By Richard Leong, Senior Director, Unified Communications and Collaboration, and Josh Burton, Senior Manager, Global AV and Engineering Services—both VMware
The nature of the workforce is changing, and one of the driving factors is millennial workers for whom technology is second nature—and expected! In fact, recent surveys have shown that millennial workers believe companies are not “smart” or digitally connected enough, and that includes such things as augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR).
The new (and expected) normal for the modern workplace
This is why VMware created our Workplace of the Future initiative, and in this blog we’re going to discuss the VR aspect of it.
Why VR in the workplace?
VR changes what’s possible for remote participants with meetings, collaborations, presentations, orientations and a variety of other undertakings. Attendees participate as if they are physically there, and this creates all-new immersive experiences previously unavailable on this scale.
This begged the question as to whether the technology had reached the stage of being both truly viable and economically feasible enough to work in a real-world enterprise scenario.
The proof is in the (virtual) pudding
Recently, our Colleague Experience and Technology team put VMware’s VR capabilities to the ultimate trial-by-fire pilot test—a live company-wide meeting. This was not an event that could be stopped while presenters waited for the technology to work (versus a smaller meeting with a control group). The VR system had to prove itself.
A pilot group of employees from different departments (sales, HR, etc.) and with varying technical skills volunteered for the full VR experience using headsets. An additional 500 participated via their desktops that offered a similar, but limited, experience minus the headsets.
The pilot group watched a 4K high-resolution webcast live-streamed to the headsets via multiple cameras in the auditorium. They were presented with a VR “landing page” that included meeting details such as agenda, speaker bios, etc. prior to start. They were then able to select their views from a 360-degree perspective, including being on stage with the presenters and seeing the people “seated” next to them. This enabled attendees to have the enhanced experience in-person participants had. They could easily switch between the views in real time, something that would not be possible if they were attending the meeting in person.
VR also had to augment what people were already using, not become an obstacle. This is a vital factor in user adoption. To that end, our team was able to resolve a common complaint about VR in the workplace—the inability to read the presentations.
Recently we sponsored a VR for Kids day as part of our IT for Kids program. This was a special event for the families of employees. Here the headsets had to both prove their durability and woo potential future users! The kids thoroughly enjoyed their immersive VR experience, including flying through intergalactic space, swimming in the ocean with dolphins and much more.
Just another costly gimmick? Quite the opposite!
Traditionally, emerging technology such as VR was expensive to deploy and had limited application capabilities due to that cost. With our Workplace of the Future VR implementation, we are able to employ existing infrastructure in addition to off-the-shelf products such as cinematic VR cameras. This both dramatically lowers the barriers to entry for VR and offers tremendous potential for VR applications in any scenario—for example, small ad hoc meetings.
The future’s so bright, you got to wear headsets
The potential for VR is unlimited, and the recent pilot test outlined here proves the technology is up to the challenge. Similar to how inexpensive cloud-based video conferencing solutions (available on any device) supplanted video conference rooms, VR will no longer be an expensive toy, but a ubiquitous part of the enterprise, similar to laptops and smart phones.
The future will be virtually amazing, including such things as immersive VR new-hire orientation/onboarding, immersive training & development and avatar-based VR meetings and collaboration.
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