Our company has been looking forward to the growth of Virtual Reality meetings, and in these hard times of 2020, it has forced our team at XpertVR to begin experimenting with the platform. Not to be confused with virtual conferencing tools such as Skype and Zoom, Virtual Reality meetings require participants to use VR headsets and controllers in order to navigate around and interact with virtual 3D meeting spaces and their colleagues in real-time. Fortunately, as a VR company, our team was able to prep our team each with headsets prior to our self-isolation. This has allowed us to have already hosted several Virtual Reality meetings, feeling out the good and the bad of using VR as a communication/collaboration tool. Below I will highlight the top 3 pros and cons we have found when hosting our Virtual Reality meetings.
Social Interaction - Virtual Reality allows you to physically interact, navigate, and communicate within the 3D space. Compared to other methods of online communication this is BY FAR the closest to feeling like you are in the same room with your team. Hand gestures and tones give your Virtual avatar a personal touch, and depending on which platform you are using (common ones include Engage, RUMII, VR Chat, and Spatial.io) this allows you to interact with 2D/3D content that is brought to the meeting using a variety of drawing tools or virtual sticky notes.
Limited real-world distractions - By using a VR headset you are isolating yourself from the real-world. This limits the number of external distractions you may face traditionally working from home as your eyes can’t drift from the computer screen. We found this helpful as it improved the continuous engagement of our team members during our meetings.
Sharing 3D content - As I briefly mentioned above the ability to discuss/interact with 3D content within a scene is a great way for our team to express their opinions. Our team was able to analyze, discuss, and show through virtual drawing tools how each model should be altered to reach our final design. This speeds up the process of design as our current process of sharing 3D files for approval can lead to miscommunication and a lot of back and forth emails or phone calls.
The learning curve - Virtual Reality equipment provides a great medium for interacting, but is only effective if the user understands how to use it. Navigating a 3D environment and using motion controllers takes some getting used to, so proper instructions and training sessions need to be held to ensure your meetings will run smoothly from the beginning. Any time we are testing new tech our timelines include room for Murphy’s Law
Internet connection - Having multiple people accessing a Virtual 3D world at the same time requires a strong internet connection. Without one, you will experience what video gamers would call server lag, where participants will have a delay between them speaking/moving and the other participants hearing/seeing them, and will occasionally be disconnected from the meeting altogether. This can get frustrating having to repeat conversations as team members attempt to reconnect.
Motion Sickness in VR - VR creates a super immersive experience for the participants, which can create a sensory overload for some. We have found keeping the meeting rooms simple and limiting moving objects helps deter motion sickness. Even though many VR meeting platforms offer them, avoid hosting meetings at heights (skyscraper boardrooms, elevated coffee shops etc.) as this can also cause disorientation. The quality of both the headset you are wearing and the meeting room you are accessing are crucial to avoiding motion sickness. As quality increases, fewer individuals will feel these effects.
Overall the experience was super positive from the beginning, and as we continue to utilize these tools our meetings will become more efficient. The social interaction keeps our team connected, and being able to share documents/3D models within the spaces keeps us on track with our projects. We will continue to meet in Virtual Reality, and I encourage anyone reading this to explore Virtual Reality meetings as an option for their company as soon as possible.