Graham Wheeler on how VR can bridge the gap between physical and virtual spaces.
2020 signalled the biggest shift to date in terms of how we communicate with each other. On both a personal and professional level, each of us has had to embrace new technologies in our daily lives.
This ranged from using simple video call platforms to catch up with friends and family that you’d normally see face to face – to much more complex tools which support remote collaboration and keep businesses running.
An open mind has been needed to embrace new ways of communicating and working, but it has also meant an increased onus on technology companies to rise to these challenges and meet the expectations of both consumers and businesses who now have a greater reliance on them.
Last year was a landmark for VR. For some, this may have been seen in the increased quality of the home-entertainment provided on VR platforms, giving people some escapism and light relief at a time we’ve been restricted socially.
However, a more lasting change will be seen within businesses across the country, who have had to adapt to new ways of training, developing and communicating with colleagues.
People are missing the connection that being in a traditional office space brings. Idea generation and creativity can be more difficult. It can be harder to have more informal catch-ups, or recreate water-cooler conversation
A move back to normality is one we’re all looking forward to in our social lives, but major organisations across the world have already signalled they’re looking to balance a return to office environments with the benefits remote working brings.
CCS Insights – which predicted that by 2022, over 50% of office-based workers will actually work remotely, is already being proven right with Facebook and Twitter deploying permanent remote working processes.
In the year gone by, it was the first time that remote working was proven to work and as such, it meant a rise in tools with support for remote collaboration. People quickly adapted to working remotely in 2020, and after a short transition period, the benefits of remote working could clearly be seen – such as reduced travel time to meetings or the office, and increased international collaboration.
However, there have been inevitable downsides to solely remote working. People are missing the connection that being in a traditional office space brings. Idea generation and creativity can be more difficult. It can be harder to have more informal catch-ups, or recreate water-cooler conversation.
In recent months, Zoom fatigue has become very real, with people finding staring at a laptop screen for multiple meetings a day tiresome.
This is where VR is in a strong position to drive forward the future of the workplace – being able to balance hesitancy with returning to a physical office space with added connectivity and physical collaboration that a laptop screen simply can’t give. Companies all over the world are stepping up similar efforts to use the potential of VR to bridge the gap between physical and virtual spaces.
VR is not just simply a way to have meetings, and connect more personably, though. Over the last year, we’ve seen a rise of adoption in VR-based tools to support learning and development across a range of different industries – everything from designing products, through to carrying out basic training for employees.
Vobling, for example, is a VR fire training platform. Vobling has created a VR-based training tool which allows for infinite scenarios modelled to specific needs e.g. transport, factory lines and fire training scenarios. Even the most established industries have the potential to develop the ways they work through virtual reality.
The potential for VR is limitless – any scenario which can be drawn, can be experienced in VR – and 2020 showed that now is the time for VR. Major companies across the world have already made it clear that they won’t ask employees to go back to the old model of working, embracing the opportunity to improve work/life balance, and not forcing people to live in major cities.
VR is one to watch for businesses, but it is also something that they can capitalise on now. With the year ahead shaping up to be a formative one in terms of how businesses support employees in balancing physical and remote collaboration, VR could be the tool that they need to increase connectivity and efficiency.
Businesses have overcome a lot in 2020, and 2021 will involve embracing and utilising new ways of working – and VR has a very important role to play in that.
About the author
Graham Wheeler is general manager EMEA at HTC VIVE