Virtual Conferencing Now A Reality

Working remotely is the new normal. Even before the coronavirus ushered in a new paradigm of working from home, a growing trend for gig economies and telecommunicating was becoming increasingly popular. A presentation compiled by Upwork predicted that 75% of teams would be composed of remote workers this decade. During the lockdown, Zoom subscribers exploded from 10 million to 200 million daily active users.

There is no doubt that video conferencing platforms complications have helped smooth out the creases of non-verbal communication. And having been involuntarily cajoled into virtual meetings, boards cannot fail to recognise the economic and environmental benefits in avoiding short and long-distance travel.

The simplicity in facilitating meetings with members in remote areas makes video conferencing a highly important tool. The capacity to engage in face-to-face meetings and navigate misunderstandings unequivocally improves communication. Yet today’s video conferencing suites still have plenty of room for improvements. Whilst facial expressions can help you gauge the reaction of your clients or employees, other physical cues you take from in-person meetings are missing.

There are also technical glitches to deal with; time delays, weak connections, poor sound quality. IT governance, security and eavesdropping is also a concern. In recent times, immersive technologies such as virtual reality conferencing suites enable remote teams to connect and collaborate in an environment that feels as though you are in the same room.

Cartoon illustration of a corporate team wearing virtual reality headsets

Virtual Conference Rooms

Immersive technologies provide a solution to the lack of cohesiveness and connectivity people have sitting side by side. Virtual Reality (VR) technologies create a highly interactive 3D space which feels very real, and Augmented Reality (AR) enables you to add relevant tools. The first tentative steps have already been taken. VR conference rooms enhanced by AR went live in 2020. A virtual conferencing room brings down the limitations of face-to-face meetings that take place through a screen. Instead, the participants appear in digital form – as Avatars. On the surface, VR avatars rendered as onscreen images akin to video game characters are the opposite of what people want from a 3D experience.

However, virtual headsets create physical sensations that you are in a real room with the people you are physically speaking with. VR headsets fully immerse the user in a virtual simulation. The senses are shut off from the real world which effectively tricks your brain into thinking the events you are experiencing in the 3D simulation are real. As a result, the brain sends the usual triggers and sensations throughout your body as it would in the real world. The capacity to make video conferencing feel real gives VR a significant edge over traditional video conferencing platforms. A virtual conferencing room is a collaborative space in which users share the same experience in real-time. That includes the energy and chemistry which would ordinarily be triggered if you were all in the same room.

An illustration of a conference call, a tablet device on top of world map

How Augmented Reality Enhances Virtual Conference Suites

Virtual meeting spaces are accessed through the myriad of 3D goggles that are on the current market. Designers can tailor the environment to your specific requirements and you can even change location mid-meeting. Whilst VR is the essence of a virtual meeting space, AR gives you the ability to interact with other participants within the simulation. This enables you to use tools and interfaces such as laptops, projectors, sticky notes, notepads, digital whiteboards and anything else you need to add.

Participants will even see each others hand gestures and change in height if they stand from a seating position or vice-versa. Compared to standard video conferencing platforms mixed-reality simulations are far more immersive and engaging. Virtual rooms can be used for holding staff training from remote areas. All the tools you need including pdf’s, audio and video equipment can be built-in. Avoiding travel significantly reduces the cost of travel and minimises the impact on the environment. The biggest problem with video conferencing suites today goes beyond lagging and the awkwardness of talking over one another. Working remotely has also drawn criticism from workers that say they feel disconnected and stressed. Humans need to feel the presence of other humans to feel connected.

With at least a third of the workforce operating from remote locations, mixed reality video conferencing suites can dispel feelings of loneliness and instil a culture of belonging. In the future, we may all work from home and connect in a virtual office, not just virtual conferencing rooms.

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