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VR Video Conferencing: The Future of Workplace Collaboration

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OTT platforms are extremely popular all over the world — just look at the graph below.

For example, in the US 147 million people were already using Netflix in 2018, and by 2020 this number had risen to 170 million viewers

What are virtual meetings?

In the simplest terms, Virtual Reality can be explained as a simulated experience that puts users in a completely digital environment. To experience Virtual Reality environments, users need a dedicated VR headset that will project images in front of their eyes.

Virtual Reality experience
Virtual Reality simulates an interactive experience

VR can be helpful in all kinds of applications, such as:

  • Education;
  • Training;
  • Therapy;
  • Entertainment;
  • Gaming;
  • Communication.

When it comes to business communication, VR chat applications are great for both internal meetings and external negotiations. The ability to create completely customizable environments allows for more productive and engaging conversations.

Another quality difference between Virtual Reality and video conferencing is the ability to get interactive. Participants in the meeting can look at a virtual screen with relevant information or fill out charts.

VR video streaming workflow

Virtual Reality video streaming differs from traditional broadcasting in several ways. VR allows for better interactivity: viewers can turn their heads to view different parts of the virtual environment and in some cases even interact with objects.

These differences result in different approaches to recording, editing, encoding, and streaming content in VR, which we will review:

Recording

The secret to recording a 360° video that lets users turn their heads and view different parts of a scene is the camera: actually, there are several cameras recording instead of one. They are linked to one controller to record simultaneously.

With technology getting more and more efficient, 360° cameras are becoming more affordable. Those cameras are capable of capturing video with good resolution, though if you want something beyond that, there’s no way around splurging and spending several thousand dollars.

The next thing is audio. Interactive video must have spatial audio features that improve the immersiveness of the VR experience: the sound has to react to the viewer turning their head.

To record stereo, you will need omnidirectional microphones.

360° camera

Stitching

To produce the VR image, you will need to stitch together video from all of the cameras you’ve been recording with.

There is special software available that allows for doing just that, though it is possible to use traditional video editing solutions.

Video stitching
Since 360° video is captured from multiple cameras, it’s needs stitching

Encoding

Any type of video content requires encoding before it can be broadcasted. Encoding is done through dedicated software or hardware encoders.

This is a particularly important step with VR or 360° videos because of how large the files are. They must be minimized so that users can stream the content with no lag.

Also, large file sizes require more processing power.

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To feel closer to a real environment experience, VR content must be in high definition. Viewers watch the content through a headset that places the screen right in front of their eyes — and at that short distance, 1080p is not enough.

Usually, VR content uses 4K resolution — 4 times higher than 1080p, at 3840 x 2160 pixels.

Viewing

For enjoying VR content, users need a strong internet connection and special hardware: a VR headset from Oculus, Samsung, or HTC. This plays the content right in front of their eyes while using sensors to track the user’s head movements and responding to that, shifting the perspective accordingly.

Now the question is: how can we apply VR content to online meetings?

There is technology already available that puts multiple users in one virtual environment and allows them to see each other and communicate.

Let’s see how they work.

How video conferencing apps work

VR meetings imitate the real-life communication process with some add-ons that are only possible in VR. 

While traditional teleconferencing has participants sitting in front of their computers with web cameras, Virtual Reality simulates a real space where they can turn, walk, talk to each other and interact with the space they’re in. 

On top of that, add-ons such as screencasting and live note scribbling let participants share information more efficiently.

We can divide the features of VR chatting apps into three main categories:

Avatar

The participants of the meeting are represented by 3D models in the virtual environment. Users can customize their avatars in whatever way they want, to differentiate themselves from others. Some applications may even offer the ability to create a realistic avatar based on the users.

Environment

VR apps for meetings usually come either with several pre-configured environments or the ability to create one. Meeting spaces can have different backgrounds, from a skyscraper office to something more futuristic, such as a spaceship’s command bridge.

