Down with the conference call!
The phone call, the video call and now the VR meet up. The meeting room has changed drastically over the past 20 years, giving people the opportunity to quickly connect and converse. But sometimes you need a little more than a quick call or perhaps you want to show your audience something that can't be done with a video call. *fanfare* Intro the VR meeting, yes an actual meeting as opposed to a call. I popped my first virtual meeting cherry not long ago, it went something like this...
I just met Han Solo
I recently met with a client in Toronto, Canada, I didn't travel out to Canada, I sat in our office in Essex, England. I donned the HTC Vive and waited in the lobby of VR Chat, a virtual world made up of spaces (chat rooms) where you can meet real people, play games and chat, you can also create and submit your own world or space.
The objective of the meeting was to run me through the programme ahead of an art installation. Users will, in pairs, teleport into a dedicated room in VR Chat and be greeted by people from around the world. These people then toured the guests through a series of spaces which were huge immersive submissions for a competition titled Beeple VR Design Competition.
As I got familiar with my surroundings I heard someone say "Hi, Russell?". I looked around and was greeted by Han Solo of Star Wars fame. It wasn't the real Han Solo of course but an Avatar of the person I was meeting. Han walked up to me and said hi, then he ran me through the controls which enabled me to move, interact and gesture as a normal person would. As I had wireless controllers in my hands; every wave, hand on hip and head scratch was animated onto my Avatar, further enforcing the reality of the experience and making it seem real.
Han then said "follow me". As he pointed to one side a portal opened up, he then walked through it and vanished. Doing as I was told I walked through the portal and was transported into a huge space with a massive sculpture which was easily 100 feet high.
Once the tour had finished my mind was blown, the spaces designed by digital designers on offer was one thing, but the fact I was walking around a virtual world, talking to someone as if there were actually there was incredible! Everything I saw was literally out of this world but this can easily be scaled down to lets say, an office space with meeting rooms for example. Users could wear VR headsets and meet with others from around the world, making the experience much more intimate than a bodiless video call.
Facebook are onboard
Oculus, the company that brought you the Oculus Rift and Gear VR is owned by Facebook. One of their recent keynotes focuses on the social aspect of VR and how it might be used. Check out the keynote below.
Immediately you can see the use of facial expressions, presentation of media, and the use of 3D objects which may benefit industries that work with product or packaging design. Oculus Rooms which currently sits in the Oculus library and accessible for free is another example of Facebook's push into the world of social VR. Further reaffirming their interest in this form of meeting place and one that is already being used by 10,000's of people all over the world if not for business but leisure.
Is meeting in VR the future?
I think so, but its not an immediate threat to the likes of Skype just yet. There is still a long way to go before we have headsets in every office. We will need to see a huge uptake of mobile based or standalone headsets, not requiring a PC, before big businesses adopt this form of communication as the norm.
When we see school kids meeting up in VR to study and chat as we did with MSN Messenger, then businesses will follow suit and we can all be Han Solo in our next meeting.