At Works, we are a highly tech-savvy group of individuals. Our founder, Sharon, has an unfounded fear that one day we will cease coming into the office, opting instead to spend our days playing immersive virtual reality Star Wars light saber fight simulations.
(the likelihood of this occurring is zero)
I have been keeping a close eye on the advances in virtual reality technology, both out of personal interest as a geek and fan of video games, and as an investor putting money into businesses in the tech industry. One of my initial thoughts was that VR could prove to be an invaluable tool for managing and communicating with remote teams.
Many organisations, including those that have achieved impressive success as we have observed in our case studies, take considerable steps to tailor chat and video services so as to enable the development of a ‘virtual office’, allowing personnel to work from different places (even different countries) concurrently while still feeling part of a unified team.
Given the current state of technology, is it possible to use a virtual reality headset to transport oneself from a tranquil Italian veranda to the stylish office of a large North American company? Could this experience be improved with the correct programme and a virtual reality headset?
This raises several important questions: Is it possible for a system similar to the Matrix to become a reality? Has anyone attempted to implement such a system in the workplace, and if so, what were the exact details of the implementation?
In 2023, three major businesses launched virtual reality (VR) headsets on to the market: HTC introduced ViVe with the backing of the video game industry giant Valve Software; Facebook unveiled the Oculus Rift; and Sony brought out the PlayStation VR, designed to appeal to a wider audience.
I’ve tried them all out, done the research, and spoken to VR experts at various software firms. What I learned is as follows.
The Matrix is Arriving, Yes
Despite some previous virtual reality experiences not living up to expectations, for example the heavily marketed Samsung VR, the more advanced headsets that have been discussed are certain to astound you.
Despite the fact that the virtual environments seen in virtual reality (VR) are yet to reach photorealistic standards, with many not even able to match the visual quality of a Nintendo console on a conventional television, the combination of true 3D projection and head-tracking can quickly trick our senses into overlooking the low fidelity of the presentation.
Placing oneself on an ice cliff can provoke shivering, and having a character lob a tennis ball towards them can elicit a wince. Despite the fact that there are still some improvements to be made to Virtual Reality technology, it currently offers an engaging and immersive experience.
How, Therefore, Might It Aid in the Management of Remote Employees?
Picture yourself wearing headphones and being taken to a vibrant office with a whiteboard. You observe six figures, each one representing a member of your remote team. The Agile meeting is opened with a brief standing session, followed by each person taking turns to write on the whiteboard. When queries arise, the team may look to each other for answers.
Engaging with an image on a screen via video can provide an immersive virtual reality experience, whereby users are able to interact with a fully realised avatar and become immersed in a setting. Despite the lack of strong fidelity in the visuals, the impact on camaraderie and productivity can be considerable. The phrase ‘a sensation of presence’ has become synonymous with Virtual Reality, and it can certainly live up to its reputation.
Virtual Reality (VR) can provide a number of benefits to meetings. Rather than simply relying on a group video call, virtual meetings can provide a more immersive experience, allowing participants to engage and interact with one another as if they were together in the same physical space. In this way, VR can enable participants to recognise one another’s body language, and to collaborate on projects such as sketching and modelling. This can result in more effective meetings, boosting productivity and the quality of the outcomes.
Despite the obvious benefits of using Virtual Reality for meetings, its potential applications are much more far-reaching. For example, the use of VR technology for classes and seminars could revolutionise the way in which information is disseminated and team-building activities are conducted. Furthermore, the use of gamification methods in such an environment could produce results that are an order of magnitude greater than those seen in traditional settings.
What’s the State of Virtual Reality in the Field of Remote Work?
Despite the fact that virtual reality technology is ready to be utilised within the remote working sector, it is not yet advanced enough to be fully implemented by employees. Consequently, further development is necessary before it can be used to its full potential.
Only Samsung’s virtual reality system is cost-effective compared to other options on the market. Despite this, each employee would still need to spend approximately £500 to acquire the necessary hardware. While some companies may be willing to accept this cost, it is worth noting that the virtual reality platform provided by Samsung is limited in terms of its technological capabilities. This is largely due to the lack of processing power in Samsung smartphones, which prevents them from running the more complex programmes required for this type of application.
The Oculus Rift is geared at gamers and needs a $1000+ computer; the HTC Vive has a similar price range but is more general purpose.
Despite the fact that the software and application sector has been relatively unexplored, there is a greater cause for concern. Developers in the field of Virtual Reality have confirmed that the potential commercial applications we proposed are feasible, and are already available in some basic forms. Despite this, much of the current funding is directed toward gaming and entertainment software, with only a recent surge in interest in medical applications.
Developers may take some time before they recognise the potential commercial applications of virtual reality. It is uncertain how long it will take for the prices to drop to a level where most businesses are able to purchase the technology.
In the meantime, we will continue to experiment with virtual reality headsets here at Works. Of course, this is for educational, work-related purposes and has nothing to do with light sabres.