Chat

Apart from regular voice chatting options, many applications offer ways to interact with the virtual environment to get a point across. For instance, using VR meeting software like Spatial, users can: 

  • share files and mark them down;
  • write and scribble notes;
  • show presentations and images;
  • cast their screens.
Spatial VR
VR meeting apps like Spatial put users into an interactive virtual environment

Pros and cons of VR conferencing

Virtual Reality can certainly do a lot to bring people closer, but there are obviously some drawbacks. Let’s consider what’s good and bad about VR apps for meetings.

Here are the benefits of using Virtual Reality video conferencing:

Convenience

Apart from substituting for regular teleconferencing, VR can be used to replace some offline meetings. So we can forget about travel expenses and jet lag.

Flexibility with the environment

Meetings are no longer limited by the space you have available. You can create any environment you want and interact with it.

Retention

When participating in VR chat, users tend to remember the information presented better. In addition, there are no real-world distractions.

Scheduling

Joining a virtual meeting is as easy as putting on a headset and clicking a button. This makes inviting people and choosing an appropriate time much easier.

Costs

If you switch to virtual meetings instead of offline ones, you won’t have to pay for traveling, hotels, or office space.

Public safety

Without the need to meet face-to-face, participants can share their ideas remotely, allowing businesses to continue working even through global health crises.

Pros of VR conferencing

It all sounds good, but what about the downside?

Here are the cons of VR conferencing:

Hardware

Every participant of the VR chat will have to use a VR headset, at the least. Some require a computer to run the software. And these devices are quite costly. There are cheaper untethered alternatives, though.

Connection

Virtual Reality requires a strong internet connection to load the content. Virtual environments feature graphic elements at high definition, and you will need fast internet with a lot of bandwidth to stream all of that information with no lag.

Battery life

Given the fact that VR runs complex 3D simulations in high definition, most untethered headsets need a lot of power to work, and there’s no way to fit a large battery into the headset that would be comfortable to wear. So most of them can last for about 90 to 120 minutes.

Motion sickness

Some users experience motion sickness from spending too much time in VR. Though the severity depends on the person, you can try to keep meetings short so as not to make anybody feel uncomfortable.

Cons of VR conferencing

What you need to start VR conferencing

To host and attend meetings in Virtual Reality you need special software for creating events and hardware to experience it in VR.

Let’s start with considering the types of hardware you will need.

Users wear a VR headset to see a virtual simulation. There are two major types: tethered and untethered.

Tethered headsets

Tethered headsets require a computer that will run the simulation — the headset just streams the image.

Such headsets depend on the processing power of a PC they’re connected to, so they can be used for more complex VR experiences, like gaming and deeply interactive environments.

But of course, they’re not ideal. 

Because of the requirements of PC specs, maintaining the system can be quite costly. So they are harder to scale.

Some of the most popular models of tethered VR headsets are Oculus Rift and HC Vive.

Untethered headsets

Untethered headsets are almost completely autonomous. They pack a battery that allows them not to be tied down to a PC, but you will need a smartphone to do the heavy lifting.

In this case, the smartphone is inserted into the headset and runs the software.

But there is a caveat.

Since smartphones are less powerful than PCs, you won’t be able to run complex VR experiences. In addition, the size of the device drastically limits its battery life.

Here are a couple of untethered headsets you can purchase: Oculus Quest 2 and Samsung Gear VR.

Types of VR headsets

VR video conferencing apps

The second part of your virtual conferencing experience is the software that allows hosting the meetings.

The easiest thing is to use developed software for VR chat. There are quite a few solutions on the market already, and many share most of the features.

Using the apps, you can:

  • invite from 5 to 40 people to your virtual environment;
  • hand-write and scribble notes;
  • cast your computer screen;
  • choose the environments you want to use. Some software solutions even allow creating your own spaces.

Among some of the most popular VR chatting apps are Spatial, MeetinVR, Glue, and FrameVR.

VR meeting apps features

There’s also another option: you can develop your own VR video conferencing app to make sure it has all the features you need.

It might be hard to figure out how to approach such a difficult project, but there is a standard procedure you can follow to find the right software developer who can build the project you want.

