Use apps from B)

Design reviews: When an unfinished or finished product design is to be displayed, it is best done in 3D. With VR, you avoid 3D printing and can iterate quickly between prototype stages. It can also be used for focus groups, just like Electrolux are doing. (Use apps from D)

Sales presentations: Imagine replacing customer visits for a traveling salesman… with shipping preset VR headsets to the customer, and the seller can take the meeting from anywhere! (Use apps from A, C or D)

4 Categories of VR Meeting Platforms

There are many different flavors of VR meetings, depending on what kind of software platform you choose. Here are the main platform categories, with examples in each category. Try them out!

A. Apps for Social VR 

These platforms are built to feel much like chat rooms or “Second Life”, i.e. completely open places where you can meet different kinds of people and talk or engage in different activities together.

AltSpace

Altspace is one of the oldest VR meeting apps. When you start Altspace you can either create a private room and invite others, or explore any of the activities and worlds available. You can also see a schedule of upcoming group activities. The focus of Altspace is to gather groups for specific “events”. There have been live concerts, weddings, game nights, meditation sessions, language lessons and lots of other things.

Bonus: Facebook Horizon (coming soon) 

After some exciting social VR experiments from Facebook / Oculus, their new platform Horizon is underway in 2020. It looks like a kind of “Second Life meets Pixar” world where you will be able to jump into many social activities and mini-games together. Horizon will also feature creation tools to make your own experiences.

Alternatives: Sansar, Mozilla Hubs

B. Apps for screen sharing / social media consumption

In these apps, 2D screens are central, and you can have a social viewing experience where participants share an interest in what is shown on the screen… inside VR.

Big Screen 

Big Screen is like a virtual LAN party. You sit (virtually) in the same room with each small screen if you want (you can mirror your ordinary computer) and a large screen is displayed for everyone.

Bigscreen can be used to play regular “flat” multiplayer games such as being on the couch next to each other, or to play movies from your computer in private groups – or, of course, if you want to run a PowerPoint presentation.

Alternatives: ImmersedVR, vSpatial

C. Platforms for productive Social VR meetings

Here we have the apps that most directly aim to solve the challenge of “having regular meetings for jobs etc – but in VR”. Shared screens, virtual whiteboards and low-key, “work-like” environments are everyday foods for these options. A clear difference to the others is also the pricing model, as they, like other Saas (software as a service) products, are based on licensing cost per user.

MeetinVR 

This Danish enterprise VR app has well-designed virtual meeting spaces for groups up to 7-8 people, as well as an auditorium for bigger group presentations. Participants can easily bring up notes, browser screens and scribble in 2D or 3D to communicate concepts and ideas.

Alternatives: Engage, Spatial, Glue

D. Apps for Constructive meetings (3D interaction in VR)

In these apps you can examine or even create 3D objects together, great for any work involving spatial design – products, architecture, etc.

The Wild 

This professional design tool is used for collaboration around 3D models, where the participants can jointly explore and discuss all angles. It even lets you communicate as a giant overlooking a virtual building, with other meeting attendees being inside the model in 1:1 scale.

Alternatives: Insite, Dimension10

If you want to read more, check out Niclas’ Ultimate Guide to to Virtual Meetings with VR/AR.

About the author:

Niclas is an entrepreneur and consultant who runs Immersivt.se - Sweden’s biggest website about VR and AR. At Immersivt, he conducts research and provides advice to organizations about adopting immersive technology in the workplace.

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