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Colin McMahon

How Virtual Reality Can Keep Workplace Collaboration on Track during COVID-19 Pandemic

Examining VR’s Place in the Workflow of the 21st Century

Mar 18, 2020 12:22:28 PM


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Every day brings more troubling news of the coronavirus. What at first seemed like a distant problem has quickly turned into a global event affecting nearly every aspect of business and personal life. As many adjust to a new routine of social distancing, many executives and decision makers are left wondering what they can do to ensure productivity while simultaneously keeping employees in good spirits.


Enter virtual reality—a relatively new tool that has experienced enormous breakthroughs over the last several years. While VR has yet to catch on commercially, it has found success in multiple business verticals. The coronavirus has given businesses a new perspective on VR and its capabilities, which is in turn helping businesses to shift into the digital economy and allow employees to work from home more efficiently.


Greater Immersion in Virtual Meetings

Programs like Skype and Webex can be used to help boost online workflow, but VR offers a higher level of immersion and engagement when it comes to remote collaboration. A VR meeting platform like Glue, for instance, offers several features that are not possible in traditional 2D online meetings.


To start with, all participants are transported to a virtual meeting room. In this realized space, each attendee can see one another—in avatar form—and see where they occupy space. In addition, all audio is carefully tuned, further deepening the illusion that everybody is really in one spot.


Source: Road to VR


Arguably the largest advantage, however, is the toolset. In a Skype presentation, sharing screens is a user’s best tool available to present to their teammates. Regardless of how many people can see, only one person (the screen sharer) ever really has control of what is happening. This is helpful in some circumstances but can be prohibitive in others.


In virtual meeting spaces, users can still share PowerPoint, Excel, and other files while also using features like a virtual whiteboard, which any user can write or draw on at any time. 3D data visualization can also be used, letting employees interact with more complex charts and graphs in an intuitive way. For example, if executives are trying to review new blueprints, they can see said charts in addition to a complete 3D mockup of the new construction—with various levels of detail that can be added or subtracted.


It all depends on the power of the VR program. Obviously, more robust solutions will require dedicated VR hardware while mobile-based solutions would have more limited interface capabilities. That said, mobile-based VR users could still attend the meetings, they would just lack certain features and abilities.


Virtual On-Site Visits

As a tool, VR can be useful for more than just meetings. Picture a factory overseer who wants to better understand how the manufacturing site is operating; rather than traveling to the location to conduct the inspection in person, it is possible to use a VR solution to evaluate the site and its capabilities remotely.


At its LiveWorx event in 2019, industrial IoT company PTC discussed the potential to use its solutions for such a task. With Vuforia and other platforms, users could see the data being generated in real time. This would allow them to know which parts of the plant were most productive, which machines needed servicing, and which parts needed replacing.


Though these virtual visits may lack the human touch of spontaneous interaction, they are still far superior to reviewing numbers on a spreadsheet and making decisions solely based off abstract data.


Virtual Social Functions

Finally, it is important to remember office culture in this time of social distancing. The coronavirus will leave many feeling isolated, and companies can help alleviate this problem through virtual events. VR has had social spaces since its inception, with entire concerts and other performances being hosted in the digital space. Leveraging VR hardware (even mobile-based solutions), companies can give employees special shows and events with guests and entertainment they may not otherwise be able to afford in reality.


Source: Forbes


The coronavirus will likely impact everyday life for the remainder of 2020 and possibly into the first half of 2021, or perhaps even beyond. Organizations cannot and should not expect short-term solutions to preserve productivity during this time. With the advent of such an incredible pandemic, industries have arguably been forced into the next great transformation. Being proactive by leveraging new technologies like VR will allow companies to maintain a greater sense of normalcy, while optimizing workspaces for the true digital age of the 21st century.


Check out this short video about enterprise collaboration in virtual reality!


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