With many desk workers forced to work from home, remote meeting apps have become a real lifeline for companies.
At the same time, video calls pose new problems: for some workers, video conferencing makes it harder to concentrate and remember information. It can also make it difficult not to interfere with other speakers in a meeting.
Today we will talk about how businesses can apply VR conferencing software to their online meetings to increase retention, eliminate distractions, and improve collaboration.
Challenges to Conferencing and Meetings in Businesses
In recent years, rapid technological developments and online communication have allowed companies to actively expand their workforce by hiring employees from all over the world. This has made online meetings and conferences foundational to doing business.
Anoter big step on the road to remote work was the COVID-19 pandemic. At its peak, more than 70% of American employees were working from home. Moreover, Forbes reports that 97% of employees who have tried working remotely don’t want to return to the office full-time. Instead, they prefer a hybrid working model.
So, these trends have forced companies to adapt to remote work and actively use online meetings and conferences. But at some point every company has faced challenges:
- Difficulty with keeping employees’ attention and reducing distractions during online meetings;
- Providing the necessary technical capabilities for effective online collaboration;
- Bringing employees together and creating an atmosphere similar to offline meetings.
It has become clear that the existing capabilities of standard tools for online meetings aren’t really adequate. That’s where the idea of virtual meetings comes in.
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.
Sometimes businesses also opt for Augmented Reality conferencing solutions, but we will review this topic in a separate article.
VR can be helpful in all kinds of applications, such as:
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 event platforms and video calls 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
VR 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:
The secret of how to make a VR 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.
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.
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 videos 360° and is directly related to the challenge of how to stream VR content with no lag. As such files are large, they must be minimized so that users can enjoy a seamless experience.
Also, large file sizes require more processing power.
How do modern businesses use AR to increase their revenues and outperform their industry competitors?
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.
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.
Despite the fact that Virtual Reality meetings are versatile, interactive, and make you feel like you are in the same room with your colleagues, they have their drawbacks. Let’s create a list of the pros and cons of virtual meetings to see whether the hype is merited.
Pros and Cons of VR Video Conferencing
Convenient – organizing a Virtual Reality meeting is way easier than running an in-person event. No lease payments for a venue, no jet lag for participants, no extra organizational expenses.
Hardware requirements – to attend a VR meeting, participants need to buy a headset and possess a compatible computer. Though there are cheap options that cost less than some plane and event tickets.
Better retention – participants are fully immersed in the event and aren’t dealing with other distractions. The retention rate for information received at a VR meeting will be higher.
Connection requirements – for comfortable participation in a Virtual Reality conference, participants need a stable and high-speed internet connection, which is not easily arranged in some countries.
Easy to join/leave – an attendee can leave or join a VR meeting space whenever they want, with no social awkwardness or long rides home.
Motion sickness – around 40% to 70% of commercial VR headset users get motion sickness after 15 minutes of use. (Though the technology is improving and the number of affected users is slowly decreasing.)
Safety “in public” – in Virtual Reality conferences, all participants can share their ideas from the safe spaces of their own homes.
Uncomfortable in headsets – wearing a headset for a long time isn’t a pleasant experience for everyone; some users complain of eye-strain headaches after using a headset for a long time.
Green initiative – VR video conferences don’t require participants to drive or fly to the venue; they don’t use disposable tableware, etc. In one comparison for a mostly fly-in gathering of 264, a VR meeting produced CO2 emissions of 1 ton vs 282 tons for its offline alternative.
Battery life – most untethered headsets run for up to 120 minutes, which may not be enough for long VR video conferences. (Though most users prefer tethered options.)
New conferencing possibilities – VR meeting apps provide features that help to build incredible content for meetings. Imagine taking a conference to the moon or interacting with life-like animals on a safari – it’s all up to your imagination.
As you can see, Virtual Reality conferences are a great alternative to offline meetings and events. They cause fewer carbon emissions, are safer for users, are easier to participate in, and offer a bunch of new opportunities for events. On the other hand, some people still find VR hardware inconvenient and feel it causes motion sickness and headaches. Still, it seems worth it to consider VR, because many of the drawbacks will be eliminated in the near future with further development of the technology and related hardware.
One of the pros of VR meeting solutions is that it allows for new conferencing possibilities. Let’s take a look at what exactly we can do in VR.
Which Types of Virtual Reality Meetings Can You Organize?
Let’s take a look at the types of VR video meetings one can organize.
- Virtual Reality business meetings. One of the most widely used types of virtual events involves a small number of users participating in a business meeting in VR, with all or some of the participants using VR helmets. Software used for such meetings is often easy to set up or doesn’t require being installed on a computer at all, such as Spatial. Such VR meeting apps are even simpler to use than some modern streaming or call apps.
- VR conferences. Usually, this type is used for employee conferences where the virtual environment resembles an office and all speakers are represented by 3D avatars. Such conferences imitate real-life business meetings and let participants feel like they are sitting in one room.
- Remote collaboration. This type of meeting most fully applies how VR videos work. It allows people to complete whole projects together even remotely. These Virtual Reality meeting platforms have all the features and tools needed for remote collaboration, and all users not only discuss their work but also get it actually done. For example, interface design or product prototyping is even more convenient in VR than at in-person meetings.
- Workplaces in VR. These are virtual rooms where employees can accomplish tasks in their own manner. This is extremely helpful for employees who work from home with kids – here, they are cut off from the real world and can work without distractions and with all the required tools at hand.
- Virtual teleconference rooms. These virtual spaces resemble office meeting rooms or break rooms. Here employees can perform daily catch-ups, discuss any topic, share ideas, or just chat.
Businesses of any kind have a great opportunity to integrate VR meeting solutions with their daily tasks, be it the daily meeting, collaborative remote work, or just conversation.
Now the question is: how can we apply VR content to online meetings? How do VR videos work?
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:
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.
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.
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.
What You Need to Start VR Meetings
To determine how to build a Virtual Reality conferencing app, you should choose 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 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.
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.
VR video 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.
There’s also another option: you can develop your own VR video 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.
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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.
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.
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 VR meetings app development?
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 Virtual Reality meeting platform;
- QA testers — check if the solution has any issues and runs smoothly.
If you have ideas on how to make the best Virtual Reality chat solution — contact us. Let’s talk and work it out together.
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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