Start off with finding a company experienced in video conferencing app development. You can do that in several ways:

  • Search Google
  • Check research agencies’ listings
  • Use referrals

Then, make sure that the company has the right expertise in creating virtual meeting apps. Check the software vendor’s website, look through the portfolio, and study the testimonials to see what projects the developer has completed.

Looking to develop you VR conferencing app?

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at HQSoftware

After that, you can contact the developer and offer your ideas for VR meeting software. You will work with specialists who will shape your thoughts into the software development project, help you choose the right technology, and develop the solution for your needs.

How VR shapes the future of teleconferencing

Despite all the advantages Virtual Reality offers to communication, education, and entertainment, it still has a long way to go before it can be used by almost everyone. 

Let’s see what changes may happen to VR:

Move to the mainstream

Currently, many people see Virtual Reality as a gimmick: they may find stands with VR headsets in malls that are used to play simple games; some people who enjoy video games may have those; users can also find a couple of platforms offering content for VR live streaming software

Apart from that, you won’t see many applications for VR in your everyday life.

But as technology continues to advance, Virtual Reality will show greater potential to become a commodity rather than a curiosity. Companies are striving to build hardware and software that is less demanding, to suit the everyday lifestyle.

We can already see examples of that:

  • Sony is including VR support in their new gaming consoles, along with selling a dedicated headset. 
  • Oculus, for instance, builds quite affordable headsets for as low as $300.
  • Even Apple is working on bringing VR to consumers — so you know that going mainstream is inevitable. It is rumored that Apple is building its own AR/VR headset that will feature a dozen cameras for tracking and LIDAR sensors.

Hardware improvements

The first widely available VR hardware was not convenient to use, adding to the stereotype of being just a gimmick for enthusiasts. To work, the headsets had to be connected to a PC, and they cost a lot.

Now we can see that slowly changing.

Developers have figured out how to cut ties with the computer — for the most part. Now we have untethered VR headsets that can work autonomously, and the battery life is getting better.

As processing power continues to increase, wireless headsets will be able to run complex VR experiences just as well as the tethered ones.

The future of VR

How HQSoftware can help you create VR apps for meetings

As you can see, Virtual Reality brings online communication to a whole new level. Having started as a gimmick for basic entertainment, it now has the power to connect people anywhere in the world and keep business working efficiently.

With technological progress, it will be easier to bring VR into the workplace and hold meetings in virtual environments. Doing so solves the problem of participants’ retention and engagement. Participants tend to remember more information after such a meeting.

There are many already-developed platforms that allow you to host virtual meetings, but you can also build your own app for AR/VR meetings for maximum flexibility.

How will you start creating your own VR software

Partnering with HQSoftware, you will get a team of experienced VR professionals that will lead you through the process of VR video chat app development.

Our company has deep expertise in building AR/VR solutions. For instance, we have developed a VR solution for driver education that simulated impaired driving. The app recreated the visual distortions that intoxicated drivers experience, giving the students an idea of the physical difficulties of driving while drunk.

The HQSoftware team includes:

  • Business Analyst — checks the feasibility of the project, makes sure it stays within the agreed budget;
  • Project Manager — estimates the timeframe of the project, breaks the project down into tasks, and manages the work of the developers;
  • UI/UX Designer — creates the look of the VR chat solution;
  • Developers — build a VR video conferencing app;
  • QA testers — check if the solution has any issues and runs smoothly.

How HQSoftware team helps you build your VR chat app

If you have ideas on how to make the best Virtual Reality chat solution — contact us. Let’s talk and work it out together.

Yuri Yarmolovich

AR/VR Expert

A developer with extensive expertise in AR/VR, very ingrained into the topic of Mixed Reality development. Shares his knowledge and the results of many years of work. 

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Frequently Asked Questions

What is a virtual meeting?
What are the advantages and disadvantages of virtual meetings?
What technologies are used for VR apps?
How do you develop virtual reality applications?
How much does it cost to develop a VR app?
Is virtual reality the future of video conferencing?

Read also

How to Hire a Dedicated Development Team: A Complete Guide for Businesses for 2021

The History of AR and VR: a Timeline of Notable Milestones

Tech to Survive the Lockdown: Using VR and AR to Host Events

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