After Facebook bought Oculus Rift, many people got excited about the prospect of virtual reality. We all spoke about how gaming would change as this technology develops. Virtual reality though will soon outgrow gaming consoles and impact the workplace.
At VenturePact, we are a remote company that works with many remote software development teams around the globe.
In the last five years the world has become more connected, through faster Internet speeds and better chatting, collaboration and task management tools. It has allowed us and others to build productive remote teams. That said, many companies like Yahoo still prefer to hire locally and require all employees to work out of the same office. Virtual reality will change this because it adds you to actually experience being in the office instead of just seeing it.
Virtual Reality Use Case No. 1: Remote Work
Imagine a scenario where your head office is based in New York and your team is spread across the world in Europe, South America and Asia. The limit today is that even if you do video conference or screen sharing, you never actually experience working with the rest of your team. If the rest of your team is in an office you will not feel like you are part of their team throughout the day. With Virtual Reality, you can actually experience and feel like you are sitting down next to them in the office environment. You can virtually walk into the office, talk to each other, attend meetings, share data and maybe, even share a drink after work through a virtual reality interface.
Sounds strange and far reaching, but as the quality of the hardware and software increases, virtual reality can really change the way we interact with people.
Many businesses rely heavily on remote working. The ones that argue against it mainly cite that the high bandwidth nature of in person meetings and collaboration cannot be matched with existing collaboration technology. The argument is that an in person conversation is very different from a skype video call.
That will change. Our designers and developers will be able to work around the world, while feeling like they are sitting side by side. The benefits of virtual work are equally lucrative for people working from home. The biggest hurdle of loneliness and social isolation is eradicated. With virtual reality, you get to be in an office without having to actually travel. You are able to instantly export yourself to the country (or continent) that you haven’t even visited in reality.
Virtual Reality Use Case No. 2: Remote Education and Training
Most companies spend a lot of time thinking about how they can best train and educate their employees. Virtual reality is one of the most powerful mechanisms by which you can train new employees.
Think about a surgeon who can walk in and watch an entire surgery. She can pause the video, look around at the tools that are being used and can see the operation from multiple angles. This is actually a much better way to train physicians than having them shadow. In this case, a resident can see the operation from the point of view of each physician in the operating room and not be limited to only their viewpoint. In addition, a resident will not have to wait for each surgery to arise in real life to see how the surgery is done. They can, over the course of a night, experience any surgery they want through the VR interface.
In remote companies, you can have interactive whiteboarding sessions and lectures conducted on VR technology when training new employees. This can really change the way we train in the workforce and can even dramatically change education. Youtube, Coursera, Khan Academy, Periscope and other video technologies will run on VR technology and provide more immersive experiences. We must not underestimate this additional dimension that VR adds to existing technology. It allows you to see things but not interact with them and yet, really feel like you are a part of this other world.
Virtual Reality Use Case No. 3: Remote Culture
One of the powers of virtual reality is that it allows for more creative company events for remote teams. Imagine living in a world when you can play interactive games, or even go to a bar or a restaurant with a remote team member. Suddenly the fear of not having a strong culture and not being able to interact personally with the team is no longer an issue. This can allow for more powerful remote relationships with employees, freelancers and outsourced teams.
There will be new companies and applications specifically made for virtual reality to help remote teams work together, hang out and teach each other; the same way we have smartphone apps that help with real time messaging and communication and SaaS apps that help with task management and video conferencing.
Technology will take time to mature to the point where meetings through the virtual reality platform can really trick the mind to thinking we are actually meeting in person. People want more autonomy and flexibility in their work environment, and we are already seeing a large increase in distributed teams. Virtual reality will help companies get more confident with the concept of remote work.
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