Virtual Reality meetings: the future of video conferencing

Virtual reality (VR) technology is set to make even the best meeting room conferencing systems obsolete.

The experience of meeting face-to-face with anyone, anywhere in the world, may soon require little more than slipping on a virtual reality headset.

Memorable meetings

Some of the biggest tech companies in the world, including Facebook, Google, and Microsoft, have invested billions in the VR space to revolutionise the way we communicate with colleagues.

The result? Meetings are about to become lot more interesting.

Imagine sitting around a board room table on a luxury yacht, the surface of the moon, or the court of Louis XIV.

Or even Jerry Seinfeld’s apartment.

These are just a handful of options already possible with VR technology, and given the wide interest in commercial applications for VR, the range of mind-blowing possibilities will only continue to grow.


Virtual reality will change the world of video conferencing

The world of video conferencing is changing.

California-based AltspaceVR has been pushing the boundaries of VR communication since 2013.

AltSpaceVR founder Eric Romo says the race to reduce travel costs and the growing focus on global collaboration means high-quality immersive VR will soon be the norm.

“People use phones to text, talk or video chat. Now they can meet in VR just as spontaneously,” says Romo.

The company has just launched an app that integrates with popular communication platform Slack to bring virtual meetings one step closer to the office.

Classic Hotels marketing coordinator Gregory Golinski, says a recent VR meeting to discuss a hotel renovation allowed him to bring the company’s vision to life.

“We had the opportunity to talk about the hotel’s new design and features while looking at them in real time, as if they were already finished,” he says.

Of course, it’s still early days. Golinski says, “Some found the process unnatural and even a bit comical, which distracted them from the main discussion, but the vast majority of my teammates enjoyed it.”

But with VR tech evolving at a rapid clip, here’s why the future of meetings will be virtual:

1: It’s highly immersive, not highly expensive

Despite the range of product offerings from video conferencing giants Cisco and Polycom, the most immersive video conferencing systems are specially-built board rooms that remain prohibitively expensive for smaller companies.

Newer VR-based arrivals are mobile and cloud-based; they can deliver immersive experiences without costly equipment or installation expenses.

2: It’s the ultimate ‘open’ office

In future, a corporate meeting won’t have to be in a conference room, allowing for greater levels of collaboration between teams.

VR tech allows meeting participants to share the same experience without needing to be in the same physical location, so the traditional conference room can be replaced with any setting, fictional or otherwise.

Expect meetings in VR to be infinitely more fun.

The morning meeting on a sun-soaked beach in Koh Samui? Sign us up.

It’s worth mentioning however, that early adopters have experienced some setbacks.

Neil Glenister, founder of a gaming developer 232 Studios, told The Wall Street Journal his team experienced high levels of distraction when they used the vTime app to hold a VR videoconference in outer space.

3: Through eye contact, it enables more human connections

No matter how good they are, even the best conferencing systems don’t offer perfect eye contact.

This is not the case in VR, assures the AltspaceVR CEO. “Participants in a virtual-reality meeting get the feeling they are making eye contact,” says Romo.

Microsoft has solved the eye contact problem in their own way with hologram technology straight out of Star Wars.

The team at Microsoft Research Interactive 3D Technologies is developing a new 3D capture technology called ‘holoportation’ that scans the bodies of users, and transmits a 3D modelled image of them in real time.

When combined with VR or augmented reality technology such as Microsoft’s HoloLens, holoportation allows each user to see a hologram of the other person as though they were in the same room – eyes and all.

Microsoft’s holoportation technology isn’t yet commercially available and requires an expensive camera rig set up. But watch this space.


Virtual reality: The future of meetings

With VR, the future of meetings looks bright.

4: VR allows for cross-platform collaboration

The challenge of current immersive systems are that they aren’t always compatible with rival systems, meaning everyone has to have the same technology for conferencing to work. For example, Cisco’s high-end TelePresence systems require Cisco hardware on both sides of the connection.

However, newer VR conferencing companies are making sure compatibility is not a problem.

AltspaceVR is a cross-platform service that enables VR conference communication regardless of the consumer’s choice of VR tech, making it widely accessible.

With startups such as AltspaceVR working hard to bring VR meetings into the mainstream, the future of video conferencing is looking very virtual.