Over the past two years technology that was once dubbed fanciful, has been used to help the world navigate the blistering effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Virtual and augmented realities, as well as artificial intelligence, have been successfully employed by businesses, like UK-based The Virtulab, to help keep teams connected and stimulated at a time when offices were shut, and many people were told they couldn’t even leave their homes. Within the context of a global pandemic, companies were forced to challenge traditional archetypes surrounding work, with surprisingly effective results.
The Problem with Standard Video Conferencing
With most of us familiar with the major players that emerged during the early days of “work from home.” Zoom, Google Hangouts, Microsoft Teams and GoToMeeting became our reliable colleagues in early 2020, but by the end of the year many of us were experiencing the effects of back-to-back video calls and the endless meeting invites in the diary.
In a study published in March this year, Virtira Consulting found that “49% of employees experience a high degree of exhaustion from being required or pressured to be on camera during online meetings.”
“Zoom fatigue,” as it’s been dubbed, became a real issue for many companies trying to find a workable balance to help employees feel connected and supported when teams couldn’t physically be in the same room. While standard video platforms were a great solution at the beginning, as time went on it became apparent that more interactive environments were needed. The stage was being perfectly set for disruptive technologies to take over the lead role in remote work.
For many of us, the concepts of AI and VR only exist in sci-fi movies portraying a time in the distant future. The reality is that these technologies are more than capable of transforming our day-to-day lives now. Whether it’s meeting up with friends in a gaming situation, hosting a meeting or organising an event, virtual reality platforms have the ability to help organisers reach a greater audience and capture a level of engagement much like you would in real life.
The Virtulab is one company proving its worth in the field, rolling out its proprietary platform, Virtuworx, to help businesses and clients experience a better way to work, train, teach and play.
“Virtuworx was originally used by our team as an in-house productivity solution to help train oil and gas engineers,” explains The Virtulab’s Executive Director David Cummins. “We quickly recognised a need for the technology we were internally harnessing and worked at breakneck speed to roll out Virtuworx during a time when businesses and event organisers were struggling to find a meaningful way to connect.”
The platform uses an avatar-based environment that blends virtual reality and mixed reality. Virtuworx can be completely bespoke, crafted to a client’s unique specifications. From carbon copies of office buildings to mock-up event spaces that can be used for tradeshows and expos, the Virtuworx platform is proving anything is possible in the realm of remote work.
“Our team has worked tirelessly to ensure the cutting-edge technologies we use, can be seamlessly adapted by a broad range of clients,” says Wayne Strydom, The Virtulab’s Chief Innovation Officer.
In the last year the company has landed significant projects including hosting the first-ever virtual avatar-based TEDx event, TEDxLyttletonWomen, as well as powering the Womanomics Africa Virtual Campus, used as the official platform for UN Women South Africa Generation Equality Forum experiences.
Virtuworx isn’t alone in their quest to improve remote work. Companies like Virbella, Hopin and Mootup are also taking advantage of the lessons learned during the pandemic to introduce new and exciting ways to help teams virtually connect in a way that strengthens relationships and helps attendees feel bonded by a shared experience.
A Hybrid Future
Virtual reality has more than proven its worth during the last year, but as people slowly begin to return to pre-pandemic activities will its prominence remain?
According to AngelList, the number of VR startups has increased by 14% in less than a year, and Statista reports that worldwide spending on VR content and apps will reach $3.77 billion in 2021. All data that points to the industry’s future staying power. But in order to fully capture a hungry market, many within the industry are looking at ways to include both virtual and in-person attendees.
“We definitely believe the future of work is hybrid,” says David Cummins. “So, it’s important to ensure user engagement and connection is able to happen anywhere.”
This confidence in the future of hybrid events has led to The Virtulab unveiling two versions of the Virtuworx platform, to ensure complete autonomy of the user.
Virtuworx Immerse lends to a fully immersive experience that can be used with or without a VR headset. Operators are able to build their own virtual world around their digital avatar. This environment gives the user the ability to move around and interact remotely, just as they would in real life.
For those without access to a PC, Virtuworx Connect provides a limited version of the same platform, specifically designed for those on the go. With Connect, engagement and connections are made possible no matter where you are.
While it may sound a bit cliché, the future is now, and the businesses willing to embrace technology are poised to be head and shoulders above their competition. Events and meetings that dare to go virtual can expect to reap the rewards. Access to a greater worldwide audience, a decrease in their carbon footprint and the ability to save time and money all while increasing value and brand awareness. What’s not to like about an avatar-based events